2012/02/25

Working with the DanceMaster

Working with the DanceMaster 120226

For the DANCE QUEENS Couples Choreography Show on 25 February 2012 I used the DanceMaster Pro to control Riddle and me. This is the first time I have used the DanceMaster and I want to give you my impressions.


OVERALL IMPRESSION

Overall, I see the DanceMaster (DM) as offering the broadest control of a dance performance of all the choices available (with a few buts). The DM allows control of avatar position, dance sequencing and avatar movement with a note card script. You can buy controllers for up to 24 dancers. I do not know of any other single system that allows such control of these most important functions for putting on a dance show.

In other words you can actually make a play or a musical with dancers moving precisely and dancing the right dances without jumps. WOW ... nirvana.


OTHER POSITIVES

The DM offers additional features such as rezzing, adding visual effects (poofers), speaking in green colored chat and connecting to other devices. Yummy (Lat Lovenkraft) is working on connecting the DM to RestrainedLove, which will allow the DM to control things like outfit changes.

Other positives are the seller (and DQ member), Bryndyn Burton, is very helpful and available for questions. There is an impressive amount of detailed help information.


HOW IT WORKS

You place your animations in the DM like you would in a HUD. Control is done with three note cards:
  1. Formations - This defines the position of the dancers relative to a central point
  2. Dances - This defines the dances that are used
  3. Script - This defines the sequence of events including dances for each dancer, position of each dancer, movement of each dancer from one position to another and the time for each action.
Once you have it set up, one click does it all.


THE BUTS

I have learned a lot of dance equipment in my five+ years of dancing and feel I can figure out almost anything. The DM is the most challenging system I have learned by far. I spent 125 hours making the the single dance sequence for the choreography show and it has lots of things I don't like such as bad transitions. If I had used a system I knew, such as two Huddles or the XPOSE, I would have spent maybe 25 hours on the sequence and done almost as well. Now that I have learned the basics, I think I could do my next show in maybe twice the time of other systems, but it would also be a much better show with the DM.

A second but is one of concern to some dance groups. The DM is owned by one person. This means that all of the dances must be purchased by one person and the management is by one person. Groups that like to share choreography will find this a problem.

Another but is that the DM is not copyable. Although you can put multiple shows in one DM, I do not want to do that. I want something I can rezz for a specific show and not have to figure out which note card goes where. For me this means I have to buy a new DM for each show.

The last but is that in a few areas there may be capacity issues. I think that I can work around them all, but for a big show this is another thing to worry about


MY CONCLUSION

The next show I am planning to choreograph is for the DANCE QUEENS Dance Festival V coming up this summer (I hope). This will be a 45-minute play called 'Riddle in Cyberspace.' I will use the DM. The benefits far outweigh the negatives, especially since I have gotten over much of the learning curve.

If you are really serious about putting on shows that have movements of multiple avatars on a precise time sequence, learn the DM. If you are doing group dancing and don't mind avatar jumps or some mismatches, save yourself a boatload of frustration and do not learn it.

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CONCLUSION REVISED

The above note was written before the show. My conclusions changed dramatically after using the DM in the show. Here are my observations and what my thinking is now.

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Well you certainly learn by doing. Since this was my first experience with the DanceMaster Pro, I did not know what effect sim lag would have on it. Unfortunately, it is highly impacted by lag. The result was that the timing of the dances was completely wrong and the show did not have even close to the result I was looking for. At the time there were 39 avatars on the sim, which is far less than during the Dance Festival we had last year. The timing showed itself in two ways. First, I had worked hard to have Riddle and me synced to the tenths of a second. Unfortunately, at no time during the actual show were we in sync at all even though I had gotten the dances into every one's cache by running through the dances during the prelude.

Second, I had designed the avatar movement to coincide with the music, so that the movement reflected specific points in the song. Over the course of a four-minute song the script lost about 25 seconds. The result was that no movements coincided with the music and we were still on stage dancing when we should have been off-stage. The result was a disaster.

So, after actually learning the DM and using it in a relatively laggy performance, I cannot recommend it. Until the lag issues can be addressed, I recommend the DanceMaster only for times when the crowd is small or you are making a video. I hope the lag issues can be fixed because the DM is the first system I have seen that offers complete control for a performance.

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