2024 Materials Graphics Updates FAQ

Welcome to GLTF PBR Materials, Mirrors, PBR Terrain and 2k textures!

Last year we were pleased to announce the arrival of GLTF PBR Materials in this blog post, and while many Residents using the official Second Life Viewer have had a chance to test out and take advantage of these new features, many other Residents have only recently started experiencing these new features for the first time as our expansive community of third party viewers has begun to integrate them.

As adoption of these features grows, we've noticed that there are many questions — and we want to do our best to help answer them!


PBR Materials

What are PBR Materials and what’s changing?

  • Physics-Based Rendering (or PBR) Materials use a more realistic lighting model that makes chrome reflective and leather look like leather. Viewers using PBR Materials better simulate the way light interacts with different types of object materials, creating a more rich and visually interesting environment. This is a technological upgrade that begins to bring Second Life closer to modern 3D rendering standards like those used in software like Blender or Adobe Substance Painter.
  • Reflection probes now exist, both automatic and manually created ones.
    • What's a reflection probe? It's a tiny object that in some ways mimics a 360° camera which helps simulate the way light bounces off of objects in an environment, allowing other objects to more realistically reflect their environment.
  • We're updating from the sRGB alpha blending standard for textures, to Linear alpha blending, which better accounts for how light interacts with transparency.
    • This decision was made to support the future and longevity of Second Life.
    • Transparencies with darker tones will be slightly lighter now and appear more see-through than before; lighter colors with transparency will appear slightly less transparent than before.
    • If you create textures or content using Photoshop or other photo editing software, you may need to change your software's default settings to now use linear alpha blending in order for your textures to match your software once you've uploaded them to Second Life. Please see the PBR Materials wiki for program specific advice.

Why is everything darker?

As part of the effort to continue to update Second Life in light of new technologies, we've opted to phase in more contemporary methods of rendering light to help bring Second Life's in-world visuals more in tune with modern 3D creation tools (like Blender). Because of that, the new in-world lighting model is more realistic, instead of artificially brightened like it was in the past.

  • You may notice a change in some Environment Settings (also known as EEP skies) currently in use inside Second Life. Because light is crucial to the appearance of skies and to their settings, the appearance of many Environment Settings will be different with the new rendering methods. Please see our Knowledge Base article about the Environment editor for tips on how to adjust your Environment settings to your preference. You can also acquire new Environment Settings from the Library (in your Inventory) or the Second Life Marketplace.
  • We will keep updating the PBR Materials wiki with additional content, demonstrating how to replace or revise current EEP settings.

Why do objects look shiny/plastic?

Any shine added to an object before the graphics update will have a shine that's now be more apparent with the new lighting model. Please see the PBR Materials wiki for more information.

Why does the water look different?

Any changes to the way that light interacts with the environment may change how something looks, but water also no longer supports realtime reflections unless you have Screen Space Reflections enabled (Preferences > Graphics > Advanced Settings... > check Screen Space Reflections).

Where did the Preferences > Graphics > Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) toggle setting go?

The Advanced Lighting Model (ALM) is a requirement for our new features to work. In an effort to keep the shared experience of Second Life as similar as possible, we have enabled ALM by default. While this may reduce performance for older computer systems, we believe it is an important step forward in ensuring Second Life's appearance continues to evolve as technologies improve over time. We're sorry for the inconvenience, and hope that Residents with older hardware are able to find options and settings that work for their needs.

My computer's fans never used to run so often while I'm logged in to Second Life. What's going on?

The updates to the graphics rendering systems are designed to take better advantage of a computer's graphics cards than ever before, and graphics cards can put out a lot of heat. It's not uncommon for any program that uses a graphics card's resources to cause a computer's fans to run more frequently.

Residents with a powerful graphics card may find that Second Life attempts to utilize more GPU (graphics card) resources than before. If your viewer's frames per second (FPS) rates are comfortably at 60 FPS or higher, you might be able to reduce the need for your computer's fans to run by enabling VSync (Preferences > Graphics > Advanced Settings... > check Enable VSync), which locks your viewer's FPS to your monitor's refresh rate, providing a smooth visual experience without unnecessary extra resource usage.


How do I create a mirror and how is it different from a PBR material reflection?

Many people are excited to have mirrors in Second Life at long last, but they are a bit tricky to create. In Second Life, a mirror is actually made up of two pieces:

  • A reflection probe with extra settings enabled makes it a “mirror” probe.
  • Any object with sufficient shine in the plane of influence of the “mirror” -- this is what most people would consider the actual mirror object, as in a shiny pane of glass in a frame that you can see your reflection in.

Getting the exact angles and properties of a mirror and its required mirror probe correct can be difficult, but many Residents and creators have tackled this challenge and created video tutorials, blog posts, and mirrors available for purchase in the Second Life Marketplace. If you're looking for a mirror on the Marketplace, a good tip is to check the description of the listing to make sure that it mentions a probe -- that's a sign that it's using the new reflection probes to create a functional (and not just decorative) mirror.

Tips for Mirrors in Second Life

  • At the moment, only box (planar) probes may create mirrors, not spherical reflection probes
    • If a regular mirror is tricky, a round distorted funhouse ball mirror is tricky x 3.14159...
  • Only one Mirror Probe will be rendered at a time, we hope to increase this in the future -- sorry!
  • Mirrors may decrease viewer performance, as we’re rendering the visuals of a scene multiple times -- once in the regular viewer space, and then again in the reflection.
  • The Second Life Marketplace is a good place to find new Mirrors, but be sure to look for mention of probes to be sure it's a functional mirror.
  • Many Resident content creators have created great video tutorials, blog posts, and forum posts on how to create mirrors in Second Life, and we encourage you to check them out!

PBR Terrain

How do I use PBR terrain?

Physics-Based Rendering (PBR) terrain allows a region owner to set the terrain texture of their region to a materials-based texture. These PBR materials textures can be up to the current texture size limit of 2048x2048 (but please be advised that textures larger than 1024x1024 may have a higher upload fee).

For more information, please see PBR Terrain at the Second Life Wiki.

2k Textures

What are 2k textures?

For most of Second Life's history, texture uploads have been limited in terms of their pixel size to smaller than 1024x1024 pixels (height and width). Any image that was larger than 1024x1024 was automatically reduced in size when it was uploaded as a texture. With this recent graphics update, Second Life now supports uploading textures that are larger than 1024x1024, and these larger sized textures are referred to as "2k textures". These larger textures can be as large as 2048x2048 (height and width), and if they are larger than 1024x1024, they may incur a higher upload fee (based on the uploader's membership type).

For textures larger than 1024x1024 (2k textures), the upload fees are as follows, based on membership type and per texture uploaded:

  • Basic members: L$50
  • Plus members: L$50
  • Premium members: L$40
  • Premium Plus members: L$0

For more information on uploading textures, how they're scaled if they don't fit a standard image size, and other details, please see our Knowledge Base article Uploading Assets.

Will we be able to set our viewer to limit texture uploads to 1k if we don’t want to use 2k?

If you'd like to be sure that you aren't charged the higher upload fee for a 2k texture, it's best to use your image editing software to make sure the size of your image is 1024x1024 or less on each side. The viewer will also confirm the cost of the texture upload before completing the upload, so there is some warning that an image is larger than 1024x1024 and may be charged the 2k upload fee rate instead. We are planning to add an optional toggle to the viewer to prevent 2k uploads at some point in the future, however.

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