September 12, 2018

Specular madness with Advanced Lighting Model in Second Life

Recently I've been playing around more with Second Life's Advanced Lighting Model or ALM. While it's great for photography (enabling cool shadows and all), it wreaks havoc on items with materials that have specular highlights built-in. And while many techies complain about ALM (it can also render mesh weirdly), the default is to turn ALM ON whenever graphics are set above "High" in the Second Life Viewer.

What led me down a very deep ALM rabbit hole was a new dress put out by Hilly Haalan (HH). Honestly, I love Hilly Haalan's outfits. They are reasonably priced and most are HUD-driven with amazing color variations. So for the price of one color-way in a line like Blueberry, you get 20 or more colors and textures from HH. In fact, her HUD textures often make the same exact outfit look completely different with a mouse click or two.

#1 Specular turned on, ALM on
So here's the new dress, Felicia, by HH. You can see in the ad that it basically overlays various colors onto a mesh base.

Now I normally demo everything I can. But in general, HH's outfits have almost always been perfect out of the box when it comes to my Maitreya Lara mesh body.

#2 Specular on, ALM off
Well take a look at the photo of me on the right wearing the same dress in the ad above. (Violet color applied but it happens with all colors.) What happened to all those nice even colors? After posting a few Gyazos to two different mesh body groups (Maitreya Lara Friends and Mesh Body Addicts), I finally got my answer from some smart person. "You have ALM turned on, the dress uses materials and specular is set too high for ALM." Ohhh. OK. I have no idea what you're talking about lol.

After a few explanations in chat, it sorta made sense to me.  So I ended up sending a notecard to Hilly Haalan about the issue. Mega kudos to her. She made a custom version of Felicia with specular removed. So I can wear the dress with ALM turned on and it will still look normal.

 #3 Specular removed, ALM on
As you can see between the last two photos, there is very little difference in the appearance of the dress. However, what you do see is that my skin looks a little more natural and slightly shiny in #3 with ALM turned on. So I don't know if this is a lesson for designers but for sure it's a good one for shoppers. DEMO and make sure you look at the item you're buying with ALM ON and ALM OFF.

And now the usual stuff. Skin is Eirtae by Lumae, hair is Cray by .b, shoes are KC Amelia wedges and of course the dress is Felicia by Hilly Haalan. The link below is the SLURL to her main store.

Hilly Haalan mainstore