Friday, January 19, 2007

Shape-shifting

I've found a lot of information about clothing, shoes, eyes, skins, and hair in various Second Life-related newsletters and blogs, especially Linden Lifestyles. But information on shapes? For me, at least, it's been hard to find.

A shape defines what we look like even more than skin or hair. I think that its default settings give a general outline to eye shape, nose length, mouth size, and even such things as forehead height, as well as all the various body measurements. The default is the starting point. If a shape is modifiable, all these settings can be changed, but the shape defines the range in which that change can occur. I think.

(Of course, I might be completely wrong about that. Maybe any shape can become any other shape with the right manipulation of the sliders. I need to buy the book!)

As anyone in SL does, I have changed pretty much everything from my generic beginning as Female Shape and Outfit. Until yesterday, however, the shape I was using was a modifiable freebie from Opium, a line by Alaska Metropolitan. I think I got it when I bought my first skin, also from Opium (from the old 1.0 starter range). It's called Centerfold. When I first put it on, or put me on it, I was startled by the change from my previous skinny shape. Boobs out to there! I toned those down rather quickly, partly because I didn't want centerfold-sized boobs and partly because I have not yet found a shape, modifiable or otherwise, that does large breasts very realistically (in my not-so-humble opinion). I went in the other direction down south, giving a boost to both bum and hips. Ye gods, centerfolds are no longer rounded! These days, Marilyn Monroe would probably be considered to be on the chunky side.

Even more importantly to me, I modified the facial characteristics. Because my fictional back-story is that I am a Métis princess (the Métis are descendants of French settlers of Manitoba and Saskatchewan and the Indian women they married), I increased the epicanthal fold of the eyelid, set the outer eye corners to 100 (up), and raised the cheekbones. Combined with my non-white skin and generally dark hair, the overall look seemed reasonably effective.

Once I was happy with those settings, I was reluctant to change. Yet I wondered if a shape that cost money would somehow be better than a free shape. You'd think so. My one foray into the world of non-modifiable shapes, however, was a disaster. I can't remember which store I was in, but it had four lines of shapes: petite, medium, full-figured, and pregnant. That was the day I found out that in SL I am petite, despite being the equivalent of nearly six feet tall. I bought (no demo) a medium shape that seemed to have the look I wanted. Whoa! Nothing of the sort! Not only did I become unrecognizably large; I also got a completely different face shape, which had not been apparent from the model. After that experience, I held onto my free modified Centerfold, tweaking it from time to time.

Who buys these non-modifiable ones? How could I become someone else's idea of how my face and body should look? Jeez, the celebrity ones I've seen don't even look like the celebs, judging by the comparison pictures in the displays. I know that Patrice's shape can't be modified, but it's a custom creation, made just for her. Is that what many people do?

I can't bring myself to ask. It just seems too personal a question, even for my close friends. It feels like inquiring if they've had a boob job or liposuction. So I muddled along in ignorance, wondering if and how I could improve upon what I had. I visited stores that included the keyword "shape" in their list. At many of these, I couldn't find any shapes. At others, I found only non-modifiable ones.

Finally, I found a Japanese store called Nana. And I found modifiable shapes that I liked! I'm not sure if 200 lira is enough for a shape, because I have nothing to go on. But I bought two: Akaso, a petite but still rounded Japanese shape, and Mikka, a Blasian (black-Asian) shape. I modified Akaso and saved the modification separately, and that's the one I'm currently using.

Is a 200-lira shape better than a free one? Am I prettier and sexier? No idea. The three photos above are my new Akaso shape, modified; my old Centerfold shape, modified; and Mikka, unmodified. I can't decide which I like better, and indeed I can't see a lot of difference (except in Mikka's eye shape). More experimenting needed. I doubt that my quest for the shape that's right for me has ended.

Postscript: OK, I see more differences now. The most noticeable to me is the Akaso nose, which looks better to me than Centerfold. As well, the face of both Akaso and Mikka is a bit longer, less round. That could be adjusted on Centerfold, but it's nice that it's there already in my new shape. Mikka is clearly the most different, with even more exotic eyes, a broader nose (as expected), and a larger default breast size. I like her, although I'm not sure that she's me. I will stay with the modified Akaso for now.

8 comments:

zero7d said...

Hey! How YOU doin' ! Interesting blog . I've got a couple of my own you can earn more than 5000 dollars a week making !!! come on

Véronique Lalonde said...

zero7d, I might have to end up deleting your comment. SpySweeper flagged the site as being associated with spyware and blocked the offending IP address. I hate spyware. I was only looking anyway out of curiosity -- not expecting to make $5000 a week.

Melissa Yeuxdoux said...

To the best of my knowledge, a "shape" is just a tuple of umpteen values between 0 and 100. Underneath, SL has a single model for all female bodies, and a single model for all male bodies. That model has a pretty low "triangle count" to cut down on the work involved in rendering avatars, and it shows very badly at the extremes of breast size--hence Proposition 125 doesn't just ask for removal or extension of the limits of body part size, but also for improvements in the model of the body so that the more extreme values still look reasonable, i.e. not blocky.

Véronique Lalonde said...

Thanks, Melissa. That's what I was wondering. That implies that you can create any possible body type from any other simply by changing the values. Which I guess makes sense. I've just never verified it through experiment. So that means a particular shape, one with a name and a pricetag, is simply a particular combination of values that could, in theory, be duplicated?

I still need the book!

BTW, thanks for the shopping tip. :)

Rich Stadler said...

Hello Veronique!

Yours was the first listing in Google when I Googled (in quotes) "second life", and 'blog' and 'shapes'.

I've been trying for weeks and weeks to discover exactly what this whole shapes thing is all about. Honestly. I can't tell you how many blogs, help sites and Second Life-oriented pages I've read, simply trying to uncover the seeming mystery of how shapes are made, promoted and sold.

I've been in Second Life since about August of this year, and early on I had the notion that I wanted to create my own 'shape'. I figured it couldn't be as simple as changing the sliders in Appearance, because there are so many 'shapes' for sale by vendors, and I figured that these vendors did more than simply change slider positions, save the changes and then sell that saved 'shape'. Why, I thought (and still do) would anyone buy a set of preset slider positions when they could perfectly arrange those sliders themselves?

But, for me, the mystery continues. Perhaps there are some well-kept secrets about this, because it seems more complicated than it should be: if the only differences between ANYONE's shapes are the positions of Appearance sliders, why does anyone even buy someone else's shapes at all? I still don't understand it. I'm writing to you about this because you're the only person that I've FINALLY read who's asking the same question!!

For me, weeks ago I conjured the notion that, in order to make a shape look the way I wanted it to, I'd have to acquire some manner of 3D mesh (wireframe) creation program, like 3D Studio Max, or whatever other program wherein you actually BUILD shapes from scratch. Well, that path is either cost-prohibitive or beyond my ken. But I still find it mysterious that the entire shapes issue is not better explained somewhere, and instead, like you, many of us go from shop to shop, thinking that if we just hunt far enough, we'll find that perfect shape somewhere, only to realize (?) that all these shape sellers are doing is selling a set of 'slider' settings that we could set ourselves. ARGH!

Well...that's all for now. I still don't know which direction I'll go from here...except that I AM actually beginning to create my own skins, believe it or not. Between the shapes and the skins, at least skins is something that, if we dare to delve into it, we can actually have creative control over. Creating our own skins is still a very daunting task, especially for a beginner. But I'm tired of looking the way I look by simply buying someone else's stuff. I have a particular vision of how I want to look, and until I figure out the 'shapes', I'll use Photoshop to try to exert some degree of visual control over my avatar.

Thanks for writing about this!

And, yes, I think you should remove zero7d's comment. He's obviously not interested in anything your blog is about!

Sincerely,

Rich Stadler
Columbus, Ohio

Santa Barbs said...

Since this blog seems to have an enormously important Google priority placement, I will try to answer a couple of the questions regarding the "mystery" of SL shapes.

When Second Life was invernted they used two rather rudimentary avatat shapes from an early Poser software package. They still usethe same old Poser 3D boject based avatars even though Poser software itself has gone through seven iterations of software upgrade since then. SL still uses these ancient 3D "meshes" that have been improved by pure imagination to achive pretty nice looking avatars, althgouh most of the current "beauty" is skin based improvements.

The mesh settings of the core avatars is, indeed, based on a very limited number of different slide settings that SL lets you set. SL chose certian things you see in the Appearance sliders as thir idea of what changes might need to be made to achieve a reasonable recreation of human facial and body characteristics. Those slider values simply shirnk and grow and morph the triangular mesh faces of the basic male and female avatar.

However, the secret "magic" is that with several hundred triangles making up a particular avatar, SL may not have given you a slider for the exact characteristic you want to achieve a certain look, nose length, eye position, boob shape, etc. The sliders change a smal number of values, but an expert who knows the inner workgins of the SL 3D mesh layout, can tweek other numbers to shrink, enlarge or reposition the triangles (the mesh) to achieve other looks outside of the slider subjects SL gives you in your SL viewer.

This is how people create tiny fairy creatures, dragonlets, limbs that bend backward to let avatar dogs walk like dogs. Most of these kind of changes are accomplished by numeric editing of code level files saved in the SL universe as a shape file. Certain software lets you download and upload raw files (such as the Emerald viewer). While these software packages let creative people make unique shapes, they are also the source of people being able to pirate textures, shapes adnother creations in SL.

So, yes, there is a secret method of making shapes in SL, that only the well-initiated can carry out, but, big BUT, that is not where most of the commercial shapes for human avatars come from. Most of the avatars you buy in SL and pay big bucks for are actaully just someones well-tweeked, slider derived, avatar shape tha you coudl, indeed, make yourself.

However, that is the way with every creative itme you cna acquire in SL. That is, if you wanted to do it yourself, you could buy Photoshop and morph Elizabeth Taylor's movie promo photos into a avatar skin. Or you could buy it from your local SKin dealer.

Remember, beauty in the human face is actually achieved by a face having a "normal" look to it. If you morph ten different "pretty" human faces together, the result will be a face that looks like a super model. OUt version of beauty is a lack of extremes. Berauty in an ethnic character is an average of characteristics built around a core ethnic trait, like oriental eyes or African nose or Roman brow. So, if you achieve an SL shape tht approximates the norm in features, you will have a shape that almost any Skin will look good on.

So, yes, there is a secret to SL shapes, but the shape you buy in the SL store is probably just someones personal settigns on the Appearance sliders that theysaved and sold to you, so you did nto have to bother to do it yourself.

Hope that answers your questions.

Anonymous said...

Funny, after all this time your blog still comes up on page one of Google :). I'm glad it did - picture me doing a head-slap. I can't believe I was SHOPPING for a new shape. I've been looking and looking for the face I want - then after reading the comments to your blog, I created the face I was looking for in just a few minutes time - using a freebie shape I found in my inventory to start with. Doh! Anyways, just had to let you know you're still helping people!

TawwnieLee said...

Hi and thanks for writing this !
I came across your blog searching for software aimed at body shape creation!
@ Santa Barbs i knew it had to be in the code and LL scrimping on triangles ... ie blocky looks!
Hopefully with mesh in the general population and registration of creators (grrrrr @ piracy), we'll see a new day in shape creation and less of the big bucks for what you could have done yourself in the future.
Cheers to you and yours for the new year!