Formations Workshop

For those who like it rough….

You know you need this. You know you want it! So come to this workshop. Pea will demonstrate the easiest way she has found to do dance formations. Then you can give it a go. Things to bring:

Spot On Choreography Design Rings and HUD
A dance you have already completed that you would like to use to try formations
Have the song for your dance cued on your computer with whatever media player you use
Sedative of choice

Everyone is welcome! Bring friends, bring family, bring complete strangers! This is something that every choreographer should learn, and every dancer should be aware of. Guaranteed nervous breakdown! Come on, it will be fun. Really! This workshop is hosted by our dear friends at TerpsiCorps Isle. Have voice on. You don’t have to talk.

Monday, April 4th at 6pm SLT

Here is your ride:

Texturing – A Few Notes

I taught a few classes in set building at Dance Queens. I have decided to post my classes here. Some of this will be confusing because posting this information on a blog does not include the visuals and examples that were available in the actual class. But a lot of this information is still understandable and might help some people. If you read this and find any of it confusing and want further clarification, please contact me (BabypeaVonPhoenix Bikergrrl) in-world.

I would like to start by saying I was blackmailed into teaching this class. I do not feel I am a great builder, and am not a teacher, so do not feel qualified to be teaching building. What I can do is, tell you what I do, what I know, keeping in mind that I may not be right about things, and that there are always other ways that may be better suited to your needs. I will share with you what I know about building a good dance set.

This in and of itself is debatable. What makes a good dance set? That is so subjective, I am not convinced there is a definitive answer. So, what I will show you is what I think is a good dance set. Other opinions may, and some surely will, differ. You have to decide for yourself how you want your own sets to look. That is your creative freedom, your privilege as a creator. At the end of the day, only one thing really matters regarding your set: Are you happy with it?

I have split these classes into three parts. Today, we will talk about texturing. Next class, we will talk about props. Final class, we will talk about tricks. Again, keep in mind, everything I discuss in my classes are my opinions and how I do things. There are other opinions and methods, just as valid and effective. Take what you find helpful from my classes, disregard anything that doesn’t work for you.

I have no idea what you each already know, so I am approaching this as you all know nothing, because I have to start somewhere, and covering all bases will be better than trying to figure out what you each already know, and trying to tailor my presentation to so many varied experiences. So a lot of this may be boring for some of you, because you already know it. But I have created this class for the person who is brand new to set building.

For any set build, we start with a template. It is bare and empty. That makes it full of every possibility. The only limits are ones we place ourselves. The first thing I usually do is texture the walls, floor and ceiling. This is when things get fussy.

I then right click the template, select Edit from the wheel, then go to the Texture tab. I click the Color box and select black. This turns the entire box black. I will then texture the ceiling, floor, and inside walls. By doing this, and having the rest of the template black, it draws audience eyes into the set. They tend to not notice the front, side and top edges of the template. It makes the entire set look a bit tidier. No sloppy edges!

Now I want to texture the inside of the template. I first put the template into edit, then tick Edit linked parts on the General tab of the edit menu. This will allow me to edit only once piece of a linked set, also called a linkset. A linkset is a set of prims that are linked together. A prim is a primitive shape, such as a box, a sphere, or a cylinder. Next, I tick Select Face on the General tab in the edit menu. I then left click the floor of the template. When you are editing one face of a prim, that means only the side that you have selected will allow any kind of an edit. You will see a white cross surrounded by a circle. That indicates what face you are going to be editing. I now go to the Texture tab, click Color, and select white. I repeat this for the ceiling and three inner walls of the template. If you look at my example that I have rezzed, now you can see a black box with an uncolored “plywood” interior, neat and tidy, ready to texture an environment.

The next thing I do with any new template. I cam into the template, along the corners and every place where two prims meet, to make sure they are touching and there are no cracks or openings where you can see outside the template. This is just ensuring the template is well-put together and not sloppy. I want the back to meet the sides exactly, as well as the floor and ceiling. No cracks, no openings, no sloppiness. I want the entire template sealed as perfectly as possible. It is very easy to miss cracks or openings unless you cam right up to the place where two prims meet.

If you cam up to the top of my example, you can see a crack that might be visible to the audience during your act. This looks sloppy. I want to stretch that back wall up just a bit. So, I will Edit linked parts on that back wall, select Stretch from the General tab, UNTICK Stretch Both Sides, grab that middle blue box, and pull the wall up a bit. I am sure everyone knows, Stretch Both Sides would cause the wall to stretch in both directions, which would make it go down farther than the floor, which would throw off my textures from lining up properly. UNTICKING Stretch Both Sides means, the prim will only stretch in the direction I want it stretched… in this case, I want it to be stretched up.

Now to apply the textures! I will start by dragging and dropping my texture onto the surface I want it on. This can be dangerous. If you drop it on the wrong item, you can finish up applying that texture to something you may not want textured. One way to avoid this is, Edit linked/Select Face on the surface you want to texture, such as the back wall. Then go to the Texture tab, click the Texture box, and find the texture you want to use, and click Okay. For my example, I will be using this Hot Sunset background.

After applying the back texture, I will apply the sides. As you face the template, I will do the right side first. Okay, there it is. It looks kinda bad cause well two suns? This is lazy. Let’s fix this. I only want one sun in my set. So! Right click edit the template, tick Edit linked and Select Face, then click the background on the back wall. Now I am going to stretch the texture… just the texture, not the actual prim. On the Texture tab, in the bottom third of that tab, you see numbers with arrows, under the Default box. Play with these buttons and arrows. Get to know them. They are powerful texturing tools. I am going to click the top one down-arrow twice. And watch how it stretches the texture on my background.

This is the Horizontal scale. The Vertical scale will stretch the texture up. I do not use Repeats per meter. Rotation degrees I seldom use, this will rotate your texture on the prim. Horizontal and Verical offsets are extremely important in getting your textures to line up properly. These are magic buttons that you want to spend time with, get to know, get on very friendly terms with. They make all the difference.

Now, you see I have stretched my back texture a bit, so only 80% of it is showing. Now I am going to Edit linked/Select Face that side wall. Do you see the arrow on Horizontal scale that is in the blue circle and looks like this: <-> I will click that once. Notice, it completely flips my texture, a 180. Flipping the Vertical scale arrow would turn the texture upside down. Which I don’t want for this build, but I am showing you just so you see the power of these little buttons.

Now I want to get rid of that second sun, while ensuring my side texture lines up nicely with my back texture. First, I will click the Horizontal scale arrows four times to stretch it to 60%. Now, the scale will say -0.60000. It displays as a negative number when you flip it. Now I will go and click the Horizontal offset to slide this texture over until the sun is hidden. If I slide it too much, the seam shows. This is where the fiddling happens, folks. You can see the mountains do not line up nicely. So I must fiddle with the textures… their scales and offsets. I finally find that the only option that lines up to my satisfaction is:

The back wall is 0.6 Horizontal scale.
The right wall is -0.6 Horizontal scale

This leaves me with a sun that is partly on both parts of the wall, but the mountains are perfectly meeting at the corner, and I am happy with this. If it is important to me to have a sun in the center of my set, I will need to find a different texture for my background.

Now, only the left side wall. I drop the texture. I flip it with the <-> arrow next to the Horizontal scale numbers. I then click to stretch the texture to -0.6. I then horizontal offset it twice. And there it is, beautifully lined up textured background that looks good and makes sense.

Now for the ceiling. Okay, this is going to get complicated because there is no way to completely match all the walls. So what I will do is, I will drop this same texture onto the ceiling. I will then Edit linked/Select Face, stretch the crap out of it, flip it, and use the Vertical offset to slide it back until the sun is not showing. This is a pretty good match. The scale I am using here is:

Horizontal scale -0.8
Vertical scale 0.6
Vertical offset -0.2

And that looks ridiculous because, I have mountains in the sky. So! I am going to Edit linked/Select Face on the ceiling, go to the Texture tab, click Texture, and select Blank. This turns the ceiling white. Now I will go to Color, and fiddle with color until I get something that looks reasonable. It is not interesting, but it also is not distracting, and it does not stand out like a sore thumb. It is acceptable.

Now for the floor. This is an outdoor desert scene, so I have a dried broken ground texture. Which I shall now drop on my floor. As you can see, it looks shitful. So I will first use my texture scales to fix that. I am setting my Horizontal scale to 6, my Vertical scale to 4. And THAT looks much better already because it is not so huge. It looks more natural and in a comparative size with my avatar. You have to fiddle with it to get a scale that looks right.

But the color is all wrong. So, I shall Edit linked/Select Face, and play with the Color on the Texture tab until it looks like a good match for the walls. Now that looks pretty good.

Now I will point out the Shiny button. On the Texture tab, there are three buttons in about the middle area, one says Texture, then Bumpiness, then Shininess. Play with these. Especially Shiny. I don’t use Bumpiness usually. You can make textures look shiny with this. You can make a steel texture, for example, almost look like a mirror. It is just another tool to help you enhance your set texturing.

When selecting textures, please do so with care. For example, if your walls have a daytime forest scene, using a night sky on the roof is kinda O.O weird. Try to find textures that match up and compliment one another as best as you can. Where to get textures? Well you can buy them of course. But I prefer to go to Google Images, type in the name of what I want, and then pick through those choices. Save the image I want and upload it. This is not only cheap, it offers you a massive variety of images that are often not already overrun in SL. Searching by Snow Background, Desert Road Nighttime, Ocean Waves Texture, and especially using the word Panarama in your searches can produce some amazing results! Want to have some fun with textures? Try searching Fractal and see all the amazing images that pop up! You can also specify SEAMLESS in your searches. A seamless texture will show no seems, no matter how many times you multiply the Horizontal or Vertical scales.

This is the beginning. Next class we will be talking about props and a whole lot of other things, but this is where a good set starts. I know for a lot of you, this has been boring because it’s stuff you already know. But if you are new to building, this is so important. Good texturing can make or break a dance set. It is something you need to learn. So go home and practice. Play with the settings and see what they do. It is powerful! I will now open up the class to questions or comments. If you have something to ask or say, please post @ in local, and I will call on you.

A Word About Stage Usage

Elysium uses a very large stage. This is so that complex acts requiring a lot of room will have the space they need to fulfil the creator’s vision. However, some acts would be better served using a smaller stage. Such a large space can be intimidating to fill for acts that do not require so much room. Trying to oversize a smaller act can cause a set to look vacuous or displeasing to the eye, for example from textures being stretched too large or props taking on an unnatural relation to walls. Here is a solution.

Try simply using a smaller template for your set. Make a size that works for you. Consider using different shapes than the standard ‘box’ template.

Then use prims to box your set onto the stage, filling in open spaces.

You can colour your prims black or use decorative textures, even animated ones.

So please do not feel you must use all that space for every act. Just use what your act needs. Sometimes, small, cosy and intimate suits an act perfectly. Feel free to comment if you have any thoughts regarding stage usage.

A Word About Sliding

Well, a few words actually. Sliding is when your avatar is moving but your feet are not. Nine out of ten dancers surveyed agree, sliding looks bad. The occasional tiny slide can be overlooked, if it is fast and small and subtle. But sliding across a stage irritates most viewers and makes people feel disappointment. Why? I believe it is because sliding is considered by most to be sloppy and lazy. It yanks the viewer out of being caught up in the realism of a virtual performance, as though the dance is glitching. As a rule, it just does not look good. A dance gives a viewer so much more fulfilment when the dancer’s feet move as the dancer moves. It makes your dance look more natural and realistic.

How to avoid sliding? Time your animations and movers so that the movers are moving your avatar when the animations are moving your avatar’s feet. This gives your choreography a more natural appeal. It is time consuming and can be frustrating, but your effort and hard work will pay off with a more polished performance. You may need to change what animation you use when you want to move across the stage. You can even time it so that you stop dancing and instead walk across the stage by using a walking animation… or a run, somersault, or similar form of linear movement.

Tom Cruise made sliding look good because he got a running start and had momentum moving him along. Also, he was in his underwear and well… those thighs! Who is looking at his feet! But on the SL stage, slides often stand out glaringly, and unless being used on purpose for some special emphasis, should be avoided. What are your thoughts on sliding? Feel free to comment if you would like to share them.

Setting Home and Lag

Setting home on a sim allows an avatar to enter that sim, even when full.  This is critical to performers, as if a sim is full and a dancer crashes or needs to relog, they will still be able to get back onto the sim.

However, there is a drawback.  Setting home also puts a sim in a position where it goes over avatar capacity.  Maximum number of avatars is set on a sim with respect to how many people can be there without lagging out the show and destroying acts.  Performers teleporting onto the sim after the sim is full will run the sim over the limit placed on avatar capacity.   Then everyone gets upset because the show is having lag issues, and acts that people have worked hard on and spent a lot of money on are not displaying as intended.

Thus, it is in the best interest of everyone that performers and staff arrive 45 minutes before show time.  Being there an hour early is even better.  Sometimes, we all must arrive late for a show, as real life or exceptional circumstances in Second Life must be accommodated.  But we should not make that a habit.  All performers and staff should make every effort to arrive and park on a pose stand before the sim gets full.  Using the ‘setting home’ method of entering a full sim should be used for emergencies and exceptional circumstances.

Please consider this, and make every reasonable effort to arrive on show days 45 minutes to one hour before the start of the show.  This will help us to give our audience our very best performances by keeping down lag that is related to maximum avatars going over established limits.


How to Possibly Improve Your Graphics for the New Firestorm Viewer

I’m not real tech savvy but Ormand Lionheart is, and he advised the following for people who have Windows and Nvidia graphics cards.  It has helped me a lot with my FPS and some others, so maybe it can help you too.  Eva explains things better than me and also kindly created the screenshot below to further help explain what to do.

From Eva:

You may be able to improve your graphics for Firestorm!

This is for LAPTOP users with NVIDIA graphics cards:

– generally, your laptop will choose which video card to use – the basic built in one or NVIDIA. You need to tell your laptop to use NVIDIA for Firestorm. My frame rates jumped from less than 25 to 40-100!

How to do it: right click on your desktop, select NVidia Control Panel, and follow this screenshot:


Thank you Ormand and Eva!  And Gman for helping me fix my computer at home.

Update: Ormand also says, dancers might want to set their particle slider to zero when performing.  The audience will still see your particles.  His FPS went from 58 to 180 when he slid his particle slider down to zero.  Of course, when performing, we need to see our particles to fully enjoy our dances and see how the performance looks.  Maybe try sliding it down for most of the show?  Or perhaps derender house lights/particles and so forth, to reduce their affect on your system.

Also close as many viewer windows as you can, that can make a difference of 30 FPS.  Here is a screen shot from Ormand:


Anyone interested in stalking Ormand, let me know, I am thinking of starting an Ormand Stalker’s Group.  😀