Aech’s garage: a Sansar Ready Player One Experience

Aech's Garage, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Garage – click on any image for full size

Update, January 11th: following my enquiry concerning posting images of Aech’s Garage to the Lab, I received a reply from the Sansar community team, who also posted a  statement to the Sansar Discord channel, which I’m reproducing here, with the relevant comment highlighted for future reference by anyone positing images from Sansar:

We truly appreciate the ongoing support from the community, especially with all the excitement going on this week! We want to clarify that users are not discouraged from posting screenshots from any experience that is open to the public as long as there is no claim to exclusivity, early access, or other potentially misleading statements or claims that are untrue or could be construed as an official statement from Linden Lab or Sansar. We hope you all understand!

With this in mind, I’ve reposted the images in this article

Update: from the comments left by Ryan Schultz following this article, you can see there is something of a kerfuffle over whether or not images from the Aech’s Garage experience can be published. I have contacted Linden Lab on the matter, but have yet to receive a definitive reply one way or the other. To prevent further controversy, and while not having heard of any embargo myself, I have decided to remove the images in the post for the time being. 

Linden Lab recently unveiled two new experiences in Sansar, which I plan to look at in a broader piece on the platform later this week. However, one of them offers a particular attraction as a destination, so I’m leaping in with a look at it here as a part of my Exploring Sansar series.

Aech’s Garage is a joint collaboration between Linden Lab (via their Sansar Studios team), HTC, Intel, and Warner Brothers Entertainment to recreate the film set of Aech’s Garage from the upcoming Amblin Entertainment /  Village Roadshow Pictures film Ready Player One, the motion picture of Ernest Cline’s 2011 best seller.

In the novel and film, Aech (pronounced “H”) is best friend to Wade Watts, the novel’s protagonist – at least within OASIS, the two never having met face-to-face – who operates out of a basement location in the book. For the film, Aech’s base has been moved to a vast garage-cum-warehouse unit, and it is this space that has been recreated in Sansar with the formal title [HTC] Ready Player One – Aech’s Garage.

Aech's Garage, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Garage

For purists, the move might be seen as an annoyance and typical of Hollywood’s tinkering with adaptations for no readily apparent reason. From a visual perspective however – particularly if you are a film buff with a lean towards science fiction – the move is a treasure trove of sights. A long, comparatively narrow building, the garage is partially lit by a low Sun streaming in through the grime layered windows along one wall. This casts a good part of the experience into shadows which I suspect aren’t as quite as intrusive in VR mode as they can be when visiting in Desktop Mode. Klieg lights scattered around the building offer additional pools of light.

Entering via the Sansar Atlas spawns visitors at one of the building’s two ends, and from the start the level of detail is impressive. The lighting is very realistic, while the texturing and finish is superb. There are work bays, metal steps leading up to platforms and elevated work spaces, tools are scattered on work tops, bins, tyres and other detritus of an old working environment fill spaces and rise on tall racks standing against walls and windows. There even a bicycle is leaning against one wall – perhaps to offer someone a quick means to travel up the central aisle space of the building. Good use is also made of Sansar’s recently added audio materials: shoe heels click solidly on the cement floor, but footsteps ring hollowly as heels strike the metal steps when climbing up to or down from the raised platforms.

Aech's Garage, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Garage

But all this is just the apéritif, so to speak. The real feast lies in what can be found within this garage. Depending on which end of the building you spawn, you’ll find yourself either being watched by the Iron Giant from the 1999 film of the same name, or find yourself confronted by ED-209 from 1987’s Robocop – fortunately without its guns focusing on you with an ominous warning that you have 30 seconds to comply. The detail on both is superb, and the Iron Giant really gives a sense of scale. Split into two parts of upper body and head, with legs alongside, it is simply huge.

Nor are these the only models here. Sitting between them, down the sunlit side of the garage are a Mark 2 Viper from Battlestar Galactica (original and re-imagined), suspended from the roof alongside an Earth Defence Directorate fighter from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and a maintenance pod from the United States spacecraft Discovery One, featured in Stanley Kubrick’s seminal movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Aech's Garage, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Garage

Sitting under these, a little incongruously, is the prized 1961 Ferrari GT California Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) persuaded Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) to snag the keys for from his father in the 1986 teen movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. While across the central aisle is a mechanoid loader of a similar kind to those seen in the Alien movies, with a model of Eagle 5 from Spaceballs suspended overhead.

As noted, the visual aspects of this experience are superb, in Desktop mode it leaps out at you, and I’ve little doubt that in VR it will look stunning. What is especially interesting about it is that it is a tie to a forthcoming major motion picture, due to be released on March 30th, 2018, and perhaps marks the first attempt to use Sansar in one of the market spaces where it could have some traction: marketing and PR. It demonstrates a potentially low-cost way of generating public interest in films, etc., by allowing people to not only see trailers and teasers from the comfort of their own home via social media and the likes of YouTube, but to also offer them the opportunity to visit locations from blockbuster films ahead of their release.

Aech's Garage, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Garage

In this particular case, it is entirely fitting that a film which might help promote wider interest in VR is gaining some degree of added promotion from VR. I’m curious to see if Linden Lab / Warner Brothers / HTC plan to do more with the experience between now and the US theatrical release of the film at the end of March 2018, particularly given the way the début – through the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas, courtesy of Intel – has been presented to the public at large.

Aceh’s Garage is without a doubt a powerful demonstration of Sansar’s potential, and a delight to visit. However, you plan to do so,  I’d perhaps suggest waiting until after CES 2018 closes on Friday, January 12th, 2018, as right now it is the subject Right now Aech’s Garage is tied to ongoing demonstrations of the HTC Vive at the show.While this is good for Sansar, it means that audio-wise there is a lot going on audio-wise within the experience, and it can get distracting with multiple overlapping conversations, even with Voice roll-off over distances. I frequently found myself getting caught between overlapping conversations and manually muting those I didn’t want to hear (including, I’d add, staff talking bugs and users over open microphones!).

Aech's Garage, Sansar; Inara Pey, January 2018, on FlickrSansar: Aech’s Garage

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Sansar Top 5: Linden Lab’s monthly video look at Sansar

Sansar: Anu by AnuAmun, one of the destinations in the January edition of Sansar’s Top 5

Sansar Top 5 is a new monthly live stream event put together by the Lab to help highlight experiences within Sansar the Lab feel are worthy of note. The first episode took place on December 21st, 2017 – which I completely missed – and the second is due to be streamed via the Lab’s Sansar YouTube channel from 5:00pm PST (SLT) on Thursday, January 4th.

There is already a weekly Sansar-focused live stream event, hosted by Strawberry Singh and Draxtor Despres, which can be seen on their respectively YouTube channels – here for Berry, and here for Drax, which include an archive of past travels as well). Currently, the Lab’s events don’t appear to be archived.

Sam Distaso, Manager, Strategic Business Development and a Sansar’s Top 5 co-host

Sansar Top 5 is hosted by Boden Linden, a member of Sansar’s Product Team, and Sam Linden, otherwise known as Sam Distaso, who joined the Lab in September 2017 from AltspaceVR, where he worked as the Virtual Reality Business Manager. His function at the Lab is that of Manager, Strategic Business Development for Sansar.

If I’m honest, I find Sam’s role somewhat more interesting than the live stream event, as it seems to point towards the Lab following through on their aim of directly engaging with businesses and organisations that have a use for VR, and who may wish to leverage Sansar, something I hope to follow-up on at some point in the near future. Sam is also no stranger to VR media events and shows, having co-hosted the VR Sports Show for AltspaceVR and is also known as TheGuyInVR with IG.

For the Thursday, January 4th Sansar Top 5, Boden and Sam will be visiting Alex Bader’s Skye Naturae Virtualis, which you can also read about here; AnuAmun’s Anu, which you can read about here; M2D Magic Night, by Mario2 Helstein; Pantone’s Psychedelic Phenomenon; and Honeybadger Inn, by David Hall.

Sansar users are invited to join Boden and Sam on their journey, with the initial meet-up taking place at Skye Naturae Virtualis. Those who cannot make it into Sansar, or are curious about seeing Sansar and don’t have an account, can follow the live stream via the Sansar YouTube channel, as noted above.

Skye Naturae Virtualis by Alex Bader, launch point for the January edition of Sansar’s Top 5

 

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.

Hollywood Art Museum to open In Sansar with Star Wars event

Hollywood Art Museum. Credit: Linden Lab

The next instalment of the Star Wars film franchise opens in the United States on Friday, December 15th, 2017, in the form of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. However, on Saturday, December 9th, 2017, Star Wars fans will be able to enjoy a special Star Wars related treat in Sansar, when the virtual Hollywood Art Museum (HWAM) opens its doors to the public.

A joint endeavour between Sansar Studios and renowned director, designer, writer, producer, and practical effects professional, Greg Aronowitz, the Hollywood Art Museum is dedicated to the preservation and education of art used in entertainment.

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

These pieces provide an intimate view into the creative process behind some of the world’s most beloved films, spanning a period from Citizen Kane to Transformers: The last Knight, and present a unique visual history of production art in Hollywood. Until now, his collection has been inaccessible to the general public – that changes with the launch of the Hollywood Art Museum.

The museum’s goal is to help new artists using digital mediums find fresh inspiration in the traditional arts of Hollywood’s past. Exhibits at HWAM will feature high-resolution images of the original drawings and paintings, as well as 3D models of production used sculptures, make-ups, miniatures, and tools.

To mark both the opening of the Museum, and in recognition of the upcoming new film in the Star Wars franchise, Mr Aronowitz will be hosting a private pop-up gallery on Saturday, December 9th, 2017 at one of Los Angeles’s oldest art supply stores. This location also happens to be where George Lucas’s visual effects company, Industrial Light And Magic, acquired many of the supplies used to create visual props and other elements used in the original Star Wars films.

The event will feature original physical art from the franchise, including the very first drawings made for the film franchise and never-before-seen production art from the first trilogy by Lucasfilm alumni Joe Johnston, Ralph McQuarrie, Phil Tippett, Drew Struzan, Colin Cantwell, and more.

In addition, there will be VR stations where attendees at this live event can visit the museum’s presence in Sansar. Then, during the week commencing Monday, December 11th, 2017, Greg Aronowitz will provide daily guided tours of the gallery, and there will be special surprise guests dropping in.

Sansar users will also be able to visit HWAM in Sansar from Saturday, December 9th, and join in with the celebrations, as well as being able to visit the museum any time thereafter.

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Sansar’s Creator Academy: Hall of Materials launches

Creator Academy: Hall of Materials

Linden Lab has launched its Creator Academy: Hall of Materials experience. It is intended to help creators explore and better understand the materials capabilities of Sansar, learn about the various shaders and physics materials using interactive kiosks, and how texture values interact and impact one another.

The hall comprises two sections; the first covers media surfaces, stereoscopic media, UV animation materials, emissive materials, standard materials, and metals. Overhead, spheres float as a physics demonstration. The second, rotunda-like section, provides insight into audio materials and materials layering.

Creator Academy: Hall of Materials

Kiosks provide overviews of specifics aspects of using mateirals, and some of these are are interactive. In the rotunda for example, walk across the different surface types (sand, water, ceramic, glass, carpet, etc) – to trigger the corresponding sound. With other, proximity might trigger a level of interaction.

However, it has to be said that some of the interactive elements appear to be more geared towards those in VR mode – as indicated in the introductory video. Some kiosks, for example, use panels of buttons which are currently largely inaccessible to those in Desktop mode. While this may well change as Desktop mode interactivity improves, it nevertheless limits the effectiveness of Hall of Materials as learning experience right now.

Creator Academy: Hall of Materials

Also, while I favour tutorials, it has to be said that Sansar’s very nature perhaps limits the effectiveness of experiences like this. Unless you tweak the client or have multiple accounts, you can’t visit the experience and simultaneously try things out directly for yourself in Sansar’s Edit mode, and fix concepts in your head by doing so. As such, I did wonder if the effort in building the experience might not have been better served in producing a series of short videos on the subject matter, perhaps in the manner of Torley’s famous SL TuTORials.

Given these points, Hall of Materials should perhaps be viewed as an experiment in teaching / learning more than anything else, and it’ll be interesting to see where the concept goes and how it develops. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the introductory video, which provides a basic overview of the experience, in its own somewhat “novel” approach.

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Sansar events list launched on web Atlas

The new Sansar events section on the web Atlas Home tab

Following the recent deployment of the Friends release for Sansar (see my overview for more), the promised Events update has now been deployed to the web Atlas, as the first iteration of an events notification capability that the Lab intends to grow over the coming months.

For this initial deployment, the feature is – as noted – limited to the web Atlas, where it appears on the Home tab for the Atlas, located between the banner list of experiences and the Recommended Experiences (aka “Featured” experiences, as referenced in the client Atlas, and more generally by the Lab). Note that if there are no events listed, the section will not be visible in the Atlas.

The capability is currently limited to just three events at a time being displayed, as shown in the banner image at the top of this article, and below. Each is displayed with an image of the experience hosting the event, the event title,the time (PST) / day (and presumably date, if the event us further out than “tomorrow”) it is being held. Beneath this is a short description of the event, which can be expanded by clicking on the More… option, as shown below.

Details of an event can be expanded (to a degree) by clicking on its associated More… option

Clicking on either the image or the title for an event will display a pop-up message, again repeating the day / time of the event, and which also give the URL for the host experience, allowing users to visit it via the experience’s web page & then launching the client.

Clicking on the image / title of an event will display a pop-up which includes a link to the hosting experience’s Atlas page, allowing people the visit the experience

Currently, the events are limited to those run by Linden Lab – simply because these are the major form of event in Sansar – such as the daily Community meet-ups and the weekly Product Meetings, as listed.

However, in the future, as the capability grows, users will be able to e-mail the Lab with details of their own experiences for inclusion. I’ll blog on this / update this article once the e-mail address and requirements for submitting an event have been made available.

The Events feature itself will, as noted, be expanded over time to allow more events to be included, although exactly what form it will take (additional tab in the Atlas?) is, I gather, still TBD at the Lab.  Again, I’ll cover further updates as they appear.