Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Machinima workflow

If you read my last post, you know I'm working on creating my first machinima. I decided to document my workflow for future use (as I'm sure there are things I'll forget when I go to teach this to the kids). So....

Day one:
1) Get assignment from the PBWiki summer course and decide to create machinima. Estimated time for assignment according to the instructor: 1.5 hours.
2) Go to Torley Linden's site to determine how it's done.
3) Read his workflow
4) download Camtasia and watch several "how to" videos from their site
5) open SLTG and record first Camtasia video (it's terrible!)
6) discover my original idea of doing a flyby of the entire set of sims just isn't do-able on my computer (need new graphics card and faster processor). Recorded video is jerky when SL graphics are turned up full.

Day two:
7) Turn down graphics in SL
8) now buildings appear and disappear when I try to film them as I move closer and further away from them. Video still looks terrible.

Day three:

9) Decide to do a set of small shots showing just AccelerateNation4 (the sim which will be the home base for my class come September). By scaling down the project and going with several shorter recordings, I'm hoping to get rid of the jerky camera movements.
10) Prepare SL; start Camtasia
11) make 2 recordings
12) edit first recording by adding titles (had to watch another vidtut to figure them out)
13) add transitions once all the titles are in (some work, some don't. Have NO idea why)
14) burn the music I want to use to my hardrive to make it easier to find and upload into the program
15) ask permission from Heath to USE the music (I know, I did it backwards).
16) discover if you edit after adding music, you also edit out the music clip.
17) add in second recording; edit
18) add end titles and second piece of music
19) discover you can move the music away from the titles so you can edit titles, then put music back (still want a way to play the music and edit the video separately so I can time the beats better)
20) save and publish to web!

Actual time spent: 7 hrs. (sigh). And that doesn't include the extra time I needed when the video didn't upload to YouTube because I had the wrong extension (thank you, Frank! And don't laugh at my jerky camera!).

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I peeked ahead at the wiki homework for next week (PBwiki is wonderful!) and saw I have to embed a movie that I made myself into a wiki page on my current wiki. I have NO idea how to do the machinima I want to eventually do and planned to make that a student project this coming year. I had it in my head that I'd get someone in the class who wanted to go further faster than the rest and I'd sic machinima on him/her and then have the student teach me. But this is probably better.

The first thing I did was go to Torley Linden's site and see what process he uses to make the Tip of the Week videos. The guy is amazing and all his videos are so fluid, appearing effortless. NO one can be in Second Life long and not learn about or from Torley. His site also features free textures, so I'm sure my students will also learn about him.

Imagine my surprise to discover Torley uses Camtasia...a program our IT guy has been promoting for over a year (waving to Frank and giving in!). I downloaded a 30-day free trial, watched a few tutorials and eagerly went in-world to start capturing my first video. Ugh! This poor computer is too old and NEEDS A NEW GRAPHICS CARD!!! I've been wanting to upgrade for a year now and now I have a better reason other than just wanting to. The video I captured was far too choppy simply because my computer cannot render the image to the screen fast enough with the graphics turned all the way up in SL. Hopefully I'll be able to get enough video that works so that I can complete my assignment.

But this actually has a good purpose in showing me the basics of machinima for the Virtual Worlds course. I *think* we have a site license for Camtasia which means the students will be able to learn it...and I have an in-house expert on the ins and outs of the program I can bring in to guest teach it (waves again in Frank's direction). Will be a lesson for second semester, but definitely will become a part of the class!

Okay, going off to capture more video...


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

in-world meeting and a wiki

Several items to report today! First up, it was great to meet Lynn Yoder in-world. Lynn is our BOCES leader on this project. She and I have been emailing frequently, but this was our first Teen Grid hook-up. We had a great conversation and I taught her how to add texture to an object.

Second, I signed up for a free PBWiki online course this summer. Six weeks of work and conversation and if I do all the homework, I get a free, platinum-level wiki for an entire year. Not a bad payoff at all. Over 1000 people have taken advantage of this offer (educators only) and the place is rocking!

Why do I report that here? Because I'm wedding web 2.0 and web 3.0 (the wiki and SLTG, respectively) with this course. Not only am I using a blog for accounting purposes (and my own need to think things through), but I'm using the wiki for students to do the same. They'll record their thoughts in a journal page they keep, but they also will create content for the wiki as they go along (I'm planning to have them prepare "how-to" guides of some of the basic skills people need in SL). It's also a great place for me to put their assignments...so the kids can progress through at their own pace. I'll be in RL (real life) with my whip in the classroom to spur them on, but those that want to outpace me, will easily be able to.

So, I met Lynn and then added a few more texture boxes to the texture "store" and also added the journal page to the wiki today. A good day's work of about an hour and a half spent (would've been longer in SL, but the region was undergoing a restart, so I needed to log anyway. Took the time to write this post instead of making more texture boxes).

Take care,

Friday, July 18, 2008

baby steps

Bit-by-bit we're getting there. The estate manager of the sims I will be working in has created a group, I've been invited in. She's given me permissions and I should be all set to set up my in-world office soon. Although I'm not really sure how I'll use the space as an office. Wish I had brought over an inbox so kids could leave me notecards easily.

Which leads me to a small problem with adults on the Teen Grid. Because we're essentially "prisoners" of our islands (adults are confined only to the sims in which they will be teaching) and because our avatars can have NO contact with the "other" SL (the adult grid), there is no way to get any items one might discover one needs after the transfer has completed. I tried to get some freebie stuff from SLExchange that would be useful for the kids...and was denied. I can't even send anything from my regular SL avatar. I'm on the SLED list-serv and every once in a while I discover something new that would be helpful (the NMC has a teacher's box on thier island free for the taking. Who knew?) but I don't bother picking it up because there isn't a way to get it to myself anymore. This is a frustration.

Other than that...having fun!


Sunday, July 13, 2008

The title of the course I'll be teaching in the fall, like the title of the blog here, is focused on the exploration of virtual worlds...what they can do, what they can be used for, what their purpose is. While I have Second Life in mind for the bulk of the course since it is, by far, the most user-controlled world I've found, I do want the students to understand it isn't the ONLY virtual world in cyberspace.

So I've checked out There and Alice. I recently made myself a room at Lively. All attempts, although poor ones based on the learning curves needed for each one.

Then I found the Association of Virtual Worlds ...and their Blue Book. Oh, my glory. I knew there were many worlds I wasn't exploring (Club Penquin and Neopets leap to mind), but I had no idea there were so many run by so many different organizations. The sheer number of them certainly brings the Open Sim project into focus for me.

Open Sim is, if I understand it correctly, a project designed to make cross-platform jumping a possibility. I can create an avatar in Second Life and then, without logging out, jump to Open Sim and from there, to my room on Lively. While this is barely out of the lab yet, it's incredible to see the work being done (most of which, admittedly, is over my head). I look at this list of virtual worlds and realize that, someday, we will jump from world to world with the same ease we now move from website to website. And there are some who don't believe this is important?

Moving teachers into virtual worlds won't happen until there's a major shift in educational philosphy. Until then, only those who are willing to bleed a little are going to be out here, and believe me, there are far more adventurers ahead of me. I thank them for leading the charge. I'm just a footsoldier. And if I may stretch this analogy a little further...the majority of teachers are the folks back home who don't come out of their safe places until the rest of us have secure the area.

Okay...off to create a lesson plan with that Blue Book as a guide...


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Woohoo! I'm in! I got the notice today that when I logged in, I'd be on the Teen Grid. Good thing I've spent HOURS these past few days loading up my avatar with clothes, buildings, textures, furniture...everything I could think of. Last night I spent time putting it all into boxes so it would be easy to find and unpack once I migrated.

So now I'm there...on the AccelerateNation islands run by the Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES. They've had someone else build on their 4-sim set (unfortunately...I wanted the kids to learn from the ground up, but I'm flexible) and I now have a list of a bunch of "errors" or "mistakes" that need correcting. The worst one was a teleport that 1) jumped me to the wrong building and 2) put me in a trench UNDER the wrong building, so I couldn't get out. Since I don't yet have building permissions, I couldn't rez a box and use it to lift me out (a trick I learned years ago in SL...yes, I've been in bad tp situations before). Only way out was to quit SLTG and log in again. Oh! And the main log-in doesn't seem to work either. I keep getting the message that the location is "unavailable" and it will put me close. I enter right beside the outside wall of a building, so I suspect the builders put a structure over the original log-in point and never changed it. Another "error" that needs to be cleaned up. Believe me, I'm making a list!

Can't wait to actually get in and start preparing stuff for early lessons. I'm thinking a scavenger hunt fairly early on. Something to get them moving around the islands to see what's there, while learning how to pick up notecards/objects along the way. Of course first will be lessons in learning how to fly, move, and use that pie chart. Although I suspect fixing one's appearance also needs to be pretty close to the front, too :).

Cool! I feel like I've been treading water for the past few weeks, although I know I've done far more than that. I have literally tens of thousands of free textures, thousands of individual pieces of clothing for both guys and girls, hundreds of pieces of furniture and decorations...all of which took time to gather and sort (I think I've managed to get rid of all the non-PG stuff, but need to unpack the boxes and be sure. But I need permissions to build first 'cause right now I can't rezz ANYthing!).

Now, however, the actual lesson plan creation begins and for a teacher, that's the fun part. The research is done (although on-going. New information is always coming out about the societal/educational/business applications of SL), the materials gathered (although I *know* there is something I'm going to wish I had time to pick up), now it's time to figure out what to do with both the research and the materials. Fun!

I'll keep posting to this blog (now that I finally remembered the password) as time goes on and keep this as my official record of work in-world. To that end...here are my hours so far...

July 5th -- 52 minutes spent visiting freebie places on adult grid; collecting "stuff"
July 7th -- 2 hrs spent loading and sorting all the freebie stuff I'd collected; also visited more freebie stores and gathered more "stuff"
July 8th -- 1.5 hrs spent accepting freebies from my other avatar and sorting; made boxes of gestures, clothing, furniture, textures to unpack after the move
July 9th -- 1.5 hrs spent exploring my new home! Also spent time finding the "flaws" in the build and making notes on what needs to be fixed. Updated this blog.

Take care...this is fun!

Thespis Thespian