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Machinima - Recording in Second Life

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"Machinima – Recording in Second Life" by Jenna Ng


This page provides an overview of machinima, the technique of recording and producing film in virtual worlds. The document motivates the use of machinima in educational contexts, and then goes on to give technical information on recording and editing software. Finally there is a section with example machinima which have been produced for educational purposes.







What is machinima?


Machinima is filmmaking within a 3-D virtual environment, often using 3D video-game technologies or real-time graphics rendering engines. The term also refers to works that incorporate this animation technique.


Why should we be interested in using machinima for educational purposes?


Machinima is one way for students to work with high-powered media production tools with relatively little cost. A student team could be a complete film crew, learning skills ranging from script writing, prop making, clothes design to filming, sound and editing. Students can also learn about camera work, such as how to use the alt-zoom camera, the SL interface camera, how to set up shots, including wide, medium, close and over shoulder shots etc, leading to a valuable knowledge of film, media and film grammar. Production skills which used to be only taught to professionals in the creative industries can now be accessed by students of all ages.


Machinima can also be used to create a variety of content that can be used, shared or “mashed up” (mixed together with other media to create “new new media” (to use Paul Levinson’s phrase)). Machinima can not only be shared easily on social networking video sites across the web, but also be made available for podcasting and screencasting. In this way, machinima is one way of bringing education into the participatory culture of Web 2.0, connecting directly with other students and the broader community. By posting the machinima on video sites, embedding, downloading and burning to DVDs, students can also learn about publication and distribution.


It is not just about technology. Through making machinima, students can also learn about teamwork and patience. A camera operator could crash, actor avatars have to be coordinated etc. By negotiating and organizing tasks, students learn communication, organization, teamwork and leadership skills.


Apart from creative student work, machinima can also be used to document teaching for examination purposes and field research.


In summary: Machinima is economical, collaborative and a multi-faced opportunity to learn skills applicable to both virtual and real worlds.


Is using machinima an effective way to teach?


The case study of Exergen, manufacturer of digital thermometers, is a helpful example worth noting. Exergen used machinima “to improve their training of hospital staff in the use of their equipment.” The machinima can be seen at the Exergen virtual classroom website (http://www.exergen.com/virtualclassroom/).


On why the machinima training video was so effective, the Exergen CEO explains:


Everyone is fascinated by this medium, and enjoys and pays attention to the content. Training videos, written materials, and even personal in-servicing tend to be boring and are often ineffective, requiring frequent and expensive follow-up by both supplier and hospital educators. Avatars are compelling.


On the effectiveness of the machinima, the CEO points out:


...the final test was when 1000 nurses and PCAs were trained for TAT by viewing the Virtual Classroom on a large projection screen. The subsequent written competency exam was passed by 100 percent of the attendees, and the return demonstration was passed by 99.9 percent on the first try. Prior to the Virtual Classroom, the initial pass rates on personal in-servicing could be as low as 50 percent, which was costly for both supplier and hospital to remedy. The Virtual Classroom is a major improvement and cost benefit for both hospital and supplier.


The conclusion:


For educational, government and nonprofit institutions, this is an important case study.  Machinima can be a cost-effective means of creating engaging and entertaining videos that can educate and raise awareness for a variety of audiences.

(from http://www.betterverse.org/2010/11/using-machinima-for-staff-training-the-exegen-thermometer-example.html


Why use Second Life for machinima?


There are several good reasons for using Second Life (SL) for machinima. Firstly, SL is a familiar-looking environment to many young people and adults. While not a game, it still looks and feels like one, particularly as a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). This enables students to orientate themselves and pick up knowledge easily.


Secondly, SL machinima can be created and reformatted for distribution across the internet, television, DVDs and display screens, so it is an economical way to create visual media for instruction, education and teaching purposes.


Thirdly, videos can be streamed in SL to enhance the teaching experience. SL can support Quicktime video formats, enabling videos to be streamed onto screens and objects for SL avatars to watch. The built-in video capture in Second Life allows you to save in a variety of formats including uncompressed and compressed AVI which can be converted to Quicktime.



Technical Information


Three main kinds of software are needed to record machinima from Second Life: (i) sound recording software (used only for if for some reason sound needs to be recorded independently; most of the time sound recording is already included in video capture tools); (ii) third-party video capture tools; and (iii) video editing software. Software examples are listed below.


Flash drives or accessible storage for video files should be considered before embarking on machinima instruction on public computers or in computer labs.


Once recorded, videos can be uploaded to free public video hosting sites with online editing features for video and the original files can be deleted. Organize your files and recording using social networking sites with added features such as online editing or music mash-ups for video. Some of the new video sites have editing features for video and in some cases audio and “mash-ups” with images and video: eSocial, JumpCut, Grouper, Eyespot, Motionbox, Dabble, VideoEgg (“Online Video Editing”).



Sound Recording Tools


Audacityis a free software, cross-platform digital audio editor and recording application. It is available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and BSD. The latest release of Audacity is 1.3.12, a beta, released on 1 April 2010. As of 29 October 2010, it was the 10thmost popular download from SourceForge.net, with 72 million downloads. Audacity won the SourceForge.net 2007 Community Choice Award for Best Project for Multimedia.



Video Capture Tools


If you are using video games to make machinima, some games have in-game video capture options. For example, the Sims 2 has a movie mode, and you just point the camera and click to record. The Movies also creates movies as part of the game play, or as a sandpit option (filming separately from the game content). This is the easiest way to start with machinima - buy one of these games and get going.


Alternatively, there are programs that enable you to capture any in-game or in-world footage. Just start recording inside your game or virtual world when you're ready.


Camtasia Studio and Camtasia for Mac are screen video capture software, published by TechSmith. The program allows files to be stored in its own proprietary format, which is only readable by Camtasia itself; this format allows for fairly small file sizes, even for longer presentations. Camtasia also allows the generated video stream to be exported to common video formats which can be read by most computers, even if the Camtasia software is not installed, such as MPEG-2 or MPEG-4. PC World described Camtasia Studio as "the premier screencasting tool", which, though "powerful," can be "a little overwhelming at the start".


AviScreen Classic, which you can download for free from bobyte.com. It's totally free but doesn't record sound. The really good thing about this program is that you can customise what part of the screen you want to capture. This means you can miss off the HUD etc, so you don't have to bother cropping it later.


Fraps, which you can download for free from fraps.com. It's free for the unregistered version, which lets you record up to 30 seconds at a time and puts a small url watermark along the top of the video. Fraps can also record the audio of the game, making life that bit easier. FRAPS for PCs is optimized for games and can capture video at up to 100 frames per second depending on limits in the game. It is the best PC option for creating Second Life machinima.


GameCam- the lite version is free and you can download it from planetgamecam.com. Game Cam Lite is still Game Cam, only simpler and without the extended features set. Game Cam Lite allows the recording of real-time in game movies with sound via hot keys or an easy to use in game interface and was designed to work with most DirectX 7, 8, 9 and OpenGL games. Game Cam Lite was created for individuals who simply want to record movies.

Leadtek Winfast PVR (TV card for PC). Record your PS2, X-box etc footage with this. Stereo sound as well. Includes a hardware MPEG 2 encoder for top quality video. Definitely the easiest way to capture video from games machines.

Leadtek Winfast PVR (TV card for PC). Pretty much the same as above. Cheaper, but will do everything you need.


For Macs


Snapz Pro X allows you to effortlessly record anything on your screen, saving it as a QuickTime® movie or screenshot that can be e-mailed, put up on the web, or passed around however you want. Snapz Pro X 2.x costs $69. Upgrades from Snapz Pro X 1.x w/ movie capture are $20.



Video Editors

You'll need a video editor to turn your clips into a film. Examples of video editors are:


Windows Movie Maker- Windows Movie Maker is free with Windows XP and XP Pro but only works on those platforms. There is an older version that shipped with earlier versions of Windows, but it's very limited. Windows Movie Maker is actually a really good program, very intuitive and with lots of options for effects. It's also easy to edit clips and add dialogue and music or sound effects. Adding titles at the beginning and end, as well as subtitles, is also very easy. A great option for getting started.


Adobe Premiere Pro 2 Windows- This is great for doing blue/green screen stuff for special effects and to mix videos together, including game and real life. Make every frame count with Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 software, the essential tool for professional video editing. Capture and edit virtually any format, from DV to uncompressed HD, and output to tape, DVD, and the web. Unparalleled integration with other Adobe applications removes production bottlenecks, freeing time so you can focus on the highest production values to tell your story. Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 sets new standards for efficient digital filmmaking.



Premiere Elements 2- Presenting Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0 with everything you need to create videos that thrill your friends and family. The perfect combination of superior control, ease of use, and reliability, Premiere Elements automates tedious tasks so you can be creative more quickly. Import video clips from all of your digital video devices, then experiment with hundreds of professional transitions and effects to grab your audience. Burn your videos to DVD, complete with custom menus for that personal touch, or transfer them to your portable video players to wow your audience anytime, anywhere.



Pinnacle Studio Plus 10- Introducing, from Pinnacle, the worldwide leader in home video editing, Pinnacle Studio Plus version 10, the most advanced and powerful home video editing solution available today. Studio Plus combines the legendary ease of use of Studio's intuitive three-step movie creation process with the power and quality of the Pinnacle Liquid Engine to quickly and reliably capture all of your media from popular consumer electronic devices including the newest top quality HDV cameras and even video phones. Studio Plus provides users with the ultimate control with the addition of 100's of breathtaking user-defined keyframeable real-time effects, like HD Pan & Zoom, picture and picture and Chroma Key. Effortlessly, add music and titles and you are quickly creating blockbuster home movies for sharing on DVD, the Web and beyond.


Ulead Video Studio

  • Over 1000 Customizable Effects, Filters, Transitions and Title Styles - Simply drag and drop to personalize your movie

  • 16:9 Widescreen Support creates wide screen movies for a true home theatre experience

  • Chroma Key Editing - lets you place your subjects into different backgrounds

  • Pan and Zoom lets you scan over still images to create a motion effect

  • Share and preserve your home videos on DVD, CD, tape, the Web, or mobile




Adobe Encore 2 Windows- DVD authoring - Adobe Encore DVD software takes DVD authoring to a new level of creativity and efficiency. Through its flexible interface and unparalleled integration with Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe Photoshop CS, and Adobe After Effects, Adobe Encore DVD gives professional videographers, DVD authors, and independent producers the power to create sophisticated multi-language DVDs with interactive menus and multiple audio and subtitle tracks. With Adobe Encore DVD, you can produce consistent, high-quality results, and output to all recordable DVD formats for a wide degree of playback compatibility.



Adobe After Effects 7 ProWindows- Expert effects - Wow your audience with visual and audio effects considered indispensable at leading studios, including grain effects, Glow, Advanced Lightning, and Optics Compensation. Flexible distortion effects Distort and morph footage using Mirror, Ripple, and other effects, and paint distortions directly onto imagery with Liquify. Timewarp - Slow down and speed up footage with smooth, crisp results and minimal artifacts. Timewarp analyzes pixel motion to create more accurate in-between frames.



Sample machinima videos in educational contexts


Video 1: Using Machinima for Staff Training: The Exergen Thermometer Case Study


This case study came from a blog post in betterverse.org covering "an interview with Francesco Pompei, the CEO of Exergen, manufacturer of digital thermometers, about how they used machinima (virtual world filmmaking) to improve their training of hospital staff in the use of their equipment.  While this is focused on corporate use of virtual world tools, it gives insights for how a variety of institutions might use machinima for their own educational and staff training activities." Read full blog post here: http://www.betterverse.org/2010/11/using-machinima-for-staff-training-the-exegen-thermometer-example.html 


See video here: http://www.exergen.com/virtualclassroom/


Video 2: Culture Analysis and Museum Studies (Part 1 - in Swedish)


Second-year Culture Analysis and Museum Studies students in the Culture and Media department presented their work in the form of films and exhibitions made in Second Life, a persistent 3-D virtual online world in which users interact with each other via their graphical representations, or avatars. The significance of using Second Life is that the interaction in its world enables the relatively easy constitution of representational forms, such as films and gallery exhibits, which may be created by students and, in so doing, become learning tools in themselves. Indeed, the point of last night’s exercise was precisely for students to give form to the theoretical ideas which they have learnt in their course, such as stereotype formation, gender theory, relations of power etc. The result is not only a demonstrated deeper engagement and thought with theory but also an impressive outlet for creativity and graphic skills. Read full review by Jenna Ng on the HUMlab blog here: http://blog.humlab.umu.se/?p=1404 




Video 3: Culture Analysis and Museum Studies (Part 2 - in Swedish)



Video 4: Culture Analysis and Museum Studies (Part 3 - in English)









Books and References


Berkeley, Leo. “Situating Machinima in the New Mediascape.” Australian Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society. 4:2 (2004), 65-80.

Hancock, Hugh, Ingram, Johnnie. Machinima For Dummies. Aug. 2007.

Kelland, Matt, Dave Morris, and Dave Lloyd. Machinima. Boston, MA: Thomson/Course Technology. 2005.

Landay, Lori. “Virtual KinoEye: Kinetic Camera, Machinima, and Virtual Subjectivity in Second Life.” Journal of e-Media Studies. 2:1 (2009), 1-33.

Long, Geoffrey, “Interview with Paul Marino”, Transformative Works and Cultures, Vol. 2, 2009, 1-7.

Lowood, Henry. “High-Performance Play: the making of machinima”. Journal of Media Practice. 7:1 (2006), 25-42.

Lowood, Henry. “Real-time Performance: machinima and game studies”. The International Digital Media & Arts Association Journal. 3:1 (2005).

Lowood, Henry. “Found Technology: players as innovators in the making of machinima” in Tara McPherson (ed.), Digital Youth, Innovation and the Unexpected, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2008.

Marino, Paul. 3D game-based filmmaking: the art of machinima. Scottsdale, Ariz: Paraglyph Press. 2004.

Nitsche, Michael, “Claiming Its Space: Machinima”, dichtung-digital, at www.dichtung-diigtal.org/2007/nitsche.htm, 2007.



This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

The material throughout this wiki is available under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Share Alike agreement established between the project partners.










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