Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bring the Spooky in your Windlight settings

This article was published in Fusion Magazine, October 2014. Click for the magazine!

Halloween is upon us! Many of us are already outfitted and roaming SL in a quest for spooky places. Many of us also love taking pictures in SL, to keep memories of all the mischief happening. How about enhancing those memories with a touch of windlight? Do I hear, you're not sure about what windlight is? Then don't worry, because this article is for you.

Windlight is SL's atmospheric rendering system. Our viewers give us a set of settings that allow us to change how the sky looks, the light, Sun position, and other ambient effects, such as fog, clouds... Each of us can change the windlight settings in our viewer. By doing so, we're changing how the sky, light, etc. are rendered, but only in our viewer. Our choice of windlight settings is local, meaning, only we can see it in our viewer, not other avatars around. But that is fine when all we want to do is take pictures.

Now, don't worry because it seems like we need to learn a lot of things in order to use this windlight thing. In this issue we'll begin with the basics: we'll learn where we can find this in our viewer, we'll see a few shortcuts for some third party viewers, and then we'll explore a few presets that we can use for our Halloween-Spooky oriented pictures. Yes: There are premade presets that we can just select and use. Starting to use windlight is that easy.

In the official viewer, the windlight settings can be found under: World: Environment Editor: Environment Settings

In order to select a specific windlight setting, we have to change the selection under Sky/Day Cycle, then Fixed sky, from Default to the setting we wish to use. For example, the picture shows how to change our setting to Blue Midday:

which immediately changes the light settings in our viewer. Press OK to have them applied.

Other viewers, like Firestorm or Singularity, have quick access to the windlight presets at the bottom right area of our viewer. For example, in Firestorm we would click the little icon to the bottom right of the screen, normally next to the AO button:

and that would open the Quick Preferences, which among others, let us to select a Windlight preset under WL Sky (and WL Water for similar settings, only for the water):

Let's make a list here of some presets that everybody has installed in their viewers, ready for Halloween:

  • Blizzard
  • Foggy
  • Funky Funky Funky
  • Ghost

These options aren't bad, but it's true that, to begin with, the official viewer doesn't give us many choices. Don't worry, though, because lots of people have created their own presets, including Torley Linden, and offer them to other SL residents. What would we do with them?

First, download the settings to your computer. Open this link in your browser, from the official wiki page, and start by downloading Torley's ones:

After this, you will have to unpack them in a specific folder. Depending on your Operating System, the Secondlife folder will be placed in one or other place. The previous link to the official wiki lists them:

Linux:              ~/.secondlife/
Mac:                 ~/Library/Application Support/SecondLife/
Windows Vista & 7:  C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Roaming\SecondLife\
Windows XP:         C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\Application Data\SecondLife\

Once you've found this Secondlife folder in your Operating System, the sky presets have to be saved under:


and the water presets (if any) under:


Once you're done, next time you log in using the viewer you installed the presets for, you will have them available in the same dropdown menu we used before. If you're using a third party viewer such as Firestorm, note that instead of Secondlife or .secondlife, the folder to look for is named Firestorm (or .firestorm for Linux users). Also, many third party viewers come with lots of Windlight presets installed, so for example, you may not need to install Torley's ones in them.

For Halloween, I would recommend trying out all the presets from Torley that are in the FOGGY, HORROR and NIGHT categories. A few personal choices:
[TOR] FOGGY - Das fog
    [TOR] FOGGY - Silent heck
    [TOR] HORROR - Bloody moon
    [TOR] HORROR - Castle vain
    [TOR] HORROR - Darkside tales
    [TOR] HORROR - Dullard
    [TOR] NIGHT - Moony
    [TOR] NIGHT - That spells moon (1 to 4)

As a final note, know that you can also change the Sun position! In the official viewer we can use two ways. One thing that we can do is go to the World: Sun menu, and in there, select one of the four default positions, corresponding to 12 AM (Midnight), 6 AM (Sunrise), 12 PM (Noon) and 6 PM (Sunset).

Then, and this is a little more complicated: Go to the World: Environment Editor: Sky Presets: Edit Preset menu. This opens the following window, where we begin by selecting the preset we'll be using:

Making changes here will overwrite the preset. In order to avoid this, the first we do is a copy of the preset we're tweaking by writing something more under Preset Name, for example, Funky Funky Funky - My Sun Changes in this example, which will create a copy of the preset under this new name:

Now, we click on the Lighting tab, and we drag to move the green dot in the Sun/Moon Position slider, to change the Sun position:

Once we're done, we have to go again to World: Environment Editor: Environment Settings, and select the modified preset we've just tweaked by changing the Sun position, then hit OK:

We can of course change the Sun position over this work copy we've created, not creating more and more copies of it. The purpose of creating this first copy was not to lose the original setting, but with this done, now we can reuse it and tweak saving over it as much as we need.

This will let you experiment what Sun position gives the best spooky feeling for your pictures. It will also change the direction of the shadows, if you're using the Advanced Lighting Mode with shadows turned on.

Finally, if you're using a third party viewer as Firestorm, you can quickly change the Sun position by using a slider, without having to save a different preset for this! Just notice that under the WL Sky and WL Water selectors there's a color band representing the times of the day, and a slider that lets you drag and so change the Sun position:

With all this, now go out and take lots of fun pictures. Happy Halloween!

Enjoy your SL.

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