Posted by: Peter Quirk | November 9, 2008

Recording and sharing realXtend machinima

Since support for recording video dropped out of the Second Life viewer, and by extension, the OpenSim and realXtend viewers, I’ve been looking around for a good tool to record machinima. Machinima are great for demonstrating ideas to people who can’t/won’t install the viewer, for promoting your designs, or for building tutorials, amongst other things.

Here are some techniques I’ve tried:

1. s-video out to external recorder

My very first attempt at recording machinima involved feeding the s-video out of my laptop into a Dazzle video converter and thence into the firewire input of my DVcam. I chose this approach because my laptop at the time was fairly old and lacked the CPU and disk performance to record anaimation directly from Second Life.

Pro:

  • No load on your PC, maximum frame rate
  • If you record to the DVcam you have the extra certainty of having captured it and of knowing that you won’t run out disk.
  • Content can be selectively imported into video editing tools like Windows Movie Maker 2 or Pinnacle Studio.
  • No extra cost if you already own the equipment

Con:

  • Limited to NTSC or PAL resolution. Text chat, menu items and dialog boxes virtually impossible to read

2. Camtasia

Camtasia has been around for years and is the leader in screen recording software.

Pro:

  • Does a very good job of zooming to areas of interest and highlighting the cursor if you’re making tutorials like Torley Linden’s
  • Lots of bells and whistles
  • Can select Window or area to be recorded, or entire desktop

Con:

  • Very high price: $299. (Generous trial version works for one month.)
  • Competes with Second Life for resources (CPU, disk & memory)

 3. Fraps

Originally designed as a performance meter for games (from frames per second), FRAPS has added a video recording facility.

Pros:

  • Simple, limited interface (like the original SL “record animation”)
  • Low price – $37. Trial version records for 30 seconds

Cons:

  • Competes with Second Life or realXtend for resources
  • Record the whole desktop

4. VideoLAN

I experimented recently with VideoLAN by streaming my desktop to another PC which observed my Second Life session in Windows Media Player. The secondary PC could have saved the stream for disk to relieve the primary PC’s disk channel.

Pros:

  • VideoLAN (a.k.a. VLC) can encode the screen into a variety of formats and stream the content to another machine or save the video as a file
  • Free

Cons:

  • The interface is command-line based and arcane

5. WeGame

I came across WeGame.com a couple of weeks ago. It’s a site for sharing machinima. The free WeGame recorder is adapted to a limited set of PC games, including Second Life. I recorded some machinima using the absolutely simple interface and was a convert. However, unlike all the other solutions listed above, it won’t record arbitrary content. The designers insist on qualifying the recorder with each game to ensure a good experience. I contacted the WeGame team about supporting realXtend. In a few days, they added it!

I have to say that it’s hard to beat.  It produces an AVI that you can edit down with Windows Movie Maker or Pinnacle Studio, and you can upload it to the WeGame site to share with others.

Pro:

  • records the Second Life or realXtend window whatever its size
  • record audio
  • includes support for sharing on WeGame site
  • free, after you register

Con:

  • Doesn’t support generic video. If you’re making a tutorial about designing assets in an external CAD program and importing them into realXtend, the external program is probably not supported by WeGame
  • Competes with Second Life or realXtend for resources

What’s your favorite machinima recording tool and why?

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Responses

  1. I’m on Linux and I recently started using glc to record the video stream
    http://nullkey.ath.cx/projects/glc/wiki

    Text-only interface, but great performance in recording. Resulting output can be converted with mencoder – a simple script that converts to .mp4 is also present.

  2. Hi there,
    thanks for the very informative article…
    I have been using snapzpro and ishowu for macs and in the past fraps or camtasia on a pc. i recently tried recording the camtasia file uncompressed (which is an option) but then camtasia wouldn’t open it….
    they all compete with SL.
    So the techsmith people make jing… good (mac and pc) except i can’t figure out how to get rid of the cursor and i couldn’t get an answer on it — http://www.jingproject.com
    some snapshots of the jing menu options trying to figure out how to lose the cursor in sl: http://www.flickr.com/photos/photolibraries/sets/72157606758369467/
    At other times I have pointed my video camera at the screen (from over my shoulder) and recorded it. It’s good for the RL/SL stuff. happy 2009!

  3. Thanks for the feedback. You certainly have a nice collection of machinima on YouTube!


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