Tag Archives: SL Viewer Reviews

Hands-on: Second Life 360-degree snapshot viewer

Credit: Linden Lab

Credit: Linden Lab

On Wednesday October 26th Linden Lab announced the release of the 360o snapshot viewer, which I’ve had the good fortune to be able to play with for the last week.

The viewer is still very much under development, and has been released as project viewer with a number of caveats against it as development continues. Essentially, it allows you to take a set of images (6 in total) of the location around your camera, and then produce these as a scrollable 360o view – you can see the results in action on this sample page. Just click drag on an image to manually scroll around it.

The viewer is available via the Alternative Viewers wiki page as project viewer, with documentation on the wiki. As noted there are some caveats concerning it, which need to be kept in mind:

  • The 360o capture operates all around your field of view simultaneously. This can lead to conflicts with the viewer’s Interest List, so that objects which may be “behind” your camera position may not be properly rendered, etc. To avoid this, always pan your camera around  (or turn your avatar around if you are taking a picture from your avatar’s position) to completely view the scene and allow things to initially load, before taking a shot.
  • The current viewer saves the resulting image to your local disk as a zip file. You’ll need to set-up your own local web host in order to view them (or if you have your own website, you could set one up there). Again, this will be changing as the project develops
  • However, even in this format, once you are viewing an image, you can download it in a 2:1 aspect ratio suitable for upload to Flickr for sharing with friends and viewing in 360o.

As I’ve covered three of the 360o camera HUDs available in Second Life, I’m offering the rest of this article as a walk-through in using the new viewer and viewing your photos.

Note – these instructions apply to Windows, I don’t have access to a Mac to provide guidelines for that platform.

Setting Your Viewing Environment

Before taking your photos, you’ll need – for the time being at least – to set-up a simply local web server. Callum Linden has made this relatively easy.

  • Download Python from the Python website. You can select to install either Python 3.5.x (latest) or Python 2.7.x (the Lab uses Python 2.7 as a point of reference).
  • When installing Python, make sure you add the installation to your Windows path.
    • If you are installing Python 3.5.x, simply check the box in the installer
    • If you are installing Python 2.7, click the Advanced button in the installer, scroll down the list of customisable options and set Add Python .EXE to Path to Will be installed on local hard drive.
Adding the Python 2.7 EXE to the Windows path

Adding the Python 2.7 EXE to the Windows path

  • Download the Lab’s 360 snapshot web viewer ZIP file from the Lab’s 360 snapshot wiki page.
    • If you are familiar with Mercurial, you can clone the existing web framework via the link given in the wiki page. I found going the ZIP file route easier.
  • Unzip the web viewer files to a location on your hard drive.
Web you have unzipped the web viewer package, you should have a folder looking like this - note the SHOTS folder, this is where you'll be wanting to save your snapshot sets

When you have unzipped the web viewer package, you should have a folder looking like this – note the SHOTS folder, this is where you’ll be wanting to save your snapshot sets (Windows environment)

Using the Viewer

When you have downloaded and installed the 360o snapshot viewer, proceed as follows:

  • Position your avatar  / camera at the centre of the area you wish to photograph. If you are using your avatar, not that you should “hide” it via removing all attachments and alpha-masking, or by using something like a “vanish” gesture.
    • Note that you can positioning your camera for a 360o snapshot simply by positioning your camera (e.g. using ALT-zoom or by flycamming).
  • Make sure you freeze the clouds in order to assist the image “stitching” process, and to avoid visual discontinuities in the finished image. Use Menu > World > Environment Editor >Sky Presets > Edit Presets. You should also avoid using Depth of Field.
  • Set your preferred windlight / time of day setting.
  • Turn your camera / avatar slowly around in a circle to view everything in the field of view around it, and allow everything to render.
  • Open the Snapshot floater and click on the 360 option – not that although this displays the filter options for snapshot, the filter effects are not currently captured when taking  360o shots.
  • When you are ready, Click Save to save the image set – you will be prompted to save a ZIP file to your hard drive.
    • Navigate to the location where you unzipped the web viewer files (above) and then save the ZIP file (with a suitable file name) in the SHOTS folder.

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2016 SL project updates 34 (1): server, viewer, wiki

Binemust; Inara Pey, August 2016, on Flickr Binemustblog post

Things are still a little quiet, so not a lot to report at the start of the week.

Server Deployments

There are no scheduled deployment for week #34.

SL Viewer

No changes since my last SL project update, leaving the current official viewer list as:

  • Current Release version 4.0.7.318301, dated August 8th promoted August 11th – formerly the Maintenance RC viewer
  • Release Candidate viewers (refer to my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • Visual Outfit Browser RC viewer, version 4.0.8.318686, dated August 17th – ability to preview images of outfits in the Appearance floater
    • VLC Media Plugin RC viewer, version 4.1.1.318504, dated August 15th – replaces the QuickTime media plugin for the Windows version of the viewer with one based on LibVLC
  • Project viewers:
    • Project Bento (avatar skeleton extensions), version 5.0.0.317597, dated July 14th – incorporation of final skeleton and slider updates from the test viewer
  • Obsolete platform viewer version 3.7.28.300847, dated May 8, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7.

SL Wiki

As noted under a separate article, the SL wiki is currently locked from public editing due to spamming issues. There is currently no ETA on when it will be made generally available for access. Those with a definite need to have edit rights should raise a support ticket requesting access.

Second Life viewer: Starlight UI skins and options

Hitomi Tiponi's Starlight set provides a total of 10 different skinning options for the official viewer, together with a range of additional UI tweaks and options

Hitomi Tiponi’s Starlight set provides a total of 10 different skinning options for the official viewer, together with a range of additional UI tweaks and options (Starlight Silver Blue skin shown on viewer 4.0.6.315555) – Click any image for full size, if required

Reader Wolf Baginski posted a comment on the subject of alternative skins for the official LL viewer, prompting me to think about Starlight. This is a set of alternative UI skins and additional options available for the official viewer (and for some TPVs, although they are outside the scope of this article), which I last wrote about in these pages page back in 2010/11 when I was using it with viewer 2.x.

So, given I haven’t written about Starlight for a good while, and given there may be users of the official viewer who haven’t previously come across it, I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at Starlight as it is today, and offer something of an introduction for those unfamiliar with it.

Overview

Produced and maintained by Hitomi Tiponi, Starlight has been available for the English language version of the viewer for a good few years, as noted above. Today, it includes no fewer than 10 alternative UI skins and a range of other UI updates and tweaks which may appeal to users. The ten skins comprise:

  • Original Orange: a dark theme with a touch of orange
  • Nostalgia Blue: features buttons and some layout changes to remind you of Viewer 1.x
  • Silver Blue: a ‘dark on light’ theme using a cool blue
  • Silver Pink: as above, but with a hint of pink
  • Mono Teal:  a high-definition black on grey / white & teal green buttons
  • Orb Red: designed to make the interface seem less one-dimensional
  • Orb Blue: as above, but a deep shade of blue
  • Original Teal: The Lab’s original viewer 2.x colour scheme with slightly improved contrast
  • Two customisable skins which can be modified via the  StarLight Colourful User Interface (CUI):
    • Custom Dark: for using with a backdrop of a black, navy blue, dark red etc.
    • Custom Light: for a brighter, vibrant look, ideal for integrating black text with a lighter theme.

The additional UI items offered within Starlight include, but are not limited to:

  • Top bar Draw Distance slider (between 32 and 992 metres)
  • Revised Preferences panels
  • Additional Toolbar buttons
  • Film menu, for photography and machinima fans
  • Inclusion of a “lite” version of PhotoTools
  • Comprehensive Shadows, Rendering, Depth of Field and Local Lights settings in Preferences > Graphics
  • Assorted UI layout improvements / updates.

For a full list of such options and updates, please refer to the Starlight wiki page.

Starlight-7_001

Starlight also offers a range of UI options, including updated floater layouts, new floaters, additional toolbar buttons, easy access Draw Distance slider and more. Click for full size, if required

Installing Starlight

Note that while available for the official viewer, Starlight is a third-party product, and isn’t supported by Linden Lab.

  1. Log out of Second Life.
  2. Go to the Downloads section of the Starlight wiki page.
  3. Read the notes on downloading the correct version.
  4. If you download the .ZIP file (suitable for Windows, OS X and Linux) following the manual installation instructions on the wiki page.
  5. If you download the Windows Easy Installer:
    • Launch the installer and follow the on-screen instructions
    • Make sure you install Starlight to the installation location of the viewer with which it is to be used
    • If you use different RC and project viewers, and wish to have Starlight available for all of them, you must install it for each one.

Note that if a new version of the viewer is subsequently installed to the same location used with Starlight, the Starlight files will be removed as a part of the installation process. You’ll therefore need to re-install the latest version of Starlight in order to keep using it. However, as the Second Life settings files are not removed during viewer updates / installations (they are only removed if you manually carry out a completely clean installation), the viewer should revert to the last active Starlight skin once you have re-installed your Starlight files.

For photographers and machinima makers, Starlight adds the Film menu to the viewer's menu options (Starlight Mono Teal skin shown)

For photographers and machinima makers, Starlight adds the Film menu to the viewer’s menu options (Starlight Mono Teal skin shown)

Running Starlight

  1. Launch the viewer.
  2. Select a Starlight skin from the drop-down displayed below the log-in button.
  3. Re-start the viewer and log-in.

Repeat these steps should you wish to change skins.

Selecting a new Starlight Skin

Selecting a new Starlight Skin

Additional Notes

Well documented and supported, Hitomi generally has an updated version within hours of any new official viewer de facto release, offering a good cross-section of UI skins and some excellent UI additions, Starlight remains the add-on for the official viewer.

As per Wolf Baginski’s suggestion, I’ll be adding links to Starlight wiki page to my Current Viewers Release List and my weekly viewer release summaries going forward, to help people more easily find it.

Avatar Complexity and Graphics Presets in Second Life

Avatar Complexity provides users with the adbility to

Avatar Complexity is a means to help people who may suffer from performance issues in crowd areas

On Wednesday, May 18th, Linden Lab promoted the long-awaited Quick Graphics viewer to de facto release status. This viewer includes two important new features:

  • The updated Avatar Complexity settings
  • The ability to create, save and load different groups of graphics settings quickly and easily.

Avatar Complexity

As avatars can often be the single biggest impact on the viewer in terms of rendering, particularly in crowded places, so  Avatar Complexity adds a new slider to the viewer which can be used to set a level above which avatars requiring a lot of processing will appear as a solid colour – the casual term to refer to them being “Jelly Dolls” – greatly reducing the load placed on a system compared to having to render them in detail, so improving performance.

The idea is that you can adjust the setting according to circumstance, so that when in a crowded area with lots of avatars, you can dial down the Avatar Complexity setting, found in Preferences > Graphics (and in the Advanced Settings floater), with the result that more of the avatars around you are rendered as solid colours, reducing the load on your graphics card and system, thus improving performance. Then, in quieter areas, the setting can be dialled back up, allowing more avatars to fully render in your view.

Note: this only applies to other avatars in your world view: your own avatar will always fully render in your view.

The Avatar Maximum Complexity slider sets a threshold on avatar rendering by your viewer. Any avatars in your view exceeding this value will be rendered as a

The Avatar Maximum Complexity slider sets a threshold on avatar rendering by your viewer. Any avatars in your view exceeding this value will be rendered as a “Jelly Doll”, sans attachments

If you have a good system with a high-end graphics car, you can set the value on the slider quite high and thus ensure all avatars render fully for you wherever you are.

Note: You can sett the Avatar Maximum Complexity to “No Limit”. However, this is not entirely recommended. some irritants in Second Life still use worn graphics crashers to overload GPUs and crash the viewer. If you set Avatar Maximum complexity to “No Limit”, then such tools, should you ever encounter an irritant using one, will still be effective; so it’s better to set a reasonable high value, leaving your viewer with a cut-off point which should defeat their efforts in crashing you.

There are a few other points to note with Avatar Complexity:

  • You can opt to always render or to not render avatars around you, regardless of your Avatar Maximum Complexity setting by right-clicking on them and selecting your desired action from the context menu

    You can opt to always render or to not render avatars around you, regardless of your Avatar Maximum Complexity setting by right-clicking on them and selecting your desired action from the context menu

    To help you understand how complex you own avatar is, every time you change your appearance, each time you change the appearance of your avatar, a small notice with your new complexity value will appear in the upper right of your display for a few seconds

  • The complexity value of your avatar is transmitted to each simulator as you travel around Second Life. In return, you’ll get a brief notice in the upper right of your screen telling you approximately how many of those around you are (or are not) rendering you because of your complexity
  • If you have a friend or friend you wish to see fully rendered no matter how low you dial Avatar Maximum Complexity (while out at a club, for example, where it may be beneficial to set a lower complexity threshold), you can right-click on those individuals and select “Render Fully” from the context menu
  • Similarly, and if you prefer, you can selectivity render avatars in your view as grey imposters, by right-clicking on them and selecting “Do Not Render” from the context menu.

Note: Both “Render Fully” and “Do Not Render” will only apply during your current log-in session; the options are not persistent between re-logs.

To help people understand Avatar Complexity, the Lab has produced the following:

  • A blog post to accompany the promotion of the Quick Graphics viewer to release status
  • An Avatar Complexity Knowledge Base article
  • A video tuTORial, which I’ve embedded below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxWrqd0o3dc

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