Changing Windlight & HDR in the Second Life Viewer

In the Designing Worlds how (previous post) Honour McMillan explains a problem solution for photographers using the SL Viewer. The idea is we often just want to just tweak a region’s settings. In Firestorm that is easy. You just do it. In the SL Viewer it doesn’t work. The settings are grayed out until you select a preset, which changes everything. The region’s settings are effectively hidden. But, there is a work-around. (Lindens: don’t break this!)

HDR vs No Adjustment

HDR vs No Adjustment

Honour explains in the Designing Worlds video:

  • Open the environment Sky Preset editor and select any preset. World->Environmental Editor->Sky Presets->Edit Presets…->select any preset.
  • Next open the Water Preset editor, select any water preset, X it out or cancel.

You’ll see the region switch back from the Sky Lighting Preset you selected to the region’s settings when you cancel the Water editor. Now your Sky Presets editor is using the region’s settings and settings in the editor are still enabled. Good work-around.

Honour is speaking in the last third of the Designing Worlds’ first video (See the previous post for links). She gives lots of handy tips for taking photos. Well worth listening to. The others tips are good. But, Honour is giving more tips per minute than the others.

In the second video we find all three take large images and crop to get the final image.

They use GIMP, Photoshop CC, and Photoshop Elements for their editing. I’m a PS CC user. Honour points out that while using GIMP one has to change some default settings to allow it to edit hi-rez images coming from SL.

Strawberry is addicted to Photoshop’s Liquefy tool. I am a big Liquefy user too. She uses it a lot for fixing avatar noses. I hadn’t thought of that.

High Dynamic Range Images

Honour talks about using HDR images in her work.  There are some technical inaccuracies in her explanation and methods. But, for practical purposes, her explanation will work just fine.

You can search the net for information on HDR images and photography. They will get you most of the technical explanations you could need. The problem in Second Life is in getting source images for HDR processes to work with. A RL camera does an underexposure to capture detail in the highlights. Another at the ‘best’ exposure for detail in the mid-range. Then an over exposure to capture detail in the shadows. Processes for making HDR take the three images and combine them to get the most detail in all three ranges. This produces a final image that is very much like what the human eye sees.

Honour uses a program to pull detail out for all the ranges from a single image. While that likely gives a better result than a simple Levels or Contrast adjustment the point of HDR is to include detail not able to be captured in a single image. The viewer has the same challenges that digital cameras do. With a single image adjusting the RGB curves and contrast is about all that can be done. No program can add detail not captured in the original image.

Here is an example of what is happening with HDR. These are quick images with little time spent editing to improve the final HDR result. Also, this is not an image I would consider a good candidate for HDR. Night pictures with bright lights are excellent candidates for HDR treatment as detail in shadows is lost. Bright deserts can lose detail in the highlights or wash out in the mid-ranges. Rooms with a bright out doors showing through a window is another.

Under Exposed Image

Under Exposed Image

Here is an image with two versions of the same image. Top is the image from the viewer with no adjustment. It is way under exposed. In the lower part I am using the LEVELS to bring out hidden detail. But, there are parts of the image where there are no details. I’m using JPG capture from the viewer. No doubt the compression is throwing away small detail. But, once a set of pixels hits 0 Red, 0 Blue, and 0 Green there is nothing we can do to tell one 0,0,0 pixel from another.


Over Exposed Image


In this image I have way over exposed. The yellow arrow shows the place where the image burned out detail, pure white. Again I have used levels to try and reveal hidden detail, but it just isn’t there. Once pixels go to 255,255,255 the adjustments treat them all the same.

HDR vs No Adjustment

HDR vs No Adjustment

The top image is PS CC’s HDR composite that combines all three images. The arrow pointing at my avatar shows what movement did to the process. Cameras take burst shots quickly and minimize this problem. PS can eliminate the problem unless you do something ridiculous like I did by taking too much time between shots. The problem is called ghosting. In this case it was excessive. I actually did some work in the process to reduce ghosting at the expense of the over all image.

The lower half of the image is the raw image from SL taken using region defaults. I could adjust it using levels and get something close to the HDR image. That is what I do for most images I put in the blog. But, it won’t give you as good an image as you get with real HDR.

So… how does one get the three different exposures needed for PS HDR? I use the World->Environmental Editor->Sky Presets->Edit Presets… (use Honour’s trick explained above) and adjust GAMMA (in Lighting) up and down. You can get by with two images in many cases.

In Firestorm you have many more options for creating the source images. And there are other ways to do this in the SL Viewer. But, this is quick and easy.

3 thoughts on “Changing Windlight & HDR in the Second Life Viewer

  1. I’ve since found an easier way to manipulate the region default Windlight in the official viewer (figures eh?).

    Go to world/environment/sky/create new

    You’ll have the region default, with the ability to edit. Just name it and save it if you want to use it again. 🙂

  2. PS it’s true that applying an HDR filter to an image won’t create details in shadows that weren’t captured in the image – you’ll find that the filter just makes details visible which weren’t because the shadows were so dark. Unlike simply brightening the image (for example), the filter doesn’t lose the detail in the lighter areas by washing them out.

    Everybody will find their own solutions of course 🙂

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