Thursday, November 15, 2012

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The Many Faces of Chloe: A Mesh Head That May Have What You Need to Express Who You Really Are

LOGO Chloe 1
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Whenever I mention the latest mesh avatar augmentation or attachment, one argument invariably gets made again and again: "Everyone will look the same if we all wear X!" It's hard to argue against it because it's a fair point, and in a lot of ways I agree with it. But... I wouldn't say we'd all necessarily look the same, even if we all may look similar. That's what I want to talk about today.

If this is the biggest obstacle in the way of making mesh-augmented avatars truly mainstream, it goes without saying that smart designers will try to tackle that issue head-on. The recently released Chloe hybrid mesh avatar from LOGO [Marketplace] [SLURL] is a good look at what intrepid designers can do to assuage fashionista fears about a future where every avatar is a clone of the next... And a better look at what fashionistas can do themselves. It's not the ultimate solution, but it's several steps in the right direction. Here's why:

LOGO Chloe 2

Here are the basic facts about Chloe. This release is called a hybrid mesh avatar, but the heart of the bundle is the mesh head. It also comes with a skin and a few different shapes, a head to fit avatars with higher body fat settings, oodles of alternate skin options, as well as a HUD for makeup and more. There was actually much more to this head than I expected to be perfectly honest, and although the amount of options and components was a bit intimidating at first there is a clear and detailed user guide that walks you through every step. You can check out Gogo's thorough review of Chloe on Juicybomb if you want all the technical details, because I don't want to get too bogged down with them here.

LOGO Chloe HUDThe designer behind LOGO, Maximillion Grant, added a couple features to Chloe's HUD that will be the key to making products like this mainstream. In addition to choosing from a variety of makeup options and expressions, you can also choose details like the shape of the highlight on the avatar's nose, the shading of her cheeks, and even the boldness or modesty of her eyelashes. These may seem like almost insignificant details before you see the immediate effect they have... Any RL makeup artist will tell you that cheek and nose shading, as well as the perfect pair of fake lashes, can seemingly change your entire face.

Styling Chloe has even become a bit of a game for some Plurk fashionistas, "Here's how I look, what about you?". If you're skeptical, take a look at how these SL fashionistas used their skills as well as Chloe's settings to style their avatars in six completely different ways:

LOGO Chloe Bloggers

Clockwise from top left: Sasy Scarborough, Gogo, CandyZombies, Morgana Hilra, Arbel Vogel, and Prudence Imfurst. I've linked to each one's review of Chloe if you want to see even more. While they may look vaguely similar, these ladies definitely don't look the same. And compared to them, Chloe looks almost asian on me!

Options like this are a step towards offering the wearer much more variety so that they can pick the features that best suit their personal style. If tweaks to lip and brow shaping were added, the variety possible with Chloe's face would be even wider than it is now.

LOGO Chloe 3The key to really taking advantage of this is to know exactly what makes your avatar recognizable. It's easy to forget that many of the more dramatic or stylized skins can make a lot of everyday pretty avatar faces look nearly the same too, but there's more to what makes each avatar unique than just their face. Break your style down to its roots. With Iris I often favour dark brown hair, cute and feminine little outfits, a small sharp nose, nearly natural looking cosmetics, high but soft cheeks, short lashes, and dark brown irises. Add all that together and you have an avatar that still conveys that 'You' vibe, whether the face is mesh or not. Compare Chloe-as-Iris above to the picture on the right that I took of my un-augmented avatar wearing the skin that comes with the LOGO hybrid avatar bundle. Makeup choices aside, they're not that different, and they both definitely evoke 'Iris'.

What all this amounts to is that Chloe is the first mesh head I can see myself wearing very regularly. There are still things I would change about Chloe (as gorgeous as I think she is), and this head is not going to be for everyone. I'd like to see more texture options of course, as well as heads that support a wider range of skin tones and ethnicities, but here's what it all boils down to: The work is far from done for designers who want to innovate in this area, but progress is definitely being made. And progress of any sort is good, because mesh heads aren't going anywhere. Even Max is already teasing his next hybrid mesh avatar at his main store, for those of you who aren't too fussy on Chloe's features.

LOGO Sadie

So whether you're wildly interested or you still need some convincing, try on a demo of Chloe at LOGO in Eventide or from the SL Marketplace and you might be pleasantly surprised.

Mixed_reality_iris2010 Iris Ophelia (Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.

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Adeon Writer

At this rate all the male avies are going to look like n64 graphics in comparison.

Pussycat Catnap

I think I'll still need convincing.

While it can't be used by me due to its ethnic choice - even for Caucasians it will represent a single basic look.

Standard sizes have shown that people are less attached to the body shape of their avatar than it would have seemed (and to be fair, I can wear a standard size on a proportionate -and- to-scale avatar, and someone else right next to me can use the -same- standard size but be 8-feet tall, so variety still exists there).

BUT "not the face, OMG not the face!" is a fitting bit of humor here.

More than any other part of the avatar, that is where you get uniqueness.

While it may be true that 53.7% of the grid is composed of people with -the exact same- frowning face and fish lips... there's still quite a variety to the faces of everyone else.

- Even among people sporting the same ethnic look. Even accounting for 90% of all avatars having that 'Bizarro World frowning brows" effect (a problem of SL lighting, and not the shapes)...

This is where people self express the most.

This mesh may be 'some customization.' but its amounting to 'painted on faces.'
- Like back in the days of '8-bit gaming' or 'The Sims' #1, when every character had the same head, and you just painted on a new face texture (hmmm, like in say, world of warcraft).

- That's just not enough variety for SL's diversity.

Avatars like petites get away with it because they're so small, furries get away with the locked in face because the community mods the whole body as well for individuality and we are used to seeing less 'differentiation' among assorted animals - fur pattern being what makes many of them unique looking.

Unless a mesh maker can find a way to put in morph dial effects of some kind, there's no solution to this.
- They need to either let us alter the shape of the mesh in world, or find a gimmick that appears to do it (like say, loading in 10 or so different overlapping meshes and altering which one is transparent and by how much and where... which would then just face lighting and angle issues, and a possible freakshow result when zooming in).

Letting us put morph dials on the mesh though, seems like its a technical limit of the platform. And saving morph dial info is one of the biggest file-size boosters to applications like Daz Studio and Poser... so adding that into SL would likely be a massive lag spike for unknown levels of gain.

(I'm guessing we pull it off with the base mesh by everyone using the same morph dials).

While a noble effort, I suspect things like this are doomed beyond a limited scope.

Danaf

Oh nooo!
I agree with Pussycats anlaysis

Kim Anubis

This reminds me of when the first tattoo layer skins came onto the market. There were only a few, and people said the same stuff about not wanting to look like everyone else. Now, though, there are zillions of skins to choose from, and a lot of people consider them essential. The selection is still too limited for some ethnicities or anyone whose shape doesn't fit the fashion industry's current look, (I am SO sick of a white nose highlight for tiny noses appearing on the underside of my noble and lengthy schnozz) but mostly people buy skins and deal with it, rather than using slider skins. I won't be an early adopter of a mesh head -- when I saw the article I cussed aloud at the tiny nose and augmented lips and ... well, it just isn't me, and I've already spent way too long in skin stores and looking at women's magazines and becoming increasingly bored with that look. But my ideal isn't mainstream, and this is a popular look, a fashionable one, and a lot of people will buy it -- and we will see more variation eventually, just as we have with skins.

Iris Ophelia

@Kim Exactly. We haven't arrived yet, but progress is progress. I'm hopeful that my this time next year there will be at the very least some acceptable options for darker skinned avs, as well as for the dashing young men of the virtual world.

Morgana Hilra

Oh WOW! Thank you for including my version of Chloe in your post!
That is a great honor, thank you!

spartacus season 2

mesh avatars created by Yabusake Loon which are only about a third the size of a regular Avatar. Because of their size and certain other properties of these avatars, many regular animations actually do NOT play correctly

Jo yardley

As someone who wants a 40 year old pale woman skin without make up, I guess I'll have to wait very very long before anyone makes a face that isn't made for people who want to look like a model.

Uccello Poultry

Progress, indeed, but I long for the day when I can have my face on my skin. At one time my avatar looked like my RL self but I had to tweak the nose substantially when I changed skins so I simply gave up and made my "ideal" face. After trying the demo I found several features I liked but despite my best (but admittedly less skilled compared to the examples here) efforts I was still a quite different person. After posting numerous pix to MySL feed with comments I snapped one more in my usual Furry avatar and noted "Counter-argument. Yes, I look like other furries with the same kit despite the hair and glasses." You can see my pix and comments at https://my.secondlife.com/uccello.poultry/snapshots/ and I might eventually put them on my blog.

A friend of mine made a custom, full-body mesh for herself with a custom face and everything tweaked just the way she wanted starting with exporting her then-current shape/face. Why doesn't someone offer that service? Or if they do, why haven't we heard more about it?

Thanks for the efforts, but I think I'll pass for now (at least on this avatar) and wait for a full package with hands, feet, and a more customizable head.

Iris Ophelia

@Uccello There actually IS an option for you, though it's one that I've reviewed myself since I'm not a fan of extreme photorealism in SL avatars personally. Check out this marketplace listing: https://marketplace.secondlife.com/p/Your-own-mesh-head-based-on-real-look/3808405?id=3808405&slug=Your-own-mesh-head-based-on-real-look
For a relatively low cost this person will make a custom mesh head based on your own face. Some people love the results and some people not so much, but if that's what you're after then it's absolutely worth trying.

melponeme_k

My own peeve about mesh avatars is the inability to customize.

But this looks cool, I'll have to check it out.

Dale Innis

What's the advantage of a mesh head? I mean, we all already have mesh heads :) with lots and lots of shape-customization options, makeups, textures, etc, etc (where "lots and lots" is in the many thousands at least).

What's the advantage of these other those?

Silverfox Rainbow

the thing that makes me giggle that for those who cant view mesh are gonna be seeing alot of headless avis walking around :D

Adeon Writer

I don't get "why are you wearing a box?" comments anymore, I think non-mesh seers are quite rare these days. Even moreso now that Phoenix is soon to kick the bucket.

Iris Ophelia

@Dale Ooohhh there are lots, but it sort of depends how hardcore/crazy you are about your aesthetic experience in SL, because for some people these things just won't matter that much and that's fine. In a lot of ways it's the same advantages that a pair of mesh pants offer over default slider-made pants, for example:

Mesh lets you have more natural looking shapes that aren't possible with SL's sliders, for example the lips, as well as just looking much better and more realistic all around because the mesh head has much much more detail modeled into it than the SL head does. This means it's also a lot less... janky looking, much like mesh hands are a vast improvement on vanilla hands for the same reason. As someone who has to photoshop my SL nose very often to keep it from looking like a wedge of broken pottery balanced in the middle of my face, Chloe's flawless model is a very welcome treat for me.

Mesh also allows you to potentially have much better texturing options. The default SL body has a lot of areas where textures smear and distort because of the way the avatar was modelled. The textures on your avatar can also only be so good, and the bar for those textures is much lower than the bar for textures on mesh. If you look at closeups of Chloe, especially around her mouth, you can see that the quality of the texturing is much higher than what's really even possible on a default avatar both in terms of quality/clarity and smudging/smearing.

More realistic expressions are another bonus. I've always found the SL face emotes a bit too extreme to be of much use in anything that isn't supposed to be overdone or comedic, so Chloe's subtler and more human expressions have been great for me.

Uccello Poultry

@Iris Thanks. I've seen that and I'm somewhat impressed, but with no skin matching it is virtually (pun intended) worthless to anyone that likes a plunging neckline or bikinis. What we really need, as I mentioned, is exported shapes subsequently imported as full avatars. One day, I'm sure.

ZZ Bottom

All i know is that, there are still 2 many not using mesh viewrrs that i have several prim outifts when i go anywhere, in case, like yesterday, that some says, hoo she is naked!
Besides, there are mesh and mesh!
I have mesh hairs that don't rezz good so many times and others that never had a single problem!
Now, mesh heads if done great, are any other option as mesh feet, mesh hair, mesh whatever!
And the fact that not quite so few, still don't see mesh does not make any difference to me, what really makes a hell of a difference is when SL just don't show to myslef, the mesh im wearing!

Dale Innis

Thanks, Iris, that makes sense! I just wish that meshes could have sliders the way AVs can. Maybe we'll get there at some point, and have the best (well, some of the best) of both...

Nexii Malthus

I'm sure I could come up with some solution to having morph sliders.

I have all the scripting whizz to pull off something incredible but I have no access to a basic mesh head unfortunately, to kick off such a project.

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