Panoramic screen savers created in Second Life.
Lusus

Remove The Background From An Image Using G'MIC in Gimp


In this blog we've previously covered a number of methods to remove the background from an image. The difference with this method is, whilst it works very well with images with a plain background, it can also be used to remove a complicated background scene, leaving just the foreground subject - which is what we'll be doing here.

For reference here's the other background removal methods already described in this blog, all of which are good to know:
All of the above methods have their pros and cons, and this is also true when using G'MIC. For instance, once a complex background has been removed, the image may need more editing and tidying up. Also, if the subject has messy detailed hair some of this detail will almost certainly be lost in the editing process.

If you prefer, there's a video version of this tutorial on our YouTube channel.

The G'MIC Plugin

G'MIC is an invaluable plugin for Gimp and has an incredible number of options for manipulating images. To install the plugin go to the G'MIC download page and click on the download link for Gimp. Once downloaded click on the executable and the rest of the installation will take care of itself. The next time Gimp is opened G'MIC will be installed under the Filters menu.

Remove The Background From An Image Using G'MIC

To remove the background from an image using G'MIC follow these simple steps.

The images here can be clicked to view full size.


1/ Open the image in Gimp, then select Filters > G'MIC.


2/ The above window will appear. From the list select Contours, highlighted in red.


3/ From the drop down list select Extract Foreground [Interactive]


4/ Settings for Extract Foreground will appear to the right of the window. Add a little feathering, highlighted in red, so the extracted foreground doesn't have jagged edges. A low number (here 0.04 is used) is all thats needed.

When you're ready hit the Apply button, lower right.


5/ The above window will open with the image loaded into it. This is the window we'll be using.


6/ To select the area of the image to be kept left click inside its outline. Green dots will mark where you've clicked. These dots do not need to be tightly clustered or too close to the edge of the foreground subject.


7/ To select the area to be removed right click to add red dots outside of the foregrounds' outline. Again, the dots don't need to be closely spaced or too near the edge of the subject.


8/ When you're ready hit the Spacebar on the keyboard to preview the background removal. As you can see it works well, but needs some adjustments.


9/ Both the red and green dots can be dragged to new positions. Left click and drag for green dots, and right click and drag for the red ones.

More dots can be added if they're needed. Their position is not ordered, so just place new dots where they're needed.

If you accidentally left click and create a green dot where you wanted a red one, just right click on it to turn it red. Visa versa for red dots where you wanted green.

If you add a dot by mistake, hit the backspace tab on the keyboard to remove it.


10/ As you can see it can take a little trial and error to get all of the dots in the right places. There's no undo function with this process, but you can continue to edit to get what you want. Just hit the spacebar each time you want to preview the editing.


11/ To zoom in to an area use the mouse wheel.


12/ When you've finished editing the image hit enter on the keyboard.


13/ Now hit OK bottom right of the G'MIC window.


14/ We're now back into the regular Gimp image window. To the right you can see G'MIC separated the foreground and background into different layers.


15/ Here the background layer has been deleted and a plain white layer added so the contour of the foreground can clearly be seen.

Some of the outline is still quite rough, and whilst it could be tweaked more using G'MIC, since the background has pretty much gone, removing the remnants will be straightforward. For this image I just needed to use the Eraser.


16/ This is the image after being cleaned up.


17/ Here I added a random background to show how the cleaned up foreground can be used.

Further Resources 

Whilst G'MIC isn't the only way to digitally remove an image background it is probably as good as you'd expect for a free option. Here are a few alternatives which it can more than compete with.

Remove Image background is a website that allows users to upload an image, and with the click of a button remove the background. Whilst it states its free, this is only true when images of a certain size are used. If larger images are uploaded the background will be removed but the final image will be resized.

If you want larger image sizes the website offers a subscription service, as well as a pay as you go service.

Cutout 8 is downloadable software that does a very similar job to G'MIC, although it offers more options. It comes in with a price tag of $99.00, so have fun with that. There is a 7 day trial version if you'd like to try it out.

Ashampoo offers the earlier Cutout 7 version of the above software at a reduced price of  $21.00, so this may be an alternative worth considering. Although the website states its on offer, this seems to be a permanent rather than a time sensitive arrangement.

Thats all there is to removing the background from an image using G'MIC in Gimp. Whilst it may seem a long process its actually quite quick and easy, although it may take a little practise. Like all background removal methods its not perfect, but this is the best way for removing detailed backgrounds, and as good as any of the above alternatives.
Read More
Lusus

Create A Panoramic Screen Saver Using A Second Life Image


In recent tutorials we covered how to create desktop wallpapers from Second Life images, so the next step forward is screen savers. In this tutorial we'll be focusing on panoramic images that scroll seamlessly and continuously across the screen when your PC is idle, using a lightweight and free programme called WPanorama.

Creating a Panoramic Image In Second Life


In a series of previous tutorials we explained how to create 360 degree panoramic images in Second Life, which you'll need to be familiar with to create these images, as well have a 360 degree panoramic hud for taking the photos in Second Life.

The tutorial linked to above covers both Hugin and Microsoft's Image Composite Editor (ICE), but for this tutorial we'll just be using ICE, because its quicker, simpler and easier to use.

There are a few differences in creating panoramic images to use as screen savers, than creating full 360 panoramas, but they are minor, and explained below.


1/  Since we're not creating a full 360 degree panorama, but one that seamlessly rotates horizontally (ie, a 360 degree cylindrical panorama), we don't need to add to ICE the last two images taken with the hud in Second Life. These are the images taken one directly above the camera position, and the one directly below.

2/ Once the images have been stitched together in ICE, hit the Crop button. We need to crop out the irregular horizontal edges of the image, so grab and drag the nodes highlighted in red above.



3/ Now hit the Auto Complete button so your image looks something like the above.

WPanorama's performance isn't affected by the height of the image, so it doesn't matter if your finished panorama is skinny or fat, although you'll need to keep your screen's resolution in mind. If for example, the resolution is 1920 X 1080, a panoramic image with a height of 720 is not going to look good.

Another tip to keep in mind is that things too close to the camera can become distorted, so they may need to be cropped out.

With these points taken into consideration the image can be exported from ICE in the usual way,  ready to use in WPanorama. There is no need to edit the Exif metadata as you would with a full 360 degree panorama.

WPanorama 


WPanorama is freeware and can be used for both viewing panoramic images on the desktop, and for displaying scrolling panoramas as screensavers. The scrolling movement will automatically loop seamlessly.

If however the image is not a seamless panorama it will scroll in one direction until it reaches the edge of the image, before scrolling in the opposite direction. You can download WPanorama here.


1/ When WPanorama first starts it will display a pre-installed panoramic photo, and in fact comes with a large selection of images. They are stored in Windows' Documents folder. If you don't want to keep these images, simply go to the folder and delete them.


2/ After the images have been deleted WPanorama will look like the above.


3/ To just view an image rather than using WPanorama as a screen saver, select File > Load image, then navigate to where the image is stored.


4/ WPanorama will now display the panorama, which should be scrolling.

Creating A Screen Saver



1/ To Create a screensaver, select Screen saver > Configure screen saver.


2/ In the window that appears hit the Select button.


3/ Now Navigate to the folder containing your panoramas. A screen saver can contain more than one panoramic image and will display each image in turn. To add more than one image click on the first, hold down Shift then select as many images you want. Now hit Open.


4/ Once the images have been loaded this window will appear. More images can be added by hitting the Add images button. All the images can be deleted by hitting the Clear list botton.


 5/  The image list can now be saved, and will be stored in the same folder as the panoramic images we deleted earlier. WPanorama can contain many image lists, and each can be loaded as a screen saver.

To create a list, hit the Save list button.


6/  Name the list, here named SL Panoramas, then hit Save.


7/ The above image shows the files created when the list was saved.

The process of adding images to WPanorama and saving them as lists can be repeated, so you can have as many image lists as you want.


WPanorama can switch from list to list by hitting the Load lists button, navigating to the folder containing the lists, then selecting the relevant list.

If you're only using one or two images, there's no need to save them as a list. Once the images are loaded into WPanorama, just hit the tick icon, lower right  (shown above).


8/ The images have now been loaded into WPanorama and are ready to use. However, if there is more than one image make sure the Auto image change box is ticked, and then select the duration each image will be displayed.

When you're ready hit Apply then OK.

Previewing The Screen Saver



9/ One point should be noted here. The panorama shown in the WPanorama display window will not be one of the images added to the screen saver. It will be the image added when hitting File > Load Image.

To preview the screen saver hit Screen saver > Preview screen saver. Mouse movement will close the preview.


Another way to preview the images, and make sure WPanorama is the selected screen saver is the following.

10/ Click the Windows icon to the far left of the taskbar, then hit the cog icon to view Settings.

11/ The above window will open. Select Personalisation.


12/ The window above will now appear. Select Lock screen.


 13/ This window will now appear. There is a scroll bar thats a little difficult to see to the right of this window. Scroll it until you see Screen saver settings, then click on it.


14/ This window will now appear. Under the Screen saver drop down list select WPanorama if it isn't already selected, then hit Preview. The panoramic screen saver should now be full screen. Moving the mouse will close it. Click OK when you're ready.

Downloadable Images



The above image was created at Hangars Liquides. A full 360 panorama can be seen on Momento 360


...and this image was created at D-Lab.A full 360 panorama of this image can also be seen on Momento 360. Click the icon centre right on the Momento page to view these panoramas full screen.

To get you started with panoramic screen savers created in Second Life we have two images for you to download and add to WPanorama. We'll be creating more too so bookmark us and follow us on Facebook. The images are quite large, but can be rescaled to fit your screen if needed. They're stored on Google Drive so will be pre-screened so you can be sure you'll get a clean download. To grab the panoramas click here.


Click this icon which will be shown top right of the dowload page to get the panoramas.



Watch the short videos above to get an idea of what the scrolling panoramas will look like on your desktop. We hope you'll feel inspired to make your own panoramas and it would be great to see them shared on social media.
Read More
Lusus

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!
Read More
Lusus

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.
Read More