Zero Brush Addon By: Blender Sensei

As seen at Blender Nation – an intriguing and very intuitive texturing and painting addon for Blender that’s getting a lot of buzz in comments. For one thing, it’s easy to use, and for another, it’s free. There is a library of free textures as well – the license seems to be free to use for commercial applications, no mention of any restrictions for Second Life. The main product looks interesting, a productivity and organizational suite for Blender called Sensei Format that has a lot of useful tweaks and tools for serious Blender artists (especially useful: integrated texture and materials libraries along with a render preview).

Zero Brush by Blender Sensei

Also another video tutorial by the developer/designer:

I’ve installed this plugin and played with it a little – the bumpmapping and specular part alone makes it worth a look for anybody working with Blender. I’m now up to version 2.71 in Blender and slowly making my way through my various tutorials that I’ve found online, and books found online too.

There’s a texture pack available on the video description that can be loaded up as a brush library – a good basic set that seems to be the same full complement of all the categories available from the Blender Sensei site.

I’ve downloaded it but it’ll need to be unzipped and placed somewhere handy for use, as it’ll work as a texture library for GIMP projects as well. There’s nothing fancy, just basic stuff to stand in for better custom textures on my projects.

Tweekly Digest: 21-Jul – 27-Jul

The Marauder: Sailing Over The Bounding Mainland

The recent Premium Gift from Linden Lab for Second Life paid users was received with mixed feelings – it’s a great looking steampunk airship, but the land impact was 502LI. My initial excitement was tempered by regret – it looked great, but was so costly in land impact that most people would never bother to rez it unless they were in a sandbox.

Marauder Linden Gift

I ran into Inara Pey inworld when I first got my Marauder, who later blogged about the high LI of the original.

Well, Dhughan discovered today when he went to grab a copy, that a new version is included that’s “low impact.” Well, 145LI, which is better… but I had stuff in inventory that came in at around 30LI or less (granted, not so elegant and with no cannon broadsides available to play with).

The comments on the notecard:

Hello Residents,

Due to some popular feedback we’ve decided to include a simple, low Land Impact version of the Linden Marauder. This version does not utilize lower LOD’s to greatly reduce Land Impact. The means in order to compensate for the lack of lower LOD’s, you may need to increase your LOD Rendering Factor to at least 2, if not 4, in the Debug Settings panel under the Advanced menu.

1. To enable the Advanced Menu, go to Me>Preferences, Advanced tab, and check “Show Advanced Menu”
2. To open the Debug Settings Panel, go to Advanced>Show Debug Settings
3. In the empty field, type RenderVolumeLODFactor and set the value to at least 2, but preferably 4.
4. Press enter and close the Debug Settings Panel.

The physics shape has also been greatly simplified, as the Land Impact of an object can also be affected by large and complex physics. This means the blimp and nose will no longer collide with other objects, but collision on the deck will remain the same.

With both versions now included, feel free to sail the high seas as you wish: In style, or with performance!

I rezzed it at a public rez zone on the road near my Pini shop, and sailed majestically up Route 1 with all deliberate speed.

The Light Marauder 145LI

The Light Marauder 145LI

Stopped off at the Duchess to salute a sister ship

Stopped off at the Duchess to salute a sister ship

Feerce Kitteh cannon goes BEWM!

Feerce Kitteh cannon goes BEWM!

Just need a star to steer her by

Just need a star to steer her by

The nice thing about its stately progress is if you’re in a clear area, you can be under way and work on blog posts ::coff:: or chat with friends ::coff coff:: and only occasionally have to steer around tall builds and bluffs. Very relaxing, and I enjoyed the sights as I sailed up Route 1 – there are some good builds on the Mainland in some areas. Must explore more.

I fiddled with Windlight settings more on that last one – lighting is Dynamic Richness and water is Phototools: Ship light (it’s water like tropical glass). I also messed with some other graphics settings and fiddled with the nVidia card to take on more of the graphics load from the viewer. I fell out of the ship at least twice due to security orbs – one time was really frustrating, because when I flew back up, I could almost catch it, but couldn’t get seated. So off it sailed in lonely grandeur – someday it’ll find its home port again by way of the Lost and Found folder. Fortunately, it’s copiable, though I wish to God it was modifiable.

Some of the “mixed feelings” and popular feedback on the thread I started on SLUniverse prompted me to pull out every airship and flying vehicle I had in inventory (I have even more in deep storage, including a truly awesome flying bathtub). I flew them around the airstrip near Sandbox Mirificatio and compared LI, or good old fashioned primmage.

The Bondar Foehammer, a STEAM gift

The Bondar Foehammer, a STEAM gift

The Bondar Foehammer Mini-Airship Aurora 32LI

Old school, but nimble

Old school, but nimble

Anana Farstrider’s Junkyard Dreams – steers and climbs fast, no weapons, old school primwork for 161 LI

Complete with bedroom and library!

Complete with bedroom and library!

Sidney Arctor’s Lil Zepplin – furnished and still only 29LI

Catch the night ferry to the Steamlands

Catch the night ferry to the Steamlands

Weka Steam Air Ferry – 28LI

Here are some more images from my Snapzilla feed, which is based at SLUniverse and something that I’ve been playing with (it’s like the Postcards that I used to send to Flickr).

And I used the Tweeter to thank SL for listening to the bitching and moaning feedback, and actually got a reply, so there’s even more evidence that LL is actually listening to residents and (in small ways) acting on our suggestions and criticism.

Actually, with LOD display set to 4.00, it looks pretty damn good from a fair distance, although it still has a top speed/climb rate of about a meter a second, the same as the original version.

That first day, 3 of them were rezzed out at the Mirificatio sandbox and airfield, about 1506LI total.

3MajesticAirships

They were certainly striking, and stable, but not to be hurried:

Inara Pey: “looks like a fish, moves like a fish…. steers like a cow. Flew straight into the second moon of Jaglan Beta.” “Really?” “Yeah, but nice lines….”

Sim-on-a-Stick and Haleakaloha

It’s a long time since I messed around with my little test grid, Haleakaloha. I’ve got quite a few different OARS and I’ve saved different versions of my inventories, but haven’t worked with it much after my original installation of New World Studio got hopelessly corrupted.

So months and months ago, I started playing around with Sim on a Stick (http://simonastick.com/) and got things to the point where I’d uploaded some primitive mesh, and also imported some .dae or .obj files from Second Life or Blender.

KiplingRockmodel_002

Now it’s time to mess about in there again and actually make use of it, but I’d set it up as a megaregion instead of separate regions… and I really needed separate regions so that I could load different OARS for different projects that I have, that are somewhat vague that have been on the back burner.

Unlike NWS, which allowed me to configure mega versus separate regions easily, with Sim on a Stick you have to get more under the hood. My first attempt to edit various config files didn’t work but fortunately I have the OAR I need and the IAR inventory file saved in a safe spot. So I actually… updated to the latest version of the Diva Distro (D2) and started a whole new install, and deleted the old one. So now to make sure that it’s separate regions, I have to to more messing around under the hood.

Diva Canto’s blog on “How to Change The Default Diva Configurations

Ener Hax’s blog on various tweaks and hacks (I kept having to refer to different pages on her blog):
Forget Simona Stick, Use Your Own Name for SOAS
1 Region To Megaregion To 4 Regions
16 Region Sim on a Stick Hack
Dot’s Mega SOAS on a Mac and Kitely” (setting up a 9X9 grid, the most useful size for me)

Some other useful information about preparing megaregions for export from the OpenSim wiki.

waenhir’s blogpost “Why Pay Second Life For What You Can Get Free” which refers back to Ener’s post on how to change the default AV name to your own, but also adds a simple walk script and some other ideas.

Okay, so I think I’ve loaded up the most recent OAR, and I also seem to have loaded my recent IAR, so….

Fired up Singularity, and I’ve got 9 separate regions, although I didn’t take enough care to make sure they were 9X9 in my config file, so I’ve got 8 2 by 2 regions plus the last one up in the corner:

Maptiles

Okay, I can live with that, and I cleverly managed to rename all the regions in order, instead of “simonastick1″. When I loaded the OAR, it did seem to load correctly and asked if I wanted to join them to an estate, which I did following the instructions in the blogposts I linked. I also managed to rename my grid “Haleakaloha” in the config file, so my wifi page says “Haleakaloha” too. There’s a way to replace the default image as well but I’ll have to play with that later.

Then I realized that my fountain sound scripts needed some work, so I found some that work fine on the SL wiki somewhere. One simply plays a loop, the other is a touch start, so now my world isn’t quite as silent as it was.

I haven’t bothered with an outfit, I’m just running around in my UV Map suit for now.

Maptiles Haleakaloha_001

More housekeeping: test some of the many OARS I have to see if there’s anything worth keeping, dump a lot of the… generic and overly primmy stuff that I got for free, and tidy things up. I’ve been relying on the free content out there until I’m heartily sick of it, frankly, so I enjoyed deleting almost everything from this current version of my virtual workshop other than a bunch of textures. I’d like to rebuild my St Helens shop as mesh (I did a crap job exporting it, need to continue with my mesh lessons via the Gryllus website and my books). And I’d like to build a home of my own for my grid, because my building skills have totally gone to crap due to being busy with other stuff.

So there we are, back to Squares 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, the way I had it set up more or less when New World Studio was still working. Except now I’ve got Opensim 0.8, the latest version, so I’m not completely cluefree…

Another thing on my list of things to do is to figure out the environmental editor in Singularity (which I’ll use for OpenSim to keep the settings clean in my Firestorm viewer for Second Life). It’s got some presets, and it’s got even more presets that are under the “key” or “day cycle” section. Hmm. Wish Singularity had the quick pick thing for Windlight.

So now, on to loading up old OARS and plundering them.

Retopology with Optimo Maximo at #BuildersBrewery for #Blender

Yes, I’m being dogged (or rather kittehed) about it. I have the day off and today is a school day for learning Blender.

Currently, have read through chapter 3 of Blender Graphics by John M Blain (first edition). I’m doing some of the learning modules on Gryllus.com later today, too.

But this Retopology class came up, and as I can never attend Maximo’s classes during my normal work week, this is too important to miss.

Must not ragequit, must not ragequit. OM. NOM. NOM.

Retopology-Dress

So hey, I was able to follow along for a while, and when I got stuck, I figured out that I had some stray vertices that had to be hunted down and deleted. I couldn’t keep up with the class in real time, but I took good notes and made to the end, and beyond. This dress is a project – the original model is from Marvelous Designer and is a little crumpled and very high polygon, with random triangles. The next few steps involve adding more patches to cover the various folds with low-poly quadrangles, extend the skirt quads to the hem, straighten stuff up, and then start extending the back through the waist folds and over the derriere and down the back skirt. The class ended up with planning techniques for lining up the front and back panels and connecting them, then using Blender’s tools to interpolate the new faces to the surface. It all helps if there are the same numbers of vertices to start with on the top and bottom, back and front – say a line of 4 (or maybe 5 so there’s a middle line down the cleavages)?

I still need to work on the Gryllus learning modules – based on the notation in the book, by now I need to have done 1-6 and some of 8.

The class today will be helpful in getting my head around retopologizing that damn hipster hat, which will be out of style by the time I actually fix it, probably.

Time to grab some lunch, supposed to meet my partner Rock outworld for a bike ride… but feeling much less like a rage-quitty kitty at the moment.

Tips For a Writing Useful Group Marketing Posts

If you’re going to sell virtual products, you’ve got to market virtual products.

I get a LOT of emails from various marketing groups (I have IMs set to go to emails). Most of those messages are about new products, and they get deleted immediately, because the SUBJECT LINE tells me nothing about the new product. Most inworld marketers waste the title or subject line by using it to say “New! At Mystore!” Or they say “Brand Name at Big Shopping Event” or even goofy messages like “Check notecard for the new stuff! Kiss-kiss!”

What??? I have to go inworld to find the notecard, or check past date group notices? Tell me what it is and why I might want to visit your store to get it, I might not be inworld right away.

When I do get a new product out, I try to follow a consistent format so I don’t forget an important detail, like a SLurl. I market to a few, well-targeted groups (most of my stuff is pretty niche).

That subject line has to make the new product POP. Adding extra detail in an attached notecard with product pictures and landmarks is great, but tell your potential customers about your great new product in the (limited) message area of the group notice.

Here’s a good example of a “new product” group marketing message:

SUBJECT [SHORT PRODUCT DESCRIPTION]

Group Notice From: [Well-Targeted Group of potential customers], (Your Avatar Name)
[Short Greeting]
[New Product Information at Store/Brand Name!]
[Greetings]
[Additional interesting detail, related products, fun features only found at your inworld store]
[Store group joiner or subscribo location]
[Freebies, hunts, or group gifts available]
[Thank your customers, add best contact method]
[SLURL to your inworld store]

I can’t believe how many store owners post to shopping groups with only a “New at Brandname” subject and “Details in the notecard” in the message. Same for store groups.

Had to make a memo of this for the next time I release a product, or improve an older one. That reminds me, Dhughan needs to get on the stick about his sticks, too.

Blender: Stop Whining And Just Do The Work, Lela

Z is for Zeuhl Hat_ Plain Buttah Yellow Tintable

This time. THIS TIME, I will make this stick. It’s a question of repetition, practice, and going through the available online training systematically. When I was much younger, I learned some complicated software for work from scratch by just being dogged, using it as much as possible, and repeating lessons until I had the moves memorized. As I gained skill, it became less “work” and more “play.” To this day, when I’m trying to get something done that doesn’t look possible, I tell my caller “let me play with it a little,” and I almost always succeed in getting something to work. I have to give myself permission to be in that n00b mindset again and just frickin’ DO THE WORK.

I did manage to make the hat form – barely, but have been stalled out on trying to make it better, because as it is now, the LOD is crap and it’s way too inefficient – not to mention badly textured because I’ve never actually gotten around to unwrapping it properly.

When Loki Eliot was first learning Blender, before mesh was fully deployed on Second Life, he made a list of all the things he had to learn. Now as he learns he adds to his Making a Mesh category. My new Blender category, is, well, Blender. His essays on LOD, for example, ought to be an SL learning standard.

So as of today, July 1, I’m working my way through the Gryllus.com online course by Neil Hirsig of Tufts University, and reading the companion book by John M Blain (the link is actually the second edition, I’m using the first edition.). I’ve been taking a lot of notes and unlike previous tentative stabs at the material, I started at the beginning and made sure to highlight stuff I either missed or didn’t grasp well. Up to chapter 3 now, having worked steadily at it this morning and evening. The internet connection was down this morning for a couple of hours, so it seemed like a good time to do something productive (and not just reading blogs and web fora on my phone).

From the Introduction:

The 3D Design Blender course is intended to offer students an introduction to the world of computer generated 3-D modeling. As an introductory course, it provides a basic understanding of the skills and techniques employed by 3-D designers in a wide range of applications. In this online course, we will explore basic mesh modeling, texturing, lighting, animation and rendering. This course should provide a good basis for further independent study in architectural, engineering, game, theatrical and character modeling.

via Blender 3D Design Course – Syllabus.

I’ve been browsing the actual lessons online tonight after dinner, but I took time to play around a little in GIMP:

KeepCalmandDontRagequit

If you’re wondering if I’ve rage-quit Blender before, you’re right; I have quit in a rage numerous times. Most recently, I was in a class given by Optimo Maximus at Builder’s Brewery, and was managing to keep up with the mechanics of making a simple mesh door. But once I goofed up my project with poor selection techniques and couldn’t get it to look like what was on the screen, I shut down (emotionally and mentally) and then closed everything up, irritated with myself. I just… can’t keep up with voice classes, because there’s always something so basic that I don’t know yet, and my tendency to not retain information given verbally usually means that there’s some critical step missing. Not being able to scroll back when I’ve messed up, or gotten distracted, or had to run to the door is just so frustrating, so it’s very rare that I complete any class conducted solely in voice, Blender or not. But I reserve a special kind of rage-fear for Blender that’s been holding me back.

With the coming changes to Second Life in the next year or two, anybody that, like me, has lagged behind with regards to learning mesh building skills is going to find themselves on the sidelines as far as building stuff (unless Future SL has truly amazing inworld building tools). I managed to procrastinate until sculpties became passe’ – so now let’s see if I can learn Blender and mesh-making just in time for it to be replaced by something else!