On Friday, September 3rd Linden Lab issued the latest update to the 360º Snapshot viewer – now called the Project 360 Capture viewer – with the release of version 184.108.40.2063579. It represents the most significant update to this viewer we’ve seen, and it comes after a significant pause in its development.
As the name of the viewer suggests, it is designed to take 360º degree panoramic images of the environment around the camera. It does this by simultaneously taking six images around the current camera position – one each at the four cardinal points, plus one directly overhead, and one directly looking down. These are then “stitched” into an equirectangular projection image (e.g. one that can be projected as a sphere), which can then viewed through a suitable medium – such as Flickr (other mediums are available!).
The first iteration of this viewer appeared almost five years ago, in October 2016, and came with a certain amount of complexity involved – including the need to install a local environment for previewing captured images. Later iterations of the viewer improved on this, but the viewer continued to be hit by conflicts with the Interest List.
In simple terms, the Interest List lightens the load – objects, textures and updates to active objects, etc., – the viewer has to process when rendering. It does this by ignoring things that are not in the camera’s direct field of view. This is why, for example, when you turn your camera away from the direction you are looking, it can take time for objects and their textures to render. However, for a 360º-degree image, everything needs to be properly rendered in the viewer – whether in the current field of view or not. Overcoming this problem has proven difficult – and it (admittedly with other factors also coming into play) caused work on the viewer to be halted for an extended period.
This version of the viewer overcomes most of these issues, and makes the creation of 360º snapshots straightforward through the use of a new 360 Snapshot floater that is independent of the “standard” snapshot floater, and the use of some additional back-end code to overcome the Interest List. This new floater can be accessed from within the Project 360 Capture viewer in one of four ways:
- Via World 360 Snapshot.
- By pressing CTRL-ALT-SHIFT-S.
- By enabling the 360° snapshot toolbar button in one of the toolbar areas.
- By expanding the standard snapshot floater to show the full preview and clicking the Take 360 Snapshot link in the lower right corner of the preview panel.
The floater itself comprises several elements:
- The image Quality radio buttons and selection button (labelled Create 360 Image).
- The quality buttons appear to utilise the viewer’s screen buffer to render the different image types, so Preview appears to use the 128 vertical buffer, while Medium and High use the 512 and 1024 buffers respectively, and Maximum the 2048 buffer (i.e. the full 4096×2048 resolution).
- When you have selected your preferred quality, click the Create 360 button to generate a preview.
- If you alter the image quality at any time, you’ll need to click on the Create 360 button again to update the preview / take a fresh image at the new image quality.
- A checkbox to disable avatar rendering during the image capture process.
- The preview panel. This will show a rotating image from the current camera position until refreshed, and this image can be manually rotated / panned up and down by clicking on it and dragging the mouse around.
- The Save As… button that actually saves the image to your hard drive.
To take an image:
- Position your camera.
- Select the image quality – for finished images you’ll need to set High or Maximum quality using the radio buttons.
- Click the Create 360 Image button to generate a preview in the floater’s preview panel.
- Click on the preview image and drag it around to ensure what you’re seeing is what you want / that things like textures have actually rendered correctly.
- Check the Hide All Avatars option, if required – this will cause the process to include all avatars present (it will not alter their in-world rendering).
- When you are satisfied with the preview, click Save As… to save it to your hard drive, renaming it if / as required.
Remember, if you change the image quality, you must also click Create 360 button to update the preview AND image capture process to the new image quality, before click Save As… again.
Once captured – again as noted – images can be uploaded to a suitable display platform such as Flickr – the images contain the necessary metadata that should automatically trigger the 360-degree viewing process (just click on an image in flicker to manually pan around up / down).
- An easy-to-use iteration of the 360º snapshot viewer that brings good quality and ease-of-use to the process.
- The ability to avoid rendering avatars not only helps avoid issues of rendering / motion blurring when taking a 360º image, it enables the easy capture of landscape images. It also, obviously, allows for the capture of posed avatars if required.
- There are still some issues in rendering out-of-view (relative to the visible field of view for the camera) items and textures at High and (particularly) Maximum quality images – note the blurring of the vessel name in the first 360 image above.
- The lowest quality Preview option is simply too blurred to be of real value – perhaps using 256 rather than 128 might improve this (if only slightly)?