Tuesday, 1 July 2014

how to achieve an ersatz shine

ersatz shine (iii)
Oh that's nice jewellery. Wherever can it be from? WELL, READ ON.
Two things. First, this is notice that, for a number of exceptionally good reason, MetaTheodora, which you may or may not know is sian's Second Life shop, will soon be no more. In its place comes Chariot. You can find Chariot's very first offerings (pictured here, along with some recent and old stuff from MetaTheodora) in the July round of We Love Roleplay.

They are shiny. sian likes making things that are shiny.
Yes, this is the new logo. Yes, we thought about it and talked about it lots. No, we're not looking for feedback.
This sort of brings us onto the other thing. Last week someone on Plurk asked how you bake shiny metals in Blender. sian was like, "you called?". Three people benefitted from sian's knowledge. Some more have asked if it can be transcribed or repeated. Well, since it's not actually that big a thing, sian's repeating it here. Do feel free to bookmark it.
ersatz shine (i)
sian hopes this has been of help.
The thing about using Blender to make stuff in Second Life is that most of the Blender tutorials online (with the exception of Ashakesayi Ra's awesome SL mesh modelling tutorials) are designed for people who aren't wanting to put their kit into Second Life or comparable virtual worlds, but who are rendering still pictures, and hence miss out some steps. 

Before beginning, it needs to be pointed out that since Blender 2.71 was released recently, you can now bake realistically shiny textures using the Cycles rendering engine. sian's method is easier to achieve; the results, though pleasing, may not be exactly what you want, and sian urges trying the other way too.

OK, so let's assume we've got a model we want to make shiny. sian used a Blender monkey, but we're assuming you have something you want to make shiny. It's all good. We're assuming you know how to unwrap and assign an image to your UV layout - if not, here's a decent tutorial on unwrapping.

o hai, Suzanne.

When this is done, you want to sort out your lighting - you can see a couple of lamps by the monkey here. sian finds two lamps are best. One lamp can create something that only looks good from the one side, more and you risk washing out the texture.You can mess around with the lighting settings a bit (they're under the tab in the properties pane with the little planet on it) but these are the ones sian used.

So all the sky boxes are ticked, ambient occlusion is on, and environment lighting is set pretty low.
Now. Here's the first part of the trick. You need a metallic looking texture that has a gradient of sorts on it between light and dark. sian has used the same texture for everything metal since 2010. It's easy enough to make one, although the more time you spend on it, the better your results will be. This is not it, but this is pretty decent for our purposes:

This was made with one of the basic gradients in GIMP.
Making the light and shadow imperfect in some ways, for example nudging bits of the blue and white areas around, will get you much more natural results, although for our purposes this will do.

Make a material for the thing you want to shinify (is that a word?) and then, in the texture pane, associate the gradient with the material. Like so.

Just slap it in there. Easy enough.

Now here's the other trick. Go to the Mapping section at the bottom of this panel and select from the Coordinates dropdown, Reflection. The other dropdown, Projection, will allow you to select different shapes, and each will give you different results, and sian finds that in any given situation, sphere, cylinder or flat could give the best result. Likewise, changing the X-axis offset and size numbers will get you varying results. It's good to experiment.

This is the bit that makes it work.
Now, go back to the material. Don't worry about the Specular section, but consider clicking the Ramp box in the Diffuse section, and fiddling with the colours there. This takes some experimentation to get right, but can produce fabulous results.

Too little, and you might as well not have it; too much and it's a big blobby mess.
That done, just bake.

This isn't perfect, but it's definitely getting there.
Try making your gradient more irregular. Mess with the ramp settings. Mess with colours. You can also, with the right textures and ramp settings, use this for other shiny things too. The mirror setting is dangerous, but used in moderation, may help too.

Has this been of help?  Do drop sian a comment; gratitude will be showered on you.   

sian wears:
[Chariot] Child of Atlantis earrings - Amber of Kimpursha; Rosette of Sirius - Amber of Kimpursha (for We Love Roleplay's July round)
[MetaTheodora] FOUNDLING Armour - Silver - pieces; RadPanties
[TheMeshProject] (BETA) Hands(f); (BETA) Body(f); (BETA) Head(f) - Fierce (Deluxe)
[MaxiGossamer] Eyelashes - Party - Swallow Wings 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

it's the sun

it's the sun (i)
"Look at you with your colour co-ordination," said Kitti.
SUMMER FUN! sian doesn't know what it's like where you are, but round here it's pretty fine right now, so shehe thought, hey, let's do something sunny and garish and primary coloured and urban (note that the mesh body's making sian veer towards the feminine but normal androgyny will be resumed eventually).  

sian imagined listening to something urban making this. sian was trying to channel Nicki Minaj...

...but Kitti, who was present was like, no, that's totally Macklemore. She's got a point.
it's the sun (ii)
The shoes and feet are all governed by that same HUD - even the heel height! sian gets excited about stuff like that.

One of the things sian has found with this mesh head business is how much easier it is to photograph an avatar in extreme or severe lighting. This seems a good opportunity for sian to share hisher own handmade windlight settings for your enlightenment and delectation - you can download them in a convenient zip file here. Strawberry Singh has a good tutorial on how to install them which makes any instructions here redundant. sian hopes that you enjoy them.
it's the sun (iii)
This set was taken with the kind permission of bunz on her beach.
sian wears:
[RachelBreaker] FrostingCoat #3 (old Arcade gacha prize)
[DRIFT] Oblivion Shorts [MESH] Latex
[MANDALA] EARGASM headphones
[geek.] Atrim460 Ring -Black- (Pointer Finger)
[The Shops!] Freebie Pumps (Ouch!); Body, Hands, Feet; Head(f) - Fierce (Deluxe)
[MaxiGossamer] Eyelashes - Party - Swallow Wings 

download sian's windlights

Monday, 23 June 2014

the sunlight on my skin

the sunlight on my skin (iv)
It was only in sian's last post, less than a fortnight ago, that sian approached the prospect of a mesh head. Even since then, things have moved on. The SkinShop's feet and head have received an update and are now fitted mesh; and there's now a currently free full mesh body.
the sunlight on my skin (i)
You may remember that sian's primary reservation about the nesh head was that it didn't look like her; the new fitted version rectifies that by allowing for the elongation of the skull, allowing for sian's face to have more of a sian siape, as it were. The updated feet allow you to alter pose in the same HUD, meaning that you only actually need one pair at any one time.

The version of the body currently available isn't perfect - as the SkinShop people say again and again, it's in Beta. You can't alpha bits out, which limits the clothing; the breasts in particular only look good if they're small, and given more gravity than you would give your usual av's mammaries.The Hud doesn't allow for cleavage options, although you can make your av's naughty bits present, covered by white undies, or smooth and featureless like Barbie's.

But the textures are heartbreakingly good; the ability to change the shape a (limited) revelation; and the body, the hands, and three of the foot sizes are free.

Whatever the reservations, sian feels a lot more like himherself with this update. Hopes for the future grow. 
the sunlight on my skin (ii)
sian wears:
[TheMeshProject/TheSkinShop] Hands (f); Body (f); Head (f) - Fierce (Deluxe); skin, nails and lips from same
[Pink Acid] Waterline eyeliner - Mattel (applier)
[Elixir/Boingo] Sirocco Boots - Black; Pilot Parka - Hextile Black; Huntress Bracers-Quilted-Black
[DownDownDown] Electronically Headphones
[geek.] Atrim460 Ring -Black
[MetaTheodora] RadPanties [drd] Armor - shoulders - bluemetal
[MaxiGossamer] Eyelashes - Party - Swallow Wings

eyes, name tag, cyber implant: sian's own

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

one way to get a head

one way to get a head (ii)
Does this look like sian?
You need to know that sian's facial features haven't changed since this blog started. Sure, the skins have changed, the makeup has changed, sian's bodily dimensions have changed in all sorts of ways, but the facial numbers used to create our ambivalently gendered protagonist haven't changed since Spring 2011.

one way to get a head (comparison)
Left: TheShops mesh head. Right: sian's av with skin and makeup from the same range.
Some people never ever change their bodies but happily change their faces; sian's face has been a constant even while her, his, hisher body has been in constant flux. sian has grown and discarded male and female sexual attributes without a thought. But sian's face is a deal. You have to understand this. sian has tried mesh hands and feet, and even mesh breasts, but in the few months since rigged mesh heads have become a thing, sian has been reluctant to take the plunge.

Because it's not sian's face.

Part of it has surely been the simple fact that sian hasn't seen an African/Afro-Caribbean mesh head that works.

sian has, however, worn the skins produced by The Skin Shop pretty much exclusively for the last six months; sian wore an earlier version of hisher favourite Chocolata skin (as produced by The Shops' earlier incarnation, or possibly partner, The Body Co) for the best part of a year.

It was a few months ago that The Skin Shop released its mesh hands and feet, and a series of animated rigged mesh heads.

one way to get a head
sian is still undecided as to whether it is a thing or not. But it cost SO MUCH.
Now there has been some disontent about the Shops' sales model. To buy anything from the Skin Shop, you have to take and wear their free HUD. Using this, you first pay a sort of kiosk in the store in order to get a set credit - L$250, 500, 1000 or 5000 - and then use that credit to buy stuff.

Wearing this HUD, you click on stuff while you're in the minimalist, impressionist store, and get up the options. You pick, you pay, you get a delivery. If you come back, you can use the HUD as a redelivery terminal. It remembers, see. 

A lot of people think it's a cumbersome solution, and certainly it's more complex than SL residents are used to. Here's the thing, though. When each of the ten or so lipstick variants comes in ten shade sets for each of 36 skin shades, that's 3,600 lipsticks alone. Factor in eyebrows, hairbases, and the skin options (each skin option has two available variants for each shade, so there's 72 of each of maybe fifteen skins). Basically, you'd have a cluttered cyclopean retail horror where it would be virtually impossible to find anything if you even attempted to set this shop up the traditional way.

one way to get a head (diagrams iii)
See those eyeshadows? That's the 16 available options for shade 24. That makes 576 variants of that one eyeshadow style alone.
It's possible that there is too much choice here, and sian could well believe that there may be some skins or makeups that never sell at all in certain shades. But the potential for variety, within certain parameters it creates is pretty amazing.

Obviously with Second Life being what it is and the system being so complex, it's inevitable that some deliveries are going to go astray, and The Shops have been plagued with lost deliveries, or people getting the wrong colour makeup (sian got a bunch of demos after paying on one shopping trip, and it took a few days to get the right thing redelivered).

When you buy stuff with the HUD, you get the skin or makeup layers in a folder, as you would. But if you own any of the mesh heads or the dedicated hands and feet, you also automatically gain them as options in the StyleMode HUD, which is the applier HUD for the mesh items. More than that, if you (like sian) owned any of the skins from The Shops before, when you acquire the mesh items these are already on it, presumably because of the way that credits were bought before.

What seemed like a gimmick at first now looks like a master plan: by jumping through the hoop of buying credits before being able to shop, you actually enter into a system where everything you buy is registered by those weird little HUDs and entered into a sort of bank where you can then use it in conjunction with other products later.

one way to get a head (diagrams ii)
A very limited range of expressions, but a range nonetheless is possible for each head.
Let's be frank: The Shops are not cheap. Lipstick sets cost L$500; Eyeshadows L$175 each; Eyebrows and hairbases L$250 and skins L$1000 each. Each head (there are several options, inevitably - sian bought the "Fierce" one, which is the one that looks most like it might be on the body of a person of colour) costs a whopping L$5,000, or about ten quid in real world money. sian's easily spent a good L$20,000 in The Skin Shop over the last six months.You can get a more limited head without any animations at all that is L$2,999.

The hands and feet are free. Currently there are three foot variants and one hand pose, but more are promised. And the StyleMode HUD is free. That still means that to use the heads at all, you need to have put out an absolute minimum spend of L$6,000 (or L$3,999 if you don't want the fancier head). Even though the hands and feet are free, without the head, you still have to have spent L$1,000 on a skin to be able to use them at all.

Unlike the SLink system, which it isn't hyperbole to call the SL standard, you only need one HUD for the Shops stuff. But also, you can (mostly) only use the Shops stuff with it. There are apparently (or will be) third party appliers you can get, but sian has not seen them in action, and has no idea how they work (edit: Kitti Wytchwood found this one at Pink Acid). As it stands, the StyleMode HUD is really elegant. Rather than having one HUD for nails, one for skin, one for hands, one for feet, and so on, the StyleMode HUD has one interface that covers everything, including sizes. It's beautiful, and easy to use, but expensive and far more limited than the SLink variety - it can't do gloves, or stockings, for instance, or different nail lengths.
one way to get a head (diagrams i)
You click on the skin tone button once, and head, hands and feet all change.
The Skin Shop skins and makeups are beautiful. On the mesh heads, the detail is stunning; even on old-school avatars, the variety and detail of the skins, and their personality, is extremely satisfying.

You could probably draw an instructive analogy here by describing The Skin Shop as the Apple to SLink's Microsoft, inasmuch as you have on the one hand a product that is elegant, expensive, relatively simple to use, operates on a closed brand model (hardware and software by the same manufacturer) and isn't quite as versatile as amore widely spread competitor that allows a much wider scope for third party innovation. If those third party resources sometimes aren't nearly as classy or even as good, the fact is, it's cheaper and allows for a wide and crazy variety.

The main place the analogy falls down is that while Apple, a corporation that is in its own way every bit as much of an anti-ethical monolith, if not more so, than Microsoft, has silenced its critics, the Skin Shop's model in making closed-brand mesh items and its HUD-based shopping "experience" has brought it vocal dislike from a lot of people.

But what is actually wrong with The Shops' appliers model? If the head/feet/hands/hud are limited to things bought from just one store (or a few stores), if they only currently work with the skins bought in the same store ( same few stores), why is that an issue? If people want their skin to go with mesh hands and heads, there are excellent and cheaper skin stores who do cheaper appliers for the Slink hands, heads and feet. The Skin Shop doesn't do mesh breasts or appliers for them, so unless Lolas wearers want to get on with the process of tinting, they're best served going elsewhere. sian really likes the product brought out by The Skin Shop. Still, the changing of a face after such a long time is a wrench, and if they do get round to producing a more authentically African-looking head, sian will abandon this one for it like a shot.

sian wears:
[The Shops] "Fierce" mesh head; mesh hands and feet; Chocolata skin, variety of makeups
[BOOM] Fearless cuffs in gunmetal
[Drift] Tini Kini bikini set
[MaxiGossamer] lashes - Party - Inverted Crown
[BySnow] Citadel eyes
Various mesh items, custom made.