Streaming Video Into Second Life


    camera graphicIt might be strange, to some, to bring video into a Second Life learning experience.  Almost everything in Second Life is created in part within the  3d Virtual World.  Everything!  the tables, the mountains, event the buildings.  Showing live or archived video is mixing RL with SL, that is Real Life with Second Life.  But when the goal is learning,  a video from RL, might be worth a lot of text chatting!   Second Life supports community building, letting meeting attendees feel like they are in the same place even though they might be spread over a great expanse of  geography. Using streaming video of a real life content or pedagogy expert into a classroom can be a valuable break from the virtual experience.  Entire libraries of video segments can be easily accessed with in a Second Life classroom, virtual library, or conference center.  In a world of avatars with often made up names, a live video visit also adds a personal touch that might otherwise be missing. But I'll leave the instructional function of streaming video to a larger discussion. This Wiki  page will provide the basics of the technical aspect of live streaming from Real Life into Second LIfe.

    Second Life Video Format

    Second Life directly supports the QuickTime media platform and can display video compressed in any way that QuickTime supports.  The most common format is H.264.  Video in Second Life can be simple downloadable video or live streaming video.  In both cases the video is stored or is originating outside of Second Life.  It is not stored in your inventory. Also it is important to understand that displaying video in your SL educational environments does not put ANY load on the Second Life grid, but rather is supported by your local CPU processing power and its Internet connection.   It may impact Second Life performance only in that your Internet bandwidth is being shared for showing Second Life data and for downloading the video segment at the same time. Archived or sometimes called "on demand video" can sit on any common web server (HTTP) as long as you know the URL to access it.  Live streaming video must originate from a RTSP QuickTime based server. (Real Time Streaming Protocol)

    Setting Your Second Live Preference for Video

    From your Edit menu in the SL client, pick preferences.  Now chose the Audio & Video tab on the left hand side.  Check the options for Play Streaming Media When Available and Automatically Play Media.
    Next, you need to tell your Second Life client the texture that will reveal video and the URL at which the video resides.  This can be done manually or by scripting. These settings can be manually set in your About Land window.  (World menu or click your location in the title bar of SL client.  

    • Select the Media tab at the top
    • Choose a Media Type of:  Movie
    • Click on the Texture icon and choose a solid color texture not likely to show up in your structure.
    •        (right click this link and download a pink texture you can upload)
    • Finally, click the  Set Media URL button and paste in the URL to your live video stream or downloadable video.
    • Close this window, create a Prim (any shape), drop the texture on the prim 
    • Click the Play Streaming Media button at the bottom right of your SL client. Play Media button

    Some Content for Your Initial Try

    RaceRocks.com  has 3 live QuickTime Streaming cameras running 24/7 at 300 kbits/sec.  These cameras are part of a university environmental study on an island in the Straits of San Juan de Fuca  just south of Victoria Island in Wester Canda.  The video often reveals sea lions, bald eagles, and thousands of sea gulls.  Copy this URL to your Set Media entry box to try streaming live video into your Second Live project.

    You can find lots of Video on Demand content to try here:  http://www.archive.org/details/movies
    Here is one example I retrieved from this site by right clicking any download link on the site:

    Use Video Display Second Life pre-fabs for Scripted Control of your Media URL

    TV imageManually setting the media URL works fine for the owner of the land, but is not very convenient if you need to show several different URLs in a presentation.  Also you may wish to allow group control of the video showing.  There are lots of video displays available in Second Life, just search for video display in SL or on SLExchange.  One of the most popular displays for educators is the Freeview Video Display.  (click to download in SL)  It is free and allows the transfer to a group owned land.  Freeview will allow you to have a long list of video urls that can be displayed quickly from a SL button display.  You can also "chat"  a url to the display.  You could give learners a notecard with hundreds of URL after training them to copy and chat the URL to the display.  There are many other "for sale" video products available in SL.  If you need the display to work on group owned land, do some research as not all will work.  One of my favoriate SL products is the NHC Media Center. (search in SLExchange)  This play will allow you to create bookmarks of video URLs or chat a url to the display as well.  Unique to this display is the ability to display YouTube Videos by giving the display just the web page URL for the video.  The display automatically, determines the media url from the web page.  You can now show all the Torley "how to" videos you need to your  learners!

    Live Streaming Requires a Streaming Application to Send the Video and a Streaming Server

    The big pictures is this.  You must connect up the live video source to a computer that is running an application that streams the video to a streaming server. The streaming server reflects this stream out individually to each person's SL client.  

    Show Me

    Veodia Browser Based Streaming Service

    Veodia  has some how magically provided both of these tools in a browser accessed environment.  

    • Visit Veodia.com and create a free account
    • Click the Start New Broadcast button
    • Enter a title (will not show in SL)
    • Select your camera and audio source (should work with any USB webcam or IEEE1394 (Firewire) camcorder
    • Click start Broadcast button
    • Copy the complete RTS://   url from the bottom of the screen.
    • In Second Life either manually or by script update your Media URL to this URL by pasting
    It is free and seems to work quite well. The downside is that for free they will only support 5 simultaneous viewers at a time.  They have not announced their business model yet and there are news articles posted that mention Veodia switching to Flash based video soon.  It is unclear if they will continue to support QuickTime RTSP format required by Second Life.

    A Broadcasting Application

    If you can not use Veodia, then you need to find a broadcasting application for your platform and access to a streaming server.  On the Macintosh, download the Free QuickTime Broadcaster.  Alternatively for a more full featured application, purchase Wirecast from Telestream for $449.  This software provides a powerful software switcher. Making it possible to integrate graphics, overlays, and even video clips into the live stream.   For a Windows broadcasting application, the only software solution I know of is the Windows version of  $440 Wirecast.  

    Monthly Subscription  or Purchase a QuickTime Streaming Server

    There many companies like Veodia which give you access to  a streaming server.  Most seem to be charging around $30 to $50 dollars a month for enough bandwidth to stream 5 to 10 1 hours sessions per month.  Just search in Google for RTSP QuickTime streaming service.   Alternatively, you can set up your own RTSP streaming server.  Most university groups already have access to Internet bandwidth.  You can purchase an Apple Leopard OS X Server and it comes with streaming ability. Or just purchase the server software and install it on any recent Intel based Macintosh with lots of RAM. A "real" server will be able to handle more simultaneous streams. If a Mac server is not an option, Apple makes the streaming server tool available by itself in a form that can run on Macintosh, Linux, or Windows XP  CPUS. This version is Open Source and free.