Recording video in Second Life – part 1

I am sure you have all watched some video tutorials or machinima recorded in Second Life. Up to version 1.19, the SL viewer had a recording feature built in but this is not the case anymore. So, if you want to make recordings, you need special recording software.

Several such recording tools are available for free (some with the option to pay for a version with more features or longer recording time). Some of these have to be downloaded to your hard disk (e.g. Jing) and others are online tools (e.g. ScreenToaster, Screenr, ScreenJelly). If you search for “free video recording software”, you will find many more.

I tried making video recordings in the past with freely available software (Jing). This was fine for very short sequences. However my MacBook was not powerful enough to make good quality or longer recordings and Jing produced very large files (see one example here).

When I bought my iMac two months ago, I finally had a computer that was powerful enough. So, I started to look for commercial (and more professional?) recording software that was easy to use and provided me with all the features I thought I would need. I asked some colleagues for recommendations and I found a list of recording software for the Mac here. I downloaded the trial versions of four of them and tested them briefly:

My idea of easy-to-use software is that I can create a basic recording without having to read any instructions. All of the above fell in this category except SnapZ Pro. I have read a lot of positive things about SnapZ Pro so may be it was just me. It was the last one that I tried and had pretty much made up my mind which to buy by then.

iShowU and CaptureIt were both inexpensive, offered nice features like instant exporting and automatic snapping to the window that I wanted to record. However, ScreenFlow was the easiest (for me) to use, gave me the most flexibility and had the most features (that I wanted). At the same time, it was also the most expensive but as I wanted to use it regularly for recording lessons and making tutorials, I bought it.

I have been using ScreenFlow for a couple of weeks now and I have to say making recording with it and the post-production is a lot of fun. It only takes seconds to understand how to record. Basic editing is also very easy and for all other cases there are good video tutorials available.

My first recordings were of role-play activities in language classes in Second Life to allow me and the students to watch and analyze them afterwards (I will write a separate blog post about this later). Then, I made my first video tutorials for a group of teachers who were doing an introductory SL course with me. The first one shows how to use a presentation screen*.

In all of these recordings, I used the text feature, which I like a lot. It can be used to highlight certain phrases that were used (in lessons) or to show shortcuts in tutorials to make it easier to remember them.Β Next, I produced a series of videos that show the different ways of communicating in SL.

One problem with all of these first tutorials which a colleague mentioned was that they weren’t easy to follow. I knew from other tutorials that I had watched that they zoomed in on details. So, this was the next skill I learned and which I used in this tutorial*.

For all of these recordings, I used the built-in microphone of the iMac. Although, the quality is not bad, I think I will invest in a separate microphone next because the volume could be a bit higher at times and I have to remember to be close to the microphone all the time, which is not always easy when I have to do demonstrate things at the same time.

There is still a lot that I can learn to make these recordings better but I think it is a good start and, as I said before, a lot of fun, too πŸ™‚

In another blog post, I will write how such recordings can be used in a language class and what type of activities can be done with them (other than creating machinima which I blogged about here).

Update

Torley has two tutorial videos in which he shows how to record and edit videos in SL with ScreenFlow: 1. Record in-world meetings 2. Edit videos.

*Edublogs.org has recently removed the possibility to embed videos on free blogs. Embedded videos in new or updated blog posts are removed. This is why I can only provide a link to the videos. I apologize for the inconvenience.
Related blog post: Accessibility of video tutorials and Second Life

18 thoughts on “Recording video in Second Life – part 1

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Teaching in Second Life Β» Blog Archive Β» Recording video in Second Life – part 1 -- Topsy.com

  2. Thanks for the recommendation of screencasting tools for the Mac. As a freelance of e-learning education, I list my recommendation for Windows. Since I have to add callout and insert some other objects to my video for better understanding, I only use those which offer video editing features.

    Camtasia – It’s comprehensive as well as expensive, I only try the 30-day trial and feel good.
    DemoCreator – A two-year old recruit but with simple yet powerful features, much cheaper than Camtasia.
    BB Flashback 2 – Another great screencasting tool from UK, it also has an expressive version which is free.

  3. I like using Fraps and then iMovie, Windows Movemaker, or Flash to make eLearning videos. I have some video tutorials showing my approach on my website.

    If you are looking for a microphone, i strongly recommend the Blue Snowball. It is a USB mic made by a true microphone company and is resonably priced at about $75.

    I first learned of it when I spoke at the eLearning Guild’s DevLearn08 conference (about making video in Second Life).

    I am now exploring Reaction Grid as a virtual world alternative to SEcond Life and it looks very good. Higher frame rates and far less expensive! I have 12 sims in Second Life and 4 in Reaction Grid.

    Nice post and am going to watch your videos now. +)

    • I heard Fraps being mentioned a lot for screencasting β€” Another option for Windows users.
      I’ve just watched some of your video tutorials. They look good.
      http://subquark.com/vidtuts/

      Thanks for the microphone recommendation. It looks cool. Very seasonal πŸ™‚
      I’ve bookmarked it. http://www.bluemic.com/snowball/

      I’ve visited Reaction Grid once and was very pleasantly surprised by their friendly and helpful staff. It definitely is an alternative in some cases. What I like about Second Life as a language teacher is all the wonderful places that I can visit with my students.

  4. Fraps is very easy to use and for filming in a virtual world, works very well. At only $37 USD, it is worth it. Make sure to remember to hide the UI.

    The Blue Snowball works very well. I had purchased a Logitech mic but it’s results are poor for eLearning. The Snowball also works well for Skype. I use headphones rather than speakers to eliminate feedback.

    Indeed, Second Life is superior for places to bring students. Reaction Grid is, however, very big with K-12, so look for excellent activities there. I am so new to it that I only know to point you to their Ning group and I am certain you can get many great ideas from them. They are so helpful and much more economical. With SL and an educational discount you can have a sim for about $150/month – at Reaction Grid, you can have your own grid with 4 sims for $75 a month.

    But you can probably get it for less with other educators. Have fun isl, there are so many wonderful places (like the Space Flight Museum).

    http://indiemetaverse.ning.com/

    Oh, you are probably aware of Jokay, if not, she is a wonderful resource for SL and RG: http://wiki.jokaydia.com/page/Main_Page

    Also, as you explore and do more, you may want to create your own animations. That would be a fun activity with students (I taught private high school for a few years). My other half in virtual worlds just made a simple tutorial on this free software: http://blog.iliveisl.com/making-a-static-animation-2/

    • Thanks for all the links, David!

      I often don’t hide the UI (User Interface) because it is part of what I want to show. If I don’t need it, I simply cut it out later. ScreenFlow records your complete screen and gives you the flexibility to frame what you want to show later. You always keep the original recording and can export it in different formats, sizes, frames, etc. This is absolutely fantastic.

      So you use a headset without a microphone plus Snowball? I usually simply use the iPhone earbuds and the built-in microphone. Works really well for me.

      I usually work with adults, so bringing them to SL was no problem regarding age limit or PG/mature content. I can understand why Reaction Grid is popular with K-12, though. I can imagine that if security is an issue that some organisations I work with might be interested in OpenSim solutions. The price difference is amazing.

      I downloaded QAvimator some time ago but never tried it.

  5. Ah very good! You can increase the size of the UI to 140% it’s default size under preferences. This helps it hold up as your videos get compressed and be more legible. I also like to use Sizer, a free app, for sizing my windows to the exact final video size to maximize quality (I also suggest setting some level of anti-alias also under Preferences).

    I touch on the use of sizer in a PDF document here: http://subquark.com/devlearn08/edc08-708-miller.pdf

    For headphones, I do all the audio work for my day job (eLearning developer for material used in 110 countries by 70,000 users per year) and use Bose Quiet Comfort (I worked at Bose in the past and won a set in a raffle – I would never have bought them on my own!). I use the WavePad as a free audio editor (much like Audacity).

    The price difference is so huge! My 12 sims isl run nearly $3000 per month! Yikes! A firewalled solution at Reaction Grid is $275 per month for 4 sims I believe.

    Thank you on the discussion of screen capture software. I will try some out, I am certain it will be a huge time saver over all that I do in Flash.

  6. @ Nergiz Kern
    oh I haven’t noticed that Camtasia moves that fast, thanks for your information.

    @ David Miller
    I’ve heard Fraps, my college students often use it to record their videogame play, It should be one of the best screen recorder for game fans.

    Great video and suggestion as always πŸ™‚

  7. Pingback: Most Tweeted Articles by English Language Teaching Experts: MrTweet

  8. Pingback: Teaching in Second Life » Blog Archive » Recording video in SL – copyright issues

  9. Commenting on my own blog πŸ™‚

    There is a free screen recording software for windows: http://camstudio.org.
    I can’t test it but it’s been around for a while and seems to work fine. Although, I have heard that it can cause problems when recording in SL (e.g. avatar not being able to move).

  10. Camstudio is a wonderful free software and does well for recording your desktop. If I recall, it does not play well with Second Life.

    I would suggest trying the free trial of Fraps. It is lightweight and does exceedingly well with Second Life and any OpenSim-based world.

    http://www.fraps.com/

    • “If I recall, it does not play well with Second Life.” – Yes, that’s what I’ve heard, too. And there is nothing more frustrating than software that doesn’t work properly, especially when there are many very inexpensive solutions.

      Thanks for your other comment on copyright! Still trying to digest it… πŸ™‚

  11. Copyright is subject to a certain amount of interpretation. And Fair Use complicates that call. I know that I tend to err on the conservative side, probably to a fault. Our new virtual world endeavor in Reaction Grid is an example of our conservative approach.

    Rather than risk using some objects made by others that could be copied, we decided to build all our own furniture, plants, and buildings. And it actually turned out that a “free” tree we looked at used a stolen texture from who we think of as the best tree maker in Second Life!

    The free tree was removed from it’s online source. It may sound like a small matter, but that tree maker makes some of their real living from their talented work.

    At first it seemed daunting to make everything from scratch, but it has been a wonderful learning experience and we can confidently give away our builds for free for others to benefit from.

    • “we can confidently give away our builds for free for others to benefit from”

      Now that is commendable!
      I can imagine how much you must have learned in the process. If I was in your situation, I would probably do the same.

      I really want to visit Reaction Grid again and then I’d like to pay you a visit and see what you have built πŸ™‚

  12. Well thank you. As corny as it may sound, we want people to discover the joy and creativity we have found in virtual worlds. If some mundane things like cafe tables and office chairs help lessen that initial “holy smokes, so much to learn” impact, then we have done our job.

    We* will connect to the main grid soon and you are welcome to come experiment in our sandboxes. We are currently creating a “learning path” to allow people to learn more about working in a virtual world at their own pace. Simple building techniques can be taught very well with a series of sequential exercises, for example.

    * – The “we” includes Ener Hax who has already made two easy to follow videos specific to OpenSim solutions like Reaction Grid offers.

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