Visiting the Hollywood Art Museum in Sansar

Sansar: Hollywood Art Museum

The Hollywood Art Museum (HWAM) opened in Sansar on Saturday, December 9th, 2017. A joint endeavour between Sansar Studios and renowned director, designer, writer, producer, and practical effects professional, Greg Aronowitz. Mr. Aronowitz – whose credits such as Jurassic Park: Lost World, X-Files, Saving Private Ryan, Contact, Terminator 2, and Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance – is an avid collector who has amassed an incredible collection of Hollywood production art, from storyboards to costume sketches, concept drawings, models, and more.

Greg Aronowitz

The aim is to provide an environment where digital reproductions of items from Mr. Aronowitz’s collection – spanning a period from Citizen Kane to Transformers: The last Knight offer visitors a unique and intimate view of the creative processes involved in some of the world’s most beloved films. Through this, HWAM hopes to encourage 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.

For this inaugural exhibition is featuring a special exhibition of production pieces from the Star Wars franchise films – which comes ahead of the US opening of the latest film in the series Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Unfortunately, while I had a ticket for the event – the timing: 03:00 onwards on the morning of Sunday, December 10th, UK time, meant I was unable to attend. So instead, I hopped in as soon as time allowed.

Anyone who has been able to visit Paramount Studios, just off of Melrose Avenue in los Angeles might find the spawn point for the experience to be somewhat familiar. Directly behind it is an arched gateway, echoing the iconic entrance to Paramount, with some of the buildings also echoing some of the architectural styling of building within Paramount’s grounds.

Facing the spawn point are two massive soundstages (which also carry a similarity to those of the Warner Brothers studios). These provide the first clue on how exhibitions at HWAM are to be handled: the entrance to each is in fact a teleport point to an exhibition. Right now, only Stage 5 is accessible, a huge poster on the wall announcing it as the Star Wars exhibition. However, Stage 6, just across the way will provide access to an exhibition of Drew Struzan’s magnificent art.

Sansar: Hollywood Art Museum

Step through the door to stage 5, however, and you enter the Star Wars soundstage. This offers a mock-up of an interior, complete with plain outer wooden walls, scaffold supports and a pair a green screens. A ramp runs up into the set, resembling the boarding ramp of a space vessel, the green screens either side suggesting CGI of the underside of the ship would be added post-production.

Aboard the ship visitors pass through a series of spaces featuring artwork, production sketches and reproductions of props from the film; there are even reproductions of casts used to make merchandise and models of that merchandise.

Sansar: Hollywood Art Museum – “Use the Force, Luke … Let go!”

The spaces are organised into themes. The Beginning: Spaceships guides visitors through the design of various Star Wars craft, with a notable focus on the veritable X-Wing fighter (above). Races and their modes of dress, etc., comes next, before a broader look at the worlds of Stars are examined and then, finally, a peek into the world of merchandise.

The work of many of the behind-the-scenes bigger hitters for production design are featured in the exhibition, including Joe Johnston, the late, great Ralph McQuarrie, Phil Tippett, and Colin Cantwell – the man most closely associated with the X-Wing and the Death Star designs.

Sansar: Hollywood Art Museum

Wall panels also provide text information, and collision volumes before wall and free-standing displays will trigger audio explanations of images and models  (VR users can press the audio buttons alongside display sections). This means that HWAM works for both VR and Desktop users, providing information equally to both – kudos to the Sansar Studios team for this!

There is, however, a slight bug: some of the models can be picked up and dropped  – this is particularly prevalent in Desktop mode, where an accidental left-click can see you wearing an X-Wing or Admiral “It’s a trap!” Ackbar’s head. This can result in some of the models being scattered on the floor, and is an  a general issue in Sansar which will hopefully be addressed to prevent “non-movable” objects getting accidentally moved.

Fortunately, each time the experience spins-down when no-one is using it, things get replaced on the next spin-up (the reset buttons on the various stands do not appear to work). Note, as well, that the Exit door to one side of the last exhibition space will drop you back into the Star Wars spawn point, on the sound stage.

Sansar: Hollywood Art Museum

This is a superb exhibition, and it is clear that a huge amount of thought has been put into it. The artwork has been beautifully reproduced and the models are exquisite – particularly those for the merchandise spin-off section (above), some of which are small when compared to an avatar, but still wonderfully produced – just take a look at the Cantina Bar scene or the model and cast for Ben Kenobi.

With the Drew Struzan exhibit “coming soon” to sound stage 6, I’m looking forward to repeat visits to the Hollywood Art Museum and seeing what other gems Greg Aronowitz and the Sansar Studios team offer us! And if you do like Star Wars, keep an eye on the Sansar blog and the Atlas Events calendar (when visible) for more activities in the week commencing Monday, December 11th, 2017.

Sansar: Hollywood Art Museum – the Cantina Bar model reproduction, with me alongside to give an indication of scale

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Sansar Product meeting 2017 week #49 – with Ebbe Altberg

Sansar Studios 3D Cinema Dome – location for one of the Friday, December 8th, 2017 Product Meetings

The following notes are taken from the 4:00pm PST Sansar Product Meeting held on Friday, December 8th. Product Meetings are usually held every Friday at 9:30am PST and 4:00pm PST, and are open to all. There is currently no set agenda, and the meetings are a mix of voice and text. The official meeting notes are published in the week following each pair of meetings, while venues change each week, and are listed in the Meet-up Announcements. and the Sansar Atlas events section.

The afternoon Product Meeting featured a drop-in by Ebbe Altberg, the Lab’s CEO, and notes on his comments, with audio extracts are included in this update.

Fashion Release

This is still on-course for a deployment  – mostly likely during week #51, commencing Monday, December 18th, 2017. For a summary of some of the items included in the release, please refer to my December 1st Product Meeting notes. The following covers only those items in addition to that breakdown, and which were noted in the December 8th meetings:

  • In addition to clothing, the release will allow the upload and sale of hair attachments, and hair can be removed from an avatar to make it bald. It’s not clear at present if the hair is / can be rigged or not.
  • Avatar attachments will no longer be limited to a 1m x 1m x 1m size, but will be limited by the avatar bounding box – precise dimensions will be in the knowledge base for attachments when the release is deployed.
  • There will be a snow material type for those wanting to make winter scenes.
  • Audio:
    • Materials have been made more distinct and most spatial.
    • Voice fall-off has been revised so it starts fading from 2 metres away from a person speaking, rather than a metre.
  • Some of the UI panels / floaters will be resizable and relocatable within the client, these include:
    • People and chat panels in the run-time mode
    • The inventory, scene object and properties panels can be resized and moved around in Edit mode.
  • The Event calendar will be available on the Client Atlas, although it will look different to the Web Atlas format.

Materials Editing

As previously noted, this release will add the ability for experience creators to edit and change the materials on in-world (not accessories / clothing) on items they have obtained via the Sansar Store. However, any such changes will only be applicable when the object in question is within the scene. As soon as it is returned to inventory, any changes made will be lost.

This change comes ahead of any permissions / licensing capability in Sansar, and has caused some upset.  However, Cara indicated that when a permissions system is introduced, any items held in inventory will effectively be grandfathered – so it will still not be possible to save changes to their materials back to inventory.

Store Update

A Store Update had been planned for between the Friends release (October 2017) and the Friends release (December 2017), but this has apparently been pushed back.

Ebbe’s Thoughts

Ebbe Altberg dropped into the afternoon Product Meeting, part of his plan to spend more time at Sansar meetings and meet-ups – and took time to answer questions and offered thoughts on the platform.

An Important Note from Ebbe

You have to be careful when you listen to me, because I mix what’s actually going to happen with want we wish will happen all the time. So I can’t promise time frames for some of these things.

So when you listen to me, think about it as general ideas of where we want to go. Whether it happens or not, that’s kind-of a different story.

On Sansar’s Engine

“We made some really tough choices up front,” Ebbe said on the choice of building Sansar’s engine, rather than opting to utilise something like Unreal or Unity. “We would have gotten something much faster to market that would have been usable if we had just gone with an existing engine …  But because of the problem we’re solving for, which is user-generated content in massive quantities, going with another engine really becomes problematic over time.”

Essentially, this choice came down to the issues of backwards compatibility within the platform; using a third-party engine in full or in part potentially opens the Lab to content breakage as a result of changes being made to an engine or elements of an engine that are outside their control. This is a lesson they’ve taken to heart with Blocksworld, which is based on Unity, and has had problems over the last five years as a result.

On The Risk of a Large-Scale “Reset” for Sansar

This goal with regards to continued backward compatibility with content available and used within Sansar means the Lab is hoping that they’ll never have to do a large-scale “reset” with Sansar which might result in widespread content breakage. However, this can never be guaranteed; there may be times –  a significant bug, a major technical issue, an implementation (say) of new software the Lab wants to leverage for Sansar – which might result in content breakage. Should anything like this happen, the hope is there will be  advanced communication with creators so they understand the issue, together with time allowed for them to swap over to any “new” way of doing things (where applicable) in order to try to minimise the overall impact.

The Supply Chain  / Licensing

The supply chain / licensing (/permissions) system is one of the more complex aspects of Sansar the Lab is still working through.

For those unfamiliar with the idea, in essence, if someone creates an experience intended for re-sale which utilises content made by other creators, and then packages the experience for sale, the supply chain system will ensure the other creators will automatically get paid to some degree as well for their creations with each sale of the experience. On a smaller scale, it would mean a building designer could furnish their buildings from a range of furnishing and décor suppliers, rather than having to make everything, and again, the supply chain means those designers receive an amount from each sale of the building.

Obviously, this involves considerable added complexity in terms of permissions, licensing, tracking, payment, etc., – so until things are ready, there is not detailed talk on time frames for introduction – but it is the goal Linden Lab is hoping to achieve.

Avatar Animations for Non-VR Users

When using Sansar in Desktop Mode, the avatars are – in a word – wooden. Changing this is a “high priority” for the Lab. However, how this is to be achieved is still the subject of debate within the Lab. Some want extremely smooth, human-like avatar movement, with blended transitions between animations to give a more fluid movement (such as getting up from a chair being a fluid transition from seated to standing, or a turn to face to the left being a sequence, fluid body move).   Other prefer a “snappier” transition – as is the case of turning left or right in Desktop Mode at present, or the avatar “jump” from seated to standing seen in Second Life.

Allowing user-created animations and animation systems (e.g. SL-like animation override systems) is currently much further down the road than trying to provide a more basic animations within the Sansar locomotion graph.

Sansar Studios 3D Cinema Dome

A Broad Look At The Future

The focus thus far has been building-out the platform, getting the software and infrastructure needed to support it all brought together, with more recent work centred on creator tools and needs and initial avatar development and accessories support – all of which will be continuing. However, Ebbe expects some of the focus in 2018 to start shifting towards more general use of Sansar – including user engagement and user retention, hopefully growing the user base for those who find Sansar usable at this stage of its development.

This does mean that the focus will entirely shift away from creator tools and capabilities. Rather it will see more of a blending of things: some work will be focused on the user aspects of the platform – socialising, interactions, etc., other will remain focused on creator tools, and on things like adding more interactive capabilities which can be used within experiences to broaden their appeal.

And his wish for Sansar’s Creator Beats one year anniversary (July 31st, 2018)? That there are more people using Sansar, that the default experience for someone coming to the platform is that there is life within it, there are people, there’s vibrancy within experiences with events and activities to be enjoyed. It is acknowledged that currently, visits to experiences can be lonely, and the Lab will be looking at ways and means to reduce this alongside increasing new user interest / engagement.

Continue reading “Sansar Product meeting 2017 week #49 – with Ebbe Altberg”

Sansar: join the HWAM virtual launch party

Hollywood Art Museum. Credit: Linden Lab

I recently blogged about the opening of the Hollywood Art Museum (HWAM) virtual experience in Sansar, which will take place on Saturday, December 9th, 2017, between 7:00pm and 10:00pm PST.

The Hollywood Art Museum is a joint endeavour between Sansar Studios and renowned director, designer, writer, producer, and practical effects professional, Greg Aronowitz. Mr. Aronowitz – whose credits such as Jurassic Park: Lost World, X-Files, Saving Private Ryan, Contact, Terminator 2, and Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance – is an avid collector who has amassed an incredible collection of Hollywood production art, from storyboards to costume sketches, concept drawings, models, and more.

Greg Aronowitz

The aim is to provide an environment where digital reproductions of items from Mr. Aronowitz’s collection – spanning a period from Citizen Kane to Transformers: The last Knight offer visitors a unique and intimate view of the creative processes involved in some of the world’s most beloved films. Through this, HWAM hopes to encourage 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.

For it’s opening – and as an unofficial means of marking the upcoming US opening of the latest film in the Star Wars franchise – Star Wars The Last Jedi – HWAM will be featuring a special exhibition of production pieces from the franchise films.  Also taking place at the same time will be a physical world pop-up gallery exhibition of pieces, hosted by Mr Aronowitz at one of Los Angeles’s oldest art supply stores, ad which itself has ties to the Star Wars franchise.

During the event, attendees will be able to step into Sansar and visit the Hollywood Art Museum – and Linden Lab has now extended an invitation for Sansar users to join the launch party, whether in VR or via Sansar’s Desktop mode, with Community manage Jenn writing:

Join us in VR or on your PC for the grand opening of the Hollywood Art Museum’s first exhibition: a unique collection of Star Wars production pieces. The exhibit includes the very first drawings made for the film franchise and never-before-seen production art from the original trilogy by Lucasfilm alum Joe Johnston, Ralph McQuarrie, Phil Tippett, Drew Struzan, Colin Cantwell, and more. Museum curator Greg Aronowitz, will join the opening party to introduce the Star Wars collection, and attendees will have an opportunity to virtually meet him in the exhibition.

Sansar users wishing to join the event are asked to register their interest by reserving a free ticket via Eventbrite, which will be used to inform them of the HWAM’s Sansar Atlas URL ahead of the the event opening.

Anu’s mystery in Sansar

Anu

I first became aware of Anu’s existence in Sansar courtesy of a Product Meeting which took place there. Built by AnuAmun (aka (AnuAmun Alchemi in Second Life), it is an intriguing build, bringing together a curious mix of ancient and future, in what is simply described as “a happy place, filled with smiling faces”.

The first thing that tends to strike visitors on arrival is the lighting. Set at what appears to be sunset, the sky a burnished orange, the lighting is one of the major features of the experience – as becomes clear as you explore. The spawn point seems to be the corner of a park, and gives the first indications of the juxtaposition between old and possibly futuristic: the ground is partial covered with strange hexagonal elements, themselves covered in part by soil; odd metal structures and panels sit with ruined stone walls and bare rock faces.

Anu

Facing the spawn point is a set of aged stone step and footpath, guarded by plant-bearing statues and lit by tall (electric? gas?) lamps. These point the way to a small greensward, again mixing futuristic metal stairs and free-standing hexagons with more traditional park benches. More stone steps set into the slope lead the way up to a paved plateau where sits what might be an old temple, the stonework weathered and partially exposed beneath what might once have been pristine white daub, but above which rises a new-look tiled roof.

Alongside this temple is a small, more modern-looking building, the walls neatly squared and at least partially covered in a painted stucco finish and the windows neatly framed in wood.  Empty inside, save for s set of stairs, this smaller building has both a balcony and rooftop terrace for looking out over the scene. The temple is more impressive: the wide, tall windows with their intricate stone arches suggest windows from a Norman cathedral, and allow the light of the lowering sun to stream through in streams of God rays, illuminating the temple’s interior and the cobbled area before it.

Anu

While seemingly natural from above, the plateau on which these buildings sit overlooks a lower area, paved by a mix of the hexagonal elements and stone, and where the sides of the “plateau” reveal they are the walls of an industrial-looking structure built back into the hill. Thus the question is raised: which came first: the industrial-like structure with its walls partially scrawled with graffiti, or the temple above it?

The area before this (non-accessible) structure can be reached via a slightly circuitous route from the spawn point – just wall out onto the grass to the right of the park area where the table and chairs can be seen, and follow the route under the stone arch a short distance from them, and you’ll find the way. This route also provides access to an old stone stairway climbing another hill, where sits a large platform facing the temple across the shallow valley between the two – although (at the time of writing) there’s no means to reach the top of the platform.

Anu

Walk to the paved area before the more industrial elements beneath the temple site, and you’ll find a bridge spanning the steam flowing through the setting, and which provides access to a long tunnel burrowing under the platform-topped hill. There’s also a lighthouse-like tower rising from a corner of this paved area, a further set of step apparently providing access to it – although for some reason attempts to access it bounce you back down the steps.

All-in-all, Anu is a mystical, mysterious setting. You can’t help but feel there is a story waiting to be told here – a story yet to reveal itself. I’ve no idea if the experience is still a work-in-progress, but parts of it had that kind of feel about it notably around the structure on which the temple sits, the tunnel through the hill across the valley, and the area around the platform above it. If it is a WIP, then further visits may well be in order to see how it develops, and whether that story starts to unfold.

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