I’ve been making my first film and by god it’s hard work! Hats off to the machinimists (wow – just when you thought a noun couldn’t get any uglier) in SL; you are stars! The film I’m doing is going to be a simple two minute piece about a man travelling to a building and then leaving (I know that doesn’t sound thrilling, but I don’t want to spoil the film for you) and so far the first 40 seconds have taken me all week! True, RL means I’m not on the computer as much as I’d like and SL means that often that time is spent doing other important stuff, but shewhomustbeobeyed gave me a pass this week and I was able to get on for about 2 to 4 hours at a stretch for 5 nights and in all that time I have still only just got the first 40 seconds done despite having film them three times so far! Anyhoo, in the spirit of my previous posts on this subject, here is what I have learnt so far:
Preparing the viewer
I’m lucky enough to have a PC that can run windlight on ultra so I did the following:
a) Set the viewer to run in a 1024 x 768 window (normally I play with this set to my screen size of 1440 x 900).
b) Played about with the sky editor to get a sky I liked and could use to guarantee similar lighting conditions every time I logged in to film.
c) Used the latest Release Candidate (RC) because, for some reason I can’t fathom out, I can’t find the Anti-Aliasing setting on the normal viewer.
d) Turned the anti-aliasing up to 4x (I tried 8x and 16x but both made the jagged edge lines worse – how is that possible?)
Setting up Fraps:
I am using a combination of stills and movies in the film, so I used Fraps to take screen shots as well as recording the video. For the stills I used TGA files as the JPG quality was terrible -I convert them back to JPGs in the free XnView. As an aside, a fringe benefit of using Fraps for the stills is the ability to capture motion, by which I mean a foot in mid-air or some other animation mid-cycle, much easier than using the in-built snapshot facility. For the movies I set Fraps to 30FPS and full screen.
I now have several machinima camera HUDs and devices, but so far I have only used a cheap little camera locking HUD that I found by accident on SL Exchange. Here’s my findings so far:
a) The lovely SpaceNavigator 3D I bought recently is almost useless for filming in the latest RC because of a bug that leaves the word “Flycam” on the screen and therefore in your film. Bah!
b) The Filming Path and Alt-Zoom kit can’t be used as they need building rights and the sim I’m filming in has building blocked. I’m glad Osprey pointed this fact out to me as it honestly never occurred to me until then. What a dope I can be.
c) The rather posh MachinimaCam HUD can be used, but I haven’t yet as I need to be in the shots (That’s right folks – I’m writer, director, star, editor and financier). This wee factoid is what led me to look for a system that allows me to ‘detach’ my camera and then lock it some place else and start recording. This is how I came to use the…
d) See Me HUD! which is a dirt cheap and dead simple little HUD that lets you lock your camera away from you. On the whole it’s amazing – why the expensive MachinimaCam HUD hasn’t thought of adding this feature is beyond me. It does have one minor limitation, though. When placing the camera you still need to focus it on you otherwise, when you click the LOCK button, it swings to find you and locks into that position thereby ruining your carefully planned shot. I had to pull a variety of tricks to get this right, usually involving setting up the shot, noting where the centre point was, moving my av there, re-setting up the shot and locking the camera. The fun you will have then trying to move your av back out of shot and into a starting position is something I will let you experience yourself, suffice to say it can be somewhat frustrating 🙂 (Ohhh! one other thing – draw distance is relative to your av, not your camera and if your camera is locked as the av walks away from you, more scenery may start to appear in shot).
Hiding the screen
Ctrl-Alt-F1 hides the client, but don’t forget to un-check “Show HUD attachments” in the VIEW menu first – important if you are using the See Me HUD or have any other HUDs on.
I’m using VideoSpin by Pinnacle. I can’t find any support / user forums out there at the moment but there is a help page on the website which is OK but as bit basic. The opening segment of my film is a series of still shots with fades in between and I’ve found it very difficult to alter the amount of time between each still as the fade transition does not seem to want to vary. I *may* be doing something wrong or I may be misunderstanding the nature of transitions, but either way I feel like the process is slightly out of my control and that is not a good thing for an editor 😦
Making the video
I bought the MP4 codec pack for VideoSpin (the program is free – the codec pack is not but only cost about £7 so no great shakes) after a friend of Ayumi’s suggested that MP4 was a good format to save in. So far so good! Small file sizes for good quality – thanks for the tip Daedalus!
A great place to get free music is Freeplay Music, here. Please drop any links you might have into the comments.
I still need to look into these – anyone have any good links?
Lemme see, what else did I learn so far…
1) I drew a story board first to help plan out the shots and make notes. I used MS Publisher to print out a page of blank slide notes in a 3×3 grid of 9 boxes on a side of A4 and just photocopied it a few times. My artistic skills suck muchly, but even I can manage to draw a stick man on a stick horse 🙂
2) Time contracts when shooting and editing – 3 hours zooms by like 1.
3) The sheer number of retakes I needed is silly – from inexplicable jumps and glitches in SL to random people landing next to you to ask what you are doing when your viewer is hidden and your camera is dozens of meters away.
I think that is it for now. I hope this has been useful – maybe I should show the footage so far here as well, I’m not sure.
Anyhoo, goodbye until the next ‘lessons learnt’ post… 🙂