Introduction to creating and uploading mesh models

Thom Lunasea with mesh coffee cup (image from Second Life)

This blog post tries to provide information to those who are looking for a starter tutorial on preparing mesh models and getting them in-world.

Mesh models, just like sculpted prims, are created outside of the virtual environment using third-party software and imported in-world by uploading the model in a particular format. The only file format currently supported is COLLADA, which uses the .dae file extension. Most professional and free modelling software have support for exporting 3D models to this format. Over these guides, we will use the popular and free Blender software to illustrate the process of modeling, texturing, exporting and importing the model. Continue reading

OpenSim and learning

As Enlades has mostly concentrated on information gathering and sharing, this is an out-of-character bit of writing by being an opinion piece. And a long one at that. I apologise for this unscheduled interruption, but, after a recent comment debate on another person’s blog I felt motivated to write something different.

I think it is also overdue in terms of both explaining about some of the links to tutorials and for those who are interested in OpenSim and creating.

I’ll start by saying: I love our OpenSim regions, I love the idea that an entire virtual world can be designed and made according to whim, imagination and for fun. Although neither of us has made use of hypergrid, as our regions are still under development, or visited other grids or regions I can imagine how amazing and inventive these places can be given the freedom to create.

When I first started hearing of OpenSim grids, stand alone regions and various communities one of the things that impressed me was the idea that people were more open to the idea of sharing information, even including their own creations. I’m sure there are many generous and helpful people in grids and stand alone regions who do just exactly that.

However, there is one big, unavoidable, drawback waiting to trip you up. With the odd exception, when you’re looking online for particular information you’ll find precisely nothing. It is like being stuck in the Antarctic zone of information.

As any regular visitor to this blog will probably have noticed: nearly 100% of tutorial or information links listed on this blog are:

a) courtesy of Second Life residents or wikis and,

b) no matter how useful or inspiring they’re almost exclusively from two or three years ago, if not sometimes older.

Whilst it is understandable that the most popular resources would be linked to Second Life, because of its prominence amongst virtual worlds and the number of residents, I’ll give one very specific example of what I mean.

With the greatest thanks to interested visitors, this blog has seen an explosion of views over the last two months, having generated, so far, 419 views. That may not sound like a lot to better known blogs, but for a tiny, only 4 months old with 8 posts blog that seems a lot. A rough breakdown of those views shows that over half of those hits were people searching for information on avatar skin creation. I’m not going to nitpick unique viewer numbers, because I don’t really care about that level of detail.

What this does show, I think pretty clearly, is that by far the most sought after information through searches is on how to make a skin. As I pointed out in my previous posts about this subject the only tutorials/guides I could find were, yep, you guessed it, from 2007/2008.

I’m not an über-researcher, so I’m ready to stand corrected, but in all these months I have been unable to find any freely available guide or tutorial on how to make from scratch, or modify a template like Eloh Eliot’s, an avatar skin using hand-painting or photo source techniques.

Think about that for a second…

Does something about that strike you as odd? Because to me that sort of stands out like a strawberry in a bowl of spinach. Not one single person, in any virtual world, has written blog posts or made a video covering the most basic lessons on how to paint or source a skin in any program? Is everyone walking around as a Ruth avatar?

(I’m not including Natalia Zelmanov’s Goth skin tutorials. This is because it doesn’t deal with creating human skin tones or a photorealistic style and was written before skin design became such a diverse area.)

I can absolutely understand that it’s a complex subject, but then so are lots of other things. I haven’t noticed a complete lack of clothing tutorials (which I will get to at some point), and yet that requires a similar knowledge of avatar mesh and painting/3D skills for highlights and shading.

The point I’m trying to get at here is that I wouldn’t necessarily expect that kind of skin tutorial to come out of SL, or any commercially developed grid, because, well, they’re commercial. If you’ve scrambled your way to the top of the skin designer tree, built your own sim and even have a marketing budget, then you’re hardly likely to stand in the middle of your store shouting “And today I will give away all my templates, resources and trade secrets!”

But what about those who don’t make for commercial reasons? You know, like people who use OpenSim.

So, I’m making this plea to any OpenSim advocate that might be passing by and read this. You want people to wake up and realise what fantastic things can be achieved? Want to get people interested in developing their skills and sharing that? What does it say about OpenSim, and its users, that when it comes to tutorials and guides on some pretty major areas of design and creation the only online resources available are ones that were made by Second Life residents? Does that promote the positive side of OpenSim to you, does that sound inspiring or encouraging?

Then give people information to work with, to learn from, to inspire them.

Don’t sit back and think, “oh that’s too complicated” or “that’s already been done by someone else” because chances are it isn’t, if you think about how to explain it clearly, and just because something has been done by someone else, once, 3 years ago, doesn’t mean it isn’t time to provide an alternative.

Nothing comes from nothing and gives nothing.