Windlight (aka advanced sky settings) is one of the main reasons I love Second Life so much. In virtual reality we can put together any motive and scenery our imagination (and SL resources) allow. With Windlight we can paint the sky, move the clouds and create unique moods. Even more interesting is the possibility to go beyond realistic and natural settings and push Windlight to its extremes – with alien skies, dark gloomy cities or fairytale forests. Playing around with the settings one day I found that it was even possible to produce very graphic, almost expressionistic images, with very clear lines and a few bright colours. “Solitude” (shown below) is one of my favourite pictures, created purely in SL. I am still fascinated by this effect and therefore decided to write a small tutorial on how to achieve it.
If you haven’t used your advanced sky settings before, you have to give it a go. You can find them under “World – Environment Settings – Environment Editor”. The whole atmosphere of a sim depends on the right setting and often creators provide a specific skysetting to enhance the experience. But not only landscapes and skies benefit from a lower or higher sun angle and improved lighting. It is amazing how your avatar looks can change with the right Windlight setting. My own “default” sky is Caliah Lyon’s “Optimised Windlight Setting”, which is described and can be downloaded on her website.
One image says more than a thousand words, so just take a look at these two pictures. The first image was taken at Las Arenas Rosadas using default sky settings, the second one using Caliah’s setting. The optimised setting is brighter and more colourful and is a great “neutral” setting to start off adventures at unknown places or for taking general pics. If you want to extend your collection of custom sky settings, a “must-have” are Torley’s 240 Windlight settings, which I often use as starting point for further adjustments and modifications.
To achieve the graphic effects I was describing earlier, the two most important sliders are the “Scene Gamma” slider and the “Sun/Moon position” slider under “Lighting”. Starting with the Optimised Windlight setting, I take the “Scene Gamma” back as far as possible, for example to a value of 0.07 or 0.14. Then I move the “Sun/Moon Position” slightly towards the middle and voilà – your surroundings will suddenly appear very surreal. It is very hard to put in words what effect the different sliders have in this setting. Some atmospheric ones will determine whether your avatar is more filled with colour or more outlined, others influence the horizon shape or the colours of the picture. “East Angle” has quite an effect as well and if your picture is very dark, try the “Ambient” slider to make it lighter. Just play a bit with them and you will start to get a feel for it. Or take a look at the screenshots to see how changing sliders can effect the result. 🙂
(Unfortunately I crashed after taking this picture and was not able to make screenshots of the settings. I included it however to show you how much the atmosphere can be changed).
For this image I used Torley’s “Arakissed” setting and adjusted only a few sliders in the “Lighting” menu to achieve a beautiful sunset silhouette effect.
These are just some examples of pictures I took at AM Radio’s “The Red and the Wild” some time ago. The first one is a fairly normal setting, whereas the second one was taken with an “expressionistic” setting. In pictures three and four I ended up with a more subtle effect.
Have fun with Windlight!