Wednesday, April 02, 2008

CSI (8): The Conclusion

In a day or two the VW Conference in New York starts. Last october, in the San Jose edition, we had CSI creator Anthony Zuiker as one of the Keynote speakers on the CSI:NY & Second Life mashup. Although we had high anticipations, the actual numbers flocking to Second Life after the show aired were largely disappointing.

Well, the VW Conference is back, and so is CSI. Nic Mitham from KZero puts it nicely:

Well, it’s back with the second part of the story and being aired tonight on CBS. On a related note, it is me or does the timing here seem a little spooky? First episode - just after VW Fall, second episode the night before day one of the NY show. Maybe someone should investigate that.

During the VW Conference in October Zuiker said the plan was to air the second episode in February, but somehow that was delayed. Some even speculated it was cancelled, but yesterday I read this at one of the Electric Sheep blogs;

Tomorrow, at 10, CBS will air the long awaited conclusion to Down the Rabbit Hole and wrap up the story of everybody’s favorite cyberceleb turned killer, Venus.

If you saw last week’s teaser for tomorrow’s episode, then aside from hearing an interesting cover of “Back in the New York Groove” you saw a few machinima shots in the trailer (including the one above.) But, while we can’t really give away any plot points, we can say – there’s more than you saw in the promo.

What’s different about this time though, is that we have some awesome behind the scenes pics we’ll be posting and linking to (courtesy of Damien Fate) explaining how we did some of the shots and showing what went into making them.

A little digging brought me to the official press release:


Primetime CBS Series Offers A Glimpse Into The Future Of 3D Animation Using Electric Sheep’s Machinima

March 31, 2008 — NEW YORK, NY —

CBS drama CSI:NY and the Electric Sheep Company partner to wrap up the Virtual
World killer plot line in the upcoming episode “DOA for a Day” on CSI:NY,
Wednesday, April 2 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
The first part of the episode titled, “Down The Rabbit Hole” which originally aired, Wednesday, October 24th will re-air this Wednesday, March 26 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

In “DOA for a Day” the CSI’s, working with an anonymous tip, travel to an abandoned warehouse and back into the virtual 3D computer world where they hope to find one of the city’s most-wanted criminals.

The Electric Sheep Company, a leading virtual world services company, was hired to supply the animation for both episodes. The machinima was produced by the former ILL Clan, machinima pioneers acquired by the Electric Sheep Company in January 2007 to head their machinima animation division.

“Speed is what distinguishes machinima from all other forms of animation,” says machinima animation director Kerria Seabrooke. “In spite of the extremely tight deadline, we still had time to focus on details such as seamless animations, the richness of color, the flow of fabric, the metallic reflection on a gun, which bring the virtual world into the realm of high-end 3D animation.”

Machinima (machine + cinema) animation differs from traditional 3D animation because it is similar to shooting film or TV. It’s shot in real time without the long rendering times that traditional 3D computer animation requires. The real-time aspect of machinima animation was very important on this project, as there was a two-week turnaround time from script to completed animation.

In addition to the animation, an ongoing cross platform experience was created last fall in the virtual world of Second Life by the Electric Sheep Company in conjunction with CBS and Anthony E. Zuiker (creator of the CSI Franchise). The experience includes a virtual lab where users can recreate the experiments and tests from the show as they solve one crime per month.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dark Discovery: a promising ARG

Just little over an hour I ago Reuben Steiger, Millions of Us CEO announced the release of the worlds first ARG through his twitterstream. As already defined by Wikipedia, an ARG is:

"An alternate reality game is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions."

On the Millions of Us blog we find the introduction to the story:

2 weeks before the launch of the new Fox show “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” a website for an unusual company
. In their first video they claimed to have developed a tachyon camera that sensed faster-than-light particles and could therefore generate images of the future.

Their first blog post generated significant online controversy, with 53 posts suggesting ways of testing the camera’s capabilities. In their second video, the researchers followed the audience’s suggestions, taking photos of mirrors, newspapers, and cityscapes. The images they revealed suggested a dark and apocalyptic future.
Soon the audience became directly involved in the story,
digging up similar camera devices around the United States.

Finally, the researchers found themselves being hunted by a deadly entity seeking to stop their work permanently. The drama built to an explosive conclusion in the Sausalito parking lot of Enitech’s offices. Now that it’s concluded we’d like to show you a bit of it.

If you want to know more, check out

Introductions may look good, but the screening of the story may be disappointing. The preview though posted at the MoU blog looks very impressive though and may put the MoU back into the drivers seat of the mixed reality metarati:

The ARG is part of the new Fox tv series "The Sarah Connor Chronicles". Does the name ring a bell? Here's a little info on the show:

"At the end of "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," Sarah vanquished the Terminator sent from the future to kill her teenage son, John. Sarah and John now find themselves alone in a very dangerous, complicated world. Fugitives from the law, they are confronted with the reality that still more enemies from the future, and the present, could attack at any moment.

TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES reveals what happens when SARAH (Lena Headey) stops running and goes on the offensive against an ever-evolving technological enemy bent on destroying her life, and perhaps the world. Her son, 15-year-old JOHN CONNOR (Thomas Dekker), knows that he may be the future savior of mankind, but is not yet ready to take on the mantle of leadership that he's told is his destiny. John finds himself inextricably drawn to CAMERON (Summer Glau), an enigmatic and otherworldly student at his high school, who soon proves to be much more than his confidante - she assumes the role of Sarah and John's fearless protector. On their trail are not only threats from the future, but an intelligent and tough FBI agent, JAMES ELLISON (Richard T.Jones), who soon becomes a powerful ally."

The Enitech website and blog is supporting the show, being the official blog for the resistance. Read the blog to find out more about the Terminator machines, the SkyNet company and the show episodes of course. Here's an entry from the blog:

"Brief update in the wake of the Enitech tragedy

March 3rd, 2008

Enitech admin here again. As many of you have now heard, Enitech Research labs was destroyed and several employees were killed last week. I’ve heard a rumor that a media outlet was able to get a hold of video footage, an interview with Anna Kies, before her untimely death during the Enitech Attack. Hopefully this will shed some light on the many questions we still have in the wake of such a senseless tragedy.

Posted in EniTech News 11 Comments »"

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Your expectations of the Metaverse in 2007

This evening I took some time again to skim through my Linked-In network and browsed the questions from my connections. There's this lad, Rick, who's working on a thesis on Second Life and the metaverse. He posed this question:

Has Second Life in 2007 raised or lowered your expectations for the
Since the big hype in October of last year those who have been watching the Virtual World of Second Life have seen the hype come and go. But what have we learned from the most successful metaverse up to now? Has it raised or lowered your expectations for a social virtual world?

Now I had a bit of a fight with Linked-In tonight. My answer was too long (apparently 4000 characters max), I tried adding the last bit by clarifying, tried editing and finally deleting and start over again. However, that didn't work either as it said I had already posted. So here's my answer:

Early 2007 I said that the age of the Digerati was gone and that 2007 was the beginning of a new era, that of the Metarati, the visionairs that bring us the metaverse. It truly has begun. It's not just Second Life, but the whole industry.

The year isn't over yet and we've seen over 2 billion US$ in investments in the Networked Virtual Environment Industry. It's not just SL: It's platforms like Qwaq springing up for business, it's Neopets going 144 million subscriptions strong, it's Hipihi, Novoking and the other Chinese booms, it Football superstars and Barbie Girls boosting the extraverse (branded worlds) and it's Sony Home or Eve Online with the new Crytek engine bringing us superior graphics

Over the past year Second Life has drawn more media attention than any other virtual world, respectively positive and then later ill-informed negative publicity has driven the world of Second Life into a hype cycle, especially in the Dutch Press after the Dutch PCM Web (Personal Computer Magazine) picked up a story by the LA Times that companies are getting disappointed in Second Life.

It is another sign of old media living in total oblivion of what is going on.

"After an enormous hype om Second Life more and more 'experts' are getting sceptic on the added value of Second Life to business. Online visitors aren't big shoppers, but are mainly looking for entertainment" reads the introduction. Where did this come from? There's hardly a real life company to be found in Second Life that's actually selling stuff. If it ain't on offer, we can't buy it.
"Successfully promoting your company inside the virtual world of Second Life shows to be harder than expected. More and more marketing departments conclude that Second Life residents feel like visiting their online stores. "Actually there isn't any convincing reason to be present in Second Life" says Brian McGuinness, a Hotelchain bigshot in the LA times, and thus his company left Second Life"

Most of these 'marketing departments' probably have never seen Second Life from the inside. Many companies just use Second Life as another medium for corporate communication... without understanding it. It's back to the early 90's when serious companies launched crappy (excuse me) Frontpage websites.

In most cases there wont be a ROI (return on investment) indeed for the year to come, or even the year after. When will companies see that Second Life is not a commercial, a product flyer?
There are companies that dig SL though. Have a look at Intel and Cisco giving tech meetings and classes on Java and other skills. take a look at Philips taking surveys, or at ABN Amro organising sponsor events for non profits.

One of the most telling lines in this article is the following quote: "Analists from Forrester (yay, the big reasearchers) have calculated that at prime time there are only about 35,000 to 40,000 visitors in Second Life" Okay, prepare for another research paper (usual rates about $ 1.000,- US dollar / hard cash) telling you the same the counter on this webpage -an many many other websites - will show you every single day. The good news is: You don't even need to pay me L$ 1,000 to get this info. (Concurrent Logins as per june 07, now over 50K)

Now the Dutch seem to have been in the grips of hypecycles for several years now, on a range of subjects. The nation is becoming governed by the whims of media. The point is that most companies don't really have a clue either to what they want from a virtual world like Second Life. It still seems like many companies establish a presence in Second Life because everybody does so (that's no longer valid). It's like users: If you register for SL and have no idea what you want to do there, you're likely not to return. You're at a loss. Companies should have a goal in Second Life as well. Innovation, Exploration, Crowdsourcing, User Acceptance, Branding, Sponsoring whatever, just make up your mind and set some goals...

Aside from the misperceptions I have seen the virtual worlds grow. Many new startups stir up competition, challenging each platform to innovate and stay at the top. There’s the promise of new and converging media with projects like CSI:NY, The Office, Gossip Girls and the Korean Que Sera adding interactivity to television, which make me believe we are making progress on making these worlds fit for business. So yes, sofar 2007 has definately raised hopes of making the metaverse fit for business. Virtual Economies are the fastest growing economies on earth. Advancement in terms of stability and scalability are made in rapid succession. It's an enormously varied landscape though, different cultures, people and habits. A wide variety of engines are used to drive these worlds. Some are java-based, some are desktop applications that connect to grids and some are using streaming technology. It's almost impossible to try and define these worlds, let alone find ways for identity management unified communications, interoperability and portability for the sector. These are the steps we have to make these worlds an integral part of our daily work or leisure time.

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