Sunday, 27 July 2008

About the Avatar Rendering Cost

A public service announcement

Readers who have updated to the Second Life™ 1.20 viewer may have noticed a new feature, or perhaps rather a tool, called Avatar Rendering Cost (ARC). This is a representation of how hard the system has to work to display your avatar including all its clothes and attachments, as a indication of how much your av contributes to lag locally. It's in the Advanced menu, under Rendering/Info displays (press CTRL-Alt-D to call up the Advanced menu). (Torley introduced this in a short video tutorial a few weeks back. There's also an article by Pastrami Linden on the SL blog, for those who prefer facts to frothy enthusiasm.)

When you activate this option, it displays a number (the rendering cost) above each av's head. The display is colour-coded: green is good (low cost), yellow medium, red is high-cost. Note that these are approximations, mere rule-of-thumb estimates, not definitive and absolute values. As both Pastrami and Torley emphasize, the ARC number is certainly not a reason to yell at people.

The calculation doesn't consider the cost of scripts in your attachments or AOs, which do contribute to lag (if not to rendering as such). Surprisingly, if not downright suspiciously, it treats slider clothes as being "free:" the cost of rendering your av butt-naked is 1, but the cost of rendering you wearing every single type of slider clothing is also 1! I find this unlikely, because slider clothing is a texture that has to be downloaded and displayed.

However, be that as it may. The tool exists, let's try it out. (By the way, the constant updating and calculating that this performs will slow down your viewer. The Lindens recommend keeping it turned off generally, and activating it for brief periods when needed.)

In the spirit of scientific enquiry I chose three favourite outfits and had a look at their rendering costs.

ARC 1397  ARC 601  ARC 10302

First up, a Pulse pantsuit. The total rendering cost of this appearance was 1397* (yellow = medium). Here's how it breaks down piece-by-piece:

Pulse outfit Unit #29174
 Slider clothes0
 Prim belt20
 Prim palazzo pants (both legs)154
Pulse Orfilia jewelry set562
 Earrings (both)55
Flexi hair ("Abyss" by Oxygen)435
Sculpty prim boots ("Dune" by Maitreya)178
Lip ring (by Avolve)33
Pulse facelight (by myself, see previous post)14
My av (shape and skin)1

The next outfit is "Shadow" by AVid, one of my favourite designers. The total rendering cost is 601 (green = low, good).

AVid "Shadow" slider pants, socks, gloves, shirt0
AVid "Shadow" prim boots82
AVid "Hermia" thigh knife77
ETD "Dierdre" prim hair388
Matrix sunglasses34
Pulse facelight19
My av (shape and skin)1

Finally, the "Grand Juji:" a wildly over-the-top feathery fashion statement from Serene Sensations. This truly magnificent dress consists of 334 half-transparent flexi-prims! It should therefore be no surprise to learn that its rendering cost is 10302. Let's say that again slowly, shall we, letting it roll around on our tongues? Ten thousand three hundred and two. (Don't get me wrong, I am not criticising or mocking. This dress is worth every single one of those ARC points, I love it dearly and will continue to wear it. I might be a little more careful of where and when I wear it, though.)

Feather boa239
Feathered upper skirt2671
Feathered lower skirt6939
Slider pants, socks, gloves, shirt0
Desire "Writer" prim hair339
Freebie stiletto prim shoes113
My av (shape and skin)1

What do we learn?

1) Flexi-prims hurt.
2) Flexi-prims with alpha-channel transparency hurt real bad.
3) Your hair will usually outweigh the rest of your clothing.
4) Your jewelry might outweigh everything else including your hair.

* For comparison, one of the fancy newbie avs out-of-the-box costs around 275; the traditional Ruth costs exactly 1. Based on a rough sample observed while walking about today, male avs typically seem to be under 800, the majority of females are under 1600.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Workin' nine to five

Well, working anyway. I am delighted to announce that I've been hired by Pulse as their store manager / assistant / fixit-girl. This means that I will be spending even more time hanging out at the shop than I already do — but getting paid for it.

In the interests of clarity and disclosure of interests, I should point out this is a new development. My mentions of Pulse in previous posts were not paid for or directed by Eidolon and Lorac, but simply outpourings of my own enthusiasm. I wrote about their clothes and skins because I like them.

In other news but further in the same vein of own-horn-blowing, the Cushicle is damned nearly done! Woot. Stand by for photos.

Thursday, 10 July 2008


I made a menu-driven, adjustable facelight for Pulse this week, and I'm quite pleased at how well it has worked out. It will be distributed free of charge at the Pulse store in Nip Tuck Island (the dispenser will be there quite soon, in the meantime IM me in-world if you want a copy right now).

Making it was something of a public service, really, because SL is over-full of people with facelights that are just hideously bright. I've seen some that light up entire clubs, and others that were so badly tuned that you couldn't see the wearer's skin at all: the over-bright light washed all the detail out of their skins.

I am surprised to infer how few people really look at their avatars, when I see such things. Why would you spend thousands of L$ on a skin, then wear a badly-made facelight that obliterates all its details? How could you look at yourself wearing it and not see that your skin is utterly featureless and bleached out? Odd.

So, we are distributing dim facelights! They cast just enough light to let people see your lovely features, without blinding other people or spoiling the lighting effects of the sim where you are standing. They are free, adjustable by on-screen dialog, and they work really well. Come and get them!