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.

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