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The MachinimaCam HUD: Advanced Techniques

A recap of the Advanced MachinimaCam HUD Workshop held Saturday, May 9, 2009 at Rouge.  If you missed the introductory workshop, you can find a recap of that session here.

Moving Around

All caught up? Good.  Let’s get started by talking about movement control hardware.  Joysticks are one of the most flexible ways to move your camera in-world.  You can do camera tricks like zoom in and out, camera traveling or simulate camera paths.  The traditional, large-handled joystick works just fine, but some of you may prefer to use a device called Space Navigator.  This was developed specifically for use in virtual worlds and 3D environments, is not very expensive, and is relatively easy to use.  The SL viewer even offers setup options specifically for the Space Navigator.  For more information about this tool, visit the SL Wiki page on joystick flycams and for a peek at the Space Navigator in action, watch this gorgeous Machinima by Sam Lowry:

It’s a wonderful Second Life… Breathe… from samlowry on Vimeo.

For the sake of completeness, we should also mention that there are other in-world tools for creating Machinima, such as the ALT-ZOOM camera by ALT-ZOOM studios.  This tool allows for “dolly shots” which is a special follow cam that follows your avatar with a framed upper body.  The Filming Path tool is also available and allows you to place invisible prims to create a path for your camera to follow automatically.  Information about both of these tools can be found on the Second Life machinima wiki page.

Advanced Camera Control Techniques

During the first workshop, we talked about the commands used to control the MachinimaCam HUD.  Because MachCam features a completely invisible interface, the camera is controlled by HotKeys.  One thing our group of students noticed that can cause some confusion: The HotKeys trigger chat commands that control camera functions.  When you have several avatars creating machinima in within chat range of each other, the MachCam will listen to the chat commands given by any avatar.  The original MachinimaCam HUD was not created for group filming, but as collaboration has become more prevalent in SL, we certainly see the need for updating this feature.  I’m happy to report that Codie is already knee-deep in upgrades for MachinimaCam that will preserve its ease of use while allowing for more advanced features and automation.

Let’s talk about some tricks for enhancing your filming experience:

  • Mouse wheel is your friend.  Even when your camera is not in free mode, meaning the MachinimaCam HUD has control of your camera, you can use your mouse wheel to zoom in and out while filming.  For example, when using the SpinCam effect, you can use your mouse wheel to position the camera closer to you.  When you start the effect by using F5 Action, you will notice the spin will start closer to you than it ordinarily would.  This is valid for most of the motion effects.  Playing with the mouse wheel will move the camera forward and back from your avatar, giving you more fine-tuning control.
  • Keyboard shortcuts are always handy.  Also for zooming, you can use CTRL+8, CTRL+0 and CTRL+9 to move your camera out, in and back to default, respectively.  F11 and F12, as mentioned in the introductory workshop, control the speed of your camera movement.  Don’t be afraid to play with camera positioning and speed to create the end-result you are looking for.  Filming machinima is often as much about trial and error as it is about creating art.  That said…
  • Practice makes perfect.  Or not. Most cut/edit software, like Sony Vegas and the others mentioned in the first workshop, will allow for smooth transitions, so don’t worry too much if you have some delay or clunky camera work in your raw footage.  So, even if you are not 100% pleased with everything you shoot, give it a chance in post-processing.  Sometimes the biggest “flubs” make the best art.

More To Come

Did I mention that Codie is working on upgrading the MachinimaCam HUD? Well, let me tell you about some of the features that will be tweaked, refined and added:

  • Avatar Scan and Target: You will no longer be stuck filming yourself, the camera will be able to scan for any avatar in range and target it via menu.
  • Camera Remote Control: Take control of another user’s camera through your own MachCam.
  • Dolly Shots: As discussed above.
  • Filming Paths: Use avatar position snapshots to control your camera along a predetermined path.
  • Camera Movement Control and Playback: This will allow you to record the effects used during a filming session and play them back in the exact sequence they were recorded using a script-dump and notecard system.
  • Configurable Chat Channels: As mentioned previously, this will allow you to control your own camera without interfering with other cameras in chat range.

Suggestions? We are always open to them.  If you have a feature you would like to see implemented into the next version of MachinimaCam HUD, please contact either Codie or me.  We want to know what will make your life as a machinimist easier!

FilterCam Basics

Codie finished this workshop with an introduction to FilterCam, the innovative HUD designed to add special effects to your in-world photography and machinima without the need for advanced post-processing.

Mechanized Life FilterCam from Osiris Pfalz on Vimeo.

FilterCam combines four customizable layers that overlays your whole screen with texture masks, color, transparency and glow controls.  Each layer is a transparent prim superimposed over your screen.  What this means is, by altering these layers, either manually or through the 42 standard presets (selectable via menu), you can change the look and feel of your image.  Add haze, frame your subject, create a cinematic effect, and many more options are at your fingertips with only a click or two.  There are examples of FilterCam photography in the Flickr Group and everything you need to know to get started is available on the FilterCam documentation page.

Next week, we will talk about creating your own, customized FilterCam effects in more detail.  Stay tuned, as I’ll be adding that tutorial very soon!

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