2022 CCUG meeting week #26 summary: materials + graphics update

The Pond, May 2022 – click any image for full size

The following notes were taken from my audio recording and chat log of the Content Creation User Group (CCUG) meeting held on Thursday, June 30th 2022 at 13:00 SLT. These meetings are chaired by Vir Linden, and their dates and times can be obtained from the SL Public Calendar.

This is a summary of the key topics discussed in the meeting and is not intended to be a full transcript.

Official Viewers Update

One Wednesday, June 29th, The Maintenance M(akgeolli) RC viewer, version 6.6.1.572458 was promoted to de facto release status.

No changes to the rest of the official viewers through until Thursday, June 30th, leaving them as:

  • Release channel cohorts:
    • Nomayo Maintenance RC (Maintenance N) viewer, version 6.6.1.572179, June 1.
  • Project viewers:
    • Performance Floater project viewer, version 6.5.4.571296, May 10.
    • Mesh Optimizer project viewer, version 6.5.2.566858, dated January 5, issued after January 10.
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version 6.4.11.550519, dated October 26, 2020.
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version 6.3.5.533365, dated December 9, 2019.

Materials and PBR Work

Please also see previous CCUG meeting summaries for further background on this project.

Outline of Work

  • Work on an implementation of reflection probes which can be used both with PDR shading and with legacy content.
    • The overall aim of this work is to provide a means to support more physically accurate reflections in SL than can be currently generated (seen as a requirement for PBR support).
    • It applies to both PBR generated content, once available, and to legacy content.
  • Creating a materials type with an associated inventory asset. This  will initially comprise the ability to copy a texture entry (with its specific parameters) to inventory, to be followed by initial work to work implement a PBR graphics pipe in the viewer.
  • Normals will likely be MikkTSpace, as per the glTF specification, but work needs to be done to see if supporting this could lead to clashes with the current normal maps rendering. This does mean that current Normal maps will not work on PBR materials.
  • The initially supported capabilities are:
    • RGB albedo + transparency.
    • RGB Occlusion/Roughness/Metalness: R = occlusion, G = roughness; Blue = metalness.
    • RGB emissive.
    • RGB normal (- alpha).
    • Double-sized supported (disables backface calling before issuing the draw call).
    • Two-sided lighting (so if the back of a triangle is visible, it flips the normal around).
  • In addition:
    • There will be an ability to “preview” materials on an item within your own viewer (similar in nature to Local Textures) before actually uploading them.
    • LSL support is still being defined, but should at least allow individual texture UUIDs to be replaced under script control.
    • The approach being taken is to may the system extensible so that further capabilities / plug-ins / options can be added with relative ease in the future.
    • However, Displacement maps will not initially be supported due to not being defined in the core of glTF 2.0; nor will any extensions that are not adopted into the core glTF standard (either glTF 2.0 or 3.0).
  • Test Windows viewers for the on-going work are available within the #content-features channel of the Second Life Discord server (join the server and request channel access here) for content creator testing and feedback.

Materials Progress

Screen Cap from a video by Runitai Linden showing (l) the basic PBR Materials UI, and right, materials assets in inventory, which can be dragged / dropped onto objects / object faces in-world (centre)
  • There is further work required on the back-end inventory services and asset store, and on some of the shaders in the viewer, before any of this work is ready for public testing on Aditi.

ALM Proposal / Work – Recap

At the #week #23 TPVD Developer Meeting (notes here), it was indicated that LL are “leaning” towards removal of the non-Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) (aka “forward rendering”) rendering path from the viewer, leaving just ALM rendering (aka deferred rendering”).

  • Were this to be done, it would only be done if it can be shown that this does not adversely impact performance (e.g. ALM runs roughly as well as non-ALM for those using the latter) on the broad cross-section of hardware most commonly operated by SL users.
  • The work will include:
    • A slider to manage the number of rendered local lights to lightening the load of rendering illumination on lower specification systems.
    • A “data saving mode” primarily intended to help those on metered connections by culling the download of additional materials / PBR maps and potentially downloading lower resolution textures mips, all of which will reduce the data passing over their connections. However, it will result in a much poorer visual experience once the PBR work has been implemented, and the hope is the mode will only be used in the minority of cases.
  • Given the ongoing work to support PBR and a more rounded set of materials, moving to deferred (ALM) rendering without fallbacks to non-ALM rendering – providing, again, the caveats noted above can be met / implemented – will in general help ensure a more reliable / consistent viewing experience across a broad range of hardware.

In Brief

  • The work to make full use of available video memory on a client computer is being put out to a hardware compatibility lab to help ensure the code changes are doing what they are supposed to be doing on a wide variety of hardware. These tests will also look at the impact of running the viewer with ALM active all the time across all hardware configurations.
  • On Animation:
    • The Puppeteering project highlighted at Grumpity and Mojo Linden’s Meet the Lindens session came in for criticism, but it was suggested people give the system a chance to reach a more advanced stage before judging, as the video presented in the talk does not do the work justice.
    • Vir indicated that while there is an understanding at the Lab that people would like the animation system overhauled:
      • Such a project currently isn’t on the roadmap
      • However, consideration is being given to allowing an on-the-fly adjustment of animation priorities.
      • Requests for additional animation work were requested via Feature Request Jira.
    • Runitai Linden suggested that as glTF supports animations it might – in the future – be a possible option for animation improvements. However, note that moving in this direction is also not part of the current roadmap.

Next Meeting

  • Thursday July 7th, 2022.

Art at the Airport in Second Life

Gateway Airport Terminal, July 2022: Rage Darkstone and Nils Urqhart

Erik Mondrian pointed me towards Gateway International Airport on the Mainland continent of Sansara – not, as might be suspected, because I’m a sometimes SL aviator, but because it is the setting for a newly-opened art exhibition featuring 2D and 3D artists.

Located in the airport’s gallery, a spacious setting with a large main floor and suspended walkways around it, the untitled exhibition features Zia Branner and Nils Urqhart presenting 2D art works, with Terra Merhyem and Rage Darkstone offering 3D pieces. The gallery itself is spacious.

Gateway Airport Terminal, July 2022: Zia Branner

The 2D art – more of Nil’s superb landscape photography from the physical world and Zia’s ever-engaging abstract art, together with a series of stunning floral pieces – is neatly spaces and framed around the outer wall spaces on the main level and catwalks and on some of the inner supporting walls. Each piece is ideally sized and positioned for individual viewing.The 3D pieces have been placed throughout the main floor and along the catwalks so that they stand both as individual pieces and both frame and have elements of the 2D works as backdrops. As might be expected given these pieces are by Terra and Rage, the 3D works are instantly attractive and engaging, with some static and others mobile, colours scintillating and samples twisting and turning as if alive.

Gateway Airport Terminal, July 2022: Terra Merhyem and Zia Branner

With still-life elements celebrating dance and motion, Rage’s selection of pieces presents a richly flowing narrative, their colours and tones perfectly off-setting the blue tint of Nils’ winter landscapes. Across the hall, Terra’s vibrant and animated pieces are grouped as a series of individual collections of mobile sculptures which also flow one to the next, while their colours and motion offer a transitioning reflection of the sense of life within Zia’s art. Also to be found within Terra’s pieces are books of her art, ready to be enjoyed by visitors.

To be fully and properly appreciated, this is an exhibition that must be seen with the Advanced Lighting Model mode enabled in the viewer (Preferences → Graphics make sure Advanced Lighting Model is checked), and make sure you are using the local shared environment. Also, as a last point, keep an eye out for the exhibition gift!

Gateway Airport Terminal, July 2022: Nils Urqhart

Richly contrasting, finely balanced and very visual and appealing, a superb exhibition of work by four very talented artists.

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A photogenic Dukedom in Second Life

Dukedom, June 2022 – click any image for full size

As regulars to my Exploring series may know, Busta (BadboyHi) is a region designer whose work I enjoy, and I recently had the opportunity – courtesy of an LM passed to me by Shawn Shakespeare – to visit a design he has put together for Kn0cks Shad0ws (Whozyer Daddy) and his Full region, Dukedom.

Designed primarily for photography, the region is divided north-to-south by the presence of an elevated rail line, making this a setting very much of two parts. To the west, and occupying the majority of the region, are wild lands, a place of tall trees, waterfalls, streams and touches of the bayou along the west coast. Along this shore are wooden cabins, shacks and an old houseboat that mix their presence with mangroves, wetlands and a rocky shoreline to suggest a little community eking out a living by finishing – something added to by a number of fishing boats, one of which has seen much better days…

Dukedom, June 2022

This is a place where wildlife abounds. gulls wheel and turn overhead, ibis stalk the mouths of the streams emptying into the coastal areas, alligators bask in the  dirt of the local tracks and ignore the fact potentially tasty seals are not that far away, also basking themselves out of the water; deer watch more domesticated animals – cattle, goats, and geese; peacocks strut their stuff, bids sing in the trees and more. Ways around the coast and through the hunched uplands behind it are marked by rough trails, boardwalks, tree-trunk bridges that span the streams and hard-packed earth paths and steps.

Sitting between the streams and set a little back from the waterfront lies a roughshod deck extending outward over rocky ground from where a glass-fronted cabin sits. At first looking to be a cosy retreat, closer examination with reveal it to be something of an apothecary-come-magic store; a place well in keeping with the bayou vibes exuded by the lands below. Around it are offered several places to sit, including a welcoming cuddle sofa.

Dukedom, June 2022

The sofa and benches around the cabin are a just a handful of all the places people can find to sit and pass the time; places that include swings watched over by baby chimps, and the carving of a giant hand holding a blanket in its palm which begs the question, was it carved over the bank of the stream against which it sits, or has come to reside there after the fact. Back down as the waterside sits a comfortable deck ideal for a small group, sitting alongside a makeshift watchtower.

Further back among the trees awaits more to be found among the trails; with two further cabins being chief among the sights. Each is comfortably furnished and offer welcomes to those passing, and both sit close to where the elevated train line cuts across the region and, beyond it, the purely urban setting.

Dukedom, June 2022

Occupying a little over one third of the region, this urban area sits as a busy, if a little run down, corner of a much larger town. The area under the elevate tracks looks to be undergoing repair / renewal, lots of people are out and about on the streets, a building is being heavily refurbished / rebuilt, cars are everywhere, and a military helicopter is clattering around overhead.

The latter might have been called by the local law enforcement as they attend a rather grisly homicide that has been committed on some waste ground to one side of the town. It’s a scene that – as is the way of things – has drawn a crowd of its own, some of whom are more interested in catching the situation on film and selfie, rather than offering respect for the life lost. But not everyone is drawn to the tragedy; at the back of the waste ground, a skateboarding area has been set-up and is of much more interest to local teens – although perhaps that is also a reflection on modern-day human nature and indifference…

Dukedom, June 2022

Throughout the region there as many points where photography is possible, although sadly, group membership is closed, so no props rezzing available. As an adult-rated region, there are apparently some adult-rated items spotted around – but nothing too obvious that I noticed from my ramblings through the wilds and along the streets.

I would also say that as a Full region with both the private island additional land capacity and with a lot of mesh and textures, Dukedom can hit some people’s performance, so be prepared to make some adjustments to your viewer if required. But that aside, Dukedom has a lot to commend itself; just take your time when visiting – and try not to disturb the sleeping bunny!

Dukedom, June 2022

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2022 SUG meetings week #26 summary

Hollybrook Regional Park, May 2022 – blog post

The following notes were taken from the Tuesday, June 28th, 2022 Simulator User Group (SUG) meeting. They form a summary of the items discussed and is not intended to be a full transcript. A video of the entire meeting is embedded at the end of the article for those wishing to review the meeting in full – my thanks to Pantera for recording it.

Note: little discussed, as this was the summer solstice Party.

Server Deployments

For the latest updates and news, please refer to the simulator release thread in the forums.

  • On Tuesday, June 28th t, the SLS Main and Event channel servers were updated to simulator release 572665, containing fixes for cases where llRequest*Data would return incorrect result; also, llGetVisualParams() now accepts hand_size as a parameter.
  • On Wednesday, June 29th, the RC channel servers will be subject to a rolling restart without any simulator code deployment.

Available Official Viewers

There have been no official viewer updates at the start of the week, leaving the current crop as:

  • Release viewer: version 6.6.0.571939 – formerly the Performance Improvements viewer, dated May 25th – no change.
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself).
    • Nomayo Maintenance RC (Maintenance N) viewer, version 6.6.1.572179, June 1.
    • Makgeolli Maintenance RC viewer (Maintenance M) viewer, version 6.5.6.571575, May 12.
  • Project viewers:
    • Performance Floater project viewer, version 6.5.4.571296, May 10.
    • Mesh Optimizer project viewer, version 6.5.2.566858, dated January 5, issued after January 10.
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version 6.4.11.550519, dated October 26, 2020.
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version 6.3.5.533365, dated December 9, 2019.

In Brief

  • The issue of simulators that have been running for “4-5” days are ceasing to send Friends lists to those logging into them and requiring a restart to fix, continues for some. It’s not clear how widespread the issue is, but LL are aware of it.
  • Concerning the log-in / appearance issues experienced by some people on Monday, June 27th,  Rider Linden commented:
    We were updating one of the backend systems on Monday. Unfortunately it had complications. (Please see scene in Brazil re: Complications) and we had to roll it back. Among other things on the back end I think it hit the Bake Service. It should be working now and we’ll address the issue and try again at a later date with something more stable.
  • BUG-230584 – “Various Lindex data feed values are returning zero” has apparently been back in action for the last week or so, and is being investigated by the Web Team.
  • The second half of the meeting was dominated by chat and ideas around a number of ideas and feature requests, including BUG-4706, BUG-4906 and BUG-40680. Please refer to the video below for details.

FIXED: Nvidia drivers correct SL rendering issues

Nvidia have issued driver updates that appear to fix the rendering artefacts reported with GeForce driver version 516.40 (+ others).

The issue has been primarily reported against Windows and some Linux flavours, when running the viewer with Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) enabled. It would result in some objects to flashing or blinking in and out, or rings and lines to be displayed across in-world objects (as shown in the image below).

Image showing some of the artefacts created during scene rendering following an update to the Nivida 516.40 driver – now fixed in driver version 516.59

According to Techpowerup.com, the new Windows 516.59 (Windows) drivers contain the following fixes:

  • [Red Dead Redemption][Vulkan]: Some objects may flicker when player is indoors.
  • [OpenGL] Minecraft Java Edition may display artefacts when using Optifine shaders.
  • OpenGL] Artifacts may appear in Second Life when connecting using third party viewers.
  • [Neverwinter Nights] Light sources not rendering correctly.
  • [Vulkan] Path of Exile displays flashing black textures.
  • [G-SYNC] Games may stutter when bringing up the Xbox app overlay.
  • [UE5] General UE5 stability improvements.

(my emphasis on the Second life bug).

Users Ven Banana ((VenKellie) and Wurfi informed me of the driver release after installing and testing it for the fix – my thanks to them for doing so.

In addition driver version 515.57 has the fix for Linux.

Beq Janus, who originally reported to issue via the Nvidia forums, has also confirmed the issue as fixed.

The drivers can be downloaded via the link on the Techpower.up release notes page (linked to above), or directly from the Nvidia drivers page.

Artsville: a new arts venture in Second Life

Artsville, June 2022

Artsville is the name given to a new collaborative arts hub in Second Life, which opened over the weekend of June 24th through 26th with a trio of 2D art exhibitions. The hub is the work of Vally Lavender-Prodigy (Valium Lavender), who provides the space for the hub on her ValiumSL region; Frank Atisso, who has closed his own Art Korner to focus on curating Artsville, with the overall design and layout of the hub by Megan Prumier.

In the latter regard, Megan has produced an engaging, modern setting for the hub in the form of artificial island-platforms sitting directly above the surrounding water, each with its own features and attractions and linked one to another by flat glass walkways.

Set under a twilight sky that gives the impression the Sun has not long since set, these stucco-finished platforms and the buildings to be found on some of them has an understated, slightly sci-fi presence, edges limned in white strips and low lamps periodically spaces around edges – this is very much a place where Advanced Lighting Model is needed (Preferences → Graphics → make sure ALM is checked and disable Shadows if required) to appreciate the point lighting.

Artsville, June 2022

Between them, the two largest of these island-platforms present, respectively, the landing point, offering a minimalist touch of horticulture in the form of box hedges and junipers given a topiary twist, and the island housing the three 2D gallery spaces, of which more in a moment.

Four glass walkways reach outward along the cardinal edges of the landing point, each marked by a great arch. Beside offering the way to the 2D galleries, these walkways respectively lead to: a small island with the promise of Coming Soon; the centre’s café and presentations centre; and a further sets of island platforms of various sizes, each featuring 3D at by Mistero Hifeng.

Artsville, June 2022: Maloe Vansant – Freaking Beauties

Whether the 3D art areas represent a single, permanent display or will feature other 3D artists over time, I’m not actually sure. However, they offer a sense of space and peace as they all eventually leading the way south and east to where an impressive event space has been placed out by Megan, with one of the routes to it leading through an impressive sculpture tunnel constructed by Megan.

The 2D galleries are arranged on three sides of a platform which almost mirrors the landing platform, with the exception that the glass-over-the-water area forms the events space for exhibition openings. For its first exhibitions, The galleries are simply numbered 1 through 3, and for Artsville’s opening, they bring us exhibitions by Maloe Vansant, presenting Freaking Beauties; in Gallery 1; Hayley Dixon’s Just a Little in Gallery 2; and in Gallery 3, When You Open A Door, by Scylla Rhiadra.

Maloe’s Freaking Beauties is the most visually striking of the three, presenting a series of avatar studies offered in powerful, vibrant colours and strong contrasts; the magic of post-processing giving them a captivating and eye-popping edge, with a richness of tone and focus to draw the eye into each of them.

Artsville, June 2022: Hayley Dixon – Just A Little

With Just A Little, Hayley Dixon offers a short introduction. In it, she notes how, by adding just a little colour and / or light into an image, it is possible to completely transform it.

This is thoroughly demonstrated within the 10 images she presents, all of which are presented in black-and-white or monochrome tones, and which use light to great effect. Some make use of light in the most minimalistic of ways, drawing the eye into them, causing us to almost adopt a tight focus on the lines before slowly pulling back in the manner of a cinematographer so that the complete scene and its narrative might become clear (such as with pause); others intentionally contrast the use of light and dark in an almost yin/yang balance to present their mood and story.

Just A Door is another thought-provoking series by Scylla Rhiadra. Like Hayley’s, it comes with an introduction. However, I would urge visitors not to read it directly – or at least, to not read beyond the first question and the two sentences that follow it.

Artsville, June 2022: Scylla Rhiadra – Just A Door

This is because – for me – framing the exhibition through the supplied exposition beforehand risks diminishing the power and layering of metaphor waiting to be peeled back within each of the ten images and their accompanying texts – all of which combine to form a rich treatise on love, relationships, attitudes, the unlocking (or blocking) of potential; the richness of allowing the imagination to flower and bloom (and the potential emptiness of turning it aside). It is a layering that deserves to be examined free from the preconceptions which might result from reading such notes in advance, so as to allow their narrative richness of each piece to percolate freely through our subconscious thinking and challenge us in the most subtle of ways.

Which is not to say Scylla’s exploration of her work should be ignored; it does provide additional depth and underpins the exhibition as a whole. But in coming to it last (which, fortunately is easy to do given it is tucked between the entrances to the gallery, and so can be missed when initially entering), we allow her words to underscore our own thinking on, and reaction to, the individual pieces, rather than having her words shape that thinking.

Artsville, June 2022: Scylla Rhiadra – Just A Door

Artsville is an engaging new addition to the SL arts scene, and I look forward to further exhibitions there. I do, however, have one small critique: the gallery spaces could benefit from lighter interior finishes than was the case at the time of my visit; the tomb-like darkness left me squinting to make out details of some images, and then scrambling around in inventory for an alternate EEP by which to view the art (the images of the exhibitions shown here have all be had their contrast altered via post-processing to better present them); a lighter finish to the interiors would eliminate this kind of distraction.

Outside of that, all three exhibitions form engaging displays of art well worth visiting, with Artsville as a whole equally engaging in its general presentation.

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