Category Archives: Tutorials by Siddean

Everything you need to know About Alpha Layers in Second Life – Part 2

In the previous article, I talked about some of the history of creating in Second Life and the challenges we faced as creators and as customers in hiding the avatar body to prevent clipping of our skin through the clothing. Or even just hiding the body to wear a cute dragon avatar! In this article I will talk about the current state of things. Starting with…

Bakes on Mesh

In March or so of 2018, Linden Lab made the announcement that they would be implementing this new feature called “Bakes on Mesh“. Bakes on Mesh would take whatever textures were baked into the hidden, base SL avatar, and display it to whatever worn mesh items had the “Bake” flag applied to them.

A peek into our working folders

When Bakes on Mesh was announced, we at the Slink workshop had already started, and were several months into, our “More Alpha Cuts” project. Our scripts were groaning under the weight of what we had already, and adding the many requested new alpha cuts was a very daunting task, but nevertheless, we had started to break up our body and HUD into more pieces and faces, and explore what was required for the new setup.

Of course, being early adopters, and always keen to keep up with new technology, we jumped on Bakes on Mesh as soon as the project viewer became available. I read everything I could find about it. I explored all of the available options in the new viewer. I experimented, and became actively involved in development, since I was one of a few creators I knew about at the time who were using the project viewer and developing for it. I logged a number of bugs through the SL Jira. I even found a nasty little bug that caused LL to take the project viewer offline while they fixed it!

I blogged about Bakes on Mesh in April of 2018, because I felt that this was something that we couldn’t just throw out there. It needed time for SL residents to adopt and accept so I wanted to start that process as early as I could. And I knew it would really be a game changer, so I wanted to do my part in preparing SL residents for the adjustment.

An early BOM test wearing my beloved Tuli skin on my mesh head!

Bakes on Mesh has been a creative boon on a number of fronts. I strongly believe that when Linden Lab gave us the ability to upload and wear mesh items, Bakes on Mesh should perhaps have happened at the same time. It would have pushed the mesh implementation project back a few months, but it would have answered a lot of questions that never needed to be asked.

Anyhoo I digress. I settled into that project viewer like it was my new home and used it exclusively for the almost year and a half or so that it took for the Bakes on Mesh project to go from initial announcement to release.

Alpha Modes

SL has had the ability to change the way textures with alpha channels display on prim faces for some years now, and we had written into Slink’s code to always set the skin layer to mode “none”, as alpha channels on skin textures can cause some strange lighting glitches to happen. So one day I was messing about with my BOM prototype body, with the skin layer set to the alpha mode “none” as always, when it occurred to me that if a skin layer could bake to the avatar, and a shirt layer could bake to the avatar, maybe an alpha layer could bake to the avatar.

An example of how alpha masking with a mask cutoff looks while editing.

We no longer used alpha layers to hide our bodies for Bakes on Mesh enabled bodies, as that is done by BOM magic 🙂 So I put on a random alpha layer that I had floating about in my inventory and… nothing happened, other than disappointment. But then I thought “wait a minute, what if I set the alpha mode to Alpha Masking instead of None” (one of the other options available in the alpha mode mode menu) To my absolute delight, my body disappeared exactly where the alpha layer said it should, with a nice sharp edge, and no lighting glitches!

I experimented some more and worked out that changing the “Mask Cutoff” value could also make the edge of the alpha’ed section move, provided the texture was blurry! I made a new alpha layer that was a big old blurry semi transparent gradient from waist to ankles and found that I could change the alpha’ed section from *most of the legs* right up to *none of the legs* with one single alpha layer, just by changing that mask cutoff value!

This was my big aha moment. I excitedly showed it to my scripter (my very patient husband Caine), archived everything we had been working on up to that point, and started a new project called “No Alpha Cuts”

How one alpha layer can change depending on the Mask Cutoff Value

As it turns out, Bakes on Mesh has almost completely eliminated the need for HUD controlled alpha zones. There is an important exception which I will go into in a moment.

Alpha Mask/Alpha Layers

With Bakes on Mesh, we are back to using our brilliant, reliable, low avatar rendering cost, easy to create, inexpensive avatar alpha layers. All you do is wear them and your mesh body will disappear wherever the texture says it should, the same way your SL avatar body would prior to mesh implementation, prior to alpha zone HUDs and all that extra complexity.

An important change that has come along with Bakes on Mesh is the ability to wear up to 60 system layers of whatever kind you want. We are no longer limited to 5 tattoo layers, 5 alpha layers etc. We can wear any number of any kind of layer that we like. This means that if you have an alpha layer for your jeans, one for your shoes, one for your gloves, one for your shirt, one for your scalp, one for your hands, you can wear all of them at once, and they will combine in rendering on your avatar into one big, beautiful alpha layer!

Editing an alpha layer

Creating Alpha Layers

Alpha layers are also very easy to create. Everyone in SL has the tools to create a basic alpha layer, just like everyone has the tools to create a basic shirt or a basic pair of pants. All you do is right click on any folder in your inventory, select “New Clothes”, mouse on down to “New Alpha Mask” and click it! Give it a name and voila, a new alpha layer is born! You can now wear it, edit it and add your own texture to it.

I have created a couple of tutorials on how to create a texture suitable to be used as an alpha layer in Photoshop and G.I.M.P.

I will add to these tutorials with a step by step in blog format in the future.

*important caveat with GIMP alpha creation – If your erase brush is drawing with colour instead of making the pixels transparent – select “Layer – Transparency — Add Alpha Channel and it should work properly.*

Asymmetry

Now onto that important exception that I mentioned earlier. Before mesh bodies were even a thing we could imagine, we had the SL avatar. The SL avatar has a UV template that is… less than ideal. It has a great face and head layout, good torso and legs, terrible arms, hands and feet. For some reason, known only to the original creators of the SL avatar, the arms and feet are 2 islands in one, laid upon each other so that whatever is on one is automatically baked into the other. This was something we at Slink wanted to address with the Slink Physique body system, pre Bakes on Mesh, so we wrote the missing asymmetry into our bodies and 3rd party applier scripts. With Slink Physique, you could create a tattoo applier that would send different textures to the left and right arms and/or feet, and they would display properly. You could also make your arms and feet invisible, left and right, independent of the other side.

With Bakes on Mesh, unfortunately we would have to take a step backwards by going back to that forced symmetry from the SL avatar, so we thought very long and hard about what to do to keep the asymmetry that our customers have enjoyed and came up with our Asymmetry Harness.

Join me in the next installment where I go into the last remaining bastion of HUD controlled alpha cuts for the Slink Physique and Redux body systems 🙂

♥ Siddean

 

Everything you need to know About Alpha Layers in Second Life – Part 1

This is a long post, grab yourself a cup of whatever you like to drink, and settle in for a read! 🙂

The storied history of hiding the avatar in Second Life

Many moons ago, back in the olden days, we used to trudge uphill in the snow baref… wait, no, wrong story!

Back in the day when we only had the default SL avatar body, we worked around the fact that we couldn’t hide the avatar body with a variety of methods. First, we would just build bigger than the avatar body, and adjusted sliders and shoe bases to accomodate. The first real method of hiding the actual body that I remember was the Invisiprim, which used a little script that rendered the prim invisible, and any part of the avatar body it was worn on, also invisible.

Sydney With Invisiprims

Slink Sydney Overknee Boots with invisiprims

Invisiprims

The invisiprim could be a series of primitive shapes, cubes, cylinders etc, or a custom shape made in a 3d program which used a little R,G,B (red, green, blue) texture we called “sculpty”, or Sculpted Texture, to form the shape in 3d space when applied to a prim inworld. You can still find many sculpties, and invisiprims, in older shoe designs for example. They appear like big invisible blobs around your object when you select the item in edit mode. Some time ago, invisiprims were rendered obsolete, and they no longer work.

The nature of invisiprims was to obscure anything behind them that had an alpha channel, which is a property of a texture that makes it transparent or semi transparent.

Alpha Layers

Linden Lab introduced the Alpha Layer around 2012, which freed creators and consumers up from invisiprims in a big, substantial way. Now we could just wear a layer, instead of making big blobby prims to hide our avatar feet for shoes, or even our entire avatars for new bodies, animal avatars, tech avatars etc!

Alpha layers entirely replaced invisiprims with a much simpler to create and use system that could hide parts or all of the default avatar body with ease and didn’t cause transparent textures behind the avatar to disappear. They were especially useful once we had the ability to wear more than one.

Alpha texture example

An example of an alpha texture in Second Life. The checkerboard part is transparent

Creators got busy making alpha layers for their mesh clothing. Alpha layers could be painted onto a template in a painter program like Photoshop, and made to fit exactly with the clothing, so that no part of the avatar clipped outside, and the body was visible only where it was meant to be. It was a great solution. Rarely would you find a mesh outfit without a complementary alpha layer.

A year or 2 after the implementation of alpha layers, Linden Lab gave us the ability to create and wear fully functional mesh items that animated along with our avatar skeletons, and responded along with our appearance sliders! Game changer right? Yes and no. With this update, came complete mesh replacements for the SL avatar body, since we could finally change shapes with the avatar appearance sliders, however, the ability to just wear an alpha layer and have your body disappear was gone, along with the ability to just wear a skin, tattoo, makeup, etc.

So we creators had to come up with a solution. That solution was HUD controlled, scripted alpha cuts.

Early Slink Alpha HUD

An early HUD for the Slink Physique Mesh body. It has undergone a number of changes since this version

HUD Controlled Alpha Cuts

HUD controlled alpha cuts gave us the ability to turn on and off parts of our new, pretty mesh bodies, but with some significant drawbacks:

  • Each alpha cut area must be designated in the 3d program by the creator of the body, and must by design, follow the geometry of the body.
  • To be at all functional, the body must be cut into many many zones or “faces”.
  • SL creators are hard limited by the platform to 8 “faces” per single mesh.
  • 8 is obviously not enough zones to properly cater to all the varieties of clothing available in SL, so we had to break the bodies up into many, many pieces, each with 8 individual zones.
  • At final count, the Slink bodies were in 27 pieces, with 8 faces each, multiplied by 4, since we also wanted to provide layer options for tattoos, underwear and clothing.
  • Each layer had to respond to the HUD the same way so when you turned off part of your arm, the corresponding part of your tattoo would also turn off, and not come on again until you enabled it again on your HUD
  • To make any sense to the person scripting the body, the faces must never change in order. Otherwise when you think you are turning off your arm, you may be turning off your leg! This can lead to hours of pointless bug hunting. Ask me how I know 🙂
  • 27 pieces, 8 faces each, multiplied by 4, needing to respond to the same HUD commands, quickly, without glitches if you turned on and off your layers separately is a mammoth, complicated and time consuming scripting task, not to mention managing the pieces to ensure no gaps, seams, texture mismatches or errors in face assignment in the 3d program.
  • We had to provide a solution to 3rd party creators so they could script their clothing to automatically turn off bits and pieces of your body when you wore it. More scripting!
  • The scripting of the alpha zones alone constituted more than half of the required scripting for the entire body.
  • Each mesh piece, face and script contributes to your overall avatar rendering cost, (another article) which is an important number for keeping SL manageable for everyone. Lower is better.

By the time all was said and done, the layers of mesh, body pieces, faces, textures and scripts added up to a substantial avatar rendering cost JUST for the body alone. And then you start adding clothing and hairstyles, shoes and jewellery and.. well you see where this is going.

Final Alpha Layout

The most recent Slink alpha HUD with so so many cuts!

AND even all of that still wasn’t enough. Every week I would receive requests for more alpha cuts. Cuts down the front and back of the legs. Cuts down the sides of the legs. More cuts for different shirt necklines. Cuts for open front jackets, low back dresses. Jeans with lacing up the sides, teeny weeny bikinis. I could seriously see a future where I did nothing else but manage alpha cuts for the rest of my SL life.

And then came …Bakes on Mesh…

 

 

Join me in the next article where I talk about Bakes on Mesh and how we now handle hiding our avatar bits!

♥ Siddean

 

Making an alpha texture? Yes you can!

Among all the Bakes on Mesh hype, we have realised that over the last few years one single important thing has been forgotten when SL’s talented creators have been making new mesh clothing – alpha layers. Alpha layers are now foundational to how we wear clothing in SL, as they were a mere 5 years ago, and for some, they always have been. Alpha layers allow us to arbitrarily hide parts of our Bakes on Mesh enabled bodies (Disclaimer – the body MUST be set-up correctly in order for alpha layers to work).

In Slink’s case, this is the recently updated Redux system. Anything Redux will automatically accept alpha layers, and provided they have a blur applied to them before exporting, you can use the cool alpha mask sliders to move the edges. Alpha layers are much simpler and more versatile to use than alpha cut zone HUD’s ever were. They are fast, they require no extra scripting in the body, and require nobody to setup an auto-alpha script before they sell their items. They are not prone to glitching and won’t accidentally turn off or on parts of your body when you don’t want them to! And – almost ANYONE can make one with a few clicks and a few $L. Of course, an alpha made specifically for the clothing by the creator is ideal, but not required when we can learn how to make them ourselves! 🙂

To this end, I have made 2 tutorials for making alpha textures for use in Second Life. The first is for Photoshop, which is my image editing program of choice and I know exactly what I am doing in there.

The second is for G.I.M.P. which stands for Gnu Image Manipulation Program and I have exactly 30 minutes experience in at the time of publishing this video! It is however very interesting and much improved from the last time I looked at it several years ago and I think I will try and learn it in a bit more depth. G.I.M.P has one big, big advantage over Photoshop. It is open source – which for most means absolutely free and always will be absolutely free. Definitely worth checking out if you want to get into creating! Download G.I.M.P. HERE.

I apologise for the audio quality – it’s not as good as I’d like. Clearly I need to hook up my proper mic for the next one 😀

♥ Sidd

Slink Redux Body complexity questions

Avatar complexity is a hot topic in SL circles at the moment, with Bakes on Mesh giving us the opportunity to drastically reduce our complexity by removing scripts, applier textures and onion layers from our mesh body bits! Here at Slink, the rendering cost of our bodies is an important issue, as the lower we can make it, the more our customers can do with their avatars without worrying about pushing their complexity way up simply by wearing our body bits. Higher complexity avatars make SL more challenging for everyone.

To that end, we work very hard to optimise, reduce and rethink when we have the opportunity to, and Bakes on Mesh gave us that chance. This is why we didn’t simply add a Bakes on Mesh flag to our existing body parts, and instead spent a very long time making sure this version was as streamlined and efficient as possible, without compromising on the actual look, functionality and usability of the system. It is also why we won’t be adding alpha cuts back into the Redux system and instead ask wearers to use alpha layers.

I would like to present the avatar complexity cost as calculated by the Second Life Official viewer for all of the Slink Redux body updates. I also put on one of our new heads for good measure!

BASIC SYSTEM AVATAR

System

1: The system body. I am wearing a couple of HUDs but no body attachments. Base complexity is 2000

SLINK REDUX ORIGINAL BODY

Orig

2: The Slink Redux ORIGINAL Physique body. This body alone adds 2608 complexity to the base 2000.

SLINK REDUX ORIGINAL BUNDLE

Orig Bundle

3: The Slink Redux ORIGINAL Physique BUNDLE. This bundle includes 5 sets of feet and hands, plus animations, and adds 4270 to the base 2000 complexity

SLINK REDUX HOURGLASS BODY

HG

4: The Slink Redux HOURGLASS Physique body. This body alone adds 2862 complexity to the base 2000.

SLINK REDUX HOURGLASS BUNDLE

HG Bundle

5: The Slink Redux HOURGLASS Physique BUNDLE. This bundle includes 5 sets of feet and hands, plus animations, and adds 4398 to the base 2000 complexity

SLINK REDUX HOURGLASS BODY PLUS HANDS

HG Body hands

6: The Slink Redux HOURGLASS body plus left and right dynamic hands attachments. This adds more mesh geometry, more faces and more scripts. This set adds 5732 to the base 2000 complexity

SLINK REDUX HOURGLASS BODY PLUS HANDS & FEET

hg body hands and feet

7: The Slink Redux HOURGLASS body plus left and right dynamic hands attachments and the deluxe feet attachment. This adds even more mesh geometry, more faces and yet more scripts. This set adds 7702 to the base 2000 complexity

SLINK REDUX HOURGLASS BODY PLUS HANDS, FEET AND HEAD

head HG hands feet

7: The Slink Redux HOURGLASS body plus left and right dynamic hands attachments and the deluxe feet attachment PLUS one of the new Slink Visage heads – Amelia. This full set adds 10351 to the base 2000 complexity

SLINK REDUX HOURGLASS BUNDLE PLUS HEAD

Head HG Bundle

8: The ideal Slink body and head setup. Slink Redux HOURGLASS bundle, Slink Redux Amelia head. This full setup adds 7047 to the base 2000 complexity.

Final thoughts

The maximum complexity from a complete Slink body system including separate body, hands and feet, body and head is just over 12k.

Adding more layers to Redux does not affect complexity, which is the whole point of Bakes on Mesh. The new layer texture is baked into the layers underneath it, and then sent to the mesh body part so that the SL client can see it as one single texture.  Slink Redux (without materials) will always be rendering 3 1024 textures as head, torso and legs, as opposed to potentially upwards of 20 textures if all 4 layers are on and displaying 1024 textures on the previous version – the Physique Classic. With Redux, you can wear up to 60 or more layers without increasing your complexity by even a single digit.

If you have questions about this please feel free to message me inworld @ Siddean Munro, and I will be happy to answer them!

 

The Slink Texture Studio – for Creators!

I have just released the Slink Texture Studio. This will help creators to test their applier textures before they are even uploaded! You can pick the Studio up by grabbing a personal HUD (FREE) from the Slink Mainstore, or free from the vendor you see below, or if you have previously been approved for a Skinmakers or Clothiers (includes tattoos and nails) applier kit, you can simply request a redelivery at the redelivery terminal and the Texture Studio is included within those bags! The studio includes 2 female and one male toolkit, and all the bits you need to test out your textures. It also assists you to create your Slink Applier HUD data notecards! Enjoy 🙂

Texture Studio for Creators

A video tutorial for using the Studio can be found here: https://youtu.be/PL_rE-WcG5Y  The video does contain Barbie doll nudity, so view at your own discretion.

New Videos available on my YouTube Channel!!

I have always wanted to make more content for YouTube, and I finally sat down and worked out a good workflow for recording and editing video. I have published 2 new videos in the last day for your enjoyment and hopefully education!

The first one is a tutorial detailing how to use Blender’s Data Transfer modifier to transfer bone weights from your Physique kit body to a new mesh garment.

The second one is a speed modelling video where I demonstrate my favourite technique to turn a 2d image into a 3d model

I hope these are useful. If you have questions about them please leave them in the comments of the video and I will answer if I can! 🙂

Slink Avatar Enhancement Hands and Feet – Update – September 2013

Slink AE cover Photo

Click for larger view!

I am pleased to announce that the Slink Avatar Enhancement full set of mens hands and feet and womens hands and feet update along with OmniHUD v5 is finally released!

Now available at the Slink Mainstore

Female Hands Large

Click for larger view!

Please note: the process for matching Slink Hands and Feet has changed. More information, appliers lists and tutorials can be found here.

The process for matching normal human skintones is very simple. Please read all instructions on the HUD and website carefully and contact Slink Support (Slinkhelp@gmail.com) for assistance if required!

F Hands Packs

Click for larger view!

Male Hands Large

Click for larger view!

M Hands Packs

Click for larger view!

F Flat Feet Vendor

Click for larger view!

F Mid Feet Vendor

Click for larger view!

  M Flat Feet Vendor

Click for larger view!

  

Please note this is a *complete* update, not a HUD only update.  Only the Mens and Womens rigged mesh feet and hands are eligible for the update. Old sculpty feet and static mesh feet are excluded.

Updates can be collected as follows:-

  • Male feet can be collected from the redelivery terminal (grey kiosk, blue screens) Click the terminal screens, find your item, select it and it will be re-sent to you.  The same name will be on the box, but the contents are updated.
  • Female Hands can be collected from the redelivery terminal as above.
  • Female feet bought on the SL Marketplace, and/or before June 2013 can be collected from the update boards next to the front door.

If you cannot find your feet in the list, please contact Slink Resident for redelivery.

Read below to see what’s different

Change Log 20-9-2013

Womens Hands

  • Adjusted shape to be more appealing and realistic
  • Adjusted UV maps of Nails to reduce stretching on longer shapes
  • Added an extra layer for tattoos
  • Re-wrote Listener script to allow for mesh tinting as well as texture change
  • Re-worked HUD to allow for easier matching using textures as an alternative to tinting
  • Repainted hand texture and created light-dark skintone options
  • added basic nail options back to the Nails HUD
  • Added a Utilities HUD to toggle nail length, visibility and tattoo visibility

Womens Feet

  • Adjusted shape of feet slightly for more visual appeal
  • Added tattoo layer
  • Re-wrote Listener script to allow for mesh tinting as well as texture change
  • Re-worked HUD to allow for easier matching using textures as an alternative to tinting
  • Repainted foot texture and created light-dark skintone options
  • added basic nail options back to the Nails HUD
  • Added a Utilities HUD to toggle nail visibility, tattoo visibility and stocking visibility
  • Added a Nail Off option for addon nail compatibility.

Mens Feet

  • Adjusted shape of feet slightly for more visual appeal
  • Added tattoo layer
  • Added script ability for mens feet to use appliers for nails, socks and tattoos
  • Re-wrote Listener script to allow for mesh tinting as well as texture change
  • Re-worked HUD to allow for easier matching using textures as an alternative to tinting
  • Repainted foot texture and created light-dark skintone options
  • added basic nail options back to the Nails HUD
  • Added a Utilities HUD to toggle nail visibility, tattoo visibility and stocking visibility
  • Added a Nail Off option for addon nail compatibility.

NEW!!

Mens Hands have all the same abilities and improvements as women’s hands but come with their own shapes and poses! They are compatible with all Slink Avatar Enhancement tattoos, skin appliers and nail appliers.

Is this your destiny?

My latest design, the sexy and saucy Destiny heels are now available at the Slink Mainstore.

These shoes come in 4 options – Solid straps and soles, transparent straps and soles, and you can turn on the transparency of the straps and soles separately, making them perfect dancer’s heels!

 

Due to the transparency of the straps and soles, these shoes are incompatible with invisiprims.

There are 8 colours available in this style and as usual, the demo is free and fully functional!

I created a video to help with tinting and fitting this (and similar) style – you can find it here

 

I made a video!! How to setup a basic windlight setting

This was a test to see if I could make a video.  Now that I know I can, I will make some tutorials on how to tint my feet!  Oh yay! 😀

And yea… I know for next time I need to shoot it in a higher quality 🙂

My Windlight settings

I thought I would share the settings I use for Windlight, especially for taking photographs.  These settings can be found under the advanced sky button in the Environment Editor.

Note: that this is in the regular windlight viewer, not the new shiny dazzle viewer (or whatever it’s called, the Release Candidate) that looks like windows vista.  I haven’t been able to get that one running for more than 3 minutes without a crash.  :/

windlight-settings.png