SL project updates 45/2: Content Creation User Group

A rally of (Animesh) raptors on Aditi

The following notes are taken from the Content Creation User Group meeting, held on  Thursday, November 16th, 2017 at 13:00 SLT. For the purposes of Animesh testing, the meetings have relocated to the Animesh4 region on Aditi, the beta grid – look for the seating area towards the middle of the region. The meeting is chaired by Vir Linden, and agenda notes, etc, are usually available on the Content Creation User Group wiki page.

Medhue Simoni live streamed the meeting, and his video is embedded at the end of this article – thanks to Medhue, as always, for the recording. Time stamps in the body text will open the video in a separate tab for ease of reference to the relevant parts of the text. However as these notes present the meeting in terms of topics discussed, rather than a chronological breakdown of the meeting, so some time stamps may appear to be out of sequence.

Animesh (Animated Mesh)

“I like the name ‘animated objects’ because I think it’s unambiguous, but it takes a long time to type!” – Vir Linden joking about the name “Animesh”.

Project Summary

The goal of this project is to provide a means of animating rigged mesh objects using the avatar skeleton, in whole or in part, to provide things like independently moveable pets / creatures, and animated scenery features via scripted animation. It involves both viewer and server-side changes.

In short, an Animesh object:

  • Can be any object (generally rigged / skinned mesh) which and contains the necessary animations and controlling scripts in its own inventory  (Contents tab of the Build floater) required for it to animate itself.
  • Can be a single mesh object or a linkset of objects (link them first, then set them to Animated Mesh via the Build floater > Features).
  • Has been flagged as and Animesh object in the project viewer, and so has an avatar skeleton associated with it.
  • Can use many existing animations.

Note that the focus of this project is not currently about providing fully functional NPCs at this point in time, which is seen as a follow-on project.

Resources

Mod Keys Proposal

For background information on this, please refer to the forum posts by Piscine Mackenzie and Medhue Simoni, together with feature request BUG-139168, together with my notes from the more recent CCUG meetings.

[0:46-2:53] The proposed scripted mod key capability to allow attachments to be made to No Mo Animesh characters has now been determined to be a much more extensive piece of work than originally thought, and so will not be implemented as a part of the initial Animesh project.

However, the Lab will be tackling it as a project in its own right “some time in the future”.

Remaining Bugs / Remaining Items

[3:32-4:55] The list of remaining bugs/ items to be looked at is summarised as:

  • A couple of crash bugs in the viewer to be fixed. These are related to switching between the animated and non-animated states with an Animesh object.
  • Code optimizations need to be completed and the Animesh code in general requires some clean-up.
  • LOD rendering issues on Animesh objects needs to be fixed.
  • Animesh imposting needs to be fixed.
  • Left-clicking on rigged mesh doesn’t work well, and this applies to Animesh objects as well (right-click Touch should work), so needs to be addressed.
  • Performance analysis needs to be carried out to determine necessary / best adjustments to costs / limitations (LI, tri count, complexity).

[4:56-5:45] Baking service updates: there is a couple of bugs in the baking service Anchor Linden is currently investigating, and which need to be resolved for Animesh. One of these can cause incorrect adjustments to be made to an avatar’s height calculation when an Animesh object is attached.

Any other issues people have noted not already filed via the JIRA (see the link to the JIRA filter, above), should be filed as bug reports ASAP.

Costs and Limits

[7:30-8:25] One of the reasons limits need to be examined is that currently, is that LI calculations are based on an object’s scale, whereas the LOD is effectively based on the rigged scale, potentially allowing the cost of the objects to be gamed between the two. This is in part the reason why the Lab has opted for tri counts being a limit with Animesh. However, Vir would like to get a fix in to prevent this kind of gaming; the problem here being the potential for breaking existing content.

[8:25-9:19] Testing will hopefully allows the cost of Animesh objects to be more defined by their complexity than on a fixed land cost, which will be a much smaller component in the overall limits than currently the case 200 LI), and will likely be a “base” LI based on the impact of the avatar skeleton.

[9:39-10:14] The eventual cost might be a combination of a base land impact and a complexity multiplier, although there are issues here with rigged objects being treated as unrigged when calculating rendering costs, which needs to be addressed.

[10:21-10:52] Vir is wary of making too many changes on impact / cost calculations just for Animesh, as there is a broader project to improve complexity cost calculations in general, which is currently on hold pending the introduction of Animesh.

[41:31-43:28] tri count vs Land Impact: in line with the above, Vir is not convinced that “just letting the Land Impact” determine if an Animesh can be rezzed is viable, as has been suggested. There are sufficient issues with the current avatar complexity calculations that, when fixed, could mean that even if a tri count is discounted as a direct Animesh constraint, avatar models converted to Animesh would still be prohibitively expensive from a complexity standpoint.

[43:47-45:16] As with mesh currently, Animesh will not bypass the accounting system if made temp-on-rez.

[45:23-54:50] More discussion on limits / costs, the need for testing, and on the Lab’s approach to preferring to apply costs over limits and the ability for users to determine what they see (as with avatar complexity / Jellydolls), balanced by a desire to get people to think more in terms of optimising their content. Part of the tension with limits / costs seems to be creators are unwilling to develop content, push at the current (arbitrary limits), etc., out of concern that the effort spent building and testing could be wasted / the Lab is hoping people will build, test (and even break) things (including the viewer) so a more accurate assessment of limits can be made prior to release, with the option of making further adjustments further down the road, if necessary.

[54:53-56:11] Would it be possible to have different tri count limits for worn Animesh vs rezzed Animesh – higher for the former compared to the latter? Possibly, but tricky.

Animesh as a Build Floater Option Discussion

[19:28-40:00] A lengthy discussion on having Animesh a toggle feature in the Build floater, rather than something set on upload, and how that might discourage makers of modifiable avatars from producing “Animesh versions” because users could in theory get a set of suitable scripts and animations and attempt to use them with the versions they already have.

The discussion is lengthy, and involves numerous issues, including the extent to which users trying to convert things themselves over buying a “dedicated” Animesh creation (would scripts and animations intended to animate an elephant really work that well in a tiger, for example?); creators’ rights vs. users’ rights with mod items; the decision process behind making the Animesh option a Build floater tool (e.g. it is in keeping with the permissions system – if an item if modifiable, it should include converting it to Animesh, if appropriate; it could help speed the adoption of Animesh – creators could release kits to convert their existing products, rather than entire new products, etc). The overall consensus appears to be having the option in the Build floater is better than trying to restrict it.

Animesh Sitting

[56:28-56:58] As discussed in past meetings, Animesh bodies will not be able to sit in the same manner as an avatar (by being made a child of the object on which it is sitting). Animesh should be able to adopt a sitting animation it contains, like a ground sit, however). The latter obviously won’t give the same flexibility as the former.

Bakes on Mesh

Extending the current avatar baking service to allow wearable textures (skins, tattoos, clothing) to be applied directly to mesh bodies as well as system avatars. This involves server-side changes, including updating the baking service to support 1024×1024 textures, and may in time lead to a reduction in the complexity of mesh avatar bodies and heads. The project is in two phases:

  • The current work to update the baking service to support 1024×1024 textures.
  • An intended follow-on project to actually support baking textures onto avatar mesh surfaces (and potentially other mesh objects as well). This has yet to fully defined in terms of implementation and when it might be slotted into SL development time frames.

This work does not include normal or specular map support, as these are not part of the existing baking service.

[11:47-12:55] Again, this is a separate project to Animesh, and neither is contingent upon the other. However, using bakes on mesh with Animesh objects will likely come after any follow-on Animesh project to the current work, as Animesh objects will require some notion of an avatar shape to work with the baking service.

[12:56-14:22] There are no plans at present to offer LSL functions or a script API for bakes on mesh, due to the complexities of the baking service. If such a capability is seen as needed, a feature request JIRA explaining why and the benefits should be submitted.

[16:35-19:12] The goal is to have the baking service work in such a way that creators can use the Appearance floater to assign the use of baked textures to object faces which correctly correspond to the different avatar elements (so for example, an upper body composite texture is correctly applied to the upper body faces on a mesh avatar). Once this has been set, users selecting the clothing layer would then see it correctly applied to their avatar in the same way as clothing layers are applied to the system avatar.

Next Meeting

The next CCUG meeting will be on Thursday, November 30th (week #48), due to week #47 being US Thanksgiving week, and the Lab taking a holiday break on Thursday, November 23rd / Friday November 24th.

 

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Sansar: the art of Silas Merlin

Felsenmeer – Silas Merlin

I’ve been an admirer of the art of Silas Merlin since first coming across his pastel art in Second Life. A Maître Pastelliste of the Société des Pastellistes de France, his painting are remarkable, and I urge anyone who has not seen them in-world to do so. Over the last two years, Silas has also been branching out into 3D art, developing his skills as a sculptor – something I’ve been at times been privileged to witness.

For the last several months Silas has been working in Sansar, creating an experience to showcase his work. Called Felsenmeer, Silas describes it thus:

A sea of rock, peopled by creatures frozen in time. When you encounter the more detailed rocks, observe them from different angles, sometimes they reveal figures that want to be carved in more detail.

Felsenmeer – Silas Merlin

It’s a perfect description for the setting, in which sits a large house and smaller cottage, surrounded by a field of boulders  – genuine felsenmeer, together with larger rock formations, in turn surrounded by hills.  Look closely enough at some of the rocks, and you just might see sculptures waiting to be found: one formation, for example, suggests it might become a dancing couple, or perhaps a grandfather sitting his grandson on his knee…

Other stones and boulders have already had the sculptures within them released. Finely crafted, several sit close to the house. Others, further away, have the look of being cast in bronze – as do the trees, which add a certain alien feel to the landscape.

Felsenmeer – Silas Merlin

The ground floor of the main house is occupied by many of Silas’ circus characters, complete with one of his pastel pieces – a jester, appropriately enough. The house is also the home of a modern sculpture  – and find this, and you’ll find a ramp leading up to the upper floors (you may need to SHIFT-teleport to get onto one floor from the ramp), where more of Silas’ expressive pastels reside, together with some more sculptures; these are not to be missed, so do make sure you explore the house.

The rest of this intriguing landscape should also be explored; the landscape is all boulders and rock formations. Follow the paths outward from the house and you’ll find there are surprises to be found tucked away here and there. So don’t limit your explorations to just the vicinity of the house and cottage.

Felsenmeer – Silas Merlin

Experience URL

Hollywood highlights and more in Second Life

The undersea world of Blake Deeps – just a part of all there is to explore in the Hollywood estates and regions north , east and south of Blake Sea.

I’ve been a resident of Hollywood Estates, bordering Blake Sea for getting on for five years now (I think!), and while I’ve covered one or two points of interest around the estates that are open to the public, there is actually a lot to see and enjoy. This being the case, I thought I’d offer an island-hopping guide to some of the places worth a visit, particularly by boat or by air (seaplane perhaps being the best for the latter, or a helicopter with floats!).

For obvious reasons – it being something I’ve been very involved with – I’m going to start at Holly Kai Park. The home of Art at the Park (since 2008), Caitinara Bar (music Wednesdays and Fridays from 16:00 SLT), with a live events area (The Pavilion), nature trails, a permanent exhibition of art from the collection of Nber Medici, co-owner of the Hollywood Estates along with MarkTwain White, bumper boats, kayaks, as well as featuring Seanchai Library, bringing you live stories in Voice every week, Holly Kai Park has a lot to offer visitors.

Holly Kai Park boat moorings and Art Hill

The docks on the east side of the park offer 2.5 hours of mooring before auto-return kicks in, giving you plenty of time to explore, and re-rezzing of boats (or seaplanes! is possible. This also makes Holly Kai Park a good leaping-off point for travels by water. Head north and then west around Holly Kai Estate, following the waterway, and you’ll eventually come to the Tugby Arena, with matches held every Sunday at 08:00 SLT  – find out more by reading my article on matches.

Just south of the Tugby arena is Dutch Harbor. While not strictly part of the Hollywood estates, it is home to Analyse Dean’s magnificent stern wheel paddle steamers. These are truly magnificent vessels, which I blogged about back in 2014.  The Dixie Belle has been available for sale since around the middle of 2017 (and I’m overdue an update on the steamers and what’s been happening with them!), and you can walk across to the demo version at Dutch Harbour and try it for yourself.

Juneau Regional Airport offers a chance to explore Blake Passage by air, or to stop off on a trip and hop around the local sights.

If hiking is more your thing, you can head west-north-west from Holly Kai Park to the Columbia River. Although largely residential in nature, the hills above the southern bank of the river offer a hiking route. Marked by boot prints on the ground and yellow tour guide boxes, the trail runs westwards to Columbia Bar, and offers views out over the river valley to the north and the surrounding islands to the south.

Unfortunately, rezzing isn’t available at either end of the trail, but a short hop away by TP, is Juneau Regional Airport, offering rezzing for light aircraft, and a short distance to the north, the Hollywood Estates land office has a boat rezzing area (2 minute auto-return) at the moorings in front of it. From here you can explore the Blake Passage regions by boat.  A little further to the north at Skagway, is the headquarters of the Second Life International Folkboat Fleet (SLIFF). With races held every Sunday starting at 07:00 SLT, this is a popular community, and sailing lessons can also be had here for those just getting started. If you don’t fancy walking / teleporting, you can catch the Skagway & White Pass train from the rezzing area outside the front of the airport terminal, and which will transport you to all points north in Blake Passage. You can jump off on passing the Hollywood Estates land office, or at the SLIFF centre at Skagway.

Folkboat racing around the regions of Blake Passage

South and west of Holly Kai Park lies the famous Hollywood International Airport. With rezzing for aircraft of any size, and water rezzing for boats, it offers the perfect leaping-off point for exploring Blake Sea itself, the regions to the south, and for travelling east through the islands leading to the community of Second Norway. If flying out of a major airport like Hollywood isn’t to your liking and you have a light aircraft, you might like to try flying out of the grass strip at Foliage Airfield.  This is a tight little strip, but one I like using when testing different planes, and it is ideal for single and light twin-engined aircraft and helicopters. Just across the water from Foliage sits the historic Greenhouse, a towering prim structure by Transparent Banshee celebrating a bygone building era of Second Life. The gardens and Greenhouse are both open to visitors.

Head south from Hollywood Airport, and you can find your way to the Honah Lee estate, and in particular Palomar Landing, with moorings for boats, seaplanes and helicopters (5 minute auto-return, re-rezzing permitted). This marks the start of the island circle trail and the trailway to the stars, which allow you to travel on foot or by horseback around the 6-region core of Honah Lee, ride up to the Palomar observatory, and visit the marine nursery. I last rode the trails here in 2013, so some of the article I wrote at the time might be out-of-date, but hopefully it’ll act as a primer for those visiting.

Horseshoe Park is tucked away among the islands east of Blake Sea, but makes for a pleasant stop while sailing

All of this is really just scratching the surface of everything on offer in these regions and the lands surrounding Blake Sea. Those who like sailing / boating might also like to visit Horseshoe Park (30 minute auto-return at the dock), which offers a pleasant break while exploring the surrounding waterways. There’s also the delights of underwater exploration along the regions of Blake Deeps. A good place to start these might be from the historic Freeport Township of Flotsam, and you can read more about it and the merfolk community of Fanci’s deep here and here.

Additional Links

Sansar’s Creator Academy: Hall of Materials launches

Creator Academy: Hall of Materials

Linden Lab has launched its Creator Academy: Hall of Materials experience. It is intended to help creators explore and better understand the materials capabilities of Sansar, learn about the various shaders and physics materials using interactive kiosks, and how texture values interact and impact one another.

The hall comprises two sections; the first covers media surfaces, stereoscopic media, UV animation materials, emissive materials, standard materials, and metals. Overhead, spheres float as a physics demonstration. The second, rotunda-like section, provides insight into audio materials and materials layering.

Creator Academy: Hall of Materials

Kiosks provide overviews of specifics aspects of using mateirals, and some of these are are interactive. In the rotunda for example, walk across the different surface types (sand, water, ceramic, glass, carpet, etc) – to trigger the corresponding sound. With other, proximity might trigger a level of interaction.

However, it has to be said that some of the interactive elements appear to be more geared towards those in VR mode – as indicated in the introductory video. Some kiosks, for example, use panels of buttons which are currently largely inaccessible to those in Desktop mode. While this may well change as Desktop mode interactivity improves, it nevertheless limits the effectiveness of Hall of Materials as learning experience right now.

Creator Academy: Hall of Materials

Also, while I favour tutorials, it has to be said that Sansar’s very nature perhaps limits the effectiveness of experiences like this. Unless you tweak the client or have multiple accounts, you can’t visit the experience and simultaneously try things out directly for yourself in Sansar’s Edit mode, and fix concepts in your head by doing so. As such, I did wonder if the effort in building the experience might not have been better served in producing a series of short videos on the subject matter, perhaps in the manner of Torley’s famous SL TuTORials.

Given these points, Hall of Materials should perhaps be viewed as an experiment in teaching / learning more than anything else, and it’ll be interesting to see where the concept goes and how it develops. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the introductory video, which provides a basic overview of the experience, in its own somewhat “novel” approach.

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