This is hardly ground-breaking SL news, but it is a fun project that I wanted to share. On top of all the fun SL stuff that BlakOpal and I use prims to build using Second Life, we’re also using it to help design the art for our RL camp at the Burning Man Arts Festival. I’m not sure if you’ve ever worked on DIY art installations in remote (2+ hours from civilization), isolated (no running water or power), and somewhat hostile areas (high altitude desert with high temperatures by day and cold by night, plus occasionally high winds and crazy dust storms), but it can be tricky. It is a huge challenge, but we’re big arty dorks who enjoy that sort of thing quite a bit. One of the keys to success is to have a good plan communicated clearly to team members, updating and making changes as necessary. This can really help when it comes to making sure the advance work gets done, and that when you get out there everyone has an idea of what’s supposed to happen.
On the first big desert art project I’d helped work on, the leader of the team had built a couple physical architectural models. That was a huge benefit for the project - in addition to any scribbled notes or sketches, we had a way to visualize it in three dimensions. As computer hardware and software capabilities have increased over the years, I can now get the same result with a 3D model. Sure, I had wanted to use this project as an opportunity to learn more about modeling and working with Cinema 4D, but I just do not have the time to do that. June is approaching, and BlakOpal and I both want to avoid getting buried in last-minute Burning Man preparations. So I decided that how I built the model wasn’t as important as getting something done quickly.
Enter Second Life. Prims are easily squashed, stretched, and mashed as needed, with the added benefit that you can walk around and virtually inhabit the space as well. It’s a very rough draft (think of it as a 3D sketch), but as we bang around different ideas and work out details I can update the model fairly easily. Fun!
It’s been more than two months since my last post, and for that I apologize. RL and SL adventures and projects have kept us incredibly busy, and I’ve fallen behind in both maintaining and updating the site. I’ll tease you by saying that a major site update is in the works, as well as more blog posts (both shoppe-related and personal). then I’ll dive right into the subject of this post... The Eridu Society build at Burn2.
What is Burn2?
For the last several years, there has been an SL equivalent of the Burning Man Arts Festival called Burning Life. This year, Linden Lab has (finally) turned the event over to the Burning Man organizers, and the new incarnation of the event is called Burn2. In keeping with the Burning Man core principles, Burn 2 is a radically self-reliant event. That means that this year the event is a lot smaller in scale - instead of 30 sims of land provided by Linden Lab, it's 6 regions of artist-supported awesome.
What is the Eridu Society?
I think of it as "a steampunk adventurer's club, for traveller's from some sort of imaginary future." BlakOpal and I created the Eridu Society in 2007 to both reflect the creative idea of 'ancient culture meets high technology' and to keep Burning Man-related projects separated from more commercial pursuits. It takes its name from Eridu, which according to Sumerian legend was the first city. All our cities, cultures, forms of religion, and forms of decadence (woohoo decadence!) have its roots in Eridu, and it seems perfectly appropriate to bring a city from the cradle of civilization in the heart of Mesopotamia to the cutting edge of technology in both Black Rock City and Second Life.
What is this Communications Tower?
This year’s art theme is Metropolis, and good communications are an essential part of any successful metropolis. With that in mind, and with a few ideas in my head of how to design a structure that will look great and keep lag to a minimum, I’ve designed a giant tower and adjoining multi-purpose facility (it looks a little like a warehouse, but it can also double as an event space in SL).
I avoided the use of sculpts entirely on the external structure, and blended elements from the world of steampunk and classic 20th century science fiction. After spending several months bouncing different ideas and concepts around this spring and early summer, I had something I was happy with and ready to pitch to BlakOpal. She loved the iconic design right away, and soon we set upon endless hours of work to take the structure to a finished form, cook up and then refine textures (in some cases dozens of times), and get the tower ready to ‘place’ on the playa (in other words, drop the build down at the Burn2 site and wiggle it into place).
From there, we still had a lot of work to do. More texturing work was to be done, and the prims were flying as I worked on designing and building the final elements in-place. To help speed up rez times and reduce lag, we re-used sculpts and textures wherever possible, and made minimal use of scripts for an added touch in a few spots. Riffing on the idea of a communications tower pulling in signals from both RL and SL, we filled the space with equipment and signage that we felt would show and explain a few things about Burning Man.
We took advantage of two awesome pieces of Viewer 2.x technology for the project. The first is Shared Media - if you’re in a 2.x compatible viewer and touch the display screens, you’ll see some video segments that BlakOpal and I put together, we think it adds a lot to the build, yet doesn’t cause/create massive amounts of lag. The second is in the outfits we’ve made for this year’s event - Viewer 2.x’s Alpha Layer technology. Using the avatar Alpha Layer, we can make awesome boots that don’t need invisi-prim scripts, and look great on any surface (no more alpha glitch issues when walking on certain textured surfaces or flying over water).
Gifting is a great tradition at the RL Burning Man event, and we’re happy to see it at Burn2 as well. For this year’s Desert Expedition Outfit, we reached back further in time and pulled together something inspired by Sudan Lancer uniforms and classic safari gear (our idea of a victorian steampunk explorer). BlakOpal worked her magic in the most incredible ways, and the result is an awesome ensemble, from head to toe with all the trimmings. Sculpted pith helmet, awesome goggles, and even a pair of worn/dusty boots. We also went a step further this year, creating a pair of Mech Skins (brass or steel). They’ve got a great steampunk-meets-scifi look to them, and as an added bonus you can strip down to just the Mech Skin if you want to experience Burn2 with as little lag as possible.
While we were working on all that, I had been working on several different ideas for music. We had a great “Beer Bash” event at our previous virtual burns, and this year was no exception. I haven’t had spent any time in the studio working on anything music-related in many months, so I was a little worried that I’d be a little rusty or that I wouldn’t pull something together in time. Fortunately my fears were unfounded, and instead of coming out of the studio with a couple two-hour performances I managed to record a number of sets, and I think I captured a really incredible performance - my best effort yet.
So, that’s what we’ve been up to for Burn2. Come to the Beer Bash, it’s on Sunday 17 October from Noon-4PM SLT, or just stop by when you get the chance to check out what we’ve built and help yourself to the skins and outfits. It’s just one of many, many amazing pieces of virtual art at this year’s Burn2 event, and if you’re familiar with the RL Burning Man event you’ll appreciate the amazing touches that the Burn2 DPW have put on the event.