Thursday, 3 March 2011

The Echelon SFX

I occasionally attend meetings of the group Machinima Mondays, a group started by two of my favourite machinimatographers, Toxic Menges and Chantal Harvey. The meetings are a chance for machinima film-makers to get together and share work, advice, solutions to problems and, if a Linden is there (as there was this past week), a chance to offer suggestions for a more-dedicated machinima viewer, or what elements would be useful to have in a viewer.

This week, I actually feel like I contributed something of use! I was able to share the link for my last piece of work (my Echelon Effect video) and talk about it. Some people asked whether I was using Space Navigator (a type of mouse) and had a really steady hand; however, I did explain how I'd done the single shot zoom effect using the SL viewer's Debug menu.

It was actually a tip I found from Torley Linden's video tutorials on YouTube - and if I could find the video again, I'd be posting a link to it now! Basically, what you do is change the time it takes for your camera view to switch back from a zoomed position or point back to its default position above an avatar's head.

To change the time, first you need to activate and open the Advanced menu on the viewer, by pressing Ctrl+Alt+D and then go down to Debug Settings; this opens the Debug dialog box.

In the command bar, you'll need to type zoomtime; this should then present you with a time option. By default, the setting will read 0.400 - that's the time it takes to go from a zoomed point back to default, less than half a second. For the video I shot, I knew the soundtrack ran to just under three minutes, so to give my video a bit of breathing room before the music started and just after it finished, I set my zoom time to 180.000 seconds. However, take note: before you change the zoom time, you should have already zoomed in on something (using, for Windows users at least, Alt + Left Mouse button), as if you then try and zoom after you've changed the zoom time, your new setting will already apply.

So, you've zoomed in on something and changed your zoom time? Now, to activate the zoom, I tend to use the Esc button. First, you'll need to click away from the Debug dialog box (as long as your zoom point is fixed using Alt+Left mouse button, it shouldn't be a problem); just left click on something nearby. Turn off all windows by pressing Ctrl+Alt+F1, and then hit the Esc button twice - the first hit will close your Local Chat bar, and the second will activate your zoom. If everything goes to plan, you should then have a slow zoom (depending on what time you changed the zoom to) neatly back to above your head. In the video I shot, I wanted the camera to come to a natural stop but obviously didn't want to include myself in the shot, so I triggered an animation that would hide my avatar underground, without changing my avatar position.

It was nice to hear several people had learned something new from my explaining this, and they vowed to then go and use the effect in their own projects. I use it almost all the time in mine; I think the results it creates make a really nice touch.

If you're interested in learning more about Machinima from the people who make it, join the group and come along to Machinima Mondays. The meetings are held - unsurprisingly - on a Monday at two different times to cover as many time-zones as possible. It's either a small (virtual) world, or I know a lot of talented people, because almost every week I meet another tiny at one of the meetings!

No comments: