Sunday, September 13, 2009

Machinima Viewer: Take 2

At this point I'm fairly sure its no mystery that the concept of utilizing the Metaverse for machinima fascinates me. While it is still in a awkward stage, I feel that machinima will one day be considered yet another legitimate form of storytelling. The Metaverse holds particular promise as a production platform because unlike other systems, the creation of unique content is widespread, it is stylistically flexible, and it is unconstrained by conceits of what should be done with the platform. This coupled with the ability for widespread collaboration and less draconian copyright policies makes the system ideal for the production of machinima. With that in mind, it is worth highlighting the fact that while the potential for greatness exists, the tools to leverage this potential have yet to be built.

In a previous post, I described a very ambitious viewer project that would have allowed machinimatographers (who I'm going to call 'Toggers from now on for sanity's sake) to capture and edit machinima footage in new and powerful ways. While I still hold that system as an ideal, several months of continued introspection has revealed that the construction of such a system would be a herculanean effort with technical challenges that few are willing to tackle at this point in time. A different approach must be taken as a first step. A 'Togger-friendly viewer is possible with existing code, and advanced functionality could be added as development continues. First, a existing viewer could be stripped down to the functionality relevant to 'Toggers and then enhanced with new functions.

Here's a list of the basic functionality a Togger would need for setting up a scene and shooting:
Avatar movement
Camera controls
Basic communication (Chat, IM)
Inventory access
Object placement and positioning

Advanced Functionality:
Fine control over camera behavior (maximum speed, camera roll, zoom control)
Local camera view bookmarking
Bookmark-to-bookmark camera animation
Timeline-based camera animation controls
Aspect ratio window sizing
Shot composition screen overlays
Easier toggling of interface elements
Triggered animation control over actor's avatars (RestrainedLife API?)
Real-time shadows
Built-in footage capture (ditch FRAPS)
Local texture substitution

There is even more functionality that could be added, but that's for another post. I've restrained myself from giving this one a cheesy psuedo-title in part because I don't want to presume on someone else, and partly because I just can't think of anything else witty right now. Any takers?


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