I have spent my weekend testing out the new Senra line of mesh starter bodies, Blake and Jamie, which were launched in beta last week. While I think that there is a lot to like about these bodies, my investigation has led me to the following conclusion: that these mesh bodies, while nice in many ways, have a big problem.
But first, I want to talk about what I do like. I really like fact that Linden Lab has, finally, created a mesh starter avatar system that gives new users an out-of-the-box, modern mesh body, with a generous, mix-and-match unisex capsule wardrobe to get them started.
For example, here is my oldest male avatar, Morden Winkler, hanging out at the bar, listening to the music at FogBound Blues. I used an old Belleza male skin called Ewan from my inventory, and if I may say so, he looks damn good for a completely free avatar (an important consideration because, unlike the many options for women, men have relatively few free/inexpensive mesh body choices in Second Life):
The Senra bodies and wardrobes I like; it’s the heads that are giving me conniption fits. Let me explain.
I am rapidly coming to the conclusion, after trying on innumerable older skins on both the Blake and Jamie bodies, that they all have this weirdness to the eyebrow and upper eyelid area, such that any SLUV skin (i.e., any skin based on the standard system avatar mapping) is simply not going to work with these heads. 🙁
Morden may look great in still pictures, but watch this 8-second video and see what happens to the eyebrows on this old Belleza skin when he blinks:
You see how his eyebrows get deeper when he blinks? This problem, as near as I can tell, happens with all SLUV skins. It means that the older skins that many of us have in our inventories will be absolutely useless on the Blake and Jamie heads, no matter how much fiddling we do with the eye and eyebrow sliders (and trust and believe, I tried everything!). It’s a problem with the underlying mesh of the Blake and Jamie heads. It’s incompatible with SLUV skins.
I shared this problem on the Second Life Community forums, and someone suggested I try a Bakes on Mesh eyebrow concealer from Izzie’s (exact SLURL; it’s also available on the SL Marketplace), for L$149. It comes in a variety of skin tones to match just about any skin, and they are tintable to match any skin.*
Here’s two pictures showing another old female skin I had in my oldest female avatar’s inventory, the “photorealistic” Bella Snow skin from IC Skins (a store long since vanished from the grid and the Marketplace). The picture on the left is the skin as it looks on the Senra Jamie mesh head (where the eyebrows do move when the avatar blinks). The picture on the right is the same head and skin, using the Izzie’s eyebrow concealer and the Jamie brows, taken from the hair folder in the Senra Jamie package.
You can very clearly see just how much higher up the Jamie brows sit. There is a lot of real estate between the eye and eyebrow, which is fine if that is what you want. But I set the eyebrow height slider to its LOWEST level, and they are still sky-high compared to the regular brows! I’m sorry, but this is a deal-breaker for me.
At this point, it is very clear to me that entire eyebrow/upper eyelid area on the Blake AND the Jamie mesh heads is VERY different from the SLUV used on most older skins, and it is therefore unlikely that any will work with the Blake and Jamie heads!
I do consider this a MAJOR problem with the Blake and Jamie heads, and frankly, I’d rather just use one of the free LeLutka heads I picked up at previous Christmases than try to find an old SLUV skin in my inventory that will work with it. It’s extremely disappointing; I was so looking forward to being able to use all the old skins in my avatars’ inventories with these heads.
However, the Senra line of starter mesh avatars will provide an opportunity for creators to make new skins which will work with the Blake and Jamie bodies. But part of me is also hoping that Linden lab is taking the word “beta” seriously, and listening to the feedback from users like me, and are willing to make some changes to these starter mesh avatar heads so that they do work better with older SLUV skins.
Also, please keep in mind that this is an experienced SL user talking here (almost 17 years), and most SL newbies will not be aware of this issue, not have any older skins in their inventories, and be happy enough with the Jamie and Blake bodies as they are, until they decide to upgrade the head and/or body to another brand.
I guess we’ll see, won’t we?
*I did test out the Izzie’s Eyebrow Concealer on the older Belleza Ewan skin that Morden Winkler is wearing in the top photo, and unfortunately, it does not completely cover the bottom part of that bushy male eyebrow, so I cannot use it with that skin. It’s a shame, because I really liked it a lot, and wore it a lot, back in the old pre-mesh days.
Strip the blink script out of the head. Think of it—when was the last time you actually noticed someone blinking in real life? The blink animation in the head is unrealistically slow, and I’m not sure, it’s even possible to have a realistic instant blink by animating bones anyway.
And I went and tested this on both the Senra Blake and Jamie mesh heads, and it works! Both Senra mesh heads are modify/no transfer, so here is how you do it, step by step:
- Make a copy of the Jamie (or Blake) head first, by right -clicking on the head in your inventory, then selecting Copy from the drop-down menu.
- Then, click on or in the folder you want to place the modified head in, right-click again, and select Paste to save it.
- Find a place with rez rights, like a sandbox, and drag the head you wish to modify from your inventory onto the ground.
- Right-click on it, and select Edit.
- IMPORTANT! In the first tab, change the name of the head to indicate that it is non-blink, e.g. “Senra – Jamie Head NOBLINK”. Otherwise, you’ll never know which is which! 😉
- Then, click on the Contents tab in the Edit window, and delete the blinking script (there is only one, you can’t miss it).
- Close the Edit window and take your modified, no-blink head back into your inventory.
I have tested this, and it works well! The head no longer has that slow blinking motion which seems to deform the skin around the upper eyelid and brow, but the eyes still have natural, looking around movements (you can see all the eye movement animations in the same Contents tab as the script you just deleted).
Please note that this is a solution for older, SLUV-based skins to get them to work with the Senra Blake and Jamie mesh heads and bodies, and it should not be necessary for any skins created specifically for the Senra line. In fact, one quick-working creator, Alaskametro, has already released a line of female skins for Jamie, and an associated shape (SL Marketplace link) . The skins cost L$50 per skin tone, and the (modifiable) shape is only L$10 (I used it as my starting point in the pictures below, fiddling with the head and body sliders a bit until I got my desired look).
I found it very interesting that, even with a skin designed for Senra, and using the default body shape from Alaskametro, that the inner parts of the eyebrows still deformed, ever so slightly, when my avatar blinked. So I stripped the blinking animation out of a copy of the Senra Jamie mesh head, and used the non-blink version instead.
I’m quite happy with this avatar look, and after spending only L$60 grand total, I think she would blend in seamlessly in a bar or club, mingling with other avatars wearing much pricier, brand-name mesh bodies and heads!
So now you have two different solutions to the problem with the upper eyelid and eyebrow area on the Senra Jamie and Blake avatars! Personally, I am just going to go with deleting the blink script from these heads, since I do want to be able to use older SLUV skins from my avatars’ inventories with them, and that solution is cheaper (in fact, free!) than purchasing Izzie’s Eyebrow Concealer I mentioned up top, and using the brows that come with this body, supplied by Linden Lab.