One of the most amazing things about dance is there are always new things to learn and try. During this adventure, you will come across many different terms – so let’s explore a few here, eh? These are my definitions, as I know them, and subject to change as I also learn and grow.
Animation (general term) – An animation is a special type of item in Second Life, that when played will move various parts of the avatar. This may be into a pose, into a dance, or into a movement such as walking. Animations are created by animators using two main processes – stop motion animation or motion capture. “Stop motion animation”, is recording one frame at a time of movement, generally using a pose mannequin shifted in small movements and recorded. These frames are then spliced together to create the flow of movement.
In motion capture animation, companies connect sensors to real life dancers. While they dance, computers record their positioning and movements into data which can then be converted into smooth flowing animations. Motion Capture animations (MoCap) animations, are generally much smoother and more realistic.
Dance Animation – An animation which reproduces dance movement when played. This may be club dancing, lyrical, hip hop, headbanging, etc. Animations may be very short – from 10 seconds, up to 1 minute. Most dance animations will automatically repeat (loop) after they been played in their entirety, but not necessarily all.
Animation – an non-dance animation that moves an avatar in generally continual motion. Example: walking/running, flips, standing/sitting with continuing changes of position, jump, land, emotions such as stomping around, etc.
Pose – An animation that moves an avatar into a still position. Poses may be smooth or “snap” into place. Poses that smoothly animate into place are generally more preferable to work with. Poses are generally used for the start of a dance, for the finish, and also within the dance to add a brief pause or for focus to be shifted to another dancer. They can also be used to link dance animations together.
Choreography – Choreography is the act of linking animations together to create an expressive dance, generally to music. Example: You have three animations – a spin, tap dancing, and a jump. For the music, you will listen to the rhythm and transitions. Generally you would play the animations ad you listen to the music and “feel” how they fit the song together. In choreographing, you might start with the tapping, go into the jump, then play the spin. You know have a single cohesive dance made up of parts that are put together so that they flow naturally with the music. Don’t be afraid to consider all styles of animations for your dance! Just because you’re choreographing a ballet dance doesn’t mean you have to use all ballet animations. Change it up – it adds interest and makes the dance yours. Please never ever ever create a dance from one pack of animations you bought at an animation store! The creator is the choreographer in this case. Use a variety – hunt around, be open minded! I usually use between 20-45 animations for dances I create, sometimes just using little pieces. Need more animations? They are out there to find, and don’t forget MP can be a great place to get a “starter pack” of animations. Consider buying a loaded dance hud (try it first if you can), or pull one from your inventory. If it’s copy, you can rez it on the ground and copy the animations to your inventory! I now copy animations from my furniture, ballet barre, and whatever else I have with copy animations that might look great in a dance!
Transition – Changing from one dance to another. Your goal is to have a smooth transition – no jumps, no slides, so that for the audience the dance flows seamlessly. Not the easiest thing to do! For smooth transitions, watch the placement of the hands, the feet, the tempo of the animation as you change. If the hands were on the hips, and the next animation has them overhead you might very well get a jarring transition. Also watch for where on the floor your dancers feet are. Many animations travel across the floor, moving you from your avatar center – like walking around in a circle. If you change animations while your avatar is away from center, you may see a slide when you start the next transition – dragging you back to avatar center. Suggestions? I work on choreography standing on a grid, with me starting right over the center circle. This visual helps me see where my animations move to and where I am when I want to transition to another animation. I also recommend looking at changing your animation in a different place, very often if I let the first animation play just a bit longer, or catch it mid-step, I can find a better place to transition. After a turn or within a turn can also be a great place to transition. There are also animations you can use to “link”, that flow smoothly and create a more seamless transition.
Link – Links are animations used to link two animations together, that flow smoothly and create a more seamless transition. You found the perfect two animations, but when you change from one to another you have a hot mess of a jump and/or slide. They just don’t have a smooth change. Very often you play just a second or two, or even a fraction of a second of a link animation, just enough to bring the two perfect animations together. I look for slower, smooth animations that don’t have distinctive moves, or ones that have a nice short move – like a turn or a booty wiggle, etc. Where to find these magical link animations? My favorite to use are from Abranimations, just regular animations you probably already have! I find their animations generally flow well between various types and makers. Want to try it? Put a bunch of smooth, subtle animations in a hud, your dance animations in another, and try it! Play just a bit of the link animations in between to see which gives you a nice smooth connection.
Cache/Caching – The definition of “cache” is to “store away in hiding or for future use”. When someone views your dance, their viewer is displaying your animations, your costume, your set, and your particles to them. If their viewer hasn’t seen those things before, it will take it a moment to go to the second life server where the information is stored, get the info, and then display it to the user. Example:
- I play the animation “sexy8” while you are watching
- your viewer goes to the second life server and says “ok – what do I do for sexy8”???
- the second life server sends the animation data to your viewer and says “here ya go!”
- in there, the sim server is also listening too and says “ooh, sexy 8! Needs resources!”
- your viewer finally plays it.
You can see that a short amount of time is needed for this exchange to occur – and it happens for mesh objects, clothing, textures, animations, etc. (don’t forget, particles are textures too!)
When you cache in advance, it prepares the viewers of everyone watching, and also prepares the sim you’re on. Caching sets, costumes, animations, particles, etc. for the sim and also while users are present (even through a closed curtain), will help your dance be seen as you intended it.
Mover System – A mover system is basically a tool that moves dancers from one set of coordinates to another. For example, your dancers start on the stage floor, and you want them to rise 2 meters so they are flying, or move them to the left and to the right. A mover system will allow you to do this. There are several mover systems. I recommend exploring. You may find that some tools work better in certain situations than others. A mover system is generally comprised of two things: a HUD or some type of master control, and movers or dance balls which your dancers sit/stand on. By moving the dance ball or mover your dancer stands on, it also moves your dancer.
Mover – The object your dancer stands/sits on. May be a square on the floor, a spot on mover, or other object.
Dance Ball – Another type of object, used by the Dance Ball Controller system. Generally referred to as a dance ball but often the shape of a square which is generally dancer’s mid height.
Rez/DeRez – This term in the dance world usually refers to the act of putting your set out on stage and removing it. Most dance leaders use a tool that by a click of the button will put out a copy of the set on the stage (rez it), and with the click of another button (de-rez it). You can also accomplish this by rezzing the item from your inventory, then taking it back when done, but this does additional considerations and potential issues. Using a rezzing system is the standard in the dance world.
Stay Pad/Stay Ball – These are critical for every theatre. A stay pad/stay ball is simple an object for dancers to sit/stand on. By sitting on an object, the sim is no longer tracking the movement of the avatar, as it would if they were standing or walking. To the server, the avatar becomes nearly invisible. This saves a significant amount of server resources and prevents lag. It is recommended that dancers never walk during a performance. They should jump from the stay pad directly to their movers and back again. This again helps to reduce lag.
Phantom – from the Second Life wiki: “Phantom is an object setting that can be changed from the edit window or by script. When an object is phantom it will pass through other objects and avatars.”
When phantom is referred to in the dance world, it is generally in reference to your props and sets. You should almost ALWAYS set your props and sets as phantom objects, and there are two important reasons why.
- When you are rezzing a set that is not set as phantom, in some cases objects may collide with each other. Standard objects do not want to occupy the same space and will shift out of the way of other objects. If an avatar happens to be in the way, it will do the same thing. Your set may not rez properly, you may pull out your hair, and a swear word or two might slip out. When you set the objects as phantom, avatars and other objects can pass through as though they don’t exist.
- When an object is not phantom, the sim server is keeping track of that object and any collisions that occur – with props, avatars, other objects, etc. By setting your set as phantom, the sim won’t record collisions – because there can’t be any when phantom. This saves sim resources.
Transparent – transparent is the ability to make an object invisible. It is frequently used for set pieces, props, and even parts of costumes. While objects are in use, such as a dancer standing on a spot on mover, it automatically becomes transparent. Want to see transparent objects? Press Ctrl-Alt-T. Transparent objects will be highlighted in a reddish color. Press Ctrl-Alt-T again to hide them.
Link – A link is the use of an animation to link two other animations together. For example: you found the absolute perfect animation for a piece of the music, and you found another animation for the next phrase of music. Hooray! …but wait…the first animation ends with the hands up and the next animation starts with the hands down. When you play the two animations together, you see this strange jump – oh no! A link animation is an animation you put in the middle that smooths the flow between the two animations, and generally only a little piece of it is played. I use mostly Abranimations animations as links – something a little slow, subtle, that shifts the arms and feet. You can also use a slow moving pose or whatever works for you. When you can, always try to find a place in the animations where the two link together seamlessly, but if you can, try looking for a link animation that will seam them together.
Freestyling – Extremely underrated in the dance world! Freestyling is simply loading up a dance hud with animations, and playing music or going to a club and dancing yourself – or even others! (make sure they’re willing first!) The more you do this, the more of a feel you’ll get for your animations, when to change to another animation so it’s pretty smooth, and most of all – you’ll have fun! When I’m choreographing a new dance I ALWAYS spend time just freestyling it, having fun and playing with it. After a time, I can feel the dance starting to come together on its own, if I relax and enjoy!