2022 CCUG meeting week #4 summary

Grauland, January 2022 – blog post
The following notes were taken from my audio recording and chat log of the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting held on Thursday, January 27th 2022 at 13:00 SLT. These meetings are chaired by Vir Linden, and meeting dates can be obtained from the SL Public Calendar.

Available Viewers

  • The Performance Improvements project viewer updated to version 6.6.0.567604, on Wednesday, January 26th.

The rest of the official viewers remain thus:

  • Release viewer: version version 6.5.2.567427 – Mac Voice hotfix viewer, January 13 – no change.
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself).
    • Maintenance RC viewer, version 6.5.3.567451, issued on January 20th, combining the Jenever and Koaliang Maintenance viewers.
    • The Tracy Integration RC viewer version 6.4.23.563771 (dated Friday, November 5) issued Tuesday, November 9.
  • Project viewers:
    • Mesh Optimizer project viewer, version 6.5.2.566858, dated January 5, issued after January 10.
    • Performance Floater project viewer, version 6.4.23.562625, issued September 2.
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version 6.4.11.550519, dated October 26, 2020.
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version 6.3.5.533365, dated December 9, 2019.

General Viewer Notes

  • The Maintenance J+K RC viewer remains the most likely RC to move to de facto release status.

Fix for Long-Standing Animations Bug-11194

BUG-11194 “First frame of uploaded animations is triplicated” has been a long-standing issue (with workarounds) for uploaded BVH animations.

  • Aech Linden (a further transferee from High Fidelity) has been looking at the issue and developing a fix, although it involve a behavioural change for newly-uploaded
  • The explanation was garbled due to an network issue, but it appears the crux of the matter has been due to the way SL handles .BVH animations at upload, there have been two extra frame intervals added to the animation run-time, leading to errors in playback.
  • The fix is to remove the addition of these frame intervals (which occur at the start of the animation with zero interpolation.
    • There is a concern from the Lab that doing it unannounced could cause problems for new BVH uploads that include any workaround in anticipation of hitting the bug. Hence the heads-up on the change.
    • It was noted that a lot of pose stands BVN animations of just one frame, and the proposed fix might result in these giving “random” results from  a pose when new .BVH files are uploaded and placed in them by creators (particularly those using the in-world Anypose tool).
    • The fix will only impact new BVH animations uploaded to SL; it will not affect existing BH animations that have been uploaded.
  • The general feeling at the meeting was that most animators in SL use .ANIM rather than .BVH.
  • Given some of the confusion around the use of .BVH files, it is possible this change will be subject to a project viewer offered up for animators to poke at and provide feedback.

Animation Priorities and Capabilities

  • The ability to set the animation at run-time (rather than relying on the priority set aby the creator) to allow uses to adjust priorities between the animations that are using to avoid conflicts. Nothing is currently planned on this by the Lab, but it has been noted as a reasonable request.
  • It was noted that Firestorm has added the priority and other animation information the the animation playback floater.
Additional animation information Firestorm added to the animation playback floater
  • The core of the discussion focused on options for enabling animation priority changes (and other changes – such as animation speed) were discussed.
  • Changing the animation speed brings with it its own problems, so was tabled.
  • For priority, a manual capability + scripted capabilities were discussed, together with the potential to have options defined by list parameters supplied via the simulator.
  • No conclusions were drawn as to what might be attempted in the future (the animation system is not subject to any planned work) – although it was acknowledged that allowing the animation priority to be displayed by the viewer a-la Firestorm, should be a relatively simple change, were LL to opt for it.

In-World Build Tools

  • There have been numerous requests for the in-world build tools to be updated / improved. Currently, there is no project for this work, but it is something about which feedback was sought.
  • The request was specifically couched in terms of “limited but powerful” updates – so nothing along the lines of implementing a blender-like toolset within the viewer.
  • Feedback included, but was not limited to:
    • A “snap to” option in the existing build tools. (e.g. so a bookcase could be “snapped” against a room wall without having to be manually positioned).
    • The ability for reactors to offer “snap together” kits users can put together (and presumably mod as they go). This would be a more major capability with the ability to define connection points between items.
    • Options to amending particle and prim text properties directly (+ pivot points).
    • More complex asset items that allow “holes” for windows / doors.
    • A visual node system for in-world to allow people to code anything “super quick” (e.g. elements that contain scripted behaviours that can be put together / used in objects, rather than having to write text scripts).
    • Terrain as a prim (the prim is a heightmap texture when used).
    • A form of EEP setting that can be used as a backdrop / “surround” around skyboxes (like a cityscape or mountains in the distance) rather than having to use massive textured sculpties.
  • Support for Marvelous Designer (MD) clothing manipulation (as used by Sansar) was suggested. However, Runitai Linden, who worked on the MD implementation for Sansar described it as technically “not a great fit” for integration into Second Life on the grounds it didn’t work well in a 2D view using a mouse.
  • There has been some talk in LL about hidden surface removal on avatars (e.g. if a part of the body is covered by clothing, remove it rather than expecting it to be manually alpha’d out). However, there are complexities in doing this that may not end up as a “win” if some kind of ability were to be implemented.

In Brief

  • Custom pivot points (note: this was apparently subject to a lengthy discussion at the previous CCUG meeting, which I was unable to attend, so some context from these notes may be missing).
    • Rider linden has been working on simulator support for custom pivot points in avatar meshes. There is still some work to be dome, so there is no time frame when this work may surface on Agni.
    • Custom pivots can be set (and accepted) both at mesh upload or via LSL.
  • The latter part of the meeting was a technical discussion on the avatar skeleton, the morph skeleton, blend shapes, options for overhauling the avatar system, none of which are current projects.
  • Runitai did indicate LL is thinking about is replacing / augmenting the entire avatar imposter system – which is not particularly performant as it can cause viewer frame spikes when someone is camming around and causing avatars in their view to imposter, etc.  This would see avatars + their entire outfit that would be impostered undergo  hidden surface removal and have all attached meshes and materials baked into one meh material which would then be decimated down to as few draw calls and triangles as possible and then render that rather than an imposter.
  • It was confirmed in the meeting that PBR is to be a project, but no time frames on when it will reach a point of visibility.

An elven Perpetuity in Second Life

Perpetuity, January 2022 – click any image for full size

I’m starting this piece with an apology; back on July 2021, I visited Perpetuity, a Full region designed by Tamara Sierota and Camis Sierota (Camis Lee) – see In Perpetuity in Second Life. Following that piece, and in November 2021, Tamara e-mailed me with an invite to make a return visit to the region, which had been redressed for winter and – of particular interest to me, as she noted – carries an elven theme as well.

Unfortunately, I completely missed the e-mail and invite, only stumbling across it when catching up on some overdue filing and sorting. Ergo, I’m only now getting to writing about Perpetuity in its winter guise, and therefore offer apologies to Tamara and Camis for my tardiness in doing so.

Perpetuity, January 2022

To be honest, I do regret not having visited sooner; as someone with a deep love of Tolkien’s mythology and tales (from The Hobbit through to Unfinished Tales as well as Tree and Leaf, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and so on), I was captivated by the setting from the moment I arrived at the landing point on the east side of the region. Not that this is a place that is “exclusively Tolkien”, so to speak – as a fantasy / elven setting, it casts its net wide; so it should appeal to those who many not be as enamoured with Tolkien’s writings but who enjoy winter and / or fantasy settings in general.

Certainly, the fact that this is a winter setting is a part of the setting’s magic. Possibly because of Tolkien (or fables in general), it’s likely that most of us associate elves with warmth, the greenery of woodlands in the spring and summer, etc. So in presenting a clear elven theme that sits within a wintery shell of ice, frost and snow-capped mountains, perpetuity carries us to another realm entirely; one that realm captures and holds the eye and the imagination.

Perpetuity, January 2022

Sitting on what at first might look to be a headland extending outwards into and semi-frozen waters of a mountainous coastline (to the west the land doesn’t quite merge with the off-region mountains, but lies close enough to give that impression), this iteration of Perpetuity sits as place that, but for the time of year, would be rich in the colours of woods and trees. Throughout the setting, can be found great twisted trunks of trees which in warmer months would hold aloft canopies of leaves to shade the broad paths that pass under them and offer places of rest away from the brightness and warmth of a summer’s Sun. Similarly, scattered across the region and along its edge stand copses and strands of birch and other trees that, when heavy with leaf, would draw curtains of greenery around the setting and between its buildings as if to drape them is a sense of privacy and natural separation of the world beyond.

Winter Magic – A place for quiet moments and photography with areas to bring your partner or to come alone and relax surrounded by nature in all it’s beauty.

– Perpetuity’s About Land description, January 2022

Perpetuity, January 2022

However, caught in the depths of winter as they are, these trees lie wrapped in coats of frost, their bare branches still raised aloft and splayed towards the sky, but only able to cast spindly shadows over path, terrace and courtyard, the stones of which all lay dusted with snow. Linked by stairs and bridge, these broad paths make circumnavigation of the island easy, naturally carrying visitors from place to place, and building to building, revealing all whilst also retaining some secrets that lie waiting to be found.

Watched over by the slender spires of a graceful castle that rise from the top of that high central mesa, the majority of the buildings lying within the setting are all of a distinctly elven look; the only potential exception being the more blocky, angular form of a more formidable castle to the north-west.

Perpetuity, January 2022

Furnished throughout, these are buildings that speak to a close-knit community, presenting living spaces, places for gathering (indoors and out) and places of ceremony and / or magic. As might be expected from an elven enclave, both art and music are represented here, and the entire design of the setting carries within it a natural sense of peace. Even the most casual glance around will reveal that considerable care has been put into ensuring this sense of harmony flows throughout, complete with touches here and there that help to both anchor it somewhat in Tolkien’s mythology whilst at the same time, naturally separating the two.

Take, for example, the presence of the Argonath. In Tolkien’s original tale, these huge statues represented Isildur and Anárion, the sons of Elendil, but within Peter’s Jackson’s 2001 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Anárion was replaced by Elendil, who is also represented here (indicated by the fact he is holding the blade Narsil in his right hand). Thus, these statues offer a direct link with Tolkien’s tales, particularly calling reference to the Last Alliance of Elves and Men as symbolised by Elendil’s presence.

Perpetuity, January 2022

However, floating above and a short distance from them is a flying ship that removes this setting entirely from anything Tolkien presented in her core myths, allowing this iteration of Perpetuity to both acknowledge Tolkien’s influence on our thinking around elven folk and stand independently from it is a realm with its own history.

But whether you are a lover of fantasy or not, this is a setting that is beautifully considered and executed; a place that is a genuine joy to explore and photograph (join the local group for rezzing rights, if required – a help support Perpetuity in the process). For those who do wish to visit and witness this iteration of the region’s design, I understand from Tamara that it will remain available through most of February, after which the region is liable to be redressed for spring.

Perpetuity, January 2022

SLurl Details

Terrygold’s Rain in Second Life

Terrygold: Rain – January 2022

Rain.

I always wait for the rain, that thin, cold, bright … pleasant rain.
I remember that day on the path in the birch forest. The rain
was falling light, cold, illuminated by sunbeams, a light mist
rising from the ground. Motionless to admire, my memories 
were born then among white clouds, white cloud of sheets.

With these words, Terrygold introduces us to her January 2022 art exhibition Rain. In some respects, it is another personal exhibit that follows on from Empty Chairs (see: Terrygold’s Empty Chairs: remembrance in Second Life), offering a story that touches on both Terrygold’s art and life.

Terrygold: Rain – January 2022

From the above introduction, we are led along a passage suggestive of that path through the birch woods. It leads us past elements that add depth and presence to itself, delivering us to places where a story unfolds through images and words. As with Empty Chairs a part of the theme here circles around the fact of loss; unlike Empty Chairs, however, Rain doesn’t just encompass the impact of the permanent loss of those around us – although it certainly starts that way.

Rather, Rain provokes us into considering how a personal loss can shape us; isolating us as we respond to the loneliness it imbues by rejecting the contact and affection of others; how the pain of loss causes a retreat that  – whilst we may not be conscious of it as the time – results in an experience of further loss.

Terrygold: Rain – January 2022
At the same time, also wrapped within this is an exploration of time and how it, too, influences and changes us; the fact that of everything in life, time is our one constant companion. It marks the steps of our lives, the changes we experience. From the loss of those we love, through our other growth from childhood through to adulthood, it marks our desire to escape, whilst also offering what can be a warm / cold memory of those childhood years.

This is a poignant, personal journey, exquisitely frame in terms of setting, props and Terrygold’s images, marvellous self portraits  that express the emotions and feelings captured within the words and setting. These are pieces of extraordinary minimalism, extraordinary creativity and framing, and extraordinary depth.

Terrygold: Rain – January 2022
I love to take pictures by creating my own photographic set and using exclusively tools that Second Life provides without any kind of external editing.

– Terrygold describing her art

But to think the monochrome nature at forms the main aspect of Rain is a walk through loneliness or depression would be a mistake. There is a narrative here that brings together the ideas of loss, time and growth, that brings us towards acceptance and peace / understanding; self-recognition that – if I might barrow from T.S. Eliot –  times past and times present combine to paint our path into the future.

This latter aspect is beautifully illustrated in the final area within Rain, where the wild grass of the floor bursts forth in colours that are also reflected in the final set of Terrygold’s pictures. They bring with us the suggestion of warmth and comfort, a realisation that while we may still feel the coldness of loss and the rain of tears, there is still much in live that can bring warmth and colour.

Terrygold: Rain – January 2022

Perfectly designed and executed, Rain is another fascinating walk through the art and mind of a talented artist and photographer.

SLurl Details