On the Cover of the Redeye


RedeyeLuckily a friend of mine noticed my familiar face on the cover of the Tribune’s daily rag whilst on the train yesterday so i could hurriedly rush out of the house and grab one of the few remaining papers. Fortunately the Redeye now puts a PDF version on their Web site as well.

Creating a Complete Avatar (Part 2)


On to the clothing! Now that we’ve got the skin taken care of, we’re going to dress Sir Arthur up in some Late Victorian duds. (In case you’re just tuning in, be sure to read Part One.

step 18Ok, actually I first threw together a very simple body skin, primarily to allow for a smooth texture transition between the head and neck textures. This simple skin was combination of shading baked in modo, a color layer in Photoshop, and a layer with a little bit of noise in it for texture.

The Vest

step 19step 20Moving into modo I took my model, which already contained the SL template, and mapped my new basic skin on top of it. I then used modo’s fantastic painting tools to draw a rough outline for Sir Arthur’s shirt and vest.

step 21Back in Photoshop I used the pen tool to create paths based on the drawing of the vest/shirt I created in modo. Photoshop paths are one of the most important tools in your SL clothing and avatar creation toolbox because they can be used to create easily modifiable vector masks. If you’ve never used vector masks before, I urge you to do a Google search for some tutorials or check out your Photoshop manual. I’ve threatened before to release a set of vector masks I use for clothing and I promise I will very soon.

step 22I create the patterns for my clothing using the entire space of the image and then use vector masks to mask out an area for a specific part of the garment. You can easily move and modify vector masks to tweak your designs. For example the texture for Sir Arthur’s woolen jacket vest was created using a couple different patterns, colors, and textures (I keep these in a layer group in Photoshop so they can be easily tweaked as well). I then applied the vector mask to give me the vest shape. Next I updated my map in modo to see how it looked on the default avatar shape. Looked pretty good.

step 24But as you can see from these two screenshots of the shoulder area, just because it looks good on the default avatar mesh, doesn’t mean that once you customize the avatar in SL. The first screenshot is from modo and the second from the SL client.

step 25Notice the distortion in the texture caused by changes I made to the avatar to give Sir Arthur his unique, portly shape. This is very difficult to get around; not impossible, mind you, but very time consuming. I would need to grab the mesh from Second Life using something like OGLE, bring it into modo, recreate the UV maps, and match the vest using the new UVs.

The Jacket

step 26step 27step 28step 30Next I followed a similar process to create the jacket: sketched overtop the vest in modo and then created paths in Photoshop. The second screenshot gives you an idea of the vector masks used for this clothing. Another nice thing about using vector masks is that you can use Photoshop’s layer styles. In this case I’m using a little bit of Drop Shadow to raise the lapels a bit off of the jacket.

step 29This is a detail closeup of the button I created; I’m using two layer styles: some Outer Glow for the black surrounding the button to give it some depth and Satin which added a nice reflective shadow across the button diagonally.

step 31This is an example of the type of texture asset I have lots of. I composited this greyscale image of satin folds onto the jacket to give it a bit of frump, especially in the mid-section where Sir Arthur bulges a bit.

step 32The final texture with a shot of all the paths used for vector masks. The current selection in the image (the marquee) comprise all of the pieces of the jacket.


step 33step 34With the jacket finished I moved onto the shoes which, as you can see, were constructed in Second Life using a variety of different prims. Over the years while working on various projects in Second Life I’ve collected quite a few of what I like to call “pieces parts” — basically different prim shapes achieved through experimentation that I thought my come in handy later on. Whenever I’m attempting to construct something complex I usually pull out this collection of crazy prims to help achieve whatever shape I’m looking for. The texture in the above screenshot was a reference image that helped me create the texture for the shoes. It also allowed me to use only one single texture file (.TGA) for the entire shoe, thus reducing the bandwidth needed and time taken to see the shoes. So that’s 20 or so prims and only one texture.


step 35I also created a book for Sir Arthur to hold by whipping up a fake book cover of the The Red Headed League and creating a “book holding” animation in Poser. And, just for fun, I added the entire text of the Sherlock Holmes’ story “The Red Headed League” to a notecard and put it into the contents of the book prim. And, yes, the story is public domain, so perfectly above board to do so. I’m not sure if my client has noticed it’s there yet, but someday it will be a fun surprise (unless he reads this and I’ve just ruined it!).

step 36Well, that’s all I’ve got for this overview of my process for creating a complete avatar. I’m hoping it’s given you some inspiration and maybe some hints for creating your own avatars. If you’ve got any questions, feel free to email me, and I’ll do my best to answer them. And if you’ve got any other ideas you’d like me to explore further, let me know.

Human-Avatar Interaction


I recently spent a couple of hours in Second Life attending a Caroline’s grand re-opening party. This was the longest stretch of time (about 3 hours) I had been in world in quite a while. Apart from the occasional customer service issue which requires me to jump in world, I don’t visit SL much any more. I’ll have more thoughts in a post marking my 5 year rez-day in a couple of weeks.

At the party eveyone was dancing and there was a central “dance ball” that anyone could touch that would animate his/her avatar. The dances were nothing to write home about—I recognized many bits and pieces that were ripped straight from old Poser 4 (I think it was 4) stock animation and combined with other “found” animation. (Test animations I had uploaded during the 1.4 Preview back in June 2004, if that tells you anything). Other individuals had a variety of different dance animations, some of which I really liked.

While everyone dancing together and listening to the same music/dj is great fun, the only difference between last week’s experience and parties we had in 2003 was the scripted dance animation. Don’t get me wrong, I think animation is great and SL 1.4 was probably one of the most exciting releases to date. And while there are advantages to pre-scripted animation allowing everyone to type and chat, I really longed for more direct interaction.

As chance would have it I was alerted to two bits of info last week which seemed to provide a possible solution to my desire for more direct human-avatar interaction. The first was a tweet from Lordfly about a project that was started back in 2006 by a dev team at LL (Cube Linden, Aura Linden, and Ventrella Linden) called Avatar Puppeteering. Please do check out some of the videos on the site for a working example of puppeteering in action. The project certainly showed a lot of promise. That is, before it was put on indefinite hold so that the team members could work on “viewer stability, bug fixing, and performance” issues. Tateru over at Massively has done a little digging and found out that Ventrella (and, yes, he was responsible for flexi-prims) left LL last year. Her conclusion is that this project has suffered perma-death.

Which is unfortunate because Mitch Kapor, LL’s Chairman, seems to have become interested in human-avatar interaction himself. According to this article Kapor and developer Philippe Bossut have been developing a hands-free, camera-based interface for Second Life. You can visit Kapor’s site to view a demonstration.

Given these projects and the success of accelerometer-based interaction of the Nintendo Wii and Apple iPhone and camera-based interaction like Sony’s Eye-Toy, some form of more advanced human-avatar interaction is coming. Will it come from Linden Lab? I wouldn’t get your hopes up.

New Translations


I receive many requests for my tutorials translated into different languages, and because I only speak one fluently, many helpful people have provided translations. Many thanks to the translators, I know the Second Life community thanks you greatly (I do too!).

Many thanks to Anastasia Riederer (SL), Gary Yu, and Howard Sachs (SL). More translations will be coming soon, including Spanish and Italian!