Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Machinima: Second Life Videos

I'm sooo excited!  Yesterday, I shot, edited, and published my first Second Life video.  You would think that a person with about a decade of experience in Real Life video creation would have done this long before now.  What can I say?  Sometimes, I'm very slow.  Now that I've finally done it though, I am kicking myself for not trying this long ago.

The process of using a virtual world (or any video game engine that has player characters) to make movies and video is called "machinima", a neologism that I hate.  You can get a general overview of it from the FAQ page at the Academy of Machinima Arts.  For a hilarious example of machinima, check out the "Red vs. Blue" series made using Halo soldiers.

The thing I filmed (Taped?  So many of our terms are getting technologically obsolete.  "Captured," perhaps) was a Trans Siberian Orchestra concert performed in SL by a very talented TSO tribute group, Rising Star Entertainment.   I didn't plan to make a video, I just attended to enjoy the show.  But as I watched and listened, I realized that still pictures wouldn't do a very good job of capturing the flavor of the event, and decided to try to get video.

I used a screen capture program called FRAPS as my recorder.  To move my point of view smoothly, I used the Flycam function of my Space Navigator 3D "mouse" device.  Once I had opened FRAPS and set a couple of things, the whole thing was as simple as hitting the F9 function key and then being a bit gentle with moving the camera with the Space Navigator.

FRAPS can capture audio too, which is great for recording a live performance like this one.  I captured about three songs before Real Life intruded and I had to leave.

The next step was to edit the video.  Editing is something that I love and dread...because, like creating a great retouched image in Photoshop, it is both a satisfying creative process and a very intense, all-absorbing one.  My editing software is Sony's Vegas Pro, but you can use the free Windows Movie Maker and get good results.  I took the three song clips that I'd recorded and picked the one I liked best.  Then I chopped out the parts of the video clip that were not very good...unplanned, un-motivated camera moves, poorly lit bits, and the like...and filled the gaps with video snippets taken from the other song clips. 

I also found that, unlike the Snapshot camera in the viewer, FRAPS records the entire screen, including any windows or HUDs that you happen to have open.  As a result, I wound up doing a good bit of cropping to get a (relatively) clean set of images.  Then I added titles and credits and saved the final version.  While I was scratching my head and trying to figure out how I should render the final movie for uploading to YouTube, I discovered that the nice people at Sony had done my work for me.  There was a button in Vegas for "Upload to YouTube".  Wow, one button ease of use!
So I did, and you can see the result here:  Trans Siberian Orchestra in Second Life


  1. Pls tell me you taped the one on Sunday!!!
    It was the most amzing performance i saw in long time, and i took lots of pictures to plurk while it was going on (Italian sim if i remenber well)!


  3. Sadly, no...but I understand that group will be performing again in the near future.