Thursday, March 28, 2013

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This Blender Plugin for Second Life Shapes Could Revolutionize Machinima (And Revitalize Your Avatar)

Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 12.52.09 PM
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Machinima-makers and hardcore avatar-customizers alike have a new toy to play with... Provided they aren't afraid to roll up their sleeves and dive into Blender to use it. The Avastar plugin (not to be confused with the old virtual world tabloid of the same name) allows you to import a mesh model of your Second Life avatar into Blender, fully rigged and ready to experiment on.

The plugin isn't free, but there are a ton of potential applications that make it well worth the $22 asking price, like...

This plugin would be great for serious machinima masters, since it would allow you to animate the avatar (particularly the face) with the same control as an animated 3D model rather than being held back by the limitations of the avatar in Second Life. It'd be a great way to infuse a little extra realism or style.

 

It's not exactly a perfect solution as you would have to dress and texture the avatar yourself rather than wearing a pre-existing Second Life wardrobe, but there are many 3D model marketplaces selling clothing and accessories that you could likely use instead. There are also several free skin templates available that could be used for basic texturing, including the Eloh Eliot skin used in the demonstration.

But here's the part that interests me more: I wonder if intrepid fashionistas couldn't use Avastar to alter their existing SL shape into something slightly (or significantly) superior. With the rigging intact you could theoretically fix the avatar's hands, feet, and all those other awkward spots on the default Second Life avatar--even give yourself a gorgeous mesh face that's uniquely yours--before re-uploading the shape as a rigged mesh avatar. Again you would need to do the skin texturing yourself, but mesh clothing that fits your own avatar without relying too heavily on alpha layers (which, like SL skins, can't be worn over an attached mesh body) should fit the new model like a glove.

I'm not quite adventurous enough to try it out myself, but if you are please let me know! I'd love to see a resident take on the age-old issue of updating SL's tired old avs. You can find out more about it or buy the plugin for yourself here.

(Hat tip to Richard/dexterity00)

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Mixed reality iris 2013Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, 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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Cube Republic

The inworld support group for this is amazing too, really helpful bunch.

Marx Catteneo

I've had a good look at their site but the claim that it could animate an avatar's face without SL limitations is a bit less promising than it looked to me in the article. It can do keyframe animations between the 20 SL face expression but only play those in Blender not in SL. So if one wanted to use it in an SL machinima that would be impossible it seems (unless you got for compositing/keying but that's hell when shooting in shadows). As i would love to see the facial expression feature i sure hope someone could point me to the right page showing it can be done ;)
BTW this program is feature packed as it is so it looks like being well worth the money without the face expressions export to SL and it looks like it can solve some other machinima related problems for me. Time to dive into Blender...

Renmiri Writer

I used avastar before, it is not as easy as it looks

Gaia Clary

Hey;

About face expressions: Second Life does not support the animation of face expressions. However we have implemented this feature for Blender only in the hope that some day Linden Lab will improve their capabilities in this area as well. In the meantime you indeed need compositing for using it with Second Life based Machinima.

About ease of use: We currently put a lot of effort into our Documentation to give recommendations for workflows. That should help a lot to get users started. However the entire topic is really complex and you need a few skills to become a master. But i believe that Avastar can make novice and professional users much more efficient once all workflows have been sorted out.

cheers,
Gaia

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