Remembering Ladyslipper Constantine

When someone we know dies, all too often we learn too late how much more rich and varied the person’s life was than we ever knew, that there was a whole part of that person’s life that we never saw, and good friends we never met.  It’s even more true in a virtual world, where few of us knows anything about the reality of physical life even for the people behind the avatars we know well.

Ladyslipper Constantine
Ladyslipper Constantine

I was reminded of it again today at the memorial service in Second Life’s Virtual Ability sims for Ladyslipper Constantine, who many of us knew simply as “LS”.  I knew her in Burn 2, Burning Man in Second Life, where LS and I were Lamplighters and Rangers, and where she was leader of the Fire Dancers.  She was someone who everyone respected and liked, someone who was always patient and friendly.

LS’s activities in Second Life went far beyond Burn 2.  She was also active in  Virtual Ability , Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education , One Billion Rising, and Second Life birthday celebrations.  One of her other activities was performing in the drumming group DRUM, who performed at the memorial with an empty drum in the front to honor he.

A silent drum during a DRUM performance to honor Ladyslipper.
A silent drum during a DRUM performance to honor Ladyslipper.

In recent months, I knew that LS was not well, but I did not know how ill she was.  This is one of the frustrating aspects of virtual worlds.  There’s no way of knowing when the humans behind our avatar friends are suffering.  It came as a sad shock when I learned recently that LS had died of cancer.

I will miss LS.  Judging by what I saw and heard at today’s memorial, many others will miss her at least as much as I will.  She touched the lives of many.

Ladyslipper Constantine's memorial service in Virtual Ability
Ladyslipper Constantine’s memorial service in Virtual Ability

You can read Ladyslipper’s page on the Virtual Ability website here and you can read an AL Newser interview with her here.

LUMIPro lighting system for photography/machinima

I first got a LUMIPro in 2011, when creator Stefan Buscaylet gave it to attendees at the 2011 SLCC. I was impressed enough with its potential in Second Life for lighting models and actors that I wrote a review for examiner.com, but I didn’t have an immediate need for it and eventually forgot about it.

LUMIPro photo
The red, green, and blue balls provide three point lighting. The projector light is at top. All lights can be moved and disappear when you’re ready to shoot.

Until last week. That’s when the possibility arose of being hired to film a machinima in SL. I planned to make my usual light projector prims for lighting the set until I remembered the LUMIPro. My copy was five years old, but it might still work. To my amazement, when I opened the HUD, it automatically upgraded to the current 2016 version. Very nice. It turns out that owners get free upgrades for life, even owners like me who got theirs for free at a convention.

I’ve done a lot of lighting in community television and I have a Master’s in Broadcasting, so I have some lighting experience. The LUMIPro impresses me. It not only allows me to professionally light a model or talent, I can do it without rezzing any prims, which allows me to use it anywhere that photography or machinima is permitted, even if I don’t have rezzing or script rights. There are several components to the system:
• Three point lighting with presets of Butterfly, Rembrandt, Rim, and Split, but that can be configured in any way you need
• Projector lights with gobos
• Works with up to eight models
• Includes standard color gels
• Holds up to about 350 poses
• Can control model eye movement

After opening the LUMIPro HUD, you can give a set of lights to up to eight models. You can be one of the models. Each set of lights includes red, green, and blue balls that serve as three point lighting sources and one projector. You can move the lights around to adjust your lighting, change factors such as color, intensity, and fall-off. The gobo can be used to simulate effects such as light coming in through a window. When you’re ready to shoot, just click ALPHA on the HUD and the lights disappear.

If you have rezzing rights, you can rez additional projector lights.  You can also change the models’ poses and control their eye movements.

I highly recommend watching videos on the LUMIPro website lumipro.blogspot.com and on YouTube. If you’re like me and have disabled face lights in your viewer, you’ll have to enable them before LUMIPro will work. This caused me some frustration before I realized it. You can try a LUMIPro in SL by teleporting to maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Phenomenal/228/148/1501.

I’ve only been using if for a few days. If anything happens to change my so far very positive opinion of LUMIPro, I’ll update this review. I have not been compensated in any way for writing this, other than being given my original LUMIPro in 2011 as an SLCC attendee.

NVIDIA ShadowPlay for recording SL machinima

I’ve seen a lot of questions and some misinformation about whether NVIDIA’s ShadowPlay machinima recording tool can be used in Second Life.  The answer is that it does work in SL, but not in all versions of Windows

The problem is that under Windows, ShadowPlay only works with Aero mode enabled, but Aero only exists in Windows 7 and earlier. Microsoft removed it from Windows 8 and 10.  There are workarounds that I’ve seen posted on the Web, but I have not tested any of them.

The first thing you’ll notice when you run ShadowPlay is that Second Life and OpenSimulator are not in the list of games it supports.  This is because ShadowPlay only supports DirectX 9, 10, and 11, but SL and OpenSim are OpenGL.  You can still use it to record machinima in SL and OpenSim, but you’ll have to set ShadowPlay to “Allow desktop capture”, as shown in the following screenshot.

ShadowPlay Configuration
ShadowPlay Configuration – Enable desktop capture

With one exception, the other ShadowPlay options shown do not work in SL and OpenSim.  For me, this is the biggest reason why I don’t use ShadowPlay.  There’s no way to know whether recording has actually started or stopped when I expected.  Most of my shooting is at festivals where I’m constantly starting and stopping recording.  It would be all too easy with ShadowPlay to start recording but inadvertently to stop recording instead because there’s no way to know that the previous recording had not stopped.

The exception is a big one: if you enable the Camera Overlay, you webcam will turn on automatically every time you turn on ShadowPlay even though the overlay itself is not being displayed.   There’s a potential for invasion of privacy whenever your webcam is on and you’re not using it.

The other problem I had with ShadowPlay is that my pans and zooms weren’t as smooth as with the other two video capture tools I use, Dxtory and Blackmagic Intensity Pro.  It might not affect other people.  I shoot at the highest graphics quality I can get at 1080p resolution.  If you shoot at lesser quality levels or don’t need silky smooth zooms and pans, ShadowPlay may work well for you.  It should be good also for basic desktop video capture.

If you have Win 7, here’s how you can enable Aero:

  1. 1. Right click on your desktop
  2. 2. Select Personalize in the popup menu
  3. 3. Select one of the Aero themes

You may need to click Window Color and  hen Enable Transparency.

If you don’t see Aero Themes it’s possible that your video card doesn’t support it.  For troubleshooting, click the Start button and type “aero” in the box.  It will start a troubleshooter.

You can get more information about configuring ShadowPlay at www.howtogeek.com/259573/how-to-record-your-pc-gameplay-with-nvidia-shadowplay.

From the Archives: M2Danger Ranger tells campfire tales of ships in the desert

(I originally published this article on examiner.com on April 28, 2012)

Avatars seated around a campfire on the dry caked mud of a Second Life® virtual desert listened in rapt attention yesterday as the legendary M2Danger Ranger recounted tales of the great ships that once plied the Nevada playa during Burning Man festivals of days past.

M2DangerRanger telling campfire tales
M2DangerRanger telling campfire tales

It was the kind of storytelling that was the only history most humans knew before a few centuries ago. Blogs and videos have been around for only a few decades. Film is only a century old. For a few centuries before film, privileged humans got their history from books, at least those humans who could afford the books and were literate enough to read them, and before that, from even rarer scrolls, parchments, and carved tablets. For the rest of human existence, history came mostly from the tales of elders who had experienced it themselves or who knew the tales of those who had.

This oldest form of history telling is what we experienced yesterday, sitting around the digital flames of that virtual campfire, avatar hands clutching sticks with roasting marshmallows that we could never taste, but with Danger’s tales of great events of Black Rock playa’s past sparking our imaginations. Of course it wasn’t the same as sitting around a physical fire – I’ve lit enough campfires to know the difference – but it was nonetheless real. This is the emerging reality of post twentieth century human life, when virtual and physical cease being opposites and begin in baby steps to converge.

This reporter won’t divulge the text of the stories M2Danger Ranger told yesterday. You need to hear them yourself, while sitting around a crackling campfire. If you want to hear the stories, find Danger at a campfire. It doesn’t matter whether the fire is virtual or physical. You’ll find him there. The stories he recounted told of glorious “ships” such as La Contessa, a great wooden sailing ship that drove around the desert and ended in a great pyre that could be seen for miles, a fiery end worthy of a Viking funeral (you can see a photo of La Contessa here). Another tale was of Temporal Decomposition, a six foot diameter desert ice ball embedded with clock components (see it here) that met its match in the Vegomatic of the Apocalypse (photo here).

A virtual campfire can’t replace a physical one – I love being with friends in the darkness around the warmth of a hot, crackling fire – but that doesn’t make the virtual campfire any less real. The virtual campfire allows us to be with friends we could never meet otherwise and to experience things we could never experience in the physical world. That’s what’s wonderful about occurrences like M2Danger Ranger’s storytelling at the campfire yesterday. It brought both worlds together and allowed those of us present to experience storytelling as humans and prehumans experienced it for millions of years.

Yesterday’s storytelling was part of Burn2’s Occuplaya festival, which continues through Sunday night  with live music performances, DJ’s, Lamplighter processions every night at 7pm, and creative exhibits. Second Life members can visit Occuplaya today and tomorrow by clicking maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Burning%20Man-%20Deep%20Hole/126/70/25. Lamplighters will assemble for their procession at 7pm athttp://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Burning%20Man-%20Deep%20Hole/126/70/25.  Everyone is welcome to dance and drum with the Lamplighters.

From the archives: Remembering Lumier Noir

(I originally published this article on examiner.com on April 6, 2016)

When friends die, it’s natural for us to praise them and remember all that was good about them, but when the man behind Lumiere Noir died last August, I discovered that he was far more amazing than I suspected.  I knew him in two virtual worlds, we exchanged emails, and he was one of the first people to purchase my novel when I published it, but after his death I realized I never really knew him.  I wish I had.  That’s one problem in virtual worlds.  We tend to get to know only one aspect of a person’s life.

030511110_2003-05-11_SWK&Mignon
Swen Wu Kong (left) in There.com with Mignon on May 11, 2003. Swen Wu Kong was Lumier Noir in Second Life and Vincent Frost in RL.

Today would have been his 52nd birthday.  I can’t let it pass without remembering him.  In RL he was Vincent Frost, an ESL teacher in Plano, Texas.  I knew him as Lumiere Noir in Second Life and as Swen Wu King in the virtual world There.com.

This month is the thirteenth anniversary of my meeting  Swen Wu Kong in There.  I was new to virtual worlds, but he was an old hand who was transitioning from The Sims through There to Second Life.  Exploring There with him was an eye-opening experience to this noob.  He also got me started building in There and then in Second Life.

Education was his passion.  When I finally followed him into Second Life in 2004, I found he had already begun building his Ivory Tower of Primitives and once again, I learned from him what I needed to know to build in this new virtual world. It’s an amazing resource that’s still in existence. SL members can visit it at slurl.com/secondlife/Natoma/247/134/29.

You can read Wagner James Au’s tribute to him at   http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2015/08/ivory-tower-of-prims-second-life-lumiere-noir.html  and you can visit his memorial Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LumiereNoir.tx?fref=tl_fr_box&pnref=lhc.friends.

From the archives: Preserving virtual worlds

(I originally published this article on examiner.com on February 26, 2013)

Preserving Virtual Worlds
Professor Henry Lowood (Liebenwalde Ware in Second Life) giving talk on SJSU’s SLIS island in Second Life

A hundred years from now, when historians want to understand the ways we use Second Life®, how will they know? Computers won’t be anything we even recognize as a computer and won’t run current software or even be able to read installation disks.

Questions like this, but about software created decades ago, were the subject of a talk last night by Stanford University’s Henry Lowood (avatar name Liebenwalde Ware) at San Jose State University’s SLIS (School of Library & Information Science) Island in Second Life. The talk was titled, “Look Back on the Preserving Virtual Worlds Projects – and (Nearly) 15 Years of game Preservation.”

There are several parts to the problem, and they are true whether we are talking about a virtual world created twenty years ago or if we are talking about Second Life as historians will see it a hundred years from now.

Media

The first part of the problem is media. Decades ago, media used for software installation and data storage are obsolete today, such as data cassettes (like the old audio cassettes) and floppy disks. These media are notoriously unreliable and don’t age well. Even if they do hold up over time, it becomes more difficult over time to find the hardware to read them.

Hardware

The second part of the problem is hardware, not just media readers, but the computer itself. Professor Lowood’s presentation included a slide that showed part of this problem: a computer, looking like it measured about three feet wide, three feet deep, and about six feet tall, that was the equivalent of a video card today. Hardware like this from decades ago is scarce to nonexistent, along with the computers that used it, making playing the games that used it impossible. It’s the same problem that historians will have a century from now with Second Life: even if they manage to find a NVIDIA or other video card that will run Second Life well today, they won’t have the computers it goes in.

Software

The third part of the problem is software. Even if you have the installation media, the computer, and all the peripherals needed to run the software, how do you run it? What metadata is required for it to run? Moreover, it’s not enough to have the software for the game or virtual world. You also need the operating system and any components needed for the game.

Cultural

A fourth part of the problem that may not be obvious at first. It’s cultural: just how did people use the software or game? This is best viewed from the Second Life perspective. A century from now, if historians have the software to run Second Life and they manage to put together a computer for it to run on, what will they see and what will they do?

Will the installation software contain all the user-created content that we see today? Will these future historians see a Second Life from 2004 or 2014? Will they see a 2004 Second Life that even to us looks crude – this writer was in Second Life in 2004 and remembers what it was like – or will it have features that we haven’t yet seen?

Even more of an issue will be the fact that future historians will be the only avatars in that world. They won’t know the very many, very different ways we use it, and the very important role it plays in many people’s social lives. For some people, it’s a creative tool, for others it’s a dance hall, for others it’s a workplace, and for others, a vital part of their spiritual lives. There’s no way future historians will be able to experience that for themselves. They will be in a virtual world that’s like a physical world that’s been stripped bare of human life by a neutron bomb, leaving only buildings and prim, sculptie, or mesh vegetation.

Citations

A fifth problem is one that will only affect researchers, writers, and students: if you’re writing a paper or book and need to include software in a foot note, how do you create a citation for software? For example, if you’re citing a book, you give the page number of the reference, but how do you do the equivalent with software so that others can go into the software and see exactly what you’re referring to?

The scope of the overall preserving virtual worlds problem can be seen in a collection housed at Stanford, the Cabrinety Collection, which the university acquired in 1998. It’s only one collection for long-ago games and worlds, but it consists of 15,000 pieces of software that take up over 800 linear feet of physical storage space. Far more software has been created than is in this collection and is of a far greater complexity. Archiving it all will be a gargantuan task.

Four U.S. universities are taking part in the preserving virtual worlds and software effort: Stanford University, University of Illinois, University of Maryland, and Rochester Institute of Technology.

For more information

If you’d like to learn more, you can read Professor Lowood’s blog, HowTheyGotGame.stanford.edu. You can also follow him on Twitter at @Liebenwalde (his avatar name is Liebenwalde Ware).

RIP Examiner.com

I’ve been publishing articles about Second Life on examiner.com for seven years, since March 2009. It was a huge archive of events, history, tips and tricks, and photographs of Second Life that I expected to be around for a while, but sadly, it has now vanished. Examiner.com is no more, replaced by axs.com with entirely new content.

In the past year or two I wasn’t very active on examiner.com anyway. I was busy for a while building an OpenSimulator grid for a client and more recently ghostwriting for other clients. There were some frustrating aspects to writing for exminaer.com, such as the length of articles, some arbitrary formatting issues, and the fact that I could write only about Second Life. I love Second Life, but I also love OpenSimulator, and I want to be able to explore other developments in virtual worlds.

With examiner gone, I’ll be able to do that here. I’m looking forward to it. Stay tuned!

Tutsy Navarathna’s Double Award-Winning Machinima at SL12B

Tutsy Navarathna’s machinimas never fail to amaze me. The latest, MetaPhore, exceeds any I’ve seen before and received awards at both the University of Western Australia in Second Life’s MachinimUWA VII competition and on the same day, was winner of the SciFi Film Festival’s Screen my Short award.

You can see it at SL12B by teleporting to maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/SL12B%20Wonderous/98/180/22. Upon rezzing you’ll see five chairs. Sit in one of them and the chair will carry you into the viewing area, where you can watch the machinima.

You can also watch it on Vimeo (vimeo.com/110111415)or YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=zby0oM5xqaE).

Like all of Tutsy Navarathna’s machinimas, MetaPhore is filmed exquisitely. You’ll find some still frames from it below. I won’t give away the plot here, but it’s a love story, said to be based on a true story, with a twist that anyone who’s spent any amount of time in virtual worlds will recognize as plausible. If you don’t see it at SL12B, be sure to watch it on Vimeo or YouTube. It’s worth watching.

SL12B – first photos

Here are my first shots from SL12B.  There are some great builds – the following photos are only four of them.

SL12B's Ixtlan Stage
SL12B’s Ixtlan Stage

Evolution, created by Chagal Campestre (chagalvision)
Evolution, created by Chagal Campestre (chagalvision)

Sink into the Mind, created by Kerupa Flow
Sink into the Mind, created by Kerupa Flow

In Dreams Awake, created by Alex Bader
In Dreams Awake, created by Alex Bader