Space Navigator

Following the advice of a friend, BlakOpal picked up a 3D Connexion Space Navigator to use as a tool for filming and recording video in Second Life. While it doesn’t do any of the recording, it serves as a 3-dimensional camera control within SL. It’s a weird little device, but after tinkering around with the settings and playing around with it in-world it’s become an indispensable part of her SL-related gear. Even though she does the majority of the filming (so far, anyway), I kept finding myself sneaking over to her desk and grabbing the controller and experimenting with it on my system. I also started to notice that support for it was popping up in applications like Motion (part of Final Cut Studio), Adobe Creative Suite, and even Maya.

With the advent of the new machine, it was high time I went out and got one for myself. While I suppose I could have set up my own custom settings on my machine during any of the times I borrowed BlakOpal’s controller over the last year, I didn’t. Now, of course, it was time to remedy that. My first stop was the Second Life Wiki page devoted to the device, which has solid info, tutorials, and links.

My next step was to just spend some time fiddling around in SL, playing with the numbers, and coming up with some settings that felt comfortable for the way I use the controller. For those of you either considering a Space Navigator or new to the device yourself, let me share my findings with you in the hopes of saving you some time or helping you to get started. In Second Life Viewer 2, press cmd-P (ctrl-P in Windows) to bring up Preferences, and then click on the Advanced tab. There, you’ll see a button marked Other Devices. Click on that to bring up the joystick configuration screen. You can use all kinds of joysticks and controllers with SL, and this is the screen where you configure how they work. My advice is to do a screen capture before making any changes (in case you need to restore it back to this point), and then start playing around. If you’re not sure where to start, you can check out the screen shot below - it’s the settings I’m currently using.

There’s another neat trick I picked up that you might want to try - setting up a macro. With a little bit of playing around, I’ve been able to combine all the shortcut keys I need to use to hide not only my HUDs but my entire SL user interface into one button click on the Space Navigator. Windows users will want to check with the 3D Connexion web site for details on where to go and how to do that, but for Mac users it’s pretty easy. Running System Preferences in Mac OS, you should find an icon along the bottom row for 3D Connexion. Click it, then click on the Buttons tab. Next. click the Custom Functions button, and you’ll see a screen like the one below.

It’s blank to start with, but by clicking on the + sign next to Macros, you’ll be able to type in a name. I used “SL UI Toggle” and then entered what you see above in the notes. Now, next to Macro Steps: you want to click on the + button twice, to make two steps. In the first step, click and hold in the left column to see the drop-down menu, and choose Keystroke. Then double click in the column to the right and press the fn-ctrl-option-cmd-F1 keys all at once (depending on which machine you’re using, that’s either a handful or nearly impossible to pull off). If you got it right, it’ll look like what I have above. Line 2 is much easier. Again, click and hold to get the drop-down and choose Keystroke for the left side, then double click and press option-shift-H. Just like before, if you got it right your screen will look like what I have above. The first shortcut combo tells Second Life to hide all the User Interface elements, and the second combo tells SL to hide any of your HUDs. While some people prefer to leave HUDs turned on, for me they get in the way and putting the shortcut in here lets me take care of both in one step. Now you can click on Done to close the Custom Functions dialog. Back in the Buttons tab of the 3D Connexion preferences screen, click on the drop-down menu for Configure: and choose Any Application (if it’s not already selected). Then click in the drop-down next to the letter R and choose “SL UI Toggle” from the list. Finally (whew!) click the OK button in the bottom right.

The screen shot above is what the window looks like (running Second Life 2.1, other viewers/versions may vary slightly). If you got the shortcut set up properly, you should be able to click once on the right button of the Space Navigator, and your SL window will look like the one below.

That’s it! The Space Navigator’s left button defaults to turn on/off the ‘joystick flycam’ mode (so your camera can move independently of your avatar), and with the right button you now have one-click access to show/hide all the SL elements that you don’t want to have on screen when you’re filming or recording.

At Long Last!

After months and months of deliberating and planning (as well as saving), I’m very happy to report that we finally got the last of the big studio upgrades sorted. BlakOpal’s new machine came a few months ago, and this month I became the very proud user of a Mac Pro. Cords, clutter, and fabric/decor still need to be squared away, but the machinery is finally in place. The new system will give me all the horsepower, memory, and screen real estate I need to not only dial up Second Life, but also handle everything Adobe CS5 in short order and meet all my rendering and studio needs.