Software and learning support

Summary

This document consists of three parts:

  1. a note on open source software in general, with recommendations of software you might use for content creation
  2. a guide to other web sites supporting this module, with rationale for the use of each
  3. an indicative list of software relevant to this module

1. A note on software

Whenever and wherever possible, I shall be recommending—and we shall be using in workshops—open source software. There are at least the following four reasons for doing so:

  • using open source, together with occasional downloads of trial versions of commercial software, gives you the opportunity to try out a range of different packages for accomplishing the same tasks, thereby allowing you to learn general underlying principles of VR design and production rather than simply the superficial features of specific GUIs.
  • the quality of the most well-known open source applications (Blender, Hugin, AoI, etc) is outstanding, with functionality and performance that are more than a match for most commercial packages.
  • open source software very often allows you a more ‘hands-on’ approach to VR creation (e.g. the optional manual insertion of control points in Hugin) than does commercial software (especially commercial software at the ‘hobbyist’ end of the market), and therefore you are more likely to learn something of the underlying principles and techniques of construction that you will using only commercial software.
  • open source software is almost invariably free. This means that you are not constrained to working solely within the Sopwith labs. You can download and install your own copies, and work as easily at home as you do in the university.
  • open source software is less likely to be platform-specific than commercial software, so you’ll in all likelihood be able to use it irrespective of whether your personal computer is running Windows, Mac, or Linux.

Indicative applications

It’s not feasible to give a comprehensive listing of all software you might use for this module, since this might often depend on what softeware you already own or on what new software might be installed on the Faculty application server.  The following is an indicative list of software I currently use in tutorials given on this module:

CamStudio (free screen recording application for Windows)
» http://camstudio.org

Wink (free cross-platform screen recording application)
» http://www.debugmode.com/wink/

Gimp (free cross-platform image processing application)
» http://www.gimp.org

Audacity (free cross-platform digital audio editor and recording application)
» http://audacity.sourceforge.net
Build your own island: [t.b.c.]

Terragen (free cross-platform scenery generator program, used with Bailiwick for terraforming in SL)
» http://www.planetside.co.uk

Bailiwick (free RAW file editor)
» http://www.spinmass.com/Software/Bailiwick.aspx

Hugin (free cross-platform panorama photo stitcher)
In earlier iterations of the module Hugin was used for creating panoramic VR.  It remains a useful tool for (a) perspective correction when creating architectural textures for in-world buildings, and (b) creating 360 degree panoramas for holodecks, spherical skyboxes, and virtual reality rooms.
» http://hugin.sourceforge.net

2. Learning support

Although the site you are now reading will remain the central hub for all teaching and learning in this module, like Blackboard it does not provide all the functionality I need to run this module effectively and efficiently.  The following will also be used:

  • Blackboard.  Blackboard, for so long as it remains the University’s official learning management system, will be a point of entry to this module, listing and linking to the principal online resources, and used for bulk email to the cohort.  The remaining items on this list are used for purposes not supported by Blackboard.
  • The VortiCISM wiki.  The wiki is used primarily at the end of the module when students will (a) post their reports and videos to the Project Repository, and (b) give qualitative feedback on the module.
  • EditGrid. A free Web 2.0 spreadsheet service used for registering student avatar names, managing project teams, etc.
  • Publishing your report.  I would like to ensure that your final reports, posted to the Project Repository, are immediately visible to other and future students without the necessity of download before viewing.  I therefore propose that students use a 3rd party Web 2.0 service, such as Google Docs or Zoho Writer, to publish their reports
  • Publishing your video.  You are encouraged, though not obliged, to submit at the end of the module a video presentation / walkthrough of the practical work you have done.  The easiest way to do this is to upload your video to YouTube, Vimeo, Blip.tv, or other, and insert the embed code in the Project Repository.

3. General / directories of software

Sculpted Prims: 3d Software Guide
“This page offers a list of 3D modeling software for use with Sculpt Maps for Sculpted Prims, along with a short explanation of popular 3D file formats. Each entry lists the software package’s web site, operating system support, cost and trial versions if applicable, and the license.”
» http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Sculpted_Prims:_3d_Software_Guide

Sculpted Prims: Resident-made Tools
“This page showcases special purpose tools for creating, manipulating, and viewing sculpted prims. Most of them are created by SL residents”.
» http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Sculpted_Prims:_Resident-made_Tools

Software

3D modeling

SculptyPaint (Linux, Mac, Windows)
» http://www.xs4all.nl/~elout/sculptpaint/

Rokuro + Tokoroten
» http://www.kanae.net/secondlife/

Blender + prim.blender (Linux, Mac, Windows)
An open source (Python code) plugin, released under the GPL license that reads and writes a simple xml format that stores Second Life ‘prim’ (primitive, a building block object) information
» http://sourceforge.net/projects/primdotblender

Textures

The GIMP
As a general image processing application, GIMP may not at first seem an obvious choice of software for content creation in Second Life. Yet its ability to open and save dozens of image types, including TGA and RAW (used in Second Life) make this an essential tool, in particular for creating and processing textures. As powerful as Photoshop, but open source and free.
» http://www.gimp.org

Avatars

MakeHuman
» http://www.dedalo-3d.com

Animation

Qavimator
» http://www.qavimator.org

Audio

Audacity
» http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

Terraforming

Terragen + Bailiwick
» http://www.planetside.co.uk/terragen/
» http://www.spinmass.com/bailiwick/

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