First looks: Camera Presets Second Life RC viewer

On Friday, January 24th, Linden Lab issued the Camera Presets release candidate viewer – links at the end of this article.

Developed as a result of the code contributions and work of Jonathan Yap, who was responsible for bringing graphics presets to the viewer (which allows users to create and store custom graphics settings for their viewer – see: Early looks: Avatar Complexity and Graphics Presets (2015)). This idea with this viewer is to provide an easy and intuitive means for users to be able to create avatar camera positions they find comfortable to use, and which can be saved and used as needed.

Many people have developed custom camera placement options that range from instructions on editing the camera debug settings through to the use of scripted HUDs. Some third-party viewer developers also provide adjusted defaults within their viewer offerings. There are many reasons for doing this – from things like improved game play (combat games, etc.), through to being able to better build to scale without fear of cameras ending up stuck the wrong side of ceilings, etc. For my part, and as an example, I’ve long used Penny Patton’s camera offsets, which she first allowed me to reproduce in these pages far back in 2011 (see: SL Camera Offsets), and which I still use today, saved as a part of my personal settings for Firestorm.

However, manually setting up a camera preset involves a dive into using the viewer’s Debug settings – something many users do not find comfortable and which is not particularly easy unless you know exactly which debug options to play with. The Camera Presets Viewer eliminates this by providing access to the required options through the viewer UI and by using the camera controls. What’s more, it makes it possible to create and save multiple camera presets that cane be used as requires with a simple click or two of the mouse.

To achieve this, the Camera Presets RC viewer presents five new or updated UI elements::

  • The Camera Presets icon and drop-down – presenting the means to quickly access and use created camera offsets.
  • An updated camera floater, which is used to both control your camera and create any camera presets you may need. It in turn provides access to three new options:
    • A new Camera Position floater – allows you to create a camera preset using the Camera Offset and Focus Offset debug settings.
    • A My Camera Presets floater – allows you manage your camera presets:
      • Delete any custom ones you have created or
      • Reset a “standard” Front, Rear or Side camera preset you may have replace with your own values to its default position.
    • A Save option – directly save a camera offset you have created under a unique name (adding it to the Presets drop-down) or using it to replace one of the default camera positions of Front, Side or Rear.
The Camera Presets options and floaters (includes the updated Camera Controls floater, centre)

A Quick-Fire Guide to Creating and Using a Camera Preset with the Viewer

Note that you can create multiple camera presets, depending on your SL needs.

Creating a Custom Preset Using the Camera Controls

  1. Open the Camera Control floater by:
    • Either clicking the Custom Preset icon at the top right of the viewer window to open the drop-down and then clicking the Open Camera Floater option.
    • Or clicking on the Camera Controls (Eye) button in your viewer’s tool bar.
  2. With the Camera Control floater open, clicked the required view button (Front, Side, Rear) if required.
  3. Use the camera orbit, slide and zoom controls on the left of the camera floater to position your camera as you would like it to be relative to your avatar.
  4. When you are satisfied with the camera position and angle, click Save As Preset button in the floater, and:
    • Either make sure the Save As New Preset radio button is selected and type a name for the preset in the text box.
    • Or click the radio button for Replace a Preset, then click the button to display a list of current presets and highlight the one you wish to replace (including one of the three default positions, shown in italics).
  5. When you have entered a name or made your choice, click Save.
The revised Camera Controls floater and using it to create camera presets

Creating a Custom Preset Using the Precise Controls

If you have a numeric set of camera and focus offsets you use (e.g. such as those provided by Penny Patton):

  1. Follow steps (1.) and (2.) above to display the Camera Controls floater.
  2. In the Camera Controls floater, click Use Precise Controls to display the Camera Position floater.
  3. Enter your X, Y and Z figures for the Camera and Focus offset positions. Use the spinners to fine-tune your positioning, if required.
  4. As there is no field for entering a CameraOffsetScale adjustment, zoom must be used as an arbitrary means of setting camera distance from the avatar, should this require adjusting.
  5. When you are satisfied with the camera position, follow steps (4.) and (5.) above to save your camera preset.

Using Your Presets

  • From the Presets icon:
    • Click the Custom Preset icon at the top right of the viewer window to open the drop-down.
    • Click on the required preset name to select it.
  • From the Camera Controls floater:
    • Either click on the required view button (Front, Side Rear).
    • Or click on the Use Preset button (only available if custom presets have been created) and select the required custom preset.
  • Note that with either approach, the currently-selected custom preset will be indicated in both the presets drop down (by a tick appearing next to it) and in the Camera Controls (the Use Preset button will update to display the name of the preset being used).

Deleting or Resetting Default Presets

Note you can only delete custom presets and reset default presets. Note that no confirmation is requested: actions will be immediately implemented.

  1. Display the Camera Controls floater.
  2. Click the gear icon.
  3. The My Camera Presets panel opens (may default to the top left of your screen).
  4. Hover the mouse over the preset you wish to delete or reset.
    • Custom presets will display a trash can. Click it to delete the preset.
    • Default presets will display a reset icon. Click it to return the preset to its original values.

Feedback

This capability has been in development by Jonathan for a while, and it is good to see it finally surface. As a long-time user of custom camera presets I’ve been looking forward to Jonathan’s work seeing the light of day in the hope it will provide an easier means for people to adjust their camera without the fear / concern of having to dive into debug settings.

In this, I was somewhat disappointed to see there is no option to quickly enter a value CameraOffsetScale using the “precise controls”. It’s a minor niggle, although it can be advantageous to some views in having the camera set back further than the usual default distance. While the zoom slider can still be used to achieve this, it is somewhat arbitrary compared to entering a precise value, which still requires the use of the debug setting to achieve.

On the positive side, being able to set a preset through the familiar orbit, zoom and slide controls in the Camera Controls floater is probably going to be more than enough for most users, and the approach makes experimentation and playing with camera presets a lot less off-putting than tweaking debug settings.

Also, all of the new panels and drop-downs are clear and easy to understand, although some on laptops or lower-resolution screens might find the increased size of the Camera Control floater gives rise to a certain amount of gritting of teeth if it is a floater they like to keep open. For my part I admit to liking the way in which it brings all the Camera Control options together as a single visible element, rather than having to “page” between them as is currently the case with the release viewer.

Given the contained nature of the capability and the fact it appears to be working exactly as advertised – and my hope that CameraOffsetScale might find a way to being included in Camera Positions Floater with a future release notwithstanding – I suspect this might be a viewer that could quickly find its way to being promoted to de facto release over the next few weeks, rather than awaiting its turn in line behind others.

Links

SL Estate Access Management project viewer – overview

The Estate Access Management (EAM) project viewer (dated August 7th) is a new project viewer to enhance  – as the name implies – the estate access management tools available to region holders and their estate managers within the viewer.

In brief:

  • New viewer UI for displaying Estate Managers, allowed groups and allowed  / banned individuals within a region.
  • New capabilities for sorting  / searching lists.
  • Additional information recorded and displayed for banned accounts.
  • Number of Estate Managers increased from 10 to 15.

Under the current viewer, the lists for managing Estate Managers, allowed groups and allowed or banned avatars in a region / estate have been crammed into the first tab of the Region / Estate floater (World > Region / Estate).

This has made management of the lists difficult, given only around 5 names can be displayed by each – which can be problematic when the Banned list allows up to 500 names. In addition, lists cannot be searched and, again in the case of the Banned list, no other information is provided against a banned name, making it hard to determine whether or not a ban might actually be rescinded, thus helping with general list management.

As such, there have been long-standing requests for the estate access controls to be improved.

The Estate Access Management project attempts to address these issues by introducing both back-end changes in support of managing ban lists and by revising how the various lists themselves are displayed within the viewer and how they can be used.

In particular, the EAM project viewer introduces a new Access tab in the Region / Estate floater (World > Region / Estate). This tab in turn has individual tabs for managing the lists for Estate Managers, Allowed avatars, Allowed Groups and Banned avatars.

The Estate Access Management lists as they appear in the current SL viewer (l), and the new Access tab with individual tabs for Estate Managers list and each of the Allowed / Banned lists. Note as well the increase in allowed Estate Managers (ringed in each image). Click for full size, if required

In terms of adding or removing names and groups, the new sub-tabs work exactly as the lists in the current viewer work.

However, with the new design, additional functionality is added to some of the lists:

  • The Banned list additionally records:
    • The last date on which a banned individual logged-in to Second Life (to assist with housekeeping the list – if an account hasn’t been used in X months or years, why keep it on the list?).
    • The date on which an individual was banned.
    • The name of the EM / region holder banning them.
    • Note this information will be displayed by the EAM viewer for all accounts going forward – even those banned using other viewers, reflecting a change to the back-end database for managing bans. Banned accounts existing at the time the EAM updates were introduced will simply have “n/a” recorded for each of these fields.
  • The Banned tab can be sorted into ascending / descending order by banned name, date last logged in, date banned, or by person banning them. Click on the column title to sort.
The Banned List includes columns for date of last log-in, date banned, and region holder / EM who banned them. These columns can also be sorted into ascending or descending order by clicking on the field title, as can the account name column.
  • The Estate Managers, Allowed and Allowed Groups tabs can be sorted into ascending / descending order by name. Click on the column title to sort.
  • The Allowed Groups, Allowed and Banned tabs all include a search option.
  • The number of allowed Estate Managers is increased from 10 EMs to 15 EMs – again in response to many requests from region holders.

Feedback Sought

The Lab is keen to have feedback on these new tabs and the improvements made to handling estate access control. If you are a region holder with EM rights, or an Estate Manager, please consider downloading this project viewer and  giving it a try. Any issues should be reported via the Second Life JIRA, using the [EAM] project reference in the title.

Related Links

Note: names intentionally removed from fields and columns in the images used in this article.

Second Life 360-degree snapshots hands-on III

Credit: Linden Lab

Update: The 360 snapshot viewer was updated to version 5.1.6.515934 on June 6th.

On Thursday, February 22nd, Linden Lab issued a further update to the 360-degree snapshot project viewer. While version 5.1.2.512774 brings with it some updates and changes, it still fair to say this is more an interim update than the set of improvements and capabilities some of us had been hoping for.

As with the previous update, released in June 2017 – see my Hands-on II review here – this viewer:

  • Uses the Alex Ivy viewer code base (only the release code, this time, obviously), and so is available for Windows (32-/64-bit) and Mac OSX; there is no Linux version at present.
  • Handles the “stitching” of a captured set of images into a single equirectangular 360-degree image ready for upload to suitable suites supporting 360-degree images.

However, what’s new with this viewer is that it:

  • Moves the 360-degree photo option from the snapshot floater to its own floater.
  • Sets the 360-mage resolution to 4096×2048 (no more “small”, “medium” or “large”).
  • Includes the required meta data for images to auto-display in Flickr’s 360-degree viewing mode, so you no longer have to manually set the equirectangular tag

So, how does it stack-up?

On the positive side, the new capture UI  does a credible job of easing the capture process and in offering preview of the 360-degree image. Hopefully there will be some further options added to it in the future – such as image size.

On the negative side the current  4096×2048 resolution could still do with improvement – Alexa Linden informed me that this work is in-hand – as it can exhibit a very definite fuzziness.

Taking the Shot

  • Position your camera at the centre point of your 360 shot.
  • While it is not specified, I would suggest camera in a circle to encourage the scene to load before capture.
  • Use Menu > World > Environment Editor > Sky Presets > Edit Presets to set your desired Windlight and use the Clouds tab to freeze cloud movement. Avoid the use of Depth of Field.
  • Press CTRL-SHIFT-C to display the 360-image capture floater.
The new 360 snapshot floater – default mode
  • Click Capture 360 to commence the capture process.
  • The floater will display some basic messages as the images are being captured and process, and the Lab have indicated these may be improved, depending upon feedback.
  • Once image processing is complete, the floater will expanding to show an auto-rotating previewing of the captured image. As with any 360-degree image, you can press and hold the left mouse button while over the image and scroll around it.
The 360-degree image preview
  • Note that there is currently an issue with the preview on Mac systems which can leave it black. If this happens, click Save Local and then Cancel. This should force the preview to displayed correctly.
  • If you’re unhappy with the preview, you can re-start the process by clicking Capture 360 again, or you can save the image using the Save Local button. This will save the image in equirectangular format to a location of your choice on your computer, from where yo can upload it to photo sites supporting 360-degree equirectangular images.

As noted above, images captured in this version of the viewer should automatically display in 360-degree viewing mode in Flickr without the need to meta tag them manually. They also should display in the WordPress  “VR” shortcode, placed within square braces (“[“, “]”) and in the format:

vr url=path-to-photo.jpg view=360

This should yield a result like this:

Feedback

A welcome update to a project viewer that was a little long-in-the-tooth: obviously, as well as the 360 snapshot changes, this version also brings the viewer up to par with all of the most recent viewer releases.

I was a little disappointed that there’s no support for uploads to Second Life Place Pages with this iteration of the viewer – something that had been indicated as being on the horizon in some recent user group meetings; apparently, and like the overall image resolution, it requires further work. As the 360 image captures now has its own floater, I’d also personally like to see it gain a dedicated toolbar button as well. CTRL-SHIFT-C isn’t a taxing short cut to remember, but buttons can make for convenience.

That said, the thing to remember here is that this is still only a project viewer – it still has a good way to go before being ready for prime-time use, which is something the Lab fully acknowledges. So, while it is worth taking it for a drive and having a play, expect to see further improvements and added functionality appearing in – hopefully not-too-distant – future updates.

Download and Release Notes

 

SL “Moonshine” viewer release

On Friday, October 13th, the Lab promoted their “Moonshine” release viewer, version 5.0.8.329115  to de facto release status. This viewer brings some new options to the official viewer, as well as including a range of improvements and bug fixes.

The code name for the viewer is described thus: “Moonshine was originally a slang term used to describe high-proof distilled spirits usually produced illicitly, without government authorisation. In recent years, however, moonshine has been legalized in various countries and has become a term of art. Legal in the United States since 2010, moonshine is defined as ‘clear, unaged whiskey’. This deploy is filled with a jigger of crash fixes, a splash of translation fixes and a kick that will make you say ‘I can’t feel my face any more!'”

In terms of the updates, probably the most visible is the new Worn tab within the Inventory floater. Those who have used third-party viewers like Firestorm will be familiar with this: it presents a list of items your avatar is currently wearing, defined by the folders in which the items are located.

The new Worn tab on the updated SL viewer

In addition, the scroll zone associated with the inventory floater (and the Marketplace floater) has been improved, and the inventory filter options (My Inventory > Gear menu > Show filters) have two new options:

  • Created by me, Created by others
  • Search by Name, Description, Creator, UUID.

The viewer includes the ability to increase the cache size to up to 9.75 GB in size, and cache performance has been improved. This work is all part of on-going viewer infrastructure work, which with this viewer includes changes to reduce the rate at which log-in retries are attempted.

As I’ve reported in my weekly SL project updates, the rate at which these login retries were being carried out could cause a detrimental impact on services when the grid was experiencing issues; it is an update TPVs have been asked to adopt as soon as they can.

Users of the official viewer can now set the size of their local cache (up to 9.75GB)

Also included in this release as a part of the infrastructure updates is a general clean-up of the log-in code.

In addition to the above, the viewer includes a range of UI behaviour improvements and bug fixes, all of which are listed in the release notes.

Feedback

I’ve not had the opportunity to use this viewer extensively, but performance-wise and in terms of the length of time I have been using it, the performance easily matches previous releases when running on my main system. In terms of the updates, the increased cache size could prove beneficial to those able to take advantage of it, and who use either an SSD or who can make use of a RAM drive on their system.

Overall, another useful viewer update from the Lab, with a good range of resolved issues and fixed bugs.

Second Life 360-degree snapshots hands-on II

Credit: Linden Lab

Updated July 7th: to include information on easy embedding in WordPress.

Linden Lab has recently made two updates to the 360-degree snapshot project viewer, which I’ve been meaning to review for the last couple of weeks.

On June 19th, version 5.1.0.506488 of the viewer was issued, which included image processing updates, and which included offering the viewer in both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows flavours. Then, on June 29th, the viewer was further updated to version 5.1.0.506743 (at the time of writing the current  version), which largely saw the viewer brought up to parity with the current release viewer.

The core functional changes to the viewer in both of these updates is the removal of the need for manual post-processing via zip file download and a web back-end provided by the Lab (see my original hands-on of the initial release of the viewer for more). Instead, the viewer is intended to process the image and provide the necessary meta-date to allow automatic playback on most 360-degree image sharing sites.

I’ve so far tested the viewer on Flickr and a number of 360-degree photo sharing sites such as VRchive.  The latter appear to work as expected, Flickr  requires 360-images uploaded from the viewer to be manually tagged from within Flickr in order to work. This is a minor inconvenience – but would be smarter if the metadata allowed for auto-tagging of the images as equirectangular, as can be done with other 360-imaging tools. A JIRA has been raised on this.

In the meantime, here’s a look at taking photos with the viewer, and getting them working on Flickr.

The 360-degree photo option is fully integrated into the snapshot floater, and when selected will disable all other options and will only allow you to save images to your local hard drive. Note that if you set any other options (e.g. check the Interface option or setting a filter) prior to checking the 360-degree snapshot option, this will result either in the viewer reverting to taking a “normal” snapshot, or ignoring the filter when processing as a 360-degree image.

The 360-degree option enabled in the snapshot floater

Before taking a shot, you should do a little preparation first:

  • Position your avatar  / camera at the centre point of the image you wish to capture (you can “hide” your avatar using a full body alpha or something like a “vanish” animation if you don’t want it appearing in the shot). Use ALT-cam or flycamming to position the camera if you want your avatar to appear in the image, but not at its centre.
  • Use Menu > World > Environment Editor >Sky Presets > Edit Presets to set your desired Windlight and use the Clouds tab to freeze the clouds. Avoid the use of Depth of Field.
  • Turn your camera / avatar slowly around in a circle to see everything in the snapshot field of view, allowing everything to render as you do so.

When you’re ready to take your shot, click on Save to Disk on the snapshot floater and set your preferred image size:

  • Small – 1024×512
  • Medium – 2048×1024
  • Large – 4096×2048

Save your snapshot to the location of your choice on your hard drive. You can now upload it to your preferred 360-degree image sharing website.

Displaying In Flickr

If you are uploading to Flickr, remember to manually set the equirectangular tag in the image page, and then refresh the page. The image should reload and display in 360-degree format.

To get snapshots to display as 360-degree images in Flickr, click the Add Tag option and enter “equirectangular” (without the quotes) and press ENTER. Refresh the page and the image should start to auto-scroll once the page has reloaded

Displaying in WordPress

WordPress has a beta 360 photo and video processor allowing users to embed 360-degree images into their posts. However, in the case of images, this requires the .JPG file extension to be used. Currently the snapshot viewer uses .JPEG. However, once the extension has been changed, images should work fine.

To embed a 360 image, upload it to your WordPress media library (or similar on-line storage – but not a photo sharing website), making sure it has the .JPG extension. Then within your blog post, add the following shortcode between square braces (i.e. [ and ]) in either the Visual or Text editor:

vr url=path-to-photo.jpg view=360

This should result in the image being displayed so that it can be clicked on an manually scrolled, as per the image below:

As noted, 360-degree snapshots should auto-play on any photo sharing sites such as VRchive which parse uploads to ensure they are in the required equirectangular ratio (information on using VRchive can be found in this blog here).

Whether or not the viewer can be set so that the metadata allows Flickr to auto-recognise the 360-degree images as such, and simply play them without manual tagging remains to be seen. But as noted, it’s not a major inconvenience of not (after all, who of us here doesn’t fiddle with images post upload to Flickr?). As it is, this is a definite step up for the viewer in managing 360-degree images, and  I’d certainly be interested in hearing from anyone as to how it works with Facebook.

One other point to note as well is that at the moment, the 360-degree snapshot project viewer is not compatible with format used for 360-degree images on SL Places Pages. However, the latter will be revised to support displaying images captured by the viewer at some point in the future.

Download

Second Life Maintenance RC viewer: parcel access, trash, and more

Update, May 23rd: version 5.0.5.326444 of this viewer is now the release version of the official viewer.

On Friday, May 12th, 2017, Linden Lab issued a new Maintenance release candidate viewer – now version – 5.0.5.326444 – featuring a number of bug fixes and improvements.

In particular the viewer includes updates to reflect the revised region / parcel access controls now deployed to the main grid. It also includes improvements to inventory management and purging Trash, and a range of other improvements and updates as well as numerous bug fixes.

As per usual, this is not intended to be an in-depth review of the viewer, but rather to highlight some of the new / updated features and an overview based on the release notes.

Region / Parcel Access Controls

The new region / parcel access controls are paired with a server-side update first announced in April, and the first part of which was deployed to the LeTigre server RC  channel on Wednesday, May 17th. Until these server-side updates are deployed grid-wide, this particular set of changes in the view may not function on all regions.

In short, the new controls mean that when a region holder / manager explicitly set a region for open access by visitors (via the Region / Estate floater), parcel holders on the region will no longer be able to override the setting at the parcel level and create ban lines around their parcel. They will, however, still be able to use their parcel ban list or deploy security orbs or similar (assuming the use of the latter is allowed under any covering covenant).

This means that with this viewer, both the Estate tab in the Region / Estate floater has been updated, and the behaviour of the Access tab in the About Land floater has changed.

In the case of the Estate tab in the Region / Estate floater, the check box Allow Public Access has been removed, and a new option, Parcel Owners Can Be More Restrictive, has been added (see below).

With the new parcel access overrides, the old setting to Allow Public Access (top) has been replaced by a new setting, Parcel Owners Can Be More Restrictive (bottom), as found in the current Maintenance RC viewer

By default, Parcel Owners Can Be More Restrictive is checked, which means that as the updated settings are deployed server-side, parcel owners should see no difference in behaviour for their parcels unless an estate holder / manager opts to make changes at the estate level (as shown in the image above).

Should the option be unchecked, the estate holder / manager making the change will receive a model warning that they are about to make a change that could affect parcel settings in the estate.

The new modal warning estate holder / managers will see when changing the new access settings

Should they go ahead and APPLY  the change, two further things will happen:

  • Parcel owners will receive a new system notification for every parcel in the region they hold which has been affected by the change (below).
The new system notification displayed to parcel holders for every parcel in the region they hold which has been affected by a change to the region’s access settings at Estate level
  • Any previously active banlines around affected parcel will be removed, and parcel owners will no longer be able to set parcel access restrictions via About Land > Access, as the options to do so will be greyed out (as shown below).
    When the Parcel Owners Can Be More Restrictive option is checked, the parcel-level access options in the About Land floater will be greyed out for parcel holders, preventing them from overriding the region-level access

    If a region which previously allowed parcel holders to set their own access restrictions is set to public access (by unchecking Parcel Owners Can Be More Restrictive and clicking APPLY), and then is reverted again (by checking Parcel Owners Can Be More Restrictive and clicking APPLY), all parcels on the region will revert to the access settings applied to them before any changes to region access were made at the estate level.

    Continue reading “Second Life Maintenance RC viewer: parcel access, trash, and more”