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There are some strong opinions and bitter words coming out these days about face lights in Second Life. It's a surprisingly complicated issue, but fortunately, it has (I think) a simple solution. Let's start at the beginning.

And what is a face light?
If you don't use Windlight (more on that soon), you may have noticed that at times your face, or other avis' faces, take on harsh angles and weird lines. It just doesn't look at all nice.

What to do? Well, fortunately there are invisible attachments called "face lights" (or sometimes "body lights," "beauty lights," etc.) that glow in such a way as to soften those shadows and remove those lines. I'm using a very subtle one below. There are stronger ones that are more flattering, and looking at these pictures, I'm thinking the one I'm trying might be too little of a good thing, but we'll see in a moment why there's reason to be conservative.

So for a long time, most people who put much time or attention into their appearance wore face lights. There were jokes about people who went overboard with it–I remember an evening when a friend came to a dance venue with a massive metal apparatus strapped to her body that featured multiple floodlights. It was a parody. Often, though, facelights were used tastefully–but then came Windlight.

Windlight, introduced, oh, something like seven or eight years ago now, is an alternative lighting approach for Second Life that allows setting all kinds of details about the lighting–colors, intensities, directions, all of that. It's wonderful for photography. I'm not an especially skilled photographer, but if you've seen Second Life pictures with stunning sunsets or water effects, usually Windlight was used. Fashion shoots also tend to use them, because lighting can be controlled precisely and subtly. Here's a 2010 photo using Windlight by Mescaline Tammas (www.flickr.com/photos/mescalinetammas/3686181955/):

Good so far? Wonderful.

Now, since Windlight looks so gorgeous, many people with high-end computers have started using Windlight for daily life. I just started trying this over the last day or so. It can make for some striking and beautiful scenes, and I think I'll keep doing it. Prior to this year, my computer wouldn't have been up to the job. Many fashionistas seem to like it, I think, because they can make their skin and clothing look ideal–but only for themselves. You can't push Windlight onto other people's computers. The computer has to be capable of it, and Windlight has to be turned on.

(If you'd like to try Windlight for yourself, instructions are here: http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/WindLight_settings. You can download Torley Linden's Windlight settings on the same page, and there are many, many other settings out there that you can download freely.)

The problem comes because in some Windlight settings, some face lights are terrible. They look like people are carrying streetlights in their cleavage. Here's a picture of me with a Sintimacy face light in a Windlight dusk setting:

See how I'm casting a circle of radiance, and not in a good way? And this is definitely not the worst example. I believe they can get much more intrusive.

Understandably, then, some Windlight users consider it rude and disruptive for people to go walking around with extra-bright face lights. This has translated into fashion-forward people in Second Life often insisting that no face lights should be used by anyone at all. People who don't use Windlight are (also understandably) sometimes miffed by this, because most people don't use Windlight, which means that most of the time you'll look better with a face light to everyone except perhaps yourself and others who are walking with Windlight settings turned on.

This goes back and forth, because strong face lights really are disruptive, and without Windlight, faces generally do look terrible without face lights.

So, what to do? Fortunately the answer is pretty easy: use a soft, subtle face light, for instance the free Nlight one you can get on the Marketplace (or IM me and I'll send you one). Here's the same scene as above, but with the Nlight instead of the Sintimacy one:

No glare at all. Nobody's night is ruined!

Here's a close-up comparison of no face light in a Windlight setting …

… to the same setting with the Nlight face light.

As you can see, both of these examples look perfectly nice in terms of lighting, and if you go back to the first couple of pictures, you'll see that the Nlight helps in a non-Windlight setup. So, no irritating glare, no drawbacks to appearance in Windlight, and better appearance in non-Windlight: the verdict seems to be in favor of using a subtle face light. Does anyone have any complaints with this approach? Here's to universal peace. 😉

^^^\ Kate /^^^