Project Bento User Group update 16 with audio

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

Updated June 30th – please refer to note following a quoted comment from Matrice.

The following notes and audio were taken from the weekly Bento User Group meeting, held on Thursday, June 23rd at 13:00 SLT at the the Hippotropolis Campfire Circle . For details on the meeting agenda, 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.

Apologies for the quality of Vir’s voice in the recording, this is my fault. I had to go afk just after starting the audio recording, and I hadn’t adjusted my local pick-up of Vir’s voice before doing so. As as consequence, Vir sounds a little distorted.

Facial Bones, Rotation / Translation / Slider Issues and Relative Translations

There has been further forum thread discussions on issues with the position of some of the new facial bones when they are used in combination with the head sliders. The core of this discussion commences here, and Mal Vanbeeck has offered a feature request for “shape slider friendly” facial bone positions. Some of this is also tied to issues relating to the range of movement of bones with the sliders or under animation.

Matrice Laville has been looking into some of the issues, and has come up with a proposal for making some amendments to the Bento skeleton to try to address some of the problems. However, any changes which are implemented will change the structure of the skeleton and how the sliders work, and will likely impact some initial content using the affected parts of the skeleton.

Because of this, it is likely the proposed amendments will be built into a test version of the Bento viewer, rather than the current project viewer, together with some test models to allow independent testing of the updates so it can be determined if they address the issues sufficiently and do not have unanticipated additional impact, so that a decision can be made on whether or not to fully implement them into the project viewer.

Specific changes in this test viewer, when available, are focused on issues raised around eyes and jaws, and so should comprise:

  • Changing the eyelids to have the same centre position as the eyebrow
  • Changes to the jaw and tongue positions
  • Changing the lower teeth so that they are parented to the lower jaw bone
  • Associated slider changes.

Adding to this in text, Matrice said:

All jaw related sliders do no longer translate the jaw except the jaw angle slider; the jaw bone has its default position now right below the faceRoot. The jaw angle slider still moves like crazy but I believe it is not an issue any longer. Actually, I propose to remove the [.LAD definitions for the Bento bones from the] jaw angle slider, because it only is needed for the jaw angle. I bet nobody will miss that slider.*

[NB June 30th: This comment has been updated, as some confusion followed the publication of this report, causing Matrice some embarrassment.  The fault is mine, and is the result of copying a text comment verbatim, rather than seeming clarification from Matrice. My apologies to him and any anyone else for the confusion caused.]

As Vir acknowledged, this has been a major amount of work which should hopefully address many of the issues encountered with the complexity of the new face bones and attempting to hook them into a limited set of available sliders.

Vir also noted that when available, Bento avatars using this revised skeleton in the test viewer may look odd when seen on the Bento project viewer, and vice-versa, and that the work has been carried out with the aim of limiting any de-stabilising influences the changes may have if and when they are integrated into Bento as a whole, while at the same time avoiding being so conservative that Bento ends up going live still with issues like these which might impact its adoption and use.

A notification will be placed in the forum thread when the viewer is ready.

Project Viewer Status

There are some bug fixes that will be upcoming in the next Bento project update, which could be appearing sometime in week #26 (week commencing Monday, June 27th).

The Lab is working to get the viewer to Release Candidate status, with the work focused on identifying and prioritising the bugs which really need to be fixed before moving forward. There will also be the work to integrate the modifications to bone positions and sliders noted above, together with associated evaluation, plus the upcoming testing. However, the hope is the viewer will move to RC status in the not-too-distant future.

Medhue Simoni (l) and Coyot Linden (r) wearing the upright coyote avatar Medhue made for Coyot, attending the June 16th Bento meeting
Medhue Simoni (l) and Coyot Linden (r) wearing the upright coyote avatar Medhue made for Coyot, attending the June 16th Bento meeting

Tool Chain Issues

Some of the recent bugs Vir has been investigating with regards to specific content appear to be down to potential issues within the tools used to create the content introducing irregularities in the models and animations, rather than anything specific to how Bento itself is handling the uploaded models.

Obviously, in such circumstances, there is only so far the Lab can go in investigating these types of issues, as they have no knowledge of exactly how the models /animations were defined within the creator’s tools of choice, etc., and so content creators who have encountered these specific issues have been asked to take them back to the tools creators to make sure things are behaving correctly at that end of the process.

Larger Animation File Sizes

There has been a long-standing request to increase the file size for animations, a request which has been enhanced by the development within Bento, where there is now a far larger number of bones to be pushed around (see BUG-11836).

While the Lab had been open to this idea, it looked as if any change would be deferred until after the back-end services had been updated to deliver animation assets via the Content Delivery Network (CDN), which at the time of writing is used to deliver meshes and textures to the viewer, but will in the future be used to deliver other asset types in order to improve content delivery and remove the load from the simulator servers.

However, the Lab has now decided to bring this change forward, rather than wait for the move to the CDN. As this is a server-side update, it is currently due to be in the Release Candidate channel updates for Wednesday, June 29th (from Caleb Linden, talking at the Server Beta User Group meeting on Thursday, June 23rd). This will see the animation file size limit raised from 120Kb to 250Kb.

One thing to bear in mind however, is that until animations are moved to CDN delivery (where they should enjoy somewhat faster delivery to your viewer on a first-time load), they will be delivered to your viewer via UDP, and the larger file size, as it comes into use, will probably mean a slightly longer delay before animations kick-in while they are being downloaded. Obviously, once caches locally, this should be an issue (unless you clear cache).

Other Items

Bento Tests

Second Life pile-on test: The Lab is planning on conducting a pile-on test using Bento avatars and attachments, possibly in week #27 (week commencing Monday July 4th) to stress test simulator performance, region crossing, etc., with a (hopefully) large number of Bento avatars.

The test has been scheduled for the second half of the Bento User Group meeting on Thursday, June 30th, and those engaged in the project who have models and animations they can wear  / provide / wear for the testing are invited to take part.

“External” testing: as well as the pile-on test, overseen by the Lab’s QA team, there will also be a special test involving a test from an organisation external to the Lab. This organisation conducts precise in-world tests on behalf of the Lab, and for Bento they will require Bento avatars and attachments.  While the Lab can provide the Bento models they have built for this purpose, they might need additional Bento avatars / attachments / animations. If any creators are willing to provide models for this test, they are asked to contact either Troy or Vir Linden.

For stress testing in both, the Lab is particularly interested in animations with both animation an avatar naturally (standing, walking, running, jumping, etc), and “extreme” animations with animation all / as many joints as possible at the same time.

Maya / Mayastar Exporters

The .BVH exporter for Maya is now available on the Bento Project wiki page, with instructions.  This has been developed by Aura Linden working in her own time. Avatars should have the Y-axis up, Z-axis forward and X-axis to the left, together with a freeze transformation so that the joint orientations are the same, or problems can be encountered. This exporter should work with all versions of Maya from 8.0 through the current release.

Aura is still working on the .ANIM exporter for Maya, and the native Maya .ANIM exporter is not compatible with the SL .ANIM format, which is unique to the platform. This will be a two-step process: export the animation from Maya to a standalone application, and then use that to convert the file to SL’s .ANIM format for uploading.

Cathy also provided a quick explanation on .BVH join orientation, which may help those encountering problems using the format.

Poser and In-world Tool Support

There have been requests for Bento support for in-world tools such as Poser. As these are not tools supported or supplied directly by the Lab, it is down to the creators to provide support. However, Vir indicated that were any to be updated to support Bento, the Lab would be willing to include links to them on the Bento wiki page.