Vero Modero – Boho Set in Rose

•June 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

As you can tell from this site, I’m not much of a blogger, especially when it comes to fashion blogging.  I recently had to provide some new photos for an agency I belong to, and recently got myself a new skin as well.  For my new look, I decided to go shopping for something that caught my eye.  I ended up at Vero Modero, one of my favorite stores.  I’ve done shows for them in the past.

I tend to gravitate to casual clothes.  The Boho set in rose caught my eye.  It’s a rigged mesh short tunic.  I love the rose patterns in the skirt.  It’s a pretty risque outfit.  If one is not careful you can easily have a “wardrobe malfunction”.  I treated myself to a new hairdo: EMO-tions Celine II and picked up a new pair of sandals: Pure Poison Magda sandals in lime.  They match the belt that comes with the dress.

I have to say, this outfit is a definite magnet for the guys.  In my first 15 minutes at Fogbound Blues club, I got hit on 3 times.  I love this outfit.

The only downside is a common problem with all rigged mesh, but especially problematic here.  Most rigged mesh comes with an alpha layer to prevent underlying body parts from bleeding through.  The top of this dress is semi transparent, so you can’t wear an alpha with it.  It’s meant to have body parts (nips, etc) showing through.  The result is that many animations cause torso and arm parts to pop through.  Using a size up from your shape can help with that but doesn’t totally eliminate it.  If you can live with that and otherwise enjoy being a magnet for guys, this is a great dress.

Image Modero

Advertisements

TOWARD MINIMIZING SCRIPT USE TIME

•November 25, 2012 • Leave a Comment

INTRODUCTION

In my previous blog, I looked at the typical total script time used by attachments worn by avatars in a region.  As I mentioned there, monitoring script time is more important that monitoring the number of scripts although the two measures are correlated.

In this installation, I’ll look at various sources that contribute to script time.  First, we need a tool that allows us to measure our script time.  I looked at several on the SLMarketplace.  The one I like the best can be gotten for free at https://marketplace.secondlife.com/p/Script-Usage-Meters-MP-Series/2704917.  It’s called the Script Usage Meter.  There are several versions of it.  I like the MP version since it allows you to wear it as a HUD.  For each avatar in the region, it looks at all attachments and HUD’s and reports the number of scripts in them, how much sim memory they are using and, most importantly, the average script time being used.  It is updated every 30 seconds or so.

It’s a great tool if you want to monitor what everyone’s script usage is in the region.  It also has various options, available by touching it, including the ability to report your own usage, which is what I was interested in for this article.

For this article, I wanted to look at the script time contribution of various specific attachments.  The most reliable way to do that is to remove ALL attachments and HUD’s you may be wearing.  That is, when you look at your own statistics, the number of scripts should be zero.  You can accomplish this by just wearing system clothes with no attachments.  If you are using a viewer with a bridge, like Firestone, make sure to detach that also by navigating to it in your inventory.

Now just add the attachment you want to look at.  Wait a minute or two for the Meter to update and stabilize on a particular value.  I’ve found that it sometimes takes about 3 minutes for reported times to stabilize.

You may ask, “Why can’t I just add the new attachment to those I’m already wearing and just take the difference of the two measurements?”  Well you could.  But if those other scripts have events occasionally kicking in, they could use script time now and again.  So could end up with measures that are contaminated by the variability in what you are wearing.  So better to take it all off and just add what you want to measure, one at a time.

I took a look at 4 classes of typical attachments: hair, shoes, jewelry, and ao’s & posing huds.  Since I found the same script use patterns in hair, shoes, jewelry and other clothing items, I’ll lump those together.  Ao’s and posing HUD’s I will address separately, since they function somewhat differently.

ATTACHMENTS & ACCESSORIES

The first group, the body and clothing attachments and accessories, very often come with scripts that allow the user to resize the item and perhaps retexture or recolor some of the components.  Some may allow you to show or hide certain parts of the object.

In the early days of SL, these types of scripts were not commonly used.  A modifiable object could easily be resized and recolored or retextured by the user in edit mode.  This allowed a lot of flexibility and kept script use to a minimum.  Many of my older shoes and hair allow this.

However, many designers did not like users changing their creations even if it was not possible for them to resell the items.  To keep creative control, they made their objects non-modifiable and included scripts to allow resizing and recoloring within a limited range.

There seem to be a couple of approaches to accomplishing this.  Some creators put a script in EVERY prim that has to be changed which are then controlled by a master script.  Some even have a script for every type of thing they want to change.  It’s not unusual for items like this to have hundreds of scripts.  As I mentioned in my previous blog, each script uses a minimal amount of script time just to monitor for events and other housekeeping.  It’s not unusual for items like this to be using in the neighborhood of 0.250 milliseconds of sim time per frame.  So one item like this could put you in the 90th percentile of typical script use time (see previous blog).

Designers that take the above approach don’t realize there is no need to do this.  Most of the same functionality could be accomplished with one well written script.  SL provides a scripting function called llSetLinkPrimitiveParamsFast that allows the scripter to control most aspects of a link set from one script.  Objects that use this approach will contribute in the neighborhood of 0.001 to 0.005 milliseconds of sim time per frame.  Many creators are moving in this direction.

Some designers who are wedded to using the multiple script approach are at least including a menu function that allows the user to delete all the scripts in the object once all modifications have been made.  I found that this does not always do what is advertised … some scripts often remain.  And, you have to be careful to do this on a copy of the object since you lose the ability for further modifications once you remove the scripts.

So if you are monitoring your script use with the script meter and see your script times way up there, start taking off items and see how it affects script time.  Jewelry is a big offender since it tends to have many prim in a link set.   Hair and shoes can also be problematic.  Sometimes I have to take it all off and just add one item at a time to see what it adds.

AO’S AND POSING HUDS

For all the hype about removing AO’s at events, I found AO’s and posing HUD’s to contribute minimally to script time usage.  This was surprising to me.  As a scripter I know that such items often are executing code multiple times a second.

I looked at 8 commonly used AO’s: Huddles EZ animator, Abrimations Fem AO, Franimation v1-7, AutoZHAO-II,HJAO Basic, Oracul, SE Motions, Vista-ZHA.  The EZ Animator includes many extra features and has many scripts in it.  Not unexpectedly, it used the most script time: 0.070 ms.  Even that is only about a third of what is contributed by some hair and jewelry.  The others were in the 0.015 to 0.030 ms range.

Many models use multifunction posing HUDS on the runway.  These often combine a pose player with a modified AO that serves as a walk replacer.  I looked at: The Balut Runway HUD, the Huddles Catwalk, the BehaviorBody WO Catwalk Series I, and the NYU Concepts HUD.  These were in the same range as the AO’s above.

Some models use a walk replacer along with a dedicated posing HUD for their poses.  I looked at the Balut EasyPose, Balut Posing Matrix, Huddles Quickpose.  These used very little script time, generally in the 0.001 to 0.009 ms range.  Having created a couple of these, I know why.  Unlike the others mentioned above, they do not contain an AO component to handle the walk.  It’s generally the part of the script that handles walking that uses most of the script time.

This is borne out by looking at HUDs or attachments that function solely as walk replacers.  The Balut Multi-Walk Replacer is a good example.  It’s really a stripped down version of an AO that handles just the walk animation state.  It contributes 0.015 ms of script time, at the low end of the AO’s described above.

Many models use a walk replacer and play their poses manually or via a posing HUD.  Most of these walk replacers are really just AO’s that have configured just the walk part of the AO in the set up notecard.  People who use a walk replacer like this and play their poses manually, contribute about the same amount of script time as someone using a full AO.  Those that use a walk replacer along with an additional posing HUD are actually contributing more script time than those using a full featured posing HUD.  I am most familiar with the Balut Runway HUD since I created it.  It contributes 0.014 ms of script time per frame.  This is about the same as using just a walk replacer alone.

Someone gave me a copy of something called Walk Replacer which apparently is given out by Avenue in its modeling school.  It’s a simple walk replacer worn as an attachment on the body, not as a HUD.  It was the most efficient of the simple walk replacers, 0.001 ms.

So what should script conscious models make of all this?  If you want to use a scripted HUD or attachment to control your runway walk, using a full-featured HUD is about the same as just using a walk replacer and certainly better than a walk replacer combined with a pose player, but we’re talking script times in the neighborhood of 0.014 to 0.05 ms here, a small fraction of what is contributed by just one poorly designed hairdo.

My point here is, don’t feel guilty about using a walk replacer even combined with your favorite posing HUD.  It’s no big deal.

But if you are obsessed with eliminating every iota of script time from the show what can you do?  The (Avenue) Walk Replacer or the AO built in to many viewers like Firestorm contribute little or no script time.  Use that along with playing your poses manually.

CONCLUSIONS

Badly scripted attachments with many scripts like many hairs, jewelry, shoes or clothing are the items that contribute the most script time use to a sim.  Concentrate on removing those scripts or avoiding those items and your contribution will likely be below the 50th percentile.  Asking people to remove AO’s or banning the use of posing HUD’s does not give much return for the extra hassle they cause.  One badly scripted hairdo will contribute the same script use time that 15 AO’s or full featured modeling HUDs will contribute.

Avatar Script Use Patterns in Secondlife

•November 18, 2012 • Leave a Comment

INTRODUCTION

There are many factors that contribute to sever side lag in SecondLife.  One of them is the amount of time consumed executing all the scripts in the region.  It’s not unusual for scripts to take up half of the total processing time, most of it from scripts in static or moving objects rezzed in the region.

As you may know, the sim attempts to run at 45 frames per second.  This means that each frame has 22.2 milliseconds to execute all that it can in that time slice.  If there is too much for the sim to get done during that time, it slows down apparent time to give itself more time.  This is measured by time dilation in the statistics panel (Ctrl-shft-1).  A time dilation of 0.75 means that one second of real time looks like ¾ second in SecondLife.  SecondLife is going slower than real life.

It’s not unusual for scripts to take up close to half of the 22.2 milliseconds in a frame.  Sim and land owners can reduce this by minimizing the number of objects with scripts and also minimizing the time used by them.

Region owners have also become more conscious recently about reducing the scripts used in the attachments of all the avatars in the region.  It’s fairly common these days for most attachments to have resizer or texture changing scripts.  This can contribute significantly to script time that must be processed by the sim. 

I’ve become interested in this and decided to study it.  I’ll break my study into 2 separate blog entries.  This one covers the results of a study I did on typical patterns of script use in attachments worn by avatars.  The second entry will focus more on what to do to reduce script time use.

Many people focus on the NUMBER of scripts in attachments worn by avatars in a region.  There is some correlation between number of scripts and the time used. The more scripts the more likely more time will be used.

SL scripts are event based.  They mostly sit around waiting for an event to occur which triggers the execution of a snippet of code.  Each script carries a base use time just to monitor if events are happening so the number of scripts does matter somewhat. 

However, the important thing is really what those scripts are doing    Although there is overhead in monitoring for events, most of the time used by a scripts comes from what the script does when an event is triggered.  It’s the time spent in code execution that matters.  One can have many scripts that are just sitting around that will use less time than a few scripts executing a lot of code.

THE METHODOLOGY (The geek stuff)

So for this study, I wanted to monitor the script time used by the attachments worn by each avatar in a region.  My aim was to get a valid sample of how much time is typically used and how that varies.

The SL scripting language provides a function called llGetObjectDetails which allows someone to monitor all the avatars in a region and get the number of scripts they are wearing, how much memory they are using and how much average execution time are they taking.  I made a HUD, that when activated, would measure average script time per frame for each avatar in a region, making sure to only count an avatar no more than once a day.  The owner of the HUD was excluded from measurement.

My aim was to produce a histogram or frequency distribution.  I broke up the range from 0 to 1.275 milliseconds into 50 slices and had the HUD count the number of avatars whose script time fell into each slice.  For example, the time slice labeled 0.025 held that number of avatars whose script time fell between 0.0 and 0.025 milliseconds within the first 3 minutes they were encountered in a given day.  No avatar was counted more than once a day and the HUD owner was excluded from the count.

I asked 16 people plus myself to wear it around for about a week and send me the results.  All total, I ended up with a sample of 6284.  

RESULTS (More geek stuff)

The results are in the following table:

Image

     

Table 1

The first column represents 50 times slices that will make up the X axis of the charts below.  A given row represents the time slice (in micro seconds, thousandths of a millisecond) between that time and the one below it.  For example, the row labeled 100 will contain data between 75 and 100 microseconds (0.075 – 0.100 milliseconds).  The second column is the percent of the sample that fell within the particular range.  The third column represents the cumulative percent, the percent of the sample falling at that value and below.

The next 2 graphs are the plots of the data in column 2 and 3 respectively using column 1 as the X axis. 

Image 

                                                                                Figure 1

 Image

                                                                                Figure 2

INTERPRETATION

Figure 1 is a frequency distribution.  Each bar represents the percent of avatars within that range.  It is skewed in a way that is typical of statistics that measure time.  Most avatars have fairly low script times.  A few have high script times.

Figure 2 is a cumulative frequency distribution.  Each bar represents the percent of avatars in that range and below.  The cumulative statistics are more useful for our purposes.

Here are a few useful points to focus on:

About 50 % of avatars have script use times at or below 0.075 millseconds.  This is the median time.

About 80% of avatars have script use times at or below 0.175 milliseconds.  If we wanted to advise people about high script use, a common practice would be to focus on the 20% who have the highest times.  We could send out notices to everyone above 0.175 milliseconds to catch that top 20 %.

If we wanted to be a bit more forgiving and focus on the top 10%, we would pick 0.250 milliseconds as the threshold.

The top 5% falls at the 0.350 millisecond threshold.

The top 1% falls at the 0.625 millisecond threshold.

By the way, the average time in this study was 0.129 milliseconds.  So on a sim with 50 avatars, we could expect that 50 * 0.129 = 6.45 milliseconds of script time would be used by the attachments worn by avatars during each sim frame.  This could represent a third to a half of all the script time being used on the sim.

In my next installment, I’ll focus on how people can find out what their script use is, and what are the common offenders in typical attachments worn.  Using these statistics, I also plan to create an object that will monitor script use on a sim and optionally advise people who are high users and perhaps even eject them from the region.  More to come …

The Dark Side of SL and SL Modeling

•July 1, 2010 • 2 Comments

This is the text of a talk I gave at Model’s Wrokshop on 6/21/10

*****************

As the title of this talk suggests, I’ll be talking about a number of things that are not talked about very much in SL, the so called dark side of being here.  I think these things really need to be talked about and I’ll be highlighting some of them here today.  Some of this may make you feel uncomfortable.  But if you stick with me, you’ll find that this talk is really about finding balance in your life.

We hear a lot about what attracts us here.  When I first joined SL over 3 years ago, I was immediately enthralled by this amazing virtual world that had been created by the Lindens and the “residents” who “lived” here.  I was in awe of the creativity I found here.

One of my RL mottoes is that “Life is not worth living unless I learn something new each day”.  SL certainly presented me with lots to learn.  I wanted to learn how to make some of the things I saw here.  I wanted to push my poorly developed artistic skills.  I wanted to learn how to write the scripts that made things work.  I wanted to learn how to animate avatars.  I wanted to learn how this complex system that is SL worked.  And, although I’ve learned a lot in the last 3 years, I still feel like there is so much to learn.

In my second year I began to see SL as a great laboratory to explore different ways of being.  I am not a model in RL nor will I ever be.  I never had much training or inclination toward fashion or the fashion industry.  But deep down inside me there was this fantasy of being a model.  I saw SL as a fairly safe way to role play that and thereby fulfill a fantasy.

I’ve met many people along the way, many of whom seemed to have other motives for being here.  Some seemed to treat this as a business, a way to make money.  Others seemed to be attracted by the social networking or to the entertainment.  Some seemed to be trying to fill gaps in their RL relationships or perhaps even were on the hunt to find a RL mate here.  Some seemed to be trying to live out their sexual fantasies.  Some had philantropic interests.  Many others seemed to be using it like me as an outlet for their creativity.

I’ve made many friends along the way.  Most people I’ve met here have been truly nice people.  SL certainly is a great medium to socialize, network and just plain have fun with others.  SL allows us to expand our social network and literally have friends all over the world.

What attracts you to SecondLife?  Why do you spend your time here?

This is truly a phenomenal virtual world.  Our avatars obey different laws of physics.  Our avatars may be surrounded by objects that we would never see in the real world.  We may be able to do a lot of things we cannot do in RL, like teleporting.  Wouldn’t we all like to be able to teleport in RL?

Despite these differences between RL and SL, there are a many ways in which the two worlds and our way of being in them are very similar.

I’ve found that the way we interact socially with other avatars in SL is really pretty much the same as RL.  Our SL personalities and the way we interact with others is not that much different from RL even if we are role playing here.  If we are disorganized in RL we will likely be disorganized here. 

If we are dishonest in RL we are likely to be dishonest here.  If we are passionate and reliable in our RL work, we are likely to be the same here.  If we are drawn to drama in RL, we will be drawn to it here too.  We are likely to have the same social problems here as we do in RL.

The nice thing about SL is that it provides a laboratory for us to learn how to overcome the shortcomings of our RL personality, if we are open to it.  No one is going to cause us physical harm here.  If you blow a relationship or get a bad reputation, you can always just reappear and start over as another avatar.

I see all of these things as positive.  If we keep it all in perspective, SL offers a great medium in which to explore, learn, grow or just plain have fun.

Despite all these positives, I’ve come to find that SL also has its dark side, and there are dark aspects to the SL world of fashion modeling as well.  SL can be the source of a lot of pleasure, but also can be the cause of a lot of pain.

No matter who our avatar is in SL or the role it plays here, at the end of the RL day we are in reality just a bunch of people sitting in front of a computer absorbed in this imaginary virtual world.  We are able to do this because of the phenomenal human capacity for imagination. 

The power of SL derives from the fact that we are not just absorbed in our private imaginary world, like we do when we daydream.  This is a collective imaginary world where we use real world skills to interact with others also absorbed in this imaginary world.  It’s like we are absorbed in an interactive movie where we can have a small say in how it turns out.

My point here is that SL fosters the blurring of lines between our real world and this imaginary world.  It is easy to lose perspective here and to start thinking that SL is just as real as RL.  I see this loss of perspective between our real lives and our virtual lives as the source of a series of problems and pitfalls.  It is easy to lose your soul to the dark side of the SL force.  Let me elaborate on this.

The appeal of SL is quite great for many of us, as I mentioned above.  However, addiction to SL can be a major problem. 

I know some people who spend most of their waking days here.  I know some who have ruined their relationship with their spouse or paramour by spending too much time here.  I have heard a number of people annoyed at their crying child whose need for mommy’s attention detracts from mommy’s SL time.  I myself have been irritated by those in my RL environment who “interrupt” something that was pressing for my SL attention. 

I’ve seen many people who continued to be in SL despite being sick with a fever and who probably should have been in bed resting.  I’ve seen others whose RL school work or employment were negatively affected because of the time they spent here.  I’ve seen people bury themselves in SL so much that their social life suffers. 

How many of us have stayed up way too late absorbed in SL only to drag our way through our next RL day?  How many times have you been doing something in RL only to find a good part of your mind still absorbed in SL?

So, how do you know if you’re addicted to SL?

The American Psychiatric Association defines an addiction to a drug or activity as follows (paraphrasing):
1)The need for increasing amounts of it to achieve the desired effects.
2)Withdrawal symptoms when you don’t have it or do it.
3)You find yourself doing it more than you originally intended.
4)Unsuccessful attempts to cut down.
5)It consumes a great deal of your time
6)Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up, reduced or negatively impacted because of it.
7)Use continues despite the realization that it is likely causing you significant physical or psychological problems.

At the root of an addiction is the seeking of short term pleasure or avoidance of pain at the expense of longer term negative effects. 

SL is certainly very appealing and provides lots of opportunity for various kinds of pleasure like we talked about above.  But, what is the long term cost it is having on you?  Is your RL being negatively impacted because of your time in SL?  Are you using SL as an escape to avoid having to deal with some aspect of your RL that is painful?

Let’s talk a bit about money.

We have all heard the famous saying that “money is the root of all evil”.  How does the SL economy relate to how and why you are here?

Some people earn their RL living in SL, making enough money to live on in RL.  Those folks are rare.  They of course treat SL as a business with all the things that go with that.

Others can translate some of their SL earnings into RL earnings but still can’t “quit their day job.”  SL provides supplementary income.  Some of the owners of bigger stores or malls or multiple sims may be in this position.

Others earn enough to pay for the things they want to buy in SL without having to take out the  RL credit card.

Others, and probably most people, have to invest RL money to keep “playing the game”.

What is your net income in SL?  Are you making money and how does that affect how you behave here?  I would expect that you take SL a lot more seriously if this is a part of your RL income.  How does money affect how you interact with others here?

Are you putting in your RL money here?  If so, how much?  Are you putting in more than you really can afford?

Let’s talk about relationships.

Although our SL relationships can be very rewarding, just as in RL, they can also be very painful.  Our relationships here are not that much different from our RL relationships.  We will often find ourselves repeating the same painful scenarios that we play out in RL.  As I mentioned above, hopefully SL can be a laboratory for learning how to do that differently.  Many times it is not and we merely find ourselves making the same interpersonal mistakes as we do in RL.

However, SL poses its own set of challenges with relationships.

Most interactions in SL are via text chat.  A few are in voice.  In text chat, we are not privy to most of the information we have when we are face to face with someone in RL.  We cannot tell their tone of voice or the expression on their face.  Voice chat adds tone of voice information but still misses visual information. 

It’s hard enough to communicate in RL.  In SL effective communication is 10 times more difficult.  Factor in the fact that you are often talking with someone whose native language is not the same as yours and who comes from a different culture, and it becomes even more difficult.  Perhaps you are both trying to converse in a language that is not native to either of you. 

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten into difficulties with people because of communication problems and how much time I’ve spent trying to correct miscommunications.

Communicating here can be stressful in other ways.  Multitasking by trying to talk with a number of people simultaneously can  be quite stressful.  And because of chat lag, you are almost always one sentence behind in what you are addressing.  Voice chat is like a bunch of people trying to talk to each other while blindfolded.

If you’re hoping that communicating with others here will be a peaceful get away, you may just find yourself being more stressed out at the end of the day.

Some people develop romantic or other close relationships in SL.  Some people even seem to be trying to find a RL mate in SL.  Any relationship in SL is going to be very restricted.  You may be very attracted to the other person, but you are totally unable to feel or smell him or her.  Any caressing or hand holding will be entirely in imagination.

I’ve known some people who move far distances to be closer to their SL lover only to have it not work out and be terribly hurt.  SL can be a dating service but you have to be very careful.

I’ve seen a number of friends here who have had their SL “marriage” end up in a “divorce”.  Although there may not be as many legal repercussions to SL divorces, I’ve found that the emotional repercussions are often no less intense.  People can be terribly hurt when SL romances break up.

Others have gotten involved in SL romances while they are in a RL marriage or relationship.  Although some partners are tolerant of this, many are not.  Pursuing SL romances or sexual affairs can cause as much damage to your RL relationship as if the affair were in RL.  You have to ask yourself why you need to be doing this.

If you are a person in RL who takes what s/he does seriously, you are likely to take your work, relationships just as seriously in SL. 

If you have a tendency to take on too much and burn your self out in RL, you are likely to do the same in SL.  If a mood disorder or seasonal affective disorder or just plain PMS causes you problems in RL, they are likely to be carried into your SL experience.

Last year, I was in a contest that was very competitive.  I had invested a ton of time into preparing for that contest both in styling as well as my runway routine.

At the time of the contest, the show organizers jacked up the max avatar count on the sim to 70 thereby causing lag to fluctuate widely and unpredictably.  My walk was a total disaster because of that and all my practice time had been for naught. 

I was furious at them for introducing this unfair “at the mercy of unpredictable and variable lag” factor into what should have been a fair contest with everyone on the same level playing field.  I reacted by giving the show organizers a good piece of my mind.

In retrospect, I feel I overreacted to the situation.  I got over involved in what I was doing, got myself over tired and stressed out and lost perspective that my not placing in this contest had absolutely no effect whatsoever on my real life.  I’ve seen many other instances of this happening to people and have a few others of my own.  In all cases, we were taking this far more seriously than what it is and confusing SL with RL. 

I’ve experienced other instances like this where I’ve gotten into major conflicts with someone else.  I’ve born the brunt of other people “losing it” with me even though I kept my cool.  I’ve seen friends in arguments of a similar nature.  In my case, these all occurred when I was taking my SL experience way more serious than I should, had taken on too much and felt stressed out, had had to deal with too many people wanting something from me, was possibly in a bad state because of something in RL, or possibly it was just a bad time of year or month, or any combination of the above.

Every case was quite painful and bothered me for days and from what I witnessed of others, it seemed to be equally painful to them.  In each one,  SL seemed to become more real or seemed to have greater importance than it really should.  Reactions to SL events seemed almost the same as though they had occurred in RL.  The lines distinguishing the two worlds seemed to become quite blurred.

Have you experienced or witness anything like this yourself?

The fashion industry in SL also has its own dark side.  I’m sure those in other aspects of the industry can talk about many more than I’ll mention here.  I’ll focus on some of the things that pertain to modeling.

There is a clear pecking order in the fashion industry.  The designers are at the top of that order, the modeling agencies in the middle and the models at the bottom.  Models are often reminded that they are no more than fancy coat hangers on which to display the creations of the designers.

Models are often reminded of how they are suppose to behave with the admonition, sometimes explicitly stated but often implied, that agency heads and designers talk among themselves and if they get a “bad reputation” they will never get work.  On the other hand, it’s considered “unprofessional” for models to do the same about agencies or designers.

I’ve heard a number of speeches on how designers and models should work together.  Most of these, even by other models, take the form of advising models how they should behave. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone from the designer’s or agency’s side ask a model for their input on how to best display an outfit.  I often voice my opinion in a collaborative manner, but I’m rarely asked for it.

How many models here would risk voicing the request (not so bluntly stated) “Please get the outfit to me with ample time so I can present it the best I can.  My time is limited and valuable too.” 

How many models would say to a designer “Please give me some idea of what you want me to wear out of all these options for this outfit.” 

Or, “because you attach the skirt to the spine rather than the pelvis is does not move properly and looks weird when I pose.” 

How many here would be willing to say to a show director (again hopefully not so bluntly) “Please get your act together with this show and stop wasting my time.”  Etc. Etc. Etc.

I don’t want to imply that these attitudes are maliciously held in any way.  Most designers and agency directors that I know are extremely dedicated, competent, hard working and creative people who treat the people who work for or with them with utmost respect and support.  I am also aware that many models are unreliable in their commitments, create destructive drama and whose behavior would be considered unprofessional in any world.

My only point here is that the pecking order in SL fashion is quite real.  In any hierarchy of power, those at the bottom are usually more fearful of speaking what is really on their mind than those above them.  In fact the whole culture keeps them in their place.  Those at the top are thereby insulated from important feedback about how they are behaving or how they could improve what they’re doing.  It’s the same in RL.

The strange thing about all this in SL is that the real people behind the role playing avatars may be quite the opposite.  The “lowly” SL model may be an older intelligent successful professional in real life, while the one role playing a director or designer may be much younger or with less education and RL experience.  But in SL it’s quite easy to get lost in the role.  If your SL role as a model places you at a different place in the power hierarchy than you are accustomed to in RL, it can be a source of tension for you.

There is a body of RL research on how one’s place in a power hierarchy affects one’s well being.  Those at the bottom are more prone to depression and to truly being abused, and more likely to suffer medical problems.  Could your role playing a SL model be having that affect on you?

Not unlike RL, the SL fashion industry is also prone to discrimination.  Your “look” has to correspond to what those higher up in the power hierarchy view as fashionable and in their mind be able to sell clothes. 

One of my friends here is a professional black woman in RL who chooses to maintain her racial identity in SL as a black avatar.  She tells me that she has often been advised that she would get further in this field if she presented a different avatar.

Many of you here know Musimba Yellowknife who chooses to play a furry.  Musimba is a talented, sociable, hard working person who takes SL modeling quite seriously.  I have seen him passed over for jobs because someone doesn’t think that furries will fit in with the “look” or the show.

I doubt that any of this amounts to mean spirited prejudice, and we all are chasing the elusive “look” as defined by someone who may employ us.  However, it can still be a source of frustration nonetheless.  Do you sell your soul to the fashion devil in order to get ahead?  At what cost?

There’s another insidious factor in the SL fashion industry.  The same is true about RL fashion. 

As I imply above, for the most part we are chasing an illusion.  What is the currently “in” way to look?  What’s going to attract attention and make everyone run to the stores to have to buy that “new look”.  Will you be seen as a hip and “with it” trend setter or as just an average nobody.  Who decides all this?  There is certainly no objective ruler to measure it.

Marketing hype certainly affects these opinions to some degree.  The fashion experts do to some degree.  Well respected celebrities do too.  Much of it is in the eye of the beholder however.

My point here is that the ground we are walking on in this industry is never very solid and is constantly shifting.  This constant sense of uncertainty with the accompanying pressure to be on top can be quite disconcerting.  It also creates a constant pressure to have to stay current with all the latest trends.  If you don’t, you’ll fall behind.

In modeling there is intense pressure to have all the best hair, jewelry, clothes, poses, etc.  How much time do you spend shopping in SL?  How much money do you spend at it?  Are you perhaps a shopaholic?  Is modeling perhaps driving you to spend more than you should?

The constant drive for perfection in an uncertain environment can take its toll on you.  Models are told they are always on display.  Your poses have to meet the highest standard, your attachments always have to be perfectly worn, your hair the latest styles, you need a boot fixer so you ankles don’t break your boots, etc., etc.

I ran into a friend at a club a while ago.  She was totally dressed down, about as casual as she could be, just one of the girls out on the town not needing to impress anyone.  She mentioned how she enjoyed just letting herself be and get away from this pressure.  I can totally empathize.

Fashion contests in SL can be quite challenging and exciting.  However, just like any competition, people only remember the winner and for not that long at that.  For every “winner” there are far many others who don’t make it to the top.  Can you handle the pressure of subjecting yourself to the fickled subjective scrutiny of others.  Can you handle losing?  What affect will all this have on your emotional state?

Modeling is very competitive.  Some people get off on the competitive aspect of modeling.  I’ve seen many models who express a determination to “make it to the top.”  I think that is part of the addictive nature of all this.  How will your sense of competition affect how you behave with others?  How will it drive you?  Even if you do “make it to the top”, what affect will all that have on your real life?

Do you really want to put all that energy into this in a virtual world?  What emotional cost will all this “chasing an illusion” have for you?

Most people who are involved in SL modeling want to “get work”.  They want to get hired by an agency or designer to actually model in some capacity.  They just don’t want to get together with a couple friends and play around.  This sets up other pitfalls for models.

For females, modeling is extremely competitive.  Female models are a dime a dozen with many proven experienced models to choose from.  For males, the competition is not as fierce but there are many less opportunities.

When I first started modeling two years ago, I graduated from three different highly respected schools before I even started looking for work.  Even then, getting my first job was an uphill battle. 

I had many rejections or “sorry we’re not hiring” responses.  There was always something that wasn’t right.  All of this can be quite discouraging and take an emotional toll on you.  I can’t tell you how many times I felt badly for several days.  I can’t tell you how much time and effort I put into learning all this.

My point here, is that the intense competition and the repeated failures can take an emotional toll on you.  Breaking into this field is not for the feint of heart or those with a fragile ego.  If you’re looking to modeling to help boost your self esteem, you may find the opposite actually happening.  And, you won’t get very far in this business unless you can withstand all that and keep plugging away.

Once you do finally get hired somewhere, you clearly are entering an employer / employee relationship.  It stops being something you do just for fun when you want to.  There are deadlines to meet and schedules that must be adhered to.

There is no model in SL who is more reliable than me.  I don’t commit to something unless I’m pretty sure I will be able to do it.  Once I commit, I rearrange anything in my RL to be sure I live up to my SL commitments.  I have never missed a show or practice.  When I’m working, I’m fully there and committed and willing to do anything to help the event succeed. 

I’m fairly lucky that my RL is stable and flexible enough to allow me to do this.  I’ve been lucky to not have unexpected RL things happen that interfere with these commitments. 

If your RL is more demanding of you or less stable and predictable, you may have difficulty living up to your “employment” expectations in SL.  Can you keep your SL commitments and at what cost to your RL?  Do you find yourself perhaps giving up sleep or having to rearrange your RL life too often to accommodate SL?  If you’re not “reliable”, it will affect your reputation and ability to get work.  Can  you keep the two worlds in balance?

Even if you do have the RL luxury and internal discipline to keep your commitments, it’s quite easy to run into another potential problem, burnout.  I alluded to this above.

For most activities we engage in, we have a limited amount of emotional or psychic energy for that activity.  If we are prevented or deprived of doing it for a while, we experience and urge or need to do it and are drawn to it.  We probably started from that position when we first got into modeling.  Working from that position is usually experienced as fun.

However, once you start having to fulfill commitments, you sometimes find yourself having to do it when you don’t quite feel like it.  You may be able to motivate yourself or otherwise get into it and still enjoy it.  Now it’s starting to feel more like work.

Working in SL fashion can be quite demanding.  There are always the deadlines, extra practices, designers who give you outfits at the last minute and expect miracles, and disorganized show directors who waste your time.  There are the demands to do extras like blog the outfit or show up at a show to support your fellow models.

There is a certain excitement to all this that many find attractive, a sort of adrenaline rush.  However it can also be quite exhausting.  It’s easy to over commit to doing too many things.  Once you find yourself running on empty, it clearly stops being fun.  You are in burn out mode.  That clearly takes an emotional and physical toll on you. 

Are you prone to over committing and perhaps burning yourself out?  How does that affect your RL?

Let me wrap up by trying to summarize what I’m trying to say here today.

SecondLife provides a wonderful virtual world where, via our avatar, we can play, socialize, learn and be creative.  It allows us to explore ways of being that we may never be able to be in real life.  In many respects it provides a needed escape or diversion from our real lives. 

However the way we approach real life, particularly how we approach work and relationships has a way of finding its way into our SL work and relationships.

If you are attracted to SL thinking you will escape from your RL, it is more likely that you will end up replaying your RL here.  There is the strong tendency that the lines between this virtual imaginary world and your real world will become blurred to the point of acting as though SL is more real, to the detriment of your RL.  It’s easy to lose perspective about what is more important.

Role playing a SL fashion model can be lots of fun and allow you to play out a long held fantasy and itself provide lots of opportunities to be creative, to learn new skills, and to make many friends.  However, it is not without its insidious dark side that can have profound affects on your well being and on your real life.

Remember, only real life is real.  Are you keeping a healthy balance between your RL and your imaginary SL life?  I certainly have to keep reminding myself of all that as I find myself being drawn into SL.  How about you?

Creating a shallow depth of field effect in SL

•February 15, 2010 • 1 Comment

One of my 2010 goals is to become a better SecondLife (SL) photographer particularly to create my own modeling photos. Most often that means keeping the focus on the model as oppose to the background. There are a lot of ways of doing that, but a common one used in RL photography is to use a shallow depth of field. That’s a photography term that describes the effect of having the background out of focus. Unfortunately, if you take a photo of a scene in SL, it is always with a deep depth of field where the background and foreground are equally in focus.

I’ve been spending a lot of time learning how to use Photoshop. I recently found a way to create a picture based on second life that can produce a shallow depth of field effect fairly easily. This works best if you do not put the model in the original picture but instead create the backdrop that you want, import it into your photo studio then photograph the model in the studio with the backdrop that you created. Here’s how I created the shallow depth of field backdrop. (This works on Windows. I’m not sure what the equivalent commands are on a Mac)

1) Take the picture of the scene you want for your backdrop.

2) Import the picture into your photo editor. In both Photoshop and GIMP it will become the background layer. This is what my original picture looked like. Notice both near and far parts of the scene are equally in focus.

3) Immediately make a duplicate layer from the background layer. In both GIMP and Photoshop, you do that by right clicking on the background layer in the layers panel and selecting “Duplicate Layer” from the drop down menu. The new layer will be placed above the original background layer by default.

4) Next apply a blur filter to that new layer.  In GIMP, your best option is Filters -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur from the top menu.   In Photoshop, I like Filter-> Blur -> Lens Blur better. In both cases you’ll have to experiment with the settings. (To undo what you just did, press Ctrl-Z.) The duplicate layer will now appear totally blurred.  You can also add more blur to the layer later if you want.

To make the distant parts of the picture out of focus, we want to allow the blur to show through for the distant parts, but then block it totally or partially from showing as we approach the near parts of the picture. We do this by applying a gradient to a mask in the duplicate layer.

A quick aside about masks. A mask is something you apply to a given layer to hide parts of that layer. What shows as white on the mask allows that part of the layer to show completely. What shows as black on the mask completely blocks that part of the layer from showing. If you were to apply a mask to a single layer, what is black on the mask will show as transparent on the layer. Grey parts of the mask allow those parts of the layer to partially show through.

4) Add a mask to the duplicate layer. You do that in GIMP by right clicking on the duplicate layer and selecting “Add Layer Mask”. Select white as the default color for the mask. In Photoshop, while the duplicate layer is active, you click on the little icon with the white dot at the bottom of the layers panel. In both cases a new white rectangular icon representing the mask appears to the right of the icon representing the layer.

5) Open the mask. In GIMP you right click on the mask icon and select “Edit Layer Mask”. You won’t see anything different but anything you do will be applied to the mask and not the layer itself. In Photoshop, you alt – click on the mask icon. The white mask shows on the main screen. It should be totally white at this point.

6) Activate the gradient tool from your tool box. (In GIMP, it’s called the Blend tool). Make sure the active foreground painting color is black and the background color is white. You will want to use a linear gradient, painting from foreground color to background color.

7) With the gradient (blend) tool active click on the bottom of the mask and drag up toward the top. While you drag, a line will appear. Try to keep it as vertical as possible. When you let go of the mouse, the mask should be black at the bottom and gradually move to white at the top. It should look like this in photoshop. In GIMP you will see the same thing in the mask icon.

8) Unselect the mask. In GIMP, right click on the mask icon again and uncheck the “Edit Layer Mask” option. In Photoshop, simply click on the icon representing the layer. You will immediately see the effect of having applied the mask to the blurred layer. The white top of the layer mask allows the blur effect to show, while the bottom black part of the mask blocks the blur and makes that part of the layer transparent, revealing the layer below. If you were to unselect the background (bottom most) layer and just looked at the blurred layer you would see it gradually become more transparent top to bottom, like this.  You see it gradually merge into the background layer of this post.

With the background layer re-enabled, it will show up where the blurred layer is transparent. The final results should look like this.  If the distance is not blurred enough for you, add more blur to the blur layer.

9) Save the result as a PNG file, upload it into SecondLife and use it as the backdrop for your photo.

Incidentally, you could have done all this with the model in the original picture. To keep her/him in focus, you would have to select the model (not an easy thing to do) and paint the selection black on the mask to block out the blur effect in the blur layer. I find it easier to make your background and put in the model later.

Introducing Monica Balut

•September 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment

You may have guessed from the blog title that I’m Monica Balut. I’m a SecondLife avatar. I’ve been in SecondLife since February 10, 2007. I’m just as excited by it world today as the first day I joined. This wonderful virtual world has provided me a medium in which to learn new skills, meet new people and explore new “career paths”. Where else could could I become a teleporter tycoon and a fashion model?

I spent my first year doing all the usual newbie things. In addition, I learned how to build my own house and I learned how to write scripts, those computer program in SL that give life to objects. My goal for the first year was to become economically self sufficient in SL, that is, to not have to put in any RL money to support myself. I created the Beam-Me line of teleporters that gave me a solid source of income. I still sell these in my shop at http://slurl.com/secondlife/Sekmet/171/241/61/.

On a whim one day, I signed up with the Face-2-Face Modeling Agency to take modeling classes. I was immediately addicted! It’s something I had always dreamed of doing. But, just as importantly, it pushed me into having to learn a whole new set of skills like coordination, adjusting to the changing circumstances of the moment, art, and of course, a greater fashion awareness. My real life motto is “Life is not worth living unless I can learn something new each day”. SL, and particularly modeling, has certainly provided me with that opportunity.

Monica Balut - Closeup39

After graduating from two more academies (Instyle (now Uvogue) and Ewing) by mid summer 2008, I started out in my career as a SL model. I began looking for a job as a runway model. Not knowing it at the time, it turns out that I did this the complete opposite from the way most models do it. Most models start with store modeling and out of that comes photo modeling and then runway modeling. I instead followed what I wanted to do, and that was to be a top notch runway model. I viewed that as the most challenging and exciting. When it comes to standing around a store, I’d prefer to watch paint dry.

Of course, convincing an agency CEO or other management to hire you just out of school is a daunting task. Everyone wants experience but very few are willing to give you a chance to gain that experience. One thing about me is that I’m persistent. Despite many discouraging rejections, I kept at it. One day, I walked into Duettmann and Fraenkel and just happen to run into Helke Duettmann. She saw my enthusiasm for the work and was willing to give me a chance. I also learned a lot by watching Nash Fraenkel put on a show. Duettmann and Fraenkel no longer exists as an agency, but I will be forever grateful to Helke and Nash for my first break.

Shortly afterward I got a second break with the Miramar Modeling Agency. Miguel Rotunno and Shalimar Novi took me on as a model and I was quickly doing shows with them. I continue with them to this day.

While getting started as a runway model, I of course searched SL for the necessary equipment to play my modeling poses on the runway. I tried the Huddles Quickpose and the Runway Kidz HUD, but found them rather primitive. I know that many models played their poses “manually” by just opening the animation and playing it. All that seemed so primitive and unnecessarily burdensome. I started getting ideas of what I wanted to see in a complete HUD to manage my runway work.

I wanted one HUD object that would do it all … manage my walks, my default stands and all of my poses. I was never inclined to want to count time. Besides the computer is much better at keeping time than I could ever be. I wanted my Runway HUD to do as much of the work as possible so I could concentrate on the art of modeling rather than the drudgery. After four months of scripting work I released The Balut Runway HUD for general sale at the end of November, 2008.

It’s been a great success and has gotten excellent reviews as a reliable, lag friendly, tool to manage your runway routine. It’s even great for store modeling and photo modeling.

I next decided to create a pose playing HUD that would be direct competition to the Huddles Quickpose. Although The Balut Runway HUD is a complete and powerful device, it does take some work to get it set up. Many newer models are overwhelmed by that and want something simple to set up. The Huddles Quickpose is indeed simple to set up although limited in functionality. Also it is sold as a no copy item, requiring you to buy several of them for different occasions.

The Balut EasyPose HUD does everything that Quickpose does and more, and it can be copied. Coupled with the Balut MultiWalk Replacer, it can be a very good solution to one’s modeling needs. I sell all these products at the Model’s Workshop Boutique at http://slurl.com/secondlife/Sekmet/154/244/61/

Monica Balut - FullStand12

All of these scripting projects kept me pretty busy through the winter of 2009. During that time my modeling career was picking up speed as I gained a reputation for being a hard working, reliable team player wherever I worked. I considered taking more courses with other agencies during this time, but I was rather “schooled out”. I knew there was still a lot I could learn, but going to a formal school just didn’t appeal to me any more.

I’ve always believed in the collective power of a group of people. There’s always someone who knows something I don’t know and I’m sure the same is true for all of us. What if I could get a group of people together who would be willing to share what they know with the others in the group? I began talking with people about the idea and got generally good feedback and encouragement.

In February, 2009, I gathered together a group of my friends for a workshop about hair led by my friend Melinda Jensen who I had met at Miramar. Out of that came the Model’s Workshop group. See http://modelsworkshop.wordpress.com/. The group has been a phenomenal success, beyond my wildest dreams. It now boasts of a membership of 160 people. We have held a workshop or activity on one aspect or another of modeling every week since then.

A lot of people have contributed to the Workshop’s success, foremost among these has been Herradura Baar. The Workshop would only be a shell of what it is today without Herra. She has more energy and ideas than anyone I know. I could name countless others who have contributed in one way or another to this project, but that would take up way too much space. Needless to say, my belief that people are willing to help each other in a shared interest has been validated many times over.

My teacher and mentor at Ewing, Tiffany Dragonash, use to impress upon us the importance of networking within the fashion industry. I quickly learned that who you know is just as important as what you know in this field. The Workshop has also provided a forum for people to get to know each other. I personally have developed more good friends out of the Workshop than I ever dreamed.

It also has fulfilled my dream of being a supportive environment where people can grow. The Workshop is now approaching its eighth month of existence, and I still manage to learn something new from my colleagues every week. As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” If you would like to join the Model’s Workshop group, you can do so at secondlife:///app/group/0b48687e-b400-6d60-5547-48b114c49c8c/about

Modeling has been one of the most difficult things I have attempted in SecondLife. It seems like everyone and her aunt wants to be a SL model. The huge number of aspiring models coupled with limited opportunities makes this a very competitive field. The financial investment is also pretty dear. You need an infinite supply of skins, hair, shoes, jewelry, clothes, to say nothing of that perfect shape.

Some people have had some RL modeling experience. Many people have a well developed sense of fashion. Many have excellent innate artistic skills. Those were not areas where I had much RL experience or innate ability. So my learning curve was perhaps steeper than others’. I am no more intelligent than most other people in SL. SecondLife is filled with intelligent and gifted people. What I do have is persistence, passion, confidence and a joy for learning and taking on new challenges. That more than anything has gotten me where I am today.

Personality is also an important factor. If you are going to succeed as a SL model, you have to know how to get along with people and be a team player. I’m no great socialite. I do treat people fairly and try to be helpful, and most of all stay away from drama at all cost. Remember, it’s about getting along and not about winning.

Monica Balut - Swimsuit04

My advice to those who want to get into this field: follow your passion. Do it because you love doing it. You will spend far more money than you ever make in this field, so money can’t be the motivator. If you have a fragile ego and can’t deal with rejection, this may not be the place for you. At the very least it will give you many opportunities to confront your limitations. Do what you love to do. Be nice to people and help them when you can. Avoid the drama. Most of all be persistent. Persistence is perhaps the most important quality of those who succeed at realizing their dream.

Lately my modeling career has been picking up speed. I am an active model with a number of reputable agencies including Opium, UVogue, Jenna Coppola Studios, TOMA, Timeless, Face-2-Face, Miramar. I’m an instructor at the SuperElite Fashion Academy. I continue to do photo modeling for 3 Star Designs.

Well, that’s the story of my SL life. Where do I go from here? I’m still working toward being a better model in SL. I’d like to earn more L$ with things I create. I want to became a better SL photographer including beefing up my Photoshop skills and becoming more competent at using my PhotoLife studio. I’d love to learn how to make animations. Most of all, I want to have fun. Now that I’ve finally gotten this blog going, I hope to add to it from time to time. I’m not sure where all this will take me, but I’m sure the journey will be fun.

By the way, if you’re interested in knowing more about me, I try to keep my resume current at

http://www.flickr.com/people/monicabalut/

and my portfolio at

http://www.flickr.com/photos/monicabalut/.

Hello world!

•July 22, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!