2012/12/24

Yummy #9 - Milestones

So I had thought it... but didn't dare speak it for  I wanted to be a "team-player" and not a nay-sayer or  Debbie-downer...

but..

the silence was finally  broken as someone else dared speak an "inconvenient truth" at a recent holiday-party.

And its the role of a blogger to often express the voices of the sometimes disgruntled, malcontent while shielding them from attacks, assaults, retorts, barbs, taunts, and drama.

My job to be their voice and "take the heat"...don my "thick skin".

It's becoming...BORING!.

 (ok I need to qualify this that for me it is often boring too, yet there are many bright uplifting performances that pop up here and there..and I speak as a non-performer ..just an audience-member. As a performer I am always humbled by even moderate performances)

And heretofore silenced voices quickly echoed in agreement...yes many of us were feeling the same way.

It was concluded that part of the audience, maybe half, that were performers appreciated the "dance" part of dance performances while the other half, were captivated by the creativity of the lavish but short-lived sets and costumes.

Two different attractions.

 The audience sort of zonks out after the initial "wow", sort of nodding, applauding, and tipping  politely at the right opportunities. 

That old argument rears its two-headed fire-breathing dragon-like presence persona:

Its about the ART and the ARTIST, audience be damned! We do THIS for ourselves and hope but not be beholden to whether the audience gets or likes us as we stay true to our art and artistry.

NO...

Its about the ENTERTAINMENT, consideration owed. Its "show business". If you dare to provide seating and announce a happening, and putout a tip-jar, then due-audience awareness is not
unrealistic.

welllllllllll.....

Can you say?...

Over-saturation.

Everybody is doing "it".

More venues vying for same time-slots.

More product offerings of similar vein.

More time slots consumed.

The bandwagon effect:...

Not unlike the days of the "casinos" free-money gold rush. Everyone jumped on the bandwagon until the cow had been milked dry.

Not unlike the once-highly profitable and popular dance-clubs, many of which now are irresistible ego-driven money-pits.

Not unlike the once pie-in-sky breedables, now run into the ground with profits sucked  from
all but a select few. The time required  not worth the effort for many as competition drives down profits.

It's all so "not new" anymore..everyone is doing it...I've seen it..seen that...seen similar...seen that theme, those dances, that idea....done before

So....what's next?  If anything?


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Milestones

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 The idea of "milestones" has been swirling around in my head, with regards to this new cabaret, burlesque, performance-art medium often termed neo-burlesque. I wondered... what have been the major contributions that have helped to define what "IT IS" and what coming milestones can we expect to see that help further to define IT and advance this exciting new medium?

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Well  what milestones have we had?

Well if we go back to the beginning..

Speaking  historically as setting the stage...

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Historical
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The "Virtual World " the granddaddy of them all.
Massively Multiplayer OnLine Roleplaying Gaming
avatars
animations
dance animations
builds
scripts
outfits
groups
particles
the idea of an "event" ...a happening at a set time and place

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Modern
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concept  of the idea of a SET to define locale and time (at least 3 people claim partial credit to this significant contribution)

Motion Captured (MOCAP) Dance Animations.
concept  of synchronized Dancing with a Group
concept of a "show" which is "multiple acts" performed in sequence at a given locale and time
concept of Tip Jars used to profit from a "performance"
concept of use of curtain to "reveal" and "surprise" and demark acts
concept of a group used to communicate to group members only during a show
concept of skype used to communicate to the group
concept of dance-sequences vs free-styling
concept of venue-cross promotion
concept of relayed chat
concept of a chat MC
concept of a live voice MC
concept of a program that helps describes what you will see as you are seeing it
concept of repeated performances
concept of stripping
concept of satire and comedy
concept of costume changes
concept of story
concept of a "production"
concept of vertical productions with specialization of talent
concept of filmed/machinma performances
concept of festivals
concept of contests
concept of use of multiple sims
concept of show rehearsals
concept of backup performers
concept of dance troupe
concept of cross-venue performing
concept of unified dance-troupe communication (DanceQueens)
concept of controlled audience viewing
concept of pre-caching
concept of post-shows
concept of emotes
concept of male dancers
concept of post-show audience involvement
concept of themed shows
concept of set cross-fades
concept of particle effect usage
concept of split-stage
concept of double-plays (performing to 2-songs in a row)
concept of the nude performance
concept of encouraged in-act audience interaction
concept of an intermission
concept of original animations
concept of blended 3D background perspective
concept of animated props
concept of animated backgrounds
concept of animated sets
concept of mixing SL and RL backgrounds
concept of group-dance static formations
concept of group-dance dynamic formations
concept of automated outfit modification and change
concept of avatar reveals and conceals
concept of use of stage height and stage depth
concept of use non-dance-type animations
concept of use of RL imagery
concept of the moving audience
concept of organized set change via set-rezzers, restore-to-last-position, relative off-stage-storage

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Evolution Speed
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One thing I have learned is that this evolution moves sloooooooow. Slower than I anticipated but not without warrant.

The adaptation of motion-artists to new show-concepts and techno-aids and to imagining how their use can contribute to  "newness" has moved slooooooooow in the past and 2012. So i expect it to move sloooooooow in 2013.

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Push-Pull
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 Artists are either pushed or pulled to innovate.

"Pulled" would be that they see something cool and want to do it too and the desire to also be cool "pulls" them forward into new creative ways of thinking over the resistance of difficulty, doubt, and time to invest in hurdling  "new-nessness".

The other is "push" in that an artist comes up with idea out of thin air, without knowing how it will be accomplished and engages the help of techno-dream-makers to help them realize their vision.

I revisit my concept of "payoffs".

That's something that happens that wakes you up or you go "oh  ah"...or if someone asks you what the show was like, these are the things that are at the top of the list that you remember and enumerate.
Dancing, music, sets, costume. A dance group.  Synchronized dancing. These are things that are memorable.

We are used to seeing them...so not so wow... But they are identifiable and important parts that are needed to define what we find as an entertaining "show".

 But what are the newer innovations?

Well I think the  most recent is the "set-cross-dissolve" is a wake-up call as one set slowly fades into another...a change in set usually means a change in locale and time in the show-story or just a change in mindset if its non-temporal and non-spacial.

This marks the beginning of "segmented mini-acts" within an act. We are all feeling our way in the dark on how best to get to "there" which is mimicking in SL an entertaining offering that is like our familiar book, concert, stand-up-comic, tv, movie experience types of wonder-entertainment where we are taken on a journey

We've seen special effects in the use of particle effects that help enliven performances.

And....a particular niche which I was privvy to be a part of...

A fellow creator impressed upon me the idea of set-avatar-interaction. It took me awhile to comprehend what this meant as well as the significance of what it means for the future. The person said that it appeared as if dancers were merely dancing "in front of" pretty sets. I thought about it and I had to agree.

So what was the solution or a solution? (First, kudos to the "conceiving of this 'idea', not unlike kudos to the person or persons who "conceived" the idea of performing with a "set", presentable as an act...this a major contribution to this new art-form.)

Ok so....

...this person wanted to see the avatars and sets become "aware" of "each other". In its simplest form, it was a set whose existence was part of the dance.

In a more advanced state it meant that the set could react to the dancer and vice-versa not unlike RL. We see explosions, objects fall or crash, incinerate, burn, sink, pushed, soared, sailed, painted, jammed, travelled, give-way, etc. etc.

The significance of this is that the set becomes "alive" and "unpredictable" and contributes to the key element of good performance by adding to "wonderment". We are then on guard and aware that the set is an integral part of the scene and not just a pretty static backdrop. So a set becomes "physical" in that it obeys the laws of gravity somewhat and responds to the actions of the performer(s). It shows "damage". It can be "painted" on. It can imply "movement", etc.

 An example comes to mind of an avatar walking across a small wooden, creaky, tentative, swaying, suspended, step-bridge-walkway that gives way in  the middle due to age and rot, causing the dancing unaware avatar to fall. There is tension, apprehension, anticipation, fea,r and cause-and-effect ... in essence..."wonder" as to what may happen.

The problem arises that if an avatar is in an animation, as if dancing on the bridge, then because the animation plays locally, there is no automatic physics-aware interaction in SL live that could cause the bridge to react to the avatars precise presence or actions.

So to get around this issue, you can fake it by timing the bridge to give way at a designated time which is keyed/triggered from the animation and matches the animation such that it appears the set is reacting realistically the avatars actions.

I know of a couple dance-huds, and a couple performance engines, and, humbly proudly, my
own Stripper HUD,  that can send commands to trigger external devices at specific waypoints.
Of course the intelligence to cause the bridge to give-way and fall and respond to an external trigger must be provided by you or your dream-maker friend(s).

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Segmented show-sets
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But to step back and see the next big concept idea is less tactile and harder to pinpoint  but...in keeping with the ability of the single performer to control all aspects of their performance as they do now...

...I see it as the offering of "segmented time/locale show-sets" that offer wonder and resolve. Taking the idea of production but breaking it down so that instead of the whole show being one big production, each set within a show is a mini-production. I've seen inklings of this already. Usually its done with 2 "movements" as in before-and-after, a problem being is that the audience doesn't always know it was a before-and-after until we see the after and so the "wonder" is lost.

I think we will see 3-movement sets that tell the traditional "beginning/middle/ending" story format...told using 1 or 2 songs.

The beginning will broadcast that a middle and ending  is coming as it will pose a question, dilemma, puzzle mystery, who-done-it, etc. type format that makes us want to "wonder" and "find-out" how it "ends".

I think this whole year will be a sloooooooow evolution to adapting and moving forward to the or a "next step".

The followers will wait for the leaders to set the stage and create the format and template for just
"how" this next leap will take place. It will be a lot of trial-and-error. It requires conceptual
thinking of ways to tell segmented stories. "beginning-middle-end". Classics being "boy-gets-girl", boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl" or a" who-done-it" as in "crime-committed", "clues", "mystery-solved" or maybe SL will come up with its own unique 3-act-format based upon some unbeknownst SL-based-uniqueness. We need to be able to know and empathize with the plight of a character all in a short time-span for we as the YouTube-audience in this age of quick bite-sized entertainment offerings have understandably short-attention spans.

Say what you have to say and say it quickly  for I can only sit for an hour, 90 minutes max for the whole show if I am really engrossed before I have to go to the restroom, take a smoke break, answer the phone, RL interferes, or I just become restless. And I need change of "something major" every 8 minutes or so.

The challenge is presenting it in a precise format. It does seem like the maximum time we want to see
a mini-performance-act is that magical 8-minute marker which also includes doing 2-songs back to back.

Anything longer is belabored, bordering on boring.

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Adaptation of "new" technological aids.
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 Two categories of techno-aids exist. The "one-shot" and the "comprehensive".

The "one-shot" "aids" are often scripts that performers request friends to create that are often
show/set specific.... examples of which are: fading in and out objects "moving one or more avatar from point "A" to point "B" or moving an object from going "A" to point "B", etc.

Comprehensive "aids" allow the performer to create their own desired effect by learning how to use
a tool designed to aid them in creating the needs that their "one-shot aids" once provided.

 Comprehensive "aids" or "tools" always perform several different types of tasks that almost always involve avatar and/or object movement. How they do this and the extra features they have is what differentiates them from one another. One side-note is that the buying public seems to want them to also do sequencing so that they have a one-stop solution..ie (less huds in use at one time). Some of these tools do and others have the capability to  integrate with other tools that do do dance sequencing.

I have seen and continue  to see new comprehensive "cool tools" to help creators innovate.

But alas, seven problems have reared their ugly heads:

1) Foreseeable benefits
2) Plausible adaptation
3) Good documentation
4) Ease of learning.
5) Ease of use.
6) Bang for buck
7) Reuse

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1 - Foreseeable benefits

A potential adapter must foresee that the "comprehensive tool" can benefit them and their needs. This requires understanding and foresight by the tool-developer to anticipate needs and solutions. They must consider broad-scale needs to a reasonably sized target audience to make development worthwhile.

2 - Plausible adaptation

A potential adapter must feel that they "can learn and use it". It cannot present as insurmountably challenging. One needs to have a feeling of, "I can learn this" or at least "I am willing to try to learn it", meaning I will depart with my Lindens and give it a try.

3 - Good documentation

Most all the "comprehensive" tools seem to be well-documented. But some miss the "How can I accomplish 'this particular' task" as opposed to "This is what each feature does".

4/5 - Ease of learning & Ease of use.

It can be "easy to use", if you can conquer what may or may not be a "steep learning curve".
or...
It can be "easy to learn", but "difficult to use".
or
both difficult to learn and difficult to use which is a sure death-knell
or
ideally "easy to learn" and "easy to use".

This takes a lot more resources in effort, imagination, time, and skill. Making it user-friendly.
 It is a stubborn, busy, time-strapped, user-base, slow to adapt to new methodologies and ways of thinking.

Ease of learning can be aided by not only having good documentation, the obvious, but also adding:

1) alphabetized feature documentation
2) step-by-step how-tos of common tasks with static visual aids
3) video aids (machinma)
4) audio aids (voice)
5) practical applications
6) ongoing training classes
7) one-on-one hand-holding training sessions

Ease of use can be accomplished by removing as much notecard editing and placing that functionality into a HUD or comparable device like a member-based website with historical-member storage.

6 - "Bang for Buck".

 I've seen some "cool tools" due really cool things but at what price in terms of  avatar resources in learning, conceiving, implementing, and fine-tuning? Often what it can do is just not worth the time and effort. That's a fine-line.

7 - Reuse

A tool can be initially learned and used to satisfaction but then when the excitement of first-use subsides and it is set aside, the next time you want to use it.... its difficult to "remember" how to do something because its no longer fresh in your memory and the processes of these  "comprehensive" tools are usually involved and complex. There are often no "quick-start" or "quick-use" guides to get you up-and running quickly ...   The reuse is abandoned due to the fear and intimidation factor of reusing it as it takes on the trappings of a "hurdle".

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Many "cool tools" of the "comprehensive type" have been slow or resistant to acceptance due to either some or all off the 7 factors mentioned above. A cold hard bitter pill to swallow whose lesson is usually learned too lat...e as in post-release. As a developer, those 7 hurdles are not as fun to address and conquer. Tedious and time-consuming with the rewards being far-off and less-boastable.

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Contested Resources
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So where will the new year 2013 take us? Only time will tell. But I hope this blog has shed some light on where we've been, where we may be headed,  and how we will get there.

If the last half of 2012 is any predictor, we can expect to see more dances, more new venues, more artists, with busier contested scheduling for 2013.

Due to the sudden increase in number of venues, there is the mounted  appeal of performing not solely as an expression of artistic expression but as a way to earn extra Lindens.

Expect to see resource-reuse across multiple venues as the benefits of artist creations are maximized.

 But as the number of performances and artists increases, the number of current and potential audience members audience participation stagnates, their discretionary spending remains somewhat fixed, and  may even be dampened during  1st half to 3/4 of 2013, pending the economic outlook based  on pending fiscal policies, at least for the Western markets and maybe Euro markets as well.

 For the hotly contested time-slots, compensation may fall short of what artists have become accustomed to...as the number of venues increase and vie for a fixed pot. So far audiences have not had to "choose" between competing offerings but that seems to be slowly changing.

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Mixing vertical and horizontal production
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There have been rumblings and some adaptation of vertical producton accompanying horizontal production in these neo-burlesque shows. This means that a few venues are already or have hinted at acquiring part or full-time or on-demand specialists to help adapt and use comprehensive tools and/or one-shots...usually this means a scripter or tool-specialist. There's also been rumblings of having dedicated builders.

This will be dependant on: available, competent, affordable, and willing resources in terms of specialists and their time.

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But what will change in terms of how the landscape will look?

Maybe nothing will change this coming new year?

Or maybe it will go in a whole new unforeseen direction?

Who knows? Only time will tell.

And that's Yummy's taste of things.



















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