Noob Dude: Bite Sized Tutorials Part 1 – Omega: What It Is & How It Works

Welcome to the first in a series of bite sized tutorials, each of which will cover a specific aspect of avatar customisation within Second Life. As with all of my posts, these are written primarily for male avatars, so any mesh bodies and heads, etc mentioned will be those specifically for men, but the basic principles will be the same no matter your avatar’s gender. All that will differ is the capabilities of your own preferred mesh body parts and their HUDs.

As usual, I will be writing with newbies in mind, but you don’t have to be a newbie to have questions that you feel awkward about asking. I’ll try to go as in-depth as I can, and cover all those ‘obvious questions’ that everyone feels they should know (but might not).

In this post you’ll see several words used that you may or may not be familiar with. So here’s a quick glossary before we dive in:

  • HUD: This is an object that you add from your inventory. It will place a clickable HUD (Heads Up Display) onto your screen.
  • Applier: This is a HUD that can be clicked to apply (hence the name) textures to your mesh body parts. These textures can be anything from skins to hairbases to makeup to eyes, etc.

Now on with the post.

We’ll begin with a word that you’ve probably seen plastered all over Marketplace, or been told that you need to use if you have a mesh body, or seen advertised next to a mesh head: OMEGA.

What is Omega?

Omega is a product created by Chellynne Bailey of the Omega Systems store. While it’s a brand in its own right, Omega is not the name of an actual skin or makeup etc applier; rather it’s a cross-brand ‘translator’ that allows you to use any appliers created using its scripts on any brand of mesh body part, as long as you have the corresponding Omega HUD.

That made no sense whatsoever, Skell…

Yeah, tell me about it. I’ve been trying for months to come up with an equivalent RL analogy for what Omega is. It’s “sort of like” generic medicine instead of Advil; it’s “sort of like” buying unbranded printer ink refills instead of Hewlett Packard branded refills, etc. In all honestly, the best thing I can do is guide you through how to use it, and that way it should make sense a bit better.

The two types of Omega HUD

Omega comes in two flavours: installer and relay. They act as follows:

  • an installer is a HUD that needs to be worn just once and clicked. It will install Omega compatibility into the relevant mesh body part that it’s for, and you can then remove the HUD. You will only need to re-wear the installer HUD if you either redeliver a fresh copy of the mesh body part, or make a copy of it, or if it’s updated, so hang on to the HUD
  • a relay is a HUD that you need to wear every time you want to make use of Omega capabilities on your mesh body parts. This HUD acts a bit like a remote controller, telling the body part which of the textures in the applier HUD needs to be worn

Omega HUDs are brand-specific

Omega is not a single “buy one and it works on everything” HUD. Each Omega installer or relay is coded to work specifically with a certain mesh body part brand. So, for example, if you have a Catwa mesh head and a Belleza mesh body then—in order to use, let’s say, an Omega skin on them—you will need the Omega HUDs for Catwa and Belleza.

So why would I want this?

Let’s say that you have a Lelutka mesh head and a Belleza mesh body. You’ve found a great skin that has a Lelutka head applier, but the store only has body appliers for Signature. Well you’d be out of luck, because Signature body appliers won’t apply to your Belleza body. But next to the Signature body appliers they also have Omega body appliers, and that means you’re in luck. With the Omega installer HUD for Belleza you’ll be able to wear that Omega body applier.

Now let’s move on a few months, and you’ve decided to change your mesh body. You’re now wearing the Signature body, so you might think Oh, I’ll go back to the store and buy the Signature body appliers. Nuh-uh. You don’t need to pay the full cost for the Signature body appliers; you just need the (much cheaper!) Signature Omega installer HUD, and you’ll be able to wear the Omega body appliers that you bought previously.

This cross-brand ability is the beauty of Omega: it saves you money by allowing you—for the much lower cost of a small HUD—to wear the same appliers on multiple brands of mesh body part, and this makes it incredibly versatile.

Let’s look at another example: you have a GA.EG mesh head and you want to buy some facial hair. While GA.EG is a fairly large brand in Second Life, it doesn’t have anywhere near as many brand-specific appliers created for it as the bigger brands such as Catwa and Lelutka, so your choice would appear to be far more limited, right?

Not so. Pick up the GA.EG Omega HUD (this one’s a relay, so you’ll need to wear it each time you want to put any Omega applier on your GA.EG head) and start hunting for Omega applier facial hair. The market is now wide open to you, as there are many more creators including Omega facial hair appliers than there are GA.EG-specific appliers.

As before, let’s move on a few months and you’ve decided to change to a Catwa mesh head. You now know what to do in order to keep wearing that great Omega facial hair that you bought for your old GA.EG head, right? Yep: just pick up the Omega relay for Catwa and wear it while applying that facial hair.

Does Omega have any limitations?

Yes, one or two. There are a few brands of mesh body parts that don’t have any Omega support, mainly because they stick to their own proprietary method of applying textures. To find out if your mesh body part brand is supported, search for the brand name at the Omega Systems Marketplace store. Make sure you look for the brand name and not the body name. For Signature’s Gianni body you need to search for Signature, and for Belleza’s Jake body you need to search for Belleza, etc.

Another limitation is that I wouldn’t really recommend it for skin appliers that go on your head, unless the applier states that it works best on a specific brand of head and you happen to have that brand. Each brand of mesh head differs in the way that its texture mapping goes onto the 3D shape of the mesh, and creators will usually map to the mesh head brand that they use. An Omega head applier that was originally mapped to a LAQ head would probably not look 100% right on a Lelutka head. The texture of the upper lip might go outside (or inside) the 3D shape of the mesh, the eye creases might not sit correctly, etc.

Mesh heads are more complex than mesh bodies, so the only issue you might have with Omega body appliers might be a slight offset in the placement of nipples, for example. Much less noticeable than lips and eyes (unless you have people regularly ogling your nips, in which case I say more power to you..!) So I would recommend Omega for any skin appliers for your body, as well as any ‘accessory’ appliers, such as facial hair, scars, freckles, eyes, makeup, hairbases, etc.

Where to buy Omega

Omega HUDs can be purchased from the Omega Solutions Marketplace store. However, here they do cost more than at the inworld store, where they’re even cheaper if you’re a member of the inworld group. You can redeliver any Omega purchase—be it from the inworld store or from Marketplace—at the redelivery terminal in the lobby of the inworld store. This is extremely useful when there are updates to the HUDs.

For much more in-depth information about Omega, visit their website: http://slpoweredbyomega.com/

Second Life fashion photography for beginners

I’ve been asked by several people to post some tips for fashion photography, so I guess this is that post. Hell, I’m nowhere near the league of SL’s finest when it comes to fashion photography. I don’t spend hours in Photoshop, painting individual hairs and all that stuff. I just do what I do, it comes out pretty well, and people seem to like it.

That said, there are  some good ground rules and other tips I can pass on to anyone who might be interested in taking fashion shots (or any other kind of pic of their avatar) so read on. (And, if you’re new to my blog, be warned that I swear. A lot.)

Tip 1: Set high-resolution options for your snapshots

You’ll find this option in the Advanced menu of your viewer. You can either open that up by digging around in your preferences (depending on which viewer you use) or by toggling the CTRL+ALT+D keyboard shortcut. You want the last two checked options below: High-res Snapshot, and Quiet Snapshots. (The latter one just prevents the annoying shutter click, as well as the silly cheesy grin animation.)

When you come to taking your image, make sure you set your width in pixels to a high enough resolution, and keep ‘Constrain Proportions’ on. I usually opt for around 5000px, as below:

Set them to save as PNG. Together, these two options will remove the jagged edges around your avatar. They will also give you much more to work with if you take your images into a photo-editing program afterwards to make any adjustments.

Tip 2: Use CTRL and Zero to zoom in, not your scrollwheel

Ever wonder why you end up looking like Dory in your images?

Using the scrollwheel of your mouse to zoom in close to your avatar will result in a fish-eye lens effect. To counteract that and get a more accurate (not to mention flattering!) shot instead, get your camera reasonably close to your avatar, then use the CTRL+0 (Control and Zero) keyboard shortcut, repeatedly, until you’re as close as you need to be. (CTRL+9 will reset your camera view.)

Some examples of the difference that will make are below:

Tip 3: Get in close

You’re focusing on the fashion, so get in there and show it! If your image looks like this –

– how on earth is anyone going to see your hair or beard applier or eyes, or whatever else you’re featuring? Get up close and personal, and show off that fashion.

Secondary to that:

Tip 4: Keep the background simple

Yes, you can take gorgeous fashion shots against beautiful backgrounds, but don’t make that background too ‘busy’. Human attention spans being what they are, you don’t want anything distracting behind you. These books below? Distraction. I’m immediately trying to read the titles when I look at the pic:

I tend to favour a simple textured background. I know a lot of people love those pre-loaded photo booths that can be bought, but honestly? A basic texture or even a single-coloured wall behind you will focus the viewer’s eye on what you’re wearing. Which… is kind of the point of fashion photography.

Tip 5: Use the Rule of Thirds

Which of these looks a bit more interesting? Or even more satisfying? It’s the same pic, just cropped a bit differently.

The first is dead-centre. Yes, there’s equal space either side of the head, but that long shoulder (does it go on forever?!) on the left versus short shoulder and gap on the other side just doesn’t… feel right. However, in the second shot the Rule of Thirds is in play. The focal point—the head and its accessory—is off-centre and over on the right-hand third of the shot. The long shoulder draws the eye in a pleasing way, and there’s space to offer some text if needed. (If not, the ‘dead space’ still feels  right.)

A couple more examples of the Rule of Thirds, from my Flickr:

Sometimes the Rule of Thirds can be ignored and will even work against an image. An example would be the pic below:

That shot gains more gravitas and focus by being central. The pose is calm and centred and in control, thus the image positioning reflects that.

Tip 6: Play with Windlight

If you have the Firestorm viewer then you already have a plethora of Windlight settings at your fingertips. Play around with them! Try editing them, just moving the sun slider to see what effects you can get on your avatar’s face. Here are four examples of the exact same pose changing drastically because of the Windlight settings used:

For darker Windlights, try using a very soft (and I mean SOFT!) facelight, or some projected lighting on your avatar. You’ll get the moodiness of the Windlight, but your avatar won’t be completely obscured by it.

Tip 7: Take a LOT of images, then whittle them down

I usually take tens of images from all kinds of angles (and in multiple Windlights), then whittle them down to one or two (or, at best, half a dozen). This little lot here –

– ended up as this:

Tip 8: Try slow-motion animations

Got a Bento mesh head? Try this little trick:

(Click the set of double lines at the top of that small menu popout, and that will ‘snap it off’ so you can keep it on your screen [until you relog or close it] and not have to go hunting for it each time.)

That setting will slow down your animations (on your viewer only). It’s perfect for capturing that hint of a smile right before you break into an ear-splitting grin, or the moment when your eyelids flutter perfectly shut just before you pull a silly face. By watching each of your Bento mesh head’s animations at normal speed you can identify the moments you want to capture, then run them again in slow-motion, with your cursor poised over the ‘refresh’ button of your screenshot window. This vastly  increases the number of possible face animations (in the form of those individual little moments) that you can make use of for your images.

(The Developer menu is enabled via the Advanced menu, and—if using Firestorm—via the Advanced tab of your preferences.)

It’s also great for slowing down dances to catch some interesting moments. I did that with a set of Lady Gaga ‘Bad Romance’ dances for these images:

See this little smirk and eyebrow-raise? It’s subtle, but it’s the very start of a ‘flirt’ animation:

Tip 9: Take advantage of eye direction

Whether you use the eye-poser on your mesh head or a freebie eye-direction HUD like this one, play around with moving your eyes. You can look directly into camera, look down wistfully, gaze up into the distance. Eye direction can add a lot of character to an image. Just a couple of examples below:

Tip 10: Don’t foreshorten yourself!

Okay, so Skell has giraffe legs, so the ‘before’ image below doesn’t really work too well. But taking an image from above will foreshorten your legs to such an extent that you’re at risk of singing Oompa-Loompa-doompety-do. Angle your camera at your midriff, or—if you want to lengthen your legs a bit or give your avatar’s pose a slight air of authority—then angle it at the knees and look slightly up.

However, if you like the look of your avatar’s head or face from that higher angle, get in close (CTRL+0 again) and leave your legs out of the shot.

I’ve seen people taking photos from above that make their legs look much shorter than their torsos. That’s not a good look!

Tip 11: Ladies? Be careful where the ‘boob cut-off’ goes!

No screenshot for this one, because… well, Skell doesn’t have boobs. But a bit of advice for the ladies here, because this is something that really stands out and isn’t very flattering. When taking a head-on image of your avatar, keep an eye on where the lower edge of the image is in relation to your breasts. Either include them fully, or cut the image off just below the collar bone. If the bottom of the image is too low—well into the fullness of your breasts—it can make them look disproportionately big, because like the “does that shoulder go on forever?” thing mentioned in point 5, the brain expects the outline to continue in the same direction as the point of cut-off (if that makes sense).

Tip 12: Fuck around with your images

Aaand there’s your one swear for this post XD

Whether you just crop them using Paint or you take them into Gimp or Photoshop, whether you find Insta-worthy filters or use Pixlr (which is a free online app) play around with your images and see what else you can do with them. BUT! Don’t go too far. If you obscure your image too much, you’re back to that “how the hell can people see what you’re wearing?” thing.

Tip 13: Want to show more than one part of the look? Composite!

Photoscape is a free photo-editing program that also contains a ‘page’ function with tens of preset image-holding layouts. Choose your image dimensions, pick a layout, then drag your images across and they’ll automatically be fitted into the sections of the layout. I use this a lot when I want to show multiple shots in a single image. (I’ve been using it throughout this post, too.)

And that’s your lot. Hopefully these tips will be useful to you.