One of the difficulties he encountered when making machinima was being able to use his choice of hardware. “I use a 3D mouse to move the camera and I also have a spare joystick,” William told me, “I wanted to be able to use the joystick and the keyboard in tandem with the mouse and have a means to adjust all the settings I was using from one place.”
His deliberations on all of these problems led William to develop an initial menu which gave access to all the options he wanted to use via a single floater (shown on the right). While this was both lengthy and specialised, it demonstrated the idea of bringing the various options together had potential, and he was encouraged to further his experiments by a friend, who suggested a similar approach to using the viewer’s Windlight options.
While working on the idea, William contacted the Firestorm team, who gave further encouragement and suggested he submit his idea in the form of a JIRA for consideration as a Firestorm feature. “So I dug deeper into the menu code and worked with a few designs, trying to make something that was both robust and easy to use,” he said.
This work, coupled with feedback from the Firestorm team, led William to develop Phototools as it can be seen today; but he didn’t stop there. In order to help people get the most from the tools, he started developing a comprehensive range of tutorials and videos for those coming to Phototools for the first time, all of which are available on Paperwork Shows and also can be found on his You Tube channel, together with many of his outstanding machinima productions.
The desire to make Phototools approachable is also reflected in the tool-tips associated with the floaters. These are extremely comprehensive, not only in explaining what the various options do, but also providing pointers and advisories on how to use them and what to avoid, together with relevant tips on what other tools work well alongside them. These go a long way towards making Phototools a lot less intimidating for the novice photographer.
I asked William if there was any particular reason he opted to develop Phototools using Firrestorm, other than it being his viewer of choice. “Firestorm has always been my favourite. It is a very stable product with great support and I trust the developers,” he replied. “It also has the Quick Prefs floater which I could redesign. Finally, Firestorm is also used by a lot of people in SL, so when I decided to make Phototools available for public use, I knew it be reaching a widespread audience.”
Looking to the Future
While Phototools is currently requires manual installation, this will be changing in the future. As mentioned earlier, it is currently being integrated into Firestorm, and will be available in a future official release of the viewer.
This integration will see both the Phototools floater gain its own toolbar button separate to Quick Preferences, allowing users to use whichever they prefer; a wise move, given the popularity of Firestorm’s Quick Preferences. Similarly, the revised Phototools camera floater will be available as an alternative to the default camera floater, again offering users a choice of which to use; those who prefer the default camera floater can still access the additional options and mouse controls through the Cam tab on the Phototools floater.
Phototools and Other Viewers
The current release of Phototools can be used – with some limitations – in other viewer flavours. The XML files for the Windlight presets menus, for example can be incorporated into any viewer and called-up using their respective button / menu option. The only item that isn’t so easy to incorporate is the Phototools floater itself. However, with the code becoming available as a TPV code contribution, it is possible the tools may well find their way into other TPVs in the future.
Give it a Go
If you’re a photographer and Firestorm user who does a lot of post-processing of images through Photoshop either because you’ve not explored the viewer’s capabilities in-depth or because you find fiddling with all the different Preferences tabs, debug options, etc., frustrating, you may want to give Phototools a try. Of course, there will always be limitations as to what can be done within the viewer; if nothing else, avatar poses alone can be a headache (arms and hair sometimes passing through body parts, etc.), but as William’s own work demonstrates, there is an incredible amount that can be achieved before turning to Photoshop. Even if you’re not an avid photographer, you may well still find Phototools handy to have available.
Phototools is available on the download page of Paperwork Shows and is available for all flavours of Firestorm (Windows, OSX and Linux). Full instructions on installing the files are included in the download, and on the blog as well. These are clear and concise, allowing Phototools to be added to any version of Firestorm with ease.
When installing Phototools, note that:
- The current version of Phototools is listed as only working with the default Firestorm and Vintage skins. However, once the XML files are installed, it should work for all current skins except MetaHarper Modern
- To use Phototools with MetaHarper Modern, you need to:
- Navigate to skins->metaharper modern->xui->en in your Firestorm installation
- Rename / back-up the floater_quickprefs.xml file located there
- Copy the Phototools floater_quickprefs.xml file to the same MetaHarper modern folder
- Restart the viewer – the Phototools floater will now open when clicking the Quick Prefs button.
- Paperworks Shows blog
- Download page
- Installation instructions
- Phototools interface overview
- William Weaver’s Flickr stream
- William Weaver’s YouTube channel
With thanks to Baz deSantis and William Weaver