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  ILL Clan Joins The Electric Sheep Company  
Posted 2007-02-13 by Tony Walsh
Legendary machinima-makers ILL Clan have joined metaverse services firm The Electric Sheep Company as part of its new machinima division. Brooklyn-based ILL Clan will retain its name and identity, and continue to collaborate with its new parent company, which is setting up new offices in Brooklyn. Earlier this month, the two groups co-produced an advertisement aired prior to the Super Bowl, and have worked together on previous broadcast spots.

According to an official press release, the ILL Clan's first project will be to bring its talk show Tra5hTa1k to the virtual world Second Life for performance in front of a live audience of avatars. This is a great union in my view, bringing together some of the best players from different facets of the virtual world--I'm certain that advances in the field of virtual-world content-creation and the art of machinima will result.

Given the Sheep's new division, I'm interested to see what changes (if any) will be made to The Grid Review, an uninteresting machinima-based news site published by Edelman and The Electric Sheep Company. Without intending to disparage the contributors of The Grid Review, my impression is that it hasn't been successful in connecting with the Second Life community at large, which as far as I understood was the entire reason for the project in the first place. At this point, I can either see ILL Clan injecting some zazz into the Review, or the project being scrapped in favour of gigs that actually pay.
  Brand Advice in ‘Second Life’ and Beyond  
Posted 2007-02-06 by Tony Walsh
Leading up to moderating a SXSW panel on "Avatar-Based Marketing," I've been collecting relevant reading material, and I thought I'd share some recent selections with you. Feel free to add your own bookmarks to the comments section of this post.

Gary Hayes of Personalize Media gives us "The Brand Owners Guide to Joining the Metaverse," where 13 tips are presented, including some favourites of mine ("Don't Become Virtual Just Because You Can" and "Be Sensitive to The World") and some practical advice for development, such as "Design Multiple Levels of Navigation" and "If You Are Going to Provide Content Give Enough Choice." Also see Hayes' article "TV & Design Brands and Virtual Worlds."

Avatar Tateru Nino of Second Life Insider expounds on the subject of "Practical Marketing - physical business in nonphysical worlds." In summary, Nino's thesis is that attempting to replicate real products in Second Life is not only futile (since functionality can't usually be replicated) but could damage the brand. I'm not sure I agree 100%, but I encountered great example of this sort of disconnect with Telus' entry into Second Life: Virtual Telus phones didn't behave like phones at all, and didn't seem to offer enough value to consumers... ergo, why bother building a "functional" phone in Second Life?

Then there's a long series of reading material on MTV's Virtual Laguna Beach / Virtual Hills offerings, from Advertising Age's "Case Study: Marketing in Virtual Laguna Beach" (registration required), to Wired's "A Second Life for MTV" by 3pointD's Mark Wallace. Lastly, some quick hits: "CBS machinima ad for Two and a Half Men," Fox Atomic stages a machinima contest in Second Life, and "‘Nicktropolis’ Fails on Many Levels."
  Electric Sheep Company Sets ‘Second Life’ Minimum Wage  
Posted 2007-01-09 by Tony Walsh
's Marvel Ousley reports that metaverse development firm The Electric Sheep Company is offering $10 USD hourly to qualified workers in virtual world Second Life for performing hosting and other social tasks. The rate of pay generally compares favourably to minimum wages offered in countries around the world(prices in local currency):
  • United States: $5.15/hour
  • Canada: $6 - $8/hour
  • United Kingdom: £4.45 - £5.35/hour
  • Australia: $13.47/hour
  • Russia: 1100RUB/month
The rate of pay vastly exceeds typical wages offered to "gold farmers," and is about as much as skilled sex-workers at some of Second Life's busiest clubs earn hourly.

I think this is a fantastic move by The Electric Sheep Company. Not only is the firm offering reasonable wages (even generous, depending on what part of the world you live in), it has addressed the common complaint among new Second Life residents that there is little gainful employment to be had in the virtual world aside from sex work. Furthermore, the company has set the bar for a "minimum wage" in Second Life, paid in US--not Linden--dollars.

So far, a handful of labourers have been hired through an invitation-only social network supervised by the Sheep's John Swords, who told SLNN "candidates can e-mail him at with their SL name, e-mail address, and a brief summary of their experience in event hosting or machinima acting."
  This Week’s SL TV Tidbits [Corrected]  
Posted 2006-12-20 by Tony Walsh
 reports that virtual-world branding firm Rivers Run Red soft-launched its awaited earlier this week, screening a SciFi Channel movie before an audience of 20 avatars. According to the report, Rivers Run red plans to roll out 100 always-on channels by the end of 2007, possibly including a Second Life news channel. Such a channel would compete directly with The Grid Review, a service established by rival metaverse-services firm The Electric Sheep Company in partnership with PR giant Edelman.

The Grid Review launched December 12, 2006, and is operated by two Second Life machinimators. So far, a handful of topical videos have been posted by the pair, and while an offer stands to post short videos submitted by citizen journalists, no such "amateur" works have been published. I haven't been aware of much buzz around the channel, and given the initial lack of outside submissions as well as the scarcity of comments and trackbacks to The Grid Review's video segments, I'm guessing it hasn't yet caught on [update: Hank Hoodoo points out that there are outside submissions. I wasn't looking closely enough. Sorry, Grid Review].

The Electric Sheep Company is staging a event tonight in NBC Universal's 10 duplicate regions, each of which can hold roughly 50 avatars. Warner Bros. recording artists Marc Roberge and Robert Randolph will be performing live in a real-world studio while their avatars appear in one of the NBC regions--the performance will be broadcast across all 10 regions and to the web at A rep for the Sheep tells me "We will be interspersing live Q&A with Second Life residents via text chat. Residents can join the group NBC Universal to participate in the chat and receive updates."
  Invasion of the Virtual Idiot-Box [Updated]  
Posted 2006-12-12 by Tony Walsh
Television-like programming and actual broadcast content is slowly washing over virtual world Second Life. Unlike real-world TV, which is broadcast over the airwaves and picked up simultaneously by receivers, video in Second Life isn't exactly a mass medium--it's more akin to streaming video-on-demand.

Today, Sundance Channel announced it will be building a screening room in Second Life, launching some time in January, 2007. According to the announcement (which I received via email), "Sundance Channel's SL screening room will be used to showcase films, documentaries, shorts and original series and to host unique interactive events with filmmakers and other independent thinkers. The Sundance Channel SL screening room will allow users to enjoy screenings and events in a social environment and interact with filmmakers, notable personalities and with one another." The facility will be developed by The Electric Sheep Company. The effort comes with its own character blog, ostensibly operated by avatars Vincent and Maya. At the time of writing, neither avatar had yet responded to a request for their surnames, which would give us a means of contacting them directly in Second Life [update: it's Vincent Tibbett and Maya Palmer, both SL avatars were created today].

Continue reading: Invasion of the Virtual Idiot-Box [Updated]
  Edelman and GSD&M Enter ‘Second Life’  
Posted 2006-11-13 by Tony Walsh
Metaverse developer The Electric Sheep Company has helped usher both GSD&M and Edelman into the virtual world of Second Life.

Austin-based branding agency GSD&M is already buzzing in Second Life with Idea City, a meeting-, exploration-, and leisure-space for the agency, its clients, and the residents of Second Life. Joel Greenberg, a Senior Planner for GSD&M, informs me that the agency will be taking a muted approach to establishing its Second Life presence in order to respect the resident community. While the island has already been built, it has soft-launched with corporate and recreational facilities. Greenberg says UT's CHAOS: New Agendas in Advertising Conference will be streamed via video into Idea City on November 17 and 18.

Global PR firm Edelman enters Second Life with Edelman island to co-produce two projects with The Electric Sheep Company. The first is the SL Business Plan Contest, which puts 6 months ownership of a private island and L$350,000 up for grabs. The second is the Grid Review machinima news site, which will compete in a growing Second Life media space (see Axel Springer's upcoming tabloid and my commentary about SL's media landscape). According to an official announcement, "The Grid Review will be a regular source for Second Life news. It will be in machinima format, with video new spots issued at least once a week, keeping you and your friends informed about the latest goings-on in-world. It is also designed as a venue for citizen journalists; we welcome 1-2 minute video news submissions from individual Second Life residents or teams, for which we will provide full credit." I'm not confident in the longevity of the Grid Review project, despite its funding--machinima isn't easy to make. More importantly, I'm wary of any "news" coming from an outlet sponsored by a global PR firm.
  2006 Machinima Fest Goes Mixed Reality  
Posted 2006-10-30 by Tony Walsh
This year's Machinima Festival takes place at NYC's Museum of the Moving Image and inside the virtual world of Second Life--the latter being a particularly suitable locale, considering the nature of the machinima art form. Starting November 2 at 8pm Eastern time pm, the Laguna Beach sim in Second Life will pre-screen films by 33 Mackie nominees, 4 of whom are also SL residents. On November 4, the real-world Mackies are handed out in NYC. The ceremony will be simulcast in Second Life.
  Puppeteering ‘Second Life’ Avatars  
Posted 2006-08-01 by Tony Walsh
Real-time manipulation of avatar gestures and movement will be introduced to the virtual world Second Life, developer Linden Lab announced today during the SIGGRAPH Conference. The pupeteering technology, when integrated into a future update, will allow users to grab and move avatar body parts. According to Linden Lab, the avatar then "learns" the gestures.

Previously, users were limited to performing a standard set of avatar animations built-in to the Second Life client software, or creating animations in a third-party program and importing these into the virtual world for playback. One major limitation for the previous animation method was that two differently-sized avatars couldn't easily interact or perform coordinated movements (such as shaking hands or humping). This will likely change with dynamic avatar animations. The development has significant potential, not only allowing users to express themselves more spontaneously, and in more interesting ways, but in the production of machinima and in the facilitation of Second Life's already-booming sex industry.
  2006 Machinima Festival Calls for Entries  
Posted 2006-07-17 by Tony Walsh
Calling all machinimists: The Academy of Machinima Arts & Sciences (AMAS) has announced that the 2006 Machinima Festival and the 2006 Machinima Awards will take place on November 4 and 5, 2006. According to AMAS, the two-day event "will include screenings of Machinima films, Q&A with machinimators, special presentations, and seminars about Machinima production techniques...The hosting venue, the Museum of the Moving Image (, will provide an excellent location once again, with its diverse collection and exhibitions of motion picture, television, and digital arts." AMAS will begin accepting Machinima Awards entries beginning July 24, 2006--for more details, check the official site.

I'm personally rooting for BloodSpell, a feature-length machinima project made in 3 years using BioWare's Aurora Toolset (used for the game Neverwinter Nights). The film is alleged to be the longest piece of machinima ever made. Like most movies in its genre, it squeezes the most out of a limited palette, and is a fine example of overcoming technology constraints (in this case an aging game engine) creatively.
  Machinima Salon in ‘Second Life’ This Thursday  
Posted 2006-05-24 by Tony Walsh
Still in its early stages compared to other filmmaking techniques, machinima involves making digital movies using low-end 3D engines such as those found in video games like Halo or virtual worlds like Second Life. Appropriately, a seminar with two notable machinimists will be held inside the world of Second Life this Thursday, May 25. Paul Marino, author of The Art of Machinima and Executive Director, Academy of Machinima Arts and Sciences, will join Pierce Portocarrero (a.k.a. Brad Henderson), chief creative behind the upcoming documentary Ideal World, in conversation. I can only vouch for Henderson, as I've met him personally--he's a very interesting and well-spoken guy with an obvious passion for his art. You can catch him and Marino at 5pm PST somewhere on Media island tomorrow. Sadly, I won't be able to attend--too bad Second Life sessions can't be time-shifted.
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