Archive: 2007


Virtually speaking


I've been looking into machinima making recently and I think one of the biggest SL limitations in this field is lack of avatar lips movement while speaking. So far I knew about CrazyTalk (as of programs improving this disadvantage), but just recently I came across this movie:



Does anyone know what program was used to create lips movement in this movie? It seems like the best choice at the moment.

I've been wondering about various alternatives for external programs too, and what I came up with is an idea of a typing overrider (or maybe just some kind of device), that would use built-in avatar face expressions to simulate speaking. This means no lip-sync, just lips movement, but it also means it would be widely available for other SL users, be inexpensive and would make the post-editing less time consuming (most likely). While simple lips movement might not be good enough for some people, I think it would still be more natural than no movement at all. I actually saw a movie that seems to use this technique and it looks pretty good (the movie itself is a pilot of a new promising Second Life TV show "NooB"):



I'm going to play a bit with the idea and see what I can achieve (seems like an interesting challenge). In the meanwhile, feel free to give any comments and suggestions.


1...2...3... of me


1...2...3... of me

I've been tagged by Daedalus, so here are eight random facts about me:

1. I have very clean and legible handwriting. In fact, my RL friends often ask me "Can you print it for me?" instead of "Can you write it down?" :)

2. I read a lot. I'm a very fast reader and can read a whole book during one evening (and I often do if the book is interesting enough).

3. I love all things Japanese, which means music and rhythm games too. Particulary, I'm addicted to StepMania (example video), UltraStar (example video) and Frets On Fire (example video, but watch the tutorial too, it's hilarious). These games are great for parties... and believe me, they're fun!

4. I have way too much ideas in my mind and they come to me really fast. Tell me a concept and a few hours later I'll have a thousand suggestions and ideas for you. I have a txt file where I write down all my ideas for things I want to create in SL. The file is very messy and big. Once I checked and it turned out to be more than 40 A4 pages long.

5. I'm a perfectionist. I notice things (this needs to go on a t-shirt lol). If you make a spelling mistake, I notice it. If your shoe lace is untied, I notice it. I loose so much time because I make things perfect.

6. My favourite web comic is xkcd and it's absolutely the best web comic ever. My favs are the "my hobby" series and I can't help but call blogs their xkcd name - blags :P

7. I quickly get attached to people and places. I don't really like changes. Even if the change is for better, I still have a hard time giving up what I'm used to.

8. I don't like it when people use my computer. And I rarely let them do so. It's one of the very few things they're not supposed to touch.

I don't think there's any blog in SL left for me to tag. But since I should try at least, I tag the first 8 readers of this blog entry to post their random facts :) Post them either in the comments or on your blog if you have one (but please leave a link!).


SL'ang Life is here! [UPDATE]


[UPDATE: March 29, 2010] I removed all SL'ang Life links - they don't lead to SL'ang Life website anymore (since it doesn't exist), but to one you wouldn't want to go to ;)

Dear residents, we finally have a printed RL magazine about Second Life! And I'm proud to be a part of it (as a contributing journalist). Starting January 2008 SL'ang Life magazine will be delivered to subscribers all over the world by post for FREE (no delivery costs either).

The magazine will consist of four major sections: SL Life, SL Culture and Style, SL Economy and SL Entertainment. This means interviews, stories, events, business, music, fashion, art, travel, technical advice and much, much more. As Macciej Schumann (CEO) said during the opening ceremony - the aim is to present opinions and comments about SL expressed by avatars and journalists, both from SL and RL, in a wide international perspective.

If you want to receive a brand-spanking-new 48-page (A4 format) issue every month, visit SL'ang Life island and use one of the vendors there to subscribe. The first unique issue will have a limited distribution and it's filling up fast, so don't wait for the last moment. Subscribe and stay tuned for lots of great articles!

SL'ang Life Logo


Back!


I've finally finished writing my master thesis, yay! I worked like crazy but it was worth it. I still have some small corrections to make before I hand the thesis in on 19th but this should go really fast. In the meanwhile I'm catching up with my real life, relaxing a lot (it was very hectic lately) and working on/preparing for some new projects. All this time I missed blogging here a lot. I've got thousands of things I want to share, so expect some posts coming up soon!

toothpaste for dinner
toothpastefordinner.com


Trick or treat?


Guess who was visiting various Halloween parties yesterday in Second Life? ...TrickOrTreat Linden :) I saw her for a second on one of the parties, but didn't get a chance to take a photo. But I did what everyone would do seeing this name - I asked for sweets. And guess what - I got them, together with some other goodies :) So I got candy and carmel apple, Halloween flashlight and three Linden bears, including the 2007 Halloween Wizard Bear. If you're collecting Linden Bears and you didn't get this one, it's surely a big miss, because it's the cutest Linden Bear I've seen so far. I absolutely love it:

2007 Halloween Wizard Bear

By the way, I'm not going to blog much this month, since I need to work on my thesis and hand in the first draft by the end of the month. Just so you know why it's so quiet here lately ;)


What would Watson do? [UPDATE]


You know the little easter egg messages in Second Life client, right? So far I could get the meaning quickly. Bananas are the new plywood cubes - that's scultpties. Viva la LiberaciĆ³n! - that's message liberation and optional viewer updates. But what's with the Watson thing? The message in this SL release is:
Mr. Watson -- come here -- I want to see you.
Shall we expect some new features? Are they asking us to start looking for something new? /me is definitely too curious :P

Well, the other thing is that in the book Watson would always guess wrong.. If Lindens assume we're Watsons, not Sherlocks, we're not going to find out by ourselves anyway, eh? Oh well, I'll just wait until they blog it :P

Pssst... hey... pssst.. if you know something, post it in the comments ;)


[UPDATE: A few minutes later] We have the answer!

Daedalus posted the answer in the comments (take a look). As a way-too-curious person I started googling, and found that you can actually scroll through Bell's lab notebook. A bit more searching and I found the page in the notebook, where Bell describes this part of the experiment. It says (if I read correctly):
Mr. Watson was stationed in one room with the recieving instrument. He pushed one ear closely against S and closed his other ear with his hand. The transmitting instrument was placed in another room and the door of both rooms were closed.

I then shouted into M the following sentence: "Mr. Watson -- come here -- I want to see you." To my delight he came and declared that he had heard and understood what I said.

I asked him to repeat the words. He answered "You said '
Mr. Watson -- come here -- I want to see you'".
Yes, I actually read those little letters in the notebook :) In case you can't locate the text I quoted, it starts on the left, close to the middle of the page, and continues on the right page of the notebook. So.. I learned something new today. Yay! :)


On a golden autumn day


Autumn has officially started. It got cold and rainy (at least in Poland). We're going to adjust our clocks soon and prepare for autumn blues. But autumn can be fun, so I made a list of positive aspects for those of you who already feel sleepy and tired. Here we go:
  • More sleep on the first day (just one hour, but still)
  • Raspberry juice in your tea
  • Evenings spent with calming sound of rain against the window
  • Golden orange colour everywhere (so positive!)
  • Warm blankets and good books on weekends
  • Leaves rustling under your feet
  • Chocolate eaten without any guilt (hey, you need nutritious food)
  • Apple harvest time (and preparing the yummy yummy apple jam for winter)
  • Chestnuts suddenly falling from the sky (it's funny, you have to admit)
  • Drinking delicious self-made liqueur (you waited for that all summer, didn't you?)
  • Hot cocoa with cream
See? It's not so gray now, is it? :) Maybe you got more of these...? Post them in the comments, the more the merrier!

falling leaves
hide the path
so quietly

John Bailey, "Autumn," a haiku year, 2001

Autumn in SL

Autumn in SL

Autumn in SL 3 - Hot Cocoa At Home


Plopp goes the sculptie


I came across a fun little program (free!) for those of you who want to make simple sculpties without learning Blender or any other 3D software. I'm talking about PloppSL. Creating sculpties was never so easy before.

Basically you have a canvas, where you draw your object (in 2D, just like you did as a kid). Then you flip it, and paint the other side (or just use the same picture for both sides). And then you "inflate" it. Sounds weird, so I'm actually going to make a sculptie and show you what I'm talking about.


Let's say we want to create a sculptie heart. This is what we would draw:

Plopp 1

I actually didn't draw it in the program itself. With Plopp you can import pictures (draw them in Photoshop for example) and that's what I did. The program then "inflates" the picture into 3D:

Plopp 2

Now you can save the sculptie shape and the texture and upload those into Second Life. The shape you get is not perfect, but these sculpties are great to use as seasonal decorations (hearts, pumpkins, Christmas stars). Here I made Mary Poppins style ballon flight helper:

Mary Poppins style ballon flight helper

Just think outside the box and I'm sure you'll find creative uses for these.

The good news is, according to the website, that the program will be developed in the near future, and this includes better conversion to sculpties, adding sculptie preview and support for sculpties with holes. Neat!


The Sailors Cove Boat Show (Oct 14 - 20th)


This is a quick message to let you know about a boat show taking place this week. Here's official information:
The show will feature working sailboats -- no props (speed boats), no houseboats -- although we love those too. We felt we would focus strictly on sailboats which actually sail in second life along with their accessories. If room permits then motor vessels may be displayed.

Tents will be available for accessory/apparel makers -- nautical clothing, nautical decorations, hud makers, useful scripts, yacht club organizations, etc.

The show will be held in the entire marina of Sailors Cove -- home of Tradewinds Yacht Club.
I'm taking part in the show with the boat you could read about in my previous post, so be sure to visit. I've set up an exhibition tent at the boat show and I'd love to see you there. I'll be available in-world (at my boat) for a demonstration and to answer your questions at these dates:
  • 15th October at 14 SL time
  • 17th October at 14 SL time
  • 19th October at 11 SL time
Be sure to walk around and see all the boats - they're amazing and the show surely is a great event for all the sailboats lovers out there.


Water fun - here we come!


About two weeks ago I officially opened the land I was working on lately and I'd like to invite you to visit the place. The land is the virtual location of a Polish company, PPH Golba. The company produces sailboats, car hard-tops and laminate products. The place is focused on the sailboats part - which means... yes.. water fun!

PPH Golba - Virtual Location

The land is quite small, but there's a lot of fun things to do there. First of all, every Wednesday at 7 PM Polish time (10 AM SL time) I organise boat tours. The boat we sail is not just a sailboat - it was recreated after the RL boat:

PPH Golba - Pegaz 969 Recreated In SL

PPH Golba - Pegaz 969 Recreated In SL

PPH Golba - Pegaz 969 Recreated In SL

PPH Golba - Pegaz 969 Recreated In SL

PPH Golba - Pegaz 969 Recreated In SL

There are also Polish boat tours (we speak Polish during the event) on Thursdays at 7 PM Polish time (10 AM SL time). So feel free to come with your friends or just by yourself. It's not important how many people come - if there's at least one person wanting to go on tour, we sail! :) The tours take place around Arcata and neighbouring sims waters:

PPH Golba - Boat Tours

If you like fishing, you'll love the fishing hub. You get a free fishing rod and you can take home all the fish you catch.

PPH Golba - Fishing Hub

I also installed a swimming hub on the land, so you can finally actually swim in SL (and not fly in water). That's fun - you have to try it.

Water fun

Just come and see everything yourself :) And if you like it, join PPH Golba group for news. There will be mostly Polish notices there, but if I know there's many English speaking members, I'll post double-language.

In the building you'll find some free gifts, so be sure to take a look. Also, I've put a survey about real life companies in SL (it's on the table). If you'd like to help me a little with my master thesis, please fill the survey and send it to me. I will appreciate this a lot. Feel free to send the survey to your friends too - the more, the better :)

Hope to see you there.

Oh the rolling of the sea...

Oh the rolling of the sea is beckoning to me...


12 avatars to rule them all


I was observing the 12Avatars contest with growing interest and some kind of admiration. The contest is over now, so I think I can write about it without people thinking that I'm promoting/criticising it. The contest caused lots of controversy around and lots of press/blogs coverage (both positive and negative). I'd like to stay neutral in this post, though I can't hide my fascination from business point of view (and I'll explain that later). They did their mistakes too, some of which were very basic ones but I'm not really going to point them out here, since they were noticed by the community anyway, and I like to focus on positive aspects :)

If you haven't heard of the contest yet (impossible?), here's some description from the contest notecard:
12Avatars is the first-ever printed calendar of Second Life's hottest avatars. With stunning women from cover to cover, it showcases the heights of virtual world beauty and fashion.

The 12Avatars calendar features an avatar-voted contest for selected slots on the calendar, as well as two real-world beauties who have been transformed into avatars.

Distributed for free in-world, and sold for a modest price in the real world, 100% of the proceeds will be divided between the avatars who sell the real calendars in-world and real world charities chosen by the calendar buyer.

The 12Avatars calendar is produced by a solid team that includes Apollo Interactive, America's Leading Interactive Agency, and Centric, Agency of Change, who are looking to encourage in-world commerce and cross-promotion in Second Life.
So basically, it's a beauty contest with good cause. There's also lots of advertising behind the scenes, which I'll tell you about later in this post. Some things I liked, some things I didn't, but this contest is a very good example of how a real life company should enter SL (excluding the mistakes of course).

I first heard about the contest soon after it launched, so as a curious avvie I decided to join and see what would happen. Those of you who know me, also know I'm more into intelect/creating/scripting contests, but on the other hand, what could be wrong about "stepping into the spotlight" every once in a while? :)

The first days were pretty calm. I went to the studio at Tellus, took some pictures and filled the entry notecard, as instructions said. I met other contestants there and loved the atmosphere - lots of support for each other and fashion advice involved (but I'm not going to bore you with that). I was waiting impatiently for the voting to begin (will I make it to the voting stage?).

12Avatars

Finally September 17th came, the people who made it to the second stage were announced. And that's about the time I understood what it's all about and how it's supposed to work. When I joined the contest, I thought they would choose up to 30 avatars, basing on their pixel beauty. Let's see.. We have 77 stands, each one with 8 contestants and 4 empty slots in the last stand, which gives 612 avatars chosen for the voting stage. Now that's crazy.

12Avatars

Even though the 4 corner sim (aka quad sim) strategy was used, the lag was just unbearable. Why? Everyone was bringing their friends to vote. The map was full of green dots, and getting from the landing point to my stand/booth took me about 30 minutes (with average speed of 1 step per 1 minute) :) I'd go as far as saying it was the most laggy place of SL at the time. But that's what it meant to be from the very beginning. Publicity. Very well thought publicity, thus my admiration for those marketing people. For relatively low cost (see list of prizes) lots of people heard about the companies, usually in a positive way. But it doesn't matter if they talk bad anyway - it's important they talk, right?

A huge number of avatars had its impact on the contest. It turned from 'beauty contest' to 'who-can-bring-most-friends contest' (yesss, publicity) or even 'who-can-pay-more-for-votes contest' - even though the companies were obviously against the latter and stated clearly it's against the rules. But with this huge number of people, you can't avoid the drama, can you? So September 17th is when all the craze began. Contestants were very creative in ways of discouraging others. I 'quit' because of the lag and didn't want to spam friends either, but stayed in the group for the news. I think the best way to describe what happened is to state things in chronological order:
  • The voting begins. Contestants are invited to the group "Monkeyface Woodget Fan Club", with a charter stating "This is the group to be in if you are entered in the 12avatars.com Contest."
  • Notices with voting instructions are sent out since people can't find their way in the lag. Sim Maps are placed on the back walls at the voting area.
  • A rumour is sent to the world that there are already people with 35 votes out there (few hours after opening) and there's no way to catch up with them.
  • Contestants start to ask voting area visitors to vote for them.
  • Contestants who run businesses start sending the voting propaganda to their update groups.
  • Notices are sent, asking contestants not to campaign on the voting sim with possible consequence of removing entrants who do so.
  • Don't-believe-the-hype notices are sent, so that the entrats don't believe rumours as "I heard that someone has gotten over 200 votes so far...".
  • Contestants start to occupy the voting sims with friends, so that others can't get in and vote. Hot discussion on the group chat.
  • Contestants start buying votes from random avatars. This is funny, since most of them forget that only 2 avatars will be chosen by votes - 8 will be companies' choice and 2 will be RL beauties converted into avatar form.
  • Notices are sent out, asking contestants not to pay for votes in any form ("money, products, or favors are all considered bribes") with possible consequence of removing entrants who do so.
  • A scandal breaks out (one day before the voting ends). Monkeyface Woodget disappears. He's not in the group anymore, and actually his avatar is deleted (or can't be found through Search).
CF: Anybody know what has happened to Monkeyface Woodget's account? I need to send him an IM, but search does not bring his name up ("None found" is the search result).
MH: probabl just search issues..can you pull him from group?
DB: gone with the wind?
DD: he isnt in group anymore?
EK: he's not in the group
EK: scam?
KM: Nope he's not
JH: ohhhhh shit
DD: nope.. not in group
SJ: lol
  • People start inquiring what happened. Comments on the group chat range from anger to laughter:
"Man... this is funny."
"maybe he was getting too many IMs"
"im not in panic"
"o well i didn t care about this contest anyway"
"pfff"
"that must be fun for those who paid for votes"
"what about all the time you all put in getting votes for a week on sl ding this contest"
"thats just weird"
"we were part of it! it will go into the SL records!"
"I met some wonderful people in the contest"
"dont jump to conclusions, i mean it could be a glitch of some sort"
"why this commotion about a stupid calandar?"
"lol...oh, I'm all in a panic...stop it"
"lol its just the prinicple of all this, like i thought it was for charity"
"anyone can do this with their friends......just take pics and use a printing press : )"
"everyone one of you, we've had this experience no matter the number. That in itself is awesome."
"Hey, I got a magazine possibility, an invite to superb networking event with loads of possibility, and tons of exposure. I no longer care if I make the calendar or not. Heh. I didn't to early in the game. lol"
"yeah i dont need it just thought it would be fun i am well know already"
"o it doenst matter if your pic is good or not , the only things that matters is to have friends"
"thats true, this type of contest is about votes, dont matter how good looking or not you are, what matters is the vote count"
"i'd suggest just waiting til tomorrow when the "winners" are to be announced and see what happen"
  • As the investigation goes, a new rumour is out:
"actually i have just remembered something .... i was talking to him the other day and he said he had a surprise for all of you, Maybe this is it!!!"
  • Following group IMs becomes very entertaining.
  • Same day, a few hours later, it turns out the whole scandal was just a SL glitch:
CC: ok everyone, monkey HAS NOT LEFT THE BUILDING OR GRID
CC: HE'S ON MY FRIENDS LIST
CC: PROFILE COMES UP
CC: WE CAN ALL REST NOW AND GO LOOKIKNG FOR ELVIS!!!!
  • People in the group relax and get excited about the upcoming field trip to find Elvis :)
  • The news are soon confirmed by companies' associate, nice and informative, and by Monkeyface himself. Everyone gets back to the I-care-about-the-contest attitude.
  • The winners are announced: Babyhoney Bailey (Grand Prize Winner) with 403 votes and yolesa palen (Runner-Up Prize Winner) with 278 votes. 11179 Unique Total Votes, 3 avatars disqualified (though offering 15 minute lap dances for votes was kinda creative) and a party for the winner (another good move, though I couldn't attend).
  • A thank-you gift is given to all contestants. Very nice. We care about everyone, we love you, it's just we can't include everyone into the calendar.. But we hope the gift can sweeten a little the bitterness of not being included. It did :)
  • The avatars picked/"hand selected" by companies are announced 1 per day (sometimes more days). With the twelfth pick, the companies make a fun joke, which was so hilarious I need to paste the notice here:
The ultimate pick for the 12Avatars calendar--Ruthed Monkeyface! Yes, that's right! Monkeyface has decided to pursue his (now her) ambition to be the Most Important Avatar of Second Life, First Life, this universe, and any known or unknown alternate realities. Ruthed Monkeyface will be appearing on the cover featuring her famous poses such as Admiring Her 5 O'Clock Shadow, Crashing the Helicopter, How To Lose A Man in 5 Seconds, Famous Power-Mad Dictactors of Second Life. More at http://www.1avatar.com.
  • The notice included picture of Monkeyface as lovely (but tweaked a little) Ruth - we all look like her sometimes, don't we? I kinda like her looks, but my friends would always say "Oh no, the ugly Ayu again.." So I need to rebake :) Anyway, the real pick was announced shortly, before a new drama spreads out ;)
There was lots of emotions in this contest: anger, happiness, laughter, who knows, maybe tears too. All this is a lot for one beauty contest, isn't it? As I said before, I kinda admire these companies. The whole contest was a well thought and well carried out action. There were some things I didn't like about it, but from the business point of view, these companies did well. Their entry to SL is a textbook example of how real life businesses should enter: use a creative idea, become a part of the community, get people involved, bring SLerebrities, advertise (make it loud), tease (don't give away all the news at once), show your human side (joke/show people you are fun) and keep out the troublemakers. How simple, how complicated.


All's fair - but not in SL


This is the first time I'm so disappointed with Linden Lab and Second Life. I just recieved this email:
Hello, Ayumi Cassini.

We have identified that you reside in a European country. Accordingly, your next bill will reflect Value Added Tax (VAT) charged at the rate specified by your country. Please note that VAT applies to all payments to Linden Lab such as land sales, monthly maintenance fees and Premium subscription fees.
If you are eligible for a VAT exemption, you may submit proof of your exemption status, such as your VAT number, here:
https://secondlife.com/account/vat_enter_id.php

If you have other questions, please read the VAT FAQ:
http://secondlife.com/corporate/vat.php

You can also contact us via the support portal:
http://secondlife.com/support

Best regards, and thank you for your continuing support.

Linden Lab
Creators of Second Life
So far I respected Second Life for giving equal chances to everyone, just same ground for every person. But that's not the case anymore. With the tax introduced, European users won't be as competitive as other residents. Shall we raise the prices? Then it will affect the income (higher price = less customers = lower income). So then shall we leave the prices as they are? Oh, wait... It will affect the income too (tax means lower income).

But the worst is Linden Lab's attitude. Usually when a big change is coming, it's first announced on the official blog. In most cases there's some time given to the residents to get used to the new situation before it all goes live. But Linden Lab didn't say a thing on the blog. I got an e-mail, logged into my account and saw the tier is higher now. Everything in less than 15 minutes. This is ugly, Linden Lab. Are European users so unimportant to you that it's not worth to bother with announcing? That's just not OK.

Anyway, I believe VAT was introduced in SL to give some incentive to businesses, since this means less tax for them actually. They can use their spendings in SL to lower the revenue tax and use the VAT charged in SL to lower the VAT they're supposed to pay. So the change hits only regular users. I don't think people will suddenly start leaving SL. But the bitter taste persists.


Wensdee be th' sea dog tide, swabbies! Arrr!


Ahoy, sea dogs an' land lubbers! This post be t' remind ye about th' international talk like a shipmate tide. It be today! And 'tis a lot o' fun. Yo ho ho an' a keg o' rum! So be havin' a party an' drink some grog. Smooth sailin' an' fair winds t' all o' ye!
In case you don't get a thing from what I just said, here's a little translation ;)

Hey, everyone! This post is to remind you about the international talk like a pirate day. It's today! And it's a lot of fun. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum! So have a party and drink some grog. Smooth sailing and fair winds to all of you!


I <3 Linden Lab


Have you ever wondered how it feels to be a Linden? Frontier Linden decided to share this experience with you (for as long as you can take it):

http://frontierlinden.com/bad_dream/


Think about it next time you want to grumble about customer service at Linden Lab. We all do that, it's human nature, but sometimes it's good to look on things from different perspective, right? :) They're doing a great job. I want to say I appreciate it.


Where the criminals are...


Today I want to share something funny and it's something that can happen only in SL. Currently I'm making a boat for a RL company. Yesterday evening I was working on it in the Adriatic sim. If you've ever been there, you know it's just water around, no sign of avatars, nothing. I've been enjoying the beauty of the surroundings and at the same time fighting with the mainsail, when suddenly two avatars appeared on my boat. One landed from the sky, one came from the water. I'm not joking, they really appeared like that. They were both quite short, both wearing black clothes, and both making a very quiet sound when walking (as if they're sneaking). Very curious, I asked what they were doing on my boat. And I think the best way to show you what happened is just to paste the conversation here (I'm removing the names though):
Ayumi: What are you doing on my boat?
ZB: We will be taking this evidence back to headquarters ma'am
ZB: don't you worry
Ayumi: huh?
PX: We've been given information from a reliable source that this craft was used in a number of drug runs over the last 2 months
Ayumi: lol.. you're way too much into roleplay
Ayumi: but let's say what you say is true... then
Ayumi: how is it possible, if it's not even ready yet? :)
Ayumi: it's a prototype that wasn't released
ZB: Please stop with the questions ma'am, we're unable to give you any further information
(now that's a good answer if you don't want anyone to spoil your fun; I need to remember that)

Ayumi: ahaah... lol
Ayumi: have fun guys
Ayumi: I need to work
So I got back to work, but I kept lurking at them and I couldn't hold the question finally.
Ayumi: so did you find any evidence?
ZB: that marijuana right there
Ayumi: where?
ZB: its all over
PX: That's a class c drug m'am, a blatent violation
ZB: crack pipes
Ayumi: I really have no reply to that
(I really didn't have, haha)

Ayumi: but your boss will be proud :)
ZB: havent you ever heard in school
ZB: dont do drugs
Ayumi: I don't do drugs
ZB: good for you
PX: that's right
PX: You don't.
PX: let's keep it that way m'am
PX: I think our work's done here
ZB: I've disposed of the evidence
Ayumi: haha, thanks for making my day :)
ZB: happy day, stay drug free
ZB: and stop renting your boat to the mafia
(I almost spit my tea on the screen here because of laughter)
Boy, Second Life surely makes work more fun :)


Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra to perform in SL [UPDATE]


Today's post is for all the classical music lovers out there. On Friday 14 September (tomorrow!) at 19:30 GMT (11:30 SLT) the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra will perform in Second Life. It's one of the oldest orchestras in the world (origins in 1840) and will be the first professional orchestra to give a concert in SL.

Principal Conductor Vasily Petrenko will conduct Ravel's Scheherazade and Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances, as well as world premieres by Merseyside-born composers Kenneth Hesketh and John McCabe (Note: it's not the Scheherazade by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov but a little less known Scheherazade by Maurice Ravel).


The audience will consist of 100 lucky avatars who won the entry ticket. The event will be hosted in virtual Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, which is a replica of the real building. Currently the location is open for ticket holders only and will be open to public on Saturday 15 September. In the meanwhile, here's a sneak peak:



The concert will also be streamed in various places around SL for those who weren't lucky enough to win one of the 100 tickets. I plan to attend the event at Menorca, so come and join me tomorrow if you have time. Formal attire is requested.

Menorca

If you'd like to set a reminder, go to Search Events tab, type "royal" into Name/Desc and hit "Search". The event should appear and you can select "Notify" on the right (under event description). See you there!


[UPDATE: September 15, 2007] After-event-update

The event was a great experience. Menorca was full of people and the owner, Slim Warrior, did a great job to make this a pleasurable evening for everyone. Despite the lag I managed to take some pictures for those of you who couldn't attend (Note: You can watch the concert again in Second Life, beginning at noon on Saturday 15 September. The performance will be running continuously for the next two months at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall in Second Life.).

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in SL 1

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in SL 2

Everyone was dressed formal and some of the clothes were real works of art. Even newbies dressed and behaved properly. The atmosphere of the place made the event even more enjoyable.

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in SL 3

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in SL 4

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in SL 5

I noticed two Lindens at the concert. Here's Hermia Linden, enjoying the music:

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in SL 6

And I spotted the one and only, the original, accept-no-substitutes, our favourite Linden:

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in SL 7

What was he doing up there? Probably taking pictures :)

Most of the audience discussed their feelings and opinions long after the concert was over. Residents love events like this and I think we all hope for more in future.


New release: Modeling poses, toothbrush for children and more, yay!


I've just released some fresh, youthful modeling poses! I really enjoy making these, so expect more somehow soon. Well, the uni lectures started today and I already know I'll have A LOT of edu work in September but I will find time for SL. I've got great excuse, my thesis, right? ;)

Anyway, back to subject. Here are the pictures of new poses. Feel free to come to the shop and test them!


Teen (Modeling Pose from Magic Nook)

Cowgirl (Modeling Pose from Magic Nook)

Thinker (Modeling Pose from Magic Nook)

Mischief (Modeling Pose from Magic Nook)

I've also released the Magic Toothbrush for children. I had many requests for this, so now it's available. The recommended sizes are 0-10 for shoulder size and 0-12 for height.

I tested the toothbrush with Robin Sojourner's kids shapes and it worked great with most of them. If you'd like to make sure the toothbrush will work with your shape, meet me at the shop and we'll test before you purchase.


Magic Toothbrush (Child)

But that's not all. I've been in revamping mood lately. I improved some of my products and I plan changes for more. If you have older version of any of the improved products, you can exchange it for a new one for free.

I totally revamped Sweetie (the dancing doll) that has been in my shop since the very beginning (almost). I added lots of new features, retextured it and added the holding animation. You could say it's a new doll now ;)

Sweetie (Cute Dancing Doll)

Doll's features:
  • Dancing
    Sweetie can be animated with a simple dance. You can toggle the animation on/off by clicking the doll (anyone can do it).
    NOTE: In laggy places the dance might not look good - the prims might look as if they're detaching. That's SL glitch.
  • Renaming
    You can rename your doll to any name you want. Each time the doll speaks something, the name you chose will be used.
  • Change textures and colours
    You can customize the colour of doll's skirt, shirt, lace elements, shoes, belt, buttons, hair bands, skin and hair (set any colour you want). You can also customize textures of everything above except skin and hair. Customization is carried through text commands.
    NOTE: There's no preset textures - you can use your own textures. Instructions 'how to' are included.
  • Tip jar
    The doll is set to work as a tip jar. If anyone gives her any money, she'll poof some hearts out and say "Thank you for your tip, (avatar's first name).". You will also recieve an IM saying "(avatar's full name) has just gave you a tip of (amount) $L".
  • Speak through your doll
    You can talk to Sweetie on secret channel and she will repeat everything you say. This way you can pretend you talk with your doll or speak through her to your friends.
I've also revamped the Magic 8-Ball, Beloved Mirror and the Two Hearts LED Clock. They went under minor changes but I think they're better now.

Magic 8-Ball

What changed:
  • Removed weird over-glow effect that happened after one of SL updates.
  • Added avatar's first name to Magic 8-Ball answers, so that when two people touch the ball at the same time, they know which answer is for whom.
  • Added instruction spoken out on rez ("Ask a yes-no question and touch the ball").

Beloved Mirror

What changed:
  • The mirror now only say girl's first name with its answers (not the whole name), this way it's more natural
  • Corrected texturing
  • Shortened name of the mirror for less unnecessary text

Two Hearts LED Clock

What changed:
  • The glow changed for a more romantic one
  • Removed white halo effect from particles
  • Corrected texturing
That's all for now, but expect more changes soon and more new releases. I've got many ideas for new fun products! Oh, and by the way, I love feedback, all comments welcome! :)


Why retouch? [UPDATE]


[UPDATE: January 30, 2009] Please note the part about setting the light in SL client is outdated since Windlight was introduced. The rest of the article is OK :)

Have you ever wondered why other people's photographs from SL are so crisp and clear, nicely coloured and without any SL weird glitches while yours are dark and blurry? That's the power of retouching.
If done properly, editing images can enhance a lot the look of your photos. It allows to use your pictures more effectively as you can add a certain atmosphere to the photo, depending on what's needed. What's important is not to go too far or the picture will look unnatural. The aim of retouching is to emphasize the content of the image, not change it.

Retouching is essential for having pro looking photos. It's particulary important if you're a Second Life model, completing your portfolio or a photographer, offering services to other SL residents. Professional looking images will generate more opportunities. But I feel it's also a great idea to retouch when creating profile photos - after all they're the first photos that your new friends will look at.

There are various retouching techniques and tools, and most people have their own ways of editing images. I'll be using Photoshop for this tutorial but feel free to try these techniques in Gimp, Paint Shop Pro or any other graphics software you like. I assume you have some skills in working with graphics software, so I will focus on what have to be done with the image rather than how to do it.

First you need your base photo. You can do magic with retouching, but a good base image will save you a lot of work. Make sure you have 'High-res Snapshots' selected when taking photos in SL:
Client High-res Snapshots
Note: if you don't see the Client menu, press Ctrl + D and it should appear.
It's better to take a big-sized photo and scale it down, than the other way. If you try to scale a small image to a higher resolution, you'll see the quality is lost. This is because each pixel of a raster image has individually defined colour. When scaling up, your graphic program have to extrapolate how many pixels to add and what colour they should be, basing on the original image. This results in bad quality blurred image.


There's also another reason for taking large-sized snapshots in SL. After scaling them down to desired size, the contours are less pixelated and the overall image looks a little better. Compare in the photos:

Compare Quality

Picture on the left was taken in-world with a size of 1024x712. Picture on the right was taken with a size of 2048x1424 and then scaled down to 1024x712. As you can see, the difference is significant, so keep that in mind during the photoshoot.

When taking snapshots of your avatar in-world, it's a good idea to force the sun to Sunrise and pose facing the opposite side to the sun (the sun should be shining on your back):
World Force Sun Sunrise
This way your face and chest will look the best (the shadows get somewhat softer). You will have to adjust the picture in the graphics program (it comes out a bit dark) but for me this method has worked the best so far, in terms of how the avatar looks.


Another trick is to use a face lamp. With face lamp you can face any direction and still look good. In its simplest form, a face lamp is just a prim, usually a sphere, emiting light. You can easily make one yourself but if you don't have any building experience, you can pick a free face lamp somewhere, for example D-Skin demos come with one (visit the shop). For face lamp to work properly, you have to enable Nearby local lights:
Edit Preferences Graphics Detail Lighting Detail Nearby local lights
When wearing a face lamp, you can face any direction and still have proper light around your avvie. Compare in the photos (the sun is set to Sunrise in all of them):


Compare Settings 1

Compare Settings 2

Compare Settings 3

Compare Settings 4

Compare Settings 5

Compare Settings 6

Compare Settings 7

If you need a close-up of some detail, use:
Ctrl + 0 (to zoom in), Ctrl + 8 (to zoom out) and Ctrl + 9 (to go back to default)
It's a great way of focusing on certain parts of avatar's face, showing texture richness or presenting clothing details.


Close-up

Finally, if you plan to cut out your avatar from the background later, make sure you put a white prim wall behind the avvie. This will make your work much easier and will save a lot of time.

For this tutorial I will use the photo you see in the header of my blog. The photo was taken with a size of 2048x1424 and white prim wall behind me. The first thing to do is separating the avatar from the background, which is pretty easy with Magic Wand tool OR Select Color Range tool:
Select Menu Color Range
I like to put the cut-out on some vibrant background, to see clearly what I'm working on. When removing the background it's important to remember about the little closed areas we tend to forget about and leave with the background, eg. around the hair or bracelet:

Photo Tutorial 1

The next step is adjusting the colours, brightness and contrast of the picture. I like to do it using curves, since it's very fast:
Image Menu Adjust Curves
There's a trick that many professionals use to quickly give the photo that "proper" look. The trick uses so called S-curve. To make it short, all you have to do is to create two points on the line and use them to shape the line into S:


Photo Tutorial 2

The upper point you created is responsible for highlights, the lower one for shadows. Depending on your picture, your S-curve shape may vary (be more flat or more curved). Sometimes very minor point movement may result in large changes in the picture. If that's the case, enlarge curves window for easier tuning. Don't exaggerate with your curves to avoid posterization.

In the next step remove any weird looking dark pixels using the Healing Brush. This should give the photo some smoothness.

Photo Tutorial 3

This way we're approaching the most time-consuming part, and that is using the Liquify Tool:
Filter Menu Liquify
If you never used this tool before, there's a great video tutorial by Vint Falken. Take some time to watch the video and you'll upgrade one level up in your graphic skills :) Using the tool correct any squared body parts you notice and smooth any weird looking edges. Pay more attention to breast area and bra straps (or other parts of clothing that need to be corrected). Sometimes you might need the Healing Brush to correct these (I actually copied the left strap, placed it on the right side and did some corrections with the Healing Brush).


Photo Tutorial 4

After all the corrections are done, add some background, make final adjustments if needed and your image is ready. Of course you can play with it further and add some style to it (glamour, grunge, etc.). It's the fun part of the whole process and what happens here is everyone's personal preference. Try different things and shortly you'll come up with your personal style.

Here's the comparison of my base photo, the final image (used in the header) and the image after playing with it a little bit:

Photo Tutorial 5

I hope this tutorial was helpful to you. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments. Also, post a link to your final retouched photo, as I'd love to see it.