Monday, March 3, 2008

Interview with a Mad Scientist

Some of you may have read the article I wrote, recently published in The Best of SL magazine; then again some of you may not. Either way what you didn’t see was the interview I had with the creator of the photo studio I was writing about. Damn editors-they always end up cutting the best stuff. ;) Anyway towards that end, I am presenting here the interview I had with OomPoppaMowMow Snookums, owner, creator and mad scientist builder of the photoLIFE photo studio. I hope the article makes more sense now.

Cherie: Why did you create the Photo Life?

OomPoppaMowMow Snookums: photoLIFE was created to introduce a different level of quality to Second Life than the current studios can provide.

Cherie: What inspired you to take this on?

OomPoppaMowMow Snookums: As a home builder in Second Life, I make great efforts to provide my customers with good support. A customer of mine called me and asked me to help them with another object they purchased. Obviously I was under no obligation to assist them, seeing it wasn't my creation, but I agreed to take a look at it. When I arrived I found a product known as the N30 modeling studio. Once I saw the studio, I remembered seeing it several months before. A friend of mine was in modeling and was visiting an agency. I was just walking around the room while I waited and noticed bad seams and poor texturing on what I understand now to be the N30. I actually wrote the creator about major flaws I saw, offering to help correct the problems. Needless to say, my offer was rejected. My customer had also contacted the owner and was having trouble with some particle scripts. They received what I believe was poor customer service.

I've never felt like reinventing the wheel was a circumstance I enjoyed being in, but when the wheel doesn’t roll right, I’m all for making one that does! It was at this point that I realized SL needed a quality photo studio that offered stability and reliability, so I decided to build one myself.

Cherie: What was your design philosophy?

OomPoppaMowMow Snookums: Quality in scripting and ease of use, without over-scripting and adding unnecessary complications. Second Life gives builders a wide range of abilities to create a lot of features. Its here that I believe the biggest difference is seen. I've looked for features that give the photographer a larger range of tools, and I've never introduced anything into the OM-10 without first asking myself a few questions. Does the feature enhance the photographer's ability to be creative? Can this feature be easily used? And how can the feature function so the scripting and build perform seamlessly? There are many other features that could be added to photoLIFE, but I choose to keep only those features that enhance the build and give the photographer quality tools, without introducing lag or scripting malfunctions.

This approach is quite different than many other concept designers. A concept designer might have a great idea, but to see the idea come to life, the designer might end up having to hire many different scripters. This can make the scripting schematics klutzy, which causes scripting failures and overloads the script with listen functions, which add a considerable amount of lag. As a builder-scripter, I've created every phase of the studio, from conceptual design to prim building and even scripting. No other scripter has had any part of the schematics of the OM-10. This is why I believe the OM-10 outperforms any photostudio on the market when put to a side by side comparison.

Cherie: Why did you make it the way you did?

OomPoppaMowMow Snookums: Admittedly I am not a photographer in SL. I've been able to photograph friends on occasion, and I'm pleased to say the results were normally better than what they were able to get from paid photographers, but my passion has always been building and scripting. When it came to designing the features, I wanted to be sure that I was able to deliver the photographers with features that they found useful in a studio. I decided to begin interviewing photographers. Each one seemed to have his or her own approach to SL photography, but almost all seemed passionate about the field, and only photographers with an established reputation for quality work were interviewed. Not all design suggestions were used, but all were taken seriously, and, without question, all agreed that Second Life could use a studio with a different level of quality and were pleased to hear about the project.

Cherie: How long has it taken you to complete it?

OomPoppaMowMow Snookums: The customer of mine contacted me for help with her former studio on 11/29/07. That was when I decided to take on the project of creating a higher quality product. Friends and consultants of mine would find me working 5-7 days a week at up to 9 hours a day. A great deal of work went into the OM-10, so that I can be proud to put it on the market.

Cherie: What were your biggest challenges? What would you say is your biggest accomplishment with it?

OomPoppaMowMow Snookums: Photographers all seemed to have similar feature requests. One of the most requested was having better lights. The OM-10-SL's are unique, in that they have 4 power settings, 9 color selections, and 4 height adjustments. This gives the photographer the ability to add lighting reinforcement anywhere at any angle, and with HUD controls, they can do it on the fly!

Another feature requested is the ability to create unique combinations of studios and components. That’s why I created the OM-10 Sync feature. This is one of my favorite features! The OM-10 can actually be synced and grouped with any combination of components or any amount of HUDs. This allows other studio combinations to be brought close by without any interference or cross commands. It's perfect for the larger photographers who desire to have different themed studios near each other.

Probably the most innovative feature in the OM-10 is the 21 scene memory. This brings the photographer the ability to create his or her own library of scenes available at the click of a button! The memory feature is designed so that there are 7 scenes in 3 groups. This allows the photographer to group similar scenes together, making their library more organized and efficient.

Cherie: What about Photo Life makes it special?

OomPoppaMowMow Snookums: What features or benefits does it offer not found elsewhere? In all honesty, everything I put into the OM-10 was well thought out. Even the nine lighting colors that were selected were taken from the Spectramaster color palette and converted to LSL with a calculator. This offers a more pleasing shade of color, more useful to photography than the pure colors that we see from, lets say, the red <1.00,> color vector. I believe every feature in the OM-10 was designed and implemented in a way not found in any other studio in SL.

Cherie: What current photo systems does Photo Life compete with?

OomPoppaMowMow Snookums: The N30 has established a reputation for being the most successful studio on the market. Then there is another studio called the photosphere.

Cherie: How do these systems compare?

OomPoppaMowMow Snookums: The photosphere is just that ... a sphere. While I believe the sphere design to be unique and interesting, it can cause many textures to appear distorted. As far as the N30 is concerned, it’s my belief that it has established its reputation based strongly on intimidation. While I was building the OM-10, I was informed by other studio builders that the owner of the N30 has filed many DMCA's against other studio builders in SL. Much of the advertising around the N30 states that it has been copyrighted, and that it is on file with the Library of Congress. As far as copyrights are concerned, the US Library of Congress states that "Copyright exists from the moment the work is created." That means anyone who creates an original work has copyright protection when it is created, regardless if the work has been registered or not. The Library of Congress is also very clear that "Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration" are NOT protected under copyright laws. This means the idea of a photo studio can not be copyrighted. The N30 is definitely protected, should someone come and duplicate the product and try to resell it, even under a different name; however, that does not give the owners of the N30 exclusive rights to the photo studio concept. Make no mistake. The OM-10 is nothing like the N30, and I believe this to be a good thing!

Cherie: What can Photo Life do that N30 can't?

OomPoppaMowMow Snookums: Well, Cherie, its hard to even begin discussing the differences, there are so many. But to begin with, the texture installation and management are easier. Photographers explained to me that the N30 was difficult to add their own textures to. The OM-10 can just drop textures in the appropriate texture display. I've even added a texture installer, should someone prefer it. It also has 3 texture displays, allowing the user to put different textures on the background, the floor and the alpha effects layer. This enables the creativity of the photographer to be expressed in creative scenes using up to 3 different textures. The Alpha Layer allows the users to actually add effects over their own backdrops. No other studio has this.

The 21 scene memory allows the photographer the ability to create a unique library of scenes. The slave lights have 4 heights, 4 power settings, and 9 colors, while the 1 piece pose stand has 16 rotational positions for each pose. Poses can be added easily in the singles mode. With the push of a button, the pose stand enters "couples" mode, where it becomes a menu-driven stand with 16 different poses, while still being able to access the 1 touch 16 rotational positions. Again these features are only offered by the OM-10.

The camera, probably the most humorous component, allows the user to learn the art of "Alt+Left Click" and "Ctrl+Alt+Left Click" camera controls. These camera controls are available to anyone in SL at any time. It's insulting to me that someone would try to sell an object that moves one's camera around while the "Alt+Click" client features exist. However, I did program a nice photographer animation and, for the laziest photographers, a camera push towards the subject area!

Some other features that are exclusive to the OM-10 would be Hide All Components, Single Plane Effects, and Ambient Lighting. Hide All Components hides all the components that could be an obstruction between the subject and the photographer. Single Plane Effects rezzes all effect particles on a single plain behind the subject. This eliminates the possibility of particles falling in front of the subject’s face, while Ambient Lighting creates a gentle overall lighting effect without over-saturating the subject.

The photoLIFE HUD would be the icing on the cake. This HUD actually shows the texture images for each display, while allowing the HUD wearer access to nearly every feature of the OM-10, including full control over the pose stand, controlling both slave lights independently, and access to the full 21 scene memory!

But as impressive as these features are ... they are worthless if the photographer has a constant struggle keeping the unit functioning. This is why I believe the most important difference with the OM-10 is reliability. This was the reason I began building this project. While the studio is just finishing the beta testing, I’m proud to say I've had no reports of feature failures due to script functions! The OM-10 is proving to be a solid machine and something for the SL photographer to be proud of owning.

Cherie: How much will Photo Life retail for?

OomPoppaMowMow Snookums: While we are generating a lot of buzz, the first version of the studio with all components will be offered for the initial price of $7000L. This will include upgrades as they come out. Wildflowers, the parent company, has a logo on the base of the studio that allows owners to check for future updates. As progress continues, I'll begin offering individual components and HUD packs.

Cherie: Working on any enhancements? What might those be?

OomPoppaMowMow Snookums: Wildflowers, my parent company, has a strong program in rezzing technology. I'm looking forward to bringing an advanced prop rezzer to the photoLIFE system. This will be updateable also with new props as they are developed. One of the things I’m very excited about is texture packs. The OM-10's, as they are now, are equipped to be able to install texture packs. This means we can offer different packs of textures for themed memory groups or even themed studios. All the owner will have to do is buy a texture pack then install it on the OM-10. Simple as that!

Thank you Snookums!

No comments: