Visiting the Drew Struzan Gallery and Studio in Sansar

The Art of Drew Struzan: The Studio Experience

On Friday, March 23rd, the The Art of Drew Struzan: The Studio Experience opened in Sansar. As the name suggests, it is a celebration of the art of celebrated illustrator, Drew Struzan – and it is perhaps one of the most visually superb and compelling experiences yet to surface on the platform, particularly for anyone (like me) with a love of films and all that goes with them (I love both film art and film soundtracks).

Drew Struzan

The Art of Drew Struzan: The Studio Experience is part of the The Hollywood Art Museum (HWAM) project, established by Greg Aronowitz with the aim of encouraging artists in the digital medium to find fresh inspiration in the traditional arts of Hollywood’s past, through the preservation and education of art used in entertainment.

I provided something of a “preview” of the opening, including a (very) brief look at Drew Struzan’s career here – which I hope you’ll read alongside this article.  For this piece, I’m focusing purely on the presentation of Drew Struzan’s work as it appear sin Sansar. But first, some preliminary notes:

The experience is in two parts: a gallery of Drew’s work, and a reproduction of his physical world private studio.  Access is via the gallery experience, which can be reached in one of two ways – via a direct URL, or via the Hollywood Art Museum experience – just walk to the entrance of Sound Stage 6, which advertises the exhibition, and you’ll be transferred to the gallery experience.

Both experiences can be enjoyed in VR mode or Desktop mode. However, if you’re visiting in Desktop mode, I suggest using first person view (toggled via F3) to get the best view of the art.

Also note that some of the pieces displayed in the “cinema” part of the gallery have associated audio recordings of Drew talking about them, indicated by a set of push buttons beside the art. These buttons work in both VR and Desktop mode. Instructions are provided on a board by the entrance to the “cinema”, but in brief:

  • Walk up to a button to trigger the audio track (only audible to you). Once playing, you can move away from the button so others can also trigger the audio. Slowly moving away from a button will stop the audio playback before the end, if needed. VR, users can additionally use their controller’s trigger button to start / stop the audio.
  • Note that if you step up to another button while audio from one is already playing, the current track will stop and be replaced by the audio for the button you are next to.
Name those films; the 20th Century Fox 50th Anniversary art produced by Drew Struzan in 1984, now part of The Art of Drew Struzan: The Studio Experience

Taking the Tour

The gallery space is divided into a number of distinct areas. The “lobby” area features some of Drew’s fine art, with portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Bob Dylan together with a self-portrait, as well as a more classic piece of art (Autumn) and more. A hallway leads off this, displaying more of his fine art, including a fabulous self-portrait in pencil and a phenomenal study of Albert Einstein, before reaching the “film” element of the exhibition, which starts with some magnificent pieces celebrating George Lucas, 20th Century Fox together with the art used for the cover of Spielberg / Williams collaboration soundtrack album. There’s also a collection of truly amazing portraits of some of Hollywood’s greats, which Drew produced for US postage stamps and for Franklin Mint.

Sinatra (l, for Franklin Mint), and John Wayne, Edward G. Robinson, Jimmy Stewart, Johnny Carson, Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda (all produced for US postage stamps), and Cary Grant (r)

Beyond this is the “cinema” exhibition space, and the collection of Drew’s film-related art, and the point where the audio options are available.

This features individual film posters (including the 1977 Star Wars “Circus” poster Drew produced with Charles White III, complete with the story of the poster’s unique look related by Drew), placed along the main corridors.  In the centre of the gallery is a walk-through of “comprehensives” – drawings showing the initial layout and composition of a proposed artwork for the client to approve before going to the final illustration –  Drew has produced over the years. There is also a section featuring a Hellboy poster and a Star Wars poster showing the creative process in stages from initial drawing through to final poster; and a special display dedicated to the Back to the Future trilogy.

The Art of Drew Struzan: The Studio Experience

This entire environment is visually stunning. The set is that of an old-style movie theatre with Deco lighting, red carpets and ornately-panelled ceilings, completed by excellent lighting. There is a richness to it that really give the environment a sense of place; exploring it in first-person genuinely gave me the sensation of being there – no headset required (although I imagine I’ll be totally blown out of my chair when I do get to see this experience in VR). As to the art – it has to be seen to be appreciated; it is just astounding, and the images here do not do it justice.

Beyond the “cinema” gallery is the entrance to Drew’s private studio – just walk up to the door marked Enter Here to be transferred to it.This is again stunning: a complete and accurate reproduction of Drew’s physical world studio. Just how accurate? Well, it has been produced by the Sansar Studios team working in collaboration with Insight Digital, a company specialising in photogrammetry and laser scanning to recreate sites of antiquity in digital format for detailed examination. some of their work has already been imported to Sansar at the Voyage Live: Egypt experience, and you can read about that work here.

Drew’s studio – reached via The Art of Drew Struzan: The Studio Experience

For Drew’s studio, Insight took over 4,000 photographs of his workspace and laser scanned the objects and items inside it. “They went front, back, side, top, bottom, behind. Everything!” Drew says of the work. The result is – if I might use that word again – stunning.  literally everything from the original studio space is here, beautifully reproduced.

The wealth of detail is extraordinary, and I strongly recommend careful exploration and viewing, simply because there is so much to see (watch out for the drawer with the stash of paints…). While touring, a couple of people did comment that things seemed a little big, but I assume the space was slightly scaled up to reduce issues of avatars colliding with one another when looking around in groups. And when you have (eventually) done, use the door beneath the deer head to return to the gallery.

Drew’s studio – reached via The Art of Drew Struzan: The Studio Experience

A truly marvellous and visually impression pair of experiences, and kudos to Greg Aronowitz, Insight Digital and the Sansar Studios team under Jason Gholston for bringing it all together, and very special thanks to Drew Struzan for sharing both his art and his personal space with us in this way.

Experience URLs

BURN2: Burnal Equinox 2018

BURN2 Burnal Equinox 2018

The Burn2 Burnal Exquinox event, which will run through until Sunday, March 25th, is now open.

The theme for this year’s event is H2O = Water but H2+O -> Fire, with the press release for the event explaining the theme thus:

It is in two parts. The first we all know, that H2O represents WATER. But…the second part is not a chemical formula; rather it is an attempt to describe the process of combustion that results in FIRE. Both utilise hydrogen and oxygen, but manifest in different ways.

Just as these two gases – oxygen and hydrogen can be combined to form very different basic elements  – water and fire – so the theme hopes to promote the idea that the sum of two or more things is very often something more – and that the “more” can be very different depending on how things are combined. Thus, through the imaginative bringing together of the core elements of a BURN2 event – building, art, and music – by different eyes and hands across the Playa, the organisers hope BURN2 participants will create a celebratory weekend that both reflects and is greater than all of its parts.

BURN2 Burnal Equinox 2018

The weekend kicked-off at 10:00 SLT on Saturday, March 24th, courtesy of the Lamplighters, and the full schedule for the weekend available on the BURN2 website. Activities and performers include:

  • The BURN2 fashion show.
  • BURN of the Nebula.
  • Samm Qendra.
  • The Vinnie Show.
  • Lamplighters Fires Dances.
  • ~DRUM~.
  • And more.

The event closes at 22:00 SLT on Sunday, March 25th, 2018 with a concert by Loreen Aldrin.

About BURN2

BURN2 is an extension of the Burning Man festival and community into the world of Second Life. It is an officially sanctioned Burning Man regional event, and the only virtual world event out of more than 100 real world Regional groups and the only regional event allowed to burn the man.

The BURN2 Team operates events year around, culminating in an annual major festival of community, art and fire in the fall – a virtual echo of Burning Man itself.

Related Links

Sansar Product Meeting #12/1: publishing and access control

Radio Grind presents…The Experience: Part V The Dirty Grind IAC Live Music Venue & Listening Lounge – scene of the March 20th Product Meeting

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meeting held on Tuesday, March 20th. These weekly Product Meetings are open to anyone to attend, are a mix of voice (primarily) and text chat. Dates and times are currently floating, so check the Meet-up Announcements and the Sansar Atlas events sections each week. Official notes, when published can be found here.

A portion of the meeting looked at the mid-March update, which is covered separately here. The latter half of the meeting was also  an extended  – and at times confused – general discussion on access control. Part of this did highlight the benefit of more scripted capabilities for access control and persistence of scripts, etc., (e.g. limited ban times, rather than a one-time “forever” ban until revoked; or the ability to apply the same access control list across multiple experiences). The discussion did not draw specific conclusions, but highlighted the potential for more focused discussions with specific product experts in the future.

Given the above, these notes focus on the core feedback provided by Boden and Jenn in terms of how the Lab views things.

Publishing on Sansar

There is some concern in the Lab that the current route to surfacing an experience is potentially confusing for some creators, in terms of knowing whether or not their experience is actually listed.

The current flow is to go to the publishing options, which opens on the Who Can Visit tab (below left), where the general access options can be set (Public, Only Me, by lists – Friends, Guest, banned).

The user then moves to the Atlas Listing tab (below right) – the first option of which is set to Hide This Experience From The Atlas by default, which unless unchecked, means the experience will not be surfaced in the Atlas, regardless of anything set in Who Can Visit – hence the confusion.

By being checked by default, is the Hide This Experience From The Atlas causing confusion when publishing an experience?

This led to an extended conversation about access, terminology (e.g. given a scene has a URL, isn’t that technically “published” anyway, regardless of the status of the experience?), options, etc.

Purely in terms of dealing with the confusion over whether or not an experience can be seen in the Atlas, the simplest approach would seem to be to leave the Hide This Experience option unchecked – this would also then more accurately reflect the explanatory text given with the Why? link.

Tool Tips

The suggestion was put forward that why going forward, and allowing for complexities of language localisation, etc., the Lab should look to ways to offer tool (or hover) tips within elements of the UI to help users better understand options and buttons.

Access Control Roadmap

In terms of access control to experiences / events, the current order of things at the Lab seems to be:

  • Implementing the underlying infrastructure to allow event ticketing.
  • Then build-out the tools to allow pay-to-access events (this will initially be internally / possibly with partners, prior to the tools being publicly surfaced).
  • Then, depending on how demand for events grows, go on to provide:
    • Experience / event owners to appoint moderators for their events, who can help manage the actual event (e.g. remove people causing problems).
    • Event organisers to rent experiences so they can host events without necessarily having to build a dedicated experience / contract someone to build it.

Does Access Control Mean Adult Content May Be Allowed in Sansar?

  • Currently no. Linden Lab’s Terms of Service, Sansar Terms and Conditions, etc., remain unchanged.
  • While access control may offer a step towards allowing adult content, there are other factors still to be put into place (e.g. age verification – something which could affect the experience owner as much as LL).
  • As the product is still in a “beta” status, the Lab is sensitive towards how it is perceived in the media (understandably, given the history of SL and certain elements in the media).
  • Adult content may come in the future, as Sansar grows, particularly as the environment means there is not necessarily the kind of “link” between moderate and adult content as might be seen with Second Life, simply because spaces in Sansar can be clearly separated one from another.

Other areas of consideration include the Sansar Store, and how Adult material would be handled there: would there need to be a separate Store for such content?

While no final decision on adult content has been made vis Sansar, Boden pointed out that the steps being taken now in enhancing access control, providing the means to support groups with different interests and requirements, etc., could eventually lead to adult content support as Sansar matures.

Access Control & Dress Code

In early discussions on Sansar, Ebbe Altberg raised the idea that experience creators would be able to define what outfits could be worn in their experiences, if they wished.  So for example, a steampunk themed role-play experience might require visitors to be dressed in appropriate costumes, thus avoiding the immersive nature of the experience being broken by someone waddling around as a pigeon toed under grown flying purple people eater (so to speak). This is apparently still on the roadmap for some point in the future.

Ebbe and Oz talk Second Life in the cloud

Credit: Linden Lab / Amazon Web Services Inc.

It’s a huge effort. Right now the Second Life grid is a proprietary set-up in a hosting facility that we have customised for the purposes of what we’re doing – which made sense a decade and half ago. But these days, with the services from Google and Amazon and Microsoft with cloud infrastructures, it makes a lot of sense to shift our technologies to be on top of those cloud infrastructures instead of having our own.

Ebbe Altberg, VWPBE, March 15th, 2018.

That the Lab is working on moving Second Life to the cloud is becoming more and more widely known. First mentioned by Landon Linden (aka, Landon McDowell, the Lab’s Chief Product Officer) during his SL14B Meet the Lindens session, it was “officially” announced in August 2017 via a blog post.

Landon Linden, June 2017, talking about the Lab’s hope to move Second Life services to the cloud.

It’s a long-term project, which will extend well into 2019 (at least), building on a relationship with Amazon dating back to 2008, and which today both Blocksworld and Sansar (see: “Project Sansar”: an Amazon ECS case study), from which the Lab hope to gain a range of benefits, including – in time – perhaps the opportunity to offer a broader range of products at more comfortable (for users) price points.

There are some significant technology challenges the Lab faces with the move. However, progress is being made. Some non-user visible services are already running in the cloud, and more recently, the Lab has started preliminary testing with cloud-based simulators – although they are fair from ready for users to access, as Oz Linden outlined at the March 16th TPV Developer meeting:

We have actually run experimental regions on cloud servers, and it worked. There were some functional limitations that we have to do a lot of work to solve before we could begin to do regions that ordinary users can get to … It’s something we’re pursuing as aggressively as we can [but] I’m not even sure we have a sufficiently comprehensive view of the problems … some of them will only become apparent as we actually put things into production.

Oz Linden, TPVD meeting, March 16th, 2018 – full audio below.

Oz Linden, March 16th, 2018, talking about progress to date, and how things are likely to progress.

For the Lab, the benefits of the move to the cloud include things like a reduction in their capital expenditure  – no need to maintain their own dedicated hardware (or continuously update / replace it) within a dedicated operating environment. It also means they can more dynamically scale consumption according to needs – this could be beneficial for a number of the back-end systems within Second Life.

It turns it into less capital expenditure to have to buy all the equipment and doing all the maintenance on that. You kind-of pay for what you use; with Second Life [right now], once we’ve bought a piece of hardware, we have to sit on it whether it’s being utilised or not, whereas you can kind-of dynamically scale your consumption as necessary when you use something like AWS … which we believe will reduce costs for use and then ultimately, we hope to pass that on to customers.

Ebbe Altberg, VWBPE, March 15th 2018.

Once the transition has been completed and the Lab has had time to evaluate things, the move might allow them to offer a more varied land product – something again touched upon in Ebbe Altberg’s 2018 VWBPE address, and allow them to more extensively “re-balance” the revenue model – something that is also an ongoing project at the Lab.

We’re really thinking hard about the economic model of Second Life. We share a belief inside the Lab that land is quite expensive. so we’re constantly looking at ways to lower land prices and find other ways to find revenues. So I think you will see us try to shift from what I would say [are] high real estate taxes to more consumption taxes or fees to create an environment where it’s easy for people to create and own experiences, and we [the Lab] participate more in all the transactions that take place.

Ebbe Altberg, VWBPE, March 15th, 2018.

Given that land tier provides the lion’s share of the Lab’s revenue, this re-balancing is far from easy to say nothing of the potential for user outcry at any fee increases). Ergo, having better means to lower fees such as through reduced operating costs and a broader spread of more “affordable” products could – depending on the time frames involved – go a long way towards helping the Lab achieving that re-balancing goal.

So what might the move to the cloud mean for users? That’s hard to quantify at the moment, simply because the project has so far to go.However, some hints at what might happen have been offered.

For one thing – and on the subject of different land products – it might allow the Lab to offer two broad categories of region / server type; I’ll call them “always on” and “on demand”.

  • “Always on” would be simulators running 24/7 as with SL at present. These would be ideal for handling Mainland, large open spaces like Blake Sea and the larger, contiguous private estates. Such regions might have a similar type of fixed-fee tier cost associated with them as we have today (although not necessarily the same price points).
  • “On demand” would be simulators that are only active (and charged for) when in active use. When devoid of avatars, they are saved to disk and spun down. These types of region could be ideal for special events, or for private business / residential regions which don’t have any surrounding regions, and would only be charged for when avatars are present; once the last avatar leaves, following an appropriate pause, the region is saved, and the instance spun-down.

Such an approach has been alluded to by Ebbe Altberg:

Some experiences might want to have continuous persistence over time, and maybe that’s one type of pricing model, for an “always on” type of scenario. Maybe other will be fine with, “hey, I’m only using this for a few hours in a class a few times a week” or something. and if that can spin-up in a few seconds, and then I just need to basically pay for the time that I’m utilising it. Those could be potential options for us to explore.

Ebbe Altberg, VWBPE, March 15th, 2018.

Land offerings could be broadened in other ways. Again, as Ebbe Altberg indicated at VWBPE 2018, there might be high-performance, high-capacity, “upper tier” servers available for those needing them for specific uses (e.g. events need high concurrency levels or similar), sitting alongside more moderate, lower-cost servers for things like residential use.

More intriguingly, cloud hosting might even allow the Lab to more readily geo-locate simulators / regions with their physical world audience. Such regions wouldn’t necessarily have to be grouped together in-world, they are simply located a lot close to the user base that most frequently uses them, potentially improving performance for that audience.

Today we are located in the US, which means that people from Australia or Asia or Europe have to travel quite a ways, which is hundreds of extra milliseconds of latency. So if you want to have a very dedicated community in Australia or somewhere, we could maybe start to distribute our server infrastructure to be closer to where the actual customers of those regions are, which would make things more performant.

Ebbe Altberg, VWBPE, 15th, March 2018.

There will be more to come on SL and the cloud and the Lab provide further updates as the work progresses, and I’ll hopefully report on them as they are made public. In the meantime, and for those who haven’t waded all the way through the VWBPE 2018 video with Ebbe Altberg (and Brett Linden), or who don’t want to read either my transcript of that event or the bullet-point summary, here’s the audio of Ebbe’s comments on SL and the cloud: