Production Roles

Making a webcomic by shooting it in Second Life (and other virtual worlds) involves some or all of the following roles:

If there's just yourself, then of course you do all of these at some time or another. There are methods by which you can shoot a whole sequence using one one avatar (see Shooting) but they are time consuming, awkward and error prone. Somewhat easier is shooting with more than one avatar, whether it's your main avatar plus an alt, your avatar and other people's avatars, or some combination of these. In either case, a regular group that makes webcomics is in effect a "Production Crew" or Crew for short.

Crews

This comic has been created only by the efforts of one or more avatar crews in Second Life and elsewhere.

Originally the crew was Laurel Galli and an Alt or two. Since then it has expanded with the addition of non-alt avatars. While it can be difficult to organize several people whether in real or virtual life, it can be rewarding as well. The most fun I've had in Second Life is pre-production (building, scouting and even plot ideas) and shooting with others. Alts are handy, but they are only an extension of yourself, and you still end up doing all the work. Doing that with others can lead to unexpected but welcome results.

If you have a crew one of the first things you'll need to do is create a second life group for it. This has several advantages.You can...

Each group costs $L 100 to create, and you must have at least 3 members within 48 hours (or if there are less than three members) or it is dissolved. If you have three accounts (main + two alts), that's no problem! The SECONDS Production Crew was initially created with several roles. Everyone starts out as a fan but they can be assigned (by the Director and Assistant Directors) extra roles like Actor (poses), Builder (makes things), Camera (takes snapshots), Customizing (makes clothes and customizes avatars) and Resources (finds locations, things, poses, HUDs and extra members for the crew), which they can select when needed.

"Live" Avatars

While it may be convenient to have a bunch of Alts in a crew (they all do what they're told) it's more fun to have other people from real life participate with their main or "live" avatars. Harder to organize, but there's more creativity and fun to be had with the more people involved. The Owner or Producer's primary job is to do that organizing, in such a way that the shoots get done and everyone involved gets something out of it. Being part of a crew gives you a focus on your building, buying and customization. Far better to have a reason behind these than to just use or buy stuff off the shelf because it's there.

At least that's the theory. Bottom line is getting the shoots done so that there's source material for the web comic or machinima. After that it's up to you to make the process fun, even if it can also be difficult, challenging or frustrating. If it's not fun in-world, don't do it!

On a more practical note, live avatars are essential when shooting machinima, because while you may have several alts, you can only be on one keyboard/console/viewer at a time, and coordinating animations is much tricker that setting up static poses.

ALTs

An alternative account or "Alt", is "is an account you use for something other than your usual activity" (see Linden Lab Official:Alt account policies. Effectively each Alt is an extra avatar that you can use to make web comics with. Currently (August 2011) you can create up to five accounts per household, but no more than two accounts in a single 24-hour period. It still maybe only yourself doing everything, but having additional Alts means that you can dress and pose each for use in shoots.

Note though that each Alt avatar must conform to all Second Life policies - "you agree to provide truthful and accurate information about yourself when you register for accounts; that includes not only your contact information and real name but also whether this is your first free basic account or a new alt (see TOS section 2.1). People who do not provide truthful information risk losing their accounts". This means you have to be up front and honest about who you are, at least to Linden Labs.

Practically as well, to effectively use an Alt you need one or more of the following:

Here's how to do these:

Viewers on different computers

This is fairly straightforward, but we must assume that you have a home network of two or more computers. Simply install a copy of your preferred viewer on each computer, and login as your Alt. I would suggest that you download only one copy of the viewer and access that via the network either directly or by copying the files to the computer to be installed on. Having a master copy to install from minimizes how much bandwidth you use.

Alternative viewers

Another option is is to install multiple viewers on the same computer. You'll find a list of viewers you can download at Main Viewer Page or the Alternative Viewers page. With several different viewers installed on your computer, you can run each independently of the other. This means that you could be logged in as Avatar A on one viewer, and as Avatar B on the other (but you can't be logged on both as the same Avatar. Each viewer has its own settings, window size, cache, log files, et cetera. This means that you might have very good graphics (and bandwidth) set on the main viewer from which you take shots, and lower graphics and bandwidth on the other viewers (this minimizing bandwidth usage and lag)

Multiple login option

This method allows you to run multiple copies of the same viewer, and login as several alts. General instructions on how to do this can be found at Running Multiple Viewers (also see Avatar Group Photography) and Command Line Options.

The command line option for Windows (also for Linux) is the most convenient because it means that each can be in a shortcut. For example one shortcut might have the following (non relevant parameters skipped for clarity)...

"C:\Program Files (x86)\Snowglobe\SnowglobeRelease.exe" --multiple --login Bill Bloggs <password>

...and a second shortcut has...

"C:\Program Files (x86)\Snowglobe\SnowglobeRelease.exe" --multiple --login Gertie Green <password>

...where <password> is the appropriate password for the alts Bill Bloggs and Gertie Green. Each will run the Snowglobe viewer and login that particular avatar.

While this method works well don't forget that each viewer run on a computer will use bandwidth depending upon network and graphics settings. If you change the settings on one or more multiple copies of the viewer, it may be unpredictable which change will take. Running multiple copies of the same viewer also means that they will use and contribute to the same Texture Cache. If you have instability with a viewer, it is probably unwise to use it (singularly or multiple) on a shoot.

Bandwidth issues

Regardless of how you have multiple avatars logged on, unless you have a super fast and generous bandwidth, you'll need to be aware of possible slow reaction time when using Second Life, or "lag". The causes of lag are explained on the second life wiki, at Lag 101: What is Lag and Why Does It Happen?. There are two ways that this can manifest itself - server-side (when a lot of avatars are in the one spot) and client side (the viewer end).

If you are running a full five alts and each has a maximum bandwidth setting of 10000 kbps (Kilobytes/second), then potentially that's 50000 kbps being demanded! Just how much bandwidth do you have? Try checking this using the test at BandWidth Test. Here's mine the day I wrote this:

Now clearly I don't have 50000 kbps available, and yet most times I'm able to do a photoshoot without overdue frustration. In reality the settings only approximate the maximum bandwidth that the viewer will use. If you have several viewers running then they each get a portion of bandwidth. I believe (though I can't yet prove this) that this gets portioned out based on the ratio of the maximum network levels set. That being the case set the viewer that you're using to take shots with with the maximum setting, and set the others at lower levels (at least 50% of the maximum). If those other viewers are only being used to pose alts with, they don't need the highest graphic settings. Not do you need any streaming media. It's best to set the preferences for those to a low or very low setting.

Even so, in practice I've found it difficult to run more than two viewers on one computer. Often two will work fine, but three will slow or freeze. My own solution is to have multiple logins on the computers I use at home (two PCs and a laptop) but never to run more than two viewers on an y one computer. The viewer I take shots with is always my study computer, and the the media PC and laptop are set to lower bandwidth and graphics settings. Command Line Parameters are handy for some of that.

NPCs

At writing (November 2016) all the comics created for Seconds have used a mix of Live and Alt avatars. There is one other option however, you can use a "Non Player Character" or NPC.An NPC is a linkset created to look like a character, and can be programmed to move about, perform gestures and do other things. NPCs are Opensim/Hypergrid only, and require particular settings in a sim in order to work.

The advantage in using NPCs is that you only need one avatar to set up a whole scene. You use that avatar to create each NPC, copying the appearance each time of the character that avatar is wearing. Each NPCs can then be moved to an appropriate location and posed with gestures for a shoot. The disadvantage is that this can be a lengthy and fiddly process, and that script usage will increase for each NPC used. For more details about NCPs. read NPC maker for OpenSim at OutWorldz.