The Summer and Winter Winds of Second Life

Summers Wind; Inara Pey, October 2016, on Flickr Summers Wind – 360 image, click to open and scroll

The summer wind, came blowin’ in from across the sea
It lingered there to touch your hair and walk with me
All summer long we sang a song and then we strolled that golden sand
Two sweethearts and the summer wind.

So open the lyrics to Summer Wind, Johnny Mercer’s 1965 re-working of the lyrics from German Der Sommerwind by Hans Bradtke (music by Heinz Meier). It’s a song perhaps most associated with Frank Sinatra, and I mention them because the song popped into my head as Caitlyn and I explored the sister regions of Summers Wind and Winters Wind – and the more I thought about it, the more appropriate the song seemed to fit the regions.

Both of these regions – a full sim and a homestead respectively – have been designed by Mexi Lane, of MIC- Imagin@rium art region fame, together with mesh specialists. MIC- Imagin@rium may have passed into history, but the influences of Mexi’s Greco-Roman design there are clearly evidenced in Summer Wind, which offers a mix of public, residential and commercial facilities in what can only be described as a stunning landscape, beautifully and imaginatively put together to present a location which is quite unique among Second Life regions.

Summers Wind; Inara Pey, October 2016, on Flickr Summers Wind – click any image for full size

The landing point is located towards the centre of the region, nestled between the vertical shoulders of huge, grass-topped mesas, the ground feeling like narrow canyons running between them. A well is close to hand, as is a bicycle rack for those who fancy riding through the region – although using your pedal extremities for walking is by far the best way to find your way around; bikes and stairs often don’t mix!

Those familiar with MIC- Imagin@rium will immediately feel a sense of familiarity here: the windlight offers a similar just-before-dusk setting Sun, the rocks and vegetation all have a faintly familiar feel, while a quick glance down along the canyons will reveal hints of Greco-Roman architecture marking the fronts of commercial premises hewn out of the huge bulk of the mesas. For a more direct homage, see the name of the conference centre sitting atop one of the mesas.

Summers Wind; Inara Pey, October 2016, on Flickr Summers Wind – click any image for full size

Close to the landing point is the entrance to the Peperonico Club: a narrow tunnel mouth which gives little away as to what lay within; the rocks of the mesa have been beautifully custom-made to surround the steampunk factory by Hattie Panacek (Hatris Panacek), its interior made into a very cosy club in which Caitlyn and I felt completely at home, thanks to the roaring fireplace on the upper mezzanine, and the ample use of the Union flag in the design🙂.

Tunnels, steps and paths are the secret to finding your way around Summers Wind. Ground level paths wind between the tall cliffs and eventually to the low-lying coastal areas with shingle beaches, grassy paths and rich foliage. Private residences occupy the western curve of the region, facing out to sea and screened from the public paths by trees and bushes. To the east, at the foot of the cliffs lie more caves and places to relax, including a waterfall-fed spa in a broad cavern.

Summers Wind; Inara Pey, October 2016, on Flickr Summers Wind – click any image for full size

More residences lie to the north – so take care to avoid encroaching on privacy there as well, where a stone bridge leading to Winters Wind can be found. This forms a spur of land curving northwards to cup the waters of a bay, with smaller islands sitting just off of it. Houses and cabins are scattered among the tress and on the sands, when a single footpath through the middle and the arc of a beach offering the only public areas here.

The beauty of Summer Wind lies in the almost entirely custom nature of the landscape: the cliffs and mesas, with their steps and arches, tunnels and grassy footpaths, have been specifically designed to fit the region. The result is a place that is both unique to Second Life, yet delightfully Mediterranean in look and feel; a place which might be found on a remote part of the Spanish or Italian coast, or equally somewhere on the Aegean coastal regions.  The design means there is plenty to see, so if you tire of walking, keep an eye out for the teleport network of urns lying half-buried in the ground to whisk you around.

Summers Wind; Inara Pey, October 2016, on Flickr Summers Wind – click any image for full size

And the link to Mercer’s song? Well, that comes not only from the strong Italian flavour in the design of Summers Wind and Winters Wind, but also because the original Der Sommerwind was a song about the changing seasons, using the Sirocco wind of the Mediterranean as a metaphor; so using the song as a metaphor for the beauty of these regions seems entirely appropriate.

 SLurl Details

Project Bento User Group update 31 with audio

Bento: extending the avatar skeleton

Bento: extending the avatar skeleton

The following notes and audio were taken from the weekly Bento User Group meeting, held on Thursday, October 20th at 13:00 SLT at the the Hippotropolis Campfire Circle. and chaired by Vir Linden. For details on the meeting agenda, please refer to the Bento User Group wiki page.

Note that this update is not intended to offer a full transcript of the meeting, nor does it present the discussion points in chronological order. Rather, it represents the core points of discussion, grouped together by subject matter were relevant / possible, whilst maintaining the overall context of the meeting.

Bento Viewer Status

The 4th iteration of the Bento RC viewer appeared on Thursday, October 20th, ahead of the meeting. Version is primarily an update to keep the viewer on a par with the release viewer code (VLC Media plug-in for Windows), although it does include a rendering bug fix.

The fix including in the new RC version is for some existing Haste Coy assets, which were  reported on BUG-40672 (the deformed werewolf issue noted in my previous Bento update).

There has been no decision on what to do about the werewolf deformation issue itself (the result of a change in viewer behaviour – see my previous update, linked to above). It’s not clear how widespread this issue is – at the moment it appears to be somewhat limited. The problem here is whether the viewer behaviour is maintained for Bento or rolled back to how it was, it will mean some content will have to be re-worked and re-uploaded. Thus, a deciding factor for the Lab in determining what to do will be discovering exactly how much existing content is actually impacted.

The focus is now on bug fixing with the viewer. There is no date being considered for promoting Bento to release status; as previously indications, this will depend on bugs and fixes, the viewer’s crash rate, and the relative priority it has when compared with other viewers in the release channel (there being only one at the time from writing).

Reported Issues

Scale Locking Bug

A bug was reported just prior to the previous Bento meeting about an issue with the new scale locking capability. This allows creators to disable shape sliders from having any influence over joint positions when uploading their models. However, it had been reported as working intermittently,  Vir has developed a fix for this issue, but it will not be available until the next RC update for the viewer.

Skin Weight Viewer Crash

BUG-40725 reports that checking the Skin Weights option when previewing joint positions will crash the viewer (Bento RC This has yet to be investigated.  This is actually one of two places where skin weights can be checked, the other being in the upload option, so the preview doesn’t have to be used. However, the Lab will be looking into the issue.

Feet Resizing

There was some confusion as to whether feet on models could be resized or not using the sliders. It appears that they can, providing the model is rigged to the L_FOOT and R_FOOT collision volumes for the feet.


Cathy Foil reports that MayaStar has been updated completely to Bento. Those using it should rez their update Checker to get the latest version. Report are that it handles sliders really well. This represents the culmination of several long months of work for Cathy in updating her product to be fully Bento compliant – congratulations to her!

Additional Links

VR Photosphere: a further Second Life 360 photo HUD

VR Creations 360 Photosphere demonstration; Inara Pey, October 2016,VR Creations 360 Photosphere demonstration  – click image to view in Flickr with 360o scrolling

Following my reviews of the Illiastra Panoramic HUD and the Camera Panoramic system (see links below), I was handed a further HUD system to look at.

The VR Creations 360o Photosphere HUD is a system that does exactly what it says on the packet: produces a set of images (26 in all) suitable for stitching together into a 360o spherical images suitable for uploading to the likes of Facebook, VRchive and Flickr. It falls between the Camera Panoramic and the Illiastra HUD in price, and is quite possibly the easiest of the three to use to take a set of shots.

The system comes in a basic package of the HUD, sufficient notes to get you going, and a link to a video overview.


The VR Photosphere HUD comprises ten buttons, as shown below, with the key buttons highlighted.

The VR Creations 360 Photosphere HUD

The VR Creations 360 Photosphere HUD

The HUD cannot be minimised, but can be positioned off to one side or the other of the screen to keep it out-of-the-way.

Of particular note with the HUD is the top set of six buttons, which are related to positioning your camera to capture images. You can effectively position your camera anywhere you like using ALT-zoom or flycamming, and use the Add button to save the camera’s location as the centre of your sphere of photographs.This also allows you to take “seflies” through careful positioning of the camera close to you.

Saved camera positions can then be paged through using the left and right arrow buttons either side of the Release Camera button – so if you return to a location and wish to re-capture a set of images, you can do so easily, while the Delete button will delete the current camera position from the HUD.

Taking Your Shots

This is very much a point-and-shoot HUD system, requiring minimal set-up.  However, prior to taking your shots, there are some things you need to do:

  • Set your preferred windlight and daytime settings.
  • Make sure you freeze the clouds – you’ll be taking up to 26 images which will need to be stitched together, and moving clouds could make that a bit of a bugger to do. Use Menu > World > Environment Editor >Sky Presets > Edit Presets or PhotoTools > Clouds and check the scroll lock check boxes
  • Make sure the viewer’s camera is set to the default view  angle, FOV and focal length.

Once you’ve done this:

  • Position your camera at the centre point for your image capture – remember, you will be capturing 26 images in a sphere around this point, so you should have the camera view set to about a couple of metres off the ground.
  • Click Add on the HUD to set the camera position.
  • Press Esc on your keyboard to set your camera under HUD control.
  • Click on Begin Photosphere. Your camera will move to the nadir (lowest point) of the image set (generally pointing at the ground) ready for you to start capturing frames.
  • Press CTRL-~ (tilde), the snapshot shortcut, on your keyboard. You will be prompted for a location where you wish to save your first image. Select the folder and give a file name for the image.
  • Click the right arrow next to Done on the HUD to advance the camera to the next frame. Press CTRL-~ to save this shot automatically to the same location as the first.
  • Continue on round the photo a frame at a time using the right arrow button at the bottom of the HUD, saving each shot in turn via CTRL-~.
  • When you have captured all 26 frames, the camera will once more be pointing to the nadir point (generally the ground). Click Done to return the camera to the start position.
  • If you are satisfied with your frame captures, click Release Camera on the HUD to free the camera back to default control.

Producing your Image

Once you have taken your shots in-world, you need to “stitch” them together to produce your final image. There are several software tools you can use for this. My preferred choice is the Hugin Panorama Stitcher available through, as I’ve found it to be fast and efficient.

With Hugin installed and launched, proceed as follows:

  • In the Assistant tab, click on Load Images… Navigate to where your images are locally saved and select all 26 in the set, then click Open.
Loading and aligning your images in Hugin

Loading and aligning your images in Hugin

  • The Camera and Lens Data dialogue box is displayed. Enter 90 in the HFOV field and click OK. You images will load in the editing panel.
  • Once your images are loaded, use the Align button to arrange them. This may take a few minutes, just keep an eye on the processing window that opens.
  • When Align has completed, click on the Move/Drag tab and click Straighten. If your shots are displayed upside down, enter 180 in the Roll text box and click Apply to flick them the right way up.
Straighten and correct inverted image, if required

Straighten and correct an inverted image (if required)

  • Click on the Crop tab in Hugin and adjust the values to ensure your entire images is selected – set Left and Top to 0; Right and Bottom to 9999 – note the latter two will snap to the maximum size of your image.
  • Click on the Assistant tab once more and click Create Panorama. A dialogue box will open:
    • Set the image format to JPG and set the quality to 100%
    • Click OK to run the output process.
  • You’ll be asked to give a file name for the Hugin .PTO batch process file and the rendered image file. Enter a name for both, confirming each in turn.
  • Image processing will start, and could take several minutes.

Once completed, you’ll have an image ready to upload to Facebook, VRchive, Flickr, etc.

Do be aware that Hugin can be sensitive in handling images, particularly those with poor contrast / brightness, or which feature a lot of water, and this can lead to problems during the alignment process or in production of the finished image.

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Stories at the Park: a personal review

The authors and storytellers: Caledonia Skytower, Trolley Trollop and R. Crap Mariner

The authors and storytellers: Caledonia Skytower, Trolley Trollop and R. Crap Mariner

On Sunday, October 16th, Holly Kai Park hosted the third in our join series Stories at the Park, run in partnership with Seanchai Library. It features stories and poems written about the art on display at each Art in the Park exhibitions read live in voice by the authors or members of Seanchai library.

Attending these sessions has always been fascinating for me. Writing is a passion, but the concept of encapsulating a story in just 100 words is something I find impossible to achieve. So, witnessing others do so and produce pieces with such incredible depth, and emotive power and range, always astonishes me.

Folk gather to hear the October Stories at the Park, October 16th, 2016

Folk gather to hear the October Stories at the Park, October 16th, 2016

Stories at the Park also offers a unique way in which the art on display at Holly Kai Park can be interpreted – through the words and eyes of others. For me, the stories and poems presented at each session never fail to open a whole new world of perception and narrative around a piece of art. And when there are two or three pieces written on the same piece, then the floodgates of thought and viewpoint are thrown wide.

The most recent event was no exception. In all, 32 stories and poems presented by the combined talents of three friends I admire very much: Caledonia Skytower, Trolley Trollop and R. Crap Mariner. The range of style and depth of interpretation of various pieces currently on display at the park was again captivating; laughter, tears and quite contemplation flowed through the session as stories were read and poems recited.  

Gates of Melancholy; Inara Pey, June 2016, on FlickrWyeth Remembered (Gates of Melancholy) beautifully brought to life in prose by Trolley Trollop

This event was also very personal for me, given I’m exhibiting at the park; I confess to being both curious and nervous about how (and even if) any of my photos might be expressed by others. But what I heard left me amazed and stunned by the richness of interpretation; I found myself smiling, nodding, laughing in delight, and  – in the case of one piece in particular, taking a tissue to watery eyes.

Thank you, Trolley, for your wonderful interpretation of  Wyeth Remembered, it beautifully reflects the narrative I had for the piece. so much so, that I now wish I’d given it the name which first came into my head: Absence. Thank you Cale and Crap for also bringing my images to life so evocatively; you have me by turns smiling, laughing and looking afresh at my own images as I read and listen to your words.

It’s fair to say that Stories at the Park started as something of an experiment cooked up by Caledonia and myself. Having now experienced the event from both sides of the isle, so to speak – audience member and exhibiting photographer – I’m more than ever convinced that the series offers a very unique way to appreciate art in-world, and also to gain familiarity with in-world storytelling. My thanks to all the artists participating in Art at the Park and to Seanchai Library for making these events possible.

Our next session, featuring a new line-up of artists, stories and verse will be on Sunday, November 20th, 2016 at 15:00 SLT; I hope you’ll mark it in your diaries and join us. In the meantime, please do hop over to the Holy Kai Blog, where you can read all of the stories and poems from October’s event, and please be sure to visit the exhibition in-world before it closes on Sunday, October 23rd, 2016.

Links Summary