Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Machine Cinema

Machine Cinema or Machinima is where you record footage in a real-time 3D environment.  Traditional animation or CG contrast in that one is done through manually drawing each piece while with CG it is keyframed or motion captured.  Machinima was spawned through video games with the first I recall ever seeing being the fabled Leroy Jenkins from World of Warcraft.



    When Second Life arrived on the scene the users were given the ability to directly and permanently build in world.  Meaning that what we created was persistent.  Each time we logged in the world had changed during the hours we were offline and the things we created the day before would still be sitting where we left them.  We were given the ability to plan ahead and we could create unique environments.   Essentially Linden Labs gave us the ground we stand on and the users created a world.  And beautiful chaos ensued.  What this also allowed for was the birth of machinima as an art form.  For example, when I create a machinima (unless I am promoting someone else's work) I have full control over the final product.  I write the narrative, build, script and texture.  I create the sky and terraform the land.  I create an environment which is not constrained by one perspective like a painting or picture is.  And unlike the medium of film where the viewer passively is told a story, the visitors to my sims must interact to discover the narrative and the story can change.  This is part of the art movement I call Immersiva.  But I digress.
     I have said that some of the art being created in Second Life right now will eventually be chapters in art history books.  We are part of a new frontier in art, and we are currently defining it.  I personally see its unique traits as being along the lines of creating a painting you can enter and explore.  I won't get into all that as this post is not about creating Immersiva, but rather Machinima.  What I do want to express though is that Machinima is also an emerging art form.  It has existed for a while but it has, with second life as a medium, now become a powerful tool of expression with far more range than previously.  Surprisingly, there are only a couple dozen good machinima artists that I am aware of so what I am going to do is help those of you with an interest to get started.

These are the things I use, but I know there are alot of other software combos.



First test out fraps.  You can get a free version which will let you film for 30 seconds or buy the full thing for $37.  What fraps does is capture/film what is on your screen.  You press a button and it begins to film what you see... you press another button and it stops filming.

Next buy editing software.  I use Sony Vegas which cost me around $95.  I found it pretty easy to use and felt quite comfortable with it after only a few months.  You will import your fraps avi movies into this and chop them up until you are happy.


You can stop with just fraps.  Or you can stop with fraps and Vegas.  Or you can also buy a space navigator which allows for more control over your camera.  It is a 3D mouse.  It essentially lets you position your camera anywhere and then move in any direction you wish.  It is $99.  This is all starting to add up a bit, but if you are like me then get it all in christmas and birthday gifts.

I think that is about it really.  Oh this is important.  I am actually still struggling with finding the right settings to have a nice HD machinima that can also be shown full screen.  I have tried tons of settings and it can be very frustrating to have something look wonderful on your own screen only to lose it all once its uploaded to youtube or blip.tv.  So here are a few links which I am currently trying that I found informative.

good youtube settings


More useful rendering info



Below is just a proposal I made.  There is a museum which is putting on a show of a Canadian painter and they are looking for a new media exhibit to go along with it.  I put this together to see if they are interested in me creating one of his paintings as a 3D environment.  So if you have a moment watch this proposal and pretend you don't know what SL is.  Let me know if it would convince you to pick me or if its just confusing.  Is it easy to read the text or does it go to fast?  things like that.  I wanted to explain a bit about SL, let them know there is potential for exposure outside their museum membership, show that I am somewhat accomplished and would do a good job and express that SL is not a video game.


9 comments:

Bay Sweetwater said...

It is difficult to comment on the work of an artist, especially one of your caliber, Bryn. I so admire what you do, and your proposal is beautiful and starkly lyrical.

But since you ask, here's what I would do to make it clearer: reverse the order. Start out exploring inside a 3D portrayal of a painting (as you begin to do at the end). The painting could be something as simple as a still life bowl of fruit. Just something to get the idea across straight off. Then follow with your explanation and text.

I am a machinimatographer too, but I am pretty sure I would not make it into your list of the couple dozen good machinima artists. LOL. So I feel funny saying anything at all.

But this idea of virtual 3D portrayals of art has intrigued me for a long time. I've written more about it in a blog post today and would love to hear your thoughts.

I'll close with a pointer to the 2007 machinima that still gives me goosebumps no matter how many times I watch it: Robbie Dingo's building of a Van Gogh painting in Second Life.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vV1YbWBSXS8

Bryn Oh said...

Thank you Bay that does sound like a good way to do it. I had not seen that machinima before and it's really wonderful. That is exactly what I would do for this museum, but I am not yet sure if I will photograph the brushstrokes or create a realistic scene using the nice water and sky effects you can get from sl. When I say "couple dozen good machinima artists" I don't mean that that's all there are, but rather that's all I am aware of. I know there are tons of great machinima artists that I have never come across the same way I missed this machinima from Robbie Dingo. Oh and let me know where to find your post, I would love to read it.

Bay Sweetwater said...

Hi again, Bryn.
The post is "Stroll around a masterpiece" in my blog www.baysweetwater.com

Dearest said...

Hello Bryn,
I have read this with interest and see what you both have to say. The difficulty with proposals is getting those who make the decisions to understand what it is you know and have to bring to their party.
i think Bay made a great suggestion and the link she gave shows a way to illustrate an underlying philosphy.
For me however the utterly amazing part of machinima is the way you can actually go in and intereact and explore. The way you can be challenged and the way that instead of being the usual passive observer of what an artist has imprinted in some way............. you are given the permission and freedom to go in and interact and explore. I could say more if it is a line of thought that is of interest and you think it relevant. Kindest regards
Dearest

Bryn Oh said...

Please do say more Dearest as its very relevant to what makes SL art unique. Its interesting, I have been reflecting on this project and have mixed feelings on it. On one side I understand that by recreating a known painting we are allowing patrons who are unfamiliar with SL as an art medium, to see its potential though the use of a medium they know and understand (painting) and combining it with a new medium. Its exposing them into a new medium by using something they are already comfortable with. However, the other side of me feels that we don't need to piggyback on the work of past masters. That in doing so we diminish the exposure of our own work which may one day be seen as masterworks as well. It seems a line between novelty and advancement. In the end its baby steps to draw others to this medium and perhaps doing this will help, however, the real potential of this medium goes far further than recreating a painting. Just some thoughts that were going through my head.

Dearest said...

Hi Bryn

Since you wrote to me yesterday I have been thinking about analogies with performance art as this genre also occurs within an environment that the audience may enter. Here of course there is no real visible interaction as the role of the audience is generally assumed to be that of observer. The durational artist Amanda Coogan
(http://www.amandacoogan.com/index.html)establishes her interaction with the audience through the energy that the performance generates in the audience and from the audience. However, the concentration required to perform without the artist responding to that, for she must be the performance only, requires a phenomenal medtitative discipline.

There is an analogy here with immersima because we may interact with the art but it doesnt interact with us (although there is often a set pattern of potential interaction set down by you to be discovered).
One can, though, 'intrude' into the piece, and it does feel a bit like that, like going into another's house when the resident is absent (RL or SL). I know we have the artist's permission but there is for me a small element of the voyeuristic and that does add a frisson of excitement without doubt. For example, the other day, I watched the Condos in Heaven video and then I walked around in the environment and I SAT IN THE CHAIR!

That is I think what is difficult to convey to your funders. They , as adult learners, DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY DO NO KNOW and, when wrtinig tenders myself, this is the hardest element to convey.
Finally, (for I have been Rabbicorning on) I would like to mention your phrase

'Piggyback on past masters' and I totally agree. I looked at the link Bay gave you and, whilst I liked and admired the conceit he employed, I found it more like an instructional manual than anything else (no disrespect intended). I think past works can only ever be a starting point with immersiva (and machinima).

The audience sees a familiar image (it may lull one into a false sense of security) and embarks on a journey.
The magic has to be in the metamophosis that occurs hence forwards as well as the engaement if you are actually in the environment.

Am I right here............ there is the dual option of watching the performace you have chosen to record as well as that of actually visiting the environment?

Mmmm...time to stop I think.
Much metta Bryn

Phi Designs Group said...

The other thing to watch out for is drive thrashing ... it occurs when you run two programs that read/write on the same hard-drive. On my PC, I have two hard-drives. Second Life and its cache live on the application drive. My videos are recorded on different drive.

Thrashing occurs when two applications are reading and writing from the same drive in real time. Normally this kind of activity isn’t an issue, but in a real-time sense, the seek time between tracks on the hard-drive causes momentary pauses in the recorded video. The pause is caused by the head on the hard-drive moving from one track to write then seeking back to another track to read. Caching normally takes care of the jitteriness, but in terms of Fraps, it’s writing out huge amounts of data causing the cache to be overwhelmed in a short amount of time, thus creating the problem. For example the Second Life cache living on a different track than the area being written out by the Fraps screen capture.

With two hard-drives, you eliminate this track to track seek time because the hard-drive head stays more or less in the same spot on the hard-drive regardless of the what is happening in the two programs … cache read vs. fraps write.

- Gin

Bryn Oh said...

Thanks Gin thats really interesting, I had not heard of this before. I have a terabyte storage drive so I suppose I should have fraps save directly on to that drive to avoid drive thrashing? I do sometimes get jerky video and always assumed it was because I am using wireless and the transfer rate is lower. Anyway great info thanks!

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