Friday, February 26, 2016

Innovative Second Life 2016 Fashion Awards Introduction and Nominees

The Innovative Second Life Awards were designed to give recognition to all the innovative ideas and hard work from the talented creators in Second Life.  The past few months our group has been preparing for the 2016 Fashion Awards.  Our nominee list was compiled from resident surveys that were demographically focused.  Our responders were first given several screening questions for qualification purposes.  They had to be a resident for at least 2 years.  They had to have purchased at least 4 outfits or clothing items per month and could name 3 of their favorite stores or designers in 4 or more of the categories on the survey questionnaire.  They were directed not to answer any questions that did not directly pertain to them.  Respondents were given a small monetary compensation for their time.  The survey's were then tallied and the top brands were listed in no particular order up to 12 nominees per category.  We are in the process of round two of the surveys with respondents looking through the nominees Marketplace and/or In-World stores and choosing only one in each category. After those survey's are tallied and narrowed down, we will begin the final round of surveys with a focus group to determine the winner's. (Note: All spots are filled for this project.  Thank you to everyone who applied.  If you did not receive a survey folder, you will be contacted first for our next project)
This process was coordinated by a marketing research firm.  It is not a scientific approach to determining the best fashion designers in Second Life but it is a common method used in business to find out what consumers like.  If your favorite designer is not on the list, we apologize.  We did try to target residents from different communities, groups and lifestyles to represent.  However a survey is answered by opinion.  Respondent's were not screened for their advanced knowledge of fashion nor a measurement of their good taste. Simply what their preferred style was and did they love to shop.
While our Innovative Media and Publishers Awards are judged by qualified professionals, our fashion awards are judged by residents opinions.

The 2016 Fashion Award Nominees

Women's Everyday Casual Wear                       
Pink Pearl Designs
Dead Dollz
Gizza Creations
*CK* Crazy Kitty

Women's Upscale Casual Wear
Vero Modero
Sabre Style
Gizza Creations
Posh Pixels
Lapointe and Bastchild

Women's Urban Wear
Alter Ego
Cynful Clothing
Custom Inks

Women's Formal Wear
Wild Orchid Haute Couture
Le Forme
Valentina E. Couture
Kelini Haute Designs
Purple Moon
Sabre Style
Paisley Daisy

Women's Intimate Apparel
Mon Cheri
Juicy Lips
Dirty Princess
Wild Orchid
Black Lace
Le Forme
Big Beautiful Doll

Women's Costumes
Karu Karu
Dirty Princess
Costume Creations
Curio Obscura
Fetish Doll

Woman's Shoes
Candy Doll
Baby Monkey Shoes
Pure Poison

Men's Everyday Casual
SF Design
Dead Wool

Men's Upscale Casual
Kai Rau
Heth Haute Couture
Lapointe and Bastchild
::ZED:: Designs
Ruca Tease
Vero Modero

Men's Urban Wear
Dead Pool Fashions
Delirium Style
Legal Insanity
Deathrow Designs

Men's Formal Wear
::Zed:: EVK
Heth Haute Couture
Adam Edelstein Couture
Lotus and Lapointe
Lapointe and Bastchild

Men's Shoes
::ZED Designs

Men's Costumes
Dark Profit
Fallen Gods
The Forge
Costume Creations

Women's Hair
Anolog Dog
Wasabi Pill

Men's Hair
Action Hair
Redgrave and Dean Ashby
eDeLsToRe Hair

Chop Zuey
Alyssa Bijou
Zuri's Jewelry
Max Glossamer

Congratulations to all our nominees and good luck to you all.  Winners will be notified and posted mid-March.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Second Life Photography - Tips & Tricks For Great Photo's

There are great photographers in Second Life that have produced some of the most breathtaking and amazing photo's I have ever seen.   But even the most accomplished photographers started off as beginners with little or no knowledge of the tools and technics available in SL.  Below is a guideline to help you get started.  I have included both simple and advanced viewer tools, in-world photography HUDs and photo editing software tips.

Using the photography tools available within your viewer is the least expensive way to start.  To use some of the more advanced tools, you will need a computer with a good graphics card or you will experience extreme lag and crash.  Make sure your computer can handle the graphic heavy settings.
You don't need to run out and buy a new computer.  With a little knowledge, you can update your old computer for half the price by improving the CPU/GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) A few suggestions for good graphics cards are;  Radeon R9 290.  Nvidia GeForce GTX 680.  Radeon HD 6990. Nvidia GeForce 960
Or you can purchase a new computer that's specially made for gaming. 
For around $2000.00 you can buy the "Digital Storm" with an Intel Core I7-6700K processor, 8GB RAM with a Nvidia Geforce GTX 970 graphics card.
Or for around $600.00 - 700.00 you can get the "AlienWare" with an Intel Core i5, 8 GB Ram and a Nvidia Geforce 960 graphics card.

Even if you don't have the best computer, you can still take great photo's.  Explore different windlight settings with different effects. These can change your landscape from dark and mystic to a beautiful Monet painting. Then use your environmental settings.  Open and experiment with the sliders in your sun settings.  The best way to focus on a subject is by sitting or standing on a poseball or item, right click something in the center of the scene you want to photograph and choose zoom to selection.  Then you can move forward and back until you get the distance you want.  Hit the snapshot button and save the photo to your hard drive in your pictures folder.

Using your viewer tools
These instructions are for the Firestorm viewer but most can also be found in the SL viewer as well.
In your Preference tab go to Hardware Settings. Check Anisotropic, Enable Open GL Vertex Buffer Objects and enable Streamed UBOs.  Set the Antialiasing to 16x (you may need to set it lower depending on your computer specs) Then slide the Viewer Texture Memory Buffer (MB) to 512.

Then open your Graphics settings in preferences. Under "Render Quality" You see Low, Med, High and Ultra, slide all the way over to ultra (this is where a good graphics card comes in so you may crash using this setting)

Under "Shaders" check all fields except Field of Depth.  If you are taking landscape or outdoor photo's you need to check this, but if you are taking indoor or studio photo's leave it unchecked.
Under LOD Level of Distance, push all sliders all the way to the end. except Objects & Sculpts LOD.  This you may need to experiment with depending on your subject but a good place to start is 3.000.

Under "Shadows" Select Sun and Moon Projectors (This allows objects to cast a shadow or have shadows cast on the object.
Enabling "Ambient Occusion" will cause the darkening shadow effect.
Under "Avatar Rendering" check all.
Point lighting-Full
Terrain Default - check High

Open your "Advanced" drop down menu
Check all of these; Limit Select Distance, Disable Camera Restraints, High Res Snapshot, Show Develop Window and Quiet Snapshot to Disk.

When Lighting and Shadows are enabled you can go to your "Build Tools" using Texture Chooser and Light Chooser that creates projections so the light projects the selected texture.

Using an in-world photography tool
There are several on the market in SL.  There are studios with lighting options, background and pose options but they are limited. These have to be rezzed in order to use, but they are good for profile photo's or fashion shots.  The best option is an all in one photography tool.  The best of these is the LUMIPro.  It's a little pricy but it will seriously be the only photography tool you will ever need with automatic updates several times a year. With the LUMIPro, you can take photo's anywhere in SL, even places that don't allow rezzing object or scripts. Everything is controlled through an easy to use HUD.  With wearable lights and projector, you can move them around yourself or model to get just the right shading, lighting and shadows.  The wearable pose ball allows you to choose the poses and move your model around to where ever you want the shot. The Eye Gazer tool allows you to position your models eyes. The HUD offers many options from highlighting points, casting shadows, lighting color, soft focus and much more.  Customers rave about the LUMIPro and it won the SL Avi Choice Awards for the best photography tool in SL.

Using photo editing software
Photo Shop can do everything from casting shadows to subject enhancements.  It can fix any photography flaw and add some amazing photo effects.  It is also an expensive program and fairly complex to learn.  There are several free photo editing programs you can download that are easy to learn and have many of the same tools as Photo Shop.  Gimp is a free program that is easy to learn. Smooth jagged avatar lines with the smudge tool, blend in flaws, add a colored tint to a photo, shadows and lighting, saturation and contrast and more.
The saturation is how harsh the colors are in a photo, by lowing the saturation, you can even out the colors and eliminate harsh skin colors.
When a model has pointy elbows or other parts, use the smudge or blur tool to even it out.
Use the blur tool to even out face lines and under eye.
Use the Burn tool to brighten eyes or add darker lines to the model for subtle shading.

1st photo done with a windlight setting and sun settings.  2nd photo was enhanced with a red tone added in Gimp.  3rd photo was taken with LUMIPro.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Second Life 2 AKA "Sansar". Is this the end of Second Life?

There has been much talk and speculation about the new virtual world project that Linden Lab has been developing.  Many insider interviews were vague, simply stating that it will be a better and more advanced platform then Second Life.  From what we have researched, this new virtual world will be called "Sansar".  However, I don't believe this is the official name yet.

Here is what we have learned about Sansar.

 Sansar will not be Second Life 2.  It will be a totally different platform. LL is building a whole new rendering engine and advanced in-world tools for content creators with more options.

Sansar will be Oculus Rift compatable

Linden Lab's CEO, Ebby Altberg was quoted as saying in an interview with Derrick Schneider "“we’re turning the concept inside out and thinking of it as a platform. We want to make sure that every experience that creators make can be directly entered into from the outside world.” While you’ll still need to download a client, imagine going to a web page that goes in-depth on a given topic — Mayan temples, say — and then says, “here’s a VR experience that gives you another view” in the same way you might see an embedded video today. There will also be ways to find other experiences once you’re inside the ecosystem. “Consumers of the experience have a relationship with the creator,” he says, “but you can discover other experiences from there.”
“We want to lower the barrier of entry for VR experience creation,” said Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab. “Project Sansar will do for virtual experiences what WordPress has done for the Web: empower a broad range of people to create with professional quality and reach global audiences. By greatly expanding who can create virtual experiences, Project Sansar will also extend the value of VR to a wide variety of use-cases — from gaming and entertainment to education, architecture, art, community-building, business meetings, healthcare, conferences, training, and more.”

Following that statement, some residents were concerned that Sansar will be a gaming platform where developers can create games without having to create an infrastructure needed for most MMO;s.

Another change is that all sales will be taxed.  This is a concern because creators will need to charge more for their products to cover taxes. Plus, it leaves to question how things like tip jars or donations will be taxed.   Where Second life made revenue through land sales, Sansar will make revenue through sales taxes.

It won't be a blank canvas like Second Life was.  SL began as an island with nothing but trees but as more residents joined, houses, building, parks, etc were built and more regions created.  LL has invited the "chosen" few creators and content partners will be invited to "test" and they will create content using Autodesk Maya Software and importing their content to the new platform.  They will add new content to the platform as the testing expands.  As I understand it, the "chosen few" will basically be dominating the market in Sansar before it's even open to the public.

Linden Lab claims that Sansar will be a social platform first and foremost.  They are selling it as the Word Press of virtual reality.  They aim to both democratise VR and make it much more diverse than if the future of the medium were decided by say, the games industry and Hollywood. They want Sansar open to not only PC's but mobiles and may other virtual reality devices such as PlayStation.  They want Sansar brought into the real world through social media's such as Facebook.

Avatars will be created using 3D scans of actual people, giving a more realistic look with the pixel resolution of the Oculus Rift.  They are also working on more advanced facial expressions.

Sansar promises to be lag free by creating a platform that supports more people at one time.

Many have ask why not just improve Second Life instead of creating Sansar.  And the answer is that it would be impossible. Sansar is a different platform that won't rely on multiple servers with limited space and coding.

With Sansar, LL is building their own version of a HTML5 virtual world which is basically web pages with 3D objects. They have already created "High Fidelity" in the same format that also uses HMD's such as Oculus Rift and hand controllers for movement, much like Wii games.

Does this mean the end of Second Life?
In our opinion, no. First off, the fact that creators have to use Maya or Blender outside of the platform means that only the most skilled creators will be making content.  Also, since only the chosen few will be creating or "testing" on the new platform, means that new residents will have to purchase everything from clothing to homes and property from the chosen few to start.  Also the sales tax will be factor with creators of smaller or less expensive objects.  The rumored $30.00 USD monthly fee will keep many from even coming to Sansar altogether.  There still is no word on whether SL inventory can be migrated into Sansar, which leads us to believe that it will not.
Where as LL promises advanced and easier to use building tools in Sansar, they will not be available at first so anyone trying out the new Sansar will be disappointed if they plan on creating and don't know Maya or Blender.  LL will introduce those tools in time but how many people will leave Sansar in the meantime?  It seems that all the Linden favorites such as those who have been involved in the early slim days and those who's creations and ideas have made LL very rich will be the only ones who will benefit from this new modern world. If they can pull of more realistic avatars that are better looking and have facial expressions.  They may have several SL residents that move over to Sansar but SL has well established clubs and hang-outs, friends and families.  Homesteads and sims that took months and years to build.  Where SL may see a slight decline in new residents due to the large advertisement campaign planned to launch Sansar, and may lose some residents to the new improved world.  I don't believe there will be nearly as many SL residents willing to leave SL for a few shiny baubles. Only time will tell.

We will keep our readers informed of new developments and news as soon as possible.