Essential Skills for Dancers in Second Life

Edit: I’m separating out some of these items as they are not so much ‘skills’ but ‘recommendations’. While no less valid, the two just aren’t the same.

One of the first questions that people ask when they consider that they want to be a Dancer/Choreographer in SL is “what do I have to know”? OK, honestly, the first question is usually “How much money will I make?” and that one is easy to answer! But the first real question involves what skills a person will need. Historically, in an effort to make the dance world appealing and welcoming to new people, we have minimized the skills that it takes to actually “do what we do”. The common response is “Oh! We’ll teach you what you need!”  But I have to wonder if we are doing the best service to people when we say this. I personally see a lot of people come into classes under prepared with basic SecondLife skills and it results in a lot of frustrated students. This doesn’t help anyone. So I’d like to look at some of the absolute basic skills needed to enter into this hobby successfully. 

Support Dancers:  This is NOT a ‘lesser’ position in the dance community. As a support dancer, you have the ability to make or break a dance set despite best efforts by the choreographer/designer. So knowing your basic skills is important to you and to the choreographer you dance for. 

Wardrobe Management:
Know how to: 
copy items within your inventory. 
  create folders for costume parts. 
Know the difference between Wear, Add and Replace
Use appliers and save body copies with layers applied
Use your mesh body brand alpha layers and alpha save objects
Remove/disable scripts in clothes and body parts
Modify, save and CREATE shapes to use in specific costumes
Use the EDIT screen to modify costume parts to fit correctly
Use the edit screen to modify body parts
SAVE an outfit FILE to easily and quickly change clothes AND body
Create, Save and Send notecards including saving objects and LMs that might be included in the notecard.
Viewer Management
Know how to:
Use the Avatar menu to refresh avatar appearance and attatchments, stop animations and remove yourself from animation HUDs. 
Set your Hover Height to zero unless specifically directed to do otherwise by the choreographer
Use Transparency veiw (Ctrl+T) to check for mover height and hidden prims and parts before a show
Create landmarks to arrive at exactly where you need to be to stand on your mover
Derender people, objects and world types 
Use your Quick Preferences settings to minimize your own viewer lag
Use your Online Communication settings to minimize distractions
Use your movement and view settings
Use your cam controls to set your point of view where it needs to be at any time. *Learning to use your mouse and keyboard shortcuts for this is beneficial!
Use the Local chat, private group and private IM windows including separating the windows to keep important conversations visible
Use your voice and sound settings and how to turn voice OFF when it’s not appropriate
Have a working knowledge of what lag is and how to minimize it for yourself and your impact on simulator lag. 

Choreographers:  You have the added responsibility of knowing how to use complex tools and applications as well as using people’s avatars in a public venue. How you represent those people in a set may determine if you have people who are willing to work with you in the future. 

Building:
know how to use ALL of the menus/tabs in the EDIT screen. 
Move, Resize and position prims and objects
How to work with coalesced and linked object groups
How to color and texture objects
How to add, remove and modify contents including scripts
How to pack (add) and unpack (remove) objects and scripts from other objects
How to copy, paste, drag and share scripts and objects
Know the difference – by icon – between animation, object, coalesced objects and scripts in inventory.
Scripting:
While you may not need to write scripts from scratch (though this is helpful) you should know how to work with scripts
Know what a channel assignment and channel command look like and how to change them when the script permits
Know how to use Notecards in HUDS and tools that allow nc’s to control script functions. 
Know where to find and how to use basic scripts for texture scrolling and object rotation. 
Have a working knowledge of what coordinates are and how the mover systems use them. 
Have a working knowledge of animation priorities and how they affect the way animations interact.

I realize this list looks long and daunting and intimidating to those new to SL but first of all, it’s not expected that you be an expert at everything. Many tasks are things you can ask friends to help with. But in reality, everything on that list are BASIC skills in Second Life building and functioning. If you don’t have these skills today, find the resources to learn them. Classes at places like Builder’s Brewery. Find a mentor to help you learn. Videos on YouTube are helpful.
One of the most inspiring parts of dance creation in SL is learning so much about the systems that allow you to express your creativity. ALL of your creativity!

MST Choreo HUD SOLO

This is another of the Core Tools found in the new and UPDATED MetaHarper Show Tools System.
I’m giving this video it’s own page so it doesn’t get lost in the tools that are more directed at the stage set itself. This little guy deserves a page of it’s own! I’m also including the direct link to the MetaHarper instruction page for the Choreo HUD – Dancer/Director Edition. Not only is that HUD also a truly valuable tool, but the instructions are the same and well written.
I have found this HUD to be a real benefit in building my animation sequences. I love that I can make alterations in the timeline on the fly without fiddling with Notecards or reloading the HUD constantly. It may not be the only HUD I use, but it’s become a very valued tool in my arsenal. I hope you all find it helpful as well!

MetaHarper Show Tools UPDATED!

The Videos are starting to roll in as the new and updated MetaHarper Show Tools system rolls out! And the updates and wonderful. The system continues to impress me with the ease and intuitiveness of it’s use, the streamlining of commands and actions, the robust abilities while remaining very low lag. Overall, it’s a great addition to any performers repertoire of tools and toys to make Second Life magic happen.

The first set of videos will address the Basic Tools in the system. Future tutorials will include the Optional Components; The Camera Tools, The Costume HUD, The Special Effects scripts and tools. This one purchase of tools includes SO MUCH to use to create wonderful performances to exercise your deepest creativity!

There will be separate Tutorials and Blog posts about the Choreo HUD (Dancer and a future version – be excited! trust me!) and about the more advanced features and so many fun tips and tricks. BTW… have you SEEN the Animesh Understudy: AKA Cache Bot?

The Core Tools

“newAct” AKA the MST Performance Engine –  This is the brains of a performance. When rezzed on the ground, it looks like a simple triangular prim and contains most of the information about a particular act or stage set. It can include information about which props to rez, which scripted camera settings to use, and which choreographed sequences can be run. It is meant to be renamed something specific to one of your acts.

MST Venue Centerpoint – This is a single prim you rez on the ground to define the general location of your performance area. Typically you rez this in the middle of your stage floor or stage template before using any of the other MST tools. You should rename this with the name of your stage. If you are planning on creating an act for someone else’s theater, you should rename it to match the name they have chosen for their theater’s centerpoint.

MST_mover – This is a square sheet you can rez on the ground. You can have avatars sit on this to ride it in a smooth timed movement path, or link it with objects you wish to move. You should rename this to match the role of the avatar or object you intend to use it to move.

MST Choreo HUD Solo – This is a wearable HUD. You can place it on the ground, copy in your animations, and then pick it up and wear it to arrange the animations into a nice timed sequence to support your acts.

~MST rezTracker – This script can be placed in your stage props to allow them to be rezzed and derezzed quickly.