Zombies, Photography Tips, Windlight & Opaque Math in Second Life

Shoregate, Post-Apocalyptic Zombie Fun (adult)

One of the things I like about the changes being made to Shoregate is that I can stand outside the gates and cam in to take photos. This has nothing to do with fear of zombies *cough*, it’s just easier to concentrate when nothing is trying to eat your brains.

I’ll use this location to distract you from a random collection of tips & tools I’ve collected recently. I know you’ll all use them to much better effect that I. :)

Eupa recently shared a group of machinima tutorials by Erythro Asimov. They’re very good and include a lot of information beneficial to photographers as well. One tip he shares is how to save a region’s windlight so you can use it again. The instructions assume you’re using Firestorm, so for those on the official viewer I’d like to expand on something I told you about last year.

Shoregate, Post-Apocalyptic Zombie Fun (adult)

This is what I said then:

The Lab made changes to the Environment Settings window last year to allow estate owners to define default windlight settings for their land. On the positive side that means we know what creators want their land and builds to look like – heavy fog or red dusk etc.

The bad news is that it means sometimes you land and it’s dark or the sun’s angle isn’t right for taking photos. The changes mean that if (in the main Viewer) you don’t know what the default setting is you can’t manipulate it. The Edit Sky Preset tabs aren’t enabled unless you choose a Windlight Setting.

If you want to use the creator’s default settings, but still make some changes to them, you have a few choices. You can guess and try and come close; if they provide that information you can select their setting (if you have it); or you can take advantage of a bug in the Viewer (just don’t tell a Linden about this, I’ll be really pissed off if they fix it).

Standing on a region where you want to manipulate the region default Windlight, but don’t know what it is:

  • Open the Edit Sky Preset window and select a Windlight setting. It doesn’t matter which one, but you want to enable those tabs that you need.
  • Open the Edit a Water Preset window (World/Environment Editor/Water Presets/Edit). Select a preset. It doesn’t matter which you choose or even if you can see any water around you.
  • Use the little X in the corner to close the Edit a Water Preset window. You’ll see your environment switch back to the region default, however the tabs in the Edit Sky Preset window will remain enabled. You can now manipulate the region default Windlight without knowing what it is.

If you now want to add this Windlight to your permanent collection, change the name of the preset and save it. The settings on that region will be stored for you to access without doing that little dance.

Shoregate, Post-Apocalyptic Zombie Fun (adult)

One of the things I did on my vacation was to spend time online doing photography tutorials. I’m not much of a photographer in real life and all those camera settings are pretty much gibberish to me. Most of the information escaped my brain as soon as I received it, but one thing made an impression.

Most of you will already know about HDR – even your cell phone will allow you to do this. It involves taking exactly the same image 3 times at different shutter speeds. You can then use PS, Gimp, or specialized applications to merge them. This will (in an over-simplified summary) give you a way to reveal more detail in dark shadows etc.

I tried playing with a lot of the camera settings in SL in order to accomplish this process inworld. The difficulty I had (apart from my general ignorance) is that I couldn’t figure out a way to mimic different shutter speeds.

Now, I have avoided using filters on my images – I just couldn’t see the value to me of trying to make them look old, or weird. I mean, working with Windlight can do enough craziness for my purposes. Trying to use the functionality of something like HDR was an attempt to just get better photos. It turns out there’s a filter which can be used to try and achieve the results of HDR, without having 3 photos or different shutter speeds.

You can find it (and other cool stuff) in the free version of Perfect Effects 8. I’ve been playing with them a lot! (Note: by the time you read this they have probably moved on to later iterations of the product so search for the “free version” of whatever the latest number is.)

Shoregate, Post-Apocalyptic Zombie Fun (adult)

I also spent a long time playing with the camera debug settings. Most of these only take effect when you turn on Depth of Field, so I also experimented with changing them while minimizing blur.

When I was seeking ways to mimic shutter speeds I discovered that the default settings in SL are for a 35mm lens with a 3:2 aspect ratio. This seemed like something it would be interesting to play with, so I set out to optimize the camera for my screen aspect ratio and try different lens. However……

This is an actual quote from the wiki entry on these settings: CameraAspectRatio – “Camera aspect ratio for DoF effect” — Set this to the aspect ratio of the camera you’re modelling. For example, a 35mm camera has an aspect ratio of 3:2 (1.5). Second Life will use this as a frame of reference for how field of view and focal length must be adjusted depending on window size.

I’m not a math genius, but even I know that an equation requires more than 3:2 = 1.5. WTF do you do if you want 4:3? or 5:3? How did 3:2 translate to 1.5? Do I move the number up or down? How much?

I’ve tried a variety of things and can’t give you much help with this. If you figure it out, please let me know!

Zombies are much easier to understand. :)

Shoregate, Post-Apocalyptic Zombie Fun (adult)

Playing With Water in Second Life

The Outer Harbor (moderate)

I’m trying to get a project finished, so I didn’t distract myself by exploring this morning. I do have a small amount of self-discipline on occasion. :)

These two images are just to illustrate some experiments I’ve been doing with the Environment Editor. As much as I love playing with Windlight, I get frustrated by how flat the water becomes with most of them. For once I decided to push some buttons and see what the water settings could do.

I moved the two Fresnel sliders and wound up with something I think is a little more interesting. Needs far more investigation on my part – I’ll do that when the work is done.

The Outer Harbor (moderate)

How Deep is Your Field in Second Life?

KATS (moderate)

I chose KATS as the location for today’s post because it stands for Knowledge Acquired Through Simulation and I was going to experiment with some debug settings.

You might not have this problem, but I haven’t been able to get Depth of Field to work for a long time now. Sometimes I want to highlight something and need that Depth because otherwise the image is too flat.

KATS (moderate)

Knowing smart Second Life bloggers is the solution to most of my inworld problems. In this case, the delightful Ricco Saenz has saved me. His post on getting DofF to actually work is well worth reading!

To summarize, in a very technical manner, it turns out that somewhere in the journey from your SL screen to your hard-drive the pixel pixies go into overdrive removing blur. The larger the image you’re saving, the harder they work.

KATS (moderate)

I save images at 4000 x 2400. This allows me to have lots of options for cropping and it gives a better result. If you have a big window their tummies are already asking to be fed. Anything bigger than the size of your window makes those pixies really hungry.

So what you do is fiddle with CameraFNumber and CameraFocalLength to exaggerate the blur until the result on your hard-drive is what you want. This means what you see in front of you is a mess. I tried to capture it – but I have a large screen and the pixies tried to “improve” it. Trust me – my screen actually looked like it had an inch of vaseline on it.

KATS (moderate)

This requires a lot of experimentation and, honestly, I don’t know how long I would have lasted without my second monitor to review the progress.

In any case, if you’ve had difficulties with Depth of Field, read Ricco’s post and then go play with the settings yourself. It’ll take some work, but at least you’ll get what you want …. eventually. :)

KATS (moderate)
%d bloggers like this: