Project Steps:

Project 11: Floating Steps Spiral Staircase

For this project we are going to create a floating tread spiral stair case using the modular building techniques we learnt in Class 11. This staircase is a perfect example of how these techniques can assist you in building a complex object, FAST.

The image below is a 58 prim spiral staircase in my house. I can assure you, I did NOT position each individual prim by hand!! Using the techniques from this class, you too can build this staircase - in approx 2 minutes!!!

My Spiral Stairs

The basic process for creating this staircase is:

  1. Make Step template
  2. Shift Copy Step
  3. Rotate Step
  4. Raise height of Step

OK, so there is an additional step of changing the height value of the step, but this is really no different than the other steps we have already done.

I have included detailed steps for this project, so follow me...

Recap: Linking prims and Root Prims

Let's have a quick recap on linking prims and root prims. To link prims, we select all the prims we want to link until all the selected prims have a yellow outline. To link, press Ctrl + L (Cmd + L for Mac) on the keyboard, or select Tools -> Link from the menu bar. The yellow outline around each prim will change to blue for all the prims, except one prim, which will still have a yellow outline.

The prim with the yellow outline is the Root prim for the linked objects. When you move or rotate a set of linked prims, these changes are made to the whole linked object based on the position of the Root Prim.

The Root Prim is determined by the last prim you selected before linking. If you are not sure which was the last prim you selected, hold down the SHIFT key on your keyboard as you click on the prim you want to the be the root prim to de-select it. Now click on it again to re-select it. Now that you do know which prim you selected last, go ahead and link the prims and check that the root prim is outlined in yellow.

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Create Pivot Prim

We are first going to make a helper prim to assist us while making this spiral staircase. This prim will be removed once we have completed the stair case. Think of it as temporary scaffolding :)

This helper prim will take on the role of a Pivot Prim. We will use this prim to guide the rotation of each step as we create a rising spiral of steps. We will link this Pivot Prim to the Step prim. It is very important the the Pivot Prim is the root prim when you link it to the Step prim. This project is one example where which prim is the root prim is Very Important!

Rez a Box.

General Tab:
Name it "Pivot"
Object Tab:
Leave all settings As-Is

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Create Stair Prim

Shift-Copy the Pivot Prim to the side along the Green line

General Tab:
Name: "Step"
Object Tab:
Size: X = 0.500, Y = 0.100, Z = 2.000
Rotation: X = 90.00
Taper: X = 0.20, Y = 0.00

Create Pivot and Stair Prims

Position the Pivot prim and the Step prim about 1-2 metres apart. The distance is up to you: the closer the Step prim is to the Pivot prim, the tighter the spiral of your staircase; the further apart they are, the more open the spiral.

Tight Spiral Loose Spiral

The distance between the pivot prim and the step prim that you select depends on how you want your finished staircase to look and the amount of space you have for the staircase.


(yes, there's always a but)

... keep in mind that if you make your spiral too tight, the height of the steps between spirals will be reduced and your avatar may not have enough head room to climb the steps. OUCH! Err, you will also use a lot more prims, so experiment with different spiral curves till you get the effect you want.

Pivot prim close to step prim
small radius for spiral
low headroom
uses more prims
Pivot prim and step prim further apart
large radius of spiral
lots of space required
uses some less prims

So, back to our 2 prims, move the Pivot prim along the green line away from the inner taper of the step to the distance you want then link the Pivot Prim and the Tread prim.

Link prims

Stop for a second and check your work - the Box prim MUST be outlined in yellow and the Step prim outlined in blue.

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Build Spiral Staircase

Before we start to copy and rotate and move the linked prims, we need to do some preparation. Look at the Z position number of the prims. Remember that we are also going to be increasing the height of each set of linked prims to create the stairs so that means that we will be changing the Z position numbers.

Tip: To make the process of adding new numbers to the Z position fields, I tend to try and start with a round number where I can. For example, if my Z position numbers are currently 23.863, I will change them to 23.800. Note that I only rounded up a small amount so that my prim did no move too far away from me.

Let's build our spiral staircase:

Copy Step upwards

Next Step in position

This is the pattern we will be repeating as many times as required to build our spiral staircase. Watch as the pivot prim does all the hard work or positioning and rotating our stair prims along the spiral.

Let's do that again...

Copy Step prim

Another Step in position

To clarify, for each new set of prims that we copy, we will ADD the rotation to the previous Z number, so Rotation Z = 0.00 becomes Rotation Z = 8.00, then Rotation Z = 16.00 and so on. (Primary school maths tables anyone??)

And with position changes, from my previous example, Position Z was 23.800, so adding 0.2000 means that the second set of prims will be at Position Z: 24.000, then Position Z: 24.200, then Position Z: 24.400 and so on. (See - that's why I like to round the numbers - less typing!)

Of course, these numbers for rotation and rise per step are suggested settings for this project. You can alter these numbers to suit your own needs, but remember to be consistent in your changes: ALL the steps should rise by the same value, ALL the steps should rotate by the same value.

Unless you are building a crooked staircase for your project, then change them to what ever values you like :)

Continue to copy, rotate and raise you Step prims as you build your spiral staircase. Notice how the pivot prim twists around as it does all the hard work for us. When you have reached the height you want, stand back and look at your work.

Can your avatar climb the steps without hitting their head? Are there enough Steps to reach to the next level? Are the steps too far apart or too high for an avatar to climb>

Spiral Staircase so far

So, you've decided you want to make some changes to your spiral staircase... My advice? I feel it would be easier to delete all the steps except the first set of step and pivot prims and start again, than to try and individually adjust 10-15-20 sets of steps... As you will be familiar with the building pattern by now, you could rebuild the spiral staircase in about a minute, versus the many, many minutes it will take you to individually adjust each step!

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Delete Pivot Prims and link Staircase

Once you have finished building the steps, its time to remove the Pivot prims. Select all the linked sets of Steps and Pivot prims.

All prims selected

Unlink ALL the prims using Ctrl + Shift + L or Cmd + Shift + L on a Mac, or Tools -> Unlink from the menu.

All prims now unlinked

Carefully select the column of pivot prims and delete them.

Delete pivot prims

Now re-select all the staircase steps and Link them (Ctrl+L or Cmd + L)

Linked Steps

Texture your spiral staircase.

Add texture

Congratulations on your new, beautiful spiral staircase.

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