Sunday, 24 March 2013

Machinima - Second Life

Some considerations when making Machinima in Second Life.

Second Life is a 3D Virtual World where inhabitants can interact with different media content, other 'Avatars', and build objects within a virtual environment.

DaniWeb's administrator and writer, Happy Geek states that of Feb 2010, Second Life has a total population of 18 Million. There are other 3D Virtual Worlds (Comprehensive list of Metaverses by Ariane B) but by far Second Life appears to attract the most commentary. I personally believe it to be its name, Second Life, which brings about all sorts of assumptions by Newbie users and critics. One is that it is some sort of compensation for a First Life, however many Budhists might disagree.

It is important to understand that when you enter Second Life, you are entering an adult world where forms of freedom are encouraged in order to keep the virtual world a world of possibilities perhaps not able to be realised in the "real-world". This is close to thinking along the lines of possibility theory used in mathematics to account for exceptions and surprises, uncertainty. In other words a space where people's ability to cast their imagination onto a stage and play out anything that is inside them. Therefore entering into this world challenges our perceptions on what is the "correct" way to be. This makes for a rich canvass of Machinima making material. Utilise this uniqueness if you can, you'll surprise yourself with the many varied narratives possible in such an environment.

The importance of these freedoms is being able to freely explore, learn and communicate in a simulated world - learning, exploring and communicating in Second Life are vital functions of its purpose. Vital functions also of our world but because we are constantly pitting time against pleasure, the luxury of this "wholly" trinity is often only experienced by few in comparison to the proportion of the entire population of planet earth.

Second Life is kind of a DIY Theistic autonomy in many ways, still under the umbrella of Linden Labs, no-one I believe as yet is considering a revolution to over-throw the "government".

Some things to consider when exploring and interacting within Second Life.

Not everyone is who they seem to be. Intersexuality plays an important role in Second Life where you will encounter sims and avatars that might be animals, mythical figures, robots, whatever! Also, it is not unusual for men and women to play different roles in Second Life, a man might be on SL as a woman, and a woman on SL as a man. The illusion is part of the practice of transferring fantasy from our real-world mind into a virtual space.

So identity is ambiguous in the sense that all that exists within the virtual camp of Second Life is constructed and role-played at differing degrees.

A certain degree of boldness may be experienced when interacting with other people in Second Life, the mere fact that although virtual characters are standing opposite one another, the person behind the mask is remotely situated - which means that if in real life they might be fairly shy and polite, even to people who might be a bit rude, chances are in Second Life they wont hesitate to put their foot down if you behave irresponsibly towards them.

There is Adult Content in Second Life, it is after-all an adult world, as with everything, there is a time and place for your own investigations into these things if that is something that interests you. In SL there are also PG designated areas which forbid sexual content. There has also been implemented a "mature content" warning on areas that have sexual content.

You can basically teleport anywhere you like unless a place is locked. From my own experience my first run in with etiquette was funnily enough with littering. I had just received a car and forgot to pick it back up after I had finished with it. It was teleported back to me but the owner of the property potentially would have banned me if I were to repeat leaving my possessions around.

Second Life is not necessarily a game, there is no ultimate objective set for you to pursue or complete unless something you've set for yourself. So remember, if you treat people like generated beings out of a computer game, you probably wont get very far, the Second Life folk are living out alternative realities from their own or perhaps just enhancing real-life. However, there are many multiverses, and I'm sure there would be some that have the game construct truly in place. So, have fun, explore, learn and communicate.

Furthering research in Machinima and the Machinima-Expo is a good place to start. Here are some links to websites related to the festival organisers where you will find a plethora of Machinima stuff. The first is Blizzard which is a series of Machinima built using Warcraft, Diablo and other games. The second is Machiniplex which streams high quality Machinima. The third is Machinima Roadshow which has links to other Machinima sites. The fourth is Machinima Premiere promoting and supporting Machinima.

Finally, I must link again Machinima dot com, full to the brim of animated goodies.

Machinima uses 3D animation but you will discover, there is not always fancy effects or editing involved but as usual with most art "content is king", what you put in, we the viewer get out. So don't think that you need a whole circus of effects in order to impress your audience - one good idea told with intelligence will often not only suffice but knock socks off too.

What we need to consider when creating Machinima.

1. Storyboards.

2. Capturing software - Frapps, Taksi? Know of any others?

3. Cast - narrator, how many avatars. Is it doco style, using avatars outside your production team?

4. Location - somewhere busy, somewhere quiet, a sandbox.

5. Technical issues - codecs, film rate, lag, aspect ratio, storage.

6. Sound and music - source originals, create your own.

7. Copyright - DMCA, Creative Commons.

8. Text, speech, subtitles, title cards.

9. Narrative, plot, storyline, theme, genre.

10. Props and costumes - build your own, use others.

11. Schedule and Production Team - deadline, who does what, meetings.

12. Editing - style, approach.

13. Building - props, costumes.

It is vitally important that this workload is evenly distributed amongst your team. For now the first port of call should be 'story' and 'location' - story doesn't necessarily mean 'John went to the shops, bought milk, tripped over, cried', story could be 'confusion in modern world' or 'honor and betrayal' etc. If you think of a concept it will give you the framework upon which to immerse your literal story.

What might we consider in the scenario of creating Machinima in a group or production team.

1. Skills Store - who does what and why.

2. Communication - Email, Phone, Myspace, Blog, MSN, Twitter, Wki, Facebook, voice.

3. Mediation and Conflict Resolution - working out problems, arguments, if internal doesn't work seek external.

4. Have fun and inspire others.

The Machinima Expo link can be found here.

What kind of thematics do you want to apply to your Machinima Video? Is it a gothic comedy or Motown drama? Is it intertextual? Does it respond to its own world, and reference itself. Does it reference First Life? What media are you thinking of mashing with your Machinima? Does it spoof other forms of media?

If you would like to follow up this post with a previous snuffboxfilms post on Machinima, try this post here on Molotov Alva.

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