24 April 2013

Firestorm Clouds

If you use Firestorm, you may have noticed, tucked away in Preferences > Firestorm > Windlight, the option to select different sets of cloud textures: default (which is what we've been seeing until now), altocumulus, cumulo-nimbus and layered. I'm not able to jump back and forth between these sets without a restart—hopefully some of you might not have this challenge, although it seems to be recommended anyway. I hadn't seen any comparisons between the options and so took a few quick images this morning.

I ventured over to one of my favorite places, a Petrovsky flux, installed at the University of Kansas's Spencer Museum of Art sim, and switched back and forth. These aren't very refined images, but they might help give you an impression of the possibilities. (You can click on them to zoom in.) I took photos in the region's default setting, Bristol, and then with a couple others (for no particular reason): Places alirium and [TOR] MIDDAY - An incongruent truth.

Default - Bristol

Default - Places alirium

Default - [TOR] MIDDAY - An incongruent truth

The three images above are what we're used to seeing: the standard default cloud setting. They're not bad, especially for those of us old enough to remember what are now commonly called "classic clouds"—which became "classic" and out of date with the advent of Windlight. Now come the three new options:

Altocumulus - Bristol

Altocumulus - Places alirium

Altocumulus - [TOR] MIDDAY - An incongruent truth

Altocumulus clouds are puffy little white clouds, but higher up than regular cumulus clouds. And they're thinner, more of a patchwork, allowing the light to hit them at many different points.

Cumulo-Nimbus - Bristol

Cumulo-Nimbus - Places alirium

Cumulo-Nimbus - [TOR] MIDDAY - An incongruent truth

In real life, cumulonimbus clouds are massively vertical, towering up in the sky—those clouds that make you go "wow!" when you see them. These in Second Life don't have much verticality, but they do have more mass than the default clouds, and certainly look more like nice big puffy cumulus clouds than we've had before. If you catch the sun—which you can't see very well here but get a sense of in the top and bottom images in this post—you can create some amazing sunsets and sunrises with very painterly effects. Also, in some sky settings such as Foggy, a thick cloud cover slowly moving is pretty spectacular.

Layered - Bristol

Layered - Places alirium

Layered - [TOR] MIDDAY - An incongruent truth

Layered tends to produce a more gently dotted cloudscape, as seen above.

The overall winner in my book is the Cumulo-Nimbus setting, which can produce these rather fantastic views. Whether we'll see so many images using this setting (which does seem to be other people's favorite as well) that we'll begin to wish for clearer skies is hard to say, but for now it affords many new opportunities for experimentation. The others are refreshing as well, and I'm sure those of us who fiddle around with the cloud sliders in the environment settings will be kept busy for some time to come.

Edit: I really should have mentioned that Vincent Nacon created the cloud map tga files! Thanks, Vincent!


  1. I'm loving these! I haven't had time to play with them much yet, but did get this shot today. All of my photos need clouds. :D

  2. Holy crap that is one gorgeous image, Whiskey. Wow.

  3. Yes, wow indeed. Now I gotta see if these cloud options are also avaiable in my favourite viewer, Singularity. I hope so much they will be. Particularly for sailing photography clouds are very important to create different weather patterns.

  4. Hi Orca. I'm don't know about Singularity, but if you read through this thread you might find a way to work with them: http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Machinima-Forum/Enhance-your-sky-with-Natural-clouds/td-p/754835

  5. Thx Ziki. I understood roundabout zero of the geek talk but will try to replicate the settings in Singularity.

  6. Awesome, thanks for posting this Ziki, I can't wait to try these! I also use Singularity, so will poke around and see what I can come up with. :) Whiskey, your photo is superb. :)Oh...This is Jewel, sorry. Haha.

  7. Whiskey's photo is really awesome, isn't it?

    One interesting thing about these new clouds is how different windlight settings look. For example, William Weaver's Breakwave setting, which I love, looks very different now with these big thick clouds. So it's almost like having to re-explore all over again. It does sound like there's a way non-Firestorm users can access them, so let us know if it works.

  8. Ooh, thanks for backtracking to these images!

  9. I did flip over to the cumulo-nimbus clouds, and and got a really couple of good photos out of it (and only ONE in a place you've blogged! ;) ) http://whatfreshsl.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/sometimes-things-just-mesh/

  10. Great! They're a lot of fun to play with. Another post on these clouds worth reading, by Inara Pey: http://modemworld.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/firestorm-clouds/.

  11. Ziki, thank you very much for this entry, I use to shoot landscapes and indeed this open more 'doors' to explore :-)
    I've made already a couple of tries with Cumulo nimbus, here is one.

  12. Hi Fingol! Glad you found it helpful—the clouds certainly provide some new opportunities. :)

  13. "Thanks, Vincent!"

    You're welcome! :D

  14. Vincent, they're awesome! Everyone is delighted. :)