When the new semester begins in January, I’ll be team-teaching a 6-credit learning community that integrates recent American history and film studies, a course my colleague and I have taught several times before. The appalling fact is that I’d never made a film – not even with a cell phone – until the past few days. Machinima in Second Life inspired me to change my ways. So I set out to learn how to screencast.
Worried that video screen capture might be quite a stretch for my limited computing skills, I didn’t want to spend a dime on this experiment. I tried four different screencasting software programs (couldn’t download two of them properly) before I found one that works for me: Screencast-O-Matic. The free version worked great – easy to use, clear images! I was so enthused that I immediately invested in the Pro version, which includes editing tools and other benefits for a mere $12 a year.
To date I’ve made two screencasts. ‘Tis the season, so both have Christmas themes and both are pre-programmed tours (the easy way to go, I figured) at new destinations for me. The first one shows me (Lotus Greene) taking the sleigh-train tour on Christmas Island, which is basically a commercial site. Just about everything is for sale, but it’s charming and the objects are delightfully designed and presented by Carrie Grant. It’s a fun place to spend a little time riding, walking, ice-skating, shopping, and/or picking up freebies.
I call my first video “Christmas Island Train Ride” (I tend to use descriptive titles rather than witty ones, an old academic habit :^). The train ride takes about 10 minutes. Even using the pause feature (available on the freebie, as is audio), I had 8 minutes of video. To see if I could, I edited it down to one minute. As you’ll see, I’m clearly not ready for prime time (for example, the cuts are jerky); but I want you to see that even a novice screencaster can produce a little piece suitable for classroom use, well, almost suitable.
The only serious obstacle occurred when I ran an upload test on my blog page. No can do. WordPress.com wants $60 a year for video uploads. Right now I don’t see myself using videos all that often on my blog, and I’m not ready to go as public as YouTube. But WordPress.com does allow PowerPoints, hmm. I put my little movie on a PowerPoint, previewed it on WordPress, and, voila! it worked (but no sound – I’ll have to work on that). I’m hoping it comes through for you. Try this: Christmas Island train video (like other links, you may have to open in a new tab or window, then click or double-click; you can also click Slideshow on the PowerPoint toolbar to find the full-screen button).
My second video, “Calas Galadhon Hot-Air Balloon Tour,” is just what it says. Calas Galadhon Park comprises 11 sims and is fabulously beautiful, one of the most stunning builds I’ve seen – and there’s so much I’ve yet to explore. It’s much photographed and written about, as a browser search will show. For starters I encourage you to check out Inara Pey’s 16 December 2011 blog, whether you’ve been to Calas or not. You may also like Eddi Haskell’s slideshow (2010) on YouTube, which uses spring images from the main island accompanied by Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring; and I’m certain you will enjoy the gorgeously professional YouTube video by Shenlei Flasheart and Georgianna Blackburn (2010), with its focus on winter horseback riding.
According to the notecard I received when I first landed at Calas Galadhon, the hot-air balloon tour is not a tour (at least not a guided tour) “but a chance to cuddle, sit back and see the sims by air. It takes about 40 minutes. Probably the best overview of the Park in a short amount of time. The Best Balloon Ride in SL….” No cuddling for me in SL, thanks; but, yes, of the balloon rides I’ve taken in SL, it is the best. There are no popups telling you what you are about to see; instead, it’s a nicely paced, relaxing look around, with plenty of time to zoom out and around to capture images.
During the 40-minute ride, I took 25 minutes of video. My first edit cut it to 8:30 minutes – too long to share. I painfully cut more and more and got it down to 2:36 minutes. I’m especially fond of the Salt Marsh with its eagles, pelicans, and playful dolphins (on which I linger). The video begins and ends in winter white (4 Calas sims are snow-dressed), with a final “Happy Holidays!” around the decorated Yule tree at Elf Village. Try this: Calas Galadhon balloon tour. Enjoy!