RFL: calling all machinima makers, camera people, editors and more!

Saturday, July 18th and Sunday, July 19th mark the RFL of SL weekend - can you help document it?
Saturday, July 18th and Sunday, July 19th mark the RFL of SL weekend – can you help document it?

The Relay for Life weekend is fast approaching in Second Life. Taking place over the weekend of Saturday July 18th and Sunday July 19th, 2015. Over the years, RFL events in Second Life have raised over US $2 million to assist the American Cancer Society in its efforts to eradicate cancer, and the hope is that this year will push the total past the US $2.5 million mark.

The weekend will feature everything one would expect from the event – walks, celebrations, remembrances, the luminaria ceremony, interviews, music, dance, and more. Already the regions, which I’ve been fortunate enough to have a sneak peek around, are taking shape and promise something truly extraordinary for 2015.

Catalina Staheli's amazing STAND portrait exhibition should not be missed over the weekend (see my review here)
Catalina Staheli’s amazing STAND portrait exhibition should not be missed over the weekend (see my review for a flavour of this remarkable exhibition)

One of the features of RFL of SL has been the telethon. However, this year, the organisers are doing something a little different, and a call for volunteers has gone out, as reported by Saffia Widdershins in the Prim Perfect blog:

This year we’re trying something new – rather than a Relay for Life Telethon, we’re asking people across the grid with machinima and streaming experience to join us in a crowd-sourced experiment.

If you have skills to offer in film and editing, and would like to create (or work on) a machinima featuring the people and events surrounding this year’s Relay Weekend, contact us by filling in the form below with your details. If we can help (for example by setting up interviews, by arranging accreditation), we will.

The idea is that all the films will eventually appear on a single You Tube channel. You can put your credits on your video – we will give you a special title screen to add so that you can clearly be identified as part of the project.

RFL of SL 2015 Relay Weekend: something very special to see, be a part of and document
RFL of SL 2015 Relay Weekend: something very special to see, be a part of and document

In particular, support is being sought from cinematographers, sound recordists, those able to edit video and / or sound,  and anyone willing to interview those participating in the weekend.

Opportunities are on offer to film specific aspects of the weekend (and the days leading up to it, in order to document the preparations, etc.), and to indicate when you’d prefer to offer your services (over all or part of the weekend, in the lead-up, and so on.

So, if you are able to help out with this project, please make sure you hop over the the Prim Perfect blog and complete the application form – but do please make sure you do so sooner rather than later; applications must close on Tuesday, July 14th, 2015.

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Second Life project updates 28/2: TPV Developer meeting

Crystal Gardens Estates Inara Pey, July 2015, on FlickrCrystal Gardens Estates, July 2015 (Flickr) – blog post

The following notes are primarily taken from the TPV Developer (TPVD) meeting held on Friday, July 10th. A video of the TPVD meeting is included at the end of this report, with any time stamps in the following text referring to it. My thanks as always to North for the recording and providing it for embedding.

Server Deployments – Recap

As always, please refer to the server deployment thread for the latest updates / news.

  • On Tuesday, July 7th, the Main (SLS) channel received the same server maintenance package deployed to the three RC channels in week #27
  • There was no RC deployments to the RC channels on Wednesday, July 8th, leaving all of the main grid on the same release.

An RC channel release planned for week #29 (commencing Monday, July 13th) will likely see some “db optimization around group stuff”.

SL Viewers

Viewer Updates

The Mesh Importer RC viewer updated to version 3.8.1.303230 on Wednesday, July 8th, with the Lab hoping this release fixes the majority of issues so far reported with that viewer.

On Thursday, July 9th, the Viewer-Managed Marketplace (VMM) RC viewer updated to version 3.8.1.303315.

Viewer Promotion Options

The above updates mean that all four RC viewers currently in the release channel (except the obsolete platforms viewer, which isn’t intended for update), are on a par with the current release version of the viewer (Experience Tools).

However, it is not currently clear which might be promoted to the de facto release version. Any decision on this will be made on the basis of crash rates and overall performance.

[04:13] That said, the VMM viewer has contained a series if XML file breakages with the translation options, and a change in the target formatting for translations also appears to have been changed in the VMM viewer. The Lab believe a fix for the XML issue is in the updated referenced above, although there appears to be some concern that problems still exist. If so, it is unlikely that this viewer will be promoted until issues have been sorted.

Notifications Project Viewer

Also on July 8th, the Lab issued the Notification project viewer, version 3.8.1.303211, which sees an overhaul of the way in which notifications – system, group, transaction, etc., are presented through the viewer. For further information on this release, please refer to my overview.

[08:10]  As this is a project viewer, now is the time to test it and see if it is lacking functionality / options – the Lab will be far more willing to alter the code, should it be required, while the viewer is at a project status than they will be when it reaches RC, where the focus will be on fixing any bugs which may have slipped through.

Other Items

Changes to Linden Damage

[10:00] The Lab have again acknowledged that the recent changes to the way the official viewer handles avatar damage messaging are not ideal. In short, damage cannot be set it the parcel level only; also, the viewer does not display the health meter on damage enabled parcels, but people can be “killed” and teleported home – for a full list of issues, see BUG-9422. There may be further news on this in due course, as Grumpity Linden (recently returned from maternity leave) will be looking at the issues.

Interest List Issues

[14:00] Some people are reporting what appear to be interest list issues (e.g. items not updating correcting in your in-world view when camming around, etc.) – see the likes of BUG-7084 for further details. However,commenting on this, Oz Linden said:

If there are issues with that, we need repros, because we haven’t got them. And we also need to be able to isolate whether the problem is that the various interest list messages are not being delivered properly, or whether the problem is that the assets aren’t being fetched properly, which is independent of that [the interest list messaging].

Any issues that look as if they might be interest list related must be tested and reported using the official viewer, and not with any TPV.

Avatar Shape Issues

[25:04] There have been reports of avatar shape issues and “corruptions” (e.g. BUG-9487). The Lab have acknowledged that they may have an internal issues of a similar nature (and BUG-9487 has also been triaged), however, if the issue is different, the matter will be imported for further investigation. One problem here is defining what is meant by a “corrupted” shape. The asset itself is unlikely to be be affected, which means it could either be the local copy of the asset being somehow modified, or an incorrect pointer has somehow been created – all of which needs clears steps to repro in order to investigate and ascertain.

Attachment Issues

[20:23] As noted above, project Big Bird (version 3.8.1.303130 at the time of writing) is thought to correct the majority of viewer-side attachment issues. However, this does not mean that all such issues are fixed; some might be server-side, etc., Both BUG-7761 and BUG-6925 refer to specific issues that have been reported.

An important thing to remember here – again – is that issues like this need to be tested and reported using the relevant Linden Lab viewer, not a third-party viewer.

This is not the Lab being awkward over matters or trying to avoid issues. It is simply because if an issue can be consistently reproduced on the Lab’s viewer points to it being directly related to their code; if a TPV is used – and with respect to all TPV coders – it is not always possible to determine if a problem is a result of code the Lab have supplied, or something a TPV may have done in modifying the code / viewer to suit the needs of their users. Obviously, if it is the latter, fixing the problem is outside of the Lab’s reach.

 Firestorm Update

[01:25 and 11:33] Firestorm are currently waiting on VMM and the attachments fixes (project Big Bird) to be merged into the Lab’s de facto release viewer, as these will allow them to push ahead with there own merges and testing in preparation for the next Firestorm release. However, given the Lab would prefer to promote a viewer to release status every other week (and allowing for Firestorm’s own testing), it could be around 6 weeks before Firestorm updates (although the team already have VMM, the attachment fixes and the maintenance RC updates staged ready for merging).

Black Dragon: notifications and shadows

Blackdragon logoOn Thursday, July 9th, NiranV Dean released version 2.4.3.6 of his Black Dragon viewer.

The release brought with it a rapid-fire implementation of the Lab’s new notifications update from LL, which comes a little ahead of the curve, given the Lab prefer their code to be integrated into TPVs once it reaches RC status, and can be regarded as somewhat more stable than might be the case with a project viewer release. However, the code is such that it is apparently easy to manage should updates be forthcoming as that project progresses.

In implementing the notifications update, Niran has made some subtle changes to the notifications floater itself, improving the overall layout, although the overall functionality is pretty much as offered through the Lab’s current project viewer. Rather than describe the functionality here, readers are invited to read my overview of the project viewer.

The other major update with this release of Black Dragon release is related to shadows and lighting, and specifically, the uncoupling of shadow rendering from draw distance.

Because shadow rendering has been bound to draw distance, shadows tend to fade away the closer they are to your draw distance limit, with the result that the further objects are away from you, the less well-defined their shadows appear / the less shadows may influence how they appear, with objects close to the edge of your draw distance sometimes appearing shadowless.

With this change, Niran has added a new slider to the Display tab of Preferences, allowing the user to independently set a “shadow rendering distance”, thus allowing a better rendering and representation of shadows independent of draw distance.

Black Dragon 2.4.3.6: the new shadow rendering distance slider
Black Dragon 2.4.3.6: the new shadow rendering distance slider in Preferences. A similar slider is also in the Machinima sidebar

The result is a much improved depth of view in-world, and greatly enhanced snapshots (see Niran’s samples accompanying the viewer’s release notes).

By-and-large, extending the shadow rendering distance shouldn’t result in any appreciable performance hit. However, there is a caveat, as Niran explains:

Increasing the shadow draw distance will reduce the overall shadow precision, because shadows are split into shadow clip planes, 4 shadow textures if you will, these shadow textures have a given resolution (which you can set in preferences), increasing the shadow rendering distance scales up all 4 planes equally, increasing the area one texture has to cover, reducing the precision in that area obviously. You could counter this by increasing the shadow resolution or multiplier, but that would impact frame rate.

A side benefit of this, as Niran notes, is that because volumetric lighting is calculated via the shadow clip planes and shadow maps, increasing the shadow rendering distance enhances the volumetric lighting effects in the viewer. Again, check the sample images Niran provides with the release notes.

Other updates in this release include:

  • Re-enabling of the experimental auto-hiding of the Textures, Sounds, Calling Cards, Landmarks, Notecards, Scripts, Photo Album, Animations, Gestures, Favourites and My Outfits folders in Inventory (debug: DebugHideEmptySystemFolders)
  • Disabling of the auto-hiding of empty folders by default
  • Improvements to SSAO defaults
  • Freeze world and mode toggling issues, as reported in STORM-2118, fixed and implemented in this Black Dragon release
  • Further RLVa updates.

As always, for the full range of changes / updates, please refer to the release notes.

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