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How To Use The Free Rooms Templates

As part of the celebrations for Second Life's 19th birthday, exhibitors were able to offer gifts to visitors, and whilst I had some windchimes to give away, I wasn't able to complete in time the gift I originally intended to offer. Not to be deterred, the gift of a copy of the build that formed my exhibit is now available.

To be clear, what is available is the build of the rooms themselves, rather than the content. I've called them templates because they are effectively blank canvases for anyone to use to create their own unique builds, as well as their own unique 360 degree imagery. 
Grab your Free copy of the Rooms Templates from the Marketplace here.

What Are The Rooms Templates? 


'Rooms' is a project I've been working on for a while, and consists of three rooms contained inside a black cube. Each room interlocks with the next with the intention of making the viewer/visitor question the space they're in, and by extention the nature of 3D virtual space. This 360 panorama is the end result.

The starting point for the project was to create something that would make 360 degree panoramas in Second Life that had an unexpected feel. The possibility that the rooms might be an interesting place to visit and interect with developed from this.

From that point it also occured to me that since everyone's imagination works in different ways then everyone would construct something different using these rooms. For instance, take a look at this 360 panorama and how it uses space in a similar way, but looks very different. The idea therefore came to be to offer the rooms as templates for people to develop in any direction their creativity took them, in the hope they would create their own amazing 360 degree panoramas, and possibly allow others to visit their builds in Second Life.

To find out more about Rooms at SL19B, take a look this blog post.

What Is Included With The Rooms Templates?

When you recieve this item from the Second Life Marketplace it will contain:
  • Land Footprint
  • Rooms Template Rezzer. This is the red box with an arrow on top. This will rez the rooms with windows and views outside of them.
  • Rooms Template Rezzer No Windows. This is the orange box with an arrow on top. This will rez a version of the rooms that has no windows.
  • Rooms Buttons a. These buttons control the views outside the middle room.
  • Rooms Buttons b. These buttons control the views outside the lower room.
  • Rooms Buttons c. These buttons control the views outside the upper room.
The idea of having two versions of the room templates is to add more options for what can be created with them.

Both versions of the rooms are big. The version with windows has a footprint of about 30m x 24m, (and a prim count of 43), whilst the other is around 24m x 23m (with a prim count of 27). Because of this large size, and to help with placement on a parcel, a footprint object has been included, as can be seen above. The purple area shows the footprint of the smaller template, whilst both the purple and green areas together show the footprint of the template with windows.

As well as being important in positioning the rooms in relation to a land parcel, the footprint object is also used to accurately rez the rooms at height, as we'll see in a moment.

Rez Boxes

The footprint object includes a red square with an arrow, and an orange square with an arrow.

Place the red rezzer box on top of the red square so both arrows are aligned. Now the rooms with windows will rez exactly where the footprint is.

Placing the orange rezzer box over the orange square of the footprint and making sure both arrows are aligned will ensure the rooms without windows will rez precisely over the purple area of the footprint.

Using The Rezz Boxes

Although the rooms can be rezzed on the ground, they are intended as skyboxes. To rez one of the rooms templates, follow these simple steps.

1/ Rez the footprint object on the ground and place it where you want the rooms to be placed. Get close to the grey box and sit on it.

2/ Right click on the footprint object  and from the menu click Edit, so the Edit Window opens. Make the Object tab the active tab.

The area highlighted in red in the Edit Window is what we're interested in. We'll use it to edit the Z position of the footprint object. (For those that may not know Z is the up/down co-ordinate in virtual space, so we're about to change the height of the footprint object).

3/ Enter how high you want the rooms template to be from the ground. Here 1000 was added. When you're ready hit Enter on the keyboard, and the footprint object will be repositioned 1000m in the sky.
Because you sat on part of the footprint object you'll also be transported to 1000m in the sky.

Once the footprint object is in the sky you can stand up.

4/ Position one of the rez boxes over the corresponding coloured square on the footprint. Then left click on the rez box.

5/ This window will appear. To rez the rooms hit the Rezz button.

6/ The rooms are now rezzed. As you can see there aren't any textures on the walls or ceilings of the rooms (although there are floor textures). This is so you can start with the blank canvas that was mentioned earlier.
Its also important to note that you'll be standing in one of the rooms after they have rezzed. This is because there is no way in or out of the build, so being inside after rezzing means you can set a landmark and easily access the rooms.

7/ Left click the rez box again and this menu will appear. if you're happy with the position of the rooms, hit the Freeze button to remove the rez script from the rooms. 

If you want to remove the rooms, hit the Remove button.

8/ The rooms template is now rezzed, so you can delete the rez box as well as the footprint object. Remember to landmark a position within the rooms template so you can access it again.

Using the Window Buttons

The final items included with the room templates are the window buttons. There is a set for each room. The red button allows you to select the scene, and the blue button enables it to scroll.

Each set of buttons has a slightly different name. 'Rooms Buttons a' should be rezzed in the room you'll be standing in after removing the footprint and rez box. 'Rooms Buttons b' belongs in the lower room, and 'Rooms Buttons c' belongs in the upper room.

Unfortunately I could not include the scripts for the buttons and scenes with mod permissions because they're commerical scripts that I didn't create. If you'd like to use your own scenes, simply delete the scripts in the buttons and the scene viewer and add your own. I'll try to find a better option asap.

You're now ready to start using these rooms templates for your own creations. If you'd also like to use them to create 360 degree images, then these tutorials will be very useful. I should add that stitching images of the rooms into 360 panoramas can be tricky. Sometimes it works first time, other times there can be a lot of trial and error to get it right. The tutorials mentioned above suggest using a setting of between 60 - 90 for the HFOV in Hugin. In the case of the 360 panorama created from these rooms, 85 was used. In other panoramas, 100 was a good setting.

Wall Walker 

Once you've created your build using these templates, try exploring it with a wall walker. The above video is a little rough around the edges, but gives an idea of how the wall walker works.
There are a number of versions of wall walkers on the Marketplace, but they're all based on the original, which is open source. Therefore decide for yourself whether you want to pay for one or grab the freebie. 
The original wall walker comes with some unappealling walk, stand and run animations, but its easy to replace them with your own.
If you haven't seen a 360 degree panorama created using these rooms, take a look here, and then see what you can do with your new templates.

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Lusus-art Rooms Exhibition at SL19B


As every Second Life resident will know, the 19th birthday celebrations have begun, and this year I've been granted exhibition space. After over 15 years in Second Life, I've finally got round to participating. Although the theme for SL19B is steampunk, because I work slowly (and procrastinate a lot), I went with my already mostly built project called Rooms.

What Is Rooms?

The basic idea behind the project I've named Rooms, was to look at space in a 3D environment, see how different it is from space in the real world, and see how it can be manipulated. Add to this the ability within Second Life to create 360 degree panoramas and that is the template for Rooms. Click on the images in Rooms to see how these two facets work together.
Like many people in Second Life who like to explore its potential for art I've previously uploaded images I've created, added them to prims and exhibited them at parcels that call themselves galleries. This is fine in itself, but I became increasingly uneasy with the suspension of disbelief this involves. 
Part of the solution I've began to explore is to create an environment where images are not the sole focus, but are an integral part of the whole. No gallery, no person effectively roleplaying as a gallery owner and no person roleplaying as a curator.The upshot of this instead is to utilise the nature of the virtual world of Second Life as the medium.
This short video gives an idea of what to expect when visiting Rooms.


When arriving at Rooms, you'll see there is plenty to engage with. Click on each image and follow the link to enlarge them. Also, each window has two buttons. The red button changes the scene through the window, and the blue seamlessly scrolls the view. (Some observant visitors may recognise the sims used to create the scenes).

There is another button by the sleeping cat. Click this to rez a transparent platform over the gap. Standing on the platform allows visitors to create their own 360 degree panorama images if they want, or to use it as a place to take standard pics. (Just a quick heads up - stitching the images to create the 360 degree panorama from this build can be a little tricky. Hugin is the best software to use. Start with a HFOV setting of 85 or so and go from there. See this tutorial for more info). The platform is also a good vantage point to grab your avatar with the cursor and drag it around for a cool 360 degree view. Keep in mind however, that the platform deletes itself after 10 minutes.

One more set of buttons, under the cat clock will rez a female or male ball that contains wall walkers. Once the ball is rezzed, hop on it and walk anywhere within all three rooms. Using mouseview with the wall walker is highly recommended.

Be Part Of The SL19B Celebrations

The SL19B celebrations has a huge amount to offer visitors, so if you have some time on your hands do go along and be part of whats happening. The official Flickr group has lots of images to give you a flavour of events and more, and this Second Life blog post will tell you all you need to know. To visit Rooms at SL19B hit this SLurl and enjoy. Once you arrive, hit the Teleporter to visit Rooms.

In the meantime, have fun below with the 360 degree view of Rooms. Click the square within a circle icon to view fullscreen, and click the hotspots to open images, videos, and information. 
If you like this project you can now create your own using the templates I've made available. Find out more here.
Happy birthday Second Life!

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Create A Collage Effect With Gimp Part Two


In Part One of this tutorial we covered some introductory background, as well as creating a gradient to be used later. Now we can get down to creating the collage effect with Gimp. Before we start however, if you haven't already done so grab the texture downloads linked to in Part One, as well as the photo used here.
One of the steps below involves using the G'MIC posterize filter. If you don't have G'MIC installed in Gimp I highly recommend grabbing it now.  If you prefer, the standard Gimp posterize filter can be used instead (Colors > Posterize), although the G'MIC version has more adjustable settings.

There may seem a lot of steps to this tutorial, but don't let that put you off. I try to cover each small step to make the tutorial easier to follow. Click on each image to enlarge if you need to. 

1/ Open the image in Gimp

2/ With the Rectangle Select Tool drag a rectangle around the part of the image you want to use.

3/ Hit Image > Crop to Selection. Keeping the image simple and uncluttered works well with this effect, rather than using a complex subject matter.

4/ The image is now cropped. Right click on the image's layer in the Layers panel, and from the drop down menu select Add Alpha Channel.

5/ Making a copy of the layer is useful in case you need to go back and start again.

6/ Select Colors > Desaturate > Desaturate.

7/ In the window that opens select a Mode from the drop down list and hit OK

8/ The image is now monochrome.

9/ Select Colors > Levels.

10/ This window will open. The tonal range of the image can be adjusted here. We need something with deep tones going to light. 
The triangular handles highlighted in red can be dragged to the left and right. The white triangle influences the lighter tones, and the black triangle influences the darker tones. The centre triangle can fine tune both.

When you're happy with the image hit OK.

11/ This is the image after the levels have been adjusted.

Using The  G'MIC Posterize Filter

 1/ Select Filter > G'MIC-Qt. We're going to use the G'MIC posterize filter because its has much finer controls than the standard Gimp posterize filter. If you don't have G'MIC installed on your version of Gimp the standard Colors > Posterize filter can be used instead.

2/ The G'MIC window will look something like this. Select Artistic, and from the drop down list select Posterize.

3/ There are a number of sliders for tweaking the image. Firstly set Colors to 5, and adjust Smoothness to something you're happy with. Tinker with Edges if you think it helps.

Hit OK when you're done. It may take G'MIC a while to render the image.

4/ This is the posterized image.

5/ As we've previously mentioned, the collage effect works best on simple, uncluttered images, so this one has been tidied up a little. Using the Eyedropper and Paintbrush tools, areas that wouldn't add to the collage effect have been painted over with neighbouring grey tones, so a cleaner looking image is left.

Noise Reduction


1/ Sometimes posterizing an image can leave jagged edges to image outlines. In this instance this can be fixed by selecting Filters > Enhance > Noise Reduction.

2/ Zooming in and using the Split view option shows the difference the Noise Reduction makes. The default setting of 4 works well here, but the settings go as high as 32.

When you're ready hit OK.

Gradient Map

 1/ Before applying a gradient map a duplicate layer has been aded, just in case we need to go back a few stages.

Selet the Gradient tool, and make sure the gradient made in Part One is the active gradient.

2/ Select Colors >Map > Gradient Map.

3/ The active layer will now look like the above. Each colour from the gradient created in Part One has been applied to a shade of grey in the posterized image.

4/ Sometimes one of the colours from the gradient won't appear after applying the gradient map. To overcome this, undo applying the gradient map (Ctrl > Z), then  select the Gradient Editor, highlighted in red, top right.
A panel showing the gradient colour bands will be visible, along with triangular handles below them (highlighted in purple). Drag these handles so the missing colour takes up more (or less) of the gradient, then apply the gradient map again. This may take a few attempts, but usually the gradient map will apply correctly first time.

5/ Another problem that may occur is that the first colour takes on the foreground colour. To fix this change the foreground colour to black. Now right click on the furthest left triangle handle under the gradient panel, then select Left Color Type > Fixed.

Color To Alpha

 1/ In the original Photoshop version, the 'Blend if' feature was used for this step, but since Gimp doesn't have that function we have to work around it. Instead we're going to replace each colour of the gradient map with a transparency, and we'll use Alpha to Transparency to do this. The transparency will then be used to build up the collage image with the textures we downloaded.
Each colour can't be replaced with a transparency on just one layer, so a layer for each colour is needed. As can be seen in the layers panel above, there's five duplicates of the image (plus an extra one again, just in case we mess things up).

2/ After making duplicate layers hide all them except the fourth from bottom, and make sure this is the active layer. Select Colors > Color to Alpha.

3/ This window will appear. To select the colour to become transparent hit the white colour bar.

4/ This second window will appear. The first colour we want to change to alpha is black, so drag the three RGB sliders at the top of the window fully to the left.

5/ The active layer will now look like this. The black has been replaced by transparency.

6/ Hide the layer we were just working on and show the layer directly above it. This should now also be the active layer.

We're going to replace the red from this layer with transparency in exactly the same way we removed black from the other layer.

Select Colors > Color to Alpha. In the window that opens hit the Color bar to open the second window. Because we want red to be removed, drag the handle of the R slider fully to the right, and the G and B sliders fully to the left. Hit OK when you're ready.

7/ Following the previous steps, hide this layer then show the layer above and make it the active layer.

We're going to remove green from this layer so follow the steps above, but this time drag the G slider all the way to the right, and the R and B sliders fully to the left.

8/ In the final layer we're going to remove the blue. Follow all the steps above again, except this time move the B slider all the way to the right, and the R and G sliders all the way to the left.

Creating Texture Layers

1/ We're finally ready to use the Texturelab jpegs to construct the image. To begin with, hide all layers, except the layer with black removed. Make the layer below it the active layer. This is so when we drag in the first jpeg it will be placed just above the active layer, and hence just below the no black layer.

2/ Open the folder that the jpegs were downloaded to. Since black was the darkest colour of the image, we'll now use the darkest texture. Drag it from the folder onto the Gimp canvas window.

3/ The texture is much larger than the image we're using. Zoom out (Ctrl + Mousewheel) then select the Scale tool.

4/ Click within the outline of the texture, then use the handles on the edges to resize it. Click Scale when you're done.

5/ Gimp should now look something like this.

6/ Right click on the layer with no black and select Alpha to Selection.

7/ Hide the no black layer and make the texture layer the active layer. Hit Delete on the keyboard.

8/ The texture layer should now look like the above.

9/ We're now going to use the layer with red removed to create another texture layer. First however to help avoid confusion, drag the no black layer so its below the texture layer.
Again, hide all layers except the no red layer, and make the layer below it the active layer.

 10/ There is a jpeg that is predominantly red. This is just the right tone for this part of the image, so drag it onto the Gimp canvas. It should be placed just below the layer with no red.

11/ rescale this texture layer in the same way as before. Right click on the no red layer and select Alpha to Selection.

12/ Hide the no red layer, and with the new texture layer the active layer, again hit Delete.

13/ This is the result. By now it should be apparent how we're building up the collage image.

14/ Drag the no red layer below the texture layers so its out of the way. Now hide all layers except for the layer with green removed. Make the layer below it the active layer. 

As before, drag in a jpeg that will make a good fit tonally. Resize it and use the Alpha to Selection step again then hit Delete. The result should look something like the above.

15/ For the last texture layer, drag it onto the Gimp canvas, resize it and place it behind all the other texture layers.

Finishing Touches

1/ There are just a few finishing touches to add to our collage image to make it look a little more authentic.
First right click on the top layer and select New from Visible. This will create a new layer from all the visible layers. Its a non-destructive alternative to merging all layers.

2/ Drag the image named Texturelabs_Glass_135XL image into Gimp, so its layer is directly above the new layer we just created. This image will give the impression of the collage being sealed under a layer of glue. Scale in the same way as with the other texture layers.

3/ From the Mode drop down menu (highlighted in red, above), select a blend mode.

4/ Overlay or Soft light work well with this texture.

Finally drag the image named Texturelabs_Paper_185XL into Gimp. This texture will give the impression of folded paper. Scale the layer, then add a blend mode again of either Overlay or Soft light, (or whatever you prefer). The collage is now complete.

Although the process of creating this collage effect with Gimp is not quite as streamlined as the original Photoshop tutorial, this is still quite a good workaround. Possibly the most tedious part is creating the gradient, but its something that only has to be done once, and it can be used on all future collage effect projects. 

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