Posts Tagged ‘Second Life’

I was discussing my endless search for the perfect self-promotion outlet for music with two friends, female musicians my age.  Both told me all you really need to get a song out to an audience is a video on YouTube.  Now, I have many music videos  on YouTube and I have to be honest – it’s just not that easy. I recognize that  part of the problem is on my end.  There may be a lack of quality – the sound, the performance, the video production, possibly even the music itself.  Also, I don’t have a camera-ready face, even less so now that I’m in my 50’s.  Finally, I don’t understand YouTube’s analytics which could help me hone my channel to find a specific audience.  Still, I see a lot of DIY music videos that seem to have grown in popularity organically, so I keep wondering what is the magic formula to get listeners and likes.

In the past few years I’ve done mostly performance videos which have been hit or miss.  Last month I wanted to share produced music, so I did a static picture paired with a track; those did slightly better than I expected, that is there have been views and a couple of likes.  Then earlier this week I found myself trying to promote a new song that jumps out of my current singer/songwriter genre and moves into instrumental synthwave.  How was I going to promote that?

My first thought was to go back to an old hobby of mine, creating machinima in Second Life. ( from Wikipedia: Machinima is the use of real-time computer graphics engines to create a cinematic production. . .  often, video games are used to generate the computer animation).  I made my first machinima with the Sims2 back in 2006.  I never really mastered the art, but it’s always been attention grabbing, especially for people who have never seen it before.

Making good machinima is a detail-oriented, labor intensive process.  Usually when I’m halfway through the project I  declare  “F -it, I want this finished not perfect!”  at which point it all falls to hell.   Machinima is definitely not the way to go, I thought.   But then the eternal optimist in me decided maybe this time will be different . . .

I reached the “F – it, I want this finished not perfect!” stage faster than ever before.  In no time I was swimming in barely usable footage and no clear vision of a finished product.  I considered my situation: here I was spending valuable time creating a video that would most likely look amateurish and not really bring in viewers when I could be working on more music.  Fifteen years ago I loved the idea of being a one-stop shop of self-promotion, but these days I would much rather spend my time on just music. I’ve seen other musicians at my level produce simple, but effective music and lyric videos. There had to be something I was missing out on.

Because the song is an instrumental I thought a cool visualization might be the answer, something that would allow the viewer to be immersed in the sound.  I did a search for “ free music visualizations.”

Enter Renderforest.com

“Renderforest offers you the best online branding tools to create high-quality videos, logos, mockups and websites with minimal time and effort.”

Renderforest sounded perfect. I checked out it’s “Create Video” pages and it offered a lot of choices for music visualizations – some allowed you to upload a photo to be used as a backdrop and others simply involved typing in the title and artist name and the visuals were created for you.  Visuals could be as simple as an animated boom box that gingerly bounced along to the beat of your song, or as involved as footage panning along a sepia colored hallway with the camera shaking in time to the music.  The best part was you could add your music and render a free, low-res, water-marked preview.

Screenshot_2020-07-02 Music Visualizer for Creating Professional Videos Renderforest

Some Renderforest Themes for music videos

And that’s when I fell down the rabbit-hole. . .

I spent hours trying out all the different visualizations, rendering free previews and going back and tweaking my choices.  When I finally decided on something I liked,  I looked at the pricing.  Here’s where they get sneaky.  Obviously Renderforest’s main clientele are businesses; they’re a branding platform that offers logo creation, website builds and promo videos beyond just music.  Kudos to them for even offering the, as they succinctly put it, amateur package.

Up front the amateur package is listed at $9.99 a month, very reasonable for creating a couple of music visualization videos. As it turns out that’s the price if you pay for a whole year in advance.  However, I also had the option to pay for just a single month use at $39.99.   A month’s use sounded about right.  Fifteen years ago $39.99 would have made this service a hard no, but right now it’s not that big of a deal so I signed up.

So here’s what the $39.99 got me: “10 GB storage, 7 hd720 videos per month,  Up to 5 –minute, videos,  30+ commercial music tracks,  No watermarks on HD videos.”    I can also access their logo, mock-up and website building services, but I’m not interested in those, so I can offer no further info there.

Knowing I could create just 7 videos  (doled out in  the form of credits – you spend one credit for each HD720 video you export; if you want a better resolution that will cost you an additional $19.99 per video), I got a little obsessed and really went to town creating free previews.  Somewhere around my third hour the website’s preview rendering time slowed way down.  It took close to 45 minutes to render my final preview, whereas the other previews rendered in 10 to 15 minutes.  I honestly couldn’t tell if this was on their end or my end.  It did feel a little bit like “Okay, amateur, you’ve used up all the renders in the renderforest.  Now go away!”

Finally, I exported a high def video for my song, “Everything’s on Fire.”  I uploaded it to YouTube (an option available directly from the Renderforest platform that did not work for me) and then posted a link on my Facebook music page.

Now, the reach and engagement on my Facebook page has gone way down in the last couple of months and I’m not sure why –but my video sat there with zero engagement for 24 hours.  It also had no views on YouTube.  This was a bad response even for me.  I usually get a few hits in the first 24 hours. It felt like the thumbnail was just not that enticing.

In the meantime, I still had 6 more credits.

A quick side story: That time I started a band with my 12 year old and his cat

About a month ago my son expressed an interest in starting a musical project with me.  He even had the name: Songs to Make You Think About Words.  Of course he told me all of this at bedtime; be it the time he was offered a vape in the school bathroom or the creepy ghost video he just watched on YouTube, he tells me the most interesting things at bedtime to delay me in saying goodnight.  It used to bug me, but he’s turning 13 in a month so these bedtimes are limited edition items and I let him talk. Anyway – he wanted to start a band and if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s starting bands.

As it turns out, he showed up in my studio a couple of days later ready to work on music.  He even brought his cat, Frisk, and she was easily persuaded to paw at the keyboard and lay down some bass lines and solos.

We got four songs out of these sessions, with varying degrees of collaboration, before my son and his cat lost interest.  Personally I think the music is fun and different and I’m proud of what we accomplished especially since Frisk was something of a diva to work with, but you didn’t hear that from me.

Anyway – I had 6 credits left at Renderforest and I went ahead and made videos for the Songs to Make You Think About Words tracks.  Then I had two credits left at Renderforest and four videos in need of a YouTube channel. Naturally I went ahead and created a whole new YouTube channel for a band that doesn’t exist.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the remaining two Renderforest credits before I close out my account.

Back to the point of this blog entry

Ultimately I felt my Renderforest visualization music video did not perform.  It received just a couple of views and that’s certainly not getting my music out there.

I went back to plan A and finished the Second Life machinima,  linked it on my Facebook page and received just a handful of few views, but views with actual engagement.  I did use the Renderforest visualization video as an opening and closing backdrop for the video and it added atmosphere.

I may use Renderforest again in the future if I were to present an entire album’s worth of music with a link to a point of sale AND if there was a an additional means of bringing the audience to the music.  It could be a worthwhile tool if you already have an audience and just need a quick and easy visual representation for YouTube or a similar outlet.  Still, I think original artists will always need to put their best efforts out to the world and I’m not sure if Renderforest will ever be that – especially since it’s a cookie-cutter solution .

This brings us to the “Look at My Videos!” portion of this blog entry:

Up first we have my machinima video created using Second Life Firestorm Viewer, OBS, Renderforest visualization and Adobe Premiere.

(I am just as surprised as you may be that my Second Life avatar visits strippers in this video, but that’s just Second Life for you. . .)

Next we have the straight Renderforest visualization.

 

Here’s a fun Renderforest visualization which I’ve inter cut with footage of our cat, Frisk.

And finally, here are the remaining three songs from Songs to Make You Think About Words set to Renderforest visualizations.

 

Please leave any feedback or recommendations for other video creation tools in the comments. Thanks!

shivers

Those who are Second Life savvy,  come by Shiver’s Summer Jam on Sunday, August 11th at 12:00 PM PST to hear Shot in the Dark play a short set.  http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Miami%20Beach/43/222/22

Second Life is free to join, although a little tricky to navigate when you first start.  You can set up an account and download the viewer here www.secondlife.com .  Should my post inspire you to check it out, feel free to look me up in-world under my avatar name, Demolicious Wonder.

 

 

The heavy rains in my area have caused water to  seep into my studio/rehearsal space and I’ve had no choice but to tear down all my equipment and begin the process of ripping up the soaked carpet to see what’s going on and how it can be fixed.  This leaves me with nowhere to practice, and of course with my contrary nature, I want to practice now more than ever since it’s not an option.  I’ve even got new songs in my head dying to get out but they will have to wait.

In the meantime, I threw together this video in an effort to feel like I can still be creative.  I’m always torn about throwing things together.  Truth be told, I’m an idea person, but I’ve figured out that it’s the execution that counts.  Some people have a natural instinct for knowing when their work is polished; I remain a diamond in the rough and perhaps will always be just that.  This video is a perfect example of less than perfect pieces coming together to make . . . less than perfect art from a less than perfect artist.

On a side note, I realized only after I made the video (filmed in Second Life) that my virtual self is hanging out in a virtual studio, perhaps of my subconscious longing to have my real studio back.

Enjoy!

Wednesday night found me on the other side of the Bay Bridge on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland where I discovered a cozy little dive called The Stork Club.  It’s true, I had booked a show at a venue sight unseen and I was thrilled to find a nice large room with a working video projector, a pull down screen at the back of the stage, and a very accomodating sound person who upon seeing my set up suggested I check out Amy X. Neuberg, Polly Moller and Joan La Barbara.   Although a lot of my friends couldn’t make it out that night, it still turned out to be a great evening.  My set went off really well, Snow Angel did not dissappoint, Ziva Hadar was effortlessly amazing, and Silent Motif had us all dancing to their other-worldly beats.

Snow Angel

Ziva

Silent Motif

You can still catch me live online this weekend.  I’ll be broadcasting into the virtual world of Second Life twice tomorrow (Sunday 2/25), once at 1 pm PST at The Notes Shack Pub,  and then in the evening at 9:30 pm PST as part of the Metaverse Music Expo. Signing up for Second Life is free, but if you want nice shoes, it will cost you!

In the past 72 hours I have:

– Donated supplies to the Occupy San Franciso base camp.

– Eaten wasabi coated roasted seaweed. Yum!

– Been amazed at how well my 4 yr old can swing on his own.

– Completed 7 videos to accompany my live performance at El Rio on Tuesday October, 4th (7 pm sharp, in case you are wondering).

– Engaged in melee combat with 4 other fighters, all of us armed with bokkens.  I was defeated in every single round.

– Completed many loads of laundry and dishes.

– Practiced music for my El Rio show and also the show I will be playing in Second Life tomorrow afternoon.

– Promised my 11 yr old that this afternoon when he gets home from school I will play the level of VVVVVV he created.

– Hiked up Mori Point and marveled at the color of the ocean.

– Read about an Oklahoma woman, a mother to 11 children, who is now attending  Harvard and thought to myself, “I should be doing more.”


I’ve been a fan of machinima since I discovered the built-in movie making feature of The Sims 2.   I’ve been a resident of Second Life since 2009.  And  I’ve been a fan of the Eurythmics since the 80’s.  This video came together almost effortlessly, thanks to the very talented creators of the Mysterious Waves Sim.  The vocals are actually produced using programmed midi notes and TC Helicon’s Vocal Works Plus vocoder effect. The rest is just minimal synth-pop played real time.  Hope you enjoy it!