Second Life & Machinima Movies

March 3, 2007

(“A Better Life” by avatar Robbie Dingo, a film created entirely in Second Life)

Through my conversations with members of PodCamp NYC (Adam Broitman from Morpheus Media particularly) I’ve become interested in Second Life, this virtual world created by Linden Labs.

What is exciting about Second Life is that it allows for awesome creativity, networking potentials and makes learning how to use 3D graphics and animation more fun and exciting. It’s also completely free to visit and you can do lots of fun stuff for free also. It’s similar to online games like “World of Warcraft” except that it offers flexibility and the ability for people to make the world they inhabit virtually. Oh, and you don’t have to shoot at characters or engage them in swordplay, unless you really want to. Basically, you are given the tools to fashion an avatar (3d character) which walks/flies, talks and represents you in virtual space. The great majority of the virtual space fashioned into cities, towns, or fantastical unreal space that you see are created by users, not Linden Labs. So you get a mix of beautiful and ugly spaces, however some places are truly spectacular and unique. Other avatars you see walking/flying around are also representing real people in real time, so you can chat and interact with them as if in real life. It’s not really a game either, in fact some avatars I spoke to took great offense at the idea it was merely a game – since there’s not really set goals. You just sort of arrive and decide what you want Second Life to be for you.

To give you an example, here’s one of my favorite places in Second Life, Roma. It’s an elaborate rendering of ancient Rome, complete with temple, colosseum, inn, amphitheater and even has a Roman bath house. It’s all created by the avatar Torin Golding, who I met in virtual form during the first virtual event I ever went to, a Roman celebration of the New Year, which started March 1st for them. There was a procession to the temple, lighting of torches, and prayers in Latin followed with fireworks (there was disagreement over the historical accuracy of the fireworks amongst the crowd of approximately 30 avatars) at the inn. Here’s a picture of the event.

roman new year

Also, on Blip TV there’s a great video by Rick Reil which shows in detail the intricate work and detail that went into this sim (jargon for the virtual space on Second Life). To find out more about the community of virtual Romans in general, check out Torin Goldings new blog – which also has info on how the virtual you can rent a virtual space in Roma.

Right now, the cons of Second Life are a general messiness, buggy code, and most newbie’s first experiences are confusing at best. This is expected for new technology though. Especially new technology that is experiencing huge user growth in the last few months. I bought the book “Second Life: The Official Guide” from Linden Labs and found that to be a very cool reference book to get my feet wet and sort of get my bearings. There are also lots of great tutorials and even virtual classes you can attend in Second Life.

One of the ways creative filmmakers/animators are using the medium of Second Life is to make movies from Second Life with their user created avatars and environments. They call this “machinima”, defined by Wikipedia as “the rendering of CGI using real-time, interactive (game) 3D engines”. In other words this is using Second Life or a computer game like “Half Life 2” or “Halo” or “Call of Duty” to create an animated film. Red vs. Blue (created using Halo) is a very famous example. One of the most famous of the Second Life machinima movies is “A Better Life” created by Robbie Dingo (yes, that’s his avatar’s Second Life name). It really shows the possibilities for doing very creative things in the medium.

I’m very excited about the possibilities and am learning more so I can start working on a machinima movie of my own shortly.


One Response to “Second Life & Machinima Movies”

  1. Sarah, perhaps you want to help out with a Podcampnyc Machinima? Could be fun 🙂

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