On Windlight, skins and face lights. (A small rant)

A common complaint that has been voiced in the wake of Windlight returning to First Look viewers new you has been the following:

‘Windlight SUCKS! My face is all dark and shadowy! I have to wear this 8 prim face light to keep my face bright!’

This complaint shows up almost anywhere the words ‘Windlight’ and ‘skin’ are combined.

The folks behind Windlight made it known that the new lighting in Windlight is meant to reflect a more realistic rendering of SL and avatars inside it, but have made numerous adjustments and concessions to user feedback throughout the various iterations of the First Look .

Yet, the fact that this does come up so often shows there are definitely a lot of people who dislike how their faces are lit in SL. But does this necessarily mean this opinion is justified?

For starters, let’s have a look at this experiment I put together, which compares lighting between the normal and Windlight client.

On the left, I’m wearing one facial light set at intensity 1, radius 0.35m, falloff 0. It gives off a soft, indirect & short-distance light that is not too obvious but still allows the face and skin to be recognizable as what I consider to be ‘me’. Photographed in the normal viewer.

On the right, the same face light, but multiplied a number of times and photographed in Windlight.

Preference and milage may vary as far as just how lit an avatar ought to be, but I found my preference still lies in one light prim at the same settings. Lighting for 2-8 lit prims became excessive, at times bordering on radioactive! Had I been wearing a lighter skin, i’d be at risk for being mistaken for Michael Jackson!

More to the point, here’s why using multiple prims is ineffective and greedy: SL, whether normal or windlight, only ever renders 6 lights at a time in your camera view. Additional prims that are light sources will intermittently turn on and off based on their vacinity to other light sources. This is why the figure above comparing 6 & 8 face lights has similar lighting, but a slightly different light configuration.

Worse though is this: You know how people complain about their faces being underlit even *with* a face light? Well, if they’re hanging around other people who have 6-8 prim facelights, light might be rendered from these other prims, and not their own face light.

Consider this photo of my friend, who was standing 5m away from me and wearing one light source at the time. You wouldn’t know it! In playing around with multiple lights for this experiment, I’d inadvertently caused her face light to not work at all!

The other thing that should be mentioned at this point is that, even if you really prefer a brightly lit face, you only really ever *at most* need one prim as a face light, since you can adjust intensity, radius and falloff to much greater than the settings I listed here.

That’s about it. This has gotten to be a little longer than I intended, but over the weeks I’ve heard words like ‘crap’, ‘ruined’, and a lot more cursing directed at people who deliberately take time to listen to Residents at two Office Hour sessions a week, PLUS through the First Light discussion group and really make the effort to make the SL experience work better.

One thought on “On Windlight, skins and face lights. (A small rant)”

  1. Facelights are good if they are 1-2 prims. I rather look good then have objects look good. Until the lighting is better it’s always going to be that way.

    //Edit: The email address on this comment has been edited out as it is clearly an effort to harass someone via search alerts. Please don’t do this again. – Aki.

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