Monday, September 20, 2004


One of three final glimpses from the last Burning Life, featuring some of the most ambitious projects of the event, redolent with artistic and technical brilliance.

THE BURNING BUILDING OF NEIL PROTAGONIST, featuring fully-animated flames and smoke.

"I initially had an idea for a temple of light for the plot," says Protagonist, "but I was just lacking inspiration on that piece... so I scrapped that idea and said, 'Hell, why not just burn a building?' since I am never at a lack for inspiration in torching things. I had done something similar for one of my [in-world] billboard ads; it was relatively easy, since most of the parts Nephilaine [Neil's partner] or I have created in the past. It was just a matter of assembling it all properly.

"The building itself was a store idea Nephi had built a while ago; it was handy, so I used it. The fire and smoke for the most part were particle systems (Hell Fire, in my stores). I created the smoke particle using a voxel system in a 3D package, then saved out an image and used that as a texture for the particles. The [animated flame] was created by pulling some fire out of a video capture of some fire.

"Also scattered throughout the building are animated texture fire cards-- I created the fire loop from a ground fire video capture taken from the Reel Fire set (Artbeats.com). I layered five fire cards deep with varying transparency to give it more depth. The overall effect was achieved by layering effect on top of effect.

"The shadows under everything were created by making a basic shadow map. Take a snapshot of whatever you want to make a shadow for by placing it on a white prim. Then in Photoshop, select the white portion. Invert it and fill it with black, then blur it, and use that as an alpha and fill the foreground layer pure black. This will give you a nice shadow, which is something that Second Life sorely lacks-- it really helps connect the building with the ground."

Next page: send in the cows...

THE UNHAPPY HAPPY COWS OF LISSE LIVINGSTON, tracing the life of a cow, from birth to reproduction to slaughter to consumption at a fast food franchise (which includes a working clock and sound effects of a cash register, ringing in the profits.)

"It was inspired by my feelings when I first saw the 'Happy Cows come from California cheese' ad on TV," Lisse tells me. "Coming from England, and now living near cattle farms where there is zero grass and massive overcrowding, the irony of the message seemed overwhelming. So I made an ironic Happy Cow life cycle build, ending in 'MacDonalds'.

"I am not a vegetarian and eat many fast food meals," Lisse acknowledges. " I simply wanted to dispel the myth that cows in California lead happy lives."

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