Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Sirens Call - A Beginning for the New Dancer, Post 4 - Animations

A series of posts sharing my own beliefs, methods, and suggestions for the new dancer.  As with anything I say or teach - QUESTION EVERYTHING!  There are many different approaches and methods to dance.  From all you learn, all you experience, strive to create your own methods, ideas, and knowledge.  Unique and yours.

Disclaimer:  The author of this article wishes to point out, in case it was not already embarrassingly, ridiculously obvious, that the opinions expressed belong solely to the author and they do not represent in any way those of Dance Queens, Dance Queens members, any affiliations, friends, non-friends, the guy in the 3rd row, or management.  If you must...EvaHarley bio

Welcome, welcome, welcome to the wonderful, crazy, consuming and thrilling adventure called dance here in Second Life!  Perhaps you've been bitten by the bug or wonder what all the hullabaloo is about?  Step-by-step I will share what I know of creating a dance performance and self-expression.  The stage is your canvas, the dancers your paint.  What story will you tell through your creation?

Previous posts:

Post 1 - An Introduction to Dance
Post 2 - Observation, Learning Style, and Inspiration
Post 3 - What is this Choreo Thing and Choosing Music

As for many in dance, creating a performance is a passion - the ability to express oneself without limitation.  It does not matter if you have two left feet in RL, challenges that would restrict in the physical world, or want your dancers swallowed by a great big eel and live to tell the tale.  Here we are limited only by the imagination.  True, the tools and the animations we use have limitations of their own, but every day there are new developments and ways we find to overcome these limitations.  Necessity is the mother of invention after all...

From previous posts we explored observing performances, finding the type/style/expression of dance that most appealed to you, and also choosing music.  As we continue on, it's best to have a piece of music in mind to listen to, connect with, and use.

This week let's dig in and get our hands dirty with ANIMATIONS.  Yes!  This is what you've been waiting for, right?  Before we get to the nitty gritty, what is an animation?  An animation is a recording of movement of an avatar body - the tip of the head, the turn of a foot, the shimmy of the hips.  These animation bits of data are stored on SL servers just like music files, objects and notecards.  When you play an animation using a HUD, your viewer retrieves the animation information from SL servers and plays it for you to see yourself dancing.  For anyone watching you, their viewer also goes to the SL servers so that their viewer can play the animation for them to see YOU dancing.

So why is that important?  One. we'll be introducing caching later, preparing the audience viewers so they can see the animations seamlessly without the temporary delay while their viewer retrieves the animation information.  Two?  Your audience will always see an animation played from the beginning at the speed the creator created it at.  Unless you use overlapping/layering of animations, this generally can't be changed.  Sure, you can slow down animation speed in your viewer - but your audience will always see the original speed of the animation.

Time to shop!  There are many wonderful animation stores on the grid.  Support animation creators by shopping at reputable stores.  My own personal list here, don't forget to start your own and search marketplace for new ones!  Dance Animations

Your goal?
  • visit several different animation stores to try out animations in-world
  • purchase a variety of animations that fit the song you've chosen
  • don't limit yourself to a certain style of dance
  • begin building your library of dance animations
  • always always always buy copy versions of the animations


This is a dance hit!  
Go squirrel - it's your birthday!
Set aside a block of time to go animation shopping.  This will take some time and in the beginning may feel a bit overwhelming.  There are a lot of animations out there!  Don't rush your selection.  Animations can easily break the bank so be selective.  Turn on your selected music, block any distractions, and relax into the music you chose and your imagination.

Choose a dance animation store.  Each one has their own "signature" - basic style, type, categories/organization.  One by one, visit them all over time and form your own opinion.

Most stores organize their animations by dance style.  Start off with the one closest to what you think fits your music, but as you explore, never limit yourself.  Make sure your AO is off.  While listening to the music, step onto the demo pad.

Some things to look for when choosing animations:

  • Does it fit the rhythm of the music?  For great choreography, use animations of varying tempos - slow dramatic movements and quick changes, turns.  Even though they differ in speed, they should generally always fit the beat of the music.
  • Watch the quality of the animation.  Does your avatar's body flow smoothly through the dance?  Does it look natural or like you've taken up being a contortionist?  Watch the neck, arms, and hips especially.
  • Does it express the music as you see it?  Just because a disco animation fits the rhythm, don't select it if it just doesn't fit what you see for the dance.
  • Look for "hits" - dramatic movements and turns within the animations that can highlight a part of the music.  Sometimes you'll "feel it" while you try out new animations.
  • Is the animation versatile?  A dance comprised completely of animations with spins quickly becomes overwhelming.  Include animations that may be more subtle yet are still expressive.
  • Generally you'll want to avoid 'clubby' type dances.  These are usually the shuffles you see back and forth, repetitive.  Do you see the animation fitting on stage, or better in a club?  What is your vision for the dance?  What have you observed in exploring the dance world and take into consideration your own feelings and opinion about your creation.
  • Consider the entire song when choosing animations.  Is there a quiet/instrumental moment in the dance?  A foot stomping section?  Don't be afraid to throw in a bit of tap, folk, or other styles!  You'd be surprised how animations you never expected would work, do, and add impact and flair to the dance.
  • Focus on those first five seconds of the animation first.  Remember that at this stage your audience will always see the beginning of the animation as part of your dance.  If the middle of the animation is fantastic but the beginning just doesn't work - pass.
  • Don't forget to always buy the copy versions so that you can use it as often and as many times as you want!

What about all these bento animations?  With the bento project, SL added new bones to our avatars - face, hands, tail, extra limbs/wings, and head (for ears and antennae).  This allowed animation creators to include additional movement for our avatars.  Generally bento versions of animations will cost a bit more than pre-bento versions and include more precise hand movements.  Wait!  This isn't Twilight, and you don't need to pick team Edward or team Jacob (I always liked Jacob better btw).  Choose your animations based on all the qualities above, whether bento or non-bento, and you will build a more diversified selection of animations to work with.

I would recommend purchasing around 12 animations at this point, over a period of time, from different stores and of different styles.  No one says you need to do it in one day!  This will give you a nice starting mix of animations to create your own unique choreography.

Animations should always be the core of your creation.  It is the animations you choose and how you use them that will create the basis of movement and emotion in your dance.  This is an opportunity for you to build and share of piece of yourself.  Always, always, always mix up the animations you use.  Many stores sell similar animations in packs.  Always strive to use just 2 or 3 from a pack for each dance.

Happy dancing - and welcome to the madness!

Next week?  Animation HUDs!  Playing with your new animations.