Friday, October 2, 2020

The Sirens Call - A Beginning for the New Dancer, Post 10 - It's all about TRANSITIONS, baby!

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 in your own voice.

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
Post 4 - Animations
Post 5 - Basic Skills Needed Before Working with an Animation HUD
Post 6 - Animation HUDs!  It's time to move it, move it
Post 7 - Learning Your HUD, Animations and Caching
Post 8 - Beginning to Choreograph
Post 9 - Freestyling, Transitions, Tempo Changes, Hits and More!

As we explore the process of creating your own dance performance, you will find that I follow a certain flow and focus heavily on building a strong foundation.  I love tools, gadgets, particles, and anything else that gives that extra bit of oomph which enhances my dance.  In time, these will also be introduced in this blog series.  I believe strongly that choreography is the core element in creating a dance - the animations chosen, how they are linked together, and those infinitesimal changes, transitions, pauses, and poses that express the music.  Amazing choreography can be performed in front of nothing more than a black screen and still draw the audience in and take their breath away.

If you've been following along, you should have a piece of music chosen, a choreography HUD loaded with a variety of animations, and you should have roughed out the choreography for your dance.

Transitions - Pulling it Together & Smoothing it Out

What a transition is: 

Fact - a transition is the act of changing from one animation to another
Art - a transition is the flow of changing from one animation to another seamlessly, without the audience knowing.  Making it appear that you are playing one completely smooth and seamless animation without others knowing where one begins and the other ends.

In some ways, Dance in RL and SL are the same.  The emotion of the music, the backstory created by sets, costume, music, and movement.  The anxiety of getting your dancers dressed and in place before the curtain goes up.

One of the major differences?  We are not limited by gravity or limitations of the body in this world.  RL is not limited to the pre-created dance animations that are available, but we are in this world.  The key is how to make them work for you.

Unless you hit the lottery, buy your own motion caption equipment, hire dancers to record, and animators to translate the data and clean up the files...your choreography is created by sequencing animations you purchase from various animation stores together.  It is in your animation choices, in the order you place them, and in the way you transition them that you create choreography in SL.

In our previous blog post, we talked about adding interest in a dance by changing your animations, using distinct movements to hit high points or to accentuate instrumental phrases.  Now, we focus on tips for smoothly transitioning from one animation to the next.  It truly is an art that requires patience and attention to detail, but it can be one of the most fun aspects of creating a dance.  Finding those nuances and putting it together.

Things to consider when changing from one animation to another:

Current "placement" of your avatar

Position of the hands, feet, head, body

Tempo of the animations being changed

Smooth in, Smooth out
Putting it into practice:
Placement of your avatar - Your avatar has a position, coordinates, just like a box does when you create one.  This is your "avatar center".  When you dance you "move" away from this center point, but for SL your avatar is still standing in that avatar center position.  When the animation stops, you'll be right back to where you started.

So, why is this important?  Most animations start at your avatar center position then continue to move you on the stage.  Start the animation again and BAM - it will drag you back to that avatar center position when the animation begins to replay.  Now think about transitions, changing from one animation to another.  If your first animation has danced you into a wide circle and you change the animation it will slide you back to avatar center, your starting position.  (PS - slides are usually bad, even the electric slide but I digress).
What can you do?  When I create my choreography, I stand right in the middle of a circle grid.  This visually let's me see where I am in relation to my avatar center.  
  • If I'm waaaay out from center, I know I either need to transition either before or after when I'm closer to center.
  • If I'm right on center, I know I should be ok to transition based on position.
  • If I'm a little off center but it looks like I'm taking a step or in a kick, my animation change will sometimes make it look like I stepped to center as it starts playing the next animation.

Is this written in stone?  Nope.  If you're a gooey slimy creature or in a futuristic/fantasy/psychedelic dance a slide may actually really work!  (but slides are still usually bad)

Give it a try.  See where your animation starts based on where you're standing.  Where does it move to?  Where does it finish?  (I often change my animations before they finish, but sometimes when they end)  Most animations will end at avatar center - but that's not always true either.  Now - see what happens when you change between two animations.  No slide?  Good!

Need a grid?  You can find a free on on Marketplace here:

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