A Small World for art in Second Life

Small World Gallery: toysoldier Thor
Small World Gallery: Toysoldier Thor

Update, August 2016: Regrettably, and as a result of illness, Small World Arts Gallery has closed.

Silas Merlin poked me in the direction of the Small World Arts Sim and Mall (SWA for short), operated by Mikey Jefford (mikeythai) – and I have to say, as galleries go, it is an impressive space. While not completely occupied, the gallery occupies two wings of a building reaching up to 4 stories into the air, and located in lush surroundings in which further art and attractions can be found, spread over two regions.

Designed by Addi Tachikawa (Adrienne Falconer), the gallery builds offer a modern wood, glass and steel design which provides plenty of exhibition space – artists have a number of linked side halls apiece, which all open off of the main halls dissecting each wing.

Small World Gallery: Maghda
Small World Gallery: Maghda

“I opened 2 weeks ago,” Mickey informed me as we chatted during my visit. “But it was half the size then, so we have not officially had a gallery opening yet.” That’s in the planning stages, and Mickey hopes to make an announcement soon. In the meantime, the gallery spaces – which are filled on the basis of invitation – offer a rich cross-section of art.

Many of the names behind the art on display will be familiar to regular exhibition goers: Silas Merlin, Giovanna Cerise, Toy Soldier Thor, Nino Vichan, Gem Preiz,  Kayly Iali; others may be less familiar, but no less captivating in their art.  In terms of the 2D art displayed, there is perhaps a lean towards art from the physical world being favoured for exhibition over art from “within” Second Life, such as avatar studies and SL landscapes. I asked Mickey if this was deliberate.

Small World Gallery: grounds
Small World Gallery: grounds

“No, not really,” he replied. “I just select what I like and what I think looks good and I think if ‘I get it others will’.” Certainly, the bias does not in any way detract from the gallery. Rather the reverse in fact: it again demonstrates that SL is a valid medium in which to present art from the physical world.

Within the grounds, there is more art to be discovered, as well as walks through the woods, either along paths or greenswards, places to sit and relax  – there’s even an old house boat offering table-top games for visitors. The paths and trails through the regions offer pleasing opportunities to explore, and It’s worthwhile taking your time when meandering if you want to catch all of the art that’s on display.  I should also point out that there is a third region (Wizard Forest) connected to the two gallery regions, however, access to this is restricted, containing as it does a private home.

Small World Gallery: grounds
Small World Gallery: grounds

With a mall with spaces available to rent by artists, indoor and outdoor art displays, a rooftop garden and events venue, SWA certainly has a lot to offer, and represents a significant commitment to art is Second Life. As such, I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending it as a destination for anyone with an interest in art, and / or who enjoys exploring and appreciating new spaces and locations in-world.

SLurl Details

Project Bento User Group update 14 with audio

Project Bento – extending the SL avatar skeleton
Project Bento – extending the SL avatar skeleton

The following notes and audio were taken from the weekly Bento User Group meeting, held on Thursday, May 26th at 13:00 SLT on Aditi. For details on each meeting and the location, please refer to the Bento User Group wiki page.

Note that this update is not intended to offer a full transcript of the meeting, nor does it present the discussion points in chronological order. Rather, it represents the core points of discussion, grouped together by subject matter were relevant / possible, whilst maintaining the overall context of the meeting.

Bento on Agni

A Bento Imp celebrates the upcoming Bento move to Agni
A Bento Imp celebrates the upcoming Bento move to Agni

It had been hoped that back-end support for Bento would be enabled on Agni (the main grid) during week #21. However, things got held up while a fix was being pushed through QA (possibly the security fix which rolled to LeTigre and then to all channels this week?).

The Lab is now planning to enable Bento in week #22, most likely on Tuesday, May 31st.

A couple of points to remember with the move to Agni:

  • This isn’t in any way a “final” release of Bento, although the Skeleton and slider updates are now frozen (unless a really significant issue / bug is found. At this point, enabling Bento on Agni, which includes the ability to upload Bento items to the main grid, is to expose the capabilities to a wider audience of content creators and allow broader testing
  • Until the Bento code comes into wider circulation among TPVs, any mesh avatars, etc., rigged to the new bones will look deformed in non-Bento viewer, and may cause some viewer instability / crashes.

Details are still TBD, but one aspect of the move to Agni will be a further stress test to see how large numbers of Bento avatars impact performance, region crossings, etc. Details, including date and time will be made available in due course.

Date and Location of Next Meeting

With the deployment of Bento to the main grid, Bento User Group meetings will also swap over to Agni as well to encourage attendance. Details of where meetings will take place will be announced via the User Group wiki page and through the Bento forum thread.

With regards to the next meeting, due on Thursday, June 2nd, there is a Lab internal meeting taking place that day. It is therefore unclear if the Bento meeting will take place or will be cancelled (Vir would prefer for the latter not to happen, given the scheduled Bento deployment to the main grid). A decision on whether, when and where it will be held will again be made via the User Group wiki page, etc., once decided.

Project Viewer Update

The Bento Project viewer updated to version on Thursday, May 26th. This version includes the following significant updates:

reset skeletionA “Reset Skeleton” option, intended to fix cases where an avatar is distorted in your world view as a result of incorrectly applied joint updates. For example, a non-human avatar may show as “crunched up” because it is still in a human pose.

Right-clicking on the affected avatar (your own or another) and selecting Reset Skeleton from the avatar context menu should correct the avatar’s appearance in your view. As this is a viewer-side update, it will not affect how anyone else sees the affected avatar until they use Reset Skeleton. The Lab has requested feedback on the capability if it fails to work as intended.

The viewer also includes a few late-breaking changes to the slider support for mesh avatars, including jaw shape and head shape. Sliders that affect the scale of mPelvis now also alter mHindLimbsRoot, to better keep the front and hind legs synced up.

Updated Skeleton and Test Files

At the time of writing, the Bento test files have yet to be updated to reflect the most recent viewer changes. When this has happened, they will be linked via the Bento Testing page. Matrice Lavalle from Avastar and Cathy foil of MayaStar are working on getting the skeleton files updated for their respective plug-ins, and ensuring the are consistent with one another, something they hope have finished in the very near future.

Once this has been done, both Avastar and Mayastar will be updated, and will include collision volumes and some other weighting tweaks which should help improve slider behaviour when editing an avatar’s appearance.

Vir has started putting together a repository for supporting test models and animations which can be made available through the wiki Bento test page, so if there are other Bento creators / animators who have test models and files they would like to submit, he asks that they drop him a line.

There was also discussion on how to present the models to ensure those using different modelling tools (e.g 3D Max) can obtain a full set of bones with which to work.

Other Items

BVH File Interpreter

The Second Life BVH interpreter has apparently been updated so it will allow the upload of position data. However, if problems are found when doing so, the Lab requests a JIRA is filed to let them know,

Animation Exports and Mayastar / Maya

Mayastar is the skeleton plug-in Cathy Foil produces for Maya users (Avastar being the plug-in for Blender). Mayastar will current export  .BVH files with bone rotations for the entire skeleton, but translations for the mPelvis bone only. This works reasonably well with these restrictions, although it does have an issue with feet Cathy is currently looking to fix. As far as skinning, etc., is concerned, Maya works “pretty good”.

However, and in her own time, Aura Linden is working on an exporter for Maya which is intended to support export .ANIM files with both rotation and translation of all bones in the skeleton.

This should eliminate the need to sue two skeletons for Mayastar – one for rigging and one for animations. Subject to confirmation, the .BVH uploader may also have been updated to eliminate the need to use two skeletons.

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