In my quest to become an “insider” (an active citizen of SL and not just an outside commentator) I have become immersed in the wonderful world of machinima. As some of you will soon find out, I am presenting a keynote paper at the Australian Systemic Functional Linguistics conference on the semiotics of machinima called: The Machinima Explosion and its Transforming Potential for Innovation in Literacy Education with Frontier Technologies. So to understand it best, I am involved in shooting several machinimas (machinima, for those uncertain of the term, simply comes from the combination of the words “machine” and “cinema” and refers to 3D animated movies made with gaming technologies).
I have been working on this particular machinima with Kronos (the director) and Dell (the leading man) and above is a shot of us shooting at the set. Kronos teaches at a film and acting school in NY so has years of “real world” experience. Working with him has been a dream because I have learnt so much about the language and practice of filmmaking from all angles. (I could now tell you about way points, cycloramas, and infinity corners, for example!) I have also learnt a lot of neat tricks in SL about how to control the gaze and head movements of my avatar and so on.
So a few weeks ago, Kronos wrote a script - it is a short comedy called “Lip Flap”. We then started building the set. Well, Kronos built it, and I dressed and designed most of it. The action all takes place in a bedroom, though there might be some flashback sequences, depending on time constraints I believe. So I spent quite a lot of time hunting all over Second Life for some gorgeous bedroom furniture, right down to tiny details like tote bags, makeup boxes, jewelry boxes, hairbrushes, books and so on to place about on the furniture. Since some of my costumes were from Nonna Hedges, I also did a little subtle product placement with this gorgeous box from her store.
Then Kronos sent Dell and I a list of information we would need to know before the shoot. This included telling us that we had to keep idle chatter to a minimum (*grin*), and telling us that when the camera was rolling, he wouldn’t see our chat etc.. lots of technical stuff! He also sent us a shot sequence so we would know what order we would be doing things. (Kronos is extremely organised, so professional!).
The script involves me doing 8 costume changes. My costumes had to reflect variety and difference, so I spent a LONG time going through my hundreds of outfits to finally select my top 10 favourites. I made pre-shoot photos of each costume and sent the photos to Kronos for inspection, and he selected the 8 he thought would work best for the shoot. We ended up selecting clothing from: Nonna Hedges, Pixel Dolls, Rebel Hope, Simone, Luxe and Chaospire. The shoot starts out with me in my favourite Nonna Hedges outfit, and finishes with me in my favourite Luxe costume (this gothic gypsy one). Here’s the Chaospire gothic fairy costume that comes half way through:
So I pre-prepared the full costumes into folders so that I could drag and drop and do instant costume changes! While doing this preparation I finally realised (after 6 months of being in Second Life!!!) that I could make copies of my skin, hair, and manicure to add to each individual folder, to enable a complete avatar change in one move! The only difficulty I had was with my eyelashes, which were non-copyable, so I had to manually attach them every single costume change *groan* I also had key lights - like a spotlight - attached to my torso so that I would be adequately lit at all times, and these lights were also inside each invidual folder. In addition, Kronos had made folders for Dell and I with all of the animations we would need during the shoot. The preparation time actually took more time than the shoot itself!
So last night we began shooting. It was actually a kind of boring process when the cameras were rolling, but after each sequence of takes Kronos would go check the rushes to see if he’d got what he needed, and during those times Dell and I chatted and played games and amused ourselves with general silliness. We’re wrapping up shooting over next weekend, then Kronos will do the editing, and he and Linda (his wife) will be doing the voice overs and foley FX.
It’s a wonderful process to be involved in, and I have learnt an awful lot as I said. I could do this sort of thing all day long, its so stimulating. But alas, I must go back to marking 80 assignments on verbs and nouns :/
(PS: If you are one of my undergraduate students, never fear, I like your assignments, you did great work, but marking them is a tedious process!)