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.

Continue reading “VR Photosphere: a further Second Life 360 photo HUD”

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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).
"The
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 bast 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.

 

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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