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.