A Virtual Lens and a creative eye

Virtual Lens: Selected Images, 2013-2014
Virtual Lens: Selected Images, 2013-2014

Opening at 13:00 SLT on Friday June 6th, is Virtual Lens: Selected Images, 2013-2014, an exhibition of Ziki Questi’s photography captured over the two years in the title, as selected by the artist herself.

Taking place at Vita Theas’ Serena Imagine Arts Center at Wolves Land, Virtual Lens is a personal presentation for Ziki. “The images are simply ones that I particularly enjoyed as I looked back on my work since the beginning of 2013,” she explains. “While there isn’t any particular theme to the photographs as a whole, there is one grouping along the eastern shore that depicts scenes from Roche, a sim by ddsm2 Mathy, where I’ve worked with depth of field and tilt-shift techniques.”

Virtual Lens: Selected Images, 2013-2014
Virtual Lens: Selected Images, 2013-2014

As an admirer of Ziki’s images (she is one of two SL photographers who have had significant indirect influence on my own attempts with the viewer’s snapshot floater), I felt very privileged to have a preview of the exhibition while she was still setting things up.

The display space takes the form of a summer glade surrounded on three sides by water. A path of dry earth winds through the trees and passes a lighthouse at the water’s edge before meandering onwards – be sure to follow it under hill to ensure you see all the pieces on display.

Ziki’s photographs are displayed alongside the path, each one mounted on its own plinth and in her familiar panoramic format. Details of the location featured in each picture, and the date it was captured, can be found on the reverse side of each frame.

Virtual Lens: Selected Images, 2013-2014
Virtual Lens: Selected Images, 2013-2014

Taken as a whole, it’s a striking, natural environment into which, whether by accident or designs, the selected pictures fit perfectly.

Some of my favourite images are on display here; I can’t ger the hang of tilt-shift for love nor money with the snapshot floater. Ziki, however, has it down to a fine art, and the images she has selected from her time at Roche demonstrate this admirably. So much so, that when looking at some of them, it is easy to believe you’re seeing not images captured in a digital world, but rather precisely framed pictures of model miniatures. They really are that life-like.

Virtual Lens: Selected Images, 2013-2014
Virtual Lens: Selected Images, 2013-2014

This is a superb installation, forming something of a retrospective stretching back over the last 18 months by one of Second Life’s premier photographers, and definitely not one to be missed. And if you fancy taking one of the images on display home with you – you can; all of them are offered for sale.

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Cory Edo’s water maps add depth to SL water

Wave effect using the Trompe Loeil "Cresting" normal water map
Wave effect using the Trompe Loeil “Cresting” normal water map

I’m coming to this via a pointer from Honour, which directed me to Strawberry’s blog entry on the subject.

Cory Edo, of Trompe Loeil fame, has released a pack of 10 free water normal maps for use in Second Life. These present a range of different wave textures which make creating your own custom water windlights for use on Linden Water a breeze. The finished results can, as with other windlight settings, be used purely within your own viewer or, for region / estate owners, can be used a default water setting  for their region / estate.

Four presets compared under the same sky settings, clockwork from top left: Linden water default; Trompe Loeil "cresting"; Trompe Loeil "Long Ripple"; Trompe Loeil "Glass" (click for full size image)
Four presets compared under the same sky and water settings, clockwork from top left: Linden water default; Trompe Loeil “cresting”; Trompe Loeil “Long Ripple”; Trompe Loeil “Glass” (click for full size image)

Strawberry has provided a  nice video tutorial on using the maps to create new water presets using the SL viewer, which can also be used alongside most v3 TPVs.  Cory also provides some notes on using the maps with Firestorm, but I thought I’d provide an additional overview on using the maps with that viewer and Phototools here as well.

If you use the Phototools button in Firestorm, click it to open the Phototools floater, then click on the New Water Preset button in the WL tab. This will open the Create a Water Preset floater.

Accessing the
Accessing the Create a New Water Preset floater through the Phototools floater

If you’re not using the Phototools button, go to World > Environment Editor > Water Presets > New Preset …

With the Create a New Water Preset floater open, simply drag and drop one of the Trompe Loeil water maps into the Normal Map box, then enter a name for the preset in the text box at the top of the floater.

Creatting a new water preset using the Trompe Loeil maps is a simple matter of drag-and-drop and applying settings and a name
Creating a new water preset using the Trompe Loeil maps is a simple matter of drag-and-drop and applying settings and a name

If you want, you can then adjust the Fog and Wave sliders and the Reflection tab sliders to produce the effect you desire.

When you’re satisfied with the result, click the Save button to save the preset to your hard drive. This will also close the Create a New Water Preset floater, so repeat all the steps above to create further presets using any of the Trompe Loeil normal maps.

You'll need to restart Firestorm after creating your new water presets in order to see them listed in the WL Water drop-down
You’ll need to restart Firestorm after creating your new water presets in order to see them listed in the WL Water drop-down

The new presets will be immediately available via the Edit a Water Preset floater (Pototools > Edit Water Preset or World > Environment Editor > Water Presets > Edit Preset …).

However, to show them in the WL Water drop-down list in the Phototools WL tab (shown on the right), you will need to re-start Firestorm.

Also, remember that Firestorm also backs-up custom windlights for you (make sure you have the options to do so checked in Preferences > Backup), so make sure you take a fresh back-up of your settings after adding any new windlights. That way you avoid having to recreate them once more after a clean install.

Do please note that these normal maps are intended to work with Second Life windlight; they are not “traditional” water textures and they will not work to create prim-bases water effects for pools, hot tubs and so on.

A great addition to the tool box of any sim designer and / or SL photographer – many thanks to Cory for creating them and making them available.

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Help Virtual Ability in a healthcare study

Virtual AbilityVirtual Ability are seeking volunteers (primarily in the United States) to help with a nationwide healthcare research project.

The research, which is being carried out in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, is intended to assess the level of access to quality healthcare people with disabilities have in the US, with a focus on determining if people with disabilities who get better healthcare stay healthier and are able to live independently longer than do those who get lower quality healthcare. A unique part of the study is that not only are people with disabilities providing data for the researchers, but some people with disabilities will be involved as members of the research team.

The study will run for three years, and will involve research into quantitative and qualitative care:

  • The quantitative portion of the study will yield findings about how access and healthcare quality, as perceived by thousands of Medicare beneficiaries of all ages, impacts the progression of their disabilities and their survival
  • The qualitative portion of the study will be conducted in an urban setting in Wisconsin and also in Second Life. It will use Focus Groups that provide a “voice” to the general public with the aim of revealing relationships among quality of health care and access to high quality healthcare for persons at varying levels of impaired function and disability.

Second Life users, disabled and able-bodied, are being invited to be a part of a Focus Group within the qualitative portion of the study. In all, there will be three types of Focus Group: people with a disability or their proxies; people without disabilities; and clinicians; volunteers are being sought to participate in all three.

Those joining a Focus Group will be asked to participate in a variety of activities, some of which will be limited to just a few people at a time while others will be open to the general public. A commitment to the full three years of the study is not required; anyone wishing to withdraw from the study can do so any time in the process.

Volunteer Involvement

Second Life users wishing to volunteer to be a part of a Focus Group must:

  • Be a US citizen (non-citizens can participate in other ways)
  • Be a person 21 years of age or older
  • Have at least 3 months of experience in Second Life and be able to communicate in text (with ADA accommodations).

In addition, the following criteria also apply to volunteers:

  • Those wishing to participate as a person with a disability or their proxy must:
    • Be a person with one or more disabilities (physical, mental, emotional, or sensory), OR
    • Be a provider of personal care to a person with a disability and serve as their proxy  (e.g. sharing their likely opinions or experiences because they are unable to do so directly)
  • Non-disabled people wishing to apply must not have a disability at this time AND must be a person who is not caring for a person with a disability at this time
  • Clinicians wishing to be a part of the study must be a practicing health professional AND have had clinical experience in the provision of care to people with and without disabilities

If you are willing to participate as a research subject, please send an IM to Sister Abeyante (or email her at sister@virtualability.org),  indicating whether you wish to participate as a person with a disability, a non-disabled person or a clinician.

You will receive a consent form (note card) by return with further information on the study.

  • Please read through the note card, and feel free to forward any questions you have about the research (and / or the research process, and / or your involvement in the study) using the contact information provided on the note card
  • When you are satisfied you are willing to participate in the research, please follow the directions on the note card (typing your name and renaming the note card) and return a copy to Sister Abeyante in-world.

Within a week of returning your consent form, you will receive a unique URL that will allow you to take a demographic survey. This survey will ask you questions about yourself, your health, and your life circumstance. Your responses to this survey will be kept strictly confidential by the University of Pennsylvania.

Within a few months of taking the survey, people will be randomly selected to participate in a private Focus Group meetings which will be held in Second Life, and will discuss a variety of questions of interest to the researchers, including interpretation of statistical results. There will be separate Focus Group meetings for people with disabilities (or their proxies), people without disabilities, and clinicians.

As the study will continue for two additional years, those chosen to join future Focus Groups will be asked to re-sign a consent form ahead of their participation to confirm their continued interest in the research.

The Research Pavilion at Healthinfo Island will host public elements of the study
The Research Pavilion on Healthinfo Island will host public elements of the study

Public Involvement

Anybody interested in the topic of healthcare quality, but who does not qualify or does not want to be a research subject can participate in the public portion of the study by:

If you have further questions concerning this study, please contact: Sister Abeyante in Second Life, or email sister@virtualability.org.

For and on behalf of Virtual Ability Inc.