Friday, April 25, 2014

My Personal Account of The Artiste

A Beginning

When I first came to SL nearly 2 years ago, I was very excited to find that there was a crop of burlesque clubs in existence.  Having a huge love of theatre and dance I determined to become a dancer and set out exploring.  I was so determined I even managed to get a job as a dancer in a popular club before I was 3 months old.  I was quickly disillusioned though, realising that "burlesque" in SL was usually a "posh" term for stripping, often without any finesse and even stage work was limited because modes of animation were so limited that most actions had to be emoted or described and left to the viewers imagination.  I was resigned to having to "make do" and be as creative as I could with costumes and features such as fans. 

The Breakthrough

A few months later I chanced upon a demonstration of a nifty HUD called the Dance Diva.  It could co-ordinate dancers, move them around the stage, change directions and reposition them in formations.  I watched in awe as the three dancers moved in a way I had never seen possible before.  That was the first time I met Yummy and Jemma and they were kind enough to spend time talking with me afterwards and we discovered that we had a lot of common frustrations with the limitations of tools in SL..   We talked more over the coming weeks and I was so excited to learn that Yummy was working on yet another device, one that would bring everything together.

When she asked if I would be interested in helping her to test it I jumped at the chance.  Nearly every day we would get together and spend about 3 hours running tests, talking about ideas and me doing my best to try and break the HUD.  In the months that followed I learned a huge amount from Yummy, not least the painstaking work that goes into developing a product like this, which is no picnic.  I would leave our sessions feeling like my head was going to explode because I had taken so much in. one thing was readily apparent... what she was working on was an incredibly powerful tool and had immense potential.  Not only that, it was growing in complexity the more we worked on it.

A Perspective

Throughout the lifetime of the project I think Yummy and I have both kept in mind that potential, not just for cabaret performances but for dancers in all fields and also other performers where producing a dynamic performance is crucial to keep interest.  Most action in SL has been limited to a kind of 2 dimensional output where there was not much interaction between the performer and the stage or the audience.  Now there was the possibility to make things appear and vanish smoothly, have the stage set come to life and be a performer in its own right.  The solo performance was now a duet.  There were many things already in existence in SL that could enhance a routine, but they were not always easy to utilise unless you had 4 HUDs and several other windows or animations open on your screen.  It became very clear that being able to reduce that effort and enable the performer to do all their hard work before the act itself was the way to greatness.  Everything could be planned and laid out before hand, routines could be rehearsed over and over without massive set up, tweaks could be made without having to adjust over several HUDS.  

I started using the Artiste for performances at Orchids in 2012.  As nervous as I was about performing again, the one thing I knew I didn't have to worry about was the HUD itself.  I could prepare as much as I wanted beforehand and once that button was pressed  I would get everything as I wanted.  We all know that things are rarely perfect in SL, but this was as near as I had ever seen.  Even when we hit high lag and other people were kicking their equipment, I was amazed that I pushed the button and away it went.  This became even more apparent with Yummy included the dance sequencer and Iw as no longer reliant on running a dance HUD alongside. I used it week after week, twice every Sunday for nearly a year.  The only hiccup I had with it once in all that time was actually my fault because I didn't reset it after a bad crash.   I made spotlights appear, pulled fans out of thin air, turned Marylin into Nicole Kidman!  Then in early 2013 Yummy made my jaw drop when we worked on an idea for a group routine.  The Artiste made 5 dancers strip in unison and adorn fans during a performance of "Lady Marmalade".  We then put together a demonstration package in which everything was automated, from opening the curtains and logging into the tip jar through to making overhead announcements - just one press of a button!  It was something that I couldn't have imagined happening when I first started working with her, but I am starting to think that anything is possible.  All of this is just the start.


Just as the ideas that have gone into the Artiste have taken their time, nothing comes without work.  I  have worked with the Artiste day in day out and I am still learning what it can do.  As much as it is powerful it has a lot of complexity, but like a lot of complex learning, it has its foundation in solid basics and common sense.   The Silver Edition Artiste, which was released first, is a hugely important tool in its own right.  It is also a great foundation for advanced learning because everything follows the same principles. The key is in learning how best to use what you have and then building upon it in easy steps.  There will be support provided for people in manuals and training sessions but anyone who has used a notecard driven dance HUD will have no difficulty learning to use the Artiste.    All learning can be frustrating at times but every time you get an idea to work with the HUD it is incredibly empowering.  Its not just the result but the fact that you have mastered something new.

Looking forward

I have believed in this project from day one.  I have never lost faith in it for one second.  The work that Yummy has done is astounding and it has been such a privilege to work with her..and to have her friendship.  The real power of the Artiste will be the imaginations of the people who use it and I so look forward to seeing the results.  This rejuvenated my experience of SL and opened up a whole world of possibilities and I am sure it will do the same for many others.  We are already working on so many more ideas and I don't see that coming to an end anytime this space!

Aura Fitzgerald

No comments:

Post a Comment