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Thursday, 13 April 2017

How To Make an Object Follow a Path In Synfig

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Synfig Studio is open source software that is a great tool for beginners looking to make their first 2D animation, as well as more experienced animators. This tutorial will show how to make an object follow a path in Synfig and then how to animate it. Although similar tutorials are already available this one takes the time to explain each step clearly. Also, most other tutorials show the object following a looped path, whereas here we use one that is left open. The two processes are however very similar.

To follow this tutorial you will need a basic knowledge of Synfig, and the animation process. Click all images to view full size.

Draw The Path


1/  From the toolbox to the upper left of the Synfig screen select the Spline tool. For those familiar with many graphics programs the spline tool is very similar to the paths tool, and serves a similar purpose.


2/ With the spline tool roughly draw out the path. To change the direction of the path, click the left mouse button and an anchor point will be added. When you are finished, click on the Transform Tool from the top right of the Toolbox to stop the line following your cursor from the last anchor point.


3/  With the Transform tool left click on one of the anchor points and two handles will appear. Grab one one of the handles and drag it to change that section of the path into a curve. Transform all the anchor points to a smooth curve in the same way.

From the image above you will see the anchor points are orange, and the handles are yellow. If you need to you can reposition an anchor by grabbing it and dragging it to the new position.

Import An Object



4/ Its now time to import the object that will follow the path. Instead of importing an object you can create one in Synfig. Similar tutorials use an arrow to follow the path. If you want to do this draw the outline of an arrow with the spline tool, them fill it with colour. As I wanted an imported object to follow a path for a recent project, I decided I might as well import one here for this tutorial.


In the top left corner of the Synfig screen hit File > Import then navigate to the object on your hard drive. Select the object then click the Import button in the pop up window. The object will now be added to the canvas area, along with its handles. Do not move the object from its present position for now.

Add A Rotation Layer


5/ We now need to add a rotation layer for the object. The lower right of the Synfig screen shows the layers that make up the present animation. Right click on the imported object layer,then select New Layer > Transform > Rotate.  A Rotation layer will be added and handles for the layer will be visible in the canvas area.

Group the Object and Rotation Layer



6/ We want the rotation layer to only influence the imported object, so we'll group them. Select the object layer then hold down Ctrl on your keyboard and select the rotation layer. Click the right mouse button, and from the menu select Group Layer.


The Rotation and Object layers are now contained in a group folder, and if you click the arrow to the left of the group the contents will be shown.

Link Object And Rotation Layers To The Path


7/ Before you begin this part, move the object very slightly so it won't obscure the handles of the rotation layer later.

With the contents of the group folder visible, select the object layer, then then click on the objects' green anchor in the canvas area.


Hold down the Ctrl key and select the rotation layer. Now in the canvas area select the rotations' blue handle. The rotation layers' handles are simpler than the objects handles as it consists only of a green and blue anchor.



With the Ctrl key still held down select the Path layer. Release the Ctrl key and right click on the dotted line of the path, away from the handles. From the drop down menu that will appear select Link to Spline.

All the items are now linked, and the object should move to a position on the line. To further position the object drag the Rotation layers' handles to a position on the path, then drag the object to the same position. Use each items' green handle for this. To rotate the object use the objects' blue handle, rather than the rotation layers' blue handle. (This can be slightly confusing for those new to this process).

Animating The Object Along The Path


8/ Postition the rotation layer handles at the start point of the path, then postion the object to the same place.


Switch to animation mode by clicking the green figure icon below the lower right of the canvas area, so it turns red. The canvas area should now also be framed with a red box.


In the time line area drag the orange marker to the place you want to create the next keyframe. Move the rotation layer handles, and the object to the next part of the path, and the keyframes should be added to the time line. I find it best to add keyframes at the peaks of all the curves on the path, as well as the lower parts of the curves. Continue to this process until you reach the end of the path.

Don't forget you can control the rotation of the object with the blue handle. The rotation will be included as part of a keyframe. If you don't adjust the objects' rotation it will probably flip around a lot in the final animation (see example below).

To check your animation, drag the time line marker to the beginning of the timeline and hit play. You can also use the preview function. You may find the object flies away from the path during parts of the play back. Remove the keyframes where this happens and create new ones until you get a smooth flow along the path.

The timing of the object along the path can be adjusted by repositioning the keyframes on the timeline. Just drag them to the new position. If you reposition keyframes, make sure the objects' keyframes and rotation layers' keyframes occupy the same times along the timeline. For example, if the rotation layer has a keyframe at 1 second, the object should also have a keyframe at 1 second.

Once you are done creating the animation, hit File > Render to export it from Synfig and save it as a video file. This may take a while.

Your finished animation should look something like (hopefully better than) the example below.


If you would like to see what an object following a path looks like in practise, here's a snippet from a project I've been working on.


I hope this tutorial has been useful to you, and if so please 'like 'us and share, and we look forward to you coming back for more.
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Sunday, 12 March 2017

Video Adverts For Your Second Life Content

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We at SL-Inspiration like to pride ourselves on our imaginative and innovative approach to design, marketing and blogging, and in that spirit we are offering a unique opportunity to Second Life residents who want to promote their in-world interests and businesses. A new SL-Inspiration service has just been launched in which we will create a video advert for you which can be placed in the sidebar of your blog.

Video adverts can be a great way to engage visitors to your website or blog, and can instantly inform them about you, your service or business, or a new line of items in your store. In fact a video ad placed in your sidebar can serve any purpose you can think of.

When we create a video advert for you we  offer a number of options, such as auto play, looping and an explainer box under the video, emphasising the video content.

Once the video is completed we will send you the code to add to your blog. You will also be able to share it with any other blog owners that offer advertising space.

We will also provide the video in a larger format so you can add it to Facebook, Google+, and Twitter etc.

If you would like to know more about letting SL-Inspiration create an advertising video for you , you can contact us here, and we will be in touch as soon as possible. Come to us first for your video adverts before our ideas are imitated.

A Note To Blog Owners 

If you are interested in monetising your blog by placing a video advert on your website, then get in touch and we'll do our best to match you with suitable clients.
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Monday, 13 February 2017

Second Life Time And Grid Status Widget

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Please note: Since April 2017 this widget does not work as well as it should. The problem seems to be due to Linden Labs updating their grid status page from http to https. When the widget is updated this notice will be removed from this page.

In the meantime, if you scroll down this page you'll see a Netvibes widget that shows the Second Life grid status. If you want to add it to your blog, copy the following code and paste it to the appropriate place on your website.



 If you run a Second Life themed blog it seems reasonable to add a few things that visitors will find useful and to enhance the SL identity of your content. One such element you can now add to the sidebar is our Second Life time and grid status widget. Visitors will instantly be able to see the inworld time as well as any maintenance work etc Linden Labs may be carrying out, giving them another reason to keep returning to your blog.

Also, if visitors click on the status headline the latest grid report will open in a new window, which means they won't be taken away from your content. If you scroll down this page a little you can see how the widget appears.

How To Add The Grid Status Widget

1/ Adding the widget to Blogger is very easy, (if you have a Wordpress blog, simply follow the process for adding an iframe to the homepage). First select all of the code below by dragging your mouse over it, right clicking and selecting Copy.


 2/ Now open your blog dashboard and select the Layout option to the right of the page.


3/ The layout page will now open. In the Sidebar section click on Add A Gadget, and a window similar to below will appear. Select the HTML/Javascript option.


4/ A new window will open. Paste the code from above into the space provided and give the widget a title also in the space provided. Now hit Save.


Your new widget will now appear in your sidebar for you and your visitors to enjoy. The code includes a small credit which must be kept in place, but that is the only requirement for using this widget. We hope it helps to give your blog a little extra Second Life feel and helps to make it stand out.
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Thursday, 22 December 2016

How To Create A Falling Snow Effect With Gimp

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At this time of year there are a lot of winter themed sims in Second Life, many with their own falling snow effects. However, there are still plenty with just snow covered ground. If you're a keen Second Life photographer and want to add your own falling snow to the scenes you capture, then follow this quick and simple Gimp tutorial to find out how.


1/ Start up Gimp and open the image you want to use. The image used here is 1024 X 790px and this influenced some of the numbers used in some of the settings, so bear this in mind and be prepared to be flexible when applying this effect.


2/ Create a transparent layer on top of the image layer and make sure its the active layer. Select the Rectangle Select Tool highlighted in the image above. Hold down the left mouse button and drag out a square in the transparent layer.


 3/ Towards the bottom of the Toolbox there is an option to size the square you just created, highlighted in the image above. Resize the square to 256 X 256px.


 4/ Now using the Bucket fill Tool fill the square with black.


 5/ Now select Filters > Noise > HSV Noise, and a window similar to the above will appear. Use the sliders to get the settings something like the above, then hit OK.


6/ From the Select menu click None, then in the Layers menu click Autocrop Layer. Again under the Layers menu select Scale Layer and a window similar to the above should open. Scale the black square up to the size of the image layer. Here I just used 1024px for both the width and height which works fine. After entering the scale of the layer hit Scale. You will probably now need to use the Move Tool from the Toolbox to align the scaled layer with the image layer.



7/ Now we want to give the snow a sense of falling, so select Filters > Blur > Motion Blur and choose settings similar to the above, although you may need to change them to suit your own image. When you're done hit OK.


8/ From the top of the  Layers Panel select Addition from the Mode drop down menu, which will clear the black from the snow layer, and your snow effect should look something like the above.

9/ We now want to give the falling snow some depth, so create another transparent layer and use the Rectangle Select Tool again to create another square. This time size it to 128 X 128px.  Now repeat steps 3 and 4 using the new layer.


10/ Select Filters > Noise > HSV Noise again, and add settings similar to those in the above image, although adapt them to suit your own image.

11/ Hit Select > None, then Layers > Autocrop Layer and then scale the new snow layer to the size of the image layer. Now add some motion blur to the layer, tweaking the settings so they're not exactly the same as the original ones used earlier.

12/ Align the new layer with the image layer, then select Addition again from the Mode drop down menu at the top of the Layers Panel.


12/ So that all of the snow isn't falling in exactly the same way you can rotate the second snow layer a little. From the Toolbox panel, select the Rotate Tool and a window similar to the above will open. This shows the settings used for the image here, but you may want to tweak them to suit your own image. When you're ready hit Rotate and you're done.


You've now completed this quick and easy way of adding a snow effect to your Second Life image, and no doubt you have quickly realised its easy to adapt the settings to get the effect you want for a particular image. Have fun with this and enjoy creating your wintery scenes.

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Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Christmas Jigaw Puzzle

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Its only a few days until Christmas so to help you get into the mood, here is a festive themed jigsaw puzzle for you to enjoy. The image was taken at BuenaVista which is presently festooned with a wintery festive look and offers a number of photo opportunities for the keen eyed Second Life photographer.

The jigsaw puzzle can either be played on this page, or it can be downloaded to keep and solve offline. If you would like your own copy, you can download the puzzle here. The downloadable version is stored on Google Drive, which checks for nasty content so you can be sure its safe.

 If you prefer to solve the jigsaw puzzle here, just drag each piece in place and connecting pieces will snap together. To the bottom left of the puzzle there's an opton for a background ghost image, and another to view the image in a small window. Towards the bottom right there is an option to play full screen.

Enjoy solving your jigsaw puzzle. We wish you all a Merry Christmas!


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Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Free Desktop Wallpaper Calendar

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The new year is almost here and we all like to have calendars to mark special days and events, so here at SL-Inspiration we have an early Christmas gift for you, a free wallpaper calendar to download and keep. The calendar has lots of features, with images from Second Life to brighten up your PC. You can even create your own calendar to print, as well as add important days and events. Below explains some of what your calendar can do, so read on, take in some of the calendar pics then download your free calendar here.  The file is stored on Google Drive so you can be sure it is free of anything nasty!

Installing The Calendar


To install the calendar first follow the download link then unzip the file. If you don't have any unzip software then you can get the open scource 7zip  here. Once the folder is unzipped, simply double click the installer and you're done.

Using Your Calendar


Once the calendar is installed you'll see at the bottom right of the screen a number of buttons. From left to right they are:
  • Copyright information
  • Print
  • Previous image
  • Next image
  • Digital Photo Recovery
  • Toggle desktop icons
  • Notes
  • Toggle Calendar
  • List images
  • Settings
Most of these buttons are self explanatory but here is a run through of some of the most useful features under Settings.

Design Options


This allows you to select how the calendar will appear on your desktop. There are many options to choose from and below are just two examples. To the left of the Design Options window you can edit the font of the calendar and transparency levels.


A compact calendar that appears to the top right of the screen.


This calendar option runs down the right of the screen. If you don't want the calendar to be constantly visible then remember, you can toggle its visibility.

Images Options


The image options allow you to select which images are shown and the size of the thumbnail for the list images function.

Buttons Options


The buttons options lets you select which buttons appear on the screen.

The Journal Feature


As you would expect with any calendar there is a journal feature, which enables you to mark special dates and appointments. To use the journal click on the relevant date in the calendar and the journal window will appear. The above image shows that you can copy and paste events, create new ones, select the font and colour, and add icons to an entry. Once you have finished adding an entry simply click the close button.

 Printing a Calendar


As well as providing a desktop calendar there is also an option to print your own using your favourite image. Simply use the arrows to find the image you want to use then hit the print button. A window similar to the image above will appear where you can select the format for your calandar. There are plenty to choose from. When you are ready hit the Print button to the top right of the window.

Hiding The Calendar


If you find you don't want the images on your screen all of the time, it is easy to revert to your previous screen appearance. Click the Windows icon to the bottom left of your screen then select Settings.


Now click the Personalization option and a window similar to below will appear.


Click on the background you want for your screen. When you are ready you can follow the same procedure for when you want your calendar to appear again.

If you want to uninstall your calendar at any time go to Control Panel, then Uninstall or Change Program, and select ePix Calendar.

We hope you enjoy using this calendar and if so why not have a go at creating your own, for yourself and to share by clicking the 'Powered by ArtPlus' icon. Merry Christmas to all and a happy New Year!
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Saturday, 10 December 2016

Five Calendar Alternatives To Google

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If you have events in Second Life and have an associated blog then a calendar is an essential way of letting residents know about them. Although Google calendars function well enough, they don't really engage blog visitors or in fact motivate them to even take a look at what upcoming events you may have.

There are however a number of visually engaging calendars out there that can be embedded into your blog and offer your readers a much more stimulating page, which in turn may well encourage them to attend your events. For those of you looking to enhance your calendar page, here are five of the best choices for online calendars.

Commingly


As with a number of online calendars Comingly offers free and premium versions, although the free version is more than suitable for Second Life residents. This option includes two templates ( grid and upcoming styles), as well as a photo page where those that attend your events can add their own pics and comments. Your events can also be exported to other people's personal calendars, and if you have a Google calendar, then this can be imported to Commingly.

Tockify

Tockify

Tockify is another feature rich online calendar, although most are reserved only for premium users. However, the free version is still visually appealling and an improvement on the old Google calendar. The free option allows an agenda style with images, although you are restricted to the default theme. There is  also a limit of 2000 views per month, although this should be enough for most Second Life blog calendars.

Localendar


Localendar is one of the most flexible blog calendar options. Take a look at their calendar style examples that include everything from a pinboard style, a standard schedule, to a dynamic style that includes multiple calendars and you'll see why Localendar is so good. This is all possible for free - if you don't mind your calendar including display ads.

Web Calendar

Web Calendar

Web Calendar is more basic than the above calendars although there are different themes that can be applied. Its main functions are essentially allowing users an easy way to manage schedules and to import from other calendars. Other than also being free, there doesn't seem to be much more to reccomend it.

Time.ly


Timely offers a number of paid options, ranging from $9.00 - $99.00 per month, which is probably a bit rich for most Second Life bloggers. However, there is a free plugin for Wordpress users, even if it doesn't appear to offer any more features than a Google calendar, although it may be worth taking a look at to see if it is at least more visually engaging.

Create Your Own Calendar


If none of the above options are entirely suitable for what you have in mind then creating your own calendar may be an option. This would work well if  your events do not change too much from week to week, and has the added bonus that you can style the calendar the way you want it.

This would of course be a very hands on approach and would require a little html knowledge, such as how to create tables, but free apps such as Kompozer make this much easier than you might think. Take a look at the calendar page here to view the agenda style calendar I created. Click on the 'more information ' and 'visit location' buttons and see if this inspires you to make your own calendar.

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