A Moving Momentum: Spot On Choreography Tools
In the never-ending quest for realism, movement is half of an avatar’s visual. First comes choices in shape and style. Then come the selections in how to move. AO’s are as expressive as skins. Avatars require crafting and this inspires the evolution of naturalism.
Beyond the choice of shape and style, that movement is not simple:
• First is the choice of the AO that governs walk, run, stand, and sit positions. Otherwise the newbie awkwardness is embarrassing.
• Secondly, pose balls are used for special movements such as dancing or modeling. By clicking on one and agreeing to the animation, the avatar begins to follow a new movement sequence until stopped.
• Next, quality furniture has animations within, requiring menus. Most are menu-driven, and vary widely.
• Special animations can be added to inventory such as dance or performance that can be clicked to activate.
• Finally come the HUDs, also worn that can gives the most options as well as other connective features.
What connects all these? Often there are gaps of movement, awkwardness that can be embarrassing. No one wants to be in a club and suddenly be sitting on a chandelier when trying to coolly choose a dance animation. Having to put up with clumsiness almost seems a fact of virtual life!
At the cutting edge of technology, one group of entrepreneurs has innovated a positioning system that smoothly moves an avatar, along with objects linked to it. This dynamic tool allows users to exploit greater expression from other SL mechanisms including, but not limited, to animations. With greater naturalism of movement, emphasis can be placed where the user wishes, not towards the distractions of battling a clumsy systems. This has many applications:
• designers can move displays in a pre-defined route through their store demonstrating their products in one fluid motion
• performers and machima producers can choreograph complex shows to run smoothly
• models and fashion designers can set up runway shows to flow seamlessly allowing attention to be on fashion.
• developers can direct visitors through an educational or historical replication SIM. Even event planners could take advantage of this tool.
• customizable so anyone can create their own sequences of movements, beginning with dance.
Virtual opportunities are limited only by the ingenuity of residents. The desire to make avatars ‘life-like’ will always be a challenge met by the abilities of those who inhabit them. The Spot On Choreography System is one smooth step closer to experiencing a better Second Life.
Galilla Sinatra, Rug Halberd, and Martin Yeats make up this talented group who pools their desire, ingenuity, and technical talents. Lovers of dance and music in SL, Rug and Gali are part of Dance Queens, a group that shares skills, experience, and fun in all aspects of dance and performance, from lessons through complex collaborations. (www.sldancequeens.blogspot.com) While the HUDS animate avatars with dances, there isn’t anything transitioning the dances or moving the avatars from point A to point B (or any other point). After complaining to Martin Yeats, who writes code for a living, the new trio came up with their unique approach.
While it took a year to turn their idea into the product that was launched this past December, the most difficult aspect was convincing Martin to turn the idea into reality. Martin laments, “I wasn’t initially into it. I write software every day at work, it’s my first life and I wanted SL to be the antithesis of that”. He knew that he was pivotal to cracking the nut on how to turn Gali and Rug’s ideas into reality. Once Martin sunk his teeth into the project, he welcomed the challenge, and took it on so passionately that in only a month, he turned out the first product rendition. The trio admits that once the challenge of working out the idea was out of the way, the bundling of the product and getting it out wasn’t tremendously difficult.
Gali and Rug found their real life occupations and experience in marketing, customer service, and training have prepared them well for the launch and continued marketing of Spot. Gali, a computer tech by day, trains teachers on how to make class websites and use software programs. Her patience and training experience lend itself well to dispelling the fear that Spot On is complicated and unwieldy like similar products on the market.
“Many well-planned wedding ceremonies have been muddled with the bridal party stopping, jumping, or worse yet, SITTING as they try to get down the aisle! Spot also gives real dynamics to a stage show. Instead of a poseball in one place, it’s a poseball anywhere—far more realistic.”—Rug Halberd
Gina Gracemount, a popular performer in SL, wishes to polish her shows to the maximum. The more she can control the sequence, movements, and timing, the more she can focus on interacting with the audience and overseeing that all is proceeding properly. Gali recalls, “the performance consisted of twelve songs with twelve different routes and we never got off the spot. Even Gina was choreographed.” Gina comments, “We put together an hour-long Burlesque show It worked well in a club with 50 plus people present.” [This is the true test of any system, as audience sizes are limited in the virtual world.]
Galilla: “The world is smaller than we think! In SL,I have learned how to better communicate through the written word. Rug and I mainly do support, so we deal with people from all over. Martin, you get to enjoy on a more personal level.”
Martin: “I’m a software developer in real life. I’ve always worked for others and never marketed my own products. In SL, I face customers directly. So it is a different set of challenges. And it’s fun to see people enjoy what we’ve made.”
Galilla: “SL has a sense of community that sometimes is lacking in real life. It also unites people internationally. Further, it is a great outlet for creating. I was surprised and delighted at how creative I can actually be. I never thought of myself as creative before.”
Rug: “I spend more time in SL than not. However, I see it as just an extension of ‘the net’ in some ways, like IRC with fancy grfx.”
Martin: “How we collaborate and over-lap our talents comes from being friends long before we decided to make a product…. and Gali and Rug really had a clear vision of what the SL dance community needed. They were so excited about it, that it got me excited. Then we started scheming. I think it took me a bit to understand they why… once I saw it, it made perfect sense.”
Galilla: “Our goal as a team is to take over the world, simply put.”
Rug: “But we do have plans to make australia a penal colony again.”
Galilla: “And don’t forget bombing them! Part of why we get along so well is that we have fun. You see us dressed normally but tomorrow we could be giants, or mermaids, or androids.”
Martin: “We’re not all work and no play.”
Rug: “A collaboration offshoot is to share a lot of our creativity/learning/skills between us, like Gal and I are responsible for the building here on the sim. Lots we’ve built in mesh from scratch, each of us passing on skills and tips while we’ve learned tools such as Blender and Sketchup, etc. And I pick up and extend my scripting understanding from Martin.”
Galilla: “I avoid scripting like the plague!”
Martin: “Customers say ‘We want X!’… so I think ‘Ok, I can do X.’ But Gali and Rug are able to say ‘They SAY they want X… but what they really want is Z—something else entirely!’ Someone with passion really knows what the customers needs.”
Galilla: “Spot is something me and Rug have wanted for years to enhance dancing. When we come up with an idea, we discuss it and beat Martin down until he sees how it’ll be useful.”
Martin: “I enjoy learning SL’s ins and outs. I’ll be honest, dancing wasn’t my thing. But when I teamed up with these two, their passion was infectious.
“Build what you love, not just something to make money. If Gali and Rug weren’t so involved in this community, I don’t think we’d have been nearly so successful. We didn’t really build a product to sell… we built the product they wish they had… and it turned out everyone else wanted it too.”
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© 2014 by Eleanor Medier, Sim Street Journal. Articles cannot be reprinted without permission.