Machinima – What is it, and what do you need?

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I have always been a film buff. I have watched everything fromFlimsey Freenote, a machinima veteran Shakespearean dramas to Lovecraft horror and my big dream since I was a kid was to star in my very own movie. I have two major problems that prevent that; firstly, I cannot act and secondly, I do not have a film crew and a $150, 000 budget.

Then I heard that that is not necessary, if you do Machinima. Machinima is a group of filmmakers that have their own brand of making films by recording live-rendered 3D-models (like those in games or in SL). This style became so popular that it was named after the group, so Machinima is both the original group that started the trend, and the style of filming.

I started watching others Machinimas to get inspiration and perhaps a few hints on how to do things, but to no success. I tried myself with a few screen recording programs (to record what I see on the screen), but the image was distorted, so I tried Google, agina with no success. That is when I met one of SL’s film-making veterans, Flimsey Freenote.

She was happy to share her knowledge, and I shall share it with you 😉


Starting at the beginning, what do you need?

You need a screen-record software that can record uncompressed video. This is so you can get the highest possible quality without distortions (although it takes a LOT of space). About one minute of film can take up to 1Gb of disc space, so you also need a big hard drive dedicated to the raw footage. 750 Gb are recommended for shortfilms of about 15 minutes. This is because you will take a lot more shots than you need so you can produce good edits. The hard drive should be fast (at least 5400RPM), to keep up with the recording.

There are good free recorders, such as HyperCam, but most people use FRAPS, that saves a little bit of disc space by using its own loss-less codec. It is easier to use because it records only the program you are using instead of the whole screen. However, it is not free.

Next you need a computer good enough to handle it. It is said that the rule of thumb is the recommended requirements for both the program you are using as a stage plus the recording program plus a little extra.

You will also need editing software, such as Avid or Sony Vegas. There are no free video editing softwares worth looking at. Many try Windows Movie Maker that comes free with Windows, but it does lack many of the required features.

You will obviously need the game or program you want to use as your stage, but since you are reading this I am assuming that you already have Second Life.

It is recommended that you have either a 3D mouse or joystick for better camera control.


All the rest (scripts and friends to help you out) is optional. It is perfectly possible, singlehandedly to make a good improvised movie, but it is not easy. As for SL, you would probably want to invest in some scripts and animations as well as good avatar components and props.

One thing you will need though is a list of that which you need for your project, complete with timelines. Always assume something will not go as planned, because that is most often the case.


For the filming itself, make sure you have everything you need and a good strategy for the entire filming process, making sure all actors know what to do and when. Make sure the cameraman knows where and when to point the camera and always start filming about a minute before and stop about a minute after the shot, so you have some link footage to work with.


Make sure you have all legal things sorted. If you are using third party music, make sure you have permission, if you are using logos that do not belong to you, make sure you have permission.


Flimsey holds Machinima Monday meetings, between 2 and7pm SLT, where you can drop in and ask about anything you need to know about Machinima and film-making. Her advice is,

“The best way to start is to just do it. Film something. Many spend way too much time getting ready and not doing. The more you create the better you will get, so just go out and make a film! The easiest are music videos. You have a sound track, don’t need a script and there are tons of talented musicians that are generally happy to support you.”


Article by Morphman

0 thoughts on “Machinima – What is it, and what do you need?

  1. Thanks morph, until I read this I had only associated machinima with SL porn which seems to have a pretty dedicated SL following.

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