Posts tagged ‘windlight’

June 21, 2011

Lost in the Shadows: A First Try With SL Shadows

Now that the new Firestorm viewer from Phoenix is in the public beta phase, I decided to try to play with shadows in SL.  I figured it would be good to try to acquaint myself with shadows on both viewers at the same time so I wouldn’t have any predetermined bias for one or the other.  (I had downloaded the Kirsten’s viewer a couple months ago, but could never seem to get it to work properly.)

Firestorm:  First thing I found out is that when I clicked to enable the shadows in Firestorm, I got a pop-up stating it wasn’t supported and I might crash.  I was feeling adventurous so I continued on.  I turned off all the “fancy” stuff in the Hardware options (like anti aliasing, anisotropic filtering, VBO stuff) to try to prevent the dreaded crash.

I hit apply and okay, looked around and didn’t see any shadows.  Things I found out:  You need a light source.  Duh.  I played around with trying to get a light to work indoors and using the projector settings and it didn’t seem to work.  Too advanced for me, so outside I went.   Next, some WL settings don’t show shadows.  Case in point, my favorite for taking pictures, CalWL.  Dammit!

So instead of trying out the 15 gazillion WL settings equipped in Firestorm, I downloaded Luna Jubiliee’s settings and installed the file.  Lo and Behold!  Shadows!  Well, sort of, depending on the position and direction of the sun.  Instead of trying to move the sun around, it was easier for me to just rotate my backdrop and pose stand until I got a nice shadow on the backdrop.  Also, I had to turn on the Ambient Occlusion toggle because the shadow was extremely pixilated.

So I got my shadow, but the face looked kinda blurry or soft.  I’m used to the very clean crisp images that the CalWL setting affords.  For me to be happy, I’ll have to see if I can find a nice middle-ground between the two.

Skin:  Belleza;  Aiko pale 1
Hair:  Elikatira;  Me, blond 07
Jacket:  Cashmere;  Boudoir jacket, wine (The Fashion Garret)
Pants:  Zaara;  Ishaya velour slacks, espresso
Nails:  Mandala;  Takara nails, brown 20
Bracelets:  Mandala;  7Luck, brown A & B

So this was what I ended up with after a little editing.  I immediately noticed there’s a halo between the dark brown pants and the shadow, as if it was a bad cut/paste job.  Hrmm.  I’m not sure what caused that.  It may be all the hardware settings I turned off.  It may just be the way shadows are rendered.  Also, even with sharpening, it still looks very soft.  Not good.  I’ll really need to learn more about WL settings before using shadows on a regular basis.

SL Viewer 2:  I kept all the same settings that I used in the Firestorm experiment and only changed the background color so I could tell the difference between the viewers.

I used the same editing process, but on this viewer it seemed the shadows around the nose and mouth were a nightmare to try to smooth out (compared to the Firestorm viewer anyway).  It still looks very amateurish to my eye.  I also see a little bit of that halo effect around the pants here too.  Plus, you can see the juncture of any background repeats, even with a solid color.

For my first experience with shadows, it wasn’t too terrible.  I’m really going to need to learn more about creating WL settings to be able to come up with one I’m happy with when using shadows.  Until then, SL shadows is just another tool in my photography toolbox and not something I’d want to use on an everyday basis.  I’ve read a few tutorials, but if anyone has any tips or tricks for using shadows with either viewer, I’d love to learn!

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April 13, 2011

Inner City

Skin:  Lara Hurley;  Leah, green gloss/pale
Hair:  Truth; Courtney, macaroon
Jacket:  Amerie;  S&S; Short Parka, pink
Shorts:  Fishy Strawberry;  Billy Denim shorts, black
Socks:  Twisted & Spoiled; Part of the Feisty in Black set
Boots:  GOS; Docs, 8 hole, pink, abused
***Disclaimer:  The boots pictured are actually a much lighter pink, not the darker pink I made them appear to match the hoodie***
Tattoo:  My Pinkie Skull;  Beauty Must Die, faded

 

I just love my new pink Docs!  I wanted to do a picture with them, but couldn’t seem to find anything in my inventory in a shade similar.  I wanted to get the picture done before SL started being naughty and crashing on me again, so I just threw on something in a darker pink and *made* the boots match through the magic of photo-shopping.  I know, bad girl.

 

A new friend of mine was curious about my Photoshop editing process and I wasn’t quite sure how to explain it and I’m really not the right person to attempt a blog tutorial.  But this will give anyone who’s curious a general idea of the steps I take.  One of the most important things to note is that there’s only so much you can do in Photoshop.  If you don’t start with a decent image, your finished product won’t be as good.  My personal favorite way to get a great starting image is NOT to use a facelight.  Use the preset WindLight settings (depending on which viewer your using):  Canimod, Exodi, or CalWL.  These will all result in a crisp, clear image as long as there aren’t any extra light sources in the vicinity.

 

The start of my process is the same for each one.  Firstly, I crop my image, removing any extraneous parts.  Then, if I’m using a green screen backdrop, I remove it and clean up any halo effects that may be left.  If you don’t know how to do this, there are already several good tutorials out there in blogs and on YouTube, just sharpen your Google skills and you’ll find plenty.  (I’m a trial and error type person, so I use the snapshot feature in the history panel frequently.  That way, I can always revert if I’ve done something I don’t like. )

 

Next step, I clean up the picture.  Using clone stamping, I fix any overt texturing errors, stray hairs sticking out of the body or prims that show awkwardly.  After that, I do probably THE most important step you’ll ever need to make smooth SL pictures:  Use the Liquify Tool!! With the avatar mesh in its current state, we all know about those jagged waists, necks and wrists, pointy elbows and knees and that strangeness of hexagonal boobs. Liquify can deal with all that and more and with practice will leave your pictures looking smooth and professional.  I’ll be honest, this tool scared the hell out of me when I first started using it, but Undo is your friend, experiment with brush size, do use the zoom feature, and practice, practice, practice.

 

At this point, each picture takes a different path.  I may use Dodge/Burn to bring out the highlights and shadows, add texturing or backdrops, create shadows behind the avatar, or start with any of the available adjustment layers (specifically:  curves, vibrance, hue/saturation).  Don’t be afraid to play with the layer blending styles, they can make a whole world of difference to the appearance of your image.  I also use the Filters menu quite a bit:  a little Gaussian blur, adding some noise or diffuse glow and unsharp masks.  It all depends on what that finished picture looks like in my mind and the steps I need to take to get it to that point.  Trying a feature, then reverting is the biggest portion of my editing process.  Finally, I go over any rough areas left with the smudge tool.

 

When I’m satisfied, I decide how I want to finish it.  Adding text, Beveled edges, colored matting, drop shadow or any of a number of options and finally, resizing.  You may want to resize in a couple different sizes, depending on whether the image will be used on the web or uploaded back into SL.  You may also want to save your picture in various formats:  JPEG, PNG, or TGA.

 

This layout shows the world of difference a few small editing steps can make to improve a raw shot straight out of SL.