Virtual worlds initiative final portfolio

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Final project for Arizona State University's TWC421: Principles of Writing with Technology, Spring 2013


  • TWC 421:Principles of Writing with technology

  • INTRODUCTION In todays modern world most dont have the luxury of pouring over the written word as they used to. On average it takes more time to make the same amount of money just to survive. So free time to enjoy the process of Reading text is at a premium. Technical communicators must be ever more sensitive to the modern audience who needs their Information to be faster, more concentrated, and available simultaneously on a dizzying array of devices and systems.Because the average audience members attention is scattered across myriad channels of Text delivery systems, trying to glean what is important to them as efficiently as possible, Moving images, motion graphics, immersive stereo headphone sound, and dynamically linked computer text have now supplanted the printed word, by an order of magnitude, as a way of communicating thoughts and ideas. So thoughts and ideas have to be paired down to their essence, 6 second twitter-vids and sound bites if you will, to reach the average audience.

    David Greenwood 2013 3

  • No longer will our mothers writing class methodology give todays technological communicators the tools to cut through modern audiences thick skin of capricious attention to reach the beating heart. Especially hard to reach are the policy makers, the ones who preside for a living, who have heard it all and have no time what so ever for subtle or nuanced. These most hard to reach and even harder to hold are the primary audience for this project. Even more challenging than the audience is the ephemeral nature of the subject matter; Immersive Networked Virtual Education Environments. So how does a modern technical communicator utilize all of the newest tools and modes of communication to convince the President of Arizona State University, the Dean of ASUs Herberger Institute, and the Director of ASUs School of Arts, Media + Engineering to sit down long enough to be convinced to fund research?

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  • The Plan

    I seek to convince my audience that Networked Virtual Environment Technologies (like Second Life, Open Sims,) are deserving of funding of resources for research and development if ASU wants to remain competitive and fulfill its goal of being The New American University. The best way to do that , of course is to show them how great Virtual Worlds are. But since I cant actually bring them into an immersive environment I plan to do the next best thing, I will simulate giving them a presentation in a Virtual World where they can see exemplary case studies of successful Virtual Educational Environments, all simulated by a flash website they can visit on the web in Real Life (RL).

    David Greenwood 2013 5

  • Iteration #1- Planning Although I would have preferred to jump into the final website design right away I first had to get the very complicated workflow, the roadmap as it were, out of my brain and into a technical communication form that could be understood by layman. So I set about charting it on a white board. 4 hours later I had a clearer understanding of the process AND a technical communication tool for others. The rhetorical purpose of this project was to inform and convince (for funding my research) so the project was called the Virtual World Fund at this point.

    Virtual Worlds Initiative 2013 6

  • Virtual World Fund: White Board

    David Greenwood 2013 7

  • Iteration #1 - PresentationIn keeping with my goal of simulation and immersion, I decided to give my peers a personal whiteboard presentation of how I planned to accomplish my ambitious goals. In order to do this I had to find a way of delivering this on the web via a link that I could post on blackboard. I wanted to avoid the pitfalls of regular PowerPoint presentations but keep the functionality of a step-by-step slide show. I knew of a dynamic, hybrid, authoring tool called PRESI, having seen other classmates presentations in my TV Screenwriting class, that animated the movements from one zoomed-in-graphic to another of a larger overall graphic background.

    Virtual Worlds Initiative 2013 8

  • Dynamic Slide Show Alternative With a little research (and a 6 hour learning curve) I was able to explain all 41 steps of my workflow, with self- narrated audio, individually triggered by the viewer as they move from step-to-step on the animated whiteboard presentation on-line. I was able to post the link on Blackboard.

    David Greenwood 2013 9

  • Iteration #1 - Peer Review In order to help guide my classmates critiques I asked:1. If they thought I truly needed an essay, in written form turned into an interactive slide show, to sell

    this project? 2. Did they think me crazy and should I just write the essay and scrap the rest? (adding that I was

    doing this because it is hard, not because it is easy, to push myself to do something that has never been done before, that I'm aware of, in the annals of Tech writing.) I also felt it necessary to include a few primer videos on Virtual Worlds as background before they went down the rabbit hole, per say, that included:A year in the Life - second Life;or a glimpse at social media and relationships in Virtual Worlds.ManpowerIsland doing business in Second Life.Educational Uses of Second Life

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  • Response A class mate affirmed my feeling that the project should speak for itself if done the way I wanted, then quite above and beyond the call of duty, went on to give me a much needed boost of reassurance when I was really doubting myself most by adding:

    Yes I think you are crazy! Haha only joking. I think this is an amazing and ambitious project! I think it would feel you failed yourself by not attempting it. after watching your presentation Im not going to lie- I really want to see this project succeed! You my friend are an incredibly talented, smart, and driven individual- so I say push the limits and make a groundbreaking project!

    I will remember this vote of confidence from a classmate, and from my teacher Michael for that matter, for the rest of my life, as it meant the world to me. I still get choked up a little just thinking about that act of kindness for a world-wearied dreamer (that made all the pain and suffering, that I would endure later, worth it right there.)

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  • Iteration #2 Work Flow

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    I created two separate dynamically linked projects, created in Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 (a video editing program) and Encore CS6 (a DVD authoring program), to process all the video and Machinima (the term combines Machine+Cinema) needed for The final interactive web site.

  • David Greenwood 2013 13

    Site Building Then a test site had to be created from a palette, loaded with some video, tested for functionality, encoded to Flash, and uploaded Via FTP to a server to go live on the web.

    So there had to be a representation of the finished site to be accessed live from in-world before the actual site was finished. Not your normal way of doing things. It definitely made for a Cart before the horse proposition.

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    Iteration #2 Hosting Of course I first had to pick a domain name, register it with my host company, fastQ, and then point my server at it. After much obsessing about long lasting functionality and self-evidentiary name appeal I finally decided on

  • David Greenwood 2013 15

    something to that it could be seen on the office wall In-World, screen captured and turned into machinima. Then that machinima could be re-routed back into the work flow to create the intro scene that would ultimately end up on the final web site.

    Once the test site was live a media wall had to be created that could be textured with a video screen that the site could be seen as an In-World presentation, screen captured, and turned into Machinima. Then that Machinima could be re-routed back into the work flow to create the flash intro scene that would ultimately end up on the final web site.

    In-World Broadcast via Media Wall

  • Iteration #2 - Peer Review 3. My teacher Michael remarked;

    You have a million details you're juggling and you seem to carry and organize them in your head quite nicely and professionally. Readers, however, can get overwhelmed pretty quickly!

    2. And a fellow classmate observed; there maybe an assumption that your audience is at the same level as you and possibly they are, if not it may just go over their head.

    He then went on to acknowledge 1st build problems;I believe you are already aware of some of the technical issues with the website(long load times and difficulty of watching a video and then getting back to the main page to watch the next video.)

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  • Response To clarify I restated by objectivesMy project is designed to:Convince the ASU President, Herberger Institute Dean, and Director of Arts Media + Engineering to invest in research anddevelopmentof Networked Virtual Educational Environments at ASU.My intended rhetorical effect is:toInform( about the need for and advancement of Virtual Worlds to educate viaimmersivesimulationtechnology) and toPersuade(that it is worthy of diverting resources to study it and advance it at ASU.)and I want readers to:see what an amazingopportunity and value adding proposition Networked Immersive Virtual Environments are for education today without falling back on written language. I want them to be given the chance to discover itexperientially, the way the technology is designed to be used, in as interactive and direct a manner as possible.

    David Greenwood 2013 17

  • Virtual Worlds Initiative 2013 18

    Iteration #3 Production Planning As my teacher Michael pointed out, I was juggling a huge To-do-list in my mind and it was beginning to be really difficult to keep straight. In fact, it was getting so complex in my mind that I found it necessary to find a To-Do-List application, that could act as a digital production Assistant, as this was becoming a big production. Since I use Chrome and the Google workflow exclusively I researched and tested 3 Aps, on the Google Chrome ap store, to integrate with my browser for easy Android and desktop access. I settled and it saved me!

  • David Greenwood 2013 19

    Principle Machinima Lab Set up

    The 4 computer system required for the live 4 Avatar shoot (at ASU, Digital Culture, Media Lab.) Each Avatar required their own account registration (birth) , body shaping, wardrobe, animations, and blocking before shooting. Each had to be logged in and on-lineSeparately for my Avi to broadcast live & to chat interactively.

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    On Set with the 3 Avatar stand-ins for Director Paine, Assoc. Dean Landes, and President Crow while virtual camera blocking and motion ques are still visible.

    Iteration #3 Principle Machinima - Staging

  • David Greenwood 2013 21

    Virtual Camera and Avatar Blocking/ Queing System

    20 hours of research to find and train on an In-World, object oriented, animation codingSystem called ReScene SL (basic kit seen rezed above) allowed me to Program complex animations and camera cuts without code.

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    I use my Avi (A.K.A. Light.Planer) To check scale and angles in the first-person (mouse look) viewpoint before a long series of takes. All cues, on the floor, stay in place but are hidden just before takes.

    To the right is a follow camera, positioned in mid air, that automatically frames the avi as he walks by and keeps him framed while it is active (and never takes Union breaks!) Bandicam screen capture software is used to create all the live Machinima footage.

  • Iteration #3 - Peer Review

    David Greenwood 2013 23

    I asked:1. Please tell me if you think the new video menu backgrounds help support the them or look too off subject?2. Is the intro pacing too fast to get the idea or did I muscle through it just enough not to try your patience?3. Please note any functionality problems like linking.

    Responses ranged from; a little distracted by the blinking lights in the background of your sitesome other softer interactive may be helpful and are those Flash-based flames in the background?Yikes. :-)

    So I quickly uploaded Build 6, with new motion menu backgrounds, to positive response:

    1. Much better video menu!!!!!!!!! Think it is perfect. 2. The intro is fast paced but I think that isn't a bad thing. It would be better to make it quick versus boring the viewer waiting to get to the point. Only part that may get lost with the fast speed is the viewer understanding who is sitting in the room with your avatar.3. Everything ran beautifully and I ran into none of the issues I had with prior versions.Great job!!

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    In accordance with suggestions from my classmates, I made the basic premise and object of the site as immediately clear as I could within the now hard-coded graphical composition. This time I focused on inviting the reader to learn and explore reasoned and academically vetted case studies with extreme ease of navigation.

    Iteration #4/Final Project

  • David Greenwood 2013 25

    I let successful precedent do the arguing for me. Unfortunately after spending over 60+ hours capturing all the live Machinima there was only time to edit Machinima taken on two sims, that of UWA and U of Denver. The other well-produced case studies were donated by a few well established Second Life educational institutions. I also shot two live performances of the metaverse rock opera called The Change, produced by The Cybernetic Research Foundation, hoping to edit it in time but was unable. It will be in future builds soon.

    Video Selections replaced by Real-World Institutional Case Studies Cited to legitimize Research & Funding

  • Virtual Worlds Initiative 2013

    What I accomplishedI went way above and beyond my goals of creating an interactive, surrogate Virtual World experience to technically communicate the value of Virtual World Education research via a flash web site. However, I learned It was way more difficult and took 5 times the effort and investment in time, money and sanity. It really tested my metal and pushed me to my limits. Along the way, though, I added many new tools and techniques to my skill set in order do this. Among them I had to learn:1. FTP server transfer protocol, using a piece of software called Fillezilla, and Flash website encoding that would work with it.2. PRESI dynamic on-line presentation software for my whiteboard chat.

    3. I used the project as an excuse to research, compare, test, and master several screen capture software packages that could capture full computer sound, high frame rate video, and extra High Definition resolution for decent machinima.

    4. I took advantage of the opportunity to learn how to create and control multiple avatars in a virtual World, no easy feat.

    5. Capturing professional machinima also necessitated learning advanced In-World Camera control techniques that included advanced Fly-cam Joystick controls with 6 axes or six degrees of freedom (6DoF). Because I didnt have $90.00 for a Space Navigator 3D mouse (the industry standard) I was forced to research alternative methods of achieving the same result. Those alternatives included many hours experimenting with vJoy open source Virtual Joystick software, Xbox 360 controllers, Wii-mote controllers, and web cam QVR tracking software. After all that research I ended up just using my 2D mouse as best I could. Thats why the Intro fly cam footage through the Manor was so jerky. It was because I had to splice it together from 8 different takes because I couldnt get one long smooth take like I couldve with a 3D mouse.

    6. I was able to research, compare and learn how to utilize an HTML 5 based personal task management system, called Workflowy just to keep all my production lists straight.

    7. I learned a whole new Object oriented system of live Virtual character animation, object scripting, and motion controlling without having to hand code script, via the obscure product of a mad genius, called ReScene SL.

    8. And finally for this portfolio, I actually learned about this new slick way of turning boring PDFs into animated magazines that can be freely distributed via the website from a new virtual friend, Medora Chevalier (one of the creators of the Metaverse rock opera) whom I met while filming one of the sims I had planned to use on my sub menu of my final site who says that Virtual World collaborations dont result in Real World advances? J


  • David Greenwood 2013 27

    What was significant about what I did? Did I meet my goals?I met all my goals but they were much more involved and technically challenging than I imagined which caused me to be late on a few deadlines. However, I never lost faith and soldiered on because of reassurance from classmates, my teacher, and 10 years of professional Digital Content Production experience where I never had a client who minded my being a little late as long as I delivered much more than they were expecting!Where could I use this again? I expect to use this project as a basis to build on for future crowd source funding campaigns to pay for my research for my doctoral dissertation for the LLT PhD program at ASU.Do I see any patterns or relationships in what I did? I saw a lot of Rushing in where angels fear to tread in myself on this project. That being passionate and putting on blinders to potential complications, in other words not planning for contingencies, just to achieve something no one else has dared has gotten me into trouble in the past. If I make it through this challenge with my academic career unblemished it will be because of an act of grace by very forgiving and understanding mentors. I will not soon forget this lesson, believe you me.

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    How well did I do?For being one person I think Id actually impressed myself. Looking back on the project I now realize that I was crazy to take this much on! This would have been a challenge to meet all the deadlines if I were a team of three let alone one person working 2 full time jobs and carry a full load of senior level college courses at the same time. What worked? I think the workflow I created for this project worked better than I had expected really. The Adobe Production suite CS6 Dynamic Linking system was amazing. The High powered nVidia GPU rendering pipeline rendered 3X as efficiently as my last system (once I was able to get the new card up and running that is.) And The ReScene SL live character animation system was something to behold in action. When I finally got the flash site working on the server I think it worked better than I had expected. I was pretty happy with the content as well.What do I need to improve? That being said I wasnt happy with the small size of the final website I was limited to. I would have preferred 1280 by 720 HD but it was just too big a file size on the server, cost too much bandwidth on the download, took too long to load, and demanded 4X the render time. Plus even if I got it running the way I wanted it wouldnt play on iOS devices, thus curtailing my audience. So I need to convert to all HTML 5 in the next gen and put this site in the middle of a dynamically adaptable web page that can be used on android, windows, and iOS devices as well. I also need to improve my aviss ability to talk in sync with body gestures for personalized tours through sims in future iterations of the project which I intend to use for a kickstarter/SEO crowd funding campaign.