Making Machinimas: The Essential Checklist

What’s Machinima?

Machinima is film making within a real-time, 3D virtual environment, mostly using 3D video-game technologies. Its creating a short film by using a game engine.It all started in the late 90s with Quake when gamers were filming and editing to create short films. We have widely used it in Rezzable and our OpenSim-based Private Grid to create short films of Fashion Shows, exhibitions or simply wandering around on our beautifully created sims . If you would like to know more about how it’s used in other gaming platforms or advertising you can do a bit more reading here. (What is a machinima–Officer Dan explains here courtesy

above: recent short machinima where checklist below was helpful

How Do I Make a Machinima :

You have watched some of ours and now you are wondering how do I do this. Before anything technical we must warn you that all you need is patience to get the right mixture of minutes of footage. On the brightside, you don’t need to spend too much money to give it a try as most tools are open source. First let’s see our what’s needed checklist

  • A Virtual World Environment
  • Video Capture Program
  • Video Editing program
  • and music/ audio recording and editing program

Once you have these in place it would be useful to read through our checklist from Jon Himoff who has done many machinimas in the past and so his first hand experience will be of great use.

Making Machinimas Checklist

Planning Machinimas

Game plan and shot list: Make as detailed a shooting plan as possible. Break-out each shot into a list showing actors, expressions, dialogue, fx and sets that are needed. Getting the faces to do something other than look blandly into space is not too easy, so you will need to collect lots and lots of gestures, animations, emotes as you can. And keep your vid short! 10 secs of boring vid is seemingly endless. Make it snappy to keep ’em happy (unless you a mood expert like Lainy Voom)

Materials Collection: make sure you have a pose stand! Then load it up with lots of relevant animations. Make sure the stand will go invisible. Get avatar emoter controls. Then of course you will need wardrobe and any cars/guns/accessories for the actions.

Shooting, editing Time and Effort guidelines: It takes about 1 hour to shoot a minute’s worth of editable shots. It then takes another hour to edit that the clips down to something worth watching. So a 3 minute vid should take about 6 hours to hammer out–provided you have enough diet coke/mountain dew/lattes and some right size diapers. This is of course just part of the production effort and you will need to organize your scripts, actors, sets and effects which will take more effort.

Make a scratch track: Get something like Audacity and make a good scratch track of the music, voices that you want to have in your film. You can do of course do this after you shoot, but we find it a lot more efficient to have this track down first. Do it quick and then finalize it after you do the edit. It really helps when you want to have the music add to the impact of the vid.

Get Help: Find some people to support the action. Sometimes you can just scream video and tons of people will come to be extras. But getting them to do what you need on cue is like herding cats into a swimming pool. It is super hard to coordinate stuff in world when you are filming. So good to have a voice call going on skype. People get really confused really easily, so good if you can share the shooting plan with them so they can add to it.

Shooting Machinimas

Screen capture: we use Fraps. Typically set to capture half-screen which is fine for web showings. We did something recently with full screen and it looks very goodbut files are huge (200meg for 15-20 secs) and massive files are slower/tweaky in Adobe Premier to edit.

SL Viewer Settings: crank up the details on our preferences and turn-on anti-aliasing (on hardware options) to as high as it will go.

Windlight: Get familiar with WL settings. Moving the sun is very handyeast angle setting. Using windlight can make it much cooler and you can style entire shoot to make it fresh.

Lighting: You can only see the effects of 6 lights at a time using the SL viewer. Find the best mix of face lights and scenes lights. Also use the light radius control to see how far a light is shining. Ctrl+Alt+T makes transparent things visible. Watch out if you are shooting underwater level ’cause even 100% alpha prims are ghosted underwater.

Alt+Cam: use this to look the avatar eyes on stuff, give actors targets. Alt+Cam is also handy to lock the camera and then have the avatars move around in POV sorta. A good move is to have someone walk with your camera locked on them and then swirl around them using alt+cam.

3D Connexion Joystick: Good cam controller and does in particular xlent vertical pan shots. You need to check the SL viewer settings and then enable it. It will revert to mouse if you click on something. alt+shift+f to jump into flycam mode

Viewer UI Off: toggle UI with ctrl+alt+F1, toggle HUDs with shift+alt+H

Fraps Record: F9

Editing Machinimas

Editing software: Adobe Premiere good for editing, transitions, title, keying. There are many other editing packages, but I give this top rating and it isn’t too pricey.

Fake Lip Moves: Crazytalk is sorta cool/sorta weird thing, but adds to production values if you can get it right. Go tight and have a few head set-ups to switch around. Also try an over the shoulder view on the person listening inworld to make it look like a conversation.

Post-edit cooler stuff: Consider After Effects usually too tired after shooting all this stuff, but there are some cool effects to work in here.

Get rights to music!: people sometimes will donate their music or pay to use something from a righted music source like Unique Tracks. But, sorry, no you can’t really use itunes stuff just because everyone else does or because no one is really gonna watch your vid anyway.

Remix Soundtrack: using Audacity or simple stuff in Premiere. Voice can add a lot to production valuebut bad voice is er…really *cough* bad.

Compression: for webh264 seems ok. But you can also throw big ‘ole .avi’s at youtube and blip and let them compresswhich usually is good. Plus you will want to keep the .avi on your pc as your best quality verison.

Showing Machinimas

YouTube: is best really still best choice, especially now that you can upload HD and large files. We also use because they have a nice viewer and statistics. Both offer ad revenues. Check also Note that some other sites are actually yanking down machinimas–we have heard that vimeo is doing this without warning.

SEO: Make sure you keyword videos and link to blog posts. Use descriptive SEO friendly titles and full descriptions listing credits, cast, music credits.

Please let’s us know if you have tried and used our checklist and tips on making machinimas. We do regular machinimas in Heritage Key .