Projectors as mirrors in Second Life

Using a projector and “reflective” surface in SL to creator a mirror in our living room at home. Note how the “reflection” changes as the viewing perspective moves

Second Life lighting projectors are an extremely useful capability that can be put to a wide variety of uses. I first covered their basics far back in 2011. Since then they’ve been notably easier to use (and that original article was subsequently updated to reflect this).

In 2016, for his art display, Mirrored Garden, at Holly Kai Garden (see here for details), Silas Merlin demonstrated a means to create mirror-like effects in Second Life, with a number of “mirrors” mounted around his sculptures “reflecting” them and the garden in which they were being displayed. I’ve since seen a number of SL artists use a similar approach to add depth to their work, and in April 2018, Adeon Writer offered a video tutorial on using projectors to create “portal-like” effects.

One of the “mirrors” Silas Merlin created for his Mirrored Garden art exhibition at Holly Kai Park in April 2016

Given the latter, I thought it high time a revisited a draft of an article about Silas’ approach I started in 2016, but never quite finished (my apologies to him), gave it a polish and present it as a tutorial for those interested in using projector-based “mirrors” in SL.

Prerequisites

  • For this time of “mirror” to work, those looking at it must have viewer’s Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) enabled via Preferences > Graphics. Anyone who does not have ALM enabled will just see a blank surface instead of any reflections.
  • The “mirror” itself is made up of a number of elements: the “reflective” surface itself (which can be a mesh or prim face), and one or more lighting projectors – the exact number and their placement will be subject to the effect you are trying to achieve.

For this tutorial, I’m producing a single “mirror” using a single projector to create a finished item – a simple household room mirror. Adeon’s video provides an outline on how to use multiple projectors to achieve a result.

Create the “Mirror”

The “mirror” is simple flat surface (face) of a prim or mesh. When done, it can be made part of a more ornate item – so you could add a frame around it, etc.).

  1. Create a prim and size it.
  2. Right-click the prim and click the Select Face radio button, then click on the face of the prim you want to make “reflective”.
  3. In the Edit > Texture tab:
    • Use the texture picker to set the texture to Blank.
    • Set the colour of the face you have selected to black and leave Transparency at 0
    • Enable Full Bright to reduce unwanted reflection of nearby lights.
Setting the texture options for a reflective “mirror” surface.
  1. Click Shininess (specular) radio button and:
    • Use the picker to set the map to blank (white).
    • Set Glossiness to 255 (highest).
    • Set Environment to a value that works best for your overall lighting conditions – generally speaking, higher is better.
    • Set the specular colour swatch to black to further reduce unwanted light reflection.
Setting the specular options for your reflective “mirror” surface

Create Your “Reflections”

This can sound complicated, but it’s actually relatively straightforward, requiring two main steps: create an image that will form the “reflection”; create the projector that will use the image.

Create the “Mirror” Image

  1. Position your “mirror” in the location you intend to hang it. Position your camera “in” the “mirror”, and facing out – so you are looking from the “mirror’s” point-of-view (e.g. from the wall on which it hangs looking out into the room it which it is hanging).
  2. Take a snapshot at a reasonably high resolution.
  3. Use an image editing tool to crop the image to give the desired look for the “reflection” – and flip it horizontally before saving.
  4. Repeat for any addition projectors you are using, taking your snapshots from the perspective of each projector.
  5. Don’t upload the texture(s) as yet.

Create the Projector(s)

Repeat the following steps for each of the projectors you’ll be using.

  1. Create a prim.
  2. Edit the prim and select the Features tab.
  3. Check the Light option to enable it and then:
    • Click the second box alongside the Light option to open the texture picker.
    • Click the Local radio button.
    • Use the ADD button to allow you to select the projector texture from your hard drive (note: only you will be able to see the results when using the Local option, but it allows you to experiment without having to upload textures multiple times).
    • When you have selected the require texture it will appear in the texture list on the right of the picker.
    • Click on the texture name to select it; the texture will be applied to the bottom face of the prim.
Applying a texture to a projector

Continue reading “Projectors as mirrors in Second Life”

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Tutorial: creating Second Life Place Pages

The Holly Kai Park Place Page banner
Introduced in 2017, Place Pages are a means to allow region and parcel owners to create a web browsable page (hosted by the Lab) for their location(s) in-world. These pages can then be shared through blogs, websites, Twitter, Facebook, etc., offering a means to promote those places to a broader audience, advertise events, etc so on. Table of Contents

In addition, all published Place Pages can be searched via the Place Page home page, or browsed as thumbnails.

There is an official Knowledge Base article providing information on creating and using Place Pages, but I thought I’d offer a step-by-step guide to setting-up one or more Place Pages.

Place Page Features

A Place Page showing the use of images, descriptive text and the inclusion of an events calendar. Click for full size

By default, every region and parcel in Second Life has a Place Page associated with it, derived from information in the parcel’s existing profile. These are provided in a default format, complete with place holder image. Each page comprises a number of features:

A banner “hero” image, together with additional images which can rotate as the page is refreshed or as a slide show; descriptive text; options for:

  • Listing a calendar of events.
  • Showing a region’s covenant – useful for residential rental regions).
  • Showing items for sale.
  • Adding a YouTube video.

Buttons to allow visitors to the page to launch their viewer and teleport directly to the location (assuming they are Second Life users – if not, they’ll be taken to the SL sign-up page).

In addition, a region’s Place Page can include a list of surfaced parcel Place Pages, and parcel Place Pages will include a link back to their “parent” region’s Place Page.

Prerequisites for Managing Place Pages

In order for you to be able to use the Place Pages to promote your in-world locations, certain criteria must be met:

  • You must own the parcel / region in question OR you must be assigned a the group ability to Toggle ‘Show Place in Search’ And Set Category within the group owning the land
  • For a parcel’s Place Page to be public, About Land > Show Place in Search for the parcel must be checked (incurring a weekly fee of L$30).

Managing Your Place Pages

Setting-Up a Place Page

  • Visit the Place Pages dashboard and log in using your Second Life credentials.
  • Access your available place pages either by clicking your name in the top right corner of the page and selecting My Places, or by clicking on My Places just below the banner.
Accessing your available Place Pages
  • Depending on your land holdings (e.g. the number of regions, the number of parcels on those regions), your list of available Place Pages might be short or long. Each Place Page item provides a summary and a default image.
  • Note:the Is Viewable? column in the list determines whether or not a Place Page is viewable or not.
    • True indicates the page is publicly viewable.
    • Not Viewable indicates the Place Page cannot be publicly viewed, either because you as the owner have set it that way, or because it relates to a parcel which does not have Show Place in Search checked within its About Land floater.
Sample Place Pages listing – note the region / parcel differentiator

When you have located the Place Page you wish to edit, click Edit on the right of the listing to open the Page in default / edit view. This comprises a number of easy-to-understand sections, complete with explanatory text.

  • Details: this section allows you to determine if the Place Page is publicly viewable, and define the information it displays.
    • Disable This Place Page: prevents the page being publicly displayed.
    • Show Covenant: displays the covenant associated with the land (if provided).
    • Items for Sale: item must be set to Show in Search on the General tab of the object editor window, and will be listed with price, description and a teleport button. Note that items not for sale will also be listed, but will appear at the end of the list with Not Available in the price column.
    • Show Calendar: displays a calendar of events for the region / parcel. Event must be created via the  Events section of your Second Life dashboard at secondlife.com.
    • Title: the title for the Place Page – shown overlaying the banner image.
    • Tag line: 150-charcter tagline for the Place Page, shown overlaying the banner image.
    • Description Editor: for entering formatted descriptive text to be displayed on the Place Page.
  • Optional: this section provides you with the ability to set the page, font, and link colours used on the page. There is also a space to provide a YouTube URL.
    • Note that at the time of writing the link colour only applies to the links in the Parcel Information section of your page; it does not apply to any links you may include in the description section of your page or any events listed with a calendar (if present). That can create visibility problems with these links, depending on the page background colour selected.
  • Images: Section for uploading at banner / Hero image and additional images that are displayed in rotation on the finished page.
  • Stats: general information on the region / parcel automatically displayed on the finished page as Parcel Information.

At the foot of the page are buttons to Update the page with any changes you have made, or Cancel them. Note that clicking Update will refresh the page and display your changes.

Including Parcels in a Region Place Page

If you have more than one parcel in a region, you can automatically include all of your visible parcel Place Pages in the region’s Place Page. Note, again, parcels must have how Place in Search set within their About Land floater (incurring a weekly L$30 fee) in order for them to appear on their “parent” region’s Place Page.

Parcels in a region can be listed in the region’s Place Page

Continue reading “Tutorial: creating Second Life Place Pages”

Tutorial: raising Abuse Reports in Second Life

Griefing, be it through word, action, noise, or object (as seen here), etc., is one of the items covered by the Abuse Report
The following notes are drawn from a presentation Governance Team manager Tommy Linden and team member Corky Linden are making to various communities within Second Life as part of an initiative to better disseminate information about the Governance Team, and on filing Abuse Reports (ARs). The hope is that the information provided will give users a better understanding of what the Governance Team hope to see provided in an Abuse Report in order to fully investigate it.

Note that  official information on Abuse Reports can also be found in the Knowledge Base.

Table of Contents

 

Governance Team: Quick Facts

  • The team is relatively small – under a dozen in size – but handles an average of 400-500 Abuse Reports per day
  • All Abuse Reports get reviewed as the first stage of an investigation, with priority given to those seen as critical (such as an in-progress griefing attack).
  • All ARs that can be investigated are investigated. However:
    • How far the investigation goes largely depends on whether the AR is filed against something Governance is empowered to investigate, and how much meaningful information is supplied in it.
    • The Governance Team intentionally does not report back on the outcome of their investigations for a number of reasons. Just because the outcome might not be visible to the reporter / match their expectations when filing an AR, does not mean the report was ignored.
  • One of the biggest issues with incoming Abuse Reports is that they often lack the basic information required in order for an investigation to be properly carried out.

What is an Abuse Report?

The Abuse Report (AR) is for reporting any individual or group of avatars or any in-world object engaged in an activity deemed inappropriate under the Second Life Terms of Service  / Community Standards and/or is in contraction to the maturity rating for a region.

ARs apply to: griefing, spamming, age play, assault / pushing / disturbing the peace, disclosure of personal information, fraud, harassment, indecency and Skill Gaming violations. In addition, there are Welcome Area Guidelines governing places like Infohubs, which contain restrictions on what should not be done in those areas with any violations also subject to ARs. Report.

There are also certain things that do not apply to ARs. For example, being banned from a particular group or region or parcel, or a dispute over rental payment between residents are not actionable via AR.

ARs can be filed by anyone suffering abuse, or by those directly witnessing an abusive act. However, this does not mean teleporting multiple people into a location and having them file reports as well. Rather than “speeding up” any investigation, it can actually slow down the entire process by forcing Governance to spend time reviewing dozens of additional (and possibly contradictory) reports.

What Is The Governance Team Looking for in a Report?

The Governance Team is looking for clear, concise and consistent information in an Abuse Report, as summaries in the image below and expanded upon in the following sections.

A “good” Abuse Report, presenting all the information and making good use of a screen shot – click to open the slide in a separate tab for easier reading. With thanks to Corky Linden

Accessing the Abuse Report Floater

The AR floater can be accessed via:

  • Menu bar > Help > Report Abuse.
  • By right-clicking on an avatar or object and locating / selecting Report Abuse from the context menu / pie menu.
    • Make sure you have the right avatar / object selected when doing this.
    • Launching the AR floater using either of these two options will auto-complete parts of the form.

The following guidelines are intended to help with filing an AR.

Screen Shots

Where possible, try to include a screen shot of the situation you are reporting. It can be the most effective means of illustrating what is going on, and gives the Governance Team clear visual proof / evidence of what has happened. It can also make up for information missed from the rest of the report.

The slide below outlines some of the key points to remember when using the AR floater to capture a snapshot – click to enlarge it in a separate browser tab for ease of reading.

Abuse Report snapshots: click on the slide to open it in a separate browser tab for easier reading

Note that most viewers do not have a refresh button for the snapshot preview, so try to make sure all the information you wish to capture is on your screen. If you are unable to get a screen shot for whatever reason, it is important you provide clear, accurate information in the Summary and Details section of the report (see below).

Object Picker

The Object Picker allows you to identify an abusive object (e.g. a particle / noise spammer, a weapon, etc.), and include its name and owner in the body of your Abuse Report. Instructions on how to use it are included in the AR floater, and this section will be auto-completed if you launch an AR by right-clicking on an abusive object. Remember you can further verify the item by including it in a snapshot with the Edit floater open to show the object name & owner.

Report Categories

The Abuse Report floater includes a pre-defined, drop-down list of categories which should be used when filing a report. Notes on the *valid* categories can be found here. Note that filing under the wrong category doesn’t prevent a report from being investigated, but it can slow things down, particularly if there is insufficient information provided elsewhere in the report.

Abuser Name

This allows you to grab the name of someone causing abuse from those around you. If you launch an Abuse Report by right-clicking on an object or avatar, this section will auto-complete (make sure you have selected the right avatar), otherwise click the Choose button and follow the on-screen instructions.

Continue reading “Tutorial: raising Abuse Reports in Second Life”

VR Photosphere: a further Second Life 360 photo HUD

VR Creations 360 Photosphere demonstration; Inara Pey, October 2016,VR Creations 360 Photosphere demonstration  – click image to view in Flickr with 360o scrolling

Following my reviews of the Illiastra Panoramic HUD and the Camera Panoramic system (see links below), I was handed a further HUD system to look at.

The VR Creations 360o Photosphere HUD is a system that does exactly what it says on the packet: produces a set of images (26 in all) suitable for stitching together into a 360o spherical images suitable for uploading to the likes of Facebook, VRchive and Flickr. It falls between the Camera Panoramic and the Illiastra HUD in price, and is quite possibly the easiest of the three to use to take a set of shots.

The system comes in a basic package of the HUD, sufficient notes to get you going, and a link to a video overview.

The HUD

The VR Photosphere HUD comprises ten buttons, as shown below, with the key buttons highlighted.

The VR Creations 360 Photosphere HUD
The VR Creations 360 Photosphere HUD

The HUD cannot be minimised, but can be positioned off to one side or the other of the screen to keep it out-of-the-way.

Of particular note with the HUD is the top set of six buttons, which are related to positioning your camera to capture images. You can effectively position your camera anywhere you like using ALT-zoom or flycamming, and use the Add button to save the camera’s location as the centre of your sphere of photographs.This also allows you to take “seflies” through careful positioning of the camera close to you.

Saved camera positions can then be paged through using the left and right arrow buttons either side of the Release Camera button – so if you return to a location and wish to re-capture a set of images, you can do so easily, while the Delete button will delete the current camera position from the HUD.

Taking Your Shots

This is very much a point-and-shoot HUD system, requiring minimal set-up.  However, prior to taking your shots, there are some things you need to do:

  • Set your preferred windlight and daytime settings.
  • Make sure you freeze the clouds – you’ll be taking up to 26 images which will need to be stitched together, and moving clouds could make that a bit of a bugger to do. Use Menu > World > Environment Editor >Sky Presets > Edit Presets or PhotoTools > Clouds and check the scroll lock check boxes
  • Make sure the viewer’s camera is set to the default view  angle, FOV and focal length.

Once you’ve done this:

  • Position your camera at the centre point for your image capture – remember, you will be capturing 26 images in a sphere around this point, so you should have the camera view set to about a couple of metres off the ground.
  • Click Add on the HUD to set the camera position.
  • Press Esc on your keyboard to set your camera under HUD control.
  • Click on Begin Photosphere. Your camera will move to the nadir (lowest point) of the image set (generally pointing at the ground) ready for you to start capturing frames.
  • Press CTRL-~ (tilde), the snapshot shortcut, on your keyboard. You will be prompted for a location where you wish to save your first image. Select the folder and give a file name for the image.
  • Click the right arrow next to Done on the HUD to advance the camera to the next frame. Press CTRL-~ to save this shot automatically to the same location as the first.
  • Continue on round the photo a frame at a time using the right arrow button at the bottom of the HUD, saving each shot in turn via CTRL-~.
  • When you have captured all 26 frames, the camera will once more be pointing to the nadir point (generally the ground). Click Done to return the camera to the start position.
  • If you are satisfied with your frame captures, click Release Camera on the HUD to free the camera back to default control.

Producing your Image

Once you have taken your shots in-world, you need to “stitch” them together to produce your final image. There are several software tools you can use for this. My preferred choice is the Hugin Panorama Stitcher available through Sourceforge.net, as I’ve found it to be fast and efficient.

With Hugin installed and launched, proceed as follows:

  • In the Assistant tab, click on Load Images… Navigate to where your images are locally saved and select all 26 in the set, then click Open.
Loading and aligning your images in Hugin
Loading and aligning your images in Hugin
  • The Camera and Lens Data dialogue box is displayed. Enter 90 in the HFOV field and click OK. You images will load in the editing panel.
  • Once your images are loaded, use the Align button to arrange them. This may take a few minutes, just keep an eye on the processing window that opens.
  • When Align has completed, click on the Move/Drag tab and click Straighten. If your shots are displayed upside down, enter 180 in the Roll text box and click Apply to flick them the right way up.
Straighten and correct inverted image, if required
Straighten and correct an inverted image (if required)
  • Click on the Crop tab in Hugin and adjust the values to ensure your entire images is selected – set Left and Top to 0; Right and Bottom to 9999 – note the latter two will snap to the maximum size of your image.
  • Click on the Assistant tab once more and click Create Panorama. A dialogue box will open:
    • Set the image format to JPG and set the quality to 100%
    • Click OK to run the output process.
  • You’ll be asked to give a file name for the Hugin .PTO batch process file and the rendered image file. Enter a name for both, confirming each in turn.
  • Image processing will start, and could take several minutes.

Once completed, you’ll have an image ready to upload to Facebook, VRchive, Flickr, etc.

Do be aware that Hugin can be sensitive in handling images, particularly those with poor contrast / brightness, or which feature a lot of water, and this can lead to problems during the alignment process or in production of the finished image.

Continue reading “VR Photosphere: a further Second Life 360 photo HUD”

The Illiastra Panoramic Camera: 360-degree images of Second Life

Illiastra Camera Test; Inara Pey, October 2016, on Flickr A static panoramic view of our home island produced using the Illiastra Panoramic Camera and the Hugin Software.

I received a generous gift from Illiastra Ascendent (NVZN, aka James Reichert in the physical world) over the weekend, who sent me the Illiastra Panoramic Camera (MP link) to try-out in Second Life.

This is a HUD-based system which can be used to produce set of images of an in-world scene which can be stitched together using suitable software to create a static 360-degree view. These can in turn be uploaded to Facebook or websites such as VRchive and YouTube, as scrollable, 360-degree views of a location.

The system comprises two camera HUDs, “basic” and Pro, together with a photosphere for viewing captured images in-world. The difference between the two cameras being that the “basic” model uses 8 images to create a 360-degree panorama, while the Pro version takes a total of 26 (including directly above and below you) to produce either a panoramic view using 24 images, or a spherical view using all 26 images.

Producing your static panoramic image is a 2-step process:

  • Capturing your in-world shots using the camera
  • Stitching them into a panoramic mosaic using a suitable software application.

Once this is done, you can proceed to prepare them for 360-degree viewing on Facebook, VRchive, etc. Illiastra provides comprehensive set of videos on producing your panoramic shots, stitching them together and uploading them to Facebook, which I highly recommend.

For the rest of this article, I’ll take you through producing a panoramic shot and then uploading it to VRchive and converting it to a 360-degree video for You Tube.

Taking the Shots

There are some basic steps to follow when preparing to take shots using the system:

  • Position yourself at the centre of the location you want to capture in a 360-degree image. Be careful of where you select – too close to building or trees, etc., could have them dominating a part of the view.
  • Set your preferred windlight and daytime settings.
  • Make sure you freeze the clouds – you’ll be taking up to 26 images which will need to be stitched together, and moving clouds could make that a bit of a bugger to do. Use Menu > World > Environment Editor >Sky Presets > Edit Presets or PhotoTools > Clouds and check the scroll lock check boxes.
  • Make sure the viewer’s camera is set to the default view  angle, FOV and focal length
  • Hide yourself from view  – used the supplied alpha mask after removing all attachments or use something like a Vanish gesture. Otherwise, the top of your head will be in every shot.
  • Tap ESC on your keyboard to free your camera (and free it from any other influences acting upon it).
Basic Camera HUD: closed (l) and in use (r)

Once you’re set, click the camera HUD your camera will rotate and position itself for the first shot. Use the Snapshot shortcut CTRL-‘ (tilde) to save the image – you’ll be prompted for a file name and location on your computer for the very first short after the HUD is attached.

The Pro version of the camera produces 24 shots using the left / right keys (+ CTRL-' for image capture), the chevrons denoting the progress through upper / lower sets of 8 images apiece. The up and down buttons position the camera for taking sky / ground shots respectively, which can be used to create spherical views
The Pro version of the camera produces 24 shots using the left / right keys (+ CTRL-‘ for image capture), the chevrons denoting the progress through upper / lower sets of 8 images apiece. The up and down buttons position the camera for taking sky / ground shots respectively, which can be used to create spherical views

When you’ve saved the shot – which is effectively the first frame of your panoramic image – click the right arrow on the HUD to advance the camera to the next point (indicated in green on the HUD), and take another snapshot (CTRL-‘). You won’t be prompted for a file name for this and the remaining frames – simply progress on around the HUD, capturing a snapshot at each of the highlighted views in turn.

If you are using the “Basic” camera, you’ll be taking a total of 8 shots – once around the HUD. If you are using the Pro camera, you will be taking 24 shots around you – that’s 3 times around the HUD clicking the right button, giving you 8 horizontal shots, 8 angled upwards, and 8 angled downwards – just follow the prompts on the HUD. When you’ve taken all 24, click the UP arrow on the HUD to capture an overhead view, and the DOWN arrow to capture a shot of the ground under your feet. Again – remember to press CTRL-‘ to save each image.

Note that after the very first instance of asking you to select a file location / name for your shot for image ever captured using it, the HUD will automatically save any subsequent set of shots you capture to the last location on your hard drive you used to save images captured using the snapshot floater

Producing your Panoramic Image via Hugin

Once you have taken your shots, you’ll have either 8 (“basic” camera) or 26 (Pro camera) shots of your location. These now need to be stitched together. GIMP or PhotoShop can be used for this for those proficient in using them, otherwise Illiastra recommends using the Hugin Panorama Stitcher available through Sourceforge.net.  I opted to use this.

With Hugin installed and launched, proceed as follows:

  • In the Assistant tab, click on Load Images…
    • If you have been using the “Basic” camera, select all 8 of your shots
    • If you have been using the Pro camera, selected the first 24 shots  – do not include the final overhead sky shot or ground shot – these can be added later, if required.
  • A dialogue box will appear. Enter a value of 90 in the Horizontal Field of View (HFOV).
  • Click OK to load your images into Hugin – things will initially look a mess – don’t worry!
  • Click on the Align button to initially align your shots – this may take a while to process, depending on your system, the image resolution, etc., and then may end-up upside down. Again, don’t worry!
Loading and aligning your images in Hugin
Loading and aligning your images in Hugin
  • When Align has completed, click on the Move/Drag tab and click Straighten. If your shots are upside down, enter 180 in the Roll text box and click Apply. Your images will further align and flip the right way up.
Straighten and correct inverted image, if required
Straighten and correct inverted image, if required

Continue reading “The Illiastra Panoramic Camera: 360-degree images of Second Life”

Lab presents “Tips and Tricks from the Community”

secondlifeA curious blog post appeared on the official blogs on Wednesday, March 9th, 2016.

Entitled [Tips and Tricks from the Community] Video: Lighting Tutorial from Brookston Holiday, it appears in the Tips and Tricks section of the blogs. As the name suggests, it features a video tutorial by Brookston Holiday (aka ProMaterials) in which he provides an introduction to using the viewer’s in-build tools and options for producing lighting effects, including  projectors (which I’ve covered myself). If you’re unfamiliar with using the tools, it’s a handy introduction.

I call this a “curious” post not because of the content – as the author of the post notes, SL users are generally the best placed when it comes to demonstrating capabilities in the viewer and techniques for achieving a desired result. Rather, I find the post curious because it is the first time anything has been posted to Tips and Tricks in almost four years – the last item having appeared back in June 2012; and even that came with just over a year’s gap between it and the preceding post.

So are we seeing a revival of the Tips and Tricks section of the blog in the form of a  new regular / semi-regular series, or just a one-off post? Right now, your guess is as good as mine. That being the case, I’ll leave you with  Brookston’s tutorial.