Archive for tutorial

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.

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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.

What Not To Wear

Posted in Guides, Op/Ed, SL® Fashion with tags , , on November 13, 2008 by Iris Seale

So, yesterday I did a post on Shopping Cart Disco about how unattractive ego can be. The designer I was talking about, Vanilla Sola, put up a blog post to ask me, basically, ‘What the hell, bitch?

And Mrs Iris Seale if you got any complains about our design please mention the name of the dress and the problem

Well, it seems I’ve been appropriately “Missus’d” (even though the lady is old enough to be my freaking mom), so I guess I’ll have to do as she asks. For those of our readers who are not vengeful, young and full of spunk, take this as a guide to what a fashion blogger looks for when they consider items for review. Who knows, maybe it’ll help you out when you’re shopping.

I didn’t buy anything from Black Moon, so I’ll be using the ad shots from Vanilla’s blog. As most of us know, getting a sale will rely heavily on your ad. Here is one of Black Moon’s latest releases, Canzone.

When I look at an ad, I look not only at the outfit, but also how it looks with the designer’s selected lighting, skin and hair. Since it’s an ad, I’m assuming that the designer has gone all out to show me exactly how great the outfit can be. The lighting here fails miserably. A lighting setup that lights you evenly is fairly easy to make; the six-light version being the most used. You want to set up lighting so it showcases the details in your outfit. The light reflecting off the prims seems to be a yellow-orange in color, so I’m going to assume that this shot was taken in Windlight settings at sunset. While this light is generally most flattering to your avatar, this is one of the worst times to take photos for an ad in natural light. The light reflects off your avatar and changes most of the colors of your clothes. It can also wipe away delicate details like wrinkles. In this case most of the light is falling on the avatar’s chest, it seems, with little to no light on the dress and face where light belongs.

The skin is also a very poor choice. It looks like something from 2006 and the makeup is far too harsh. Look for something with better detailing (like a collarbone) that upholds the standards you want to project as a brand. The hair is far too light for the skin and distracts the eye from the entire rest of the ad. Now I’m looking at her hair, not her dress. When you choose your skin and hair for an ad, think of them as the canvas for the outfit. You want to capture the spirit of what you’re selling, but not overpower your product.

Now let’s talk about the dress. Interesting. A good concept, but poorly executed. There is no visible shading at all on these textures. In fact, there’s no texture on these textures. Yes, I understand that half your dress is black and therefore cannot be shaded, but using a dark grey would give the impression of black and be able to be shaded. Satin, what I’m assuming a dress like this would be made of, is highly reflective. Fabric wrinkles and forms to our bodies, so a fabric texture should reflect that. Look for realistic shading when you’re out shopping. The white half of the dress looks like the tile on my bathroom floor, if my bathroom floor had no depth.

Clothes are made from fabric. It goes to reason, that a fabric texture should look like fabric. There are many, many ways to achieve a realistic fabric texture, most of which can be found in online tutorials for SL. The tutorials will show you the basics until you develop your own style.

The dress has a white halo. This is caused by the alpha layer (what makes only the clothes appear and not the entire template) not being exactly met by the texture and creates an outline of white pixels. This can be solved by using the Solidify B plugin from Flaming Pear. It makes an alpha layer for you and floods the space with color matching the texture.

The use of the system-skirt with no backup is also a bad idea. Many shoppers (myself included) will not wear a system-skirt if it was lined with cocaine and diamonds. A designer should ideally offer a backup prim version of the skirt, as well.

The prims at the bottom are a good idea. I love mermaid dresses! The problem with these prims are that they don’t take the alpha-glitch into consideration. It’s impossible to get the full effect of a nice, full mermaid skirt with the back prims showing through the front ones. While there’s no cure for the alpha-glitch, there are a lot of workarounds. One popular way is to apply a clear texture to all faces of the prim and then apply your skirt texture to only the face you want showing. It doesn’t cure it completely, but it does cut it down. And is that plywood I see on the sides of those prims? Tsk, tsk, tsk.

I wanted to take one of Vanilla’s dresses and see what I could do with it in under a minute, so I used this ad:

My goal was to apply the things I’ve been discussing in this post to this ad. I gave myself 60 seconds to do that. It’s still not amazing, but I think it’s an improvement. Right click-View Image for full-size:

It takes less than one minute to shade and add texture to your work, so why not try it?

–Iris