Taking Shape



After finishing things up with the fashion show and taking care of a long overdue remodel at the Jabberwocky Wonderland, I was finally caught up enough to spend some quality time working on the Eridu Society build for Burning Life. BlakOpal and I got a great parcel to work with and have some wonderful ideas for this year's event, but as you might guess there's a lot of work to do.

I've been working with some concept ideas of the building for weeks now, and have toyed with a number of ideas for a few elements of its design, but it was only this weekend that I've been able to pull it all together and get the main structure sorted out. It's still a bit premature to tell you all about our plans, but I can tease you a bit with a couple snapshots from this weekend's work sessions. More to come soon, and as the start of Burning Life approaches I hope to have a walk-thru video put together.

Close To The Edit



Whew, finally got that finished! I've been kind of busy lately, and while I've had the Final Cut Studio update since shortly after its release the discs were just sitting on the corner of the desk. But I was determined to try my hand at filming in SL with this event (previously, BlakOpal had done all the in-world filming), and so last week spent many hours on a clean install.

To record the video from SL, BlakOpal has been using iShowU HD Pro with great success. I found the app a little frustrating, but functional. I've been toying around lately with a program called ScreenFlow, which not only feels better to work with, but seems to have a better frame rate (the process of capturing and recording your screen adds some overhead, which in turn bogs down your SL performance a bit). While you can also do screen recording with Quicktime in Snow Leopard, I've found that to be really basic stuff, it's much more suited to creating a software demo or application tutorial than it is for virtual movie-making.

The Sunday event went really well, I managed to get some great shots along with lots and lots of bad footage (due to my own inexperience), and all-in-all I came away extremely excited for Tuesday. Both shows were special and had great outfits in them, but Tuesday was the main event as far as I was concerned.

Sadly, the show had some hiccups that were really heartbreaking as a designer. But a number of the outfits came together extremely well, and armed with what I'd learned on Sunday I managed to get a few really good shots. After giving myself a little time to get over what hadn't worked out about the show, I was in the right space to focus on the things that did go well. Incredible outfits. Better shots. Higher resolution (I was actually able to shoot in HD). Great music (I"ve been a fan of The Prodigy for years, and Future Funk Squad's not only an incredible producer but a friend as well).

The edit came together really quickly. So quickly, in fact, that I spent a fair amount of time contemplating playing around with some fancy effects and titling in Motion. I've been dying to get into using that program, but in the end opted against making the project over-complicated. As a rule of thumb, you want to get close to the edit (so that you know the material you're working with and can deliver a great cut), but not too close. I could see myself easily getting caught up in working out some clever effect or transition, only to find that months later I'm still not finished.

Fortunately I had the good sense to know when to leave well enough alone, and I'll save my experiments with Motion for another project. Meanwhile, you can check out the VLFW Sunday video here, and the Tuesday show highlights here.

Holy Crap!



I can think of no more appropriate title. Really. It's been that kind of day. But I mean Holy Crap in a good way, if not the best possible way.

As I mentioned earlier, I was lamenting the loss of so many great photos from Miss Breezy's amazing event and the combination of stress and excitement regarding our runway show at the Virtual London Fashion Week event. Alright, well if I didn't mention the stress part it was an oversight. It's been a point of vast quantities of stress for me. Even though the event was being produced by a capable team, I was stressing about all the ridiculous things - whether the models got everything and they were able (or even cared) to make adjustments for fit, whether they would look good on the runway, whether the folks in attendance (in person or on the other end of the streaming video) would appreciate it, and of course the music.

While there are some great DJ's providing music for the event, and they offered to handle everything or even handle any special requests, I decided to take a stab at providing a soundtrack for each of the shows. I wasn't sure whether I'd be able to pull it off, as I hadn't been spending much time in the studio or playing lately (not since early July, really), but hearing it today I'm really pleased with the performance and the music seemed to set the perfect atmosphere for the show. Afterwards we received some very wonderful compliments and stayed a bit for drinks and hello's before I made my way back to the studio.

It was around that time that I found my lost pictures from last night's ball. Woohoo! Long story short, they'd been saved to another location on the network entirely, and hooray they're all there. I've scrubbed through them all and gotten the gallery put together, you can check them out here. And speaking of galleries, BlakOpal grabbed a few high quality snaps from today's runway show, you can check those out here. Where are my pictures? I didn't take any, as I was attempting to shoot video. I've got plenty of footage to edit, and will hopefully have something put together from that in the near future. Whew - it's been a long day!




Soot-Filled Brain



Last night was one of the best nights yet at Piermont Landing, with the Engineers Ball. Wonderful hot air balloons, impeccably dressed folks, wonderful conversations, and with the recently upgraded SL seemed to be performing quite well (sim crossings and teleports are greatly improved, and lag seemed way down). I was even able to snap a few dozen stunning pictures. Or so I thought.

Due to some form of technical glitch (read as: user error), I had apparently been saving my snapshots to the aether instead of to my local drive. D'oh! How very disappointing, as I was convinced I had gotten some real gems and was excited to be writing a post about having just uploaded them. Now I feel a bit like a fisherman telling people about the one that got away. Members of the New Babbage community can, of course, check out the New Babbage Ning to see many wonderful pics taken by others who were there (and quite honestly, have better skills than I do), and of course if you're interested in the greater New Babbage community, then I suggest you head on over there and join (membership is free).

Waking up with my morning medicinal, my thoughts now turn towards London. Rather, towards Virtual London and Fashion Week. The last week or so has been a whirlwind of preparation for BlakOpal and I - our work is in two runway shows this week (the first is today at 2PM SLT, the second is on Tuesday). Oddly enough, many others are working even harder. The event organizers have been putting months of preparation into the event, and the other designers have all really been outdoing themselves - each booth I've glanced at has been filled with wonderful things. Go check it out here.

Disco Inferno



Looking at the picture above, I had initially thought to give this post the title "Burn Baby Burn" but then thought better of it. It's a go-to phrase that people who've been to the Burning Man Arts Festival tend to use, and after going to our campsite for this year's Burning Life in-world it just seemed like it fit. Then I remembered that a) this post will cover more than just me yammering on about Burning Life, and b) a friend of mine made a film about the festival called "Burn Baby Burn" so a slightly different title seemed more appropriate.

BlakOpal and I are both extremely excited about our theme camp being accepted for this year's Burning Life. We had one last year as well, it was our first real event in Second Life. It seemed strangely fitting for us, since we've both been to the RL event several times. It also helped us with our 'playa withdrawals' since we were taking the year off from Burning Man. While we were both 'fresh off the boat' new to SL, we still managed to build a fun space on the virtual playa and had a great time. This year we've learned quite a bit, and I've got a computer that can actually handle walking around without crashing once the event kicks off.

Last night was our first opportunity to visit the space. We're further back from the Esplanade this year, but I kind of like that idea. We've been tossing around ideas for the build for a few weeks, and soon enough we'll start playing with prims in the virtual dust. Stay tuned for more information on Eridu Society at Burning Life!

This morning I had a great meeting in Virtual London, in preparation for Fashion Week, which kicks off on Saturday. We've had the pleasure of participating in a few different fashion events and festivals, and while things can get a little hectic at times, it's a good kind of hectic. The organizers have created a really amazing space for the event and we're extremely excited to not only have a booth space but be participating in two different fashion shows. The first, to a broader audience, is on Sunday at 2PM SLT. The second, on a bit more of a 'theme' night (which seems appropriate considering some of our steampunk/pirate creations) is on Tuesday at 1:30PM SLT.

While we have the opportunity to request songs for the DJ's to play, I'm considering a slightly different direction. A couple friends of mine have recently sent advances of some of their upcoming releases, and I'm considering putting something together that showcases and teases some of that material, along with a few gems I've got in my collection. We'll see how that all plays out - with Virtual London Fashion Week kicking off on Saturday, there's an awful lot to do in a very short period of time.

I've also got some amazing pictures in my in-box. Yep, more photos for our photo contest! As soon as I get a chance, I'll go through them and update the Customer Gallery, and get some gift cards out to more people. Keep 'em coming!

XStreet Forums Makeover



While much has been said of the changes to the XStreet Forums (mostly prophecies of doom and mourning the death of a community), I've got to say that I'm pretty optimistic. In fairness, I was never a big fan of the PHP BB systems that have been all over the internet since June of 2000. While a few sites have done them well, they all have the feel of plugging in some standard package, and only a feeble attempt at implementing features or customizing the user interface. The SL Forums and old XStreet Forums were no exception, it's a shame to see a commercial operation using such a generic implementation.

The new layout seems nice and clean by comparison. Below the main SL header (and site-wide menus), you've got the forum indexes on the top left and helpful links below that, the welcome messages and general discussions right in the middle, and then notifications and top participants on the right. Personally I feel the top participants module should be a lower priority, but that's a minor complaint. It's ironic to note that many of the current top participants are some of the biggest critics of the changes - I guess it wasn't the death of the community they were predicting it to be ;-) If you scroll further down, you'll see most recent forum activity on the left, and a tag cloud on the right. I'm glad they kept recent activity from the old forums, and I'm extremely happy to see the tag cloud being added. The old forums had an almost completely useless search function, and if a tag cloud makes it any easier to find something you're interested in then I'm all for it.

Surfing the boards and making a few posts, I see a lot of potential. For now you can only put text in your auto-signature (that's due to change in the near future), which results in some unfortunate-looking signatures with lengthy URL link text just pasted in. Quick tip for forum members who want to link to a long/ugly URL (like a link to their merchandisse on XStreet)... use a URL shortening service like TinyURL! Readers/customers are more likely to copy/paste text into their browser window if it's short and painless. Creating/editing posts seems more friendly than on the old boards, you can add tags to your profile, and it looks like we'll soon get the chance to have our own blogs. And when you consider that all this is integrated within the main SL site, I think there's a lot of potential for community-building ahead. Not just customers reaching designers, but people from all walks (and flights) of SL connecting with each other. Sure, we can do that to a limited degree now through the use of random sites like LiveJournal, Ning, WordPress, Blogger, and the like... but this is something that's SL-specific, it's common to all SL residents, and you already have a member login (since it's the same thing you log into SL with). Then when you combine that with a more customized dashboard main page (where you can arrange modules the way you want them, and customize your view to your tasts), you've really got something interesting going on.

While part of me wants to see all these new features turned on and hurry up so we can all get to the next level, I'm glad LL is going in phased rollouts. Take a few big steps, then step back and see how everything's running, and make minor fixes and course corrections as necessary. Many thanks to Pink Linden, Collosus Linden, and all the other LL team members involved in teh XStreet upgrades.

The Cat's A Genius!




The end of what seems like a long day, and there's a kitten sitting in a beer box. What's she trying to say?

It's been a long several days for me - filled with back end projects. While it's not as exciting as something like skydiving on the moon or going to parties with monkeys, I've been enjoying myself. Testing is underway on a few different projects, and while I can't discuss specifics, I can say that everything has been going well.

The vendor machines in the stores have been getting updatd as well. Hippo Technologies released an update to their vending system that, among other things, improves communications. While their vendors have performed well for us, I'm all for reducing lag and fewer delivery problems. I've wandered to most of our locations to update and test each vendor, and also spent some time in the studio working out a revision to one of my own customized vendors. Maybe soon I'll be ready to pull the trigger on the remodel of the main store in New Babbage.

Maybe she wants me to ship her somewhere? No, that's not it...

I've been working on the site quite a bit lately, too. I suppose it's the nature of the internet, a never-ending project with limitless possibilities and limitless to-do lists. Progess!

BlakOpal finished a new gown that she's been working on for the longest time, and I was able to get that one into the shoppe and on XStreet last night. It's a really fun piece, I love the flow of the garment. To show that part off a bit, she even shot a short video over in Steelhead Shanghai - you can check out the dress and the video here.

Maybe she's thirsty? Why that's silly - not only is her water dish full, but she doesn't even like that brand!

We've also been tinkering around with a bunch of ideas for Burning Life, and I believe our theme camp application has been sent in already. My fingers are crossed, can't wait until we hear back. Between that and a few other fun build ideas, I only wish I had more time and energy available for playing with prims.

The last couple days have been crazy with notecards. Maybe it's me, but it really seems like something happened in the last couple weeks, because I'm getting more notecard/offers than ever before. Some of them are great, but an increasing number are just not even remotely a good fit. Hopefully it will pass.

Oh wait, I get it. She wants ME to knock off for the day and get myself a drink! The cat's a genius!

Steampunk Music, You Say?



Monday seems like it was just moments ago. But here we are, at the week's end. Having gotten the more pressing matters of getting the flagship stores updated and tended to, I'm happily playing with some prims and working out some ideas for new structures.

I've had a couple interesting conversations this week regarding the notion of "steampunk music." While most RL friends I talked to agree the whole idea is ludicrous ("it's more of a visual art style... is there impressionist music too?"), SL friends have some specific ideas. While I wouldn't dispute that Abney Park and the like are steampunk bands, I think the moniker fits because steampunk is their visual style as well. Otherwise, people seemed to have flocked to a few misguided notions that circus/cabaret music is the official sound of steampunk. *shudders* No offense to Nick Cave and the like it's just not my cup of tea.

Personally I've enjoyed exploring different sounds and styles as I've explored the steamlands in Second Life. I've been meaning to do some experimenting and toying around with video for the last several weeks, perhaps I'll play around with a few different soundtracks and see how things come together in the cutting room. *Adds to the ever-growing to-do list*

Moving on, I have mixed feelings regarding all the posts and live streams coming out of this year's Burning Man arts festival. On one hand, everyone should be free to do what they want. Even if that means playing with web cams and removing yourself from the event to sort through and process and then post your pictures ahead of everyone else. But on the other hand, a big part of the event's appeal is its isolation. Going to a faraway place, disconnected from the rest of the world, and seeing what happens. I'm still very interested in returning to the playa in 2010, though with every live feed link I see that interest wanes just a little bit. I'm not exactly sure why, but we'll see how that plays out over the next eleven months.

In the nearer term, BlakOpal and I are excited about Burning Life. The event doesn't happen until October, but we've been tossing around ideas for a while and are about to start more serious planning. Beyond that, we're also looking at another Gothic Fashion Fair event, though juggling the SL events with our RL travel plans this fall will be a bit of a challenge. Should be fun :-)

Tools



Following BlakOpal's lead in a post on her blog, I figured a post covering some of the software tools that I use is in order.

Let's start off with the hardware. The heart of it all is an Apple MacBook Pro. That plugs into and accesses an assortment of hardware - on the audio side I use an Akai APC40 and M-Audio Ozone controller, and run sound from the machine to an M-Audio FastTrack Pro and into a Pioneer DJM-3000 mixer, which in turn goes out to the Crown Amplifier and Bag End Speakers. Headphones are Sony. Storage-wise we have a number of external drives for storing archived projects, and use an Apple Time Capsule for combination wifi-access and wireless backup. That lets us get to the files on any of the drives or on any of the computers easily and wirelessly, as well as handles automated backups of both our computers. Input wise, we have a few different still and video cameras, an old (but still awesome) Wacom Intuos tablet (though BlakOpal uses it more than I do), an Apple Wireless Mouse (for when I need 3-button control), and a 3D Connexion Space Navigator that BlakOpal and I have been sharing (I keep wanting to use it more and more, it might be time to get a second one soon).

For audio software, I use Apple's Logic 9 Studio and Ableton Live 8 Suite, along with a handful of custom plugins, racks, and effects. Though I don't do any kind of SL DJ'ing, I use Rogue Amoeba's Nicecast when I need to stream/broadcast music.

In the world of video/graphics software, I use Adobe's Creative Suite 4. While the Production Premium edition has me covered for just about everything I'd ever need, primarily I spend my time with Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended, along with a few custom plugins and fonts. I also use Apple's Final Cut Studio, and am very much looking forward to installing and working with the new version. I've got Apple's Aperture, but for SL purposes I've been using iPhoto '09 for managing my photo library.

In the miscellaneous applications department, I now use Realmac Software's RapidWeaver (along with an assortment of plugins) for site development, Apple iWork '09 for my word processing and spreadsheet needs, and TextEdit handles the job with simple text and those unfortunate moments where I need to write code manually. We also use the Mobile Me service, which does a great job of helping to keep everything synchronized and accessible from just about anyplace we'd need.