Editor note: still work in progress! Check back periodically for updates
Last Updated: 10/8/2021
So, what is a crowd dance? A crowd dance is a general term used by several dance venues to describe inviting members of the audience on stage to dance one or more songs. This is generally at the end of the show. A small number of spots may be made available (six for example) or enough for everyone who wants to dance. The number of dance spots needed can effect your choice of animation HUD.
Creating a crowd dance is overall very similar to creating a “regular” dance. You have a set, music, dance animations, and usually dance balls/sit pads for people to sit on. When crowd dances are created for a large number of people, there are a couple of special considerations. Gah, this sounds like reading the handbook of the recently deceased doesn’t it? Boring…
WAIT!!! CROWD DANCES CAN BE AMAZING FUN! (Yes, I meant to shout that)
I find there is more flexibility in crowd dances. When you invite others on stage, you usually want the dances to be fun and high energy. Because of the number of people, you’re not going to have complex movements (or movement at all). To accommodate the number of people, you’ll need more space for dancing – sets aren’t quite as “fussy” as a regular dance performance set. I find them much easier and faster to build. Nothing thrills me more than when everyone on that stage gets into it – hooting, hollering, shouting, dressing up, etc! It’s an adrenaline rush!
Are you intrigued now? Stay with me here!
I developed this training with Elysium in mind, but everything I share here can be applied pretty much everywhere – just adapt where you need to. So, at Elysium we require a minimum of 50 dance balls/pads on stage. This gives enough spots for the members in the show and also the audience. Everything I share below is going to be geared for creating a crowd dance for 50 people.
For Elysium we generally pick three songs or 10-12 minutes of music. Crowd dance music is usually best if it’s high energy, really drawing everyone in. Don’t make it too long – I find that at the 12 minute mark people have had too much of a good thing and start looking at their watches.
Bonus: Can you do more than three songs? Yep! Keep the total around 11 minutes or use a free program like Audacity to “mix” them together! With a little practice, it’s pretty easy to fade out one song and fade in another. No rule says you have to use the whole song… or can’t add sound effects….
Help the DJ: If you can, mix your songs into one mp3 file. If not, email the individual files. Gunner is awesome and will do it for you. It helps to have just one crowd dance music file when streaming the music for the show.
- high energy music works the best
- 3 songs is the standard, I recommend 10-12 minutes total
- if you can, use a program to mix it into one file or send the individual music files and Gunner will mix them into one for the show
A theme is when your crowd dance songs all have something in common – maybe they’re from the same decade, same style of music, or a topic like pirates, the jungle, the beach, etc. Do you have to use a theme when you create a crowd dance? Absolutely NOT. I like picking a theme for mine – I have fun with it and it gives me a central focus for picking music and creating my set. Are theme crowd dances better – DEFINITELY NOT! Pick 3 fun dances, a basic set, and dance your heart out! ENERGY is what makes a crowd dance!
Sometimes I have a high energy song stuck in my head, or I’ve saved a list of really fun songs. Usually I’ll pick one thing, one song, and make that the main focus of my crowd dance. Example: I love some Mikey Bustos and his parody “I Wear Speedos”. I made that one of my songs, found two more high energy songs about the beach/bikinis, and created a set that looked like a huge pool deck and pool. The sit pads were beach towels. Did I have to create for a certain theme? Nope. I just like to.
Now you know you need to pick three songs. Decide if you want to have a theme for your crowd dance or pick three high energy songs to dance to. The choice is yours!
CROWD DANCE SETS
It can be a bit tough to fit 50 dance balls in a set sometimes, so you definitely aren’t going to fill your stage with a ton of bushes, trees, etc. Where you’ll fit the dancers should be your number one thought when creating a crowd dance set. Another thing to consider is the visual. If you have everyone standing on the set floor, at the same level, all lined up – it might look more like bootcamp than a fun and rocking crowd dance! Think about ways to fit people comfortably and make it fun to look at:
- offset each row so that you can see more people
- put in risers so that people stand at different heights
- add ledges and other areas that lift people off the floor
- Suspend reality! There’s no reason you can’t have people dancing on clouds, floating clovers, etc.
Remember to keep your dancers in view. Don’t hide them behind a pile of rocks or have them dancing out of sight through the set.
Crowd dances are meant to be fun! If you want to make a set that looks like a bowl of cheerios, do it! Make a honky tonk bar? Do it! Quality does count, so if you’re going to do something – make it look great! If you do make a honky tonk bar, you definitely need to put dance pads on the bar and pool tables!
Do you have to make a themed set? Nope, definitely not. You can create a more general set with lights, risers, etc. and use that. Crowd dances are whatever you make them to be. If there were rules, the number one rule would be “make sure the audience has fun”. You can do that with your animations and music – the set being just the background for it.
Every animation HUD has its limits and features: number of dancers, sequence options, how it handles high lag, etc. There is also personal preference.
Consider the different HUDs available, test if possible, and choose which one you think will work best for you.
|Animation HUDs||Max # of Dancers||Comments|
|MetaHarpers Choreo HUD (Dancer Edition)|
|Dance Core Basic|
|99||No longer on the market, sporadic errors saying all dancer slots are used when they aren’t (theory – SL upgrade broke it). I personally no longer recommend this HUD for crowd dances|
|Spot On Smooth Dancer|
|Spot On Performance Director|
|Spot On Club Mover System|
|40||Can move into pre-set formations and animate from the same HUD! Freestyle, no recorded sequences.|
A word about the Barre HUD: Barre used to be my go to HUD for crowd dances, the one HUD I would recommend. Approximately 6 months ago, I started having HUD errors when 24 people were on the dance HUD and someone else jumped on a pad – the error message would say “out of dance slots” when it wasn’t even close. No more people could dance (until someone jumped off). After the 3rd time of this, I made up my mind that an SL update changed something that was causing this error with the HUD. Because the Barre HUD was no longer in development and I had 3 show nights where people left disappointed, I crossed the Barre HUD off my list. Others have experienced the same error. If you’re under 24 it probably still works for crowd dances. If you’re using it to choreograph etc., that’s all probably fine. If you’re having a lucky night, maybe it will work for you, but for me there’s no worse feeling in dance than people leaving disappointed from a crowd dance.
As you can see above, Dance Core Basic which is the newest release from the maker of the Barre HUD and the MetaHarpers Choreo HUD (MST) are two animation HUDs that can handle the number of dancers that Elysium requires. I personally use both.
MST and Dance Core Basic Comparison
MST (Metaharpers Choreo HUD)
|MST and Dance Core Basic Comparison|
|MST||Dance Core Basic|
|Max # Dancers||80 (built in)||can add dance slots to 99|
|Invite on Sit Pad||Yes||Yes|
|Can play timed dance sequences||Yes||Yes|
|Can order a list of animations/create pages||No. Animations are listed in alphabetical order. It is quick to change pages.||Yes|
|Invite time-outs||not bad if you wait for E members to get on first before opening curtain||Frequent, takes longer to get people on but there are a couple of suggestions to help|
|Sequence Dance Slots||1, takes 5-10 seconds to load next sequence||2 built in, up to 6 total with add-on|
|Animations visible at one time||20||10|
|# of scripts||32 of 92 with 80 dancer slots||48 of 70 with 60 dancer slots|
|Can record choreography||Yes||No, no recording feature|
|Cool feature:||Dancers dip into a kneel when they join the HUD|
can change text width in configuration notecard to see long animation names
|Can dance multiple groups at the same time|
IMPORTANT NOTE: After using the Barre HUD for crowd dances for five years, it’s tough to transition to a new HUD. None of them do everything the Barre HUD did for crowd dances. I had my 3 dance slots, I had my list of animations for each dance and could load them up into the 3 dance slots before I danced. Is that a “failure” of the MST HUD that it doesn’t do that? or can I adapt for the gains I do get? I find it easier to get people on the MST HUD and it seems much faster changing pages and animations. I had to remind myself to be open to adapting.
INVITING DANCERS TO YOUR HUD & SIT PADS/DANCE BALLS
There are three main ways to invite dancers to your animation HUD:
- sit pads/dance balls that include an inviter script for your HUD
- A touch sign or orb for dancers to click on and be invited
- Manually invite from your HUD
All of the HUDs above have the ability to invite dancers to your HUD when they sit on a pad/mover/or ball. (The Spot On Smooth Dancer and Performance Director require the Spot On Choreo Designer.) For the purpose of this workshop we’re going to focus on Dance Core Basic and the MST Choreo HUD.
Benefits of using the HUD sit pad inviters:
- Less lag! SL servers are constantly monitoring avatars for collisions. Ever bounce off a wall? That’s a collision. Walk on a stage floor? That’s a collision. Sit avatars on a pad and poof! SL forgets worrying about who or what your dancers will crash into (interact with) – saving server resources for you!
- Space out your dancers on the stage so they can be seen! Put dance pads on top of boxes, upside down on the ceiling, have them spell out something on the floor even! It’s like putting candles on a 3D cake. You get to pick where you want the dance spots to be.
- Keep it simple for your crowd dancers. This may be the first time ever they’ve been on a stage! By using inviter pads, they sit, get the invitation, accept and boom – they’re ready to dance! Easy peasy.
Notes about dance pad placement:
- make sure to give the dancer enough space to move so they don’t smack or kick other dancers, go through walls, or dance off the stage.
- The sit pads for the Core Basic and MST Choreo HUD are both dance pads on the floor making them pretty easy to place. If your HUD uses balls that float in the air (like Barre), use yourself to test how far from the floor they should be.
- Use a builders grid to make it faster and easier to position your sit pads. Rez it over the floor of your set and make it 70% transparent so you can see your floor. Stretch it to fit how much space you want to give each dancer. This fantastic building grid is free: https://marketplace.secondlife.com/p/Basic-Builders-Grid-Texture/8534776
Ready, Set, Go!
At this point, you should have a set for your crowd dance and have an idea about where you want to position your sit pads. After we get them set up, we’re going to have to load them into a set rezzer. I use the Spot On Stage Manager. Adapt these instructions to fit the needs of your rezzer.
Note: My experience for both the Dance Core and MST HUDs is that the sit pads can’t be linked. There should be one for each dancer spot, 50 for Elysium. BREATHE! BREATHE! It’s OK! There’s actually a pretty easy way to do this. IMPORTANT UPDATE: MST is expected to have sit pads you can link as one object in the near future. I’m retesting if Dance Core Basic pads can be linked and also contacted the creator. Please give it a try!
- Lay out the grid I mentioned above, setting the transparency so you can still see your dance floor through it. Bring it as low as you can so that your sit pads won’t be floating.
- Rez a sit pad for your animation HUD, position it as the first mover in a row, and rename it. I name mine CD PIRATES, CD RAVE and leave the rest. Example: CD CEILING ……
- Add the stage manager object script to the sit pad.
- Using shift-drag, copy that mover to the next position on the grid. Rise and repeat. (Side note – did you know you can shift-drag multiple movers or even whole rows at one time? Hold your shift key to select multiple movers, use shift drag to make a complete copy, then move them into position.
- After you’ve got all your sit pads in place click on your Stage Manager and select “Get Notecard”. Add the dance pad entries to your set notecard (all 50 lines). Notice every line has the same exact name but a different position. (Note: other rezzers might need different names)
- STAGE MANAGER ONLY: Now take just ONE sit pad and load it into your stage manager. Yes, just one! Your stage manager will rez that one sit pad in all 50 positions from your notecard. You can delete the rest of the rezzed pads. Their job is done. Ta Da!
But WAIT! I don’t want to use the pad! Do I have to?
Ready to get a bit fancy, huh? The answer is “nope” you don’t have to use the sit pad prim. For both the Dance Core Basic and MST Choreo HUDs you can put the sit pad scripts into another object!
- Rez a sit pad, right click on it, and select “Open” to copy the contents to your inventory.
- Rez the prim you want to be your sit pad and copy the sit pad contents from your inventory to the new prim
- Sit on the prim and test. Are you standing up and facing the direction you thought you would? Prims have a center point and rotation, sometimes it can be unexpected. (See Important info below for more)
- Sit on your prim and test it. Are you dancing? Everything look ok?
- Rename the prim to something you can identify with. CD Jungle Sit Pad or something
- Add your rezzer script, make copies for all the dancers, and pack it up!
- the prim has to be mod/copy because you’ll need to add the dance pad stuff to it and also pack it in the rezzer
- when a dancer sits on a prim, it changes to transparent. If you are using a linked prim as a sit pad you will probably find that only part of it goes transparent. This is a good or bad thing depending on what you want to do. Usually I use a single prim object like a planet, a skull, key, shrimp, or even a box I created and textured.
- The prim center position and orientation are important and pretty much impossible to tell before you purchase it. Example: I purchased an adorable monkey to be the sit pads for a jungle theme dance. I sat him straight in front of me, added the MST Choreo sit pad contents, and sat on him…and crap! I was not standing up like the monkey, I was actually laying down sideways like some weird levitation game. The prim orientation looked “normal”, but the creator created it “sideways”. (Don’t ask me how or why) If it was a planet I could just rotate the prim. Because I didn’t want the monkey standing on its head, I had to scrap that monkey and try a different object.
But WAIT! What if I want to use a different start animation?
Note: I have changed the sit pad animation in the past, but is it worth it? Probably not. They’re only in this pose until we start running the animations. Just in case you do really want to change it, below are my notes.
Both the Dance Core Basic and MST Choreo HUDs have an animation in the sit pad. When a dancer stands on the pad, they will be put into the pose until it is overridden by the dance HUD. I could successfully change it for the Dance Core Basic HUD. Make sure to update the configuration notecard (scroll to the bottom): STAND = MyAnimation, and add your animation to the sit object. I could not successfully change it for the MST Choreo HUD.
Dance animations are usually Priority 4 (P4). The higher the number the higher the priority (the power to override lower priorities). Let’s say you’re using a priority 4 animation in your sit pad and priority 4 dance animations in your HUD. Uh oh – now your sit pad and animation HUD are going to go head to head! Every time you change dances, you might find that everyone goes back to the pose in the sit pad for a second before changing to the next dance animation. Let’s say you want to put everyone into an ending pose and have a P3 pose in your HUD. You guessed it, not happening. The P4 animation in your sit pad will probably override it.
I’ve found most poses to be P2, most animations to be P3 unless they say P4, and most dances to be P4. As with everything, there are exceptions.
Moral of the story: you CAN change the animation in your sit pad. Low priority animations are the best so they don’t override your dance HUD animations. Should you? You decide.
Pretty much, the answer is “I don’t really recommend it”. With so many people on stage, you’re probably going to feel lag. Even if you don’t, others will. Particles will add to the lag and are highly likely to have the opposite effect – potentially crashing people or overloading them with lag.
You definitely do want to have lighting so that everyone can be seen and your set isn’t hidden in shadows. I recommend prim lights you can easily create yourself. One thing to consider is that people who don’t have advanced lighting turned on can see only six lights sources. I’ve been playing with 6 light balls, intensity = 1, radius = 20, falloff = 0, color = white. I’m trying to test how I can keep the whole stage of dancers lit with as few light balls as possible.