I love to travel – not that I’ve had much of a chance to do so the last few years (even before the SARS-CoV-2 situation brought a halt to travelling around for just about all of us); I also have a love of cats (I’m the Chief Meal Giver and Dish Washer to two). So when an art exhibition combines both travel and cats, I’m going to hop along to take a look.
In My Greece, My Cats, open at the Kultivate Loft Gallery through most of April 2021, Slatan Dryke presents a personal series of images that document some of his travel to Greece over the years, revealing a place that has become one of his favourites – and introducing some of its feline denizens he came across during his visits.
Slatan is perhaps best known for his in-world sculptures and his digital art, which have been displayed widely across the grid and been a signature part of many collaborative endeavours. His work is oft marked by the use of vibrant colours or deep tones that can give it an almost symphonic depth. However, with My Greece, My Cats, we have a dozen images in monochrome or with a lean into sepia that suggest a lightness of touch and more informal musicality, something totally in keeping with the nature of the country he is representing.
My love of Greece goes back to when I travelled there for the first time more than 40 years ago. My good fortune has been that Greece is a neighbouring country, allowing me to visit so many of its islands where the marrow of its culture and traditions has not changed in centuries.
[But] don’t ask me about the most fashionable locations, because I have never been to them. Ask me about those small islands where the time runs slowly under the shade of a tamarisk tree.
– Slatan Dryke on his love of Greece
One place Slatan particularly fell in love with is the island of Astypalaia, one of the 12 members of the Dodecanese archipelago in the south Aegean Sea, and it is this that he celebrates within this exhibition.
With pieces finished as either photography or processed digital art, Slatan uses the exhibition to reveal the village of Astypalea (or Chora as it climbs one of Astypalaia’s craggy hills to where the imposing bulk of a stone castle sits, commanding a view on all sides. Castle and village are celebrated as a whole in three of the pictures in this exhibition, but so too are more personal aspects of the village and life there: the hand-written chalk menu at a café, the red-roofed barrels of old windmills that match along a street or a quiet place to sit at the water’s edge.
And, of course, there are the cats. As Slatan notes, no Greek village is complete without its local cats, and here he has magnificently captured them – including an endearing look at one cheeky little chappie peeking over a wall to see who dares disturb his rest…
An engaging and charming exhibition that will more than likely have you wanting to visit Astypalaia – I’ve already added it to my itinerary of future visits!
The following notes were taken from my audio recording and chat log of the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting held on Thursday, April 1st. These meetings are chaired by Vir Linden, with dates available via the SL Public Calendar, and the venue is the Hippotropolis camp fire.
On Thursday, April 1st the Custom Key Mapping viewer version 184.108.40.2067391 was promoted to de facto viewer release status.
The rest of the official viewers remain as:
Release channel cohorts:
Maintenance RC viewer – Eau de Vie, version 220.127.116.117412, dated March 25.
Love Me Render (LMR) 5 project viewer, version 18.104.22.1686118, dated February 23.
Legacy Profiles viewer, version 22.214.171.1240519, dated October 26, 2020.
Copy / Paste viewer, version 126.96.36.1993365, dated December 9, 2019.
Project Muscadine (Animesh follow-on) project viewer, version 188.8.131.522999, dated November 22, 2019.
360 Snapshot project viewer, version 184.108.40.2069111, dated July 16, 2019.
The graphic team is addressing crashes relating to older hardware using Intel Graphics drivers. These are proving difficult to track down as almost nothing is reported on where in the viewer the issue causing the crash occurred. In the meantime, those on systems using older Intel HD graphics drivers are encouraged to update to more recent versions.
Project Muscadine (Animesh Follow-On)
Currently: offering the means to change an Animesh size parameters via LSL.
On semi-permanent hold and unlikely to resume in the near future.
The initial project viewer had some significant issues, which have not as yet been addressed.
More particularly, as this was a test project prior to the work in transitioning the simulator software to the cloud, the necessary support code was never made a part of the core simulator core build, and so would require engineering time to be updated and integrated into the post-transition simulator code, and this is not something that is currently under consideration.
However, the hope is to at least get the LSL extensions work that has been done thus far into the simulator and the viewer updated “at some point”.
Summary: An attempt to re-evaluate avatar rendering costs and the cost of in-world scene rendering, with the current focus on avatar rendering cost / impact, with the in-world scene rendering to be tackled at some point in the future.
The updated Jelly Dolls rendering is seen as the first phase of the avatar work, even though it was more of a side project when initiated..
The next stage is to improve how Avatar Rendering Cost (ARC) information is presented to users, together with improved performance controls within the UI.
Once the UI updates have been made, the updated ARC calculation code can be integrated into the viewer – although these new calculations remain dependant on a Bake Service fix that has been awaiting the cloud migration work to complete before being scheduled for implementation.
The hope is to get through this work Soon™.
Proposals for New Forms of Avatar Customisation / Skeleton Deformation
Two proposals have been put forward to allow for a more “dynamic” approach to customising the avatar skeleton on the part of the user.
BUG-230428 “Interpolate between poses/animations via script” presents the idea for allowing pairs of scripted animation to act on the skeleton in such a way that when used, they present a UI slider element the user can adjust to define how the two animations interact with one another. As cited in the feature request, this could be used to combine walking animations so as to produce a unique walk / stride for an avatar. Currently, the idea has been accepted for consideration as possible future work.
BUG-230430 “Ability to interpolate between mesh skeleton offsets/deforms” presents the idea for users to gain a greater degree of avatar customisation by being able to deform the avatar skeleton using dynamic sliders.
Currently, the avatar skeleton can be deformed in two ways: via joint offsets and via animations. These are particularly (but not exclusively) used to force the avatar skeleton to adopt the shape required by a non-humanoid mesh avatar – such as a dog or elephant, etc. These are more-or-less “permanent” deformations, in that as long as the offsets are applied / animations are running, the avatar skeleton will be deformed, and the user has no real control over the deformation.
BUG-230430 proposes a number of ideas (of decreasing complexity as thoughts are better crystallised) for presenting the means for the user to be able to use and adjust / interpolate different groups of offsets or animations (with the bias shifting towards the latter) by means of a set of sliders that are made available as the groups are applied to the avatar.
There are numerous complexities involved in the approaches suggested (e.g. animation priorities when running multiple other animations through AOs; predictability of results in running multiple animations and possible offsets where timing / relationships can be user-adjusted; added UI complexity; viewer / server / viewer synchronisation, etc.). As such this request is currently set to “needs more information” should animators / avatar creators wish to add thoughts.
New User Experience
As I’ve reported elsewhere in these pages, considerable effort is being applied to the new user experience and on-boards of new users. Some of the work is approaching the point where it should be surfacing in a few months time. Elements of the work have included:
Analysing the hardware incoming new users have by logging non-intrusive stats through the viewer. This is indicating that the majority of incoming new users have hardware of much lower specification than might be thought.
Work on simplifying / improving elements of the viewer UI, and looking at the potential of removing settings that are rarely, if ever used.
In a sampling of 10,000 individual user sessions it was found that over 700 of the 1,500 non-intrusive visible settings (i.e. settings that do give rise to privacy concerns if logged) the Lab now log in the official viewer, were never actually used by any user. This raises the question, would any of those 700 be missed if removed?
This does not mean those settings *will* be removed, and the Lab are aware their data doesn’t include TPV users, as third-party have yet to adopt the logging code – although the Lab would be happy to work with them on this.
Updating the learning and social islands incoming users encounter.
Performance updates. This includes considering ways users can be made aware of controls they can adjust / turn off to improve frame rates; possibly introducing a means to have the viewer adjust itself to optimise frame rates, etc.
Feature request BUG-230429 “Morph Targets/Shape keys on Mesh” has been accepted by the Lab for consideration as a possible future project.
There was more discussion on the animation system, with views fairly split.
Some see the animations system and formats as being “too old” and needing replacement; others see the BVH format as being extraordinarily flexible in the way it allows control of individual joints when compared to other systems / engines.
Some would like to see a better internal engine with greater support for inverse kinematics, etc., but a concern here is potential knock-on effect / scope (how would such a system relate to the existing animation system? Would it require broader changes to the avatar system? Could it result in existing content breakage? And so on).
There was further discussion of whether or not a system like Marvelous Designer could be incorporated into Second Life as a means to provide a better means of adjusting / fitting clothing to an avatar.
Neither a complete overall of the animation system or the adoption of a Marvelous Designer like cloth / clothing system is currently under consideration.