The Absolute Beginners: Basics – The Camera Controls

The Absolute Beginners: Basics – The Camera Controls

One of the things I’ve noticed recently in Second Life is a lot of newer avatars that struggle to view things up high or down low, especially ad boards in stores. I see them walking right up to the wall where the board is, or flying to get up to higher boards, and I can only think that they’re either skipping the (generally good) basic tutorials at the Welcome Island they first arrive in SL at, or they just don’t understand them too well.

UPDATE: It turns out there are no tutorials when newbies first land in Second Life now. They arrive in a circular area with portals directly in-world, and have no guidance whatsoever!

One thing that all residents need to get to know and love is the Camera Controls panel. This is a little floater that you can move anywhere on your screen and it will help you no end in controlling your camera so you don’t have to fly up or walk into walls to see things. This post is a little tutorial on how to find it and how to use it.

If you do nothing else, then save this image to your computer where you can reference it until you grow accustomed to using the controls –

– and hop behind the cut for how to find the Camera Controls!

Since this post is written primarily for newbies, I’ll begin with the current official Linden Lab Viewer (commonly known in-world as Viewer 3, or V3). This viewer makes use of three toolbars at the left, right, and bottom edges. The left and bottom ones will already have icons on them when you first log in to the viewer, and you can drag them wherever you want to, including removing them (you can always put them back later). This method is great for customising your toolbar buttons to have the ones you want to access quickly without having to search through menus.

To begin customising, right-click on any of the currently-visible toolbars (I’m using the bottom one here) and select Toolbar buttons:

A new window will pop up, showing all the available buttons. The ones that are greyed-out are already on your toolbars. From here you can drag out new buttons to the toolbars, or drag unwanted buttons back into that new window. I’ve arrowed the Camera Controls button; just drag it to whichever toolbar you want. I have all my buttons on the bottom toolbar:

And here it is, in place:

Another way to show the Camera Controls panel without going through Toolbar Buttons is via the Me menu, like this:

And, as shown in the first image, here is a detailed list of what the little Camera Controls floater does:

Left circular button: This will pan your camera around things
Right square button: This will move your camera directly up, down, and from side to side
Central +/- slider: This will zoom the camera in and out (closer and further away)

The three little camera icons at the bottom will give you different camera view options:

Eyeball icon: This will give you different views of your avatar (front, side, and back) – ideal for taking pictures of yourself
Central ‘directional’ icon: This will bring back the main camera controls
‘Movie camera’ icon: This will give you two other view options: object and mouselook (mouselook is where you see through your avatar’s eyes) – to come out of either of these views, press the Esc key

One other essential shortcut to know when using the Camera Controls is one that’s taught when you first arrive in Second Life (remember the big fishtank and how you focused your camera on it?) and that’s ALT + CLICK (aka alt-click or alt-cam).

When you want to fix your camera onto something so you can zoom in or move the camera around it, hold down the ALT key and left-click on the item or area. Then you can use the Camera Controls to move around that area. This is especially useful if you’re in an area that’s crowded or laggy. In these situations it’s far easier to move your camera to look around than it is to try and move your avatar. Often this is referred to as ‘cam-shopping’!

NOTE: If you try to alt-cam further than you have draw distance set at, you might not see things there. Draw distance is basically how far your viewer will see, so if you have it set to 96m and try to focus on a wall 128m away small items on that wall might not be visible to you (although, as it’s a big thing, the wall might be visible). Make sure you increase your draw distance (in the Graphics menu – click ‘custom’ if you don’t see the option to increase draw distance) if you want to use your camera at a distance.

Be warned, though: increasing draw distance means your computer has to render more things, so it has to work harder. Unless you have a very powerful computer it’s generally a good idea to try a maximum of something like 128m while camming around. Only go to things like 512m if you absolutely have to.

In viewers that use older V1.23 code, such as Phoenix etc, the Camera Controls are a bit more basic and are found in a different menu: View > Camera Controls

Here, both controls are circular, but the arrows clue you in as to what they do (the circle around the middle of the left arrow set = panning around, and the directional arrows in the right arrow set = up/down/left/right). The zoom slider works just the same. The only thing you don’t have here is the three camera options:


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