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Okay, I’ve sat around letting suspense build long enough. Now that everyone who cared has fallen asleep or died, I can get on with things. I’m going to start off with a quick rant about SL avatar height, and touch on attention to realism in general.

Before we get started on this, why should we care how tall we are? For one thing, how you look affects the perception of realism and the quality of the inworld experience, not only for you, but for everyone who sees you. If you look proportional, with a correctly-sized head, wide enough shoulders and with hips and a waist that are humanly possible, the environment is less obtrusive and it seems almost like we really are face to face, not like we’re playing pong at MIT in the 60s.

Further, if you are close to 8 feet tall with an 11 inch waist, 60 inch hips and a grapefruit-sized head, you may be wearing $US 600 worth of clothes and custom made mesh hair, but you probably still look like a comic book drawn by a socially retarded 8 year old boy on meth. That may be good enough for you, and your own appearance may be less important to you than the actual interaction with others, but it matters to everyone who has to look at you, I promise. When I walk into a store that sells items with a minimum price tag of L$500 and see a few girls standing around who are physically impossible, I don’t feel like spending money, I feel like I TPed into a feverish hallucination about giants and mutant dwarfs.

Beyond all that, we are now firmly in an era where clothing looks amazing. Mesh is here, and mesh is IT. It’s not perfect yet, not deformable yet, but as happened with layers/attchments/flexi clothing, creators have worked miracles with the tools they have and adapted to the few limitations that do exist and clothing is now at an all-time high of quality. There will always be a place for system clothing layers; I quite often include them in outfits with layers of mesh, and some articles actually look correct pressed to your skin–though let’s face it, most don’t. And so far, it is very difficult to rig mesh clothing to behave like long flowing skirts, and the flexi skirt lives on, at least for now (it may never really go away, but more and more mesh models are apperaing which perform at least realistically and with much better movement of the textures, and eventually most of the beautiful long flowing gowns offered at fine fashion houses will be fully rigged. It’s so nice to sit down and not have your skirt end up downstairs in somebody else’s apartment. Don’t get me wrong, I love the older flexi gowns, and will always be in awe of the creators. What they did with the resources they had is mind-blowing. I’m having real trouble deleting any of those beautiful older gowns from my inventory. But once a few more really beautiful mesh models get released, everyone will want to sell them or start working up their own, and the flexi will become largely another lost art, as flexi hair is fading into now).

If you’ve kept up with current fashion trends in SL (umm, you’re reading this, so, yeah…) then I’m pretty sure your clothing is incredible–or more accurately quite credible, and very realistic and beautiful (or realistically hideous, as some creatively make themselves ;D). Modern mesh garment models are very realistically proportioned and fit perfectly on realistically sized avatars. To make the most of them, you need to get busy with the sliders and get that shape in shape.

Another factor is the increasing prevalence of motion capture animations, from sitting and, um, ‘aerobic activity,’ *cough,* to–more importantly–walking and dancing. Those movements are made by recording them being performed by real human beings in the real world, none of them 8 feet tall. The old situation of dances looking weird if you’re a normal height is being reversed as more and more hosts replace the old style hand-animated dances with mocap. Now if you’re an 8 foot mutant, you don’t look quite right swaying to the groove. The 5 foot 8 inch girl with the realistic proportions and the photo quality skin wearing gorgeous mesh clothes and naturally moving mesh hair wriggling realistically to the beat is who everyone is probably looking at, not the stick figure with legs 2/3 of her height and the round abdomen connected to her GIANT BOOBS by a narrow waist tube like some kind of biped insect.

So now that everyone who ever did care is sick of me going on and on about why they should care, let’s get to some relevant concepts:

First off, if you don’t measure your height with a prim rezzed on the same surface you’re standing on, you’re not checking your height. Measuring yourself with an inworld ruler leaves you at the mercy of whoever made it, whoever rezzed it, whoever built the surface you stand on, etc. Add up all that potential human error and throw in some conversion rounding-off and varying degrees of competence, and you have no idea how tall you are, beyond a comparative guess.

A friend and I went around SL for 2 days a few months ago and used every measuring stick and scripted height counter we could find ( I think we counted 35 of them), and not one gave an accurate height compared with our prim heights. Some were close, but off by a few inches. The range of inaccuracy we found was just under 3 feet. Yes, feet. The one we found that was closest to accurate was unfortunately 8 inches off the ground. You may get lucky and find one that’s perfectly accurate, but you won’t get me to bet on it. And if you find that one, not everyone in SL is going to use that particular one. They’ll use stuff from 5 years ago and stuff that’s been resized or screwed up by a server upgrade, or no longer on the current floor surface, etc. In no way should this be considered a reliable, uniform, accurate measurement system.

Many people rely on their viewer’s height approximation, which is actually a useful guide when making changes to your avatar, but is only relative and should be used as such. On your Appearance editing tab, editing shape, at the top there should be Height: X.XX either in Meters or Feet depending on settings in your Preferences.

Unless it’s changed in the past couple of months, the LL official viewer uses the straight bounding box height for the avatar as an avatar height measurement, which it is not. It’s an accurate measurement of the height of an arbitrary (at least for our purposes) imaginary box used to compute physics calculations, deliberately undersized in height to minimize errors in calculating collisons with objects and other avatars inworld. Period. It’s not your height. It does vary in size with your height, but it is not your avatars height. The one in the current Firestorm viewer seems quite close, but as it is still a re-calculation of this bounding box height figure using a formula, it also is not absolute.

The common doctrine is that the bounding box height is about 6 inches shorter than your avatar, so add 6 inches and you’re good. That may be true at a certain height, but it’s not exactly 6 inches, and the discrepancy varies as you get taller or shorter. As noted above, the Firestorm height is adjusted and is closer to reality. An example of my own numbers, though not my current height, was as follows:

The Firestorm Editing Shape figure was 1.82M, and my measured prim height was 1.79. I tried moving around repeatedly and could not get above 1.79. This is still a very close result, but not perfect. (Considering errors in both techniques the truth likely lies somethere between, but as the prim measurement is the only measurement I can personally verify as being very nearly perfect, I use it exclusively.)

The bounding box measurement method is unfortunately used in many scripted height detectors set out on sims both for you to get an idea of your height (similar to a fortune-telling machine at the fair. Not to be used for navigation or stock speculation, marriage/divorce advice, etc.–just for fun) and in some cases to prevent avatars under a certain height from entering adult only sims–at best a tactic of dubious fairness itself, as many kid avatars are close to 6 feet tall, and I’ve seen wrinkly old ladies under 5 feet (not all that unrealistic itself), and in this application adding the complication of dubious accuracy. If they use bounding box calulations, they are mostly meaningless (I’ve seen these. They were not used to deliberately grief people, but they did in some cases have such an unintended affect). If they are adjusted, they are better but still only so accurate. However, owners of such sims are left little choice, so everyone works around them. (Besides, there’s more to age simulation in SL than modifying your avatar’s height, but that’s a different discussion.)

At best, they do give you a rough idea, if they were coded by someone with a clue and rezzed at the correct height; but keep in mind some include your shoes, others do not.

If you don’t like to leave so many variables laying around over such matters as your exact height, none of the previous methods will do–especially when considering how easy it is to get an acceptably accurate measurement of your avatar’s height inworld. It is so simple, and such a good introduction to some simple building concepts for those who’ve never tried building inworld, that learning the technique should be a requirement for getting past the intro screen when you first rez after signing up (along with passing a test about recognizing scams and the evils of facelights, fullbright hair and bling *shudders*).

The prim measurement method explained below will give you something many think you can consider the difinitive number.

STEP ONE:

Go someplace where you can rez stuff, with verifiably flat ground. It can be a sandbox, your own land,  certain stores or even a place with autoreturn; you’ll only be a minute or two and you’re rezzing a single box. If you get shot for that, maybe you shouldn’t be hanging out around there; I’m just saying. I try not to go anyplace people get shot for socially inappropriate behaviour; I find it antisocial ;D

STEP TWO:

Take off your shoes (just your shoe fitter, the red shoe dealy in your worn items or current outfit list), detach your hair (I bet you wish you’d gone somewhere more private now, don’t you?), and turn off your AO or detach it if necessary.

STEP THREE:

Rez a box beside you, thusly: right click on the ground, and click build. The edit window will open and your mouse pointer will turn into a magic wand. If you look at the edit window, there should be some pictures of objects, the box shape being highlighted. If another shape is highlighted, click the box shape to highlight it. Now, click the ground. Yay, a box appears!

STEP FOUR:

Now, back at the edit window, there will be a list of options in the top portion, the top left being move. At the bottom there may be a button to open more options. If so click it; if not you should already see a series of tabs, the first being General, the next Object, etc. Select the Object tab and tick Phantom. Now you can move the box directly over the centre of your avatar’s position, by grabbing the coloured arrows coming out of it and dragging it–just do NOT touch the blue arrow, the one pointing upwards. If you accidentally do drag the blue arrow, right click the box and click delete, and then go back to STEP THREE. Dragging the blue arrow changes the box’s height and makes your calculations and thus all this effort meaningless.

Once the box is centred on you, go back to the top area of the edit window again, on the right side. Make sure the Stretch Both Sides option is UNTICKED. Now go across to the left side and tick Stretch. Looking back at the box you made (yes, you made that. That little plywood box is something that you created!), there are now coloured boxes where the arrows were, two red, two green and two blue. Now we want to use the blue one, but only the TOP blue one (if you touched the bottom blue one, go back to STEP THREE). Click it and drag it upwards until the top of the plywood box is level with the very top of your head, with your avatar standing perfectly upright.

You may have to move yourself back and forth a bit to get the standing upright pose, and be patient. You want the tallest measurement that the top of your head gets to. If you’re looking down or your feet are stretched apart you are not at your true height. Remember your mother with the ruler trying to get you to stand straight to get an accurate height measurement when you were a kid and you wouldn’t stop squirming. Now you know what she went through. If it makes you feel better, you can take your avatar for ice cream once we’re done.

STEP FIVE:

On the edit window, below the list of buttons named General, Object, Features, etc., with Object still selected you will see number fields down the left side. There is a section named Position with three number fields X,Y &Z. Below these will be another section with Size X,Y &Z. The number we need from your box is the Size Z number, which is its height . It should be roughly anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 meters. (It can be more or less, depending on what type of avatar you have. A 2.5m dragon would probably get bullied at school, for instance, while a 1.5m infant would likely look too much like Truman Capote to be convincing with a diaper on.) Once you have this number recorded, you can right click the box and click either ‘delete,’ or ‘take’ (if you’d like a copy to save in your inventory).

To convert this Size Z number to something more comparable to real world height, either move the decimal place two to the right to get cm (or three to get mm), or you may wish to convert to feet and inches if you’re more accustomed to that system. The latter conversion can be accomplished either by using the formula below or with a free online converter

1 meter(metre) = 3.2808399 Feet so

Size Z x 3.2808399 = avatar height in feet.

Once you have this calculated, take the decimal figure–say 0.872632 from my 1.79m measurement cited above, which yielded 5.872632 ft–and divide it by 0.08333 to find the inch component of the measurement (in my cited case, 0.872632 divided by 0.08333 = 10.472, or roughly 10 inches rounded down. This put my height at the time at 5’10”, comparable to the figure gotten from http://www.simetric.co.uk/metres_to_feet.php which was 5′ – 10 5/10“. I’m around 5’8” now with proportions that I feel are close enough to real life, certainly close enough to look good in modern mesh).

While your shoes will affect your inworld height–and thereby your avatar’s collision behaviour calculations–your hair does not have physics and much like in real life doesn’t have much to do with what size doorway you can fit through or whether or not that snowball will hit you, etc. When you go to walk into a sim with a height restriction, your shoes may be included in the measuring device’s calculations or not (that detail is often noted on the device’s instruction board, should there be one. Sim owners careful enough to take the step of offering such a device generally give instructions but not always).

Another thing to consider is that if you are realistically proportioned at a realistic height, you may occasionally find yourself surrounded by giant women wearing bling and invisiprim shoes being brutally cut in half by flexi hair, towering over you at nearly 8 feet, but you likely won’t see anything because everyone will be blinded by nuclear facelights washing out all the local light characteristics–or even the sun. If you stay where most people have more SL experience, you’ll look right at home.

And whatever you do, have fun 😀

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