Update, June 2020: The EEP project mentioned at the end of this article was officially released on April 2020. EEP includes some significant differences to hose .XML environment files and .TGA cloud files are used. For further information on EEP, please refer to:
- Mmy EEP Primer article, for a general overview of the capability and its viewer-side elements, or
- My EEP Tutorial for an in-depth look at the EEP controls in the viewer.
During the Friday, January 26th, 2018 TPV Developer meeting, mentioned was made of cloud texture sets produced by Australian photographer Stevie Davros, which he offers for sale through the Marketplace. Curious, I decided to go and take a look and have a play.
In all, Stevie is offering five sets of cloud textures at prices ranging from L$99 through to L$599. These are essentially collections of .TGA files designed to replace the cloud texture found in the viewer, and a selection of associated windlight sky .XML files specifically designed to work with the cloud textures, together with comprehensive set of installations instructions and links to his installation videos. To help people understand how they work, Stevie provides a sixth demonstration set for free.
As delivered from the marketplace, each set comprises a note card providing a general introduction to the sets, and a set of links, as follows:
- A link to a Dropbox file location where the actual files for installation can be downloaded.
- A link to a YouTube slide show of the various cloud textures.
- A link to his set of Flickr albums showings the cloud images.
- Assorted links to windlight tutorials.
On receipt of a note card (delivered to your Received Items in its own folder), simply copy / paste the Dropbox link into your web browser to display a preview of the download ZIP contents (thumbnails of the folders and instruction files), and click the Download button, top right of the web page – don’t download the individual files.
I’m not going to run through the installation process here, as Stevie provides a comprehensive guide in both .PDF and .RTF formats, and links to his installation videos. Some file manipulation is required, but providing you are comfortable navigating a folder / directory hierarchy via your computer’s file manager / explorer, and with renaming files and copy / pasting files, you shouldn’t find the installation that taxing. Suffice it to say that the downloaded ZIP contains:
- A choice of folders with the cloud .TGA files – one for PC, one for Mac OSX. These are intended to replace the default cloud texture provided in the viewer.
- A folder of .XML windlight files that can be used with the cloud textures. Copy the contents of this folder to your viewer’s user windlight skies folder, rather than the viewer’s main windlight skies folder.
- Installation instructions in .PDF and .RTF.
- Two images used in the installation instructions.
For most viewers, using the different cloud textures requires renaming the texture you wish to use via your computer’s file manager, and restarting their viewer. Again, Stevie’s installation instructions explain what is required.
If you use Firestorm, you can simply copy all of the cloud textures to the viewer’s windlight\cloud folder and select your required cloud texture from the Preferences → Windlight → Cloud Texture drop-down, although a viewer restart will still generally be required to apply the change.
Note: when re-logging after selecting a custom cloud TGA, you may either:
- See no change in your sky if you are in a region using the default sky settings, or
- Things might look initially messy.
If this happens simply switch to a suitable windlight setting – see below.
There are a wide variety of ways to access windlight .XML files depending on the viewer you are using. Within the official viewer, windlights are access via the World menu → Environment Editor and then using either the Environment Settings panel or Sky Presets → Edit Preset floater, using the drop-down on each to select your preferred windlight setting (see below).
When applying the cloud textures and windlights supplied by Stevie, it’s worth keeping the following in mind:
- Some of the cloud textures have recommended or specific sky .XML presets for use with them. For example, in the Cosmic Skies set:
- The JuliaSet clouds have set of associated .XML files with the prefix ~Clouds_JuilaSet_[name]).
- The Saturn cloud texture requires the ~Clouds_Saturn windlight sky in order to display correctly (the planet will display with some other windlights, but generally appears distorted)
- Some of the cloud textures can look rough – faint rings may appear in the sky, the texture repeats might have a definable edge, etc. These issues can generally be corrected by adjusting the amount of cloud cover using the appropriate slider (e.g. World menu → Environment Editor → Sky Presets → Edit Preset … → Cloud tab) and use the coverage slider to adjust as required.
Cirrus v2 Windlight: Pinky Yellow, by Stevie Davros on Flickr
Given there are a lot of windlight .XML sets freely available to users, charging for them might at first seem odd – but remember, with these sets, it is not the .XMLs you are paying for, but the .TGA cloud files. How useful then might be to the individual depend on your Second Life use. Photographers will potentially find the sets to be of the most use; however, there are some points to be noted:
- The cloud .TGA files are copyrighted by Stevie Davros. As such, although they are supplied outside of Second Life, they should be regarded as supplied under the following permissions: Copy, Modify, No Transfer, and should not be passed to other users.
- These sets are intended to be applied on the viewer side only (in fact, the cloud .TGA files can only currently be applied through the viewer), so only you will see them in operation. However, those with their own region / with EM rights, might apply the windlight .XML files to their region.
It is perhaps also worthwhile pointing out that Rider Linden is working on the Environment Enhancement Project (EEP), which will significantly change how Second Life environments will change – read this overview about the project for more. As such, some might prefer to see how this project is implemented – testing is due to start on Aditi very soon – before purchasing sets of clouds.