Saturday, August 05, 2006

Technical Matters

As part of my plan to ramp up production at Thinkerer Studios, I have been investigating video editing software. I am presently testing this shareware version:
AVS Video editor
It costs $40US. (Windows only, I think.) It goes beyond Windows Movie Maker (free in Windows). It works with most common formats, including. mov, so we can exchange edited and compressed vids across the Mac-Win barrier. It also offers some additional features effects not available in WMM.

I have also tried Pinnacle ($100). It would not show vid on my new machine and noted that my graphics card was too new to be qualified. It explained how I could degrade the performance of my system so that Pinnacle might work. This puts it in my “YOU KNOW YOU’RE STILL IN GEEKSVILLE WHEN…” box. I don’t open that box till I have to.

I am also testing Streamload, a place that offers off-site storage. So far, it seems cheap and workable. Slow on upload, But 25 G for 10/per month is a good price. You can get 5G free, with a limitation that you can only download 100MB in any month.

If I put stuff on Streamload, I can give someone else access to it. Thus, I could, for example, put a draft version online and let someone else do the final edit. The .avi files for a 6 min. vid could easily run 10 G. Not very practical to transfer A draft file in compressed form would probably be about 100 Megs. Practical for BBand.

Putting these things together means that we have wide range of collaborative options.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Publicity for the SL players.

With Thinkerer Studios on the ground (next to Hobo Village), we are ready to start using it. The casting office asks that SL players contact Thinkerer Melville to get stills for their casting and publicity posters. TM already has stills of Zed Drebin and Absinthe. The stills will be set up as posters around the Thinkerer lot. In addition to stills, we would like to have a publicity blurb about the pictured avatar. For some suggestions or examples, visit the studio’s roof-top office and click on any posters you see there.

Who are the SL players? Tautology. Whoever has a poster up.

Note that I said avatars. I need to distinguish between an avatar and the person who operates it. A person can have multiple avatars and an avatar can be operated by more than one person. I have Sam the Sham, for example. I will put up a poster of Sam. I will probably not put up a poster of Thinkerer, because Thinkerer has other jobs. Similarly, Xenon has an avatar named Catherine of Argon. We will put up a poster of Catherine. Xenon is also working on Marta Stewpot. We will probably have a poster of Marta.

Sam the Sham is fully transferable. Thus, Sam may be operated by different people at different times. I working on other character AVs that will also be transferable.

At a later time I will be arranging for ways to present (market) skills of the people who contribute to the productions of Thinkerer Studios. Examples of contributions include operating avatars, camera work, vid editing, directing (audio and vid), audio editing, voice acting, and story development.

At present, these things will be used in story conferences. As we consider stories, we will have our resources (the AVs) in front of us. Later, some people may visit to look for talent. Eventually, people may even be willing to pay for such services. Of course, I usually underestimate the amount of time it will take for the Muggles to catch on. So don’t quit your day job.

At any rate, that is my main objective with Thinkerer Studios. Identify, develop, present, and market creative talent.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Shooting starts on VIEW!

Kronos and I have started shooting on the “The View from Then.” We have an assistant who is interested in getting into this racket. He helped us keep track of things and (this time) got a bit part standing by the side of the road chatting with Thinkerer. (Thinkerer has no role in the story, but needs to appear in a shot from time to time to accommodate tagging. Well, it worked for Alfred Hitchcock.)

Since I have started to do scripted vids, I should make some distinctions. The vids I have been making are reasonably called ad hoc. Since I didn’t have actors or stories, I got vids of opportunity and did what I could to make them a little interesting. I expect to do more of these. I will probably call them Thinkerer’s Travels when I write my complete autobiography.

In praise of Ad Hoc vidding. The advantage of ad hoc vids is that you can do them with few resources and little skill. (You noticed!) Other people can look at them and say “I can do that.” Or even, “I can do better than that.” I hope that people not only say it, but do it.

That said, I don’t intend be limited to the ad hoc genre. I am most interested in using SL as a medium for telling stories (including educational and/or humorous stories). That leads to scripted vids, as illustrated by VIEW and the shot list in:
How to succeed in vidding when you don’t know what you’re doing.

As the link title suggests, I also intend to give people some guidance (mainly examples) in how to develop a story and turn it into a story vid. But I won’t talk about that. (If talking were waking, people would get farther.)

Monday, July 31, 2006

The View from Then

Formerly Boy Fishing. Now has shooting schedule. I have changed plans on how to handle remote collaboration because of limitations of the blog format. David Laundra showed me how to do a shot list the way the big boys do. I decided that the communication on this could best be done in html. So I have posted the shot list on my website under the (new) section title:
How to succeed in vidding when you don’t know what you’re doing.
(My title. David knows what he is doing. But I want to speak to the intellectually dispossesed masses who know even less than I do.)

David is now set up on Skype, so he and I will use it for an audio conference on the shot list today and for talk during the shoot. I will then be able to set busy and turn off the bottom UI.

Over time, I will move all the blog material about Boy Fishing to my website. And put in a storyboard, even though it is too late to help this time. It will thus serve as an example of how we did a story in SL, going from story idea to shot list. Maybe some notes on the shooting. And a link to the final product.

This means that the page contents in the link above will change to an overview, but all the material there now will stay, reached by links from this page.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

EEGG content plans

Xenon is developing the character of Marta Stewpot. Marta is modeled after Martha Stewart in appearance and demeanor. Examples can be found at:
Videos of Martha Stewart. If this search link has expired, you should be able to get it with a new search at CBS News.

I am developing a new character, Antonio Claun, as Marta’s assistant. My source for Tony is Harpo Marx. (The secret of creativity is drawing on good sources.) The av will look like a clown. And be transferable, because I don’t want to take vid and play Tony at the same time.

Tony is mischievous, irreverent, and authority-blind (not defiant, just can’t see the power of authority.) As her assistant on stage, he will contrast with her prim, authoritative, didactic performance.

Each vid will be a skit. The skit will open (voice over title) with Marta reprimanding Tony about something relevant to the topic and designed to elicit interest+ curiosity:
“Get that cleaver out of you head, Antonio. I do want them to see it until cover that topic.”

Tony will not speak. He may communicate with the audience by releasing cartoon bubbles, as I presently done by Pinky. I suppose he will wear an invisible thought bubbler.

The skit will end with some amusing use of the instructional content, as in Tony setting himself on fire.

The Mystery of the Big Pipe

This is a quickie scenario to demo the use of the Treasure Hunt model. There is an oil rig in the water near Hobo Village. It has a big pipe running to shore just a pistol shot down the beach for Hobo Village. That is the setting for the story.

Characters: Barbara (last name TBD). She is about 16. Much like Nancy Drew, but more assertive. She is good looking but not beautiful. She dresses in ways that do not attract attention. Her actions will be much like Sherlock Holmes or Nancy Drew.

James (same surname as Barbara). He is her younger brother, about 14. To imagine his role, think Series of Unfortunate Events. Combine that with robin in the old Batman series. Add in what you would expect of these kids as older sister and younger brother.

Opening scene: James finds the pipe, calls in Barbara. They start to explore asking question about why it is here, what it is for, whether it is in use. (The treasure, at this point is a resolution to those questions.) The fly along the pipe, above and below the water. (The may find some clues here.) Soon they see in the distance a What-is -that? As they approach they see the platform and verify that the pipe comes from it.

Now they have a set of questions about the platform. They fly to the water level landing and climb the stairs. They investigate the platform. They note that the machinery is in operation, but wonder what it I doing. If it were pumping oil, the oil should be flowing through the pipe. But it is not.

This vid probably ends with the discovery that it is pumping wooden boxes. A conveyer belt carries them into another room, where they vanish. This vid probably ends with this discovery and the obvious question it raises.

I don’t know the final resolution of the story. Usually this pattern suggests some kind of misdirection (Doyle, “The Red Headed League”). But I leave plans for finishing it to the future. If people like the first episode, we might make more. And making more might depend on cooperation from the Lindens (who own the build).

I see Xenon as playing Barb. Maybe we can get Zed to debut as James. James will have the adult male voice, but needs a touch of adolescence. And maybe an occasional break. I can try but I am hoping Zed can do it.

I will want us to develop a more detailed scenario, with all the cue points specified. Then I will write a rough dialog script. We will have to work carefully on this, as it will have to carry the story. I will want to make a shot list, though not nearly as elaborate as the one for boy fishing.

Thinkerer Studios

A ground breaking event. I just bought some land next Hobo Village (other side of the bridge). I will be setting up various activities related to our vid activities. Pictures of all our stars (current and prospective). Sets (such as the one for Marta). A Prop Box with most of the props used in the vids. Some way for people to get into the vids. I might post a notice:

Open casting call: Improvs. Show us what you got. If it looks good on vid, we put it on YouTube. Improvs start at (time).

Xenon note: this derives from your idea. See what else you can do with it.

The land will be available for sets by other people, after I figure out how to do it. I expect Xenon will tell me

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

EEGGs technical stuff

Here are some technical plans, Xenon sent me in a note card. The content below is slightly revised as result of a Skype meeting I had with her.

Word of caution. Note cards are not always correctly handled if recipient is off-line. This may be a particular risk if the system goes down in the meantime. Best route for blog members: post it as a separate post. If you put it in a comment, you need to send e-mail to the people you want to see it. Comments from blog members do not produce any notification to other people. I you post a new item, I will see it (via RSS) within a few hours.

Goals (If you don’t know your goals, you won’t know when you’ve won.)

Learners will be able to:

- copy an object (Take copy, as in that command)
- find the object in inventory (Find by search, using the name of the object)
- bring the object out of inventory (Rez the object)
- Open contents of the package object (Using open command, not edit)
- copy/move contents to inventory (Using relevant command after open)
- find objects copied/moved to inventory (with search, again)
- wear a wearable object (using wear command)

Objectives of video
During the video, learners will:
- Observe the detailed user-system interactions for copying an object
- Observe the detailed user-system interactions for finding the object in inventory
- Observe the detailed user-system interactions for rezzing/bringing the object out of inventory
- Observe the detailed user-system interactions for opening contents of the package object
- Observe the detailed user-system interactions for copying/moving contents to inventory
- Observe the detailed user-system interactions for finding objects copied/moved to inventory
- Observe the detailed user-system interactions for wearing a wearable object

Notes. Observe is all we can say happened it the viewer watched the video. The expression detailed user-system interactions implies that we display a readable menu and illustrate the user action.

Concepts/Considerations/prerequisite skills:

> What is inventory and how to view by search.
SE: Open inventory is a prerequisite, but will be partly to thoroughly known by our prime audience. They met the operation during introduction. And they must bring with them (to SL) the more general concept of opening folder on the desk top. I favor brief mention of Inventory as folder and display of bottom bar with some action on the Inventory item.

> Concept of rezzing,
SE: Not clear what the concept is. Act of rez is in the objectives. Event will be in the vid. Once the object is rezzed, the relevant concept seems to be object rather than rez. Perhaps you mean conditions of rez, such as permissions and whether the system accepts your placement.
?? how to tell if you can rez an object by looking at the menu bar title (based on sim permissions)??
SE: I favor brief mention of restrictions as existing, no details. Advice to learner: If you get the EEGG at Hobo Village do you try-outs there. You can rez there and things will stay for a while.

> Moving v copying to inventory
SE: Need more detail. What is the distinction they need to understand?

> Mention no copy objects, show floating tab
SE: Can do as part of showing Free to copy. designation.

> Differentiate between wear and attach - mention in this vid, maybe cover attach in a follow up vid.
SE: We will need to mention this distinction at the menu choice point. And say the words that delight all learners, “We’ll skip attach for now. You can find out about it later.”

Comment from SE: This section represents things we need to think about. How we handle them depends on whether they are parent skills (prerequisites), sibling skills (may be useful along with), or child skills (what you can learn them next).

Next steps: Task Analysis for objectives

Zed, Teller of Tales

Now comes into our midst Zed Drebin, the Teller of Tales. He is a member of Starfleet, SLQ and will probably be working with us on a series of stories in the Galaxy System. I have in mind a “detective story” model, subset of the Treasure Hunt model I posted about earlier.

Zed already has some story elements in mind. He told them to the Starfleet people a few weeks ago. I hope he will tell them again here. I don’t think we can challenge a story like that yet. But notice that last word. Yet. One of my favorite words.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Stories: the treasure hunt model

SQUIRE TRELAWNEY, Dr. Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island, and that only because there is still treasure not yet lifted, I take up my pen in the year of grace 17__ and go back to the time when my father kept the Admiral Benbow inn and the brown old seaman with the sabre cut first took up his lodging under our roof.

So begins one of the best known adventure stories in the English language. Awkward language. Strunk and White would see it as a horror story. But notice that opening. The birthmark of the treasure hunt model. The hook is in the first paragraph.

Why do I bring up the treasure hunt model here? (Choose one)
1. It fits well with the vid structure.
2. It works well for adventure, detective, mystery, and sci-fi stories.
3. I plan to work with Zed Drebin on a story that will use it.
4. It presents a model for educational presentations that I may use with Xenon Darrow.
5. All of the above.

Here is a quick summary of the treasure hunt model:
The story opens with something that evokes curiosity and suggests important things to come.
The story continues in short chapters, with each chapter resolving some issue and disclosing more things to be curious about. Except for the last chapter, when everything is resolved.

To work with this model, we need an overall scenario with a treasure, a set of clues that take you to the treasure, and a treasure (resolution) that will be worth the quest. In a detective story, this might be discover the murder or prevent the crime. In an adventure story, this might be to reach the treasure. In an educational context, the best widely available example would be Myth Busters.

And in the context of a blog about story vids, the resolution is set of vids that tell a story. And what does that have to do with education? Maybe that is one of those issues yet to be resolved.