Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Show Tips

Show Tips 111004

When you are presenting a show to a large group, you need to plan for many things. This note summarizes the things I have seen at Dance Festivals and shows that helped different groups put on their best show or would have.


1. LAG

Lag is a killer for Dancing. Here are some things you can do:

a. COLLISIONS - Design your stage so there are no collisions. Collisions occur when prims overlap with each other. The sim owner can look at the collisions on her/his sim and help you with it. Collisions cause lag.

b. SCRIPTS - Minimize the scripts in your stage to only the essentials. Again the sim owner can analyze your scripts.

c. CACHE YOUR DANCES - This will help you reduce lag for yourself.

d. RUN YOUR DANCES BACKSTAGE - Once you work on your own lag, you can also reduce the lag that others see by running your dance sequence anywhere on the sim at about the same altitude. The idea is to get the dances that they will see into their cache. You can do this by making a notecard of only the dances that will be used in your show, then in the center of the audience just before your show (or maybe under the audience platform or backstage) run the one second "Load Your Cache" described in 1.c. above. This will get all of your dances into the audience's cache and make their experience better.

e. TELL THE AUDIENCE ABOUT AVATAR IMPOSTERS - The step in 1.c. describes avatar imposters and how they make can make dancing look bad. Telling your audience before a show so they can adjust their Preferences will help their experience.

e. AUDIENCE SCRIPTS - If you are going to give the audience helpful tips, you may want to ask then to turn off their own scripts like HUDs and AOs. This will reduce lag for you.



You want your audience to see your performance and not see things that you do in the background or backstage.

a. SELECTION BEAM - When you are presenting a show different people have different responsibilities. Some of those responsibilities may include clicking buttons or moving objects. When you are on stage you want your selection beam turned off so the audience doesn't see that you are clicking on something. This can also show up with an arm movement or a turned head if the animation you are doing is a low enough priority.

b. PHANTOM WALLS - Phantom walls are a good idea if you are walking around on stage even if you use moving pose balls with Zhaza's system (DB System) or the XPOSE. If you look at the second tab when you edit an object, you will see the option of using Phantom. Choose Phantom for your walls. This lets avatars walk through them. This is important to get backstage especially if things go wrong.

c. CONTROLS BACKSTAGE - There is nothing worse than a member of the audience clicking on your controls and messing up your show. Put your controls backstage or in a place where it is not so easy for audience members to click unintentionally or intentionally.

d. TRANSPARENT FROM THE BACK - When you are onstage you are usually facing the audience. This means that your camera defaults to being behind you. If you are near the stage back wall, your camera may be backstage. Plus sometimes while dancing you want to see the group from the rear. You can make things a lot easier by making your walls from backstage transparent on the backstage side only. This lets you see everything but does not affect the audience's view of your set. In the DANCE QUEENS Free Stuff Box is a texture to do that.

e. CURTAINS - If your show has multiple acts or you need the stage closed for clothing or set change, you need a way to block the audience's view. There are two ways to do this. One is with curtains and the other is to rezz a screen using the XPOISE, for example. Curtains are nice, but movement is a problem when there is a large crowd. You may want to use a rezzable screen as a backup or your first choice.

f. VIEW - Shows can be spectaculars where the audience needs to be at a distance to capture the feeling or intimate where the audience needs to be close to feel the warmth. When you design your stage think about the audience viewing it and their area. Audience members do three things while watching: 1. stand, 2. sit, 3. dance. Most just stand. Think about obstructions to the view from different angles and the angle that the audience sees things. Most experienced avatars can cam well, but noobs are not so good at it, so keep in mind your audience composition also.



Costumes are an important part of the show, but changing costumes is always difficult with a crowd. Clothes changes always take longer with a crowd and can lead to the wrong outfit for the dance or different dancers with different outfits. There are things you can do to make it easier:

a. MINIMIZE COSTUME CHANGES - Some groups actually have no costume changes. This eliminates the problem entirely, but is not always feasible. If you have costume changes think about using the same clothes in different ways. For example, can a top be used twice. This multiple use reduces the number of changes that you have to make. Another idea is to layer your costumes. You have three layers of tops (undershirt, shirt, jacket) and three layers of bottoms (underpants, socks, pants) plus skirts and gloves. An option is to wear all three layers with each a different costume. Then all you have to do is remove items for costume changes.

b. CHANGE COSTUMES BEFORE THE SHOW - Costumes that have been worn and seen by you and others will load faster. If you go through the entire set of costumes just before the show, this will load them into your cache and speed up the change for you and the audience. You can do this backstage and it will help the audience even if they cannot see you.

c. TIME FOR COSTUME CHANGES - Another way to deal with costume changes is to allot more time. This can be done by closing the stage with a curtain or a rezzed screen so the audience cannot see you or by going backstage. The problem is that during the costume change nothing is happening onstage. This leads to audience attrition. If you set up a light show or particles while you are changing, this adds to lag and worsens the problem. If you have a large dance team, you have the option of some members being offstage for costume changes while others are onstage. This allows you to have the show go on and the costumes to be right each time.



a. AUDIENCE ARRIVAL - In a Dance Festival shows are often scheduled back-to-back meaning there is no break between shows. You might think about giving time for the audience to arrive. Starting the show a couple of minutes after the scheduled time allows the late arrivals to get there.

b. SET UP BEFORE THE SHOW - Your dance group should be in place before the show is scheduled to begin. Try to get your team members there at least 15 minutes early.



a. STREAM SIZE - Most of us who stream have a capacity of 50. This is enough for almost all purposes including most shows. Since streams are rented based on capacity and time, a larger capacity stream is not worth the money. During a dance festival or other large scale event, the crowd size can get larger than 50. The recent Dance Festival IV peaked at 94 people and was over 50 about two-thirds of the time. This means that some people cannot hear. As soon as a person cannot hear, there is complaining in chat. You want the audience to concentrate on you and to have a good experience. Make sure you have a stream with enough capacity and that you have checked it. In a few cases you may do a show at the corner or edge of a sim. This could lead to a crowd of over 100. Again you can rent a higher capacity stream for a day to solve this.

b. BEFORE AND AFTER THE SHOW - The show is what people come to see, but surrounding the show is the atmosphere you create. Think about the music and environment that your audience is in before your show begins. The right music is a part of that and can start as much as 15 minutes before the show. The music sets the tone for your show. Following the show is another chance to make a final impression. Give the audience time to file out with music that supports the show.



When you hold a prop and want to let it go, lag can be a problem. One solution to this is to move to the next animation even though you are holding the prop. This is smoother than stopping the action while the prop slowly detaches. Even if the prop has a built in anim, like a musical instrument has, the next animation will override it if the priority is the same or higher.



Not every show has a script, but many do. Think about recording the spoken parts instead of putting them in chat. This is easier for the audience to hear. If you do use chat, remember that members of the audience speak while the show is going on. Your spoken parts get hard to find in all the chat. You might use all CAPS since these are easier to see. Prepare the script ahead of time and use cut and paste. An alternative is to use the speech reader found in the DANCE QUEENS Free Stuff box.

Using chat also has another drawback in that normal speech only travels 20 m. In small rooms this is okay, but in a large area this means some of your audience cannot hear. Putting the Speaker in the middle of the audience may help solve some of the distance problem.



SL causes problems beyond those that you expect from your preparations. Having a plan for dealing with the problems is a good idea. Here are some things to include:

a. AVATAR CRASHES - It happens to us all. When it does, you do not want the avatar relogging onto the stage and waiting to rezz. Set up a landmark backstage and have each group member know how to log in backstage in case of a crash. Once logged in she/he can join the group on stage by clicking a pose ball or pad.

b. HIDDEN POSE BALLS AND PADS - Many groups use pose balls or pads to position and move dancers. If a dancer is missing, the pose ball or pad is visible. Get a script that has a hide/show option for the pose balls so that once you are set up, you can make the poseballs invisible with a command like /7 hide in chat.

c. QUICK EXIT - Sometimes something will happen onstage and an avatar needs to  make a quick exit. Having some backstage pose balls allows a quick departure.

d. PLAN B - You never know what will go wrong, but you should think about two main problems. The first is running out of time. Where can you cut the program at the end to finish on time? The second is to have an alternate finale that is as simple a possible. For example a one person dance instead of the group may be necessary if there are multiple crashes or terrible lag or sound problems.


Please send additions and corrections to me.