Monday, July 06, 2009
Long Time, No Hear
Well, it's been a while, hasn't it? Slowly working my way back into SL again. We'll see where it goes. But first, a brief video interlude!
A few days ago, I received an IM from a resident by the name of ZTAR Magic, informing me that she and a few of her friends had made a machinima music video featuring the trusty old Mo-Tech Pogo Stick. That video was called "Bounce," and it absolutely made my entire week. A rock video featuring pixel babes in leather cat suits and merry widows, bouncing around on pogo sticks... What's not to like? Thanks, ZTAR!
Okay, assuming you can get that song out of your head long enough (...pogo-pogo-pogo-bounce!) to read further, there's been a few changes here and there in the old Garden of Mo. Mostly, I've once again tiered down. Welcome to the new economy, and all that. I've had to delete some of the old standbys, including a couple of builds that have been around since early 2005. That was kind of sad, but it's forced me to re-think and tighten up the remainder. As a result, I've been taking on quite a few projects that have been sitting on the back burner for months now. There's nothing like losing half your property to make you want to sort out what's left.
Now that I've deleted all the extraneous builds on the property, I've decided to focus my immediate attention on decking out the one remaining structure on the site, that monument to my own ego: Mo-Tech Tower. This involved stripping out two of the four floors of the shop and gallery level (500 meters up), and compressing Mo-Tech Gallery down from three to one levels as a result. Above is a picture of the result. (Okay, this is mostly another excuse to photograph an SL sunset behind the Tower. Sue me.) At lower left is Koshari Mahana's Space Sphere(SLURL link), located a few hundred meters above the Librarium in southeast Abitibi. At present, the teleporter is down, so that SLURL (or a flight assist) is the only way to take a look inside. Kind of neat, anyway. I really need to build my own replacement elevator, in my unofficial capacity as Librarium janitor. One more thing to add to the to-do list.
Since the Gallery floor space was cut by 66%, I was forced to re-evaluate what was on display there. Before, I was rifling through my inventory, trying to find anything to fill walls and floor space. Now, I'm forced to be more selective, and I'm fairly pleased with the initial results. Artists include Menubar Memorial (prolific artist and builder of all manner of luxury SL widgets) and Laura Ingersoll (artist and one-time SL friend, now left for greener electronic pastures), as well as a few of my own SL and RL photographic efforts.
In my efforts to prim down the gallery, I went ahead and coded up a project I've been kicking around for a while now, the 5-Frame Slideshow (link to LSL code text document). This script will modify a single prim such that it presents five frontward facing sides (similar to the prims used in the XyText display system, for those of you who are familiar with that), then cycle through the images stored in the object's inventory. The net result is a one-prim viewer, capable of presenting an arbitrary number of SL texture images, five images at a time. I'm releasing the code as public domain. See the comments in the script for setup and use instructions. Enjoy, and drop me an IM if you do anything nifty with it.
For my part, I'm using it to display pictures of assorted graffiti, large and small, found all over the Houston, Texas area. Taking such photographs has developed into a kind of hobby for me, although said passtime has been on hold lately. It's just too dang hot to skulk around in train switchyards and back alleys. (The local graffiti artists seem to agree, as new work has slowed down considerably in my RL home town.) In the meantime, I've uploaded over 200 images to three viewers at the Mo-Tech Gallery (SLURL link). Stop by if you're interested in such things.
A few thousand meters up, the SkyLounge is slowly coming out of stasis, and I'm starting to do all of the little nuts-and-bolts tasks I've always meant to do. Nothing terribly high tech or sophisticated, just little decorative touches and utilities added to turn it from a dead-end location to... Well, a dead-end location with a few more attractions, bells, and whistles.
Above, you can see one of the additional programs on the HoloDeck on level three (you can just barely make out the holodeck controls behind me in the picture, that glowing green dot). I'd always meant to build a particle light show into the SkyLounge. This is the initial attempt. It's a 10m sphere with four emitters (each limited in terms of particle count, of course) cycling through a variety of canned and randomized effects. The end result is pretty trippy. Once I get all of the kinks worked out, I plan on expanding the fireworks show outside of the Lounge, to considerably larger effects in the open sky to the north. There's a vast amount of empty space out there in my virtual back yard, as far as the rendered eye can see. I might as well use it!
Here I am, listening to Tonight Live with Paisley Beebe on my newly created virtual audio/video system, and watching the electronic sunset from the roof of the tower. The AV tuners and server was yet another fiddly little project I'd been putting off. Nothing terribly sophisticated; indeed dozens of systems like this have been created gridwide. But, instead of going out and finding one of those pre-packaged systems, I decided to do it myself. Radio and television tuners cycle through a variety of stations, courtesy of SomaFM and SL's own Treet TV.
Note to self: time to make another donation to SomaFM. Note to readers: if you're running them through your parcel's media stream, you should, too.
Treet TV was something of a new experience for me. I knew it existed, of course, but never got around to actually watching. Second Life has, once again, astounded me. Not only has it spawned its own news organs, including several in blog format and even a few semi-professional electronic newspapers, but now there is an entire television network with music, sports, shopping networks, educational access, talk shows, and more, all aimed at a thriving community from around the world, living in a place that doesn't actually exist. That's really kind of mindblowing, when you think about it.
Last night, while I was putting the finishing touches on one of the television tuners in the SkyLounge, I sat down and watched a live episode of Tonight Live. There were quite a few rough edges, of course, as there are with any SL endeavor. The interviews were surprisingly good, if a bit forced at times. I found it best to go on with what I was doing, and occasionally glance at the screen when something caught my eye. The sad fact of the matter is avatars just aren't that animated or interesting when they're just sitting or standing there and talking. (I've made this argument before, so I'll leave it at that for now.) But the multiple cameras, audience views, close-ups, etc. made up for that to some degree. This isn't machinima, in the original sense, nor should we expect it to be. It's more akin to an old fashioned radio variety show, with visualization elements thrown in. And that works just fine, really.
This episode was apparently a first for Tonight Live: it was the first time they featured a stand-up comedian (or comedienne, depending on where you fall on the RL vs. SL gender presentation issue) on the show. Ms. Wayland was quite funny, and had some amusing points about life in SL. But, frankly, watching him/her performing via stream to a dead silent audience was a bit eerie. There's a reason why comedy is generally recorded in front of live audiences.
Ms. Beebe and Ms. Wayland discussed this issue a bit in the follow-up interview, as well. As they mentioned, it's difficult to gage the audience's reaction, or pause for unheard and hoped-for laughter. But that's assuming that anyone is laughing at all. Laughter is generally a social phenomenon, and laughing out loud when one is truly alone is pretty rare (kneejerk LOL chat spam to the contrary). We may smile to ourselves, sure, but think about it. When is the last time you laughed when you were truly alone? When you were aware that there was nobody nearby, or even in earshot? I'd guess it's been a while. There's an immersiveness factor at play in this, like in any broadcast medium. This is the same problem that led to the live studio audience in radio and television, and later to such atrocities as canned applause and laugh tracks.
Do shows like Tonight Live need laugh tracks and applause signs? Heaven forfend, although a few triggered applause macros might have livened up some of the brief camera shots of the in-studio audience, standing stock still and blank faced during the filming. (I couldn't help but think of Hitchcock's "The Birds." Again, eerie.) Do they need to hand out puppeteering attachments, as a more assertive form of the hoary old flashing "APPLAUSE" signs? I'd be hesitant to advocate such things, but maybe they should, just to bridge the reality-to-SL gap a bit better. Should the audience lock on their SL voice, just to cut through the silence? That'd be a trainwreck. We can't even get people to stop using their cellphones in theaters, much less behave in a respectful fashion and cut out the chatter when they're anonymous. Of course, it's much easier to make such uncouth louts leave the premesis in SL, given the right scripts and a suitably alert security staff. I have no answers, and I'm likely being presumptuous in suggesting that any are needed. SL TV is finding its own way, just as RL TV did half a century ago.
In any case, that's just reaction to one viewing of one show, so it's likely far too early to form an opinion. I really should force myself to watch more SL shows, be they live, canned, musical, talk, or stand-up, just to see how things develop. Who knows? I might even enjoy being social, and getting out of the Garden to see such things in person, every once in a while.
Nah. That's just crazy talk.