Second Life Photography w/Black Dragon & DoF & Photoshop

This is a tutorial on how to use Black Dragon to capture DEPTH information for use in Photoshop (PS). The techniques can be used in GIMP and Paint.Net. The buttons are just in different places.

The reason you may be interested in using PS rather than a viewer’s built-in DoF is to get more control. Viewers tend to provide a perfect render of a scene. Our eyes pick up the texture and dust of real-life so a computer image usually doesn’t fit our experience of how the world looks. Making a photo-realistic is about adding the subtle noise of real life to an image.

Nal @ Port of Senses
Nal @ Port of Senses

This image raised some questions in the SL Forum thread How does your avatar look today? (About 1,300 pages) Mostly, I think, because I pointed out I did the Depth of Field out of focus thing using Photoshop with a Black Dragon Depth map.

Most viewers provide Depth Maps. You can create Windlight settings that will create a depth map too, but that is a PITA. It is easier to use a viewer that has the feature. So, Firestorm or Black Dragon or the Linden Default Viewer. I haven’t checked the others. I assume most have the feature.

This is the Depth Map setting in Linden, Firestorm, and Black Dragon

With the Linden Viewer you have to be saving to disk for the Color/Depth option to work.

How does one use the Depth feature?

First let’s look at a depth map.

Depth Map image placed in Photoshop

This is the map for the opening image. Black is in-focus (near) and white is max out-of-focus (far away). Grays are varying degrees of focus.

Understand the image and the depth map have to match perfectly for the parts you want in focus. So, the trick is in how to do that. Black Dragon is prefect for capturing an image and associated depth map. I use the Poser to freeze the avatar in place.

To open the Poser you can add a button, just right-click an on-screen button to open the Toolbar Buttons panel. Drag the Poser button to the left, right, or bottom of the screen and drop it. (Notice the circled icon in the image below.) Or you can open it from the menu, Dragon->My Useful Features->Poser.

More pages… links below.

3 thoughts on “Second Life Photography w/Black Dragon & DoF & Photoshop

  1. You can also globally freeze the world -> Ctrl + Alt + F.
    Makes it easier to get a perfect shot even of moving objects, not just avatars. Freeze World can also be found in the Snapshot window but its much quicker to do it via shortcut.

    Combine this with the already mentioned Slow Motion Animations and its really easy to get the exact pose, i’d recommend opening an animation (any, doesnt matter) and use the Speed control there, it’s global and even allows you to go backwards in case you missed the perfect moment rather than waiting again for the right moment to appear, setting it to 0.0 also allows directly freezing the animation, so keeping it around 0.1 around the time you think your perfect pose happens is a good way to get it right quite reliably.

    The DoF pictures that show the messed up stone through the window is an issue that only happens if you ignore alphas in depth, Black Dragon offers an option to include or exclude alphas from Depth of Field, sometimes its better to include them, sometimes its worse but now with EEP i’d generally say its better to keep it on now that both depth reliant features (Volumetric Lighting and Depth of Field) no longer produce large solid squares in air since their alpha is now treated properly. This feature was solely added because prior to EEP alpha on surfaces were ignored in depth and caused these huge blur errors. You can find the option in both the Machinima Sidebar at the top or Preferences – Display – Depth of Field.

    BD also now offers the ability to toggle front blur off if you just want to blur behind the focus point, pretty helpful for closeup super blurry Depth of Field shots where the Avatar you are trying to shoot gets blurred too. You can find the option in Preferences – Display – Depth of Field.

    In addition to that you can also enable the oldschool High Quality Depth of Field (if your GPU can handle it) which is much stronger and much more accurate, changing the Circle of Confusion is an absolute key component to have a smooth Depth of Field blur from front to back.

    Example of a bad CoC:
    Example of a good CoC:

    Notice how the blur artifacts around the ears vanish, it did lower the blur strength a bit but you can counteract that by playing with the other settings and then tuning CoC again.

    Example of extreme DoF with little to no artifacts:

    This is still not perfect but with a tiny bit of camera finetuning and unlocking the focus point and moving it a tiny itsy bit back via mouse and locking it there (both options found in Dragon – My Useful Features – Shortcuts) you can make this a really nice DoF shot.

  2. Pingback: How to add depth of field to your SL photos in post-production – Second Sighting

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