Reshade: post-processing Second Life in real time

Reshade: injecting shader effects into Second Life (or any game) in real time
ReShade: overlaying your SL world view with shader effects. In this image, I’m using the ReShade split screen option to show a real-time view of Oyster Bay, with the original windlight-based view on the left, and a preview of effects overlays on the right. (which have been deliberately exaggerated for effect)

ReShade is an application which has been generating a bit of buzz around Second Life for the last couple of weeks. When installed on a Windows PC (7, 8 or 10), it allows you to overlay you Second Life world view with a wide range of shader-based effects, which can be used in screen captures for images, or when recording machinima to offer real-time visual effects.As it is an overlay system, it also works with OpenSim environments.

I first got to hear about ReShade from Whirly Fizzle at the start of August (she in turn got to learn of it through Caetlynn Resident), and having been playing with the beta since then. Just how practical it might be is a matter of personal choice / want / ability with more traditional post-processing tools, etc. However, as version 1.0 launched on August 10th, with some much-need clean-up, I thought I’d offer a write-up on it, together with a few thoughts.

Remember, ReShade is third-party application, LL and TPVs cannot provide assistance in using it – and nor can I. If you need help with it, please refer to the ReShade forums. As relatively new software, it can be a little buggy, and it doesn’t always run with the viewer when installed – again, if you have problems getting it going, neither viewer support teams nor I can really help.

A quick and dirty demo video showing how ReShade effects can be used in real-time machinima capture in Second Life

Set-up

Please ensure you’re logged-out of Second Life when setting-up ReShade.

  • Download the ReShade Framework ZIP file from the ReShade website.
  • Unzip the contents of the downloaded file to a location of your choice.
  • Navigate to the unzipped folder location and right-click on ReShade Mediator and Run As Administrator.
  • The Mediator will launch to display the configuration tab (shown below). This is the UI element used to apply and adjust effects.
  • You now need to create a profile for Framework to work with your viewer.
Your first step is to configure the Framework Mediator to recognise your viewer
Your first step is to configure the Framework Mediator to recognise your viewer
  • Under the Profile section on the left of the Mediator, click Add. A file picker will open Use it to navigate to your viewer’s installation folder.
  • Locate the viewer’s .EXE file in the installation folder and click it once to highlight it, and then click the Open button in the picker
  • You will be returned to the Mediator panel, and the viewer name or “Second Life” should be displayed in the profile drop-down (below) – note that some TPVs may display their own name or may display “Second Life”, it makes no difference.
  • Make sure OpenGL has been correctly identified. Click on the Confirm button to create a profile for your viewer.
When adding a viewer to ReShade Framework, note it may display as
When adding a viewer to ReShade Framework, note it may display as “Second Life” rather than the viewer’s name – this doesn’t prevent things from working
  • When Mediator has finished creating the profile, click Apply at the top right of the panel.

The set-up process is now complete. However:

  • Note that this has created two files in your viewer’s installation folder: reshade.fx and opengl32.dll. These must be deleted if you decide to remove ReShade from your PC.
  • Also, as I’ve found ReShade to be slightly flaky, before going any further, copy the opengl32.dll and save the copy in another location – I’ll explain why later.

Continue reading “Reshade: post-processing Second Life in real time”

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A sail boat in a bag offers fun in Second Life

The Shield 1.2 by Burt Artis in my custom red / white finish, and named "Imladris"
The Shields 1.2 by Burt Artis in my custom red / white finish, and named “Imladris”

For those starting-out with sailing – which I enjoy simply for the pleasure, rather than for racing or anything – there are numerous little freebie boats available to help, of which the veritable little Nemo, which can be found in rezzers all over the waterfront in Second Life, is perhaps the most famous.

However, my attention was recently drawn to a relative newcomer to the freebie sailing market by a comment left by ZZ Pearl Bottom concerning the work of Burt Artis. My interest grew following a visit to the Three Pines Sailing School and Resource Centre, where I found a vendor for the boat, and decided to grab a copy and have a look.  And even to my untutored sailor’s eye, the boat is a heck of a lot of fun, and great introduction to sailing in SL.

My Shields boat by Burt Artis in default colours & me sitting in the default boarding pose
My Shields boat by Burt Artis in default colours & me sitting in the default boarding pose

The boat in question is a Shields sloop-rigged keeled racing boat, and is offered in a size pretty close to the physical world boat on which it is based (that has an overall length of 9.19 metres, and Burt’s is 11.29 metres). It’s a mesh build, with a land impact of 27 and is quite packed with features – including two versions of the boat itself: the original 1.0a and the more recent 1.2, which is the one I took out on the water.

For those with an technical inclination, I’m reliably informed via Maiti Yenni that the the sailing engine is based on the original Tako scripts that Kanker Greenacre published, with the WWCmod from Mothgirl. The wind system used by the boat is Zephi Boat Weather, developed by Burt and JoyofRLC Acker. Also included with the package are a set of texture and UV maps (the boat is mod when rezzed, allowing you to customise it). The whole thing is delivered in a neat little sailor’s knapsack when purchased.

Getting underway
Getting under way

On the water, the boat looks good – although barefoot sailing (or in a pair of wellingtons / galoshes!) is recommended, as the floor of the boat can get a little wet 🙂 ). The skipper should board first via the usual right-click and sit, which will place you sitting on the boat with legs dangling over the side, and displays the initial set-up menu, with instructions in the board’s note card manual.

From here, everything is more-or-less operated by keyboard and chat commands. To start sailing, simply type “raise” – this both hoists the sails and rotates you into a position inboard the boat and handling the tiller. If you’re sailing with friend, you my need to issue the “crews” or “crewp” command to get them seated correctly.

Handling-wise, the LEFT / RIGHT keys turn the boat, and the UP / DOWN keys let the sails out or take them in. Colour codes help to understand the sail settings: green – good; cyan is tight and blue is much too tight (so let the sails out); yellow is loose and red much too loose (so bring the sails in). You can also go “in irons” (steering into a headwind), indicated by the wind colour turning orange, which can happen rather quickly, killing your momentum and requiring some careful manoeuvring.

Under full sail
Under full sail

Crew and helm positions can be altered in chat to suit the sail position, using the “hp” (helm port) and “hs” (helm starboard) commands and “crewp” and “crews” (crew can move themselves using the LEFT / RIGHT arrow keys). There are also keyboard commands for setting the angle of the sails, etc., and to “wing” the jib in place of a spinnaker when downwind.

If all this sounds complicated, it’s not – a little practice gets you sailing along nicely and the commands give a good feel for sailing more complicated boats.

Texturing-wise, the maps that are provided are basic, but sufficient to nicely customise the boat for personal tastes. It took me less than 10 minutes to have my Shields 1.2 repainted and named.

My familiar red / white colour scheme applied to the shield 1.2
My familiar red / white colour scheme applied to the shield 1.2

Sailing on my own, I found the Shields 1.2 to be a delight: smooth and easy on region crossings and fast enough when “in the green” without being stupid fast and feeling like it has a secret V8 powering it. The wind system keeps you very honest, and encourages more thought on sail management than simple “raise and go” and manually changing the wind to suit needs. Region crossing with crew did result in us ending up in some odd seating positions, but these were easily corrected via chat / with the arrow keys, and didn’t interrupt sailing.

All told, this is a great boat – one couldn’t ask for more from a freebie; so if you’ve been looking for something to try that offers a little leg room and gives a good feel for SL sailing, why not give the Shields a go? Vendors are available around SL, including at the Three Pines Sailing School – just follow the link towards the top of this article, and wander down to the quayside.

Wakeboarding and parasailing in Second Life

Wakeboarding on the AD25H "Little Bee"
Wakeboarding on the AD25H “Little Bee”

In April, I wrote about Ape Piaggo’s latest waterborne project: the AD25H “Little Bee” tender speedboat. Since that time, things have progressed, and while the boat is still not quite ready for release, Ape offered me the opportunity to do some further testing on what amounts to the pre-release version – and obviously, I jumped at the chance!

This latest version features just about everything the “full” version will include, other than the car.

Yes, that’s right, the car. As this is a trailer-mountable speedboat which comes complete with its own trailer, Ape has decided to include a car capable of towing both in the release version of the boat as well. Coming on top of everything else packed into the Little Bee – an extensive range of couples and singles poses, a racing mode, the hydrofoils, ACSS, painting options, the ability to let friends drive it, coffee making (yup, really!) plus the wakeboard and parasail, this makes for a pretty comprehensive package.

Wakeboarding on the AD25H "Little Bee"
Wakeboarding on the AD25H “Little Bee”

The parasail system was actually available on the earlier model of the boat I previewed. However, this has since been improved and was one of the things Ape asked me to test. So, one bright Second Life morning, as the Sun came up over the straits, I hopped into the boat and bravely volunteered my Crash Test Alt to give the parasail another go while I tried the wakeboard. The last time my alt took to the air in the parasail, she was fully clothed; I was kinder this time, and furnished her with a swimsuit 🙂 .

Both the wakeboard and the parasail are rezzed from the boat’s Accessories menu. Note that you will have to be on water that allows object entry, and should leave a degree of space behind the boat (don’t rez them when moored with a pier right behind you, for example). Once rezzed, riders simply sit on the wakeboard / parasail (and will receive a wearable handle for the former), and away you go.

Parasailing on the AD25H "Little Bee"
Parasailing on the AD25H “Little Bee”

During testing, I found it best to keep the boat to around 40% of throttle; any higher, and things began to get decidedly iffy on region crossings.  The board is independently steerable from the boat using the LEFT / RIGHT arrow keys, and the parasail rider can adjust their height with the UP / DOWN keys. The wakeboard also includes stunts accessed via the PAGE DOWN and the UP / DOWN keys, although I could only get the latter to work, which had me dipping low to run my hand through the water.

The PAGE UP key for both the wakeboard and the parasail allows the “CineCApe” camera to work, which provides interesting views of things for the rider of either, and I’ve made use of this in the sneak peek film below. I do recommend using the camera with the wakeboard in particular, as it really adds a further dimension to riding the board.

Parasailing on the AD25H "Little Bee" - getting into the air
Parasailing on the AD25H “Little Bee” – getting into the air

Slowing the boat will have the obvious effect of dropping both the wakeboard and parasail rider back into the water, and the former will adopt a “waiting” pose, ready for the boat to start moving again, while the latter will see the parasail gently collapse as the air resistance lessens, and the rider drops down to a gentle splashdown.

Given all it has packed into it, the AD25H “Little Bee” is liable to be a “must have” buy for anyone interested in owning / driving a compact speedboat; I’ve yet to come across anything quite so enjoyable to drive and ride it in its class, and given the price is set to be under L$3000 for the boat, trailer and car, it’s going to be an absolute steal when released.

I’ll hopefully be running a full review of the boat once it is available. In the meantime, as noted above, another sneak peek video.

The independent author whose muse is Second Life

Maxwell Grantly is a non de plume for an anonymous school teacher, living in a small seaside town on the east coast of Great Britain. Although he has written many free short stories, he does not consider himself an author. He simply writes just because he enjoys doing so (and for no other reason.)

So reads the Profile summary of, well, Maxwell Grantly, a Second Life resident living in England, and who has a remarkable talent for creating illustrated short stories and graphic novels using Second Life as the environment to create his main character and the medium by which he creates the illustrations for his stories.

Timothy tortoise finds himself in an alternate universe when he unwittingly embarks on a Big Adventure
Timothy tortoise finds himself in an alternate universe when he unwittingly embarks on a Big Adventure

I confess that Maxwell’s work had actually slipped right past me, and quite possibly might have remained out-of-sight to me had it not been for Charlie Namiboo circulating information on his latest book, Timothy’s Big Adventure which is currently available free-of-charge for 5 days on Amazon for download on the Kindle reader or similar devices, and computers with the Kindle Reader app installed.

The book follows the adventures of Timothy tortoise, who lives with a little boy called George, who lives with his parents in a small house “many miles from anywhere” (photographed in Frisland) and is too young to go to school. Timothy is somewhat envious of George’s fast-paced and, to Timothy’s way of thinking, exciting life. However, all that changes when Timothy falls through a hole and finds himself in an intergalactic adventure in another universe.

Timothy’s Big Adventure is the kind of short story which harkens back to childhood memories of bedtime stories; indeed, the book itself makes excellent material for such a setting if you have small children of your own. The plot is uncomplicated, easy-to-follow and the illustrations, created using characters and settings from inside Second Life, are delightful.

As well as Timothy’s Big Adventure,  Maxwell has written longer, more complex pieces, such as his Fingers stories, set in New Babbage, which follow the adventures of a young pick-pocket, Edward “Fingers” Croydon, abandoned to the streets of that town whilst very young.

Maxwell admits that he doesn’t actually write first and foremost with children in mind; his stories take a form that he is prone to enjoy, and he views some of the concepts then can enfold as being perhaps more suitable to older children and perhaps adults, rather than being purely for bedside story enjoyment – although he does acknowledge that this is those with younger children might well enjoy reading them to their kids.

As well as telling stories of adventures and intrigue, Maxwell’s books also touch  – albeit perhaps in a very subtle manner – on what might be terms social issues from the periods in which they are set. The Fingers stories, for example, deal with matters of Victorian street urchins and how social care was more a matter for philanthropists (real or apparent) rather than the state.

Likewise, Jack and the Space Pirates touches on child labour: the story’s hero is Jack, is employed to “creep into the tiny gaps gape between the timbers” of space ships to apply the tar need to keep “space out” – a job which sounds akin to the Victorian use of children as chimney sweeps because of the ability to worm their way up flues, or in earlier times, to clean out the spaces behind tightly-packed spinning jennies at the start of the industrial era. Sprocket and the Sparrow carries a more obvious message on the importance of conservation, but it is one that is again imaginatively told.

Some of Maxwell's titles available through Amazon as e-books
Some of Maxwell’s titles available through Amazon as e-books

Again, this is not a deliberate approach on Maxwell’s part; but it does form a natural element in his creative process, as he explained in a recent interview with Writing.com.

“When I write, I just want to tell a good story,” he aid. “I feel that it is a basic feature of every human being to be creative. Some people find their creativity in their hobbies, art, dance, music; other people find a release for their creative spirit by consuming the creativity of others. I find that the production of stories is a great release that allows me to be creative, simply for the joy of doing so. Sometimes a fable or lesson might arise naturally from the plot but, when it does, it is often unintentional. I would like to think that, when a reader browses through my work, they are able to enter a magical world of suspended belief and join me in my bizarre world of fantasy, if only for a brief moment.”

Lief's Quest
Leif’s Quest

Another aspect to the appeal with these books  is the care with which the illustrations have been composed; facial expressions have been deliberately selected, for example, to help give even passing characters their own personality – and I admit to smiling at both the astronaut’s expression and choice of words “Yikes!” on being confronted by the lizard aliens!

There’s also a richness to Maxwell’s use of genres; while the Fingers series and Jack are most assuredly Steampunk in setting, his stories involving the elven children Maxwell and Skippy are equally assuredly rooted in fantasy, as is Leif’s Quest, which also has more of a graphic novel look to it.

While the scenes depicted in the stories are located in Second Life, encompassing places as diverse as Frisland, Calas Galadhon, Escapades (and one of Loki Eliot’s magnificent steam-powered airships is Jack’s rewards in Jack And the Space Pirates), New Babbage and other locations, it would be a mistake to say the stories are about Second Life – and it shouldn’t be for a moment considered that they are. Again, that’s not Maxwell’s intent.

Instead, what we do have is another example of how rich and diverse a place Second Life can be when it comes to inspiring our imaginations and for acting as a springboard for our creativity. These are imaginative stories, and I found myself getting drawn into them as I read them in turn.

If you have young(ish) children of your own and are looking for a range of bedtime stories with which to entertain them, or if you want to read adventures of a different kind, I have no hesitation in recommending Maxwell Grantly’s books. They are available on Amazon worldwide – just search for “Maxwell Grantly”, and are offered as e-books on either the Kindle PC app or via the Kindle Cloud.

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The majesty of creation in Second Life

Angel Manor: the subject of a beautiful new video by its creator, Kaya Angel
Angel Manor: the subject of a beautiful new video by its creator, Kaya Angel

Kaya Angel is one of Second Life’s most respected builders, and his Angel Manor estate is rightly admired across the grid both as a build in its own right and as a venue for art, fund raising events and a more. I

As a designer / builder, Kaya naturally turned to emerging capabilities to further enhance his commercial and commissioned work, and to enhance Angel Manor itself – so much so, that I keep reminding myself I’m overdue for a visit in order to write an update to my March 2013 piece on the manor, as so much has changed since then.

In celebration of the manor, and to demonstrate just how immersive Second Life can look and feel, Kaya has produced a new 6-minute video entitled Second Life: A different perception, which has been drawing widespread praise from all who have seen it and is without a doubt, simply superb.

Marvellously edited, matched to an excellent soundtrack, this is a film which can hardly fail to evoke a feeling of wonder, joy and pride in the heart of anyone who has invested time and energy into Second Life. If ever there was a banner by which we can proclaim to the world just what is possible within SL for the creative mind, then this film is it.

Kudos, Kaya, and thank you.

with thanks to the G+ pointer from Whirly Fizzle.

The tables turned: Drax as the interviewee

We’re used to Draxtor Despres being the interviewer, engaging with guests from all backgrounds and interests through the Drax Files Radio Hour and coaxing those spotlighted in his World Makers series to talk about their virtual and physical lives.

Bernard Drax, aka Draxtor Despres, offering his thoughts on Second Life, VR and the future
Bernard Drax, aka Draxtor Despres, offering his thoughts on Second Life, VR and the future

However, while attending the SVVR Conference in April to moderate the Creating the VR Metaverse panel, Drax found the tables turned on him when interviewed by Kent Bye, who runs the Voices of VR Podcast series. These are short, punchy podcasts lasting around fifteen minutes on average, with Kent doing just enough questioning to steer the conversation and to provide interesting and often thought-provoking feedback from his guests.

His interview with Drax appeared on July 8th; Drax poked me and a number of others about it when it appeared, and it is a jolly good listen.

From covering his work in SL with his documentaries and podcast series, Drax goes on to talk about his own initial involvement in Second Life. This actually surprised me somewhat; not so much because of how he became involved in SL, but because in listening to the interview, I realised that despite our own long-distance chats about Second Life, the World Makers video series, and so on, he and I had never really talked about our personal experiences in getting involved in the platform.

With the introductions over and done with, the conversation moves on to matters of identity, with Drax expressing his fears about people’s freedom to identify themselves as they wish – as is the case with Second Life – should the likes of Facebook move into the virtual world space. It’s a view he’s expressed before through the likes of some of the Drax Files Radio Hour podcasts. I admit that I don’t entirely see things the way he does.

If nothing else, Facebook can quite easily datamine users, track their activities, etc., without necessarily forcing them to only use their wallet IDs within any virtual environment Facebook / Occlus VR might create. They can get whatever they need through the sign-up process, howsoever users go on to identify themselves within the environment.

Darx as we see him in Second Life
Drax as we see him in Second Life

To me, the bigger issue lies not in how operators of virtual environments might try to enforce issues of identity from the outset within their environments.

Rather it lies in reconciling what amounts to two opposing views held by the potential users of such virtual spaces: those who see freedom of self-identification as a strength and virtue within a platform, and those who see such freedom of self-identification as inherently “creepy” and suggestive that such spaces are “untrustworthy”, decreasing their willingness to become involved in them.

As I pointed-out in discussing the mainstream market and the Lab’s “next generation” platform, finding a middle ground where both of these viewpoints are comfortably addressed may not be easy. As such, when it comes to matters of identity, it may come down to the expectations of those using a virtual world / environment far more than those provisioning it.

The subject of identity also encompasses ruminations on our relationships with our avatars, and here I fully understand Drax’s comment on his relationship with his own alts: while they serve a purpose, they’re not “him”. I empathise entirely, as I feel much the same about my own alt; so much so, that I wrote she’s not me on that very subject. While it doesn’t enter into the interview, there is an interesting additional question about how we identify with our primary avatars.

We often point to the financial investment we make in our avatar as a reason for not settling in other virtual worlds; But, for those who do have a very close identification with their avatar in a particular world, might that focus be as much of a reason for not settling elsewhere as any financial expenditure on that avatar?

In the latter half of the interview, Drax turns slightly prophetic – remembering that the interview was recorded well before news of the Lab’s “next generation” platform entered the public domain. He points to the fact that in many respects the Lab have the track record to be perfectly placed to lead the train in any resurgence of virtual worlds because they have the technical experience, and they are used to dealing with a large and diverse population and providing the kind of environment and capabilities that people find attractive. So attractive I’ll go on to say, that we all prefer to stick with it even amidst all the grumbling directed at the company for perceived ills and mistakes. Raising these points leads Drax to wonder what the Lab might have up its sleeve – a question duly answered at the end of June.

Despite Drax commenting on his celebrity status, this is actually a great vox populi interview, in that he is very representative of all of us who use SL, his own standing as a “known” figure in-world notwithstanding. his answers to the questions Kent pitches are well-rounded, informative and well-considered. His enthusiasm for the medium, and for exploring it is infectious; even his rapid-fire departure to go grab another SVVR attendee for an interview of his own cannot fail to raise a smile on the listener’s lips.

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