I’ve been attempting to do more video/machinima in Second Life™. I also make tutorials from time to time that can be improved by the use of video. And just the other day read Jo Yardley’s Comparing the official Second Life viewer with Firestorm. While reading I realized both she and I need to know more about our alternate viewers. She uses the Firestorm viewer as her main viewer. I tend to use the SL Viewer more than Firestorm. I am switching back and forth between the two more often these days. The Photo Tools in Firestorm are the enticement that draws me to Firestorm.
I am more familiar with the SL Viewer. But, I have used Phoenix or Firestorm off and on since the great viewer purge… when Emerald was excommunicated.
If you do machinima you want to kill chat and notices. Depending on the type of video you plan to make you may want to still have the user interface showing, like tutorials. Both viewers have a load of chat settings. A big difference is Firestorm puts most them out in the User Interface (UI) where users can more easily get to them and remember where and what they are.
The philosophies behind the two viewers are different. The Lindens try to make the SL Viewer easy to learn, which to the Lindens means in some measure fewer UI controls. The Firestorm Viewer is a power users viewer and the team tries to give more power and control to the user, which means exposing more viewer settings.
The result is the SL Viewer has many hidden settings. You can look at the Second Life Viewer Debug Settings to find a list of the settings. There are 40 or 50 settings related just to chat.
The Firestorm Viewer has a similar list here: Firestorm Viewer Debug Settings. It is a larger and more complex list. The list is broken into Global and Users settings and there are sub groupings; Phoenix Mode, Firestorm Mode, SL Viewer Mode, Hybrid Mode, and Latency Mode. …yeah it is a bit more complex learning Firestorm.
The SL Viewer’s Debug Settings list shows 36 settings for chat. However, Firestorm’s Debug Settings list shows about 117. Quite a difference. Plus Firestorm has another 10 or so settings that are user specific. Those are more about how chat is logged than what appears on screen.
For machinima it is the on-screen appearance that we want to control. To simply remove all UI chrome, notices, and all chat press Ctrl-Alt-F1 (it is the same in both viewer: FS & SL). There is a menu control to do the same (Advanced->Rendering Features->UI), but once off there is no way to see the menu to turn the UI back on. You WILL need the keyboard shortcut.
For combat and video tutorials we want to control screen pop ups that require a click and foul time/speed critical play. We still need our UI and HUD’s. In most viewers whatever the SL Viewer can do third party viewers can do. With the SL Viewer problem pop up notices can be stopped: Me->Preferences->Notifications and change any of the 8 notification types listed.
For making video tutorials you need settings similar to those one would use for combat play. Of course the tutorial subject can influence what is needed. For more control the Debug Settings provide finer control. They may also make your use of the viewer nicer.
The blue settings in the accordion above are those that affect visibility of nearby and group chat and notices. Those are generally available in the Preference panels. You can find most of these settings in Firestorm’s Preferences->Chat. The SL Viewer provides access to the commonly used ones in Preferences->Chat too, but the majority of the settings listed are only accessible via the Debug Settings.
With Firestorm you can get the viewer setup the way you like it for everyday use and then save your settings. You can then tweak your chat settings to work as you want them to for a specific purpose. Then save those settings under a different name, otherwise the ‘save’ overwrites your previous settings. That will let you change back and forth. The annoying gotcha in the process is having to relog after loading saved settings to get the newly loaded settings working.
The SL Viewer has no settings-save feature. You can however accomplish the same thing by making a copy of the viewer’s settings.xml file and renaming it. You have to do this after you close the viewer. When you have your collection of settings files you then copy them over the viewer’s settings.xml file so the viewer will use the altered settings on next launch. Pretty tedious, but doable. Firestorm definitely has the SL Viewer beat on this point.
One of the points Jo was complaining about is there is no control to turn off Group Notices. So, whenever someone sends a group notice it will pop up on you screen, which could spoil a video. The feature can be turned off using the Debug Setting EnableGroupChatPopups. Top menu->Advanced (Ctrl-Alt-D to open Advanced, if it is not showing)->Show Debug Settings. Type in the name and the panel updates with choices as you type.
Jo Also ran into the problem of settings changes not sticking. If you change settings and the viewer crashes, there is a good chance those settings will be lost. There is also the problem of invisible crashes, which happen when you are exiting the viewer. You may not even notice the viewer crashed, but the settings changes can be lost.
The fix is to open the viewer, make any changes and close the viewer. By being on a short time you reduce the impact of memory leaks and the chance of crashing on exist. That’s probably too much work for one or two changes. But, some past versions of the viewers almost always crashed on exit, so this was the only way to get settings changes to save. We never know when we may see that problem again.
Jo goes on to list other advantages to using Firestorm over the SL Viewer. For anyone that is a power user the Firestorm viewer offers a lot. I think for someone just starting out, it can be a bit overwhelming. But, the Firestorm people give classes, so it may not be that bad.
Whichever viewer you chose, you now have the information you need to make the screen appear pretty much as you want.