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.

Continue reading “The Camera Panoramic: 360 photo fun in Second Life”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking the Shots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Producing your Panoramic Image via Hugin

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

With Hugin installed and launched, proceed as follows:

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

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

Lab presents “Tips and Tricks from the Community”

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

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

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

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

 

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”

Group bans: an overview

On Tuesday June 17th, Linden Lab released the Group Ban project viewer (version 3.7.8.290887) which, as the name suggests, allows group owners (and those they nominate by role) to ban individuals from their group.

Group bans, which are enforced server-side, like parcel and estate bans, are intended to remove troublemakers from a group / prevent them from joining the group. This article will hopefully provide an overview of the group ban tools within the project viewer (and which will eventually progress to the release viewer).

The following general points with group bans should be noted:

  • By default, only a group’s Owners role has the Manage Ban List ability for banning other avatars from a group /removing avatars from the ban list
  • The ability can be granted to other roles, if required
  • Roles which are granted this ability are also granted the Eject Members from this Group and Remove Members from Roles abilities
  • The ban list for a group can store a maximum of 500 entries. When this limit is reached, some avatars must be removed before others can be added
  • Group Owners cannot be banned from a group (just as they cannot be ejected)
  • When a group member is banned from the group, they are automatically ejected and will receive the usual ejection notification, but will not receive any notice that they have also been banned
  • A user who is banned from a group cannot join it either directly or through an invitation
  • If a group member is banned while using group chat, they may be able to continue using it until they close the group chat window (this problem also exists when ejecting someone from a group when they have the group chat window open)
  • Any attempt to invite one or more banned avatars into a group, whether individually or as a part of a list, will generate the message:  Some residents have not been sent an invite due to being banned from the group.

The viewer itself includes the necessary options to allow a group owner (and those they nominate by role) to:

  • Add or remove avatars from the group ban list
  • View the group ban list
  • Add the ability to ban avatars from a group to any other roles within the group, if required.

Applying Group Bans

Avatars can be banned from a group in one of two ways:

  • By selecting them in the group members list if they are already a member of the group
  • By using the Group Ban Picker to ban one or more avatars from a group, whether or not they are already members.

Banning via the Members List

  • Display your groups list (CTRL-SHIFT-G), select the required group and open its profile
  • Click on Roles & Members to open it, and then click on the Members tab
  • Locate the first avatar you wish to ban and left-click on their name
  • If there is more than one avatar you wish to ban, press CTRL and left-click on each of the remaining names
  • Click on the Ban Member(s) button
  • The highlighted avatars will be ejected and banned from the group, and you should see the normal confirmatory notification(s) that they have been ejected.
Banning someone from a public droup via the Members tab (l), and confirming they are listed as banned on the Banned Residents tab (r)
Banning someone from a public group via the Members tab (l), and confirming they are listed as banned on the Banned Residents tab (r)

To confirm the selected individuals have been ejected and banned, click the right scroll buttons at the top of the panel to scroll / jump to the Banned Residents tab. This should display the name of all avatars banned from the group. If the name(s) of the avatar(s) just banned do not appear to be listed, wait a minute or two and click the refresh button in the lower left corner of the panel. Continue reading “Group bans: an overview”

Cory Edo’s water maps add depth to SL water

Wave effect using the Trompe Loeil "Cresting" normal water map
Wave effect using the Trompe Loeil “Cresting” normal water map

I’m coming to this via a pointer from Honour, which directed me to Strawberry’s blog entry on the subject.

Cory Edo, of Trompe Loeil fame, has released a pack of 10 free water normal maps for use in Second Life. These present a range of different wave textures which make creating your own custom water windlights for use on Linden Water a breeze. The finished results can, as with other windlight settings, be used purely within your own viewer or, for region / estate owners, can be used a default water setting  for their region / estate.

Four presets compared under the same sky settings, clockwork from top left: Linden water default; Trompe Loeil "cresting"; Trompe Loeil "Long Ripple"; Trompe Loeil "Glass" (click for full size image)
Four presets compared under the same sky and water settings, clockwork from top left: Linden water default; Trompe Loeil “cresting”; Trompe Loeil “Long Ripple”; Trompe Loeil “Glass” (click for full size image)

Strawberry has provided a  nice video tutorial on using the maps to create new water presets using the SL viewer, which can also be used alongside most v3 TPVs.  Cory also provides some notes on using the maps with Firestorm, but I thought I’d provide an additional overview on using the maps with that viewer and Phototools here as well.

If you use the Phototools button in Firestorm, click it to open the Phototools floater, then click on the New Water Preset button in the WL tab. This will open the Create a Water Preset floater.

Accessing the
Accessing the Create a New Water Preset floater through the Phototools floater

If you’re not using the Phototools button, go to World > Environment Editor > Water Presets > New Preset …

With the Create a New Water Preset floater open, simply drag and drop one of the Trompe Loeil water maps into the Normal Map box, then enter a name for the preset in the text box at the top of the floater.

Creatting a new water preset using the Trompe Loeil maps is a simple matter of drag-and-drop and applying settings and a name
Creating a new water preset using the Trompe Loeil maps is a simple matter of drag-and-drop and applying settings and a name

If you want, you can then adjust the Fog and Wave sliders and the Reflection tab sliders to produce the effect you desire.

When you’re satisfied with the result, click the Save button to save the preset to your hard drive. This will also close the Create a New Water Preset floater, so repeat all the steps above to create further presets using any of the Trompe Loeil normal maps.

You'll need to restart Firestorm after creating your new water presets in order to see them listed in the WL Water drop-down
You’ll need to restart Firestorm after creating your new water presets in order to see them listed in the WL Water drop-down

The new presets will be immediately available via the Edit a Water Preset floater (Pototools > Edit Water Preset or World > Environment Editor > Water Presets > Edit Preset …).

However, to show them in the WL Water drop-down list in the Phototools WL tab (shown on the right), you will need to re-start Firestorm.

Also, remember that Firestorm also backs-up custom windlights for you (make sure you have the options to do so checked in Preferences > Backup), so make sure you take a fresh back-up of your settings after adding any new windlights. That way you avoid having to recreate them once more after a clean install.

Do please note that these normal maps are intended to work with Second Life windlight; they are not “traditional” water textures and they will not work to create prim-bases water effects for pools, hot tubs and so on.

A great addition to the tool box of any sim designer and / or SL photographer – many thanks to Cory for creating them and making them available.

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