One of the things I’ve enjoyed doing in Second Life is filming short video pieces. Most of my work, such as it is, is available on my YouTube channel. This contains a mix of videos of regions I’ve visited, art exhibits and installations I’ve enjoyed and the odd promotional piece.
My video efforts largely tailed-off in 2015/16 as a result of the software I was using to capture footage deciding it didn’t really want to play nicely with the Second Life viewer any more. Essentially, while flycammig would appear smoothing during the capture process, on playback I’d suffer a lot of dropped frames (with no indication they were being dropped during capture), and just get general choppiness.
After a lot of fiddling around, trying different CODECs, trying different versions of the software I prefer to use and so on (not all at once, but as and when time has allowed, which actually hasn’t been that often), coupled (perhaps) with recent updates within the viewer has encouraged me to try again here and there with mixed results.
I recently updated my capture software (Bandicam) to the latest release (May 2018), and this seems to have smoothed out a few more issues. I’ve also recently picked up the latest release of my preferred editing software – Cyberlink Power Director – and have been finding my way around it. So, with both in hand, I thought I’d have a go with a short video of our Second Life island home to see how things turned out. More projects may now follow!
If anyone watching this piece is interested in having their home parcel / region landscaped, feel free to give me a shout in-world to discuss.
So I’m a bit of a boating enthusiast, as I’ve covered in various articles in this blog. When it comes to powered boating, I’ve been especially partial to boats by Ape (pronounced “aech”) Piaggio. However, I recently added a third speed boat to my modest collection – the Bandit SRV 210; and it is a truly delightful little vessel.
Designed and built by Analyse Dean under her Bandit brand, the SR/210 is, as the manual notes, modelled after the fibreglass-hulled sports boats of the 1970s / 80s. with a deep V-shaped hull (which gave boats of this type a “super-V” designation) boats of this kind can cut through the water at speed and offer a high degree of manoeuvrability. This is certainly true in the case of the Bandit SRV 210.
Costing (at the time of writing) L$2,500, the boat’s package comprises the SRV-210 itself, a towable, rideable inner tube, a trailer, note card manual, a note card of boating tips, and two texture packs. One of these contains a set of pre-made textures in .PNG format ready for application to the boat (and which can be used as templates for creating your own colour schemes), the other a set of flag textures for the boat’s (rather large) stern flag (and which I eventually scaled down somewhat).
Seating up to six people, the boat at first may appear little boxy in shape – but don’t let that put you off; it really does have a lot to offer. The controls follow the usual for a boat: LEFT / RIGHT for turning, UP / DOWN for the throttle. In addition, PAGE UP will open the throttles all the way to the stops – useful for a fast pick-up if racing or when towing someone on the supplied inner tube. Alternatively, pressing PAGE DOWN from idle will push the boat into full reverse and PAGE UP will drop the engine to idle. In addition there are chat commands – “start” to start the engine, “stop” to turn it off; “fenders” to deploy for mooring fenders and so on.
Key among these are the command to deploy the boat’s “extras”: the light tower, the Bimini cover, an a Get the Freight Out duffel bag. The tower can be used when towing someone on the inner tube or a wakeboard (the latter is not supplied with the boat, but can be purchased from Ape Piaggio for L$400 via her shop at Dutch Harbor, close to the SRV 210’s vendor). the Bimini cover has three options: sunshade; sunshade with over-the-windscreen spray deflector, and full cover. Each option and be displayed / hidden in turn with the “bimini” command via chat. Those who like speed / heading info can call the hovertext HUD via the “hud” command – the information will appear when the engine is started.
Initial handling can take a little getting used to; after starting the engine it is necessary to press and hold the UP arrow key to get the throttle to engage and get you moving (or you can use PAGE UP to go to full throttle, as noted). Once in motion, the throttle can be advanced or retarded via individual key presses.
One thing to get used to with this boat is it is very “physical”: it really will bounce through waves; as a consequence, you can suffer a fair amount of camera juddering. This can be lessened by using the mouse scroll wheel to push your camera back a little from the boat. And talking of the camera – the boat includes a reset option for those times when the camera skews and locks at a weird option on a region crossing. It may not always work – such is the nature of SL; but if you find your camera off-angle, type “cam” in chat.
Using the inner tube for someone to ride on is a matter of sitting in the boat, and saying “tube” in chat to ready the boat to attach the inner tube. Rez the tube close behind the boat and it should automatically connect via a particle line, with the boat acknowledging it is attached. The manual recommends doing this with the tower rezzed on the boat, but it’s not vital. Once the tube is attached, the person riding it can jump on and you can set off. Keep an eye out (if you can) for the tube rider’s animation when crossing regions 🙂 .
Using an optional Piaggio wakeboard is pretty much the same, other than the command is “wakeboard”; you might also want the tower deployed as well for this. In addition, the Bandit SRV 210 manual explains how to have someone else pilot the boat if you want to try the tube or a wakeboard for yourself.
For those who like first-person driving, the SRV 210 is again ideal – the dashboard is fully working, and the boat can be perfectly handled from mouselook. When at rest on the water, there are a range of animations and poses to choose from – including diving off the boat’s fantail platform and treading water close by. All of these add to the boat’s sense of fun – but do be warned that some of the couples animations can get explicit, so careful where you use them! The built-in media system may offer music to relax by as well.
I did find the “press and hold” to get the throttle initially open on start-up a little awkward if in a confined space with the boat, but practice makes perfect. Those who have the Piaggio / Foilborne AD25H Little Bee (see here for a review) might see little advantage in also owning the SRV 210 as the two offer a lot of very similar options, with the Little Bee offering wakeboard and parasail options “built-in”. However, for the enthusiast, the very different styling of both make them attractive: the Little Bee harks back to the days of classic tender-style speedboats, and the SRV 210 has the equally classic look and feel of boats from the 1980s, while there are more than enough options unique to each to keep people happy.
With its supplied options, handling, ease of painting and its overall looks, the SRV 210 is a great boat to have, and very suitable for everyone from beginners through to keen SL boating enthusiasts. In addition, the Get The Freight Out duffel bag potentially adds a little twist of running contraband for role-play enthusiasts.
As friends know, I have something of an obsession with Fallingwater, the rural south-western Pennsylvania house designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935 for Edgar J. Kaufmann, Sr. and his family. For several years I worked on a reproduction here in Second Life. I’m not the first to do so – although while most tend to only focus on the “main” house, I opted to try for the whole thing: house, guest house, servant’s quarters and garages. Unfortunately, it’s the kind of build that requires a region in size to properly lay out, so since 2015, when it last appeared as the setting for an art display, it has tended to sit in its rezzing system in my inventory.
However, I recently suggested to Caitlyn that given the lie of our island home, it might be interesting to build a house that is built against one of the cliffs, rather than on top of it. Problem was: what style of house? The Internet offered plenty of images that might serve as inspiration, but in the end I came back to Fallingwater. There was no way the entire house would fit on our island, but I wondered if the main house could be made to fit – if not as a “cliff house”, then at least as a house built out over the water.
Turns out, it could – with a little modification.
Fallingwater is a big house – far too big for just two of us, and a little bigger than makes for a comfortable fit with the island. To make it more manageable, I removed the upper floor bedrooms, reducing the overall height, and shortened the two wing terraces, dropping the height of one just a little. The back of the house needed a little re-working – a new “front door” on the ground level, the removal of the bridge spanning the driveway in the real house, and slight alterations to allow the house form one side of the island’s pond.
What particularly got me to use Fallingwater – as well as a nagging desire to see the house in some form again – was an idea from Caitlyn. My thinking was to have the house at the south end of the island, overlooking the boating lanes. Caitlyn suggested using the north end of the island instead, and on trying it, I saw that the buttresses supporting the house as it stands out over Bear River actually makes a convenient covered mooring area for our motorboats and ‘plane, with room for our faithful Loonetta to one side.
A little tweaking of the grounds and garden was required to fit everything, but nothing too excessive. I admit to being rather pleased with the way the house revels itself when walking up from the southern end of the island; this wasn’t intentional, the lay of the path and the trees already there just leant themselves to a gradual reveal.
It’s not the “house backing into the cliffs” I’d originally thought about, but it is nice to have my Fallingwater back in-world, even modified as it is.
Courtesy of someone crashing on a neighbour’s island I recently discovered the ReneMarine Ask 13 sailplane, a newcomer to Second Life (released at the end of March 2018), and built by Rene Underby, creator of ReneMarine yachts. The model brought back fond memories for me of taking sailplane lessons when in my 20s, initially in the physical world Schleicher ASK 13, so it became something of an impulse buy for me.
The Ask 13 costs L$1000. For that, you get the glider, instructions, thermal HUD, and a box of texture scripts with pre-set colours and registrations and a set of texture 1024×1024 textures – one for the airframe, one for the seats and interior and one AO.
Overall, the design is true to early versions of the Schleicher ASK 13, with the single non-retractable wheel and nose skid (later models of the Schleicter were fitting with a small nose wheel). There are a couple of minor glitches around the tail of the airframe, but neither is generally visible unless specifically looking. The supplied scripted colour schemes are provide a degree of choice in look and easily applied – just drop a script into the sailplane either directly when rezzed or via the Build floater Contents tab (recommended), then touch the airframe to apply.
Those who want something a little more personal can use the supplied airframe texture to create their own colour scheme / registration. I knocked-up a basic design (which I’ll likely enhance) in about 10 minutes. Just select the individual airframe faces on the model and apply the texture via the Texture tab in the Build floater (use local textures to test before uploading).
So how does it fly? Well, first a little pre-amble.
The first thing to note about the ReneMarine Ask 13 is that it is designed for Mouselook flying (although 3rd person flying is obviously also possible). There’s no instrument HUD, no over-the-tail hover text; it’s just you and the instruments in front of you. Commands are given via chat (so make sure you have the viewer UI enabled when in Mouselook), and the WASD / arrow keys for up/down pitch and left / right banking. PAGE DOWN deploys the wing spoilers (up to three taps), PAGE UP retracts them. Note you should also have local sounds enabled, as these are part of the ReneMarine flight experience.
Sailplanes stay aloft via the lift provided from thermals – columns of rising air, created by the uneven heating of Earth’s surface by solar radiation. SL also has its own thermals, and this is where the thermal HUD supplied with the ReneMarine Ask 13 comes in. Essentially a regional mini-map, it highlights local thermals using a red dot and shows the position of your glider via a yellow marker and allows you to navigate to, and circle around thermals to gain altitude. Do keep in mind that thermals occur far more frequently over land than open water (where temperatures tend to even-out a lot more).
Once close to a thermal, you’ll also get an audio tone from the vario averager, indicating you have a positive vertical airspeed (that is, you’re gaining altitude). The stronger, faster the beeping, the faster you are gaining altitude. When you have a negative vertical airspeed (i.e. your are descending), the vairo will fall silent. Thus, you can use the instrument and an audio indicator of your ability to remain within the influence of a thermal.
When you’re ready to get started, attach the thermal HUD, rez your Ask-13 and jump in. Type “tow” and your aerotow – a vintage Curtiss JN-4 – will appear, and start pulling you down the airstrip – control both the sailplane and the “Jenny” via your movement keys.
When you’re ready to take full control, type “off” for the aerotow and cable to vanish. You’re now free to seek out thermals and glide gently over the countryside – and I do mean gently. The ReneMarine offers one of the smoothest region crossing experiences I’ve ever had in SL. As well as playing navigate-by-thermal (and offering a superb low-speed view of the landscape and islands of SL), the ReneMarine Ask 13 is capable of aerobatics – although some care is needed. You need to watch your airspeed: go too fast, and you’ll hear the wings start to flutter – an indication that they are about to fail, and you should reduce your speed.
Landing a sailplane takes a little practice. You don’t have engine or a throttle to play with, only the spoilers. Located in the wings, these can be deployed to three positions to disrupt the airflow over the wings, causing a loss of lift. This takes a lot of practice, particularly when knowing when to fully deploy the spoilers – and you will need them fully deployed for landing – but practice makes perfect. Use “sit” to bring the Ask 13 to a stop at the end of your roll-out as there are no brakes.
With flight controls easily interchangeable between front and rear seats (“swap” in chat) and a racing mode, the ReneMarine Ask 13 is a really nicely rounded-out product delivered in a package that can make a nice (if largish) display piece for those with the room. I’ve not tried other SL sailplanes for a direct comparison, but having flown the Schleicher ASK 13 in the physical world, I can say this is quite possibly the closest anyone will get to the “real thing” in SL, and at just L$1,000, it’s more than worth the price. An absolute delight.
During the Friday, January 26th TPV Developer meeting, mentioned was made of cloud texture sets produced by Australian photographer Stevie Davros, which he offers for sale through the Marketplace. Curious, I decided to go and take a look and have a play.
In all, Stevie is offering five sets of cloud textures at prices ranging from L$99 through to L$599. These are essentially collections of .TGA files designed to replace the cloud texture found in the viewer, and a selection of associated windlight sky .XML files specifically designed to work with the cloud textures, together with comprehensive set of installations instructions and links to his installation videos. To help people understand how they work, Stevie provides a sixth demonstration set for free.
As delivered from the marketplace, each set comprises a note card providing a general introduction to the sets, and a set of links, as follows:
A link to a Dropbox file location where the actual files for installation can be downloaded.
A link to a YouTube slide show of the various cloud textures.
On receipt of a note card (delivered to your Received Items in its own folder), simply copy / paste the Dropbox link into your web browser to display a preview of the download ZIP contents (thumbnails of the folders and instruction files), and click the Download button, top right of the web page – don’t download the individual files.
I’m not going to run through the installation process here, as Stevie provides a comprehensive guide in both .PDF and .RTF formats, and links to his installation videos. Some file manipulation is required, but providing you are comfortable navigating a folder / directory hierarchy via your computer’s file manager / explorer, and with renaming files and copy / pasting files, you shouldn’t find the installation that taxing. Suffice it to say that the downloaded ZIP contains:
A choice of folders with the cloud .TGA files – one for PC, one for Mac OSX. These are intended to replace the default cloud texture provided in the viewer.
A folder of .XML windlight files that can be used with the cloud textures. Copy the contents of this folder to your viewer’s user windlight skies folder, rather than the viewer’s main windlight skies folder.
Installation instructions in .PDF and .RTF.
Two images used in the installation instructions.
For most viewers, using the different cloud textures requires renaming the texture you wish to use via your computer’s file manager, and restarting their viewer. Again, Stevie’s installation instructions explain what is required.
If you use Firestorm, you can simply copy all of the cloud textures to the viewer’s windlight\cloud folder and select your required cloud texture from the Preferences > Windlight > Cloud Texture drop-down, although a viewer restart will still generally be required to apply the change.
Note: when re-logging after selecting a custom cloud TGA, you may see no change in your sky if you are in a region using the default sky settings, or things might look initially messy. If this happens simply switch to a suitable windlight setting – see below.
There are a wide variety of ways to access windlight .XML files depending on the viewer you are using. Within the official viewer, windlights are access via the World menu > Environment Editor and then using either the Environment Settings panel or Sky Presets > Edit Preset floater, using the drop-down on each to select your preferred windlight setting (see below).
When applying the cloud textures and windlights supplied by Stevie, it’s worth keeping the following in mind:
Some of the cloud textures have recommended or specific sky .XML presets for use with them. For example, in the Cosmic Skies set:
The JuliaSet clouds have set of associated .XML files with the prefix ~Clouds_JuilaSet_[name]).
The Saturn cloud texture requires the ~Clouds_Saturn windlight sky in order to display correctly (the planet will display with some other windlights, but generally appears distorted)
Some of the cloud textures can look rough – faint rings may appear in the sky, the texture repeats might have a definable edge, etc. These issues can generally be corrected by adjusting the amount of cloud cover using the appropriate slider (e.g. World menu > Environment Editor > Sky Presets > Edit Preset … > Cloud tab) and use the coverage slider to adjust as required.
Cirrus v2 Windlight: Pinky Yellow, by Stevie Davros on Flickr
Given there are a lot of windlight .XML sets freely available to users, charging for them might at first seem odd – but remember, with these sets, it is not the .XMLs you are paying for, but the .TGA cloud files. How useful then might be to the individual depend on your Second Life use. Photographers will potentially find the sets to be of the most use; however, there are some points to be noted:
The cloud .TGA files are copyrighted by Stevie Davros. As such, although they are supplied outside of Second Life, they should be regarded as supplied under the following permissions: Copy, Modify, No Transfer, and so should not be passed to other users.
These sets are intended to be applied on the viewer side only (the cloud .TGA files can only be applied on the viewer-side), so only you will see them in operation when applied (those with their own region / with EM rights, might apply the windlight .XML files to their region).
It is perhaps also worthwhile pointing out that Rider Linden is working on the Environment Enhancement Project (EEP) – read this overview about the project for more. The point of this is that some might prefer to see how this project is implemented – testing is due to start on Aditi very soon – before purchasing sets of clouds.
I’m not that into military aviation outside of airshows, and in SL, all my flying is restricted to civilian light aircraft with the exception of a Supermarine Spitfire, which was a thank you gift from its creator, Eric Gregan, and a civilian version of the PBY6A Catalina. So I’m a little surprised to be writing about a veteran military ‘plane, the Fairey Gannet.
I confess to having known next to nothing about the Gannet prior to obtaining this particular model – but wikipedia was once again my friend, helping me fill-in the blanks about this post-World War Two Royal Navy aircraft. I came across the model in question after learning through Whirly Fizzle that CLS Aviation, owned by CaithLynnSayes were being sold at L$10 per aircraft on an unsupported basis. At the time, I picked up a couple (see here for more). A subsequent chat about the CLSA range with friend Jodi Serenity led me to an impulse buy of CLSA’s Fairey Gannet – it’s not as if L$10 is going to break anyone’s bank!
The first thing that struck me is that it is a comparatively big aeroplane (by the standards of the aircraft I generally fly, at least!). It is also something a very faithful reproduction by Helijah Bailey (sold under a licence agreement by CLSA) with a lot packed into it – more, it would seem, then the instruction manual explains. The complete package comprises the aircraft, a minimal but acceptable flight HUD for those who like them, a pilot’s headset and two manuals. By default, the aircraft rezzes with wings folded – these can be deployed when sat in the pilot’s cockpit by typing w(ing) or wings in chat. They unfold quite satisfactorily, and the twin turboprop engines can be started at the same time via the Engine button on the HUD if you use it, or by typing s(tart) or engine in chat – note chat commands are not case-sensitive.
Starting the engines will also do a couple of other things – activate the Gannet’s strobe and nav lights, and cause the other two crew members pop-up in their respective cockpits (the plane is a single avatar seater). With the exhausts under the rearmost cockpit spewing fumes and heat, the ‘plane is ready to fly. This is achieved by releasing the parking brake (p) and then using the conventional controls: PAGE UP / PAGE DOWN for the throttle (5% increments or nX – where X is a number between 1 and 100, for quickly setting), UP / DOWN for nose pitch, LEFT / RIGHT for banking.
In flight, the Gannet handles well – I’d rate it the best of the CLSA aircraft I’ve flown to date. Being a beast, it does require constant pressure on the controls with banking or it’ll simply try to rapidly straighten out, but this adds a level of realism in flying. Airspeeds are given in metres per second, and when landing, you’ll need around 8-15 m/s to both avoid stalling on approach or coming in too fast and having to force it onto the ground.
As noted the ‘plane comes with plenty of features: the aforementioned folding / unfolding wings; a deplyable radar dome for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), the Gannet’s primary role in this variant and an extensible arrestor hook for deck landings (would that there were a Royal Navy carrier steaming around Blake Sea!). There are no fewer than 10 default camera positions and 11 preset paint schemes (5 Royal Navy Air Squadrons, one Royal Australian Navy Air Squadron (albeit it with UK roundels), one Indonesian Navy Aviation Squadron, 3 Marineflieger (German Navy) options, and one simply labelled “FAA” (Fleet Air Arm). There is also a custom option. There’s also a fuel system, a sliding pilot’s cockpit canopy, and a park / unpark mode (only use the latter with the wings folded, as it includes the stays to hold the wings in that position).
The Gannet is also fully VICE enabled for combat operations – although this is missing from the flight manual. I’m not into combat flying and so blindly fiddled around until some things worked. Enabling VICE via the menu prims the weapons bay, and typing b in flight will open the bay doors and drop a torpedo (providing you have rezzing rights in the region you’re flying through). There is a cycle delay limiting the frequency at which torpedoes can be released. There are also weapons hard points under the wings with depth charges (I assume) and missiles attached. These are alpha’d by default, and appear to be unscripted. I’ve no idea if they can be accessed by this particular variant of the Gannet, or if they an hold-over from another design, and confess I didn’t spend too much time trying to figure them out.
Overall, I found this a nice aircraft to fly – and one that is certainly nippy at high throttle settings, which offers some fun in flying. While it is not something I’d use with any frequency – only curiosity and the price caused my to buy it, as noted -, for those who like their military aircraft, it potentially offers a pretty good value for money, particularly given the preset finishes.