When I spoke at conferences about using Second Life for eLearning, I discussed it as an animation tool and not as a learning environment. Multimedia developers creating eLearning for internal and/or external clients are always looking for fast and easy-to-use tools. I believe Second Life is very easy to use for creating video for use in branched scenarios and even company presentations.
I saw Second Life as a very easy Studio 3D Max alternative. The avatars are already rigged, meaning their elbows and knees bend properly, and there are physics in place and building sets and props is far faster and easier than in Studio 3D Max or Blender 3D. Rendering is “real-time” for Second Life and this makes up for the lower detail than what a “real” 3D programme offers. Rendering out video sequences can easily take days.
Now that we have been in OpenSim, I find it works better for this purpose than Second Life did. Apart from being much less expensive, I am able to sustain higher frame rates with a decent level of anti-alias (4x).
Even with the heavy compression from YouTube, the results below are much cleaner than I had in Second Life.
For my past talks, I made it a point to show how to do this with inexpensive or free tools. Many eLearning departments are under very tight budgets and may not be able to buy true 3D applications. I have the same constraints, so that leaves Blender 3D as about the only option. Blender 3D is a bear of a programme to learn and use. It is an outstanding one and yields results equivalent to Maya when in the proper hands. Realistically speaking however, very few eLearning multimedia developers will have the time to learn using Blender and the resources needed to render out video in a timely fashion (i.e., powerful enough machines or a render farm ideally).
With OpenSim, it is possible to install it for free on your own machine and have your own studio. You can find content out on the OSGrid or be industrious like our Ener Hax and make it yourself.
If you are not able to install it yourself, it is possible to hire OpenSim experts to dial into your server and install it for you. Another option is to budget for a hosted OpenSim environment. In this case, you get what you pay for.
We have an outstanding hosted OpenSim setup for half the price of a single Second Life sim. I can’t recommend SimHost highly enough for this type of work. For our purposes, we run 16 sims and it works great. For a die hard machinima filmer, setting up our server with 4 or 9 sims would run circles around Second Life (personally, I find our 16 sims do this now).
I am no machinima expert and I believe the video below shows the clarity possible from OpenSim. To film this smoothly would require a scripted camera system or others acting as dolly grips. Just like in real cinematography, machinima can use a dolly for the camera avatar and other avatars to push that camera dolly for smooth filming.
This was filmed with Fraps at 30 frames per second, then filtered with Virtual Dub (free) to increase contrast and reduce the 1280 by 960 pixel video down to 640 by 480 pixel, and then brought into Windows MovieMaker to make a WMV file that was uploaded to YouTube. For eLearning purposes, I import the AVI file into Flash and I explain that in a PDF I wrote outlining the steps.
also posted on subQuark