21 August 2014

Spirit Within

Now open at LEA6, as part of the LEA Full Sim Art Series, is Spirit Within by Lagu Indigo and Stardove Spirt. The artistic builds created as part of this series are short-lived: the artists have possession of the sim for only a month, and that includes their time to build. Consequently, we have less time to spend with each creation (and artists have to build quickly), but in exchange we see a monthly progression of works. In this case, Lagu and Stardove describe their work as an "art project about life and death experience," and, while I don't usually quote entire artist statements, theirs is included below the second image:

"This art project is called Spirit Within based on a life death experience, as you land within the garden you are surrounded by water and light, you will view the steps leading up to a temple which within holds the light, The walk up to the temple you will have spirits on each side of the steps, this represents the spirits that where the guides that showed the way to the light, they where of pure light and like ancestors from the past. As you reach the top within the temple is the light and an Angel he was the giver of light and shows the way to the light though the darkness and back to reality and earth. The butterflies represent the rebirth and the beauty that there is life and that you can be reborn, My experience of life and death it is only a small part of the journey and as the light was given so I am grateful to be alive and free like the butterfly. There where many parts to this experience and this is just the one part, maybe a dream of the mind or a reality. But I know that I got though a bad time and am thankful for the experience. It like a cleansing of the soul to a new beginning of a new life."

17 August 2014

Firestorm Release 4.6.7.42398 and Mac 64bit Viewer

This evening, the Firestorm team officially released version 4.6.7.42398 of their popular viewer (click here for release notes and download links). This release incorporates the Lab's Project Interesting, which significantly improves scene loading, so this update is really a must for any Firestorm user. A clean install is recommended.

For people like me who use Macs, what's really huge about this release is the much anticipated 64bit version of the Mac viewer. I've had the pleasure of testing the 64bit beta versions for quite a while, and can assure you that the experience is like night and day: gone are the "textures discarded" memory crashes (the bane of many a photographer's existence), and the overall improvement in performance is staggering: even in a very crowded sim with dozens of avatars, I'm able to rapidly cam around, and everything renders swiftly. (And this is on a several-year-old iMac.) Even though the Mac 64bit version is being released as a beta, I think it's the most stable version of the viewer I've ever used, so I'd strongly recommend it. (Also: if your Mac is running anything below OS X 10.9, Mavericks, and can be updated, do it — you'll see significant improvements with Firestorm or any other viewer.) Thanks to Cinder Roxley, Tonya Souther and Sovereign Engineer (of Alchemy Viewer) for all of their work on the new Mac 64bit viewer. (And, of course, thanks to the entire Firestorm team for their exceptional work and dedication!)

Almost gone is the notorious option-cam bug, introduced with the Lab's Mac Cocoa build, that could shoot your camera willy-nilly into space — now that happens only once every twenty clicks or so (fix via the Lab from Aura Linden). Significant improvements have also been made on the Mac keystroke entry lag issue (courtesy of Nicky Dasmijn).

For a complete list of changes and updates, browse the Firestorm change log here.

15 August 2014

The Sea of Cubic Dreams

Opening tomorrow, Saturday, August 16 at 2 pm slt, at LEA25, is The Sea of Cubic Dreams, an installation by Alegria Studios, a collaborative team of artists from Spain and Argentina. The presentation is only a prelude, as artist Noke Yuitza explained to me: the team is working on a much larger installation overhead, Theater Night's Dream, which intends to "open the gate between the real and fictional sides of its characters," but in the meantime they wanted to invite visitors to enjoy the more modest Sea of Cubic Dreams.

You'll find yourself in a deep blue environment (be sure to set your view distance on high, and you really have to use the region windlight setting to appreciate the place) in which black and dark teal cubes float over a sea, sometimes slowly drifting. If you get close enough (and I had to get so close I was touching — standing on one will work), you can sit on a cube, and then push it, setting it into motion so that it moves across the sim, sometimes colliding with other elements. You might need to zoom out to see yourself fly through space. Eventually the prim will slow down, and you'll have to give another nudge. It's a gesturally simplistic but well done space, and it will be interesting to see what the studio comes up with overhead.

10 August 2014

Great Island

If you're type who enjoys a solitary, quiet walk on the beach, the shore rolling out of view a long ways aways, and a few birds calling and circling overhead, then you probably want to visit Great Island, located within the New England Islands estate. The Great Island comprises two sims, and as SL New England is popular for those who sail (and and intended as such), the island, like the others in the estate, is open to visitors (although that doesn't mean you should necessarily wander into the home of Sudane Erato, Great Island's owner, located on the island's far eastern edge). The western sim of the two, Point of Pines, is more scenic, and the middle of the island wraps around a great marshland, home to waterfowl. If you like what you see, head off to explore more of New England toward the west and north.

09 August 2014

The Colder Water

The Colder Water, a new sim by Jordan Giant, presents a beautiful panoramic waterscape, its low-lying land barely emerging from the water, and its horizon dominated by three tall lighthouses. Most of the land forms a crescent shaped island, but another outcrop anchors the lone lighthouse that stands at the southeasternmost corner. The sand and earth are dark, almost black, perhaps volcanic, and only a few patches of grasses have gained a foothold here and there amongst the boulders that inhabit the land.

The remains of old abandoned railroad tracks cross the island, disappearing out into the waters (image above), and the remains of fences and piers dot the island. Curious and unearthly jellyfish hover in air above the sim, their tentacles catching in the wind. You'll notice that one of the lighthouses seems to have lost its top, but to good effect: if you climb to the top, you'll discover a cozy little seating area with a splendid view of The Colder Water.

A wooden structure, its walls and roof only partially intact, provides some respite from the outdoors, offering a warm fire and places to congregate (image above). "To get the perfect mood," suggests Jordan, "you can listen to the music stream, a playlist I made for this place and also a fitting windlight setting. Feel free to enjoy this place as you wish, but please be nice & kind." The region's windlight setting is dynamic and compelling, but I haven't used it in these images — be sure to allow the default setting to be employed when you visit. Also, as the lighthouses are quite far apart — two on opposite sides of the sim — you'll want to turn your draw distance up to fully enjoy the view.

08 August 2014

Mari's Fireworks

A few weeks ago on a balmy Saturday evening, my friend Kinn invited me over to the sim Livingtree, where, on the premises of Robin Sojourner's shop, Kick the Can (which is housed in the K. T. Cann School building), Marianne McCann set off a quite remarkable, and remarkably choreographed, display of fireworks that ran for a full thirty minutes. As Kinn and I sat back on one of many blankets set out for the spectators (who were numerous), I learned from Mari that she runs these fireworks shows every Saturday, at 8 pm slt, during the summer, until the end of August.

Setting off fireworks in Second Life is fairly simple to do, but keeping them going at the pace at which Marianne was going was impressive. She works in partnership with GoSpeed Racer of KONA, a popular music station, who provides a music stream. "I build the show based on the tunes," she explained. "There are a couple [choreographed moments] that are set up in advance, but I like going 'live' with the music. Makes the show a bit more dynamic, I think. It helps that I tend to know the sort of songs she'll play, which means I can usually know which launcher(s) to hit for a good downbeat in the music." So enjoy the show, and arrive a little early (or stay late) to browse around Robin's shop.

07 August 2014

Group Exhibition at Aakriti Arts

Opening today, Thursday, August 7, at 1 pm slt, is a group exhibition at Aakriti Arts featuring works by Bloo Ansar, Bump Squeegee, Mash Rhode and Cullum Writer in a variety of genres. I don't often mention "real life" art shown in Second Life, and most of these works were largely developed outside the virtual domain. But some of Bloo Ansar's offerings, by contrast (top image), are kinetic, changing gradually over time, and couldn't exist outside SL. While you're at Aakriti, you can also visit Quan Lavendar's LTD Magazine Store, and even take a peek inside a gallery I'm now setting up at Aakriti, too, although it's not quite ready for visitors — more on that soon.

05 August 2014

Sarawak

It probably shouldn't be too surprising that a photographer such as Ermandalee would create a beautifully picturesque sim, and she has: Sarawak. Under construction since early July, the sim opened just before August, although she continues to render minor improvements here and there. The result is a photographer's delight, where at every turn there's another capture that awaits, and I myself have yet to fully investigate every space, especially those inside the several buildings that populate the sim. Ermandalee shared with me that this is her first attempt at landscaping. A fan of Dungeous & Dragons, her initial thought was to create an environment that would evoke the Sword Coast, but as she went along it began to take on a character of its own.

The landing point is close to the center of the sim, and nearby a dwelling that features a number of Ermandalee's photos, serving as a gallery space. The region is rural, populated by farm and woodland animals that roam and play in the fields, meadows and forests, and with geese, ducks, and other birds along its weaving shorelines. I have no doubt that the sim will become a favorite destination point for explorers. If you'd like to support Sarawak, donations are accepted near the landing point — or a better option still is to teleport overhead to Ermandalee's shop, which offers a few buildings and other things for sale. (Click on any of these images to zoom in — I'll be posting these and others on my flickr stream.)

03 August 2014

Somewhere in Second Life

Opening today, Sunday August 3, at 12:00 pm slt, at the Rose Theatre & Art Gallery, is an exhibition of photography by WuWai Chun entitled Somewhere in Second Life, featuring images of landscapes, buildings and artworks. The atmospheric and often dreamy images capture scenes with a painterly eye, as in her view of Goatswood (third image to the right, below). Each of the photographs is accompanied by a notecard that explains the location of the shoot (including a teleport link), proportions of the image, information on any texture overlays, and the location of a high resolution version on flickr. Proceeds from sales of the artworks will be contributed to the Feed a Smile project, which sponsors meals for children in Kenya.

02 August 2014

Pinwheels

When I saw Mac Kanashimi's name on the list of LEA Artist in Residence grant recipients, I knew his work would be rezzed almost immediately, as he develops builds in advance. But it wasn't until today, the second day of the residency, that the massive work, Pinwheels, was ready for viewing. "It took longer than anticipated," remarked Mac. "This build has one level and one path, so that is simpler, but the mechanics of this one are trickier." The enormous structure, stretching fully across the sim in both directions and down so that the walking space becomes a cube, is constructed of pinwheel tilings, which Wikipedia describes as "non-periodic tilings defined by Charles Radin and based on a construction due to John Conway. They are the first known non-periodic tilings to each have the property that their tiles appear in infinitely many orientations." I can't fully appreciate the mathematics behind the build, but it's fascinating to experience them in this visual realization, particularly as columns slowly ascend and descend.

An application developer based in Holland in real life, Mac provides the following parameters for Pinwheels:
- 4 pinwheels tile the plane {1}
- each pinwheel is divided into 3125 triangles
- all triangles have the same shape
- the triangles are arranged as a stairway
- the stairway slope varies
- the color is derived from the stairway slope
- many miles of walkable stairways
- dangerous cliffs up to 256 m high
- the landscape changes continuously
- closed surface
- the safe landing point is shaped as a flat pinwheel
- the objects move vertically, resize and change color
- HSL to RGB conversion {2}

To give you a sense of scale, take a look at the second image in this post. On the left, you'll spot Mac standing, and I'm standing on the dark violet column near the center — so to really see the entire build you should turn your draw distance up to 1024 or higher. I found that exploring by foot, weaving up and down, provided an important sense of the pinwheel structure. "Prims are stacked, neighboring objects communicate with each other about their height, so extra objects can be added or removed. You can see the effect if you fly below the objects," suggests Mac. "The script uses the rational coordinates property to calculate the vertices of the pinwheels." Pinwheels will remain on display through December.