The Struggle is Real

What to do?

This is somewhat of an update to my progress toward my goal here. What I’m finding that there is always something to learn, that can sometimes be difficult and the struggle is real. On the other hand, there is some feeling of accomplishment when something new is learned.

In the last few weeks, I solved the problem I was having with my computer ever since adding a video card capable of displaying the graphics available in SL.  It was rebooting at the worst times – like when I’m trying to tweak the windlight setting after finding the pose I want and getting the camera set. Usually, I could tell it was coming because the fan speed on the video card would pick up. Of course, there was some concern that the video card wasn’t wasn’t all it was hyped to be but the fact that the machine was sometimes stubborn to power on and that I had struggled once before to get it to power up long before the new video card convinced me it was something else.  I had visions of purchasing a new, better motherboard…an opportunity but another expense.  In the end, I identified a connector that wasn’t fully seated on the motherboard and since addressing that, everything has gone great on the hardware side.  Now I could get back to focusing on my abilities.

Though my last image was, I think, a technical success in that three images were combined to make the one with little noticeable flaws, I wasn’t happy with the image itself…with the contrast or with the shadows. Most of the short comings are likely my own ability or lack of them while using Gimp. Last week, I stumbled upon a post on Flickr by Natsumi Xenga about a live editing session on youtube which really got my attention. I enjoy watching how others work.


I began with the oldest video and have been working my way through. It wasn’t long before I gave into the temptation of taking the Adobe plunge and trading in Gimp for Photoshop.  I have literally spent a full day trying to remove green pixels from the edges of images after trying to use a green screen background. I watched youtube videos that showed how to do this in 5 minutes in photoshop.

After signing up for a 7 day trial of Creative Cloud, I got to one of Natsumi’s videos showing her process in world and how she creates a mask to remove the background with an image from SL and then puts it all back together.  This is exactly what I needed. It is really the biggest shortcoming I’ve found in Gimp so far and here was a way to do it without Gimp or Photoshop. A few videos more of others complaining about Adobe’s monopoly and aggressiveness (which I was already aware of on the corporate side), I removed all the Creative Cloud apps and canceled my subscription before it began.  Back to Gimp 🙂

So, I’m not certain if this is 2 steps forward and one back or just three tiny steps forward but still the progress is forward and the next image of Aedan’s Spring Break is in my head so it’s time to get back to work.

No Surprise Here

Loading the car for a trip
Trying to leave again

Of course vacation plans in SL are subject to complications just as in RL  You think you have everything packed and just as you’re about to get into the car you panic that you forgot something. Is it in the suitcase or..or is it lost? Similarly, I had spent hours setting up for this shot, tweaking the light, setting the pose – and that was after chasing down suitcases, cars, cats and parking lot textures! We won’t even talk about the cars I got at a very good price – too good to be true even with broken scripts. (Yes, I am lodging a complaint because at least one had a negative review because of the same issues I had).  After all that and then taking the picture, editing in Gimp because the only opening suitcase I could find that was half modern or not beat up was pink…after all that, you realize the jacket you’re wearing is a mess!

In all fairness, it was a few years old and the creators have a tough time dealing with the varied size avatars..but my avatar is 6 and a half feet tall and muscled…and small is too big!  So, refusing to leave home like that I had to go shopping.  I hate shopping for men’s clothes for this very reason.  Time lost shopping only to pull something else out of the drawer and set everything up for the photo again.

Unable to get the exact same lighting, I then spent another hour trying to (and took screen shots of the settings this time!) get the same angle, same light ( and failed) before saying ‘enough!’.  I’m getting really good at changing the color of items in Gimp by now so that was easy.

Almost ready to upload and then I noticed the cat was missing half it’s head! Really!? Log back in, set everything up as close as I can and…get a good picture of the cat from the same angle and distance…and hopefully with light close enough that it’s easy to bring into the image.  One last check and I realized that on one of my monitors it was too dark so I lightened the image before uploading.

There! Now we’re ready to go.  Get into the car! No, not you kitty…

Yes, it wasn’t too long before I was told the image was too dark.  I’m just ready to hit the road by now though I am a bit concerned that I’ve missed my flight…

Gimp Foreground Select

Rottendam - Too Bright
The starting point ..

From my post yesterday, you might recall that I was on a trip to find some objects for a secret and huge project I’m working on when I stumbled across this guy passed out on the street. It seemed like an opportunity to get some practice with my LUMIPro but I ended up taking the image into Gimp because I still couldn’t get exactly what I wanted.  I’ve found myself frequently needing to extract the subjects of photos from their backgrounds and this seemed to be one of those times.

Because this is becoming a frequent practice, I figured I should make myself more proficient at what I understand is supposed to be the latest and easiest way to isolate items in Gimp. The Foreground Select tool.  Here I go down another path!

To date, my experience with this tool has been only marginally better than using either the “free” or “fuzzy” select tools to do the same thing.  When it’s all said and done, I am still finding myself going back and spending perhaps hours removing unwanted pixels with the wrong color.  Unfortunately, this attempt has been no better.

However, I did learn one thing that prompted me to create this post.  When my attempts to identify the foreground and background using the tools presented by Foreground Select left so much wanting, I figured there must be something else to try. I watched a few tutorials on youtube and all showed the same thing though one was amazingly successful and extracting blowing hair from it’s background (video below).

In that video, the presenter is using the ‘Matting Levin” engine. On my machine, it was set to use the other engine, Matting Global, and I was unable to change the selection.  Similarly, the machine I am currently on is defaulted to the Matting Global but is denying the option to change engines.

I searched and read quite a bit but found nothing explaining why I had no other option.  I suspected it might be hardware.

Gimp Foreground Select Tool
Gimp Foreground Select Tool

I only recently built the machine that I’m using to take photos in SL.  It has what is supposed to be an exceptional video card which I may review later. Early on, I determined to use that machine ONLY for ‘gaming’ and web browsing when it was convenient.  No other software would be installed on that machine.  However, early on, I had installed Gimp before I reached that decision so I fired it up and sure enough, on that machine, I do have the ability to select either engine.  Just for fun, I tried extracting the same image from the photo above and though the result was slightly better, it still fails in comparison to the video below.  So, my search continues.  As is the story of my life, yet another small project has taken a life of it’s own.

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