Friday, March 9, 2018

Particle Principles....The Art of Knowing When to Say When

Gimme the glitter and glue sticks!  The ooh's and aah's of bright lights and big explosions.  If some is good, more is better right?  Bring it on!

Particles - when to use them, how to use them....that is the question we delve into today.

Here in SL we can create nearly without limit, bring the surreal to life.  No rule books, no real "right" or "wrong" way of doing things.  Question everything, follow your imagination and inner drive to create.  But....before you slap on those hand particles and glowing orbs...consider this...

When you are creating a dance, what do you want to convey to the audience?

Look Ma!  No feet! 
(I'm really doing amazing
choreography under there)

I take a holistic approach to dance.  All pieces are part of the whole.  Music and choreography come first for me, and everything comes together to convey an emotion, tell a story.  It can be a very fine line between performing a dance with particles that enhance the dance, and performing a particle show with a dance that enhances the particles.

Wait!  These look like rules you say?  Nope, suggestions, food for thought, and even fodder for discussion after wearing out chatter about the newest Walking Dead character demise....

So, when are good times to use particles?

  • during a "high" moment in the music, to add dramatic impact
  • during an instrumental or soft moment, a flowing particle can enhance the feeling
  • to highlight a particular animation, during a spin or dramatic leg movements for example
  • to punctuate the lyrics of the music, such as "fire"  (please make sure your venue is adequately insured)
  • to convey an emotion at points in the music, perhaps rain for tears, red for anger, glitter, an aura...
  • in the very beginning of your dance, if it fits the music.  You only get one chance to make a good first impression.  A strong start to your dance will draw the audience in.  Use a particle to enhance this if it fits the music and the dance.
  • at the very end of your dance, again, if it fits.  A strong dance with a powerful beginning can be lost if you end with a whimper.  If it fits, finish with a dramatic pose and a powerful particle.  Ensure the audience will remember your performance.
  • during an "entrance".  When additional dancers enter the set, when you transition your set or a new set prop fades in.  Draw attention to it.
  • to soften transitions, such as when you change sets, "swap" a prop for a dancer, or reveal your dancers inside a new environment.  Adds a bit of magic or surprise, minimizes the "technical" part of the change.
  • during rough choreography transitions.  At times, no matter how we try, not all animations can be smoothly transitioned into.  This may be a point you can use a particle to "mask" the rough transition or draw the audience attention away from the hop, slide, or jump.
When not to use particles:

  • during the whole.....entire.......performance.  They lose their impact.
  • right after you bought 50 new ones and thought they were "cool"...and want to use ALL of them.
  • because you were told you "have to have particles".  You don't.  Some of the most incredible performances have none at all.  This is your creation, use your own discretion.
  • to hide your choreography.  If you've spent 70% of your time building your set, 20% of the time putting together costumes, and 5% on choreography...don't use that last 5% on particles to hide the dancers!  Particles should enhance the choreography and the performance as a whole, not replace it.  If the choreography is rough, spend the time and focus on smoothing it out until you don't want to hide it.  
  • when the dance doesn't need particles.  That's right!  Some dance performances just don't need particles.  The combination of the music, the set, the choreography, and the costumes may be perfect just as they are and particles would actually detract from the performance!
~ passes out smelling salts ~  It may seem like a lot to consider, but as with most everything (except paying taxes), it gets easier over time.  Trust yourself, remember you can always add and change particles in future performances of your dance, and most importantly of all...have fun!  Below are a few suggestions:

  • If just delving into the magic of particles, start small and simple.  There are amazing particle stores.  Always check out particles in world, and be selective.  One or two particles during a performance is often a great way to get started.
  • Add particles and effects to your dance last.  This allows you to review the performance as a whole, and determine if and where particles can enhance the dance and help convey the emotion and story behind your performance.
  • "Choreograph" particles just as you would animations and movement.  Determine exactly where they should be and what the particle should be like for that particular moment.  Large bursts of color, delicate hand particles, a swirling mist for example.  Don't be the kid in the piano store...have a plan.
  • Less is always more.
  • Always keep them guessing.  Vary your approach.  You don't always have to open with a particle, or close with a particle.  Let the performance speak to you and approach each creation with a fresh mind, without preconceived notions of what you "have to have".  
  • Throw the "rule book" out the window.  There are no "rules", just suggestions and your own instincts.  Never forget, your dance is your artistic expression.  

And one final shared thought:  Support the particle creators and their stores.  There may be particles you choose to create, but never disregard the amazing creations and talent of the particle creators in SL that are available to you.  With your support, you are encouraging continued growth and availability of the incredible effects they create.   

Yours in dance,
~ Eva Harley