Connect YOUR performance to Second Life

If you’ve been to Second Life gigs and thought “I can do a better job than him!” – read on! This page has been created for the benefit of anyone who would like to be a Second Life performer and explains how to connect your voice and instrument to Second Life.

The most important single factor is the quality of your broadband; particularly the upload speed. I get a rock-solid upload speed of over 5Mb/s and hardly ever get any adverse comments about the audio quality of my performance. If you’re not uploading at least 2Mb/s you could find Second Life performance something of a problem. If upload speed is at 1Mb/s or below, you may need to forget it; your performance will be notable for the dropouts, breaking up and looping rather than your virtuosity or charisma.

I use a PC with Windows 10. I know that this guide works with earlier versions of Windows. If you’re a Mac user, there is a Mac download of BUTT and I imagine the process is essentially the same. My apologies if it isn’t.

I use an acoustic guitar (Sigma JR-40) with an L. R. Baggs ANTHEM pickup and a good quality AKG voice microphone. They are plugged into a very simple Behringer Xenyx mixer and the output from that goes straight into an Audigy 5/Rx sound card. That gives me a lot of control over the quality of sound I deliver to Second Life and it feels professional and appropriate. I have rented my stream from TRAX supplied by Bones Writer for several years now and have been extremely happy with his top-quality service.

The process of getting your musical output into Second Life is known as “streaming” or “livestreaming” and is handled by servers and software that are completely independent of Second Life. So, during a performance your avatar may crash, but the audience can still hear you. It might be important to know that if you’re given to uttering expletives when you crash.

The livestreaming process introduces a degree of lag. The audio output from your computer buffers for a few seconds on the server before it’s served into Second Life. This minimises (but doesn’t completely prevent) the risk of your output signal breaking up, looping or dropping out before it reaches the audience. The amount of lag is usually around twenty seconds or so, but varies according to your upload speed, bitrate and samplerate. After quite a lot of experimentation I selected a bitrate of 96K and a samplerate of 44,100Hz. There are lots of different opinions about the most appropriate settings for Second Life and most of it is plain guessing. I am guided by the stream providers and read their notecards carefully before setting up a new stream.

The only extra piece of software you need is free and it’s called BUTT (Broadcast Using This Tool)

BUTT allows you to pre-load stream details and move easily between them. Once you’ve downloaded and installed it, BUTT should look like this:-

BUTT1

You can use the Settings to input your stream details, for which you will need the address, port and password, all of which you’ll have sorted out with the stream supplier. If any of those are missing, it won’t work.

BUTT3

Once they’re loaded you can name the stream and then add any venue streams or other streams you might from time to time use:-

BUTT2

You will know that you’ve entered all the details correctly when you’re told that you’re On Air and can see the time counter climbing:-

BUTT4

You can also use BUTT to record the output from your soundcard, but I’ll leave you to explore that on your own.

One major downside to livestreaming is that you have no idea if you’re being heard in Second Life unless somebody tells you. You can listen to your own stream on headphones, but because of the buffering, you’ll be hearing what you did twenty seconds ago, so I only ever do that when I’m testing volume levels.

When you’ve reached the point at which you know you’re streaming, you should enlist the help of a friendly venue owner and a willing volunteer. I recommend that your volunteer should be a fellow performer who streams regularly. Allow yourself around one hour and ensure that your volunteer will be available and listening throughout. I suggest that you communicate with each other via local chat rather than voice to avoid confusion.

When the venue is quiet and empty, load your stream details into the “About Land” -> “Sound” -> “Music URL” box. This time you WILL need to include http:// in the address. You also need to include the port number. That means the address above would be loaded as :- http://192.186.136.186:9512

Now start speaking or singing or playing and, if all is well, after a few seconds your volunteer will be able to hear you. If that doesn’t happen, methodically go through the steps again in case you missed something. When you do connect and your volunteer confirms it in local chat, you can then spend a little time working with them to make sure that, for example the balance between voice and instrument levels is right and that the quality of your output is acceptable to the ears of your potential audience. Now you’re ready to go and find your first gig!

If you can provide me with details that keep this page current, if I’ve made a mistake or omission, or if you think I could explain something more clearly, please let me know in Second Life