Burning Man

Using SL for RL Design Mockups

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!

Eridu Society at Burn2

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.


Greetings From The Eridu Society!

Greetings from the virtual playa! Pronounced ply-ah, playa is the name that Burning Man participants use to refer to the dry lake bed where the annual Burning Man arts festival is held. BlakOpal and I have been busy these last few days, pulling together the remaining elements of our camp site for the 2009 Burning Life event. Seemingly countless details, but finally there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

I'm really excited about the project, as it ties in a number of elements for me. Eridu Society (or simply Eridu) is the name of our RL Burning Man camp, I was able to bring together some design elements I've been tinkering around with over the last year, the camp ties into BlakOpal's amazing SL6B creation, the project gave us the opportunity to flesh out the Eridu Society background in more detail than we ever have, and a whole lot more. While I could go on at length, I'll spare you minutae.

While a part of me is bursting at the seams to tell you all about it, I'm afraid that's going to have to wait. BlakOpal is hard at work on a video preview, and Burning Life doesn't officially open until Saturday 17 October. I suppose I can tease you a bit more, so click here to check out my Burning Life 2009 gallery.

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!

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 :-)