Hands-on: Second Life 360-degree snapshot viewer

Credit: Linden Lab
Credit: Linden Lab

On Wednesday October 26th Linden Lab announced the release of the 360o snapshot viewer, which I’ve had the good fortune to be able to play with for the last week.

The viewer is still very much under development, and has been released as project viewer with a number of caveats against it as development continues. Essentially, it allows you to take a set of images (6 in total) of the location around your camera, and then produce these as a scrollable 360o view – you can see the results in action on this sample page. Just click drag on an image to manually scroll around it.

The viewer is available via the Alternative Viewers wiki page as project viewer, with documentation on the wiki. As noted there are some caveats concerning it, which need to be kept in mind:

  • The 360o capture operates all around your field of view simultaneously. This can lead to conflicts with the viewer’s Interest List, so that objects which may be “behind” your camera position may not be properly rendered, etc. To avoid this, always pan your camera around  (or turn your avatar around if you are taking a picture from your avatar’s position) to completely view the scene and allow things to initially load, before taking a shot.
  • The current viewer saves the resulting image to your local disk as a zip file. You’ll need to set-up your own local web host in order to view them (or if you have your own website, you could set one up there). Again, this will be changing as the project develops
  • However, even in this format, once you are viewing an image, you can download it in a 2:1 aspect ratio suitable for upload to Flickr for sharing with friends and viewing in 360o.

As I’ve covered three of the 360o camera HUDs available in Second Life, I’m offering the rest of this article as a walk-through in using the new viewer and viewing your photos.

Note – these instructions apply to Windows, I don’t have access to a Mac to provide guidelines for that platform.

Setting Your Viewing Environment

Before taking your photos, you’ll need – for the time being at least – to set-up a simply local web server. Callum Linden has made this relatively easy.

  • Download Python from the Python website. You can select to install either Python 3.5.x (latest) or Python 2.7.x (the Lab uses Python 2.7 as a point of reference).
  • When installing Python, make sure you add the installation to your Windows path.
    • If you are installing Python 3.5.x, simply check the box in the installer
    • If you are installing Python 2.7, click the Advanced button in the installer, scroll down the list of customisable options and set Add Python .EXE to Path to Will be installed on local hard drive.
Adding the Python 2.7 EXE to the Windows path
Adding the Python 2.7 EXE to the Windows path
  • Download the Lab’s 360 snapshot web viewer ZIP file from the Lab’s 360 snapshot wiki page.
    • If you are familiar with Mercurial, you can clone the existing web framework via the link given in the wiki page. I found going the ZIP file route easier.
  • Unzip the web viewer files to a location on your hard drive.
Web you have unzipped the web viewer package, you should have a folder looking like this - note the SHOTS folder, this is where you'll be wanting to save your snapshot sets
When you have unzipped the web viewer package, you should have a folder looking like this – note the SHOTS folder, this is where you’ll be wanting to save your snapshot sets (Windows environment)

Using the Viewer

When you have downloaded and installed the 360o snapshot viewer, proceed as follows:

  • Position your avatar  / camera at the centre of the area you wish to photograph. If you are using your avatar, not that you should “hide” it via removing all attachments and alpha-masking, or by using something like a “vanish” gesture.
    • Note that you can positioning your camera for a 360o snapshot simply by positioning your camera (e.g. using ALT-zoom or by flycamming).
  • Make sure you freeze the clouds in order to assist the image “stitching” process, and to avoid visual discontinuities in the finished image. Use Menu > World > Environment Editor >Sky Presets > Edit Presets. You should also avoid using Depth of Field.
  • Set your preferred windlight / time of day setting.
  • Turn your camera / avatar slowly around in a circle to view everything in the field of view around it, and allow everything to render.
  • Open the Snapshot floater and click on the 360 option – not that although this displays the filter options for snapshot, the filter effects are not currently captured when taking  360o shots.
  • When you are ready, Click Save to save the image set – you will be prompted to save a ZIP file to your hard drive.
    • Navigate to the location where you unzipped the web viewer files (above) and then save the ZIP file (with a suitable file name) in the SHOTS folder.

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