Restrained Love 2.9.12: rendering rigged mesh and shadows

Avatar shadows as see using the debug, top left; rigged mesh avatar body seen in default avatar shadow rendering (debug setting 3); Top right: as seen with the debug set to 2 (Chalice Yao's adjustments; bottom left: as seen with the debug set to 1, showing the system avatar shadow, rather than the rigged mesh body shadow; bottom right: the setting reduced to 0, only unrigged attachment shadows are rendered (images via Marine Kelley)
Avatar shadows as see using the debug, top left; rigged mesh avatar body seen in default avatar shadow rendering (debug setting 3); Top right: as seen with the debug set to 2 (Chalice Yao’s adjustments; bottom left: as seen with the debug set to 1, showing the system avatar shadow, rather than the rigged mesh body shadow; bottom right: the setting reduced to 0, only unrigged attachment shadows are rendered – see below for details (images via Marine Kelley)

The latest version of RLV appeared on Friday, June 26th. Version 2.9.12 brings with it an attempt by Marine Kelley to lighten the load placed on your GPU when rendering complex rigged meshes (such as avatar bodies) when running with shadows enabled in the viewer.

In her notes accompanying the release, Marine states:

I have become a mesh body user not long ago, and like every mesh body user, I quickly found out that having dynamic shadows activated while wearing a complex mesh body (Maitreya which is my choice, but also Eve, Belleza, Slink, Abar, TMP…) totally kills the FPS (Frames Per Second, the measure of rendering speed). Like, it divides them by half. It was so bad that I had to turn the shadows off, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I knew it was due to the avatar shadows, simply by looking at the Fast Timers in-world (press Ctrl-Shift-9 to show them). A little digging in it and you see “Avatar Shadows” in plain letters as the FPS hog. In fact, this was due specifically to complex rigged mesh rendering, the FPS slowdown wasn’t due to unrigged attachments or anything like that. And since mesh bodies are among the most complex rigged mesh around, they kind of made that issue more obvious. And over time, more and more people switch to mesh bodies, so something had to be done.

Regular readers here know that something is being done at the Lab’s end of things, with the forthcoming introduction of Avatar Complexity. This has the advantage that it takes into account other elements within avatars that can push up rendering complexity and thus reduce performance, such as over-use of very high resolution textures, etc. This disadvantage is that people will have to get used to having Jelly Baby avatars around themselves, which may not be to everyone’s liking.

As noted, Marine’s aim is to allow those people who have previously been able to run the viewer with shadows enabled, but who are finding it impossible to do so when in locations with a number of complex avatars present due to the performance hit they’re taking, to be able to do so again by reducing the hit taken by their system.

As she acknowledges in her release notes, the original idea actually came from Chalice Yao, who has been poking at things with her NaCl viewer. With RLV 2.9.12, Marine adds what she believes to be further refinements to Chalice’s work, which in turn may feed back in to NaCl.

The RestrainedLoveAvatarShadows debug setting in RLV 2.9.12
The RestrainedLoveAvatarShadows debug setting in RLV 2.9.12

Essentially, Marine has added a debug setting to RLV, RestrainedLoveAvatarShadows, accessed via the Debug settings floater (under the Advanced menu).

The debug offers four settings (3 down to 0) which offer different levels of rendering avatar shadows, thus:

  • 3- the default (what Marine calls “legacy”) rendering of avatar shadows commonly seen in viewers: an exact rendering of avatar shadows with rigged and unrigged attachments, and which recognises alpha masks
  • 2- Chalice Yao’s initial adjustments to avatar shadow rendering. Said to simplify the shadow rendering to offer noticeable performance improvements when running in locations with a number of complex avatars
  • 1 – render simplified avatar shadows. The first of Marine’s additions to Chalice’s code, this ignores any alpha masking of the system avatar shape, causing its shadow to be rendered, along with the shadows of unrigged attachments. All shadows associated with rigged attachments (e.g. mesh bodies, etc.), are ignored
  • 0 – don’t render avatar shadows. This will leave avatars with no shadow at all, with the exception of unrigged attachments, therefore offering the biggest potential boost in performance.

Marine offers a series of images demonstrating the resultant shadows, as shown at the top of this article, together with the FPS boosts she sees. The latter may be too small to read in the image collection produced here, so I recommend reading Marine’s blog post for full details.

As I don’t have anything other than a demo fitted mesh avatar body, and also have a fairly high-spec system which includes a GTx 970 with 4GB of memory which handles most situations pretty well, I’ve not been able to practically test how all of this plays out.

However, given this solution is aimed at reducing performance hits when shadows are enabled in the viewer, it’s perhaps not going to suit everyone. If your system already struggles with handling shadow rendering regardless of the complexity of any avatars around you, for example, you may not gain much from using the debug settings. But if you are an TLV user who finds Marine’s situation as quoted towards the top of this article to be familiar, this update a go could well help you. Either way, the one way to find out is to download RLV 2.9.12 and give it a go.

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The HuMaNoiD side of Second Life

HuMaNoiD - LEA 6
HuMaNoiD – LEA 6

Making a welcome return to Second Life – for a limited period of time, at least – is Wendy Xeno’s HuMaNoiD, which can now be seen at LEA 6, having last been available on the grid a little over a year ago.

I first encountered HuMaNoiD far back in 2012, on the recommendation of Chestnut Rau. At the time, it was a fascinating, contemplative visit, and throughout several return visits over the years, I continued to find it an evocative place; I’m pleased to say this it still is.

HuMaNoiD - LEA 6
HuMaNoiD – LEA 6

For those who have visited HuMaNoiD in the past, all of the familiar elements are there: the ground level watery landscape, the cello awaiting a player as J.S. Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1: Prelude can be heard. Around this stand five doorways inviting visitors to open each in turn and step through, and explore the realms in the sky on the other side of each one.

Beyond these, water breaks the landscape into a series of vignettes the visitor is invited to explore. Again, for those who have been to HuMaNoiD in the past, there will be a pleasant feeling of familiarity and comfort to most of them, although one or two nuanced changes have been made from the original, the result of working within the dome needed to give the installation a feeling of an infinite open space;. However, it’s fair to say the changes enhance the region’s aesthetic; I particularly like the bridge suspended beneath balloons (seen at the top of this piece).

HuMaNoiD - LEA 6
HuMaNoiD – LEA 6

The sky spaces are in places similarly reworked, but all present environments rich in context and colour, and once again offer places of contemplation and introspection.  With the sky a little darker than previously, but the elements of poetry still to be found and read, a visit to HuMaNoiD offers much to all, whether you recall the original or make this opportunity a first visit.

One definitely not to be missed, I understand HuMaNoiD will remain at LEA 6 until the end of July.

HuMaNoiD - LEA 6
HuMaNoiD – LEA 6

SLurl Details

2015 viewer release summaries: week 26

Updates for the week ending: Sunday, June 28th, 2015

This summary is published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog
  • By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.

Official LL Viewers

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers

V3-style

  • Restrained Love Viewer updated to version 2.9.12 on June 26th – core updates: shadow rendering options for fitted mesh bodies (release notes)

V1-style

  • Cool VL Viewer Stable branch updated to version 1.26.12.48, and the Experimental branch to version 1.26.13.17, both on June 27th (release notes).

Mobile / Other Clients

  • No updates.

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Remembering Roche

Roche; Inara Pey, June 2015, on FlickrRoche, June 2015

I caught word from Ziki Questi that a timeless favourite would be vanishing from Second Life.

Few who travel this digital world can fail to have visited the island of Roche at least once in their travels. I first visited in 2012, and while I’ve never written in-depth about it since, I’ve been back many, many times over the intervening years.

Roche; Inara Pey, June 2015, on FlickrRoche, June 2015

The creation of ddsm2 Mathy, with the assistance of friends, the region has remained largely unchanged since my original visit three years ago – a fact that has always added to its charm; in a place where so much can change so rapidly, Roche has always stood as a constant in a fluid world; a place where once can go and instantly feel at home, be it wandering the paths, climbing the hills or sitting in one of the wooden cafés.

I hopped over to the region on Sunday, June 28th and a final opportunity to see Roche (as I write this, the build has now gone, although the region remains for the present) with the intent to grab a last few photos and also record some film footage (I’m still kicking myself around the office for not getting Goatswood recorded prior to its closure).

Roche; Inara Pey, June 2015, on FlickrRoche, June 2015

While there I bumped into Ziki, who was still grabbing snaps herself whilst there with Kinn. Also on hand was Kara Trapdoor and a number of other bloggers – all keen to capture final memories.  The presence of all of these people, together with everyone else visiting the region as I was filming and who have visited since the news broke that Roche will be closing, stands witness to how much it will be missed.

Thank you, ddsm2 Mathy, for your creative vision with Roche, and allowing us to share in it for so long.

 

Space Sunday: metal rain and glass on Mars, HoloLens into orbit

Comet Siding Spring's passage through the solar system 2013-2014
Comet Siding Spring’s passage through the solar system 2014

In October 2014, I wrote about comet Sliding Spring and it’s close approach to Mars as it swung through the solar system.

The comet had been identified as coming from the Oort cloud (or the Öpik–Oort cloud, to give proper recognition both astronomers who initially and independently postulated its existence), a spherical cloud of debris left-over from the creation of the solar system, occupying a huge area starting some 2,000-5,000 AU (2,000 to 5,000 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun) and extending out to around 50-100,000 AU – or about one light year away.

There is nothing odd about comets from the Oort cloud per se, but Sliding Spring appeared to be making its very first journey into the inner solar system, and so astronomers were keen to try to study it as best they could. Given the close pass at Mars, the vehicles on and orbiting that planet stood to have something of a grandstand view of things – providing certain precautions were taken, as I noted at the time.

An artist's impression of MAVEN in orbit around Mars (NASA / JPL)
An artist’s impression of MAVEN in orbit around Mars

Now data released by NASA shows that the comet’s flight past Mars did result in something very unusual: the comet’s tail, which brushed the Martian atmosphere, resulted in a “rain of metal” over the planet.

The data was obtained by NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission (MAVEN), which at the time of the comet’s passage was so recent an arrival at Mars, that all its instruments hadn’t been fully commissioned. Hence, in part, the delay in releasing the data – NASA wanted to be sure MAVEN was recording things accurately.

According to MAVEN, the direct detection of sodium, magnesium, aluminium, chromium, nickel, copper, zinc, iron and other metals high in the Martian atmosphere can be linked directly to material sloughing off of the comet as it passed.

“This must have been a mind-blowing meteor shower,” said Nick Schneider of the Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, commenting on the data returned by the orbiter. Such is the strength of the signal of magnesium and iron measurements, the hourly meteor rate overhead on Mars must have been tens of thousands of “shooting stars” per hour over a period of many hours.

An artist's impression of meteors resulting from comet Siding Spring in the sky over NASA's MSL Curiosity rover
An artist’s impression of meteors resulting from comet Siding Spring in the sky over NASA’s MSL Curiosity rover

“I’m not sure anyone alive has ever seen that,” Schneider added, “and the closest thing in human history might the the 1833 Leonids shower.” The metal ions were the remains of pebbles and other pieces shed from the comet that burned up, or “ablated” into individual atoms as they struck the Martian atmosphere at 56 kilometres per second (125,000 miles per hour).

What is particularly important about the event is that as scientists know the source of the dust particles, it’s speed, and key information about Mars’ upper atmosphere, it is possible to learn more about Mars’ ionosphere, the comet’s composition, and even the workings of Earth’s ionosphere when it is hit by comet or asteroid debris.

Impact Glass

There is glass on Mars, and it might just be the ideal place in which to find any evidence of past microbial life.

The type of glass in question is referred to as “impact glass”, and is formed as a result of the heat generated by the impact of a meteorite melts the surrounding rock into glass. when a meteorite strikes the surface of a planet or moon, melting the surrounding rock into glass, preserving and organic matter that existed on or in the rock prior to the meteorite impact occurring.

In 2014, a research team examining impact glass formed millions of years ago as a result of meteorite strikes in Antarctica form found organic molecules and plant matter within the glass. Their work spurred a group of planetary science graduates at Brown University, Rhode Island, to simulate the spectral composition of possible Martian impact glass by using chemicals, compounds and powders matching those known to compose the surface material on Mars, and then melting the mix at high temperatures to form glass, which they then subjected to spectrographic analysis.

The team then compared the results of their analysis with spectral analyses of the surface of Mars carried out by the Imaging Spectrometer aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) – and found a very similar spectral signature in areas where such impact glass would be expected to form, such as around the central peaks of craters caused by meteorite impacts.

A spectrographic image of the central peak of the Alga Crater impact zone, taken by MRO. The green colours indicate the presence of impact glass
A spectrographic image of the central peak of the Alga Crater impact zone, taken by MRO. The green colours indicate the presence of impact glass

Continue reading “Space Sunday: metal rain and glass on Mars, HoloLens into orbit”

Mystery, murder, mermaids, and cats in Second Life

It’s time to kick-off another week of fabulous story-telling in voice, brought to our virtual lives by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s Second Life home at Bradley University, unless otherwise indicated below.

Sunday, June 28th

13:00 Tea-time at Baker Street

Caledonia Skytower, Kaydon Oconnell and Corwyn Allen continue reading The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, originally published in 1894, and which brings together twelve (or eleven in US editions of the volume) adventures featuring Holmes and Watson, as originally published in The Strand Magazine. This week: The Adventure of the Gloria Scott, first published in 1893.

Holmes (l) and Watson discuss matters relating the The Adventures of the Gloria Scoot, Sidney Paget, 1893, The Strand Magazine
Holmes (l) and Watson discuss matters relating the The Adventures of the Gloria Scoot, Sidney Paget, 1893, The Strand Magazine

He handed me a short note scrawled upon a half-sheet of slate gray-paper.

“The supply of game for London is going steadily up,” it ran. “Head-keeper Hudson, we believe, had been now told to receive all orders for fly-paper and for preservation of your hen-pheasant’s life.”

As I glanced up from reading this enigmatical message, I saw Holmes chuckling at the expression upon my face.

“You look a little bewildered,” said he.

“I cannot see how such a message as this could inspire horror. It seems to me to be rather grotesque than otherwise.”

“Very likely. Yet the fact remains that the reader, who was a fine, robust old man, was knocked clean down by it as if it had been the butt end of a pistol.”

“You arouse my curiosity,” said I. “But why did you say just now that there were very particular reasons why I should study this case?”

“Because it was the first in which I was ever engaged.”

And so it is  – at last – that John Watson and Conan Doyle’s readers finally learn of the case that caused Sherlock Holmes to cease dabbling in matters of deduction, and make his career that of a consulting detective.

15:30: Special Performance: The Mask of Medusa

Peter Lorre, circa 1941, star of Mask of Medusa
Peter Lorre, circa 1941, star of Mask of Medusa

To launch a summer season of special hosted presentations, Seanchai Library welcomes the Cold Shot Players, a group of playwrights and readers. The season will feature presentations focused on the delights and drama of old time, classic radio shows.

The Mask of Medusa takes us back to the 1940s and the Mystery in the Air radio series starring Peter Lorre. The story, written by author Nelson S. Bond, focuses on Lorre’s character, one of 47 exhibits in a waxwork museum specialising in depicting murderers.

The waxwork is owned by one Aristide Zweig, a self-styled connoisseur of crime, who delights in regaling visitors in the art and artistry of his works and their exceptionally life-life appearance, all within earshot of Lorre’s character.

But the museum holds a dark secret, and Zweig is as much a monster as any of the figures displayed for Zweig’s delight and the titillation of patrons.

18:00 Magicland Storytime – Thomasina

thomasinaJoin Caledonia Skytower at Magicland Park as she continues reading Paul Gallico’s 1957 novel (and later a 1963 Walt Disney film starring none other that Patrick McGoohan, alongside Karen Dotrice – who also appeared in Disney’s Mary Poppins and The Gnome Mobile – and Susan Hampshire).

When Thomasina, young Mary’s cat, suffers injury, Mary’s veterinarian father and widower, is typically unsympathetic , and rather than treating the cat, has it put to sleep – earning himself the enmity of his daughter, who declares him dead to her.

Thomasina, meantime, finds herself in cat heaven, only to be returned to Earth because she has lived only one of her nine lives. Thus begins a series of adventures involving Thomasina, Mary, her father and a local woman regarded as a “witch” by the children, but who has a caring way with animals…

Monday June 29th, 19:00: Avimov’s Mysteries

Gyro Muggins reads a duo of classic short stories of the pen of Isaac Asimov. In What’s in a Name?, first published in June 1956 (albeit it under the title Death of a Honey-Blonde), we follow an unnamed detective as he investigates the mysterious death of a young woman at Carmody University.

First published in 1957, A Loint of Paw presents the theme of the story – that of a play on words – trough its title, as we follow a story of fraud, time-travel, justice, and the play on words upon which a judgement hangs.

Tuesday June 30th, Cat Night at the Library

Caledonia Skytower reads from her 2013 short story collection.

Meet “S” – a cat in the prime of her nine lives. From her superior feline perch, she swipes a paw at adventures in traveling, her favorite games, along with lessons in art and respect. A Trio of Cat Tales is a “feliniously” philosophical journey with plenty of insights and exploits for cat lovers and the “cat owned.”

Wednesday July 1st: 19:00: The Tail of Emily Windsnap Part 3

Faerie Maven-Pralou reads from the first volume in Liz Kesseler’s series about a young girl who, having always lived on a boat but having been kept away from the water by her mother, finally gets to have swimming lessons. With them comes a remarkable discovery that leads her into another world…

Thursday July 2nd 19:00: True UFO Stories

With Shandon Loring.

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Please check with the Seanchai Library SL’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule. The featured charity for June / July is the The Xerces Society, at the forefront of invertebrate protection worldwide, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programmes.

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