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Solutions for Problem #2: Keeping bodies in...


Solutions for problem #2: keeping bodies in...
This is the follow-up to a series of posts found here, here and here, on challenges posed by virtual conferences, notably those involving the use of Second Life (SL).
- To keep bodies in... both real and virtual spaces:

- the use of voice by speakers is essential. Typing is just too time consuming and not very interesting. SL associates a typing animation to the act of typing that can also be quite irritating (though you can turn it off).
- a very common mistake when using voice in SL is that residents accidentally leave their sound channel open... This causes often unwanted background noise. We made sure we warned about this beforehand and more than one time and we even sent tutorials on the voice features in SL for those that migth not be acquainted with it. the real chapter

Please keep in mind that we had an audience looking at a screen where the SL conference was taking place.

  • We created a role for one of the chapter coordinators that we labeled "camera director". The idea was to avoid a single, continuous shot of the whole amphitheater in SL where the conference was to take place; as well as grasp the detail of some of the slides used in the Powerpoint presentations, when the text would be too small to read 'at a distance'. 
  • To make the in-world conference as vivid as possible to the on-site participants, we sent out some hints on making this process is made as dynamic - as in cinematic - as possible. The 'camera director' was responsible for following each speaker (avatar) standing up (in SL) and approaching the podium. We also told 'camera directors' that they were free to - during each presentation - cut to audience shots and close-ups of speaker's face, as well as zomming into slides when font was too small. 
- in the in-world chapter

We reminded participants that
  • avatar's inactivity for a certain period of time may result in automatic logout or at least in the embarrassing 'away' mode (when avatar assume a 'sleeping' position, not ideal for a conference :) Therefore even a slight avatar's move from once in a while is enough to avoid that situation. 
  • normal etiquette was expected. Once arrived to amphitheater, participants were to take a seat with the audience. They would be welcome to IM other participants but unless absolutely necessary this should be done in private chat. Text in the local chat shoudl be reserved for the Q+A. 
Lessons learned:

  • Even with the close-ups on slides with smaller font it is obvious that some rules on accessibility for the use of slide-show in virtual environments need to be adopted... Some speakers had busy screens and small font. One thing is to see these in a real conference - which is never good but it is possible to abstract the 2D screen from everything else in the real room. In Second Life, small font and busy graphics incomprehensibly blend onto a background of other graphics (and text, as we had many logos representing all involved institutions). In sum, it is time for some accessbility guidelines to be put in place for Powerpoint presentations in SL. 
  • Shots of the audience would often show real participants vieweing the virtual amphitheater some members 'away'* or anyway not very active. The same is true of speakers who we would hear and see changing from the 2 or 3 poses prebuilt in Second Life. In a virtual conference where there is at least part of an audience attending it by passively looking at a large screen... the cinematic quality of what is viewed is important (just like with a movie). So I recommend the use of 'gestures' for both speakers and audience. For the SL users out there, this is done simply by accessing Inventory > gestures. You can chain gestures together (for a speaker, for instance) or you can randomize them (for an audience member who wants to change sitting poses). I include a wonderful tutorial by Torley (Linden Labs staff) under resources, next.
Resources on keeping bodies in...

A. Basic

1. Typing should not be allowed in a conference. It is important to note that opting for voice may imply conducting the event (in the real world) where an Internet connection other than wireless is possible. Video: Intro to voice chat in SL 
2. Speaking in SL or even the simple fact of sitting can be associated with gestures (these are called speech gestures when associated to the animation of an avatar using voice). Introducing avatars' gestures that are beyond those used by default in SL increases expressivity and, hence, the cinematic quality of the scene to be viewed by an audience at a physical room. Video: How to use gestures 
3. Showing a scene on a big screen for a large audience is just that - not very different from a movie. Therefore, it is important that viewing angles, and shots in general vary with time. TO this effect, it s fundamental that one representative at each of the physical chapters in in charge solely of handling SL camera controls. Video: Camera controls 
B. Advanced
1. Use 'push to talk " (don't have it permanently open!). You set these features up under Preferences > Voice chat. Not too loud, not too low volume. Pay attentio to what is taking place on chat... or just say that you are suing voice (*not all residents on the space where you are maybe using voice and important information may be being passed on*). Video:  Voice chat etiquette 
2. In SL do Inventory > Library > Gestures > *drag Speech Gestures on to your avatar. This brings it under 'my inventory > Gestures> Speech* > Right click on gestures > Add to Outfit. Now all the gestures are active! Video: Customize speech Gestures 
3. In SL choose the Advanced menu > Character> Enabled Lip Synch. Video: Lip sync 
All videos from Linden Labs staff member Torley - extremely well done and easy to follow. 



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