More on materials processing

Materials processing was further discussed at the Content Creation Informal User Group meeting on September 11th. During the meeting, Oz confirmed that normal and specular maps will have their own rotation and offset controls from the start, which stands in difference to thoughts that they would initially be locked to the same rotation, etc., as the texture map used on an object or object face.

Materials processing: using a normal and diffuse (texture) map to generate a 3D effect on an in-world wall – coming to SL in the near future

This means that the new materials processing maps will have the same positioning and scaling properties are currently available for texture (diffuse) maps, namely:

  • Mapping: one of Default or Planar
  • Horizontal  and Vertical Repeats: number of repeats of the image over the surface (used only in default mapping)
  • Rotation: degrees clockwise by which the map is rotated
  • Repeats per Metre: number of repeats of the image per in-world meter of the surface (used only in planar mapping)
  • Horizontal and Vertical Offset: distance in meters the image is shifted right (horizontal) or up (vertical) on the surface.
Options to be used by normal and specular maps as well as by textures

This obviously increases the amount of control content creators will have over the additional maps once the new capabilities are live, but it does open up more issues around incorporating the capabilities into the build floater. Thus, it was the build floater which once again became the focus of the conversation during the meeting.

How the build tools are presented to users has already been the subject of much broader consideration within the CCIIUG, although that discussion appears to have stalled for the time being. The materials processing process, however, requires a more focused examination of the build floater in terms of enabling the additional controls without either making the existing floater too large or overly complicated.

As such, two ideas were briefly discussed at the meeting, and further input to them both will doubtless be sought. The first involved having the additional options contained within the existing Texture tab as sub-tab options, while the second involved having all of the mapping options (Texture/diffuse, normal and specular) and their associated positioning and sizing options moved to a dedicated floater of their own.

Of the two options, both have merit and pitfalls. Sub-tabs mean keeping everything together on a single floater, but could lead to things becoming cramped or possibly confusing. Splitting between two floaters would provide more space with which to present options and controls, but could lead to a reduced in-world view should people find they need to work with both floaters open.

Given the small number of attendees at the meeting, neither option was discussed in-depth, and so, as mentioned above, this is liable to be a subject which is returned to in future meetings.

Rendering Pipeline Changes

As a part of this project there will be changes to the viewer rendering pipeline. While the project is still some way off in terms of delivery, Oz Linden used the TPV/Dev meeting of September 7th to advise TPV developers that they will need to ensure they are current with the 3.3.4 rendering code, which will form the basis for implementing the materials processing system changes.

Oz also indicated that while it would be “quite a bit of time” before the project reaches a development or beta viewer because the overall specification is not yet frozen (but is, in his words, “Very, very slushy”), it is hoped that a project viewer would soon be available to allow the new materials processing capabilities to be seen and tested.

In referencing the release of a project viewer, Oz advised against anyone trying to pull the code and using it in any viewer intended for wide distribution. This is because it is possible the material processing capabilities may change in very significant ways before they are ready for more general release, leaving the code presented in any project viewer as limited in both value and function.

Accounting System Costs

It is still unclear whether the new materials processing system will fall under the new land accounting system in terms of server and rendering costs. While questions have been asked in this regard, no definitive answers have yet been furnished by LL. This again is potentially due to the matter still being under consideration and the specification itself still being revised as impact and changes are considered.

Discussions on the project will doubtless resume at the next CCIIUG meeting.

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5 thoughts on “More on materials processing

  1. Materials may be the most significant leap forward in practical SL creativity in several years. I was very pleasantly surprised when I learned that this system will be usable on normal prims!
    Have you seen anything about how we will create them in Photoshop or Paintshop (which I use)?

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  2. Shug, in addition to the NVidia tool Inara mentioned, there are a few other tools worth considering.

    – xNormal (http://www.xnormal.net) is free
    – ShaderMap (http://shadermap.com/home/) costs US$39.95. This is a favorite of mine. Not free, but I’ve found it intuitive and easy to use, and comes packed into an elegant interface.
    – MindTex (http://frozenflamecorp.com/site/pages.php?page=entryview&category=products&entryid=2) comes at US$14.95.
    – CrazyBump (http://www.crazybump.com/) is the most expensive, US$99 for personal use, US$49 for students. I believe these licences do not allow sales of derivative work.

    The only one I have tried is ShaderMap. I am not sure if any of them are integrated into Photoshop. I know ShaderMap is not.

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