Tag Archives: SL Product Reviews

Flying the CLS Ryan Navion (via Firestorm) in Second Life

The Firestorm CLSA Ryan Navion

The Firestorm CLSA Ryan Navion

Firestorm recently held their Christmas Party, and as a part of it, they’ offered Firestorm users holiday goodies in the form of a pet leopard and a CLS Aviation Ryan Navion aeroplane in the Firestorm colours.

I’m a bit of a flying fan in Second life (albeit not necessarily looking for full realism, just the fun of getting into the air and pootling around), and as I’d never actually come across CLS Aviation before, I cheekily saw the opportunity snag the gift and see what the plane was all about.

The Firestorm CLSA Ryan Navion

The Firestorm CLSA Ryan Navion

The retail variant of the plane is prices at  L$1,099 at the time of writing, and is supplied Copy / Mod – the accompanying photos showing it can be re-painted (although I have no idea if templates are supplied – so check before buying). The Firestorm version, for obvious reasons, is supplied No Mod, locking-in the Firestorm paintwork, but otherwise it is the same aircraft model.

The Navion is a post-war single-engined light aircraft with a tricycle undercarriage and seating four, many of which are still in use today. Wikipedia informs me that CLSA model is based on one of the later variants of aircraft, which had wing-tip fuel tanks.  The model weighs-in with a Land Impact of 77, a physics weight of 2.2, and a render weight of 49072.

CLSA Navion instruments: legible and reflect aircraft's operation

CLSA Navion instruments: legible and reflect aircraft’s operation

The Firestorm finish is pretty good, with the exterior of the ‘plane looking quite eye-catching. Elements of the finish continue inside the sliding canopy cockpit, where the trim on the seats and instrument panel includes colour nods to Firestorm. The instrument panel is fully readable and the instruments  respond to flight movements, making it perfectly possible to fly and navigate in Mouselook and using keyboard / chat commands.  For those who like HUD-based flying, one is also supplied, offering access to essential controls and instruments and gives access to the plane’s menu, which can also be used when flying.

Usage-wise, touch the canopy to open it and hop in (it opens automatically on shutting down the engine). A headset is supplied for those who like that kind of touch, and the “usual” control options apply (“s” / “start” / “stop” for the engine, WASD / arrow keys for turn / climb / dive; PAGE keys for throttle, etc). Multiple camera pre-sets are offered as well, accessible via chat (“c0” through “c9”, which can also be selected by menu (accessed through the HUD) or cycled through via the HUD.

The Firestorm CLSA Ryan Navion

The Firestorm CLSA Ryan Navion

I found the plane handled reasonably well in the air, although turns felt a little “flat” and lacking roll at times while acrobatics such as looping felt a little on the “tight” side (albeit with nice camera motion). Allowing for the current state of region crossings, the Navion handled things reasonably well, although recovery did at times seem a little sluggish. Camera scripting in particular seemed to try to handle slewing issues on crossings by giving a forward view of the plane then gently panning around to the over-the-tail default. This mostly avoided instances of finding the camera pointing into the side of the plane after a rough crossing, but when these did occur, cycling through the camera pre-sets generally cleared it.

Flying in Mouselook  / via instruments was more than acceptable, although I need to practice my landings in this mode! And on the subject of landings, a novel aspect of this plane is that while it senses Linden Water as water (listen for the splash), it will nevertheless quite happily land on it even though devoid of floats – and will also take off from Linden water as if it were a runway, feeling very much like the Terra Stingray in the process.

The Firestorm CLSA Ryan Navion

The Firestorm CLSA Ryan Navion: works on water! 😉

Overall, not a bad ‘plane, particularly if you’re looking for something to start out with. One small word of warning – should you go ahead and buy this plane (any plane?) from CLSA, or get the Firestorm variant (whilst available), make sure you rez the package in an open space. I rezzed mine in the living room and almost squished myself between it and the wall!

And, also, as this one is in Firestorm colours, are we going to see a Firestorm aerobatics team form? 😀 .

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The DSA Aerohawk in Second Life

The DSA Aerohawk

The DSA Aerohawk with floats and my attempt at a custom finish

I think I’ve established the fact I quite like flying in Second Life, and I particularly enjoy DSA aircraft as they are fun to fly, look good, are nicely customisable, paint-wise,, and many have both wheel and float options – the latter being essential when living on an island. It’s been a while since I’ve actually purchased anything in the aeroplane line; truth be told, I hadn’t intended to get anything beyond what is already sitting in my inventory.

Then I saw the DSA had released the Aerohawk, and for the last week it has been nagging at me, finally reaching a point where I had to just give in and buy it. As it is not (at the time of writing, at least) available on the Marketplace, so in-world store visit is required to see it.

Like most of my aircraft choices, I was drawn to the Aerohawk purely on its looks – in this case, stylishly retro. It was only after talking to my friend Jodi, that I discovered it is modelled after the ERCO Ercoupe, which first flew in 1940 and was designed to be the safest fixed-wing aircraft that aerospace engineering could provide at the time. It is still popular today, and during its time was licensed to manufacturers the world over.

The DSA Aerohawk in its supplied finish

The DSA Aerohawk in its supplied finish

The DSA aircraft faithfully reproduces the look of the original, and is supplied in a silver metal finish with red trim by default. As is the case with all DSA aircraft, the texture files can be downloaded from the DSA website, allowing owners and third parties to produce custom  / alternative paint schemes. In terms of land impact, the aircraft hits 53 LI, which is “heavier” than my DSA G58 Baron (46 LI), but is just over half the Baron’s rendering weight, being something of a simpler design.

I’m not the world’s greatest when it comes to graphics, but in lieu of VetronUK having an Aerohawk kit at present, I took to GIMP and imported the PSD files to produce an initial personalised paint scheme I’m reasonably happy with in about 15-20 minutes. I still need to add materials to give it a decent finish, but it’s enough to keep me happy. Manual application of colour schemes follows the usual route for DSA ‘planes: edit the aircraft, select the face, apply the texture file; repeat as the faces require.

Side-by-side, the floats and wheels are interchangeable via chat commands, as per DSA 'planes offering both

Side-by-side, the floats and wheels are interchangeable via chat commands, as per DSA ‘planes offering both

Handling-wise, the Aerohawk comes with the usual DSA HUD, but it is a little more hands-on (when compared to the likes of Baron and King Air, at least), requiring manual toggling of lights. The engine sound is nicely “veteran”. In the air, I found it to be nicely responsive and  – while it may simply have been a placebo effect or down to conditions being a little different – I encountered no significant issues region crossing issues when only a few days ago, I was finding myself climbing out of Blake Sea and digging my Baron out of Lost and Found sufficiently often enough to have me packing up and going home.

Interior-wise, the Aerohawk is in keeping with its looks: it’s all vinyl and cloth. The instrument panel as reasonably well detailed; DSA aircraft can sometimes suffer from blurred textures of the instruments, but there is little of that here. On the ground and in flight, it handles pretty much like any other DSA ‘plane, making it an ideal easy flier for those who simply want to get out and in the air without getting overly close to trying to fly like “the real thing”.

The Aerohawk at home, alongside Caitlyn's Baron

The Aerohawk at home, alongside Caitlyn’s Baron

A very minor niggle with the plane is the sliding cockpit doors can be a tad tricky: click on one and the other can sometimes go down when “opening” them; I now click the white bar marking their edges rather than clicking from the side to avoid this (not that you need to have them open to get into the ‘plane, of course, hence this being a minor niggle).

If I’m totally honest, I’m hoping that VetronUK (if she is still active in SL) will bring out support kits – painting, float rocking and enhanced lighting. In part because my graphics skills do sucketh the proverbial lemon,  but mostly because her kits really bring aircraft in SL to life. Until then, however, I’ll make do with my own painting efforts, and at least the Aerohawk looks at home alongside Caitlyn’s Baron 🙂 .

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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.

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The Camera Panoramic: 360 photo fun in Second Life

Camera Panorama 360 demonstration via Flickr; Inara Pey, October 2016,Camera Panoramic 360o spherical demonstration via Flickr – click to view with 360o scrolling

Following my look at the Illiastra Panoramic Camera HUD, Lalwende Leakey invited me to try the HUD system she has been developing for 360o cylindrical and spherical images from within Second Life.

Called Camera Panoramic , the system is a comprehensive package for producing cylindrical (rectangular) images, full 360o spherical images suitable for direct upload to Facebook, VRchive, Flickr and other platforms or uploading at 360o videos on YouTube,  as well as planar images and 360olittle planet” images. A set of image presets are coded into the HUD to make taking shots easier – including the ability to take “selfies” of your avatar in 360o views.

Full documentation for the HUD is available on the web and via a downloadable PDF file file. In this article I’ll be looking at some of the core aspects of the system and running through how to produce a 360o image for uploading to Flickr.

The HUD

The Camera Panoramic HUD comprises 8 buttons, summarised below and described in detail in the supporting documentation.

Camera Panoramic HUD

Camera Panoramic HUD

Note that some of the camera placement buttons may appear greyed-out; this is because they are toggle activated; clicking one shows it in blue (active), while the others turn grey – as is the case with the camera placement options in the image above. The camera image options are only available when the HUD is capturing images.

All of the options can be accessed by gesture-driven hot keys and chat commands on channel /3, as detailed in the camera documentation. I’ll be referring to the HUD buttons throughout this article.

hud-textWhen worn, the HUD also displays information in text. Again, full details on this information can be found in the camera documentation, but in brief, the information comprises: the image type you’re using (cylindrical or 360o) with the selected preset; the number of pictures to be captured: whether you are using a camera offset (X,Y,Z axis), and the required camera defaults.

Note that FOV and Focal Length are determined by the preset, but you must manually set the Camera Angle within your viewer (you may also need to remember the Focal Length value for stitching your shots together into a single image during post-processing).

To set the camera angle, use either the debug setting – use CTRL-ALT-SHIFT-S to open the debug floater and type CameraAngle – or use the Cam tab in Phototools.

Setting the camera angle via debug or Phototools (if you use a TPV other than Firestorm, you may be able to use any shortcut to camera options that viewer provides to set the required value)

Setting the camera angle via debug or Phototools

Before starting to take shots with the HUD, there are a some things you’ll 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
  • If you are using the At Avatar position, hide yourself from view  – used the supplied alpha mask after removing all attachments or use something like a Vanish gesture. Otherwise, parts of your avatar will appear in some of the shots.

Taking Your Shots

Important Notes:

If you want to upload your images to something like Flickr, VRchive or Facebook, you should use the 360o spherical image type, as this will produce an image in the required 2:1 (width:height) pixel aspect ratio (PAR).

Setting your viewer window size for 360 spherical shots

Setting your viewer window size for 360 spherical shots

When using the 360o spherical image type, you must set your viewer’s window size to a square aspect ratio. Use Advanced > Set Window Size (click CTRL-ALT-D to display the Advanced menu option, if required) or if you have Phototools, click on Aids > Set Window Size.

Either option will display the Window Size floater (right) – type 1024×1024 in the text box and click Set. Your viewer window will resize itself.

Image Capture Basic Steps

Detailed instructions on taking shots with the HUD can be found in the documentation. The following is a summary of key steps:

  • Prepare your viewer windlight, freeze the clouds and, for 360o spherical images, set the viewer window size.
  • Wear the camera HUD and select your desired preset.
  • Make sure the preset’s Camera Angle is set for the viewer’s camera (see above)
  • Select the require camera position in the HUD (remembering to hide yourself if using At Avatar)
  • Tap ESC to free your camera, then click the Start button on the HUD to position the camera for your first shot, and pressing CTRL-‘ (tilde) to capture your first frame to disk.
    • The first time the camera is used, you’ll be asked for a file name and location for the shot & all subsequent shots will be automatically saved to this location
    • Subsequent uses of the HUD will automatically save shots to the last location you used to save snapshots to disk when using the snapshot floater.
  • Click the Right arrow on the HUD to advance the camera and use CTRL-‘ (tilde) to save all remaining shots. After saving the last shot, the camera will automatically exit the capture mode.

You should now have a set of images ready for stitching together.

Selfies / Camera Offsets

Camera Panoramic has a set of presets for “selfies”, allowing you to include your avatar in your images. The process for capturing is the same as above, and the presets are selected by clicking the Offset button on the HUD, then selecting Preset from the dialogue box. The presets are defined by starting position.

Remember, as well, the offset option also allows you to offset the camera in increments of 0.1, 1.0 or 10 metres in the X, Y and Z axis’s – refer to the camera’s documentation for more on this.

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