Archive for machinima

Second Life ‘s “Cloudy” Future

Posted in Op/Ed, Real Life, RL, SecondLife®, SL® Advertising, SL® Business, SL® Education, SL® Fashion, Virtual Worlds with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2013 by Valiant Westland

2012 – The SL Future That Wasn’t

Before we look forward to what I believe is/should be SL’s “Cloudy” future, we might want to glance back at what 2012 brought us.  As we entered 2012, Linden Lab CEO Rodvik Humble told us we could look forward to:

  • A New Path-finding SystemMesh Avatar
  • Server side performance upgrades and bug fixes
  • More Premium benefits/features and content
  • New tools, like those used to develop Linden Realms
  • Stable tier pricing
  • Additional advanced features (Mesh!?)

Two of the most anticipated upgrades of 2012, Mesh and the new Path-finding System, are still not fully deployed.  I and many others have begun upgrading our inventory with Mesh creations, but the lack of a completed Mesh Deformer as part of the release viewer continues to generate wailing and gnashing of teeth for those with other than model-“perfect” forms.

Redgrave, one of Second Life’s most respected and innovative brands has refused to wait and introduced their own “Liquid Mesh (TM)” solution, that automatically adjusts their Liquid Mesh clothing designs to most avatar shapes.  It remains to be seen whether this bold move will result in a net gain in market share or cause confusion and ultimately frustration, when the lab finally releases built-in deformer technology.

Path-finding is another “almost here,” enhancement that can’t seem to make it to prime time.  The promise of enhanced path-finding is vehicles, BOTs and other objects being able to move more smoothly, including over sim boundaries, with less lag.  The reality for most users, who know nothing of these enhancements, is a strange new symbol and accompanying message appearing in their viewer.

Second Life URL Bar with Pending Changes Icon

Navmesh has pending changes The region has pending changes that have not yet been baked into the navmesh.

My primary SL property is a mainland region that is bisected by a Linden Road.  I have yet to see any path-finding benefits.  The same vintage automated 2005 vehicles continue to bounce and bumble up and down the road, in the same herky jerky manner, typically stalling, sinking sideways or even sling-shotting violently over the SIM border crossing near my home.

Why “Clouds” Matter

Disclaimer:  For those who are not aware, I make my RL living as a Consultant, helping companies develop and implement Technology and Online-media Marketing Plans that align with their strategic business goals.  I always urge my clients to be unabashedly “market-driven” and “surf” the technology waves whenever possible, rather than trying to fight them or create their own.  In 2013, I’ll be publishing a book on “Technology Planning In/For The Cloud.”

Cloud PartyWhile Linden Lab was busy trying to roll out in-world enhancements like Mesh, obviously designed to boost its revenues, through upgrade and new item sales revenues, the greater (Real) and virtual worlds continued their headlong flight to cloud-based computing.  In the Virtual World space, two cloud computing-based offerings, Kitely and Cloud Party saw significant user growth.  Many SL developers are eagerly porting content, in the hopes of establishing themselves as brand/solution leaders on these new cloud-based platforms.

Meanwhile the Google Apps cloud-based office productivity suite and Google Drive continue to steal market share from Microsoft’s venerable Office solution offerings, despite Microsoft offering their own cloud-based Office 365 solution.  There has been an explosion of Smart Phone and Tablet use.  In fact, tablets are now out-seLumiya Viewerlling laptops!  Unfortunately, with the exception of a couple of txt-only clients and one limited graphical viewer for Android devices called Lumiya, there is no way to access Second Life or even my.secondlife.com, from a Linden Lab official Smart Phone or Tablet client.

Although Linden Lab dabbled with a browser-based client over a year ago, there is no official timeline for the release of a full-featured cloud-based offering that I’m aware of.  Worse still, the primary user experiences in SL are still tied to antiquated 1960’s-era plain text NoteCards and graphics formats that 99% of the world doesn’t use!

Now Is NOT Time To Listen To Your Mother!
(Translation:  Get Your Head In The Clouds!)

If Second Life is going to survive, I believe they must aggressively move towards cloud-based offerings.  The longer the Lab waits to make their move to the cloud, the more regions, developers and regular users they will see opting for other platforms.

A 2013 Wish List For LL/SL

What follows is my personal 2013 wish list of SL enhancements, that I believe would go a long way towards slowing or even reversing SL’s slow downward spiral into irrelevance and make a majority of SL users happier and more productive! (Listed in no particular order)

  1. Deploy SL in a current-content-compatible cloud-based platform, similar to Kitely’s, with a pay-as-you-go option.
  2. Give us TRUE, persistent, Universal Status Indicator, that appears next to each persons name.  Allow status to be set prior to login!
  3. Consolidate login, account maintenance and inventory among “Alt”ernate accounts.
  4. Bring back user selectable Last Names!
  5. Provide automatic synchronization & watermarking of Pictures/Textures with users choice of Picasa, Flickr, etc.
  6. Replace the antiquated NoteCard system with integrated Google Docs / Drive functionality
  7. Upgrade My my.secondlife.com so that it’s mobile friendly and supports bi-directional web<>in-world messaging!
    Better yet, how about replacing the messaging engine with Google Chat!
  8. Deploy a C# application development/scripting environment and enhanced APIs for bi-directional object/data manipulation

Last but not least…   Please consider creating a true Reseller/Partner Network for the next generation of Second Life.  I continue to believe there are thousands of small businesses, franchises and vertical markets that could benefit from Virtual World solutions.  This market can ONLY be effectively tapped, if resellers have a S.M.A.R.T. annuity revenue incentive, support structure and marketing that originates with Linden Lab!

To all my Virtual Friends, Business Associates and Clients, whether still in SL or not, I wish you a healthy and prosperous New Year!

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Art of Machinima – Part 2 – Getting Started

Posted in How To with tags , , , , , , on August 26, 2009 by hawksrock

So in my last post I covered the basics of some starter software to give the foundation you need to film machinima.   Now that you have your software it is time to start filming!   Obviously you will want to play around with some different shots before you take on a big budget epic production.   The easiest thing to film and make look romantic is a scripted couples dance.   Basically you find one good angle, some nice lighting, and then just let the camera roll.   Slap an audio track in during editing, and voila you just scored you first machinima and some brownie points with your significant other.

But before you begin there are a few commands that you need to know to hide the UI and your huds from showing in the shot.   The first command is to hold down Ctrl-alt-F1 at the same time which will hide the UI (user interface).  This way you will not see any chat, or the menu bars at the top and bottom of the screen.   The second useful command is Shift-alt-H which will hide any huds you are wearing.   For both of these commands you simply press them again to reverse it and turn them back on.   Everything still operates the same way, but now you see a full screen view of SL without any things in the way which will detract from the film.   Along with the basic camera controls you will want to perfect the art of holding down Ctrl-alt-shift while moving the mouse to be able to pan the camera in either a vertical or horizontal direction.   Just those three simple tips, will move your machinima from noob to intermediate level.

There are some definite pros and cons to filming machinima in SL.   The big pros are that you have access to the most fantastic settings for your backdrops.   There are amazing new sims and builds out there every day, with any type of setting you can think of.  The biggest con is trying to get your avatar to do what you want it to do.   Unless you are a grade-A animator, know a grade-A animator, or else are willing to pay lots of L’s for custom animations it is very difficult to get the avatars to “act” in the way you need them to for a scene.   Even basic facial emotions can make or break a scene, and you are limited to the strength of your mood hud.   I also recommend you find a partner in crime for filming.   It is almost impossible to film yourself walking, driving, or doing just about anything and make it look worth a crap.   One option is to log in an alt to film yourself doing basic actions, but unless you are on two computers you are going to severely impact your FPS rates.   The best option is to go into it like Jell and I do where you take turns filming scenes, or angles to try to get the right footage to work with.  Just make sure you are using the same windlight settings!   🙂

I think that with this much info you are ready to go give it a go.   The main thing is to just keep it fun.   I try to balance making a really good machinima with keeping it light and fun and not agonizing over every shot or the editing process too much.   If we can bang something out in two days, that is usually just about right which allows for one day of setting up and filming.   One day to edit, and reshoot anything that we need to.

With that I am going to debut for you our latest machinima project – Want.   I came across the audio track first which is Want  by Recoil, and it inspired me to throw this together.   I hope you enjoy it.

I was just made aware of another great resource from the Rev’s very own Luth Brodie which can be found here.

Art of Machinima – Part 1 – Technical Software

Posted in How To with tags , , , , , on August 18, 2009 by hawksrock

I am no expert at making machinima, but after having collaborated with JellyBean Madison on over 30 machinima videos during a two year period, I do feel competent enough to at least put together a little advice for some of the up and comers who think they might like to try their luck directing their own machinima feature in SecondLife.   I think that the method of machinima can be divided into two segments:  technical and artistic.  This post is going to focus on the technical software requirements.

I am going to start by sharing the very first video I ever set up, filmed and edited in SL, which was done in November of 2007.   I remember being shocked when Sine Wave contacted me about wanting to use it on their website, and they also sent it on to a lot of the dancers which they recruited to do Mo-Cap for them as an example of what they were trying to accomplish.  I filmed this the first month that windlight became accessible so everybody was still ooo’ing and awww’ing over the sky and water.

My intention is to take you through my own personal evolution as a maker of machinima by showing some of our work over the last couple of years.   You can see from this first one I was still enamored with transitions and glowy fonts…   :p

In order to film basic machinima, you need the following three software components:

  1. A video capture program
  2. An audio editor
  3. A movie editor

So let’s start with the video capture program.   Jell and I both use Fraps.  Fraps is available for purchase at the price of $37 USD.   Luckily, it is the only purchase you have to make to be able to do machinima.   If you want to just practice with fraps, and not pay for it, then there is a free version you can use, but it will include a watermark over your film that reads http://www.fraps.com at the bottom.   Basically what fraps does is it records everything it sees on your screen from the point in time you hit record (F9), until you tell it stop (F9).   There a few basic settings that you want to check before you start recording.   First of all, make sure that the “No cursor” button is clicked, or else your mouse pointer will show up on your vid.   Secondly, I always make sure the record sound button is off because we typically set our videos to either a song or a backing track.   One cool feature of fraps is that you can turn the record sound button on, and then you will hear any audio that plays through your speakers when reviewing your playback.   This means you can use fraps to record SL voice if you want to do interviews, or create some sort of tutorial program.   There are other video capture programs available which allow you to create a box on your screen of exactly what video you want to capture, or that do some basic editing and effects while you are recording.   In my estimation, for the cheap price and ease of use, fraps is all you need.

Secondly, you are going to need an audio editor.   Technically you can get by without an audio editor, and just layer in a full length song, or not have any audio in your vid, but I think over time if you do machinima then you are going to want an audio editor.   I recommend using Audacity.  It is a free editor, that lets you easily trim music down, or add multiple tracks of audio.   You can record voice, and layer it against the audio all in a very simple to use format.   Most video editing programs, only allow one audio track to be layered against the video.   This means that if you want to combine music, dialogue, and any sound effects then you need to layer it together in Audacity, and then it will blend it into one track which can be input into your video editor.  There was one battle scene in Tank Girl we filmed where I had 15 layers of audio going at once, because every gun retort, reload, explosion, and breaking glass were all layered in against the backing music track.   I really can’t brag enough about Audacity for basic audio layering.

Third, and perhaps most importantly is that you need a video editor.   My personal favorite is Edit Studio 6.   However, there are numerous options out there, and I am not sure this one is necessarily the best, but it is the one I am most comfortable using.   Luckily for you, there is a fairly robust video editor provided free with modern versions of Windows called Windows Movie Maker.   Your editor is where all the magic happens.   It is where you end up taking a lot of video footage and weeding out the slow or weaker shots, to get at the kernels that make up the story line.  In the editor you arrange the clips in the order you want to see them, you work on timing the audio and visual together, and voila… you have your first machinima production!

This segment concludes the overview of some basic software requirements that you need, and in the next installment, I am going to cover the basics of camera movement, lighting, export settings, and other information that you need on the technical side of filming machinima.   Then I will follow that up with a post which gets more into the artistic side of thinking through a storyline, and selecting elements, etc.

JH Report VII

Posted in JH Report with tags , , , , , , on June 10, 2009 by ♥JellyBean♥

Happy Summertime peeps! Here for your viewing pleasure is your June edition of the JH Report.

A copyright owner has claimed your ass!

Posted in Op/Ed with tags , , , on December 30, 2008 by ♥JellyBean♥


I’ve been many things in SL… a model, a DJ, a blogger, a muse, land baroness, club owner, and a machinimanic. The above video is one that Hawks & I worked hard on a year ago. It’s hard to believe that it’s been so long. “Grinspoon – Lost Control” was probably one of the best planned, best executed, best over-all videos that we’ve put together to date, in my honest opinion.

Hawks & I created JH Productions from my JBM Productions. In the beginning we used YouTube to upload and share our interpreted works of art from SL. It wasn’t great, in fact most of the time it barely borderlined adequate. I still have a few videos on YouTube. That is the ones that haven’t been blocked. Over the past few months YouTube has incorporated a new “copyright infringement” pain in my ass! Youtube gives us a place to upload content *FREE* however if music is used (whether you own the CD or not) if a party or “content owner” comes in and claims it’s their music, you’re fucked depending on how they handle you. There are two options I’ve seen:

Opt.#1 They allow your video to stay up & LIVE but add advertisements about themselves to your vid.

OR

Opt #2 they completely block your vid from public playback until you either comply to copyright and remove song, challenge it or use their “audioswap” which plays crappy music over your music because yours happens to be imbededededed.

We soon discovered Vimeo. Holy shit! The quality is so much better & the vids are so crisp… but most of my first attempts at being a machima-ographer (is that a word?) are still on YouTube. I’ve had my computer crash, break, reformatted, poked, proded, and slapped around since the early days and I’ll be damned if I still have the original avi files. So screwed you might say.

It seems everybody and their SL mothers have discovered the good times of what is Machinima – so I ask you if you’ve been affected by YouTube’s newest policies, if so how did you react? If you don’t use YouTube, where do you show off your art?