Black Dragon: notifications and shadows

Blackdragon logoOn Thursday, July 9th, NiranV Dean released version of his Black Dragon viewer.

The release brought with it a rapid-fire implementation of the Lab’s new notifications update from LL, which comes a little ahead of the curve, given the Lab prefer their code to be integrated into TPVs once it reaches RC status, and can be regarded as somewhat more stable than might be the case with a project viewer release. However, the code is such that it is apparently easy to manage should updates be forthcoming as that project progresses.

In implementing the notifications update, Niran has made some subtle changes to the notifications floater itself, improving the overall layout, although the overall functionality is pretty much as offered through the Lab’s current project viewer. Rather than describe the functionality here, readers are invited to read my overview of the project viewer.

The other major update with this release of Black Dragon release is related to shadows and lighting, and specifically, the uncoupling of shadow rendering from draw distance.

Because shadow rendering has been bound to draw distance, shadows tend to fade away the closer they are to your draw distance limit, with the result that the further objects are away from you, the less well-defined their shadows appear / the less shadows may influence how they appear, with objects close to the edge of your draw distance sometimes appearing shadowless.

With this change, Niran has added a new slider to the Display tab of Preferences, allowing the user to independently set a “shadow rendering distance”, thus allowing a better rendering and representation of shadows independent of draw distance.

Black Dragon the new shadow rendering distance slider
Black Dragon the new shadow rendering distance slider in Preferences. A similar slider is also in the Machinima sidebar

The result is a much improved depth of view in-world, and greatly enhanced snapshots (see Niran’s samples accompanying the viewer’s release notes).

By-and-large, extending the shadow rendering distance shouldn’t result in any appreciable performance hit. However, there is a caveat, as Niran explains:

Increasing the shadow draw distance will reduce the overall shadow precision, because shadows are split into shadow clip planes, 4 shadow textures if you will, these shadow textures have a given resolution (which you can set in preferences), increasing the shadow rendering distance scales up all 4 planes equally, increasing the area one texture has to cover, reducing the precision in that area obviously. You could counter this by increasing the shadow resolution or multiplier, but that would impact frame rate.

A side benefit of this, as Niran notes, is that because volumetric lighting is calculated via the shadow clip planes and shadow maps, increasing the shadow rendering distance enhances the volumetric lighting effects in the viewer. Again, check the sample images Niran provides with the release notes.

Other updates in this release include:

  • Re-enabling of the experimental auto-hiding of the Textures, Sounds, Calling Cards, Landmarks, Notecards, Scripts, Photo Album, Animations, Gestures, Favourites and My Outfits folders in Inventory (debug: DebugHideEmptySystemFolders)
  • Disabling of the auto-hiding of empty folders by default
  • Improvements to SSAO defaults
  • Freeze world and mode toggling issues, as reported in STORM-2118, fixed and implemented in this Black Dragon release
  • Further RLVa updates.

As always, for the full range of changes / updates, please refer to the release notes.

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