SL as a graphics learning opportunity

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Avatar in the dark.When I first saw Second Life, I thought it was interesting for a lot of reasons, but even I could see that it was mainly an intriguing way to interact visually over distances. It was easy, too, to see that the environment might be used effectively as an education and collaboration tool. That's pretty much where my real interest tends to fade: I'm not social at all. I teleport away from other avatars.

What I saw in Second Life was a visual medium that I knew nothing about and never had call to understand. If Penn State would ever build or just use this sort of space, it would be important for graphic designers to understand the format issues, the scaling issues, how they both effect load and processing time. It would be important for instructional designers to know how people communicate and travel about; what their expectations are and how they interpret things. There's no other test ground. For non-technical designers of any type, to learn and experiment you can either wait for someone to create an OpenCroquet environment or ProtoSphere world, or you can experiment in a virtual environment that pre-exists. Uber geeks scoff, but I see Second Life as that learning ground.

Payback for me (I bought my subscription with winnings from woot photoshop contests) is learning about the TARGA format and the differences between an image format that supports transparency and a format that supports an alpha channel. I had posted a video about Removing Fringe in SL Images but till now, it was just a help in Second Life. Now, I'm creating a few secondary images that will hopefully be of use in a game. That environment requires images in the targa format, and the implementation requires that I create alpha channels that produce exactly what I want when rendered by the game engine. The only way this non technical Mac guy can test those images is by taking them into Second Life and applyng them as textures.

It works great. Second Life renders the alpha exactly the same way that the game will- and I have complete access. I just have to wait till the sun comes up to see the damned things.


dave said:

okay... dawn's early light is gonna have to do.

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