MUST WATCH VIDEO: Jesse Damiani Talks with Voices of VR Podcast Host Kent Bye on Tech Tock

Jesse Damiani (LinkedIn, Twitter, Wikipedia) hosts a regular talk show called Tech Tock on the Microsoft-owned social VR platform AltspaceVR, and his guest yesterday was Kent Bye, the host of the Voices of VR podcast. (I have blogged before about Kent Bye here and here.)

I’m really sorry I missed this event (I’ve been busy conducting library training sessions for various classes at work all this week at the university, and I just came home last night exhausted, so I gave this a pass). But thankfully, someone has posted a YouTube recording of Kent’s entire presentation and his conversation with Jesse afterwards.

Kent Bye is an extremely information-dense speaker who hops from topic to topic with alarming ease, so you might want to set aside some time and watch this video is small bites, so you don’t get complete information overload! His twenty-minute overview presentation about virtual reality is an absolute must-watch, and the conversation afterward with Jesse Damiani is also very informative, engaging, and wide-ranging. The last half of this YouTube video is a question-and-answer session with members of the studio audience.

So set aside an hour and 40 minutes, and watch the whole thing. It’s amazing. I think that Kent Bye is one of the most informed and articulate speakers about virtual reality that I have ever encountered! Bravo, Kent. And thank you for bringing him onto the show as a guest, Jesse.

Advertisements

“After a nuclear holocaust, all that will be left are Cher and cockroaches”: The Wastelands Celebrates Its 13th Anniversary in Second Life

As Wagner James Au reported on his blog New World Notes, the post-apocalyptic roleplay sim The Wastelands is celebrating its 13th anniversary this weekend. The Wastelands is the oldest and largest post-apocalyptic themed estate within Second Life, consisting of 10 sims.

A map of The Wastelands

So I thought it might be fun to trot out my Cher lookalike avatar, complete with animated cockroaches, to party like it’s 1999!

There used to be a store in Second Life called Body Doubles, where you could buy a (classic, system) avatar shape along with a notecard with details on where to get skin, hair, eyes, etc. to build a perfect duplicate of your celebrity crush. I think I got pretty close to the real thing! 😉

Here she is in action, courtesy of a wonderful animated microphone I originally picked up for my Elvis Presley impersonator avatar 😛 good thing it’s transferable!

“After a nuclear holocaust, all that will be left are Cher and cockroaches”

If you want to join in the fun and festivities, here’s the complete schedule of events in The Wastelands. And if you want more information about the project, here’s their website and their wiki.

Abramelin Wolfe Brings His Abranimations Brand of Avatar Dances to Sinespace

Abranimations is a well-known brand of avatar animations in several virtual worlds, including Second Life, IMVU, and Sansar. Jim Clark of Edinburgh, Scotland (better known by his avatar name, Abramelin Wolfe) is the creator behind the Abranimations brand.

Abramelin Wolfe has been profiled by the documentary filmmaker Draxtor Despres twice: once in Second Life (in 2013) and a second time in Sansar (in 2019):


Well, Abramelin Wolfe has finally brought his dance animations into Sinespace! Here’s a link to his brand-new store on the Sinespace Shop, where he has dozens and dozens of dance animations available for sale for only 50 Gold each (and some dances can also be bought for 5,000 Silver):

And here’s a quick sample, a 7-second video courtesy of Sinespace user Alicia, dancing her heart out at the Welcome Centre (thanks, Alicia!):

Earlier this week, I interviewed Abramelin Wolfe via text chat about the launch of his Abranimations brand in Sinespace:


How did you get started in creating animations and other content for virtual worlds? Please tell us a bit of your background.

I first found my way into Virtual Worlds in 2004 when I Joined Second Life. At the time I was working as a freelance website developer. I played Second Life for fun and enjoyed using my prior programming experience to create fun toys and gadgets. I had no expectations of it making any money, I just loved the creative outlet it provided. I can’t remember exactly when, but at some stage I found it was making a substantial part of my monthly income so I dedicated more time to it. When I first joined SL I played a lot with particles and tried making various vehicles, furniture and I made a magic staff for my avatar (who was a wizard at the time). I found myself wanting to learn all the tools SL had so before long figured I’d try animating too. I started with Poser which was recommended by LL at the time. For a while I created animations using that. A bit later I decided to invest in a relatively cheap inertial mocap system which was how I got into mocap. Today I primarily use an optical motion capture system that is much more precise.

What platforms have you made animations for?

As well as the Second Life store, we also have stores in IMVU, Sansar, and more recently we opened a Hypergrid-enabled OpenSim region. This week, I opened up shop in Sinespace, too.

What hardware and software tools do you use to create animations today? Have there been significant changes in the tools you used since you started doing this?

I create most animations now using an OptiTrack mocap (motion capture) system to record trained actors & dancers. I use the system software to clean up the raw optical data and then perform further cleanup and final processing in Autodesk MotionBuilder. My first animations  back in 2004 were made using Poser. I used it a lot for quite a few years. I liked Poser, but it was not very good for motion capture data cleanup. I moved to use MotionBuilder which is built for this purpose. There is a dramatic difference in quality and realism in mocap over keyframed animation. However it is very expensive (equipment, studio space, dance hire, software etc.) and it can be very time consuming recording and cleaning up the data to a high standard. If I want a quick animation and am not worried so much about  realism I will still keyframe animate by hand. We  also make lots of other content today, my wife works with me now too. As well as helping with the mocap studio she is an artist and makes all our avatars and other characters. 

Could you briefly outline the steps involved in creating an animation from scratch (not too technical, just a general overview that my blog readers could understand easily).

I first decide what animation I want to make. This could be a specific dance or something else. I’ll research and refine a shot list and then hire a dancer or actor that is able to perform the motions. In the studio we suit them up in a black lycra suit  with reflective markers stuck to it and record them with special mocap cameras. The mocap system records the markers as dots moving in 3D space and the software processes this to generate a moving skeleton from it. The resulting data tends to need a lot of post-shoot work to fix various problems. Once the optical data is clean I export it from the system and import it into MotionBuilder for further cleanup and processing of the skeletal data. There are various issues at this stage too that also need fixing. Once the animation is free of errors and is processed to look as intended I transfer the data onto the final skeleton used by the end platform. If it all looks good I’ll then  upload the animation onto the end platform and hopfully it works!

What advice would you give to people who want to create content in Sinespace and are just starting out?

Well Sinespace is based on Unity, so the first thing I’d say is download a copy of Unity!  There’s  loads of tutorials online that can be helpful in learning just about every game engine and software application. Don’t be put off by any initial daunting feelings, some  software can seem pretty formidable when you first open it up. But if you persevere eventually everything falls into place.  Finally, never think something is too hard or impossible even if other people tell you so, just give it a go, and have fun!


This blogpost is sponsored by Sinespace, and was written in my new role as an embedded reporter for this virtual world (more details here).


Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Beautiful Free Gowns from Poet’s Heart

One of the things that amazes me about Second Life is that, even after fourteen years of exploration, I still come across stores that I have never visited, or even heard about before.

And such is the case with Poet’s Heart, a store which specializes in full-length gowns (designed for Maitreya Lara mesh bodies only, although most of these gowns will also work with other models of mesh avatar bodies, like Altamura, if you make use of the alpha sections on the HUD that comes with the body).

You can join the Poet’s Heart group for free, and pick up some lovely free gowns and historical roleplay outfits from their group gift wall in-store:

Here my medieval roleplay avatar, Scarborough Fair, will model a few of these group gifts.

The Aerin gown in green has a clear elven influence, and it comes with a separate belt, overskirt, and sleeves that you can mix and match as you like:

The Happy Holidays 2019 gift from Poet’s Heart is the romantic Niniane gown with long, flowing sleeves, and a HUD with lots of options to change the colours and fabrics on various parts of the dress, including the trim:

Finally, this stunning silvery white ballgown is the Happy Holidays gift from 2017. This beautiful gown could easily be turned into a wedding dress with the right accessories:

In this final picture Scarborough Fair is wearing:

Mesh Head: Lulu Bento mesh head by Akeruka  (previous group gift; group costs L$150 to join)

Mesh Body: Maitreya Lara

Hair: Magdalen by LeLutka

Gown: Happy Holidays 2017 gown by Poet’s Heart (free group gift; group is free to join)

Jewelry: Antigone silver and diamond earrings and necklace (a long-ago free gift from Kouse’s Sanctum, a store which has now closed)

Shoes (not seen): Sonnet suede pumps by Hilly Haalan (free group gift; group is free to join)

Animation Override: The Gown AO by Kamilah Hauptmann (available for L$1,000 on the SL Marketplace, it is adjustable to accommodate various sizes of gowns, including bustle gowns and Mantua gowns)

Animated Fan: scripted geisha fan by Tuty (which I retextured with a white lace pattern; it randomly switches between five different fanning animations and is available for only L$50 on the SL Marketplace)