Merry Christmas Jigsaw 2019

Each year we like to say thank you to all of our blog and Facebook followers by creating a free Christmas themed jigsaw puzzle. The image for this year's puzzle was taken at Pemberly, a very picturesque sim brimming with a wintery and festive atmosphere. The description on Second life Destinations is quite detailed:
Step into a magical wonderland this holiday season, and feel the cold air dance across your face. Warm yourself with a mug of hot cocoa, as the frosted air pinks your cheeks and nose. Step away from the ordinary and feel yourself transform in the festive environment. Walk the winter paths, as you listen to the sounds of the frozen ground crackle under your boots, and lose yourself in the lights. Take a ride on the train, to relax, and to let the environment come to you. Take the ski lift up to the lodge, and warm up next to the crackling fire. Play a game with your loved ones as snow covers the ground outside. Whatever you find yourself doing at 'The Forest' this holiday season, you will surely feel the magic at every turn
Once you've finished exploring Pemberly you can  download the jigsaw puzzle here and play whenever you like. The puzzle is stored on Google Drive so you can be sure the download is clean.  Alternatively the puzzle can be played below. To view fullscreen, click the icon at the bottom right of the puzzle.

Whether you decide to play the puzzle here, or download and keep it, we hope it brings you lots of fun. If so, there are lots more of our puzzles here.

To have your location or venue highlighted as a SL-Inspiration jigsaw puzzle, and shared with the Second Life community, send a notecard with details and a landmark to Lusus Saule.

Finally, we'd like to wish all of our followers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and we thank you for all of your support!
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Creating Animated Desktop Wallpapers with Second Life Photographs

In a recent post we covered using Second Life photos as desktop wallpapers, and following on from that, we're now going to discuss how to create animated desktop wallpapers with a Second Life photo. There are a number of ways this can be done, but in this tutorial we'll be using Wallpaper Engine which can be found on Steam.

  As with all things there are pros and cons with using Wallpaper Engine. The pros include:
  • The price. Its costs just £3.00 (approximately $4.00). 
  •  It also takes up vey little CPU usage. Infact its impact on computer performance is negligible. Above is my PC's performance with Wallpaer Engine running. CPU usage jumped 2% when taking the screenshot. 
  • Wallpapers can be shared.
The cons of Wallpaper engine include:
  • Steam has to be opened to access Wallpaper Engine. Once its open however Steam can be shut down.
  • To share wallpapers users have to jump through a few hoops, which can be off putting. Once a wallpaper has been added, anyone  wanting to use it has to add the creator as a friend, although this only appears to be the case with new users.

The above video is a recording of the wallpaper we're focusing on in this tutorial, and a few more can be found at Lusus Studio. If you'd like to grab any of the wallpapers you see there, you'll need to install steam, buy Wallpaper Engine, then find my profile and add me as a friend, (as I say, lots of hoops to jump through). If you have any trouble with this, feel free to contact me in Second Life (Lusus Saule).

Using A Second Life photo

There are a number of features in Wallpaper Engine that can simply be added directy to a Second Life photo (such as water ripples etc). However in the wallpaper here the animation is the rotating sails on the windmill, so we need to think ahead a little.

For this wallpaper we need two images. The above photo was taken in the usual way.

Before taking the second photo the windmill sails were temporarily derezzed, making sure the camera position did not change.

The first image was then added to Gimp, an alpha channel added, then using the paths tool the sails were isolated from the rest of the image. The image was then cropped to content and exported, making sure the gamma option was selected so the background remained transparent.

An important point to keep in mind before removing the background from the sails is, if one of these images is edited in a particular way, such as resized, or colour enhanced etc, the same should be done to the other, to ensure they match exactly.

Creating A Wallpaper In Wallpaper Engine

Now we have the image of the windmill without its sails, and the sails as a separate image, we can use them to create the wallpaper. Assuming you have installed Steam as well as Wallpaper Engine we are ready to go.

1/ With Wallpaper Engine running, click on the hidden icons arrow to the right of the taskbar. Right click on the Wallpaper Engine icon and from the drop down list select Create Wallpaper.

2/ Wallpaper Engine will open and the above window will appear. Cick on Use a Template.

3/ This window will now appear. Name the wallpaper, select 2D Scene as well as the resolution. Hit OK when you're ready.

4/ A blank window as above will appear. To add the image of the windmill without the sails hit Add Asset.

5/ From the above list select Image Layer, highlighted in red. Hit OK when ready.

6/ After navigating to where the image is located on your PC and selecting it, the window above will appear. Hit OK.

7/ The image has now been loaded into Wallpaper Engine.

8/ Follow the same steps to add the image of the sails to Wallpaper Engine. They will appear in the centre of the image window.

9/ To position the sails, drag the yellow square. hold down Ctrl and scroll with the middle mouse button to zoom in. Hold down the left mouse button to drag the image so you can see the area you're focusing on.

Animating The Sails

1/ To add an effect to the sails image, make sure its the selected layer, and to the bottom right of the window, under Effects, hit Add.

2/ From the Add Effect list select Spin then hit OK.

3/ The sails should now be rotating, although they may not appear correctly.

To fix this, under the Mode drop down list select Vertex.

4/ To the bottom right there is an option to edit the speed of the sails' rotation. Adding a minus sign changes the direction of the rotation.

Publishing To Wallpaper Engine

 1/ The wallpaper is now complete and is ready to be published to Wallpaper Engine. To do this, under the Steam menu select Prepare Wallpaper for Publishing.

2/ This window will appear and is pretty much self explanatary. Simply fill in the information about the wallpaper including its age rating. A snapshot of the wallpaper will be needed but that is a straightforward process of hitting the Take snapshot button and drawing a square over part of the wallpaper image.

3/ When you're ready hit the Publish button and you're done. Your wallpaper is ready to use and to share with friends.

As this tutorial shows, creating animated wallpapers from a Second Life photo is quite an easy process and can add another dimension to the creativity of Second Life photographers. There are some very imaginative Second life images out there, and it would be amazing to see some of them as animated wallpapers.
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Using Second Life photos As Desktop Wallpaper

Second Life offers infinite opportunities to create stunning images, and there are plenty of expert photographers who make full use of this. However, once those photos have been snapped and tweaked in various graphics software, uploaded to Facebook, Pixel VR and Flickr, what then?

One possibility is to use these Second Life photographs as desktop wallpaper, perhaps on your own computer, or to share with others. One clear advantage of sharing is firstly its a nice thing to do, and secondly it helps to promote your creativity as a photographer as well as other skills you may have.

When sharing images as wallpapers there may be some concern about people misrepresenting  your Second Life photos as their own, but this is easily dealt with by adding a signature or watermark to the image, and a text document outlining a license agreement can be included with the image download. Creators could also include in the text document information about what they do. (A PDF document can include live links to a Marketplace store or website as well as an SLurl to an in-world location).

Desktop Wallpaper Software

Changing the desktop wallpaper on a PC is very straightforward, but there's no reason to stick with just one image. There are a number of software options that will automatically change the wallpaper at prescribed times, so any number of Second Life photos can be used in rotation on the desktop.

Possibly the best known wallpaper software is Bionixwallpaper, and whilst it has a lot of bells and whistles, there are a number of downsides to it. The most prominant of these is that, when it starts for the first time, it will grab every image on the PC and use them as wallpaper before you have time to stop it and create a designated folder. To find out a little more about Bionix for yourself, there's a short intro page.

A more lightweight option is Any Wallpaper. Whilst its free to download and use there is a donation button for those that feel the developers deserve to be rewarded for their work. When Any Wallpaper runs, a window (top image) will open where a folder containing wallpaper images can be selected. Clicking the Options button will open the window above where you can change the duration of each wallpaper, and the order they'll appear in.

Where To Share Second Life Wallpapers

Second Life wallpapers can be shared anywhere online where photos are usually uploaded. This includes Flickr, Pixelvr and Deviantart among others. There are also numerous Facebook groups devoted to Second Life photography, so perhaps these could also be used to share wallpapers. (If enough interest was expressed a group dedicated to Second Life wallpapers could be created on both Facebook and Flickr).

In the spirit of sharing I've created a zipped folder to download containing the ten Second Life photos on this page.  They all have a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and are Jpegs. Feel free to use these images, but do not edit them or pass them off as your own, although resizing them to fit your screen resolution is fine.

The folder is stored on Google Drive, so you can be sure it doesn't contain anything nasty. Click here to download the folder, and  enjoy using any or all of the images as desktop wallpaper.

Clockwork Bird

Elvion Wish Valley

Missing Melody

Pine Lake

Rachel's House

Rosa Scotia

Talala's Diner

Uri Jefferson's Freakshow

Welcome To My Personal Hell 1

Welcome To My Personal Hell 2
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Happy Halloween

The below image is a Halloween 360 degree panorama created in Second Life and hosted on Momento360. We created it to say Happy Halloween to all our loyal friends and followers,and for everyone to enjoy and share. Use your mouse to rotate and turn the image, and for an even better look, view fullscreen.

If you like this image then why not follow us on Facebook and bookmark this blog. We always appreciate those follows, YouTube subsciptions and bookmarks. Happy Halloween!

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Halloween Jigsaw Puzzle

This years' Halloween jigsaw puzzle is based on the brilliant Uri jefferesons freakshow. The detail of this creation is superb and has the feel of the real thing, especially with the imaginative avatars wandering around and doing their freaky things. It also offers free roleplay for those who want to dive in and be part of the show. The landmark profile says all you need to know:
 For Halloween, journey back in time to the days of old Freakshows, showcasing the deformed, the macabre, the freaks of nature in this 5th year of this truly amazing show.
Follow the link above to be visit this world, and in the meantime either download the free jigsaw puzzle to keep and play offline, or solve on this page. You can view a fullscreen version by clicking the bottom right corner of the puzzle. Enjoy your Halloween jigsaw puzzle and have fun exploring Uri Jeffersons Freakshow.

Browse our collection of jigsaw puzzles here, and find us on Facebook here.

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Free Halloween Poster Templates Download

If you're planning a Halloween event and need a poster to promote it, we have three designs you can download, edit and use how you see fit. Each poster comes as a PSD or Gimp file to be used in the appropriate software. There is also an SVG file containing the elements that make up the posters so they can be edited and added to your own designs.

Below are the three posters which can be viewed full size by clicking on them. They have been designed not to lose any quality by fitting a Facebook post without being resized.

Also included is a set of Halloween themed fonts. Although they weren't created by us, they are free and come with the designers license agreement.

The zipped files can be downloaded here. The files are stored on Google Drive so you can be sure they don't contain anything nasty. 

A Note About The PSD Files

These posters were created using Affinity Designer and exported as PSD files. However, as we don't use Photoshop we can't view them. For this reason there may be small issues, namely that the text layers will appear as an image layer. This can easily be replaced using the font files (or already installed fonts) included with the download. The Gimp files should be fine.

A Note About Installing Fonts

Some time back Windows updated what folder newly added fonts are installed to, which meant only someone with administrator rights on the PC could access them. To allow anyone using the PC to use the fonts, right click on the font file you're installing, then from the drop down list select install for all users.

If you don't see some fonts available when using Photoshop or Gimp this will probably be the reason why, so you may need to re-install them following the above steps.

We hope you'll make good use of these posters to promote your event, and if you like them, make sure you follow our Facbook page, bookmark this blog and subscribe to our YouTube channel. We appreciate all the support we recieve.

Happy Halloween to all of our followers!
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How To Create A Facebook 3D Image Using A Second Life Photograph

One of Facebook's recent innovations is allowing users to create 3D images generated from a single photo. Whilst this is usually done using a standard photograph, it also works with images captured from Second Life. Below is an example of an SL image displayed as 3D, and if you move your mouse over it, you'll see how the effect works.

The image used here shows a sculpture called 'Invisible' by the renown Second Life artist Mistero Hifeng. It can be seen at the Lundy Art Gallery and Museum. Click the link to visit.

What Is A Depth Map?

A depth map is an image that maps out areas of a corresponding photograph in light and dark tones. Facebook uses these depth maps to calculate what parts of an image are in the foreground and which are receding. The lighter a tone the nearer to the foreground it is, and of course the darker the tone the more it recedes. This information is used to produce a parallax effect, which in turn creates a sense of 3D.

The above image is an example of a depth map and corresponds to the image below. When both are uploaded to Facebook together, they generate the 3D image.

For a standard photograph, its depth map would need to be created in software such as Gimp or Photoshop, which can be a slow and involved process.

However, both Firestorm and the official viewer (and maybe others) have a built in function to create depth maps, which means turning Second Life pics into 3D images is greatly simplified.

Tips On Creating A Good starting Image 

When taking snapshots in Second Life to turn into good 3D images it helps if a few things are kept in mind. For more detailed information on this visit LAB3D on Facebook which is a group for people who create 3D images. The tips below however will help to get you started quickly.

Firstly, large images work better than smaller ones. The recommended dimensions are 3024 x 4032px (portrait) or 4032px x 3024 (landscape). Having said that, smaller image sizes can sometimes work well, (the image used in the example here, after being cropped is smaller than the recommended dimensions), so a little experimentation might be needed.

Images that have a clear point of focus work much better than ones that have a busy and cluttered subject matter.

As explained above, the illusion of 3D is created when Facebook uses the darker and lighter areas of a depth map to create a parallax effect. Although you may intuitively aim for a large parallax effect by creating big contrasts in depth map tones, the best images use subtle tone differences.

For this reason its best to create a depth map with not too much dark and light contrast. Also, tones that are too light or too dark should be avoided. A range between the hex values of #202020  for dark tones, and  #707070 for light areas is ideal. 

Creating A 3D Photograph Using A Second Life Image

1/ Take the snapshot in the usual way in Second Life, but keep the Snapshot window open afterwards, and don't move your camera. 

In the Capture drop down menu select Depth, highlighted in red above. From the Filter drop down menu select Negative highlighted in blue above.

If a preview of the depth map doesn't show, hit Refresh

When saving the depth map image select Save As to make sure it saves correctly. Its also wise to view it once saved, because if it hasn't saved correctly it will just save as a standard image.

If there is movement in your subject matter, such as avatars walking or dancing, before you take any snapshot check the Freeze frame option, highlighted in green above, to ensure you use the same static image for the photogragh and depth map.

2/ Load both the image and depth map into Gimp as layers.

3/ Using the Rectangle Select tool, highlighted in red above, draw a rectangle around the area of the image to be used.  

4/ Now select Image > Crop to selection

5/ Give the depth map image (not the photograph) a slight blur by selecting Filter > Blur > Gaussian blur

6/ Export each layer, giving them either a png or jpg extension. 

How the depth map image is named when its exported is important. It should follow the example below:

<image name>_depth.png

Therefore, if you have an image named Portrait the two files will be named: 

Portait.png = the photo file
Portrait_depth.png = the depth map file.

Naming the files this way lets Facebook know the images will be used to create a 3D effect.

Uploading The Images To Facebook

1/ Open Facebook and go to your timeline. At the top of the page click on Photo/Video so you see the above.

2/ Open the folder where your two images are located. Hold down Ctrl, click on the first image then the second so both are selected. Now drag them to the space above which says 'Whats on Your Mind?' 

Its important you drag both the image files together to let Facebook know to use them to create a 3D image.

4/ The images will now start uploading.

5/ You'll now see a window similar to the above whilst Facebook creates the 3D image.

6/ Once the 3D image has been created click on the Post tab at the bottom of the image window.

Your image should now look 3D and be ready to share with the world. 

Using a Second Life viewer to create the depth map saves a lot of time and effort, although it does have its limitations. For example, its not easy to limit the depth map's light and dark tones, which as noted above would produce a better parallax effect. The depth map can however still be edited in software such as Gimp or Photoshop to add or change tones, if you have the patience to do so. 

On a final note, if you want to create 3D images with RL photos, take a look at OmniVirt. This website allows you to upload an image, from which a depth map can be generated. The depth map will probably not be perfect since this function is still in beta and will need further editing, but this is a much better way of creating the depth map than starting from scratch.
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