Second Life: The New Facelight

Facelights were a basic part of a well-dressed avatar, back in 2008. Especially for a dark skinned girl that wanted her eyes to show in her pictures. But, when Linden Lab added the Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) feature facelights often produced a good imitation of a solar flare. (Earth has been dealing with a solar flare since Friday, 9/30 – Phone giving you problems?)

The video shows one of my new facelights. The first part shows it attached to my ‘Center’ attachment point. The later part of the video shows it attached to my ‘Spine’ attachment point.

Facelights are now BAD and we see few people wearing them. A few merchants still supply facelights with their skin or clothes products. Photographers mostly use ALM and Windlight to handle their lighting needs. Some high-end photographers use PROJECTOR lights. But, old style facelights are pretty much a thing of the past. We seldom need facelights these days. But, there are still occasions when we need to add extra light.

Using ALM and Projectors one can create some impressive lighting. I’ve used the features to make my photo-lights and new facelights. The point of ALM was to move Second Life™ beyond the limit of six lights in any given scene and provide lighting more in line with other platforms. That was accomplished.

We can’t get any information on how many people are using ALM. We’ve been asking for a couple of years now. So, creatives and merchants have some hesitancy about building for ALM. Understandable. But, I ran with ALM enabled on my old machine and still got 10 to 30 FPS in most cases. Shadows killed me, not ALM. On the new machine I can’t see a FPS difference whether ALM is enabled or disabled. So, I think most people should have it enabled. Many places or gorgious with ALM on and ho-hum with it disabled.

The Ongoing Problem

Visiting a club this past week I found the lighting there sucked. The club was nice but, you couldn’t see the other dancers. I think the Limelight Social & Sex Club would have an interest in the patrons being able to see each other. No one wants to hook up with an ugly avatar. (Yes, there are some really ugly avatars in SL. …no uglies in Limelight. Some hotties hanging there.) Some spot lights shinning on the dance floor would add a dramatic effect and show off the girls and guys.

Since many of the dancers are dancing-for-Linden-dollars and are practically invisible, I suspect the club is way under performing economically.

The club builder may have been directed to make the place a dark hole. Or the designer may not have considered what the club would be like with dancers. Whatever, the club itself is nice looking. Still, that doesn’t mean I have to like it or put up with darkness.

Once upon a time we had facelights so we could see each other no matter how a club was built.

There are people hidden in the shadows. Even walking up to them they are hard to see.

There are people hidden in the shadows. Even walking up to them, they are hard to see.

I think the Limelight Club proves there is still a need for something like the old facelight. There were a couple of working girls that had lighting for their avatars. As best I could tell they were just well made old style face lights. They were the only ones a person could clearly see. They also were getting better tips.

Whether the tips were a result of a better display of their physical hotness or their charming and engaging personalities is hard to say… wait… this is SL. It was obviously their bare rack.

So, I wanted to see how Projectors would work for a replacement to my old facelights, which I almost never use and seldom in a club these days. I had made my own old style facelights and I tested them with and without ALM. They are nice but, they still light up those around me and things near me. And the only light up my face and breasts, which is sorta limited when I pay serious Lindens for some of my s h o e s.

So, I made some new facelights using projectors. I tested them on my front porch. I wanted to see how they looked with ALM enabled and disabled. Also, with Projectors enabled and disabled.

Windlight set to night. Left: Only Natural Lighting – Right: A Projector Light Worn

Windlight set to night. Left: Only Natural Lighting – Right: A Projector Light Worn

Since one would have to wear the light I wondered how a directional light (Projector) would work with a dancing avatar. The video above shows a Projector attached to a couple of different places on the avatar. Yes, both parts of the video show the same Projector attached to the avatar. One is on the attachment point named ‘Center’ (first part of video), and the other to the ‘Spine’ attachment point (second part of the video).

So, we have some choices about how the light behaves in relation to the avatar’s movement. I centered the light above the avatar by a couple of meters then moved out in front and tilted it to shine on the avatar.

How good is Projector lighting?

The picture below shows an old style facelight (left) and a Projector light (right). Admittedly I didn’t put much effort into adjusting the light on the left.

Harsh to soft lighting.

Harsh to soft lighting.

With a Projector light I can make it soft to harsh. I use the Ambient Light setting to soften or sharpen the shadows. I can do the same with any light but, it is only with projectors that we can control the direction of the light.

I should be a little more fair to the old tech. I do have a facelight I made long ago that still works well with or without ALM enabled.

My old facelight.

My old facelight.

You can see the old light doesn’t illuminate much more than my face and breasts. The reason is, if I extend the lighting to my feet, I would also be lighting up the wall to the left of my avatar. The projector lights allow me to light my entire avatar without lighting up the rest of world around me.

The BIG Difference

The biggest and best difference is in how the Projector light limits the effect of the light on the surroundings.

Old and Projector Facelights

Old and Projector Facelights

The left part of the image shows how old style facelights light up the whole area. It is, of course, possible to minimize that effect as I did a couple of images above. Unfortunately there are lots of really bad old style facelights that blindingly light a room.

The middle part of the image shows how an old style facelight affects surroundings with ALM disabled. ALM seems to cool the light down. Without ALM the light is really hot burning out the color of nearby things. Notice the porch at my feet.

The right-side part of the image shows one of the Projector lights without ALM, shadows, or projectors. The light still illuminates the avatar and some of its surroundings. It doesn’t go nova like some older facelights do when we enable ALM.

To get a shadow one needs to have ALM enabled. For a Projector to project a shadow ALM must be enabled.


If you want to try out some Projector Lights, I’ve made a set of them you can get from the marketplace. I put a L$50 price on them. They are Copy-Mod, no-Transfer. I didn’t want them flooding the grid. They are easy to make. Since these are Mod-OK you can see how they are made and start making your own. Of just rez a prim and start playing.

The lights are all similar, different attachment points and different light settings. You’ll get an idea of what can be done. I left them all using white light. I used two different 512×512 textures for the projector. One is a hard edged circle and the other a soft edge. I found the hard edge more versatile.

Have fun with them.

5 thoughts on “Second Life: The New Facelight

  1. Good thing I have my viewer setting to disable avatar-attached light sources.

    Linden Lab really need to revamp up the rendering engine so we wouldn’t have to lag so much on a much more advanced/latest GPU cards.

    Or at least update viewer’s OpenGL to the latest version.

    • Neither would help the performance issues. Both would be a massive time sink for almost no improvement whatsoever. At some point people have to understand that Second Life’s biggest performance issue is not the Viewer or its Rendering but the people in Second Life and their inappropriately made content. Infact if perfectly optimized rendering engines were to do the same stuff Second Life is doing they would quickly break down too, possibly run even worse in anything but pure rendering dependent scenarios (when all loading, fetching, decoding is turned off and nothing is in any way causing additional areas of slowdowns)

      • THANK YOU, finally someone gets it! I have been preaching resource efficiency to content creators. I see avatars with whopping 2.3 million triangles and ridiculous amounts of Texture Memory.

        • There are others too. It sounds as if you an Penny Patton attend the same ‘content’ church. 🙂

  2. Honestly, facelights, projector ones are a massive waste of resources, projectors themselves are extremely slow to render even without shadows (and with they will also take up one of 2 available projector slots). Without a clear way to force the Viewer to render specific lights without shadows (via server flag) i don’t see how these are in any way better than the original facelights (which were horrible too but because of them illuminating the entire SIM and not due to crazy performance hits)

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