Recently I decided to get less rusty in SL® Machinima and started work on some simple movie clip. What’s the story? Oh, it’s silly, one of those adult productions focused entirely on ‘adult’ part… So let’s skip storyline part, maybe, and focus on the ‘making of’ process.
Well, I am not going to describe all details here, I will simply give you the list of tools and things I needed to make it work. Let’s start with the software:
- SL® Viewer: Singularity (website)
- Screen Recorder: fraps (website)
- MP3 ripper/converter: Firefox add-on Media Converter (website)
- Video editor: Sony Vegas (website)
Are there alternatives to these? Yes. One day I’ll provide them here on the blog.
Setting up the Viewer.
We want the best quality for our movie, so yes, you can’t have it without decent PC that is capable to run SL® smooth with maximum details. My own PC is still pretty decent, however I can already see it lacks some power. What to do then? First thing is: avoid too many avatars in the same scene. Every single mesh body makes your FPS (Frames Per Second) ratio drops down. Pick an empty sim, build skybox with walls around and use such angles in your movie that people who are going to watch your movie won’t be able to recognize you cheat them. Depth of Field can be your friend to hide the background, but be careful with it, it’s able to drastically drop down the FPS ratio.
Singularity viewer has been my choice for this movie clip, and there were two reasons why. One: it’s noticeable faster and smoother to me, comparing to Firestorm it gives me these few FPSs more, what makes the final video looks better. Reason number two: it got the option other viewers don’t have – Post Processing Effects – you’re able to use some real time graphic effects that don’t harm the performance at all. So you’re able to change brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, vibrance what saves a lot of time in post production. Also it allows to have really interesting effects like grain or unusual black and white screen. Well, I agree, for most of adult productions you don’t need film noir effects, but who knows… You can find them in the main menu: World->Environment Settings->Post-Processing Effects. Important! Firestorm does NOT have this feature, it’s Singularity’s one only. Another important thing: if you got into idea of using this for photographies, it will not work. These are overlay effects and they’re not ‘visible’ in world, they don’t affect in world graphics, it’s only what you see on your screen. So, to see them on your photography you have to take a snap of your screen instead of taking normal snapshot from SL®. Such a nice feature that is hardly useable, however works very good for videos, because it’s how we grab them: recording the screen.
In my movie I used Color Filter, to make colors more vivid, and MotionBlur that simply blurs the background while camera is moving.
Another important part in this section is smoothing camera work. Default settings will not allow you move your camera smooth enough to make any nice result. But there’s simple trick you can use: there are two parameters you have to change in debug settings:
- ZoomTime (default value 0.4) – for my movies I usually set it to 2 .0
- CameraPositionSmoothing (default 2) – I use value of 10.
How to find these settings in your viewer? Top menu: Advanced->Show Debug Settings (shortcut: Ctrl+Alt+Shift+S). In Firestorm they’re also available in Phototools window (top menu: World->Photo and Video->Phototools), in Cam tab and these are called, respectively, Zoom Speed and Camera Lag. There are also other very useful options there: View angle – lets you change the angle of your camera, which is quite the same thing like focal length in RL cameras. This option is more useful in SL photography as it lets you make really nice close ups. Cam. Smoothing – controls how fast the camera starts and stops moving, it gives the effect similar to Camera Lag, but I’d recommend experimenting with these options to see how they work and how to have desired effect.
Camera movements you can see on my video clips has been done with values I just gave you above. I dare you to experiment with these settings, though, I don’t say my values are the best for your needs.
Well, here is the heart of your project. The way you move your camera and the angles you get will determine how good or bad your final result is. I noticed that there are two approaches in general, about the camera work: floating and static. What’s the difference?
Both you can see in my own movie. Floating is when you keep changing camera position smoothly, for example rotating the view around object or avatar with the focus on it. These may be very slow movements as much as aggresive ones, whatever.
The other approach, I call it static, you can see it when the camera doesn’t move and simpy registers the action. Obviously, to make the whole scene more interesting you have to record the same thing from several angles, but the idea is not to move camera position. Later, at post production stage you simply mix several angles from the same scene. In my opinion, it gives very nice, calm effect in the movie. The spectator is able to see the action from various angles, few seconds long each, but doesn’t get dizzy because of drunk camera moves.
Why do I mention this? Well, I’ve noticed many directors sticks into one approach. If someone loves floating camera, you’re going to feel like after few beers watching the movie, the camera floats everywhere around models. Obviously, it’s not my intention to say this is bad – I just try to point your attention to this fact and consider using both techniques. There are moments floating camera is a must, but there are moments when it looks awkward, it’s always a matter of thinking what is better for my project.
The other important thing here is to try to predict scenes you have to cheat in. Let’s make an example to explain what I mean: there’s scene in my movie where I change the animation from A to B. Of course, the animation engine I used is driven by menu that appears in top-left screen corner, so I got two options: I don’t see the menu, because I am recording and the interface is hidden or I turn the interface visible, but… Yes, I will have it in the recording. What to do then? Now it’s the moment you have to make the prediction: you know you want to change the animation, so this particular angle you have to make wider. In post production you will zoom in enough to get rid of the interface and the menu, but the key is to know about it. If you won’t make the angle wider – you won’t have this scene or you’ll have to repeat it later.
I usually split this process into three smaller one. First stage is the background music. I need to have the music selected before I start putting the movie into one piece, what obviously doesn’t have to be the same for you. Second stage is putting recorded scenes one by one, cutting and cropping them, taking care of smooth transitions between shoots. Third stage is adding special effects, both visual and sound – as much as you won’t probably deal with too many visual effects, I am telling you that adding silly moans to the movie can be really time consuming.
Let’s get back to the moment we mentioned predicting how the particular scene shall be recorded: we got the scene where we have to record and change the animation at the same time. Let’s see how it looked like before editing…
Now, the key is to crop the video to get rid of interface, we also need to keep in mind that the aspect ratio should stay the same as the whole video. Let’s see how it looks in the editor:
Steps to make it work are:
- On the timeline, click Event Pan/Crop icon, be sure you do it at right clip.
- Make sure the position is set to 00:00:00 – we want the crop/pan effect start from the very beginning of the clip.
- Make also sure cropping will keep the aspect ratio
- Grab the corner of the visible area and make it smaller, move into proper place to have only interesting part of the clip visible.
This video is rather simple one. There’s no story behind (what doesn’t change technical part of it, if you want to have a story it’s all matter of proper recording and finding animations and locations suitable for what you want to feature), and I tried to record all scenes with angles that allow me avoid a lot of crop/pan edits in post production. For the whole movie I used it only once. There’s also not really any special effects, because my aim was to keep it simple and be able to make the whole video clip in less than 6 hours (the whole time since I began looking for the place till release the video on the webpage).
I hope this short article has brough you some idea that movie making in SL® isn’t as magical knowledge as you maybe expected. I will try to pass more informations about this topic in future, along with new videos I plan to release.
And finally, the whole movie. Enjoy!