Posted in Fashion, Mesh, Second Life

Clothing: The Resurgence of Texture

It’s been quite a long time since I blogged about the state of the clothing market. It was back in January 2014 in fact.

Back then I predicted that clothing would get ever more difficult to make and that more and more clothes would end up being made by fewer and fewer designers, and that we’d get a stagnation of the clothing market. However, when I wrote that, Fitted Mesh was in its infancy and it was unclear where it would go. And where it went was Mesh bodies. Of course this is probably not news to you as Mesh bodies have been ‘mainstream’ for over a year, apparently. I say ‘apparently’ as I haven’t been very active on SL for the past year so I am playing catch-up.

As you are probably aware, there are now a number of competing Fitted Mesh bodies available from designers like SLink, Maitreya, TMP (The Mesh Project), Belleza, and the like. A Fitted Mesh body is essentially a bodysuit that completely replaces your body (which is now being referred to as ‘Classic body’) by using an Alpha Mask to make your Classic body invisible from the neck down. Unlike with Rigged Mesh, the Fitted Mesh responds to the sliders for modifying your body (no more “standard sizes”), which in theory should mean that you still have full control over your shape and look. However, it is of much higher quality and much more realistic than the Classic body shape. In short, it is what Linden Lab should have done themselves with the Classic body.

Mesh clothing compatible with these bodies is available, and older Rigged Mesh clothing will still fit, albeit with some tweaking and the use of additional alpha masks to mask off parts of the Mesh body. How this is achieved varies by body, and some are more clunky than others. I’ll leave it up to you to research further.

For tattoos, skins, and indeed any other texture (which of course includes System Clothing textures), the designer has to  provide an “applier” that is compatible with the Mesh body. An applier is essentially a script that tells the Mesh body how to paint the texture onto it. You’re probably no stranger to appliers if you have used Phat Az, Lola’s Tango and other body modifications that pre-date Fitted Mesh.

Without an applier, the texture will be worn by the Classic body which of course is hidden when you are wearing a Mesh body.

There is an applier specific to each designer’s body, but there is also an ‘Omega’ applier system which is a universal (and free) system understood by many Mesh bodies. If your body is Omega compatible (many are, with the exception of a few such as TMP and SLink Physique) you can use Omega appliers on your body.

So, with all that background information out of the way, it is time to talk about the actual subject of this post. Which, ironically, will take far fewer words to achieve than the preamble.

I recently made friends with someone and she was showing me some of her outfits, and I noticed that some of her clothes were what only a few years ago would have been dismissed as rather out-dated pre-Mesh texture clothing. Only she had fairly recently bought them because they looked ok to her, but crucially had appliers for her Mesh body.

And this got me thinking about my old post where I said that texture-only clothing designers were being left behind. Suddenly this is no longer the case. All a texture-only designer needs to do now to bring their clothing to a whole new audience is to master the ability to provide appliers. From what I can see, this is fairly straightforward and is certainly way easier than making Rigged Mesh.

My personal feelings on texture-only clothing haven’t really changed – I still think it is immensely hard to make it look realistic and even harder to give the impression of 3D shapes with only a 2D texture – and this is never more the case than with things like buckles, clasps, and the like. These will always look better implemented in a 3D medium such as prims or sculpts (in the past) and Mesh (now), but as I have previously pointed out this is much, much harder to achieve. However, traditional 2D texture clothing applied to a Mesh body certainly looks better than when applied to a Classic body – there is less of that awful distortion and glitching that really ruin it, and it definitely gives it a new lease of life to the extent that you could feel happy to wear it.

So, in summary, I think that the clothing market may have opened up somewhat because right now there is a big demand for reasonably-priced texture-only clothing that can be applied to a Mesh body. And, furthermore, texture clothing simply looks better on a Mesh body than on a Classic body to the extent that it is acceptable to wear again.

Maybe there is a place for the small hobbyist designer making texture-only clothing after all. And that has to be a good thing, because the vitality of Second Life depends on user-generated content.

Edit: Just to clarify, the creator of texture clothing must produce an Applier for you. There is currently no way of simply applying existing texture clothing to your mesh body, so unless the creator of your old pre-mesh texture clothing makes an Applier available, you’re out of luck.


Further reading

WARNING: Many of the these links contain digital nudity and are NSFW.

http://strawberrysingh.com/2015/06/21/prim-perfect-introduction-to-mesh-bodies/

http://strawberrysingh.com/2014/12/16/maitreya-mesh-body/

http://juicybomb.com/2014/06/28/slink-physique/

http://alaskametro-sl.com/2014/12/i-heart-my-meshy-bits/

https://readmeri.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/the-mesh-body…

http://simplemusingsl.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/mesh-bodies…

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Posted in Fashion, Mesh, Opinion, Second Life

Stratification in the clothing market

Whilst shopping lately, I’m increasingly seeing what seems to be the same dresses being sold at various different shops. This is not reselling, but a case of designers buying in meshes from third parties.

This is not a new phenomenon, of course. In the past designers often bought full permission sculpts for use in their products, but it was less noticeable as using a sculpt here and a sculpt there is more finely grained; it still creates an overall unique product. In other words, two outfits using the same sculpts might look radically different, because you don’t notice the common sculpts so much, or the designers may be using them in different ways, with different placements, sizing, and the like. They may even be using different permutations of several sculpts from different creators. The overall look is therefore completely different, and the end result unique to that brand. By contrast, a mesh for a dress is entirely monolithic which gives rise to the situation where several clothing brands appear to be selling the same dress.

Ladder of Complexity
Ladder of Complexity

Clothing has gone through quite an evolution over the life of Second Life. From the original “slider clothing” (a.k.a. “system clothing”) with or without user-created textures, through to texture  + prim, texture + flexiprim, texture + sculpts, texture + unrigged mesh, and finally to rigged mesh. At each step in this evolution, the bar for entry to the next level has been raised. Also, from sculpts onwards, they require external software for creation which has its own (often steep) learning curve.

Often, a designer may find they have insufficient skill (and/or time, motivation, commitment or, indeed, ability) to move up to the next level, and can sometimes buy in the 3D models (ie. sculpts or mesh) and texture them into full products. The reason is that in some cases others may have the skill to create the 3D models but not the inclination to make them into products and have the hassle of selling to Residents. In some ways this is roughly analogous to Retailers and Wholesalers in Real Life.

As each level of the ladder gets harder and harder to reach, so the number of people reaching it falls, and so the probability of those people selling their creations to designers lower down the ladder rises (since there is an increasing demand). Or, to put it another way, there is a very small pool of people creating rigged meshes, and from that pool some are keeping them unique to their clothing brand, and others are selling them for other designers to use. And that is why we are seeing many brands selling the same clothes (or appearing to), since not only is their choice more limited but the very nature of rigged mesh means the clothing is more obviously the same (as I mentioned earlier on).

The net effect of the above is that we are seeing a stratification of the clothing market in Second Life, with the “top tier” of brands being created by very talented people who can create 3D models (ie. mesh clothing), rig it to become rigged mesh, skilfully texture it, and then sell it to ordinary people like you or I. The “second tier” are the designers who are unable to create their own rigged meshes and must buy them in, thus running the very real risk that some of their clothes will be extremely similar, if not identical, to those of other brands.

Further on down the ladder, the hobbyists of old who would dabble with prims in-world and with simple textures created with the aid of clothing templates, are increasingly finding that their efforts look unsatisfactory compared to the top designers. They are either having to make their clothing very cheap to compensate, and find themselves unable to afford the rent on their shops, or else are giving up, disheartened. Neither scenario can be good for the long-term health of Second Life.

Nor is this situation looking likely to improve. As mentioned in my previous blog entry, Linden Lab have decided to go down the path of using collision bones for their Fitted Mesh project. Whilst this is a technically simpler and, some may say, more elegant solution to mesh clothing deformation, it makes the task of rigging mesh even harder for content creators, thus making that top rung of the ladder even harder to reach.

I’m not sure where this state of affairs will take Second Life, but I do believe that warning alarms should be ringing somewhere. By making content harder and harder to create, so less and less is going to be created. Not only that, but people who may have found Engagement in Second Life through content creation might decide it is not worth it and instead drift away. However, having said that, I do acknowledge that we need to move forward and people are expecting ever more complex and realistic-looking technologies which, by their nature, are harder and more complex to create. But that doesn’t necessarily negate my point.

So, anyway, those are my thoughts on this. They’re only my opinion, so please feel free to comment below with yours.

Posted in Mesh, Opinion, Second Life

Mesh Deformer and Fitted Mesh

Before I start this post, I’d just like to point out that this is old news. I’m not adding anything new here but the reason I am writing this is that many friends and acquaintances haven’t been aware of the current direction that mesh deformers are taking, so this article is a convenient place to direct people to. It seeks to be a fairly short and easily-digested article, which links to further reading.

Mesh has been around for a while now, and  I think most people have decided where they are with it. At one end of the spectrum we have people who pretty much won’t wear any rigged mesh unless it just happens to fit them “as is” and at the other end of the spectrum we have people willing to have a different version of their shape for almost every outfit they own. And I’m not exaggerating here; two of my closest friends fall into those two extremes.

It’s clear that the Standard Sizes are far from perfect. They were a reasonable workaround to the problem of Rigged Mesh being uneditable, but they are not a solution. Many people (myself included) have been extremely reluctant to alter their natural shape, feeling that the whole point of Second Life is to be who we want to be and that clothes should fit to us and not us to the clothes.

One of the first people to propose a solution was Karl Stiefvater (Qarl Fizz) who proposed the Mesh Deformer project (also known as the Parametric Deformer), which was successfully Crowd Funded and which Karl put a lot of work into. I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people know about this project and of those, a majority are wondering why it hasn’t made it into the Official Viewer yet.

However, it was by no means the only solution and Redpoly Inventor proposed rigging garments to the “collision bones” of the avatar skeleton, which is what evolved into “Liquid Mesh”. The shortcomings of this in its current state is that really there aren’t enough “collision bones” to do a proper job and because it is not officially supported by Linden Lab, it was an unofficial solution and hence prone to breakage in the future.

However, on 20-Nov-2013, Linden Lab posted an entry on their blog entitled Making Mesh Garments Fit Better outlining how they intend to officially adopt the “Liquid Mesh” approach and develop it further, adding additional custom bones in order to overcome the shortcomings of the current approach.

Where does this leave Karl’s Mesh Deformer? Well, parked up and thrown away essentially although one could argue that perhaps it spurred Linden Lab into action and Karl has said that he thinks that what LL is proposing is the technically simpler solution (although is correspondingly more complex for content creators). You can read more on an article that Inara Pey wrote, which includes an analysis of it all and also quotes Karl’s response to the news.  If you don’t follow her blog then I would really recommend it as it is always very well written and very in-depth.

It will be interesting to see how quickly Linden Lab progress this. It’s way overdue, and the sooner we get an official (and effective) solution to the issue of garment deformation the better.


Further reading

(Links are sorted newest to oldest)

External links

SL projects update week 50 (2): Fitted mesh, deformer, viewer code contributions
Inara Pey (12-Dec-2013)

Fitted mesh: “LL’s assessment here is mostly good” – Qarl
Inara Pey (24-Nov-2013)

Lab looks to make mesh garments fit better with the Fitted Mesh project viewer
Inara Pey (20-Nov-2013)

Making Mesh Garments Fit Better
The announcement by Linden Lab (20-Nov-2013)

Liquid Mesh: looking from all sides
An analysis of Liquid Mesh by Inara Pey (26-Aug-2013)

Further links are available at the end of each of Inara’s posts.

Other articles by me on mesh

Mesh convert
How few changes you need to make to your shape to be compatible with
a Standard Size (15-Nov-2013)

It’s starting to Mesh
A short update on how Mesh was working (or not) for me (07-Apr-2013)

Mesh deformer: interview with Qarl Fizz
A reblog of one of Inara’s posts, with further comment by me. (22-Jun-2012)

Oh what a Mesh!
My experiences of Mesh after it had been around for a good few months (16-Jun-2012)

Unencumbered by the trappings of real life
Immersionism vs Augmentism, and how Mesh affects it (22-Apr-2012)

Mesh
My first, somewhat naive post on the subject (27-Sep-2011)

Posted in Fashion, Mesh, Opinion, Second Life

Mesh convert

UPDATED:
Initially I based my shape changes on Standard Size ‘Small’, but after a couple of weeks I have realised that ‘Medium’ (with some modifications) is closer to my desired shape, as  ‘Small’ lost too many of my curves and made me look skinny. I’ve therefore updated this article accordingly.

After a long absence from Second Life, I’m kind of rediscovering it again.

One of the reasons for this is that I have finally bitten the bullet, so to speak, and created a copy of my shape and made it compatible with Standard Sizing. Although this seems like a massive climb-down from my previous stance on not wanting to change my shape, the thing that influenced my decision (quite apart from the desire to wear more modern clothing) is that there are surprisingly few parameters you need to change in order to have something that is broadly compatible with one of the Standard Sizes.

I chose to bring mine closer to the ‘Medium’ size, which meant adjusting the following parameters:

  • Body Fat: 11 (15)
  • Torso Muscle: 38 (38)
  • Breast Size: 58 (54)
  • Love Handles: 31 (11) [Note: I chose not change this]
  • Belly Size: 6 (2)
  • Leg Muscle: 56 (42) [Note: Again, I chose not to change this]
  • Butt Size: 44 (45)
  • Saddle Bags: 36 (41)

(Figures shown in brackets are what my normal size was)

The two things that looked awfully wrong with that were the Love Handles and Leg Muscle values, which I chose to leave unchanged. The former gives me the more curvy look I prefer, and I predict should not affect many clothes as the important thing is not to clip, although obviously some clothes will hide my narrower waist and make me look slightly shapeless. Some crop tops may require a “half-way house” version with more waist in order to look right.
With the Leg Muscles value, I figured that this would predominantly affect only boots and I could go for S or XS ones for that.

I have to say that I am really encouraged by the fact that I still look like “me” after the changes, and I’d encourage anyone else holding off from Rigged Mesh clothing to try similar (assuming your shape is modifiable). It has really opened up the doors to a whole new round of shopping in SL for me. And you know how much I love shopping!

I managed to make a comparison pic using an animated GIF. You can see the differences between my natural shape, the adjustment for Medium, and the Small from the original. Whilst I still prefer my natural shape, the Medium one is an acceptable compromise.

Comparison of shapes
Comparison of shapes (should be animated)
Posted in Fashion, Mesh, Second Life

It’s starting to Mesh

All Dressed Up by Becca Ashbourne
All Dressed Up, a photo by Becca Ashbourne on Flickr.

Having previously said that I am not a great fan of Rigged Mesh, I’m slowly starting to discover things that I like, and that fit me (or fit near enough that a minor tweak is all that is needed). In this case it’s this lovely dress by Baiastice and hair by elikatira (I still want to say ETD, which dates me I guess!).

The dress is lovely, but not without limitations. For a start you can’t wear shoes with it, and I love shoes! The other is that occasionally when dancing, you can see that it’s invisible inside and that I have invisible legs. I guess that’s an intrinsic issue with Rigged Mesh.

 

 

Posted in General, Mesh, Opinion, Second Life

Some really interesting points raised by Qarl here. I have to concur with his comments about the new TPV policy and how it stifles innovation; it can’t do otherwise.

It’s funny that he should comment that Linden Lab didn’t see Mesh clothing coming because I was having the same discussion with a friend just recently. The Lab’s response has been very much “but why would you want to do that?” and then bury their head in the sand about it. The fact that pretty much every major clothing Designer is offering Rigged Mesh clothing now is surely a pretty bloody strong indication that sorting the Mesh issue is of prime importance, yet their support of Qarl and the Parametric Deformer project seems lukewarm at best.

I’m still unswayed in my opinion that this is make-or-break for SL.

Inara Pey: Living in a Modem World

Note this is a 4-page piece. Please use the page options at the bottom of the article to page through.

Wednesday June 20th was Mesh Day at SL9B, and featured speakers and presentations on the subject of – you guessed it – mesh. The day saw the auditorium area swamped with people anxious to hear all the news and join in with practical discussions (for future SLB events, it might be worthwhile putting the auditorium at the junction of adjoining regions if hot topics are to be featured as a part of events).

One of the discussions taking place featured Karl Stiefvater, aka Qarl Fizz (formerly Linden). Qarl is the man most closely associated with the mesh parametric deformer project and who was, while working for Linden Lab, both behind the sculpty and a member of the Lab’s early mesh team. He was talking with Saffia Widdershins and taking questions…

View original post 4,705 more words

Posted in Mesh, Opinion, Second Life

Oh what a Mesh!

Mesh seems to be all the rage at the moment, despite the fact that Rigged Mesh for clothes simply doesn’t work for many of us. With many designers throwing themselves headlong into Mesh and the awful “standard sizes” to the exclusion of all else, options feel like they are getting limited for those of us who don’t get on with it.

Why doesn’t Rigged Mesh clothing work for me? Well, the primary reason is that I can rarely get it to fit me. I’m a slim, petite avatar of just over 5ft in height, with a ‘real world’ body shape (ie. curves, hips and boobs) and none of the “standard sizes” are anywhere near similar to my body shape and I don’t want to change. I also find that many Rigged Mesh clothes suffer from an issue of being “invisible inside”. If you cam up your skirt or down your top, either you are invisible due to the alpha mask you need to wear, or the clothing itself is invisible due to the designer saving some prim equivalence by making it transparent on the inside. It’s particularly evident on long gowns where you can see it even without camming.

The Parametric Deformer that Qarl Fizz is working on (and that I mentioned in my article “Unencumbered by the trappings of real life”) promises to solve many of these issues and I’m following it with interest, but in the meantime what else is on offer?

I was shopping at GothiCatz today, a store I like very much, and I’m heartened to see that the designer Looloo Beck has adopted a different approach to her use of Mesh. She uses non-rigged Mesh attachments just like in the past she would have used sculpted prims. This has the advantage of being able to resize and move them to get a good fit and can be scripted with traditional resize scripts too. This really works for me and I wish more designers would make use of this hybrid approach rather than using Rigged Mesh. To me it seems like the best of both worlds, or certainly a good compromise.

Presence by GothiCatz, with boots by G-Field.

One area that I am finding Rigged Mesh works well is on boots. I find that boots are much more likely to fit me than clothes, and you are also less likely to suffer from the problems I mentioned earlier. Boots seem to lend themselves better to the strengths of Mesh, bending naturally at joints. Certainly they render non-Mesh overknee boots instantly obsolete. I think one of the reasons they work better is that there is less movement with legs and in less directions. On the torso you get twisting, shearing and bending that cause all sorts of deformations. In contrast, boots experience very little of this. The knee is a very simple joint and even the ankle has limited movement, so the Mesh is subjected to way less deformation.

Guns similarly gain an advantage by being Mesh. I have a number of guns from Breach by Eata Kitty which I buy because they are so beautifully detailed. However, I’m quite petite and it’s often hard to get these guns to look right on me. Their MP7, for example, looks like an Assault Rifle on me despite the fact that in Real Life it is a machine pistol. But their new Mesh pistol “Raven” is fantastic because the Mesh allows it to have a resize script that can scale the entire gun down to fit my small hands. This is simply brilliant and I so wish they would re-do the MP7 the same way. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Breach bring out next.

So, as we suspected, designers are starting to find their feet with Mesh and are starting to innovate as we knew they would. Likewise, we as customers are beginning to understand what works for us and what doesn’t. Personally, I still consider the “standard sizes” to be a dead end and until Qarl’s Parametric Deformer becomes widely adopted I doubt I will be buying much Rigged Mesh clothing (despite regularly trying demos – I haven’t completely given up on it) and I think it will be interesting to see where things go.

Posted in General, Mesh, Opinion, Second Life, Viewers

Parametric Deformer update

As I mentioned in my article “Unencumbered by the trappings of real life” I consider Qarl’s Parametric Deformer project to be immensely important to Second Life.

I notice an update in the JIRA that is tracking this that Oz Linden has accepted Qarl’s latest v0.3 submission and committed it to the Official Viewer.

There seems to be a bit of friction between Oz and Qarl, but I think it’s encouraging news that, far from seeking to quash the Parametric Deformer, Linden Lab appear to be working with Qarl to bring us this important update.

 


Links

https://jira.secondlife.com/browse/STORM-1716
http://modemworld.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/mesh-deformer-0-3-code-available

Posted in Fashion, Flickr, General, Opinion, Phoenix / Firestorm, Second Life, Viewer 2.x

Mesh

Slink Mesh Boots!!, originally uploaded by Nana Minuet.

I have to say I was getting very excited by Mesh, especially with the recent announcement that Phoenix is going to be supporting it (thanks to some dedicated work by Henri Beauchamp of the Cool Viewer).

These boots are a great case in point – imagine how wrong the knees would look in that pose if those were sculpt boots!

However, all is not as good as it seems; I’ve learned that the current implementation of Mesh is worse than useless, for clothes at least. It would seem that a mesh object attaches to your skeleton, not your “flesh”, and cannot be resized in-world. That means that if you are slim like the model in the above pics, those boots would look great. However, if you are any other size than her they won’t fit. Oh, sure, an alpha layer will mask out the bits of you that the boots cover but if you have bigger thighs than her you’re fresh out of luck.

One of the biggest benefits of Second Life is you can be who you want to be. You (or, rather, your avatar) can be exactly as you want it – it’s the overriding expression of your individuality and what makes Second Life so wonderful. But if Mesh clothing is going to force us all to resize our avatar to the clothing, rather than the clothing to the avatar, then this is a bad thing.

There is a JIRA running on this. It’s rather technical but the gist of it is “change Mesh to resize to your flesh not be fixed size and attached to your skeleton”.
See https://jira.secondlife.com/si/jira.issueviews:issue-html/SH-2374/SH-2374.html