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UWA’S Treasure Chest

N.B. This is an expanded post relating to the construction of UWA’s virtual Winthrop Hall interior, originally announced on the UWA in SL blog and incorporating information provided by JayJay Zifanwe (Jegathesan).

Many of the Univeristy of Western Australia’s “100 treasures” designated by the Centenary celebration committee, are reproduced in beautiful detail on the UWA virtual campus in Second Life. In fact, UWA’s presence in Second Life is itself listed as one of the treasures. As many are aware, these treasures are to form the core of the L$725,000 MachinimUWA V challenge with the theme “Seek Wisdom.”

In perusing the objects in the 100 treasures book, one thing that struck me was the number of them that are in, near, or part of the iconic Winthrop Hall (including, of course, the building itself as a whole). The beautiful and meticulous rendition of the façade and entryway in Second Life (created by Dr Chris Thorne & David Gaze  in 2009 using the SketchLife extension to Google’s Sketchup) with its adjoining reflecting pool is known to anyone who has spent time here or has worked in the nearby sandbox. You can see the busts of Socrates and Diotima, the rose window, the clock tower, the mosaic marble floor in the entryway and wrought iron rail, even the subtle winged lion frieze below the eaves of the building. I’ve come to think of the building as UWA’s treasure chest.

Among the treasures inside Winthrop are the interior ceiling beams with aboriginal-inspired decoration, the use of the venue for the annual student exams, and the rose window once again, but illuminated by the sun and framed by the majestic McGillvray pipe organ that dominates the proscenium. (RL photos by JayJay)


In March we held a UWA Artists’ Choice challenge on the theme “music.” On a lark I thought it would be fun to install the world’s largest pipe organ in the gallery to provide some musical ambiance. I built a pipe rezzer that arranged a set of pipes in more-or-less correct proportion (assuming equal temperament using the 12th root of 2 as a scale parameter), but at an utterly impractical scale that at best might produce subsonic frequencies that would interfere with whale migrations on the other side of the world. Nonetheless it was an appropriately musical backdrop for the exhibition that month.

What I didn’t realize until later, when Jay Jay pointed it out, was that my organ bore an uncanny resemblance to the one in Winthrop Hall at UWA (including the clarion horns), another of the 100 treasures. Having done what I thought was the hard part by building the pipe rezzer, I figured why not go ahead and recreate the Winthrop organ? And of course I couldn’t just build the organ. I had to recreate the entire interior of Winthrop Hall. This project has absorbed much of my spare time in the last month or two and it is now yet another treasure of UWA recreated in SL. Machinimatographers and any other curious people may now enter Winthrop from the foyer. There is a teleport device there. The interior would not fit comfortably within the existing façade, so I had to put it on a platform above. But I think you’ll get a pretty realistic feeling of what it is like in that space and it is appropriate for the MachinimUWA V challenge.

McGillivray organ at Winthrop Hall
Built 1965 J.W. Walker & Sons., Ruislip, Middlesex.
3 manuals, 49 speaking stops, 13 couplers, electro-pneumatic action
Rebuilt by South Island Organ Company Ltd, Timaru, New Zealand 2008
3 manuals, 55 speaking stops, 12 couplers, electro-pneumatic action

I want to thank Jay Jay for taking many pictures of the interior details and long shots. I used his photos for the stone wall textures and doors, as well as the ceiling decorations, the wall medallions, the stained glass windows, and the large wall hanging in the back of the hall above the choir loft.

Construction Notes

The first inspiration came from making the rezzer for the organ pipes for the Artists’ Choice Music show. Each pipe was made of 3 prims: the main resonator pipe, the windway, and the foot. I had plenty of prims to play with for the show, so I didn’t worry about conserving at that point. I built two styles of pipe:  cylindrical metal and square wood. But they rezzed basically the same way.

The rezzer was set to rez 48 pipes. I used the 12th root of 2 = 1.05946309 as a multiplier for both scale and position of the rezzer so that they would be proportionally sized and spaced. (The 12th root of 2 is a commonly understood multiplier for an equal tempered chromatic scale, so the the 13th pipe would be twice the scale of the first, thus sounding an octave lower.) I made the set fairly small, linked them and then rescaled the bunch en masse.

I did a similar operation for a set of simple clarion horns. Clarions are not on all organs because they are rarely used and are an expensive addition. When JayJay mentioned the similarity to the Winthrop Hall organ, I looked at the pictures and this was the obvious feature the stood out on both.

I’m a musicologist by education and I actually know quite a bit about organs, thought I’m no expert. When I decided to try and make a replica of the Winthrop Hall organ, I was fairly certain someone would have published the full details of its construction and ranking. Sure enough, the Organ Historical Trust of Australia has pictures of the console and a full list of the voice ranks. No need to repeat here, though obviously my project would not reproduce every pipe in every detail. The need was only to create verisimilitude–the appearance of similarity–not authenticity. (Not that such is impossible, but the prim cost and construction time would have been significantly greater without obvious benefit.)

The next challenge was to calculate prim cost. I could see this project easily taking a couple thousand prims. Instead, I purchase a Prim Generator gadget that takes a limited number of normal prims and converts them into sculpt maps. With this device I was able to use a single sculpted prim to make:

  • three pipes (instead of 9 prims)
  • pedal board naturals (21)
  • pedal board sharps (15)
  • 3 foot stops (9)
  • 8 hand stops (16)
  • 5 clarion horns (10)
  • 8 chairs (16)

Winthrop Hall Interior

JayJay was enormously helpful in sending me many high resolution photos of the interior, and any details I asked for. One of the obvious problems with creating a space I’ve never actually seen is getting both an accurate scale and a sense of space. The Winthrop exterior was apparently built using architectural specifications, using 1:1 meter scales between rl and SL. There is a well known problem with making such renderings in SL. Someone at Linden Lab in the very early days decided that a standard avatar would be about 2 meters tall. In rl, very few people are actually that tall. Additionally, the camera view angle in SL is above and behind the Avatar, requiring even more head space than normal. Thus, in order to make a space in SL “feel” right, it needs to be anywhere between 20% and 50% larger than 1:1.

I found a floor plan for the interior of Winthrop. The main floor (sand proscenium) is about 18 meters wide and 30 meters long. I rezzed a prim that size and it was clearly not going to work. If I made everything to scale, the doors would be shorter than most people. So I tried going 20% larger and it still wasn’t close to being comfortable. My final rendering is close to 1:1.5, which may be too large, but it definitely feels right.

For head space I had a real problem because the floor plan did not show ceiling height. I had to redo the windows several times, revising the height of the walls to be proportional with clues I could see in the pictures JayJay sent me.

JayJay’s photos were not made in very good lighting conditions, but they were high resolution and at least the light was fairly homogenous, with no extremes of light and dark, so they made reasonably good textures. I used his photos for the stone wall textures, which I Photoshopped extremely to make a seamless repeatable texture. The floor texture I used from a stock texture I had that seemed close.

The wood paneled walls in rl are dimensional, with raised panels over a substrate. I obviously didn’t want to have to use the prims and the photos JayJay sent were not quite adequate. So I built a 3D wall section in SL and simply photographed that.

The medallions around the perimeter of the hall are arms from related colleges around the world. There are about 40 of them and JayJay got reasonably good shots of all of them. At this point I’ve processed about half of them and installed them in the hall. They’re a bit tedious to Photoshop, but I’ll get them done soon.

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Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.