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Scylla Rhiadra

Making Avatars Look Good in Black Dragon! Share Your Hints and Advice!

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I have been thinking that it would be useful to have a single place to share the many insights and questions many of us might have about using Black Dragon to photograph avatars. For instance, I'd love to see people's settings for things like light and shadow!

To start with, here are links to a number of pertinent and useful posts that have already been posted in "How Does Your Avatar Look Today":

 

Eva Knoller on using Black Dragon to reposition entire avatar from "Avatar Center"

 

Taya on some of the advantages of using Black Dragon:

 

Momo's side-by-side comparison of Firestorm and Black Dragon.

 

Taya on Keybinding in Black Dragon:

 

NiranV Dean on the different versions of Black Dragon, key controls, shadow settings

 

NiranV Dean on tiling, texture thrashing and memory, and settings for light softening and shadow:

 

NiranV Dean on tiling, ambient occlusion, and performance on Black Dragon:

 

NiranV Dean's visualization of tiling in Firestorm:

 

NiranV Dean on performance:

 

NiranV Dean on complexity and performance (rather technical):

 

Nalates Urriah on texture thrashing and importing Windlights into Black Dragon:

 

NiranV Dean side-by-side comparison of light, shadow, and colour in Firestorm and Black Dragon:

 

Seicher Rae on Black Dragon performance, Global Light settings, and being stalked by Maddy:

 

NiranV Dean on why Black Dragon is not available on Mac (and why Macs suck generally):

 

NiranV Dean with a really informative post on UI "secrets" and key combinations for things like defaults:

 

NiranV Dean on colour profiles in Black Dragon and NVidia

 

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Excellent idea Scylla! You have tons of good info compiled here. 
When I use BD I have no idea what I am doing and just fiddle around with buttons and sliders until I am thoroughly confused, so I have no advice. I am looking forward to seeing people’s settings!

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I just turn everything up as high as it will go and hope for the best; so far successful; at the highest graphics settings my PC handles BD better than it does with Firestorm in Ultra. I've already changed the key bindings to make movement easier using the keys I'm most familiar with (I wish Firestorm had that feature).

But I won't be using BD as my main viewer until I can find the time to configure an AO hud with the same animations I have in my Firestorm built-in AO; the thought of re-writing an AO notecard with all that lot fills me with dread. Until then, I'm using BD only for snapshots. If BD had a built-in AO I would already be using it as my only viewer.

 

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Remember. Google will provide you a list of the Black Dragon Viewer tutorials. Give it a day and this thread should show up there too.

A FoxCity (the pose people) tutorial gives you the quick basics. Quick Look Black Dragon. Satomi Masukami, the owner (?) of FoxCity, recommends Black Dragon for photos in SL.

In the video you will see most of the controls exercised. You'll get an idea what everything does. Photoshop and, to a lesser extent, GIMP do some of the things better. But, if you aren't into the tech of image processing, Black Dragon is certainly good enough.

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Thanks for this topic. I've been recommended Black Dragon for photos before, but I wasn't sure if I'd be able to navigate its quirks. This is a nice collection of tips and useful info and makes me want to actually give BD a try :)

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I'm mostly going with default settings on everything. Though, when I am setting up for a "shoot", then I'll open the sidebar settings and turn off Region Windlight, then play wuth the Atmosphere tool to get the lighting I want. Once I get that, then I'll play with the sidebar sliders.

When finished, setting Windlight back to Region is easy enough. But then I CTRL+Right-click each and every slider on that side-bar to reset to defaults (when there is not "Default" button). @NiranV Dean - is there key-command to automatically reset all of those to default? That's probably my one and only remaining question about Black Dragon and I'm loving it! LOL

Edited by Alyona Su
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54 minutes ago, Alyona Su said:

I'm mostly going with default settings on everything. Though, when I am setting up for a "shoot", then I'll open the sidebar settings and turn off Region Windlight, then play wuth the Atmosphere tool to get the lighting I want. Once I get that, then I'll play with the sidebar sliders.

Thanks Alyona!

I thought I'd get into more specifics about shadow, because they (and light) are probably (for me) the most important element of composition.

This is a pic taken at Burrows. It was shot at 6016 px width, and then cropped and resized for here. It's otherwise unedited. I've used "Barcelona" Windlight. I've added no projectors or point lights.

Most of my display settings under "Preferences" are at default, with the exception of complexity for Object and for Sky, both of which are at "Ultra."

In the Machinima sidebar, Light Softening is on, Shadows are set to "Projectors," and both Volumetric and Directional Volumetric Lighting are on. Screen Space Ambient Occlusion is on, as are Screen Space Reflections and Tone Mapping (the latter is set to "Linear"). I have not used Depth of Field, Motion Blur, or Lens Flair. All of the "Misc Options" are selected except for Flycam Controls.

Specific Settings for "Shadows" are:

Blur Size: 5.0
Distance Closest: 2
Distance Close: 8
Distance Far: 16
Distance Very Far: 64

(Am I correct in thinking that these represent definitions for the settings that follow, measured in metres from the camera?)

Resolution Closeup: 4608
Resolution Close: 4608
Resolution Far: 2048
Resolution Very Far: 2048
 

Projector 1 and 2 are both set to 2048

(Does this mean that the first set of four settings applies only to "natural" i.e., Windlight settings? And to point lights?)

Screen Space Ambient Occlusion (SSAO) is set as follows, to what I think are mostly default values:

Blur Size: 1.000
Effect: -1.00
Scale: 1000
Max Scale: 3000
Factor: 0.075

So, here's the result:

Shadow-Settings-1-Example-Blank.thumb.png.92f30faf008d821a2d1e0c920bea80f5.png

I think that this looks . . . ok? Recognizing, of course, that one is likely to vary one's settings somewhat depending upon context, Windlight, desired effect, and so forth?

I'd love to know what settings other people are using for shadows!

Edited by Scylla Rhiadra
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11 minutes ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

I'd love to know what settings other people are using for shadows!

I have pretty much the same settings as you do. For shadows, the settings have to do with the resolution at each distance and the defaults of those seem to work well for me and I suspect there is no real reason to change them unless you have an infinity or otherwise long-shot background that has shadows (My "Sunrise" image had water, so shadows were moot in that).

Though I have been playing a LOT with lighting, even using the Lens Flare once and then tweaking it to get just the subtlest of glow out of the stage lights in my Ballet image. Though in my "After Hours" image, I attached my light-plot system and really fiddles with light and in all aspects from brightest to darkest, the shadows seemed to be perfect. If you are referring to shadow contrast, that setting seem to be affected by the "Lens Flare" and the Atmosphere settings than the actual shadow settings in the BD Sidebar.

Most of contrast control I get is through the Atmosphere Editor of the viewer proper, what Black Dragon is doing for me is making the shadows smoother in the transition from light-to-shadow and any ambient light being in the Atmosphere editor (to control how dark or light the shadow is.)

I suggest also playing with the Sin Angle and especially the Atmosphere and Fog color pickers - I get a deeper shadow when I add a touch of blue to the color, straight black don't seem to add contrast the way adding blue or orange does.

Also remember the all the other colors of the seen; the colors of surrounding elements will influence the perceived color of any one single element, including shadows.

Now with all that rhetorical diatribe, what are you looking to affect in shadows that you're asking what others' settings are? LOL

(I know: Aly, shut-up, you talk too much!) Bahahaha!

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3 minutes ago, Alyona Su said:

Though I have been playing a LOT with lighting, even using the Lens Flare once and then tweaking it to get just the subtlest of glow out of the stage lights in my Ballet image. Though in my "After Hours" image, I attached my light-plot system and really fiddles with light and in all aspects from brightest to darkest, the shadows seemed to be perfect. If you are referring to shadow contrast, that setting seem to be affected by the "Lens Flare" and the Atmosphere settings than the actual shadow settings in the BD Sidebar.

Most of contrast control I get is through the Atmosphere Editor of the viewer proper, what Black Dragon is doing for me is making the shadows smoother in the transition from light-to-shadow and any ambient light being in the Atmosphere editor (to control how dark or light the shadow is.)

I suggest also playing with the Sin Angle and especially the Atmosphere and Fog color pickers - I get a deeper shadow when I add a touch of blue to the color, straight black don't seem to add contrast the way adding blue or orange does.

I've played with these a bit, and need to become better acquainted with them. I've fiddled with Global Luminescence, or whatever it's called, for instance, to change the overall ambient lighting of a scene (it's more effective than the "Gamma" slider on environmental settings), and I've used Lense Flare.

Overall, you make a really good point: there are a lot of different variables you can play with here, and fortunately most of them are in the one place, the Machinima sidebar. What I suppose I was trying to establish here is a "base line" for shadow settings. In Firestorm, I have tended to use a uniform custom setting for everything, that I then fiddle with as needed for an individual shot. I suppose I'm trying to establish such a "base line" for BD as well -- as my sort of "starting place" to achieve nice looking shadows, rather than for a uniform look that gets applied without change to every pic.

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41 minutes ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

suppose I'm trying to establish such a "base line" for BD as well -- as my sort of "starting place" to achieve nice looking shadows, rather than for a uniform look that gets applied without change to every pic.

OH! Well then I can tell you mine! You were specifically mentioning shadows so that's where my mind was.

Okay, so easier for me to describe how I did this image (and I'll post a link, because the image is already viewable at another thread: "After Hours" (Is safe for work)

This is in Backdrop City. I started with setting the pose and camera angle, etc. - no need to go into all of that. *All* my Black Dragon settings are at default (save for Avatar Complexity section). Now I'll outline the steps in loose description in order below.

  • Alt-click my *face* - this ensures face will be in focus when I (eventually) turn on Depth of Field.
    Then using only keyboard commands to position my camera view to frame the shot.
    I go into Side bar to turn OFF Region Windlight, then close side bar.
  • Open Atmosphere editor, then SKY tab.
    The first thing I set the time-of-day to get the general overall scene lighting to a texture (color-shift) I wanted with general shadows.
    The next thing I did was to play with the SUN EAST ANGLE to move the shadows around so they fell the way I wanted. For his scene I waned the Japanese Characters in tho be subdued (non---neon-looking.). Third, I went into the Atmosphere TAB to change the fog colors, etc.; I wanted to cool-down the colors (turn it toward a blue tint.) Once the general  lighting and color-texture were generally where I wanted them, I used Gamma (to actually make it *brighter* - but only a touch this preserves detail when darkening the scene later.) Then I use the global luminance slider to darken the scene - very dark, no streetlights, can barely see any detail in the face.
  • Attach local light-plot (four light--source linked spheres I use for local lighting.)
    Edit linked and move each around and set their colors so the entire scene is lit to satisfaction. Once all that is done, then I play with the side bar.
  • Side bar: the first thing I do is turn on Depth of Field, then play with the sliders to get only the amount of defocus that I want (it's not called "blur" people LOL) for foreground and background. I use DOF a *lot* in my images, even with a barely-noticeable defocus, because it does the same thing a vignette does: focus the eyes where you want them.
    Then I will turn on the Lens Flare option just to see if it give a desired effect. If it does, then I'll usually tone it down, also to barely noticeable levels (because the brain will see it, but not the eye.)
  • Then I will close the sidebar and go back to Atmosphere editor for my last fiddling.
    In the Atmosphere SKY tab I will play with the SUN glow and the SUN size. Even if they cannot be seen in the shot, they do affect lighting in a subtle way.

That's my work-flow in BD. The only real settings I ever touch that are BD-specific are Field of View, Lens Flare, and toggling Region Windlight. Everything else I do it generally in the Windlight atmosphere editor. The very last thing I did with the example image I link to above is: I passed it through On1 Photo and increased the contrast a little more and added a "Dark Glow" to it, which means only the darkest areas have any kind of glow added to it.

This isn't the lock-step method I always use, of course. Every set-up is generally different, but this is my general workflow and Shadow settings never come into it in terms of changing them away from the defaults. :)

What amazes me about Black Dragon is that a stunningly beautiful image comes out of the default settings and very little adjustment is ever even desired.

 

Edited by Alyona Su
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I was taking photos today and DO play around with the settings. One thing I am finding is that with BD is that ALL of my WLs are much brighter in BD than they are in FS. I have found some settings to turn that down, but one thing I am having a lot of trouble with is my pale avatar looking too glaringly white, combined often with too dark of a shadow under the chin and/or her cheek shading way too dark. These two I played and played with and got some adjustments, but the skin still looks too highly washed out. I turn down the WL gamma, have played with several sliders in BD. Any thoughts? On the close up especially...

 

kuga lighthouse 012920_001.jpg

kuga lighthouse 012920_002.jpg

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3 hours ago, Alyona Su said:

I'm mostly going with default settings on everything. Though, when I am setting up for a "shoot", then I'll open the sidebar settings and turn off Region Windlight, then play wuth the Atmosphere tool to get the lighting I want. Once I get that, then I'll play with the sidebar sliders.

When finished, setting Windlight back to Region is easy enough. But then I CTRL+Right-click each and every slider on that side-bar to reset to defaults (when there is not "Default" button). @NiranV Dean - is there key-command to automatically reset all of those to default? That's probably my one and only remaining question about Black Dragon and I'm loving it! LOL

There isn't any. There is a factory reset button but i highly recommend not using it unless you are a tech iliterate and don't know how to clean your settings manually.

1 hour ago, Alyona Su said:

What amazes me about Black Dragon is that a stunningly beautiful image comes out of the default settings and very little adjustment is ever even desired.

The settings have already been tweaked over 7 years, doesn't surprise me. They were meant to show some improvement without needing much fiddling to get something just better looking. That doesn't mean however fiddling is a bad idea, infact you can only improve it, my defaults are simply just an improvement that is not meant to impact the framerate too much. People can always just turn them further up to "improve" them past the "safe values".

 

 

Edited by NiranV Dean
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On 1/29/2020 at 10:27 AM, NiranV Dean said:

The settings have already been tweaked over 7 years, doesn't surprise me. They were meant to show some improvement without needing much fiddling to get something just better looking. That doesn't mean however fiddling is a bad idea, infact you can only improve it, my defaults are simply just an improvement that is not meant to impact the framerate too much. People can always just turn them further up to "improve" them past the "safe values".

For my photographic style, you've pretty much nailed it with the defaults. I can see myself playing and tweaking the settings when I'm in an experimental mood for certain. Though those who are familiar with my imagery know my general "style" and Black Dragon fits it so well out of the box! Hahaha!

Now to do some of that experimentation that's been percolating in my head for a long time. For example, I am thinking Black Dragon will allow me to actually do a Kodalith style shot in-viewer, which would make any post-production a simple-simony affair. As it is now, it's near impossible without a couple hours of work and still isn't that great-looking (because a digital version of Kodalith requires amazingly precise balance to look good!) :D

"What is Kodalith?" for other readers who are curious: https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/explore/glossary-of-art-terms/kodalith

EDIT: OMFG!!! I did it! In-viewer kodalith!

 

 

Edited by Alyona Su
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The first tip I'd add is easy; ctrl+alt+f to freeze the frame. It does what it says on the tin; freezes all avatars and most world objects in place, which makes taking a shot of a particular frame in an animation far easier than refreshing the snapshot tool and praying. Note that this also freezes your huds, and does not freeze particles.

The second is a way to avoid hassle with focus. Ctrl+alt+x moves the camera focus point to under your mouse; move your mouse to the subject's face/focus target, and hit shift+alt+x to lock the focus point in place. Tada! Feel free to rotate the camera around some chair in the background, as focus won't be affected.

The third is to do with the alpha overlap glitch. Whenever you get one alpha layer, such as between hair strands, overlapping with another, such as a bush or tree, you get an awkward graphical issue in the affected area - see photo 1. There's an option under the Depth of Field settings in the Machinima Toolbar called "Alphas into depth". Ticking that box applies a Dof-style blur to the 'front' alpha layer as if it were at the distance of the 'rear' layer, which can hide the overlap glitch - see photo 2. However this brings in different problems, as now a portion of the layers in question look out of place. My solution? Take a snap with the setting on and one with the setting off, then layer them in editing afterwards. My default is to layer the former over the latter with 60% opacity, tweaking as appropriate - see photo 3. It's not perfect, and it's not a fix; but it is an improvement, and with relatively minor overlaps that don't take up too much space on your canvass, this is a quick, easy and reliable way to render them all but unnoticeable.

BvB89L2.png

wAwb0Iy.png

eMyplfj.png

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1 hour ago, AyelaNewLife said:

The first tip I'd add is easy; ctrl+alt+f to freeze the frame.

Almost 14 years in SL and I never knew about this one! Is it a Black Dragon feature or a standard one! OMG! The CTRL+ALT+X doesn't seem to do anything for me, but that one is mostly moot in my own workflow anyway. I've experimented with the alpha layering thing in BD and it is a definitely fix for the scenarios I've needed it for, though the compositing idea is a good one.

Thank you for these! Seriously, that "Freeze" command is like Batman Spotlight aimed right into my face from sic inches away epiphany! hahaha!

Edited by Alyona Su
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6 hours ago, AyelaNewLife said:

The third is to do with the alpha overlap glitch. Whenever you get one alpha layer, such as between hair strands, overlapping with another, such as a bush or tree, you get an awkward graphical issue in the affected area - see photo 1. There's an option under the Depth of Field settings in the Machinima Toolbar called "Alphas into depth". Ticking that box applies a Dof-style blur to the 'front' alpha layer as if it were at the distance of the 'rear' layer, which can hide the overlap glitch -

This alpha glitch is quite common, it happens when rigged mesh is alpha blended instead of masked, it will act similar to how invisiprims did except only on alpha, this includes the sky clouds as well as any object or avatar that is alpha.

The option does one thing, it includes alpha objects into the depth buffer which is the default behavior in LL Viewer, the reason this option was added is because it causes a lot of issues, particles will cause giant squares of non-blurriness because they are rendered as solid surface and as we all know a particle is really just a flat square with a texture on it, this square will act as solid wall that is closer than other objects in the scene and thus be less blurred, the result is an ugly artifact in the middle of nowhere. The option takes alphas out of depth resulting in them being blurred as if they didn't exist, it is often better to remove them than keeping them unless you are going for a shot using Volumetric Lighting in which case you want Alphas to be included usually because otherwise light will shine through all alphas like they don't exist again creating strange visual artifacts.

5 hours ago, Alyona Su said:

Almost 14 years in SL and I never knew about this one! Is it a Black Dragon feature or a standard one! OMG! The CTRL+ALT+X doesn't seem to do anything for me, but that one is mostly moot in my own workflow anyway. I've experimented with the alpha layering thing in BD and it is a definitely fix for the scenarios I've needed it for, though the compositing idea is a good one.

Thank you for these! Seriously, that "Freeze" command is like Batman Spotlight aimed right into my face from sic inches away epiphany! hahaha!

This feature does exist in all Viewers but works quite differently in other Viewers. It's called Freeze Frame and does exactly what it says, it freezes everything including the screen, you get a full-screen crap-resolution preview of your picture overlayed on your screen and when you move the camera it will drop down and reveal the presumably half-frozen world.

BD's Freeze Frame or Freeze World how i call it is simply an upgrade to this by freezing the last remaining things that weren't frozen (like water and sky/clouds) and getting rid of the entire stupid limitation thing with forcing you into camera mode and showing a pixelated fullscreen preview and all that crap. It's just plain straight the core of the feature = freeze the world and thats it, getting rid of all the crap in it allowed it to be made into a global feature that can be toggled anywhere, anytime regardless of whether you are doing snapshots or not.

CTRL + Shift+ X (its Shift not Alt) needs to be used in conjunction with Shift + ALT + X to unlock your camera focus you can then relock it with Shift + ALT + X or turn it off again with CTRL + ALT + X

Edited by NiranV Dean
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Here are a few more:

You can actually edit the water plane in height, move it up and down as you wish, regardless of what the Region has set it to. You can use this to derender fake water and use real water instead. It can change:

Snapshot_5336_smol.png

into

Snapshot_5340_smol.png

The "Object Manipulator" in Manipulate Prims menu can mass-change the alpha mode, fullbright, light toggle and projector toggle for all objects around you. It can also mass-derender objects or attachments.

You can tick "Remember Snapshot Mode" in the Snapshot window you automatically open whatever mode (probably save to disk) you used previously, this saves you clicking it before actually taking a snapshot.

Saving your camera position saves your rotation as well, you can load it by hitting Load Camera Position again after its already loaded and the camera is no longer moving/animating.

There's a third person steering mode that can be enabled with "V".

You can click and drag your Right-Mouse-Button anywhere on screen that is not the UI to rotate the camera. Panning is not possible but will be added in the future.

 

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On 1/29/2020 at 7:23 PM, Seicher Rae said:

Any thoughts? On the close up especially...

I' d check down on the tone of colour. I wasn' t happy with mine ( somehow all seemed to bleeched and bright and balanced most of my settings in 3 ways : 

  1.  Adjust the balance levels or my monitor in it' s setup ( There are several settings to think of in there , but usually start to set up Brightness, Contrast and Gamma. Usuallly 50 % for first two and 1.00 for last ).
  2. Set the same levels ( Brightness, Contrast and Gamma ) accordingly in the settings of the GPU ( Control Panel in NVidia' s case ).
  3.  Set DIgital Vibrance, which has a large impact on any application your run regarding brightness of colours.
  4. Try out severl tonemapping settings in Black Dragon.

Unsure your solution is in what I stated though. Another thing popping into mind is your Hue. Your pictures seem very light blueish in tone.

Edited by TDD123
ETA : Hue.
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3 hours ago, NiranV Dean said:

CTRL + Shift+ X (its Shift not Alt) needs to be used in conjunction with Shift + ALT + X to unlock your camera focus you can then relock it with Shift + ALT + X or turn it off again with CTRL + ALT + X

Whoops, my mistake - out of pure illogical habit I use the menus instead of ctrl+shift+x, so was running off memory for that shortcut.

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21 minutes ago, AyelaNewLife said:

Whoops, my mistake - out of pure illogical habit I use the menus instead of ctrl+shift+x, so was running off memory for that shortcut.

I know the pain, i've only just recently started using the shortcuts for them more often. I still use the menu for saving and loading camera positions.

Edited by NiranV Dean

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How do you know what you are selecting in the Object Manipulator? Everything is UUID.

If I could right-click an object, grab its UUID, paste it in the manipulator panel and search then I might be able to use it...

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25 minutes ago, Nalates Urriah said:

How do you know what you are selecting in the Object Manipulator? Everything is UUID.

If I could right-click an object, grab its UUID, paste it in the manipulator panel and search then I might be able to use it...

Here's a short introduction:

The object manipulator is not meant as area search thus is shows no names (also i dont know how to retreive names without pinging the server which i presume is what FS does and it taxes the server hard).

You can double click any entry to select the prim, note that you will only select the single prim inside a linkset unless you open the Build tools or have it open and do something that does not deselect (such as alt camming).

Usually is not required to know which object is what, thats why multiple tabs and filters have been implemented to show only those of interest, namely lights/projectors and alphas, those are the ones you are really interested in and for most of them you'll want to mass-change them all at once but again you can double click anything to highlight/select it if you really have to know.

All linksets are always grouped together. This makes it easier to find parts of a single object in case you need it, helpful if only one part of a linkset has a light or is alpha but again there are tabs that shows only those.

I made the object manipulator mainly as easy way to immediately find and mass-change all projectors from casting shadows to dont cast shadows, so i can selectively enable 2 projectors (since we are limited to two shadow casting projectors) for picture purposes, it also makes it much easier to change entire scene alpha blending to alpha masking for places that contain a lot of grass, trees, bushes and all that stuff without having to select and keep it all selected for the entire time.

Edited by NiranV Dean
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This is the latest test build (and hopefully the last) before i push it as full release fresh from my Discord channel. If you want to test all the new QoL, features and fancies i added and fixed here you go, don't forget to report bugs. Read the login page changelogs for a list of all changes. The latest changes in this third test build include merging LL's latest code which i fear broke a lot of stuff all over the place... because it was a mess to fix.

Google Drive - Black Dragon 3.7.0 Test Build

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