The best way to learn something is to do it. I think. That’s why may be I like so much SL. You learn building by building, you learn a language by using it to communicate, and you learn to make a machinima…deciding that you will have a go at it.
My first attempt with machinima goes back to 2007. If I rememeber it right I used the recording device that was imbedded in the SL viewer. Later, I bought me a copy of Fraps, and I start learning to edit with Camtasia . For fun: just went somewhere, left Fraps on and then spent some time cutting and paste the result. I was fascinated mostly by avatars. I found avatars beautiful and very interesting. There was also a bit of voyeurism in it… ;p spying on people while they did not know.
Some time later I started to use it for making quick tutorials (it’s much easier to show how to do something than to write about it, above all for a medium as visual as SL) and then to document what we were doing at Italianiamo without bothering with snapshots (since I always forget to take snapshots: too busy with what is going on to take any).
But from this to actually shooting a story, with voice and everything… well, there was a big big difference.
So, when I came up with my proposal to make a machinema with the Italianiamo participants, I really had no idea of how to do it.
The main problem was to understand and learn how to record other people live speech. Everything seemed to work fantastically, then I wrote something in chat… and nasty sounds and echo started to deafened everybody around me. I was obliged to stay silent all the time! Me, an Italian, without any chance to talk! That’s torturing! And… have you ever tried to direct an actor communicating with her/him only by mental waves?
To help me I had the collaboration of two good friends and ex colleagues of mine: Paolo Inventor (formerly Languagelab’s Head Teacher) and Salsita Almendros.
But who solved all my problems was Wlodek Barbosa who in an TLVW workshop on voice settings, made me understand that the problem was that… my “push to talk trigger” was the letter P!!!! Every time i wrote a “p” in chat, my micro went on.
Once i corrected this, things went on smoothly, although I did many other big mistakes and had to ask to the participants of the project to repeat some scenes.
Things I learned:
- Don’t change from “micro” mode to “what is heard” mode without switching off and on again Fraps: it will keep the settings of when it was first opened. (This is how I recorded a full 1:30 hours session with no voice at allll!!)
- Have your HD half empty when you start recording: files are huge and you will run easily out of space.
- Use Fraps instead of Camtasia for the recording: it automatically cuts the takes in shorter parts (10-15 min each). If you crash, you loose only the last part, not the whole session.
- Shoot each scene more than once: you will be able to use the best part of each, correcting mistakes and obtain a better result.
- Unless you are a professional and have a very steady hand, don’t try to move the camera while recording. Chose a different camera position with each take. You will do the zooming, reverse shot, etc. you want when you edit the video.
- When you edit, divide the sound and the images and work on different tracks. In this way you will be able to cut and move more freely the images while keeping the dialogue untouched.
- Look at Camtasia tutorials, you will find interesting tips in them.
- And don’t be afraid: if there is a problem, you will find a solution.
A big thank to all who consciously or unconsciously helped me, and a huge thank to the Italianiamo participants for their patience and wonderful work.