Machinima, defined by Wikipedia, is "a collection of associated production techniques whereby computer-generated imagery is rendered using real-time, interactive 3D engines, such as those of games."
Um, okay. All we know is that watching one Master Chief kiss another Master Chief is funny as hell. So are two SPARTANs arguing over the morality of teabagging, or an Elite ordering food at the drive-thru. A skilled machinima director can make you laugh, cry, feel fear... completely within the confines of the game's environment.
Before announcing our favorite Halo 3 filmmakers, here are the rules. First, the machinima had to be Halo 3 (so no classic "Red vs Blue"). Second, the clip had to be in-engine, not stuff with action figures (so no "Arby 'n the Chief" or "Master Chief Sucks at Halo"). Now, the envelopes please!
5th Place... Tenac1ous
Unlike every other director on our list, Tenac1ous doesn't have his own webpage, brand or series... just a humble YouTube channel with one seriously hilarious hidden gem. The music is perfect, the editing is perfect and, most importantly, the length is perfect. No commitment here - just 48 seconds of machinima bliss. With a twist ending!
For more Tenac1ous videos, head here. We especially enjoy "The Best Day Ever" and "Drive Thru."
4th Place... DigitalPh33r Productions
The vast majority of machinima is comedy. "Deus Ex Machina," a sci-fi / horror / action series from DigitalPh33r Productions, is the remarkable exception. The creators understand how to squeeze unbearable suspense out of details as insignificant as a swaying blade of grass on High Ground or a pulsating pod on Isolation. They also know how to conduct a balls-out action sequence, complete with quick cuts and shaky cam.
Here's an earlier episode, still one of our favorites.
"Deus Ex Machina - Decapitator"
"Deus Ex Machina" requires a lot of commitment. It's currently up to seven episodes, some of them running more than 20 minutes. If you have the time, though, the trip's pretty thrilling. Start it here.