Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Running a Major Festival


Running a Major Festival 120723

DANCE QUEENS is all about dancing. The information that is included in the DANCE QUEENS group ranges from individual dancing though group performances in shows. It is a bit beyond dancing to talk about running a major festival like the DANCE QUEENS Dance Festival that just finished. Most DANCE QUEENS members will never do this and probably have no interest in the issues involved. But, for the few of you who might be interested, I have written this blog post. Many of the issues are the same faced by anyone running a major event in SL, for example a music festival.

So, if you are interested in this subject, read on. If not, hahahah, better stop here.

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Running a major dance festival is about 90% planning and 10% operating the festival. The decisions and thinking done before the festival, determine the success.

DEFINING THE GOAL

The most important decision that you must make is to identify what you are trying to accomplish. This may seem silly, but let me explain. For this dance festival my goal was to have a lag-free festival for more than 32 dance shows so that dance groups could perform to their best and audience members could enjoy the shows and could see the diversity and skill of dancing in SL. I was specific about this goal for the following reasons:
  • Dance lag is the biggest problem that a performing group faces. Reduced movement, HUDs that are slow or do not perform, and scripts that do not function easily ruin a precision performance. It's extremely difficult to anticipate lag or to simulate it when a dance group is preparing their show.
  • Dance Festival IV featured 28 dance groups and 4 were interested but unable to join because of lack of space. For Dance Festival V I wanted to accommodate at least 32 groups and more.
  • Dance groups each have their own unique style and emphasis. A lot of work goes into each show and nothing is more frustrating for a dance group than to show less than they are fully capable of. I wanted them to show their best performance
  • Enjoyment of the performances is why the audience is there. Dance festivals should be a pleasure for the audience and leave them with the feelings that the dance groups are conveying as well as an understanding of the diversity and skills required. Audiences should come away from a Festival saying WOW.
If, for example, I had not included lag-free in my goal, the design of the festival would have been much different. Similarly, if the goal were for 4 dance shows instead of more than 32 the design would have been much different.

Define your goal in as specific terms as you can. Do not add unnecessary elements. I have gotten much better at defining what I want to accomplish. Having done five dance festivals and at least ten other festivals, I have learned how to define my goal. Your goals are what define the design of the festival.

DESIGNING THE FESTIVAL

You can take the goal I set for the Dance Festival and separate it into four parts:
  1. lag-free
  2. more than 32 dance shows
  3. dance groups perform their best
  4. audience enjoys the shows and sees the diversity and skill
Each of these helps define the design of the festival. They are not independent and sometimes a decision to accomplish one part of the goal has a negative effect on another part of the goal.

Let me start with number 3: dance groups perform their best.

WHAT IS PERFORMING AT THEIR BEST?

A dance group that presents a style of dancing, for example Geisha, thinks about dancing in a different way than a group that presents a dance play. Decisions about space, control systems, dances used, number of cast members, etc. vary depending on what the group is presenting. Even groups that present the same type of show, for example, a burlesque show, have different emphasis and different levels of skills in creating and presenting shows.

What I have learned in previous festivals is that dance groups perform best when they have maximum freedom to create and present their shows. Maximum freedom means that the dance groups control all of the factors that go into making a show. These factors include content, dances, music, streaming, set design, costumes, etc. These are the elements that every dance group deals with. It also means that the groups are able to deliver their show in a stable and predictable SL environment. So performing at their best means that a dance group can control everything about the show and deliver it the way they intended.

So, this part of the goal (performing at their best) leads to a lot of design issues and decisions about the festival.

DESIGN ISSUE 1 - How much space should each group have?

First, I wanted to provide enough room for every group to do what they wanted. How much room does a dance group need? Draw distance, SL viewer capabilities and the effect of avatar imposters limit how much space a group can effectively use. My feeling is that a 64x64 parcel should  accommodate any group's needs. In previous festivals I had set the area that a group had as a 64x64, 32x64 or 32x32 parcel. I still remember the challenge this created for Ballet Pixelle last year when they had to fit into a 32x64 space. I am sure it reduced their freedom of creativity. So this year I made every group's space the same, 64x64. I added a third dimension also ... height. I set that at 99 M. Even with that space allocation this year one group (MYST) wanted more room. In creating a 64x64x99 space I had forgotten about movement. Some dance shows have movement that takes performers or audience members to different positions. I had to say no and I realize that reduced the freedom of creativity for that group.

Just the decision of space creates an issue that affects the fourth part of the goal, audience enjoyment. When you give a large space for each group to perform, that increases the distance apart of the shows. Traffic flow becomes an issue. So, there is not a perfect solution. Large show spaces reduce audience experience unless you can figure a way for the audience not to have to move.

During the Festival, Naiki Muliaina said to me, "We win the prize for the smallest stage in the festival." That made me think that not only audience traffic flow is affected by the decision to use 64x64 parcels, but also the aesthetics of the festival as a whole. There I saw Naiki's beautiful stage like an island on his parcel. One of the big positives from last year's festival was the overall beauty of 28 stages.

This decision about space for each group also affects the design of the sim. With 32+ groups performing each using a 64x64 space (1/16th of a sim) they all cannot be on the same sim at the same level. For 32 parcels you must at least have two levels on one sim or use two sims.

DESIGN ISSUE 2 - How long should each group's performance be?

Back to the freedom of the group to create. I also had to make a decision on how long each show would be. I thought about having multiple shows going on simultaneously. I actually did that at one music festival that I ran and got numerous complaints from people wanting to see all the performances. That experience taught me that if the content of the shows is similar (in this case dancing) then only one show should be done at a time.

What is the optimal length of a show? In previous festivals I gave a choice of 30 or 45 minutes. That was a scheduling nightmare. So in this festival I decided to give each group the same amount of time. The amount of time per group was affected by the number of shows and the total length of the festival. Remember number 2 on my list was more than 32 shows. As soon as you multiply 32 by any number of minutes per show you get a big number. This led to a decision balancing show length and festival length. I chose 45 minutes because my experience is that longer shows often become boring and shorter shows do not offer enough time to demonstrate what the group can do. This is a good compromise.

DESIGN ISSUE 3 - What restrictions should be placed on who can perform?

I had to decide what maturity level the sim would be. I wanted the festival open to all groups that dance. This is part of goal number 4 for audiences to see the diversity of dancing in SL. I made the decision to make the sim moderate. This allowed all types of dance groups to perform with the exception of those that perform sex. When I looked through the list of dance groups in SL, I did not know of a single dance group that included sexual intercourse in their shows. There probably are some in SL, but they are a tiny minority. I chose to exclude those groups because that would require the sim to be adult and that would prevent many audience members and dance groups from being able to get on the sim.

Fortunately, DANCE QUEENS has a wide variety of dance groups plus I sent an invitation to participate to every dance group I could find in SL. This resulted in a wide range of dance groups. A few of my favorites did not participate (Kittens and Tigers, Viva la Glam, Big D's Divas, Stage One Productions and my own grouj, #TTOO Bar Dancers) and will not escape me next year.

I chose moderate because that allows a balance of great freedom of expression, for example, it permits nudity, and only restricts shows that contain sexual intercourse.

I also restricted groups from the festival that had been disruptive in previous Festivals. I also restricted known griefers from participating. I have an extremely low tolerance for people who intentionally damage a performing group's show.

DESIGN ISSUE 4 - How much preparation time should the participating groups be given?

Giving the participating groups time to prepare was also a part of the freedom I wanted each group to have. It takes a huge amount of effort to put on a dance show. I would guess hundreds of hours went into many of the shows. The announcement of the festival was timed for early May to give over two months for groups to prepare.

DESIGN ISSUE 5 - How is the Festival schedule set?

I also wanted groups to choose their own date and time for their shows. First, I had to decide what the schedule would be. Since there were at least 32 time slots of 45 minutes each that adds up to potentially 24 hours of dancing. I wanted to be at every show and I physically cannot stay up that long. So, I had to divide the Festival into multiple days. I chose weekends and Fridays for the Festival days. From my club experience those are the days of highest SL attendance. I also wanted to have a schedule that allowed dancers from all over the world to participate. Most dance groups are centered in one of three general time zones 1. Europe, 2. USA/Canada, 3, Japan/Australia. This leads to prime times when these groups want to or can perform. Some times during the day are thus more valuable than others.

I could have allowed all interested groups to begin scheduling at the same time, but I am trying to encourage participation year after year in the festival and decided to give priority scheduling to groups that had participated in previous festivals, followed by groups with a DANCE QUEENS' member, followed by any dance group in SL.

So part 3 of the goal (dance groups perform their best) leads to a lot of design decisions for the festival.

DESIGN ISSUE 6 - How do you control dance lag?

The part of the goal (number 1) to make the Festival lag free also impacted the design of the Festival. Dance lag is the dancer's worst enemy. It destroys timing of a dance show and can make the performance go from a beautiful show to a poorly coordinated, stop and go performance that is difficult to watch.

My worst experience in performing a show was the last couples dance show (DANCE QUEENS Choreography Show II) that Riddle and I did. I worked over 100 hours on a ten-minute dance. It wasn't perfect and much of that time was spent learning the DanceMaster system, but at show time I was nervous and excited that I would be able to show my creation to the DANCE QUEENS audience. Well disaster hit in terms of dance lag. Take a look at the picture Psyche took of the performance


and the video that Darq Taurus shot (start at 7:00 minutes).


Then compare it to the video Riddle made of the show with no one on the sim except us.


Lag caused the outfits to be wrong, caused the dance to be completely out of sync and caused the dancers to be on stage when they should have been off stage. What a mess. I cried so much out of frustration and embarrassment over this. After I swallowed this huge disappointment, I decided that I would figure out how to beat Dance Lag.

In Dance Festival III I had learned that prim collisions (colliders) of megaprims cause lag. This affected the performance of the DAZZLERS in that Festival. So for Festival IV I checked each stage for colliders. I also had learned that a lot of scripts on the sim cause lag. So for Festival IV I monitored script usage and colliders using the Region tools available to me as a sim owner. I also knew about Avatar Rendering Cost (ARC) and during the Festival, when there was lag, I actually asked people to remove scripted items. Hahahah. None of that really helped much. We had a lot of avatars on the sim and for some groups HUDs did not work, for audience members it was sometimes hard to move from one show to the next and for some people it was so bad that they chose to leave the Festival instead of deal with the lag. Asking people to remove items also led to some unpleasant misunderstandings. Lag wasn't always a problem in Festival IV and the Festival was a great success, but it showed me I really didn't understand lag.

Dancers can do a lot to help reduce their own lag and I have written about that before. I assumed that the dance groups knew all about things like warming up their HUDs, cache issues and avatar imposters.

The Choreography Show II was about six months after Dance festival IV. I applied all I knew and with about 40 avatars on the sim I thought lag would not be a problem. But, with such miserable results in Choreography Show II, I concluded I had to do more.

I knew that a few dance groups used a split sim approach to dancing. With this the stage is on one sim and the audience is on an adjacent sim. I had several long conversations with Caryl Meredith of Spirit Dance Company. Caryl uses this system. Caryl not only uses the split sim approach, but also limits the number of avatars to 40 on the audience sim and 20 on the stage sim. She also limits the number of prims. She told me that lag was a minimal problem with this approach.

So this is where I started on lag killing for Dance Festival V. WOW. The split sim approach really affected the design of the Festival. I had already decided to give each group a 64x64 parcel. Now, to fight lag I had to give them two parcels on adjacent sims, one for the stage and one for the audience. Since two sims next to each other have a common side of 256 m, this meant that only four groups could perform before a parcel had to be reused. Alternately, I could have rented a bunch of sims, but for 32 groups that would have been 16 sims and the cost of that was more than I was willing to pay for the Festival. Rental sims are 50 USD per day.

I briefly considered another completely different approach of letting each dance group host their own show at their own sim. I quickly rejected this idea for several reasons. I had no control over the sims and the lag control efforts, this would cause a huge traffic flow problem moving 60 people from sim to sim, I would also have no control over things like griefers (ejection capability) or streaming.

So to solve the issues with how to accommodate 32+ dance groups on two sims, I had to find a way for the four parcels to be reused. I also wanted to limit the total prims that were rezzed at any one time based on Caryl's approach.

I knew from previous Festivals that dance groups use stages and audience areas differently. You probably were impressed by the many different stages you saw at the Festival. But when you consider how different groups interact with the audience it gets even more complicated. Some dance groups use a stage with a clear line between the stage and the audience. Others, for example the Gorean Dancers in Festival IV, have the audience mixed in with the dancers. Others (like Guerrilla  Burlesque in Festival IV) have the audience members involved with the dancers on stage. Others, such as the Chippendales, start on stage and then join the audience. This led to the decision that stages and dancers could be on the stage or audience sim. Audience members, however, could only be on the audience sim.

The solution I came up with to accommodate 32+ dance groups on the two sims was have each of the four parcels reused. From the first four dance Festivals I knew that some dance groups needed a lot of time to set up their stages and audience areas. I did not want rezzing and de-rezzing by one dance group to occur while another dance groups was performing. Rezzing requires server resources and affects lag. Also rezzing errors could put an errant prim right in the middle of a performing dance group's show. This meant I had to find a way to let groups rezz enough time in advance and during a time when a show was not going on. The solution I came up with was to use multiple platforms. I chose to have enough platforms to let each dance group have their own space. I set the platforms 100 m apart in elevation. This is where the height restriction came from. I chose 100 m between platforms because no stage in Festival IV was that high and it simplified naming and setting up of the platforms. Giving each group their own space is important. With rezzing and derezzing going on, it is easy to leave prims behind. It's a mess when a Dance group is ready to set up and there are someone else's prims in the space.

The split sim approach also had another impact on the festival design. Since Caryl's experience was to limit the number of avatars on the audience sim to 40 I chose that as the starting point. This was a concern since the average number of avatars at the Festival IV shows was often above 60. By limiting attendance this meant that some people, who wanted to see a show, could not. This didn't meet my goal of audience enjoyment. To solve this I decided to let each dance group do up to three performances of their show. In this way all of their fans would get a chance to see them. That increased the number of time slots from 32 to 96. WOW. A long festival. So I decided to have Festival V over two weekends with 48 time slots of 45 minutes each on weekend one and the same on weekend two.

Following Caryl's experience with limiting prims I had to make a decision on how many prims I wanted rezzed at one time and how many prims each dance group could use on both the audience and stage sims. I finally decided that groups could rezz up to eight hours prior to their show. To give them time to rezz I built in 15-minute breaks after every four time slots. During these breaks I planned that the dance groups would be rezzing and de-rezzing. This led to another issue. Some groups don't know how to use a rezzer. Fortunately, one of the Festival V volunteers, Zed Karas, took on the responsibility to help the groups who did not know how to do this. I also took special pains to communicate the rezzing/de-rezzing requirements to the dance groups.

Putting in a 15-minute break every four time slots also had several repercussions. First, it extended the total length of the already long Festival.

Second, it helped with another problem that Festival IV had: movement of the audience from show to show. In Festival IV I scheduled every show back to back. Unfortunately, some groups run over their time. As soon as this happens the audience is torn between seeing the end of the show they are watching and missing the beginning of the next one, or missing the end of the current show to catch the beginning of the next one. Even when groups used just their allotted time, transportation from one parcel to another takes time for a large group of avatars. So, by putting in a 15-minute break every four time slots, this gave me the capability to make small adjustments in show starting times during the Festival so the audience never felt pulled two ways. Putting the schedule on the Google spreadsheet that is accessible instantly to all is a real plus here. I made changes to the spreadsheet on the fly and people could see the schedule changes immediately. A lot of people used the schedule during the Festival since I could see the number of viewers at any time.

Third, the breaks fit with another decision I made to address the flow of the crowd. I wanted the the audience to have as little movement as possible between shows. So I put the shows in chronological order on the platforms with the first show on the highest platform at parcel A, the second next to it on parcel B, etc. As soon as the fourth show is done, the crowd needs to drop down one platform. This takes more time. The fifteen-minute break helped a lot with this.

The decision I made on prim allotment was to give each group 600 prims for the stage parcel and 600 for the audience. I figured that at most eight stages and audience areas would be rezzed at once so only a maximum of about 5000 prims would be used. This is well below the 15,000 prims allotted to a full sim and should have a relatively low impact on the server. The 600 prim limit also fit with my experience from Festival IV where I set the limit at 300 prims. In festival IV most groups adhered to the 300 prim limit but several immediately used up to 600 prims and were unable to adjust downward. I had to make an exception for them. The 600 prim limit is more than enough for all the group's stage and audience requirements that I have seen so far.

Two big minuses of the platform design approach to the Festival are aesthetics and audience movement. Festival IV was beautiful and I can still enjoy the memory of flying around the sim looking at all the amazing creations of stages and sets. I think others had this same experience at Festival IV. Festival V lost this feeling of unity completely. It was hard to see more than two or three stages at a time. Sometimes, one stage dominated the landscape and other times they were like islands that Naiki was in. I accept this loss of unity for the benefits of Dance Lag control but I don't like it.

Riddle spent most of the first and second days of the Festival at the landing point. I placed the sim landing point at the 600 level. Riddle reported to me that most audience members were confused as to where to go. Although I sent out many notes on how to get around and put an information note at the landing point, it was not intuitive. Some audience members got stuck at the landing point trying to figure out where the show was.

In addition to the split sim, I implemented another way to control lag: audience script management. I have described the Avatar Script Monitor in other posts. I decided to use a peer pressure approach to controlling audience script usage. I placed a monitor at the Festival landing point and included instructions on how to reduce scripts. During the shows I placed another monitor under the audience area and watched the sim performance and the individual script levels. About 80% of the audience members had scripts at 100 or below. If you run a club, this is a good device to have.

As soon as I announced the Festival and the split sim approach, I got an IM from Diawa Bellic (Princess Di) who told me that I was crazy. Using two sims added to lag because of the communication necessary between the sims. Her view was that a superior approach would be to have a stationary audience and have the dance groups rezz their sets on a large stage all on the same sim. She further noted that moving avatars are a big source of lag and that putting in seats would reduce lag. She also pointed out that using small textures and covering the sky would help by reducing visible textures. After a lengthy discussion I agreed to try the approach of one stage on the second Friday of the festival. This approach, if it works, has the advantage that the audience doesn't have to move ... a big plus. It has the disadvantage that there is not much time for the dance group to rezz the set because it is not available until the previous show is done. A variation of this theme is to use one audience area with four stages surrounding it. While one stage is being used for a performance the others are being set up or torn down. This was the approach used in the DANCE QUEENS Choreography Show II.

Unfortunately, no groups signed up for the alternate approach, so I don't know how well it works.

DESIGN ISSUE 7 - How do you determine the number of participating groups in the Festival?

My staring point was the number of groups that wanted to perform in Dance Festival IV. That was 32. I expected more groups to be in this year's Festival because DANCE QUEENS is about 1/3 larger this year than last. The timing of the Festival was set in late July. This was not a particularly good choice since many Europeans, North Americans and Japanese are on holiday at this time. By increasing the number of time slots to 96 and allowing up to three performances of the same show I felt there would be plenty of capacity for the groups wanting to perform.

DESIGN ISSUE 8 - How do you maximize audience enjoyment?

I anticipated that most of the audience would be dancers. The rest would be friends of dancers with a few curious others attracted by the publicity of the Festival. This means that the audience really wants to be there to see the dancing and the shows. From my experience with earlier Festivals I knew that the audience needed directional information easily and quickly. I call the schedule and location info directional information. The audience wants to know who is playing when and where.

To accomplish this I put the schedule online and publicized it a lot. I also discussed the split sim approach and the use of layers.

From previous Festivals I learned to use the sim (region) communication tools that are available to me as a sim owner. I announced each show five minutes prior to the start indicating the name of the performing group, the starting time and the location. I also used the communication system to announce schedule changes. Every avatar on the sim gets these notes. I also told the performing groups that I would be doing this. This helped the audience know where to go next and when.

The dance groups had complete freedom to set up the audience areas as they wanted. I had written about this previously and also communicated what I had learned from Diawa that seated avatars use fewer server resources than standing avatars.

DESIGN ISSUE 9 - What other factors are important to consider in setting up a Festival?

Defining the goal of the Festival led to many design issues and solutions. From previous Dance Festivals I have learned that there are additional things that should be done. This is kind of a laundry list.

STREAMING - After Dance Lag, sound is the source of most problems during a Festival.
You have to be certain that the streams used have the capacity to handle the anticipated crowd. In one show I ran long ago I had a stream capacity of 50 and an audience size of 62. This meant twelve very unhappy people and they told me during the show. "Hey I can't hear!!!" You also have to be certain the streams work and are tested. Most Dance Groups have one or more people proficient in streaming, but sometimes they don't. When the person doing the streaming doesn't know how to adjust settings for streaming, you get into educating the person usually about one minute before the start of a show ... an unpleasant experience.

In Dance Festival V I had the choice of letting each group use their own stream or providing the streams for them. If each group uses their own DJ someone has to change the stream URL on the parcels to set it up for the group then change the stream for the next group. It is definitely easier for the DJs since they don't have to adjust their stream settings. There are two big problems with this approach for a large festival. First, during a Festival the people managing the festival are busy dealing with unexpected problems. As I will explain later in this long post about half my time was spent fire-fighting during the Festival. Adding a requirement of changing the stream URLs for each show will lead to problems with the stream parcel setting being wrong at some time. Second, my experience is that about 1/3 of the DJs used by groups never check their sound before a show. They don't anticipate the audience size requirements and will show up just a few minutes before the show begins. All this leads to sound problems.

So, for Festival V I purchased four 100-capacity streams. I assigned the streams one to each of the four parcels. I provided the stream information to the Dance Groups and strongly recommended that their sound person check the stream. I also told the Dance Groups that they had to use the provided stream.

PUBLICITY - The Dance Festival is primarily for the dancers, members of DANCE QUEENS and friends and groupies of the dancers. In previous Festivals this made up most of the audience. However, I publicized previous festival by putting show info in SL Events and inviting the press and dance anim and equipment makers. For this Festival I did the same thing. Arabella Luminos volunteered to do the publicity work and she contacted the press and dance anim and equipment makers. We did not put the show in SL Events because the schedule was too fluid. Also I was concerned that there wouldn't be enough room for everyone to get to see the shows with the 40 avatar restriction.

SECURITY - Whenever you have a major Festival, you have to be ready for unpleasant people. In Dance Festival I we were attacked by a griefer. Although Riddle and I dealt with it quickly, the griefer did temporarily disrupt the show. This taught me to be ready. There were four volunteers who were set up with powers of object return and avatar ejection. In addition I got the avatar of my RL best friend, Nottooo Wise (3 o), and placed the avatar on the stage sim. I also was on the audience sim. I wanted avatars on both sims so I could respond to a problem without having to change sims and face the added problem of not being able to return because the sim was full. I announced my normal policy that any disruptive behavior would be dealt with immediately with no questions asked. Shoot first, ask questions later. All a Dance Group leader had to say is there is a problem with someone and that person would be ejected.

COMMUNICATION - I chose to use the DANCE QUEENS blog to communicate most of the information to Dance Groups and those interested in seeing the shows. I did make a couple of Notecards with stream info and special instructions, but almost all of the Festival information was online for all to see. I informed Dance Groups leaders who are not in DANCE QUEENS to monitor the blog.

RUNNING THE FESTIVAL

I am writing this post during the week between the Festival weekends, so Festival V is not complete. I have experienced what I think are the major issues that will occur in the Festival. Here they are:

SCHEDULING

The scheduling system worked very well. Using the online Google spreadsheet let everyone see the schedule in real time. It was very helpful for Dance Groups picking their show dates and times and, as I mentioned above, useful during the Festival for changes. Scheduling changes are frequent prior to the Festival so a visible, easily changed system is necessary.

I was way too optimistic on the number of time slots. About 43 were used of the 96. In a couple of ways this was good. Most groups got to schedule at least one of their shows in a prime time. Also, there were empty times in the schedule that gave me a rest ... I liked the hour off once in a while. But the negatives of too many slots outweighed the positives. Some shows were isolated time-wise, which reduced the feeling of continuity. Because of the layout, times without a show also meant that there was a platform without a stage. That detracted from the aesthetics of the Festival ... yuck, empty space. Sometimes, audience members had to wait an hour for a show. Just sitting in a chair for an hour in SL is not fun. The timing of some shows meant that the audience was relatively small. It's disappointing to do all the work to make a great show for the Dance Festival, then almost no one comes. This happened to the Hot Pepper Steppers. The flow of the audience that was so good in Festival IV was lost.

STREAMING

I anticipated some streaming problems from DJs not being prepared and indeed this happened. All were resolved relatively quickly. I did not anticipate a streaming problem caused by the NeoStreams that I purchased. The DJs in Japan could not connect. This caused a lot of effort to fix. First we confirmed that it was the case with all the Japan-based DJs. Next, I talked with a helpful NeoStreams rep who said it should work. Unfortunately, some of the Japanese DJs did not have sufficient English skills to work with the NeoStreams rep and those who did were not online at the same time. Psyche Lunasea helped with all this, but we could not find a way to make the streams work for the Japan-based DJs. So, we defaulted to using the streams that the Japanese DJs usually use. This meant I had to change the URLs on the parcels before and after each show with a Japanese DJ. This included practice times. Unfortunately, I missed one switch back to the required streams and delayed one show for ten minutes. Yuck.

SET-UP PROBLEMS

One of the characteristics of the using the split sim approach with platforms is that you cannot walk from one platform on sim A to the same level platform on sim B. You can on the ground. But, with a platform the rezz time required when you enter the second sim is long enough that you fall through the platform to the next lower level. This initially caused a problem for some Dance Groups in trying to construct their stages. I knew this from long ago when Riddle and I had our Not Too Hot Club on two sims, but I had forgotten it. You can double click TP from one sim to the other or fly or TP using an LM, but you cannot walk. For the performance of most groups this did not cause a problem, but I am sure that for the Chippendales, this required an adjustment since they go off the stage area into the audience.

Another set-up problem was that I did not communicate clearly that the stages and audience areas for the second week-end used the same spots that were used the first week-end. MYST set up a very intricate stage for their performance on the second weekend in the same spot that the Chippendales had their show. It caused a real challenge for MYST to move their stage in a short time period and an equally great challenge for the Chippendales to erect theirs in time for their show. Another time consuming problem I should have avoided.

AUDIENCE FLOW

This was a mess. Thankfully, Riddle decided to spend a lot of time at the Festival landing point to help people find the shows. Otherwise, I think some people would still be wandering around on level 600. It was not at all obvious how to find the shows despite my efforts to make it easy.

The 12 levels of stages and audience areas also didn't work very well. Once people understood where things were they TPd to the next show easily, but there was no feeling of the whole in the Festival. The individual shows worked great and I could tell the audiences enjoyed them, but the design lost the Festival feel.

LAG

HAHAHAAH ... LAG YOU ARE A DEAD BUNNY!

There were no instances of significant lag. At no time did I experience movement problems and all of the show leaders with whom I spoke reported little or no lag. The Avatar Script Monitor that I used under the audience area of each show rarely got below 99% Healthy despite 20% of the audience wearing over 100 scripts.

Yes, there were a few problems with dancers crashing, but I don't think this was lag related.

I view this conquering of lag as a MAJOR victory for dancing.

Once I was convinced that we had lag in hand, I increased the number of allowed avatars on the audience sim. I will continue this during the next weekend to see if I can find what level of avatars we can have on the audience sim before problems start to occur. I am also thinking of running some experiments Friday using the two sim system to help define this.

WOOOO HOOO :-))

SUMMARY

People seemed to have fun and the Dance Groups were able to perform their best. The Festival was a success from that viewpoint. Lag was beaten but in doing so the overall unity of the Festival was lost.

I think you can see that putting on a major Festival is challenging. There are so many things to think about and making one thing work the way you want it often impacts other things you want to accomplish. I probably know as much as anyone in SL about how to do this and if you are putting on a major Festival and want help, let me know.

I am already thinking ahead to next year's Dance Festival VI. It's not for sure, but I think I will try again the stages and audience areas all on one sim using the sim avatar number control and the Avatar Script Monitor tool. I hope that it will be a bigger festival and may do it on two sims, but with a layout like Festival IV. I still want it all. A great Festival with no lag and a sense of unity.

xxx
Nottoo

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