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Machinima offers the ability to create films which implement the best of traditional film making and animation as well as take advantage of this new media format.


Machinima can be used to:

  • Educate through video tutorials using 3-D animation
  • Memorialize concerts, lectures, conferences, and special events held in Second LIfe
  • Creatively direct, film, and produce animated movies, short films, television shows/series, commercials, and music videos


In Second Life:

  • Animations must be created outside Second Life
  • Limited number of facial expressions that are purchased as part of an animation override (AO) worn as a HUD
  • The best lip synch currently possible is to try to match open and closed mouth positions with the audio
  • A "puppeteer" tool is under development by Linden Lab, which could allow animations to be created inworld
  • Cost; expect to spend $600-$2,000 USD on hardware and between $39.00-$2,300.00 USD for software, or hire a professional company for $80.00-$200.00 USD per movie

to create your own quality videos




  • Lowood, Henry E. "Perfect Capture: Three Takes on Replay, Machinima and the History of Virtual Worlds." Journal of Visual Culture, forthcoming 2011.


  • The National Archives and Records Administration of the United States of America (NARA)

NARA has published its digital audio recommendations. These include using an "uncompressed lossless codec" and the following acceptable formats: AIFF, WAV, AU, BWF, FLAC, and MPEG4-ALS. NARA's preferred audio is 24 bps and the minimum acceptable is 16 bps. NARA recommends that "all audio should be recorded at a minimum sample rate of 44.1 KHz, although sampling at 96 KHz is encouraged." NARA recommends the following formats for visual materials: AVI, MXF, and MOV and "lossless open codecs such as Motion JPEG 2000 or HuffyUV." When lossless codecs can't be used, NARA recommends MPEG2, MPEG4, DV, and MJPEG2000. "NARA recommends a minimum 720x486 pixels at 30 frames per second." It recommends "8 bits per channel with 10 bits per channel preferred" at 48KHz.

Published guidelines for analog and/or digital audiovisual materials


  • Set Away timeout to "Never"
  • Set your avatar to "Busy"
  • Use CTRL+ALT+F1 and Shift+ALT+H shortcut keys to clear the screen during filming
  • Check FPS in the Second Life location with CTRL+SHIFT+1
  • Turn off names and groups above people's heads under the general preferences tab
  • Lower your draw distance
  • Set graphics preferences to Ultra & enable all Shaders (under Advanced) if your graphics card allows this
  • Under graphics preferences/Hardware, enable Anisotropic Filtering and set Anisotropic Filtering to 16x and set Antialising to 4-16
  • Be aware of your mouse location while recording
  • Record at the highest level possible with your video and audio capture software
  • Best recording formats for original video footage: DV-AVI* and MOV* (expect 1-2 GIG files)
  • Standard recording sizes for the internet: 1024x576 and 1900x1200
  • Best lossless formats for audio: Apple Lossless (ALE, ALAC), AIFF*, SDII, WAV at 44.1 kHz* and a sample size of 16 bits* to 24 bits*
  • Experiment with light and shadow
  • Try alternate viewers, like Windlight
  • Search for unique and interesting angles
  • Film a complete, seamless scene, when warranted, by remembering the cues "Action!" and "Cut!" used by traditional Directors
  • Aim for smooth shots using inworld camera tools, recording at the right frame rate, and filming in low lag sims
  • For experienced machinima artists, plan ahead: storyboard, build sets, get actors, provide costumes
  • Get to know the many talented music performers in Second Life
  • Capture audio and video separately, then combine during post production
  • Experiment with new features in Second Life, for example, by clicking CTRL+ALT+Q you display the Develop Menu. In it, under Rendering, check the wireframe view or the Render Metadata features
  • In the Develop Menu, enable HTTP textures, as well as Render Animation and Full Rez Textures
  • Create alternate avatars (Alts) if your computer can run more than one version of Second Life at a time; it is possible to log in with multiple avatars and use them instead of hiring actors
  • Make or purchase different skins/shapes to create different "characters" featured in the films
  • For documentaries, a good rule of thumb is for every 1 hour of footage captured, 1 minute will result in final footage
  • Creative pieces may require in-depth editing, re-shoots, and post processing, adding to the time needed to make a quality film
  • Re-filming scenes may be required during the editing stages
  • Blend in photos, create mini-animations with gradual frames like old-fashioned animated cartoons using a free tool like GIMP (
  • Always request permission of a sim owner before filming in their sim
  • Always respect copyright by using material that are either in the public domain, fall under a Creative Commons license, are materials you create yourself, or that you have written permission to use.
  • Always credit people who:
    • Own the sim
    • Create content appearing in the video
    • Appear in the video as avatars
    • Play music or created audio heard in the video


  • Pentium 3 or above CPU
  • DirectX 9.0c or DirectX 10
  • NVIDIA GeForce or ATI Radeon graphics card
  • 512 MB RAM video card



Video Capture

3D Creation

Video Editing, FX, and Post Production

Audio Recording, Editing and Enhancement

Audio is half of a machinima presentation. The choice of audio selection and the quality of the recording can make or break a machinima video. Audio is even more important when there is no storyline. More advanced videos will convey a story of some sort. It can be used to help create an impression or mood for the film. Options for voice narration including using one's own voice or employing a voice actor. A poem, story, fairy tale, folk tale, scene from a movie or play, etc. can be narrated in the video as long as it respects copyright law.


  • Voice actors should stand up when recording
  • Explain mindset (scenario) of the characters to the voice actor rather than telling him/her how you want them to sound
  • Practice in real time in Second Life with the voice actors prior to recording, but don't record voice in Second Life
  • Record in separate sound files and email or use Skype
  • Complete 3-4 takes per line
  • Sound rooms are used by some (price starts at $1500 USD)
  • Avoid gaming headsets because the microphones provide low quality audio recordings
  • Background noise can be removed by software, but it is better to use a good microphone and techniques
  • Distance or buffer the microphone from the computer fan
  • Determine the best microphone position/distance from the speaker's mouth before recording
  • Aim for 3-15 decibels amplitude range
  • Consider purchasing a microphone with a condenser microphone, phantom power, and a pop filter
  • Lip synch can be improved by taking many close up video shots
  • If recording voice first, the voice actor's speech and inflections can be used to select the right avatar appearance, gestures, and animations (think of Robin Williams in Disney's Aladdin)
  • Many voice actors will work for free; offer film credit, praise, and a show reel of all their voice clips



On the Internet

YouTube -

  • Recommended video formats: HD is 1920x1080 (1080p) or 1280 x 720, Codec: H.264 (MP4) or MPEG-2 and FLV (Adobe Flash)
  • Recommended audio formats: MP3 or Advanced Audio Codec (AAC) preferred, Sample rate: 44.1kHz, Channels: 2 (stereo)
  • Maximum file size and length: Expect up to 2 GIG, 10 mins

iTunes -

AviewTV -

Vimeo -

  • Recommended video formats: HD is 720p, Codec: H.264 (MP4) or WMV3. Their website recommends a frame rate of 25 or 30 fps and a data rate of "2000 kbits/sec for standard definition 4:3 video, 3000 kbits/sec for widescreen DV, or 5000 kbits/sec for high definition footage." Resolutions are "640x480 for standard definition 4:3 video, 853x480 for widescreen DV, or 1280x720 for high definition. It is also best to export 1920x1080 or 1440x1080 video as 1280x720 too, since we will automatically scale it down. If you have the option to control the pixel aspect ratio (not display aspect ratio) make sure it's set to "1:1" or "1.00", also sometimes called 'square pixels.'"
  • Recommended audio formats: Advanced Audio Codec (AAC), Sample rate: 44.1kHz, bit rate of 320 kbps
  • Maximum file size and length: Unknown




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The going rate to hire a machinima company varies, but is usually between 20,000-50,000 Linden dollars (approximately $80-$200 USD).



I would like to thank Cisko Vandeverre, winner of the UWA Challenge 2010 Machinima Award and computer animator with over 30 years of experience, who generously spent two hours talking with me on Skype from Berlin, Germany reviewing my original Second Life note card and offering his comments toward the improvement of these Best Practices guidelines. I would also like to thank Jason Spingarn-Koff (Jay Spire in Second Life), whose machinima video was recently shown at Sundance Film Festival, for reviewing these materials. Additionally, I would like to thank Fall Films (Rysan Fall in Second Life), who produces environmentally-conscious music videos used by Real Life performing artists like U2 and Craig Lyons.

©2010 Shannon Bohle (Archivist Llewellyn in Second Life)

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