Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Making a Dance Show 5

Making a Dance Show

(NOTE: The formatting on many of these articles shows a lot of spaces after some of the graphics/pictures. This is a problem I have with Blogger and i haven't figured out how to fix it. Sorry for the somewhat unprofessional look)

This is the fifth article about Making a Dance Show.  Please read posts 1, 2, 3 and 4 first.

Quite a while ago I wrote about what Advanced Dancing is for me. Here is the final paragraph:

"So, after a long-winded story about why I love dancing, I think it's obvious what makes really great advanced dancers. You have to know your technical stuff, but you have to dance your heart. You have to put your passion into it, learn from others and set out to WOW the audience."

I asked myself, "Have I WOWed the audience in this show?"

So far I have walked across the stage. For many people that is something that they cannot do with precision, but those who use the DanceMaster can. I have introduced the concept of a shadow and shown how it can look like a RL shadow. Others have done shadows but just with dancing not with movement, so this is new. But, so far, although I have done two things, I don't feel I have yet WOWed the audience. This is on my mind as I again start on the show.

At this point I have completed all the entries in the three DanceMaster notecards *DM dances, *DM formations and *SOMBRA or the PCL notecard from the start of the show through the first song, Quien Sera. I have tested everything and it works as I want. I still have not resolved the voice recording since I have not heard from DanLange Diavolo. I will give him a couple of more days, then ask someone else to help if DanLange is not available.

The Importance of the Script

So, the next step for me is to complete the movements supporting the dialog between the first song, Quien Sera, and the second song, Oblivion. Here is the part of the script I am working on:

** MUSIC finishes, then Nottoo walks to the right curtain, but the shadow stays. When Nottoo disappears the Shadow speaks

SHADOW - Wait ... please

** Nottoos head appears poking from the curtain

NOTTOO - Wh-who said that?

SHADOW - Me ... your shadow

** Nottoo looks at the shadow, then walks on stage and Nottoo and Shadow face each other

NOTTOO - I didn't know shadows could talk

SHADOW - I am part of you ... but only when we are alone can we talk.

SHADOW - We can even dance together.

NOTTOO - Dance together?

SHADOW - Let me show you.

**MUSIC - Oblivion by Piazzolla

For me the script is a really important part of the creation of the show. I explained in Making a Dance Show 1 how I did it, but I didn't emphasize why it is so important. The script defines not only the sound recording and the music, but it also defines the step-by-step progression of the show. This is important because that's what the DanceMaster requires. I find I often look ahead in the script as I am designing a part of the show so that I place the actors in the right spot for the feelings I want to convey and have them positioned right for what comes next. I also visualize in my head what I want each part of the show to look like. I have learned that I am a very visual person. I know others approach shows differently and I can see that in the shows they create ... and the shows are really good. What I am describing is how I do it, but I think it is more important for you to discover what works best for you.

Making an Animation

Anyway, I looked at what was needed next. I have to move Nottoo off the stage, then have her poke her head from behind the curtain and initiate a conversation with Shadow. Finally, I have to move Nottoo and Shadow to the center of the stage so they can dance to Oblivion. Since you are still reading about Making a Dance Show, I think you can anticipate what I will do to create this movement with the DanceMaster. I will describe it in a little bit, but in this part of the show there is an animation that I know does not exist: Nottoo poking her head from the curtain and then looking at Shadow. This will be the next challenge for me.

When I started in SL in January 2007 I didn't know what an animation was. I remember the excitement of my first day flying and exploring a city. WOW, it was fun. I didn't even think about the cool movements of my noob avatar. It was maybe a week after I was born that I walked into a club where there was dancing. That was when I first realized that animations are what power every movement we make in SL. Over the years I have learned a lot about animations in SL. Along the way I thought about making dances but I realized the time and investment in MOCAP equipment was more than I was willing to make. I have never made a dance animation. But, as I developed my understanding of animations and began to create dance shows, I recognized a need for specialty animations. These are usually short animations that have my avatar do something special or unusual. I learned how to make specialty animations. I described the process in a blog post about a year ago.

If your dance shows do not have movement between songs and no dialog, you probably have not seen the need for specialty animations except for maybe starting poses and finishing dances and these you can buy at places like Amimation or Diesel Works. However, if you make plays or shows with movement and dialog, you probably have seen this need. In the show Razon de Vivir at 52 seconds there is a movement of Riddle extending his right hand then moving his hand to his heart. I had never seen an animation in SL for that movement, but it was exactly what I wanted to show at that point. So, I went to Qavimator and made the animation.

If you need a specialty anim, one solution is to hire someone to make an animation. I have joined the Pro Animators of Second Life Group and at least once a week someone asks for hiring an animator to make an animation.

But for Nottoo sticking her head out and then looking at Shadow, I decided to make the animation. I initially thought about showing you the step-by-step process for making the needed animation using Qavimator, but I found a good tutorial video for this and I will leave it to you to learn how to use the free Qavimator program. But I do want to show how I defined what I wanted the animation to do.

I placed a choreography grid at the x, y coordinates where Nottoo will be standing when Shadow first speaks and oriented the grid in the direction she would be facing. The choreography grid is helpful here since it is divided into units of 1 m.

I envisioned Nottoo's head visible at an angle looking around the end of the right curtain seen from the front.

How I Imagined Nottoo Peeking
I decided the animation had to place Nottoo where the red X is in the picture below with her body facing the same direction as the starting point but her torso twisted so her head extended past the curtain looking to her left. My positional accuracy didn't need to be perfect because I could adjust the position of the curtain to make it look how I wanted.

After Nottoo's head is visible I estimated three seconds for the conversation then Nottoo turns her head and looks at Shadow. The whole animation should last about 5 seconds. In about 5 minutes I made the animation I wanted with Qavimator:

Frame 2 of My Animation in Qavimator
I uploaded the animation using the following settings:

I tested the animation and had to make a small adjustment in the curtain position to give what I wanted.

Wh-Who's There?

Finishing the Movement to Oblivion

Okay, now that I have the specialty animation made, I can create the DanceMaster *DM dances, *DM formations and PCL notecards for the script through the start of the second song, Oblivion. Since this is so similar to what I have done previously, I will identify the content of the three notecards quickly.

For the *DM dances notecard I added a standing animation for Shadow while Nottoo goes off stage, and added my nottoo peeking animation for Nottoo.


I needed two new formations. One is for Shadow on stage while Nottoo is off stage, and the the other is for Nottoo and Shadow face-to face on stage. I make only two new formations because I will use the 'face' command  (per Bryndyn's suggestion) to control the orientation of Nottoo and Shadow. Here are the two formations.


I did use a circle formation for Nottoo and Shadow facing each other on stage since positions 1 and 4 are 180 degrees from each other and oriented in.

Of course the key to making all this work is the PCL notecard.

Back in Making a Dance Show 3 I had created the PCL notecard content for the song Quien Sera and at the end I had placed a pause. Now that I am ready to continue the PCL notecard after Quien Sera, my first step is to replace with pause with a wait. I choose 3 seconds for this wait at the end of the song:

.wait 3

Now, I can write the PCL notecard content for the movement between Quien Sera and the next song, Oblivion. I start by opening a new section. Doing this series of movements took me a couple of hours. I had to learn the use of the 'face' command and that took some reading and redoing of the the content. Here is what I ended up with

.section Part 20   \\Nottoo and Shadow talk the first time

\\Nottoo and Shadow stand and turn
tran 1
face east
.wait 1

\\Nottoo walks off stage and Shadow remains on stage
tran 4 0 old
formation LNOffStageR
.wait 4

\\Shadow speaks
face west:1
.wait 3

\\Nottoo peeks
.wait 4.9
.wait 0.1

\\Nottoo and Shadow walk to meet face-to-face
tran 4 0 line 1-3
tran 2 0 line 4-6
formation LNSFace2Face
.wait 2
.wait 2

\\Nottoo and Shadow talk before Oblivion starts
.wait 9

Most of the detail is similar to what you have seen before. A couple of new things in this part of the PCL card are the use of the 'face' command to orient one or both avatars a specific direction. The 'face' command overrides orientations in formations and is active until you turn it off. The second new thing is that after Nottoo sees Shadow from behind the curtain, they both walk to new positions. I used additional attributes on the tran command so Nottoo walked for 4 seconds while Shadow walked for only 2 seconds then turned to face Nottoo.

I tested the steps I had just done and the DanceMaster worked.

The next step is to choreograph Oblivion and I will save that for the next post in this series. All of this work took about two hours to give me a total of 14 hours in the show so far.

Final Thoughts - I Want to WOW

At the begining of this post I asked myself the question have I WOWed the audience. I did add a new animation with Nottoo poking her head from the curtain. Maybe that will get a 'cute' comment but it certainly is not WOWing the audience. So, I need to put more WOW in the show from here on. As I have thought about it, here is what I will try to do:

Oblivion - This is a passionate, slow song and over 4 minutes long. For the dancing I will do something that is challenging by having Nottoo and her Shadow dance together using animations that are not part of a couples animation. This is not so easy because individual animations are not made to go together and I want to show Nottoo and her Shadow visually go from being distant to being close. I want to try to get one animation to play off the other visually.

The song after Oblivion is Rumba Negro (Spanish Stomp) by Count Basie. This is an upbeat song and here I plan to show couples dancing using available couples dances. In my opinion Psyche Lunasea is the star of couples dancing and she is an expert at using the MLDU-5 to manage the difficult transitions that are part of couples dancing. If you look at the video of Razon de Vivir at 2:11 you will see the transition I made to a couples dances ... not good. Take a look at a video of Psyche in the same show you see really good transitions with not much jumping. I have to find a way to improve my transitions to the state of the art. I have written about the challenges of choreographing couples dances so I have some work to do. But, I also want to add some WOW here and I want to do this by having the dancers move around the entire stage using the movement capabilities of the DanceMaster. To my knowledge movement of couples dancers in a choreographed sequence has never been done. This will be a real challenge for me to choreograph.

Following Rumba Negro will be a blues song by Muddy Waters called Where's My Woman Been. Blues can be really sensual and sexy and I want to try something I have not seen before where Nottoo and Shadow walk to a chair and dance some of the SL chair/lap dances, then walk to a dance pole and dance together. I know that a lot of chairs and poles have been used in shows, but either without movement or with jumping if there is movement. I want to try to do this with movement without jumping. The DanceMaster will solve the jumping, but choreographing the transitions will be challenging.

The final song in the show is Ne Me Quitte Pas, a French favorite of mine. Here I want to use the movement capabilities of the DanceMaster to put Nottoo and Shadow almost at the same x, y, z coordinates. This will capture some of the same effect as in the video by Jo Ellsmere called "The Mask: a synchronicity" but I hope go beyond it by using waves and maybe a surprise. Here I want to show Nottoo and her Shadow becoming one.

I am not sure if I can do all these things. If I can, I am not sure it will WOW the audience. I think it will impress the advanced dancers who deal with the same limitations in choreographing, but will it make a WOW show. I guess that's the unknown that all of us have when we make a show. Will the audience like it?

So, that's all for now.