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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Breathing New Life Into Old Ideas

I think we have all had ideas that we have never been able to put into practice, or a routine that could have been SO much better, if only...

The ideosyncrasies of SL aside, our imaginations will always outstrip reality so we have to make the best of what is available to us at the time. I don't think that I am the only one who looks back at some routines with the thought: "if only I had been able to realize that idea the way I envisioned it."

The Original Concept

About 2 years ago I was dancing at Orchids Theatre and had an idea for a routine which was pretty ambitious for me.  I went to my ace tech person Jemma and outlined it and she essentially created the SL version of an animatronic stage prop.  She scripted a cat head and paws which could rise up from below the stage and "attack" a bird cage.

At the time The Artiste was in its infancy.  There was no sequencer, no autofx as you would recognize it today, no palettes.  My dance routine had to go into a dance HUD.
  The animated items had to be controlled by an external HUD and triggered manually. However, I got everything set up and Jemz had done an amazing job.  Then we moved it to the theatre and disaster...

The original Orchids site had only 2m at best clearance under the stage. There was no way to fit this huge cat head underneath it!

Luckily there was some clearance behind the stage and into the dressing area.  The stage had to be reworked and the head and paws repositioned and altered so that they would emerge from the BACK of the stage.  It eventually worked great, but it really wasn't what I wanted and made nonsense of one of the best emote-jokes I ever got away with on a non-adult stage.

There were so many other things that I wanted to do with it as well, but at the time there was just no way to control them sufficiently.  So you pack your set away and think oh well...

Cat Scratch Redux

The advances in The Artiste over the last couple of years are pretty astounding. The ideas just kept rolling in and assimilating themselves into the whole.  Suddenly it's a whole new world.  I decided that it would be a good test to try this routine again and see if I could get it the way I originally wanted it.

Now I would like to stress that the original concept took a couple of weeks at least to put together, even though the set itself was very simple. Most of that was Jemma having to script the movements I wanted for the objects and make a HUD for me.

What you are seeing in the video is the result of only a few hours work in total.
I loaded my dances and the original routine into the Artiste, loaded the original notecards for events, emotes etc. The core was in place in 10 minutes.

The original scripts were stripped from the cat pieces and the palette scripts and notecards loaded.  I set up the initial positions and moves in less than an hour.  The rest of the time was just playing around with it and tweaking it until I was satisfied.  Now at last, I could see the head and paws rising up from underneath as intended and I had the power to do this myself, not have to ask someone else and try to relay how I wanted the moves to work.

Now I want to stress here...I am NOT a scripter.

I have learned a lot in the last couple of years and I can handle simple script editing, but doing this on my own would be completely beyond me. Having said that I can suddenly have complete control over how the paw multiple moves, control when they happen from the HUD and even add little touches like the cat tilting his head.  Result..happy bunny..well, canary...;)

The other thing I really wanted to do was have some effect of feathers flying when the skirt came off, but at the time there seemed no way to get an accurate control of a poofer to complete the effect.  I had actually finished putting everything together when I decided to give it another go.  I could have made a palette with the particle action but why waste more scripts for 4 seconds?

I went for a simple poofer object to be adorned on the pelvis as the skirt came off.  Now to have control of how long the "poof" lasted meant taking it off in a certain time. Because the Adorns have a variable lead time I could set the "poof" to happen just BEFORE the skirt removal and remove the poofer at the same time as the skirt.  The poofer is still throwing feathers out when it is detatched.

Yay for lead times and delays, the saviours of the day :)

And all of this at the touch of one button?  YES!

Everything set up and ready to go.  Instead of 3 HUDs I have one and I can sit back and watch.  Emotes,strips, adorns, autofx..all as planned.

So here is my version of "Cat Scratch Fever" by Pantera, first performed back in Late 2012 and now given a new lease of life and recorded for your entertainment.  Enjoy! :)

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