Friday, October 28, 2011

Making Dances

Making Dances 111028

I have categorized SL animations for dancing into four groups:

  1. Good dances (MOCAP)
  2. Lousy dances
  3. Animated poses
  4. Non-animated poses or Static poses

Of course there are other ways of categorizing animations, but this is a useful separation.



Making good dances is not easy. Dances are animations that are created outsde SL as a .bvh file and imported into SL. When Sine Wave introduced MOtion CAPture (MOCAP) dancing to SL in late 2007, the quality of dancing increased enormously and the complexity in making good dances increased.

Making MOCAP dances is probably beyond the interests (or pocketbook) of most Dance Queens members. If you want to learn about MOCAP, start with the Wiki.  MyAnimations has a great video that shows you exactly how it is done. Humanoid also has lots of videos on the creation process at their store.



There are some useful free programs that you can get for making animations (BVHacker, QAVIMATOR). I have found Qavimator to be easier. There are no instructions or help files, but it is pretty much self-explanatory. If you spend a lot of time with these animation programs, you can make animations for importing into SL, but they will definitely look non-MOCAP (i.e lousy). I don't recommend them for making dances.

I have made some simple movements with these programs. These are of value as transitions or something new that I am calling "Modifying Animations." First let me show you a couple (You can find the box of these labeled DANCE QUEENS DQ Dances in the Free Stuff Box.):

90Whip - I made this one in about five minutes. It is a looped animation that shakes your head 90 degrees side to side.

Up 3 Stay 27 - This one moves you up in three seconds to the maximum distance that Qavimator can move you and holds you there 27 seconds. It is not looped.

You can see that these two anims represent the capability to make simple transition movements that can be used in sequences. The second one, Up 3 Stay 27, I made for a dance show to move an avatar on stage.

The first anim, 90Whip, I made for Montana Ballard. She needed a way to shake a ponytail during a dance. So we invented something that I am calling a Modifying Animation. You can run 90Whip in a sequence like any other animation. If you put 90Whip in your HUD and use it as a dance or in a sequence, it will show the 90 degree head shake only.

To use it as a Modifying Anim you need to run two dances at one time. First run a dance like, rythm6, a good waiting dance, using your HUD. Then, from your inventory, double click 90Whip, to open a window called 'Animation: 90Whip.' When you click on the Play in World button you see your head move back and forth while the rest of your body does rythm6. In effect, you have modified rythm6 with a head shake by dancing two animations at once.
This works because animations have two important features you can set when you import them into SL from an external .bvh file: priority and joints. Animations have priorities from zero to five. Higher priorities take control from lower priorities.

Animations are also done by joints. Here is a skeletal picture from Qavimator showing the 23 joints that are used in SL animations . Using Qavimator you can affect only one or a few joints to all of the joints.

When multiple animations, for the same joint, are played at the same time the animation with the highest priority will be run. If there are multiple animations with the highest priority, then the animation which was started most recently will be effective. By setting the priority of 90Whip at the highest priority that qavimator allows, which is 4, and letting all the joints except the head be released, this allows you to dance rythm6, which is a lower priority animation, with a head shaking move.



You can easily use Qavimator to make Static Poses. When you upload the animation to SL, one of the decisions that you make is the 'Ease In' time in seconds. Ease In time is the time that is set to go from the previous anim to the new animation. You can use this feature to turn a Static Pose into a simple finish or ending dance.

Here (example01a and example01b) are very simple animations made with Qavimator. These are one frame in length (or 1/30 of a second). It took me about five minutes to make them. Example01a is one frame that is looped and has a 0.0 Ease In time. It is a Static Pose. Example 01b is exactly the same as Example01a except I used an Ease In time of 1 second. You can see the joints moving to the desired position. This lets you make customized Finish Dances.

Recently, I found a fun and cheap program (199 L) for making animated poses in SL. It's called Animare in SL or on SL Marketplace. There are other similar systems, but they are a lot more expensive (Avimote PoseMaker PE also on SL Marketplace). Animare lets you make animated and static poses. You export the Animare information to an external file and convert it to a .bvh file, which you import. It is a similar process to using Qavimator except that you use your avatar as the model.


This is a summary of the DANCE QUEENS animations made by DANCE QUEENS members. The listings are in the format:

Nottoo Wise
Transition dance as an alternate to Sultry Down Body

Nottoo Wise

Riddlebox Ribble

Nottoo Wise
Modifyling Dance - Locks the hips in place. The hips control the avatar position. The other 22 joints are free to move.

Nottoo Wise
Modifying Dance - Stomps left foot while sitting. This is good for seated guitar players.

Nottoo Wise
Looped 2.00 sec
Standing with hands on hips then squat and back to standing in 2 seconds.


Nottoo Wise