His Masters Voice

19May07

Probably the most problematic issue when making movies in Second Life is coordinating the troops. With the User Interface (UI) turned off – a necessity when doing a capture – it is easy to miss messages from cast or crew. One of the ways around that is using Skype thereby removing the need for Second Life’s chat/IM interface. But not everyone uses Skype and so sometimes it is necessary to coordinate everyone using an assistant director, who is hooked up to the director through Skype and then relays the instructions via chat/IM. This can be exceedingly slow and arduous, and on complicated shoots it becomes hellish. Fortunately a solution to remove many of these issues is about to reach fruition: Voice in Second Life.

We’ve covered the concept before in our short film, appropriately named Voice in Secondlife, which dealt with some of the difficulties that the Second Life sex industry may face with the introduction of Voice. However, Voice will bring benefits to broad sections of the Second Life community, especially with regard to business. The amount of information that can be conveyed through the spoken word is far greater than what typing can convey. Both with what is said and how it is said. As we’ve stated previously in our Aspects of Business article there are some disreputable people in Second Life, Voice will hopefully make their attempts to lie, cheat and deceive all the more difficult. Voice should also speed up meetings – which are currently limited to the speed of the slowest typer – and remove many of the ambiguities that occur when relying solely on the written word.

But Voice will also bring with it several challenges. Not everyone speaks the same language, and while English is the dominant language in Second Life not everyone speaks it as well as they can write it. Accents can also become a problem, even between native english speakers. There are times when the apparent gender of the avatar may not match the gender of person controlling it. This may become a problem. Added to all this is that currently there is still no talking gesture available for avatars – although there is a Linden-run competition to find one – which makes it difficult knowing who is speaking in a crowd.

Voice offers a whole new set of opportunities and difficulties for Second Life residents. Having tested it on the beta grid I have to say I can’t wait for its introduction. It will make film-making so much easier and will hopefully make meetings with our clients far more productive. Bring it on!

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