Giovanna’s Soul of Colours: a Magic Flute in Second Life

Soul of Colours: Variations in the Magic Flute
Soul of Colours: Variations in The Magic Flute

Now open at LEA 21 is the first part of Giovanna Cerise’s Soul of Colours, an installation which will unfold over the coming months. For this initial instalment, open through until the end of August, Giovanna presents Variations in The Magic Flute, based on the 2-act opera Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute, K620) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, an opera which has, in my opinion at least, one of the most rousing and engaging overtures ever written.

This is an installation which first appeared in-world some four years ago, and which takes the visitor on an interactive, allegorical journey of light, colour and sound through key elements of the opera, complete with extracts of the music from some of the key events in the unfolding story.

Soul of Colours: Variations in the Magic Flute
Soul of Colours: Variations in The Magic Flute

Premiered just two months before Mozart died prematurely, on September 30th, 1791, The Magic Flute is, at its heart, a love story, focusing on handsome Prince, Tamino and Pamina, daughter of the Queen of the Night, and involving an additional tale of desire and love between Papageno and Papagena, as well as the aforementioned Queen of the Night and her handmaidens and the enlightened Sarastro and his retinue.

Within Variations in The Magic Flute, Giovanna invites visitors to engage on a journey through key scenes and events from the opera: the grove with its serpent, where Tamino is rescued by The Queen of the Night’s three ladies in the opening scene; an expression of the Queen’s anger from Act 2, Scene 3, Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen (“Hell’s vengeance boils in my heart”); allegorical representations of Sarastro’s garden, pyramids and the Temple of the Ordeal / Temple of the Sun (which it is depends on your interpretation of the opera as you come to it).

Soul of Colours: Variations in the Magic Flute
Soul of Colours: Variations in The Magic Flute

Passage through these scenes and locations is a matter of ascension  – something which is itself an allegorical reflection of the opera’s story, following Tamino’s  rise from the Queen’s deception into the enlightenment of Sarastro’s benevolence and also the rising triumph he and Pamina share in overcoming their individual trials and tribulations to finally be united in their love.

Passage between the levels / scenes are via crystal staircases (also triangular in shape, reflecting the pyramids of Sarastro’s domain), although you can fly if you wish. I’d personally recommend the former, as the latter does run the risk of missing things.

Soul of Colours: Variations in the Magic Flute
Soul of Colours: Variations in The Magic Flute

The interactive elements come in the form of music spheres which will play excerpts from the opera,together with locations where you can sit, and animations which will place you within some of the scenes. You can, for example, be tossed around by the vengeance which rocks the Queen’s dark heart.

I have no idea of the direction Soul of Colours will take from the start of September. I will, however, say that as I missed Variations in The Magic Flute when it was first displayed, I’m delighted to be able to visit it this time around; Giovanna and I appear to share something of the same taste for musical inspiration. With this piece, she has captured the essence of the story through a marvellous symbolism, while the use of light perfectly captures the heart of the music.

SLurl Details

SL project updates 16 29/2: viewer, Bento update 20 with audio

The Vordun: European Masters
The Vordun: a new Experience in presenting art in Second Life – blog post

Server Deployment – Recap

  • On Tuesday, July 19th the server maintenance package previously deployed to all three RC was rolled-out to the Main (SLS) channel,described as “minor internal changes”. One of these sees worn scripts capped at a count of 2500. Attempts to add attachments which take an avatar over this limit should result in the attachments failing to wear
  • There  no deployment and no scheduled restart for the RC channels on Wednesday, July 20th, so the entire grid is running  on the same simulator release

SL Viewer

The Maintenance RC viewer updated to version on July 21st, which includes the following additional fixes:

  • MAINT-6216 avatars are sometimes invisible
  • MAINT-6448 PERMISSION_DEBIT notification should default to Deny (my emphasis)
  • MAINT-6534 [MAINT-RC] Resetting scripts via the build menu no longer works on many scripted objects unless making the scripts visible in the contents tab of the objects first
  • STORM-2133 VOICE-36 prevents proper shut-down of connector.
The old debit notification (left) gave equal emphasis to accepting / denying the request to access account balances. The update to the Maintenance RC viewer new focus attention on denying a request for account access as the default option.
The old debit notification (left) gave equal emphasis to accepting / denying the request to access account balances. The update to the Maintenance RC viewer new focus attention on denying a request for account access as the default option.

Project Bento

The following notes and audio were taken from the weekly Bento User Group meeting, held on Thursday, July 21st 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 meeting was an “informal” meeting as project development lead Vir Linden is on vacation, as is Dan Linden, another of the devs who has been working on Bento. On-hand for the meeting were Troy, Coyot and Kyle Linden. These notes are not intended to offer a full transcript of the meeting, but rather covers the key topics of the discussion. Extraneous sounds in the audio are the result of someone leaving their microphone open during the meeting.

Internal Bento Presentation at the Lab

There’s an “SL summit” taking place in week #30 (commencing Monday, July 25th) within the Lab, at which Bento will again be presented. Troy Linden will be doing this, using screen shots and information on the recent work, and updating LL staff on the project’s process and on the ongoing collaboration between the Lab and Bento content creators.

Final Skeleton and Issues / Testing

With the release of the latest project viewer (version at the time of writing), the Lab hopes the Bento skeleton is now finalised. However, there are still a range of issues which are still being seen, some of which may be related to the most recent updates to the skeleton and sliders, others of which relate to earlier versions of the skeleton. There is also a further level of confusion due the AvaStar having to make a series of changes to their tool set, and these also being in a state of flux (version 2.0.13 (Alpha 4) was, at the time of writing the most up-to-date version, which should handle the new updates, although the .BVH animations handling may still be awaiting update). All of this means that most creators have yet to really experiment and test the latest updates.

Troy’s suggestion is that as does contain the must recent version of the skeleton and sliders, that creators work with models built with this skeleton, and report issues directly against it, to help ensure the Lab is correctly catching everything.

Avatar Reset / Reset Skeleton Option

In theory, removing an avatar mesh using custom joint offsets should reset the underlying avatar. However, this isn’t always the case.

For example, if the animations running on the mesh contain translations, and the last frame of those animations doesn’t move the bones back into their starting position, then an automatic reset of the avatar won’t occur. It is also possible that the update message may not be received by other viewers (e.g. due to Interest List limitations). These problems (which actually pre-date Bento) is why the Reset Skeleton option was added to the Bento viewer.

This prompted a discussion on the impact of sliders / bone rotations / translations and the order in which shapes / joint positions / animations are applied to an avatar, which in testing appear to be at odds with the order of application provided by Vir. Understanding what exactly is going on is again made a little harder, as it is believed there are still some disconnects between updates to the SL skeleton rig and updates made to Avastar.

Medue Simoni, Teager and Mel Vanbeeck discuss sliders, bone rotations / translations, and their impact on an avatar

Medhue Teager and Mel discuss the order in which joint offsets, shape offsets and sliders are applied to an avatar, in reference to Vir’s forum post on the matter

Expect further discussion on this following additional testing.

Brief Summary of  Additional Observations

Avatar Height: his has been the topic of conversation for the last few meetings. In particular see my Bento update #19 for details of the current issues arising from the most recent changes in how an avatar’s position relative to the ground is calculated / re-calculated by the viewer.

Vir has suggested that, as a part of investigations, people try to avoid changing the position of any of the bones used in the position calculation via an animation, and instead change the rotation of the bone(s) to achieve the desired result. Initial feedback voice at this meeting (via chat) is that this many not be an ideal solution.

Speech Gestures: A long-standing aspect of Second Life is that speech gestures (along with gesture in general) are not automatically attached / detached with an avatar. This makes sense in that it allows people to choose the gestures they wish to run with an avatar.

However, with Bento, it is possible that dedicated gestures are required (e.g. wing folding gestures, speech gestures that are specific to an avatar form, etc.). As the gestures are not auto-attached / detached this leaves the potential for users experiencing apparent “issues” (e.g. their avatar seems to behave oddly as something like a speech gesture fail to play, or there is a conflict with gestures as the user has multiple gestures trying to do the same thing running simultaneously, etc.).  It’s not clear what (if anything) might be done to address this.

Why Bento is Taking so “Long”

There have been some complaints in forum threads and non-Bento user group meetings about the length of time Bento is taking to mature. However, as Troy re-iterated in the meeting, a lot of this is both down to the fact that Bento needs to serve a very wide range of use-cases, not all of which are necessarily compatible with one another (e.g. supporting both human and non-human avatars).

Additionally, and in order to be as broadly useful as possible, the project requires an iterative development process between both the Lab and the expertise of in-world content creators in order to ensure Bento is as useful a product as possible when officially launched. This iterative process inevitably means the project will take time to fully mature.

Troy and Coyot Linden discuss the overall approach to Bento