Friday, June 3, 2016

Painting With Light - The Particle Laboratory

While wandering around the Particle Laboratory the other day, I asked Marianne McCann, she of the fabulous summer fireworks displays, what she could explain to me about particles. "Particles are two-dimensional effects in Second Life," she replied. "Any time you see water spray, or fog, etc., you are likely seeing a particle effect. (Or, of course, fireworks.)" "So," I said, "it' painting with light?" "Ya," said Mari, "I suspect that's a good description." Spread out over various locations in the sims Teal, Slate and Hina on the continent of Sansara, Jopsy Pendragon's Particle Laboratory is a longstanding and iconic Second Life destination for all those wishing to learn how to "paint" in this way.

At the landing point in Teal, click on the red arrow (pictured above) to go directly to the Laboratory. Or, hop a ride on the hot air balloon to journey to several other destinations in the area. States Jopsy, "The Particle Laboratory was originally built in April 2004 using materials that were originally used for my particle classes. Self-paced learning turned out to be much more popular, convenient and effective than making people wait for a class to be scheduled. Since opening, the lab has grown to occupy twice as much space, has been rebuilt three times and now contains at least four times as much content!"

"The Particle Laboratory is not run for profit," he continued, "and the full-perm particle example scripts and related scripts are all free (and royalty free). There is a consignment shop for premium particle textures and a script-generating console available for a modest fee, the proceeds of which go to helping cover the cost of Particle Laboratory's and surrounding land use fees, with any rare excess rolling over to cover the next month's fees."

In the Laboratory (pictured above), I looked around at the great number of tutorial stations, and asked Jopsy if particle creation was hard to learn. "It's easier to learn how to modify an existing effect than it is to learn how to create a new effect from scratch," he commented. "Fortunately there are many examples to start from, and all one need learn is which numbers to edit, after which it becomes a process of trial and error. Most Particle Laboratory visitors spend about 3 hours (not all at once) exploring and experimenting with the exhibits, by which time they're ready to start modifying basic particle scripts for use in their own creations. There are some rather advanced particle effects that can require a bit of 'real scripting' to make work. Prior experience can be helpful when working on these, but it's not at all required, and there are often people around willing to offer help and guidance."

All good info, but let's leave the tutorials alone for a bit and go in search of the end result. The hot air balloon ride also stops at The Cloud Chateau, located in Hina. The Chateau contains an amphitheater (pictured above) filled with ever-changing particle effects. You can perch on the chairs which surround the theater's edge, or you can dance on the floor, as I am, right in the center of the action. The ambient/electronic stream provides a perfect musical accompaniment for dreamy, trancelike dances. Once you are completely blissed out, wander back outside, hop on the balloon, and choose "whale" as your destination. This will take you to the Grotto of Lost Souls (pictured below) in Slate. Make sure you venture inside the cave (actually the mouth of the whale) and take a ride on the Circle of Life in mouselook.

There are other things worth visiting in the area, including caverns, several sandboxes, and opportunities to ride gondolas through the waters. It may take a few visits to see everything, especially if you decide to utilize the tutorials. When I asked Jopsy what started him on this journey, he said, "When I started in SL, there was almost no documentation. No wiki, no tutorials... just a few crude sample scripts floating around with no real explanation. Everything was learned through trial and error. With twenty two or so particle parameters (now more!), that's a lot of permutations and combinations to try out. I had the time and patience to really dive in and really 'learn' what can and can't be done with particles and found things that I thought other people might find useful or at least interesting, but I had no easy way of sharing what I'd learned with others, so I created The Particle Laboratory! Also, I believed that more residents with better understanding of SL's creative tools would raise the general content quality in SL. It was a goal I believe I shared with the two other 'old school' types like the late Lumiere Noire (Ivory Tower of Primitives) and Robin Sojourner (The Texture Tutorial)." Speaking of tutorials, Torley has created several based in the Laboratory, two of which can be seen here and here.

Jopsy ended by saying, "My interest in SL comes and goes. When I'm not inspired, I take some time off and do other things, but I've always come back recharged with new ideas and things to dabble with. For me it's the 'sandbox' quality of Second Life that keeps me coming back... turning ideas into things that can be shared with others is a blast." Come on down to the Particle Laboratory, learn how to create a particle or two, or just dance in the Cloud Chateau and lose yourself in the beauty of these magical little paintings of light. Here's some dreamy electronica to get you in the mood: Phaedra by Tangerine Dream. Enjoy your visit!

No comments:

Post a Comment