The making of the ACA-SL Video by Surfwidow Beaumont

The video: ACA-SL Cup in Second Life

Making Machinima in Second Life is something that allows artistic and creative skills to be transferred to this new medium.

I worked for the press as photojournalist framing images, organising people for some time and ‘getting the shot’ was always the priority. Snapping people from the Queen and Princess Diana to Celebrities and even children’s school sports, one thing that press photography (and video) does is capture unrepeatable events first time – you can’t go back and ask the Queen to walk that way a second time.

Although the America’s Cup in Second Life may seem to many as incomparable to Real Life – it isn’t. Like any project where something happens once, meticulous organisation and forward planning is key. As is the support of the organisers permission to give AAA (access all areas).

This trust adds additional pressure as you do not want to let them down nor disappoint all the sailors that participated in the event who want to see themselves in the finished film.

Equipment is another area that is significant to the success of a project.

The famous photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (Co-Founder of Magnum Pictures Photo Agency) described the right time to get a shot as ‘the decisive moment’. Video or Machinima is 30 frames ‘per moment’ so just filming what is happening is not enough. It must be a series of ‘decisive moments’ in other words every shot, every angle, every clip should be a great photo on its own and every still a perfectly composed image using the rules of composition and lighting that could stand alone from the video as a single framed photo.

To capture great video one needs a hi quality video camera 3CCD HD at least broadcast quality, with stills a sports photographer would need to invest in large optics costing 1000s of dollars – although a good photo can be taken on a camera phone lets face it. With Machinima it’s similar – you need a fast video card, a lot of ram and video and audio editing skills.

The moment the clips are gathered they are uncompressed and huge file sizes, this requires large Hard drives for storage and a temporary second HD in case the first one fails. For the Americas Cup I used 2 x 250 GB External HDD just for the clips – one was a back up of the other. 1.5GB Ram and a 512mb Video Card.

Capturing video is often the area of a program called FRAPS but sometimes you need to whole screen this is where Camtasia comes in and a useful program for machinima makers.

So you have your clips you have the permission to film, you have all of this stored 400 GB of files. Now what?

You need to somehow make all of this make sense – tell a story, make it exciting, decide on the pace, is it slow romantic or fast action packed extreme sports.

The latter requires more clips and a lot more editing, excitement is key – make the viewer feel the heart pounding action and when the video is over they don’t realise that was 10 mins as it felt like 2.

But one of the most important factors in any extreme sports style video is the sound track. The musical score needs to be laid down first and you work to that beat.

Fortunately there is now a lot of Creative Commons Music out there that you can use so go search it out, If you have friends who create music then see if you can use theirs – or get a program called Acid by Sony and create your own 🙂

I chose fast paced, ‘hammering’ audio, sound effects and the clip rate was changing almost ever 3 seconds – You have to thank the ‘3 minute attention span MTV generation for that 😉

To edit the ACA-SL video I used Vegas 7 by Sony and Adobe Audition. I have gathered sound effects for almost 10 years so its impossible to go into details, many I create myself using a Sony Mini Disc and BeyerDynamic M58 Mic.

Editing is something that can be done in a day the ACA-SL Cup took many weeks – and I edited as I gathered.

The most stressful parts

1. getting to every event on time and ensuring I have two computers ready in case one fails
2. flying to the key points and setting up before the boats arrived
3. watching the great shots ruined by boats sim crossings as they sink under the water or bounce along through the air – shot binned a real shame
4. worrying about everything working

The Best Parts

1. being given permission to ‘access all areas’
2. getting to know all the top skippers personally
3. getting to know the organisers of this event and making friends with them
4. the result – I am pleased with it – I am my own worse critique – think of Monica from the US Sitcom ‘Friends’ with a computer – and I think you can’t go far wrong 😉

Roll on the next project

Happy Days and Have Fun!

Surfwidow Beaumont


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