Do You Wanna Dance?

NOTE: This is a re-publication of an article I wrote for an in-world magazine. 

Interested in performing in dance shows in Second Life? For those new to the performance dance scene in SL, figuring out where to get started can be confusing and frustrating. Or perhaps you have a dance HUD, but have wondered whether another HUD would be better?

Every dancer has his/her own personal favorite, and there are a variety of options available. After a quick search on Marketplace, I found over 1000 listings for dance HUDs. Some are specialized for certain uses, like cheerleading HUDs.

There are some dance HUDs that have become popular with performance dancers, including the HUDDLES EZ Animator Deluxe, the Barre, the SpotOn Performance Director, and the Artiste HUD. Each HUD has different capabilities, so find one that seems to be the best fit for you and what you want to do.

HUDDLES

The HUDDLES EZ Animator Deluxe has long been the most popular dance HUD in Second Life. In fact, it won an AviChoice award for Favorite Dance Choreography Tool in 2015. The HUDDLES has many attractive features, including dancing multiple dancers, chatting emotes and/or commands, a built-in AO, and the ability to do sequenced choreography.

There is no longer an in-world store for the HUDDLES, but you can still purchase it via the Marketplace for $1499L. The HUDDLES is fairly straightforward to use and there are still many dancers who use the HUDDLES, so finding someone familiar with it shouldn’t be difficult.

Barre

The Barre HUD was developed after the HUDDLES, using feedback from performance dancers. The Barre also has the ability to dance multiple dancers, chat emotes and commands, and the ability to do sequenced choreography. However, the Barre introduced the ability to do ‘group’ dancing – where different groups of dancers could do different choreography sequences. Though the ability to do group dancing was cutting-edge, the macros required were rather technical.

The Barre also no longer has an in-world store, but it is available via the Marketplace for $1200L. There is a support group in-world you can join for assistance. Racheal Young, the creator of the Barre, announced on her blog in February of this year that she was leaving Second Life and releasing the Barre to be open-source.

Since the HUDDLES and the Barre, there have been many advances and changes in the world of performance dancing. Instead of ‘stand-alone’ dance HUDs, what we are seeing now are ‘suites’ of products made to work together.

SpotOn

SpotOn released their Choreography Design System and gave performance dancers the ability to plan out routes to move their avatars around the stage. The system was immediately popular and is used by most dance performers. The Choreography Design system is not a dance HUD, but made to be used in conjunction with a dance HUD. Most any dance HUD can be used with the SpotOn mover system.

The SpotOn Choreography Designer is available via their in-world store (where you can demo all their products) as well as on Marketplace for $1999L. SpotOn has continued to release additional products, including the Group Formation System ($1999L), the Performance Director HUD ($999L), the Costume Assistant ($499L), the Smooth Dancer HUD ($999L), and the Stage Manager ($999L). It’s not necessary to buy every product, of course, but since the suite of products all work seamlessly together, it’s easy to buy the pieces that you need.

The Group Formation System is a product that lets you control the formations of your dancers, either using a pre-configured sequence or changing them ‘on the fly.’ SpotOn has two dance HUDs, the Smooth Dancer HUD and the Performance Director HUD. There is a comparison on their website of the two HUDs. The Costume Assistant, through the use of RLV, lets you add/remove costumes and/or attachments from yourself or other dancers (if they also own the Costume Assistant). The Stage Manager is their newest product and is a set rezzer that has the ability to remember multiple stage configurations.

The Artiste

The Artiste HUD is another suite of products that come bundled together. Included in the Artiste GOLD Performer Series are the following: the Artiste GOLD Dance HUD, the Palette, the Set Rezzer, the Director, the Stage Sight (a directed camera HUD), the Stage HUD, the Dance Diva (a group formation system), the Follower Relay (for use with the Dance Diva), and the Message Board. Everything is included in one package for $25000L and is available for purchase from the creator, Lat ‘Yummy’ Lovenkraft.

The Artiste suite of products includes a mover (the Palette), the dance HUD, the ability to do group dancing, a group formation system, and the ability (through the use of RLV) to add/remove costumes and/or attachments directly through the HUD. The Artiste Palette also has other abilities beyond its use as a mover, including the ability to shrink/grow, shatter, oscillate, flash, collide, and throw. The Artiste Rezzer has the ability to rez multiple sets at once and crossfade them, as well as using no copy/no mod items in a set.

Comparison

The big question, of course, is which system is best? The short answer is – it depends. All the HUDs have their pros and cons, and each dancer has his/her own preferences when it comes to HUDs and performing. Some prefer to feel ‘in control’ and have multiple HUDs for different pieces of their performances. Other dancers prefer to be able to have everything controlled by one HUD. Before purchasing a HUD, try out a demo if possible and/or ask others who have used the HUD.

The long answer would take up more space than I could cover in one article, unfortunately. There was an in-depth HUD comparison done by Nottoo Wise (founder of Dance Queens) and the information is still available on the DQ blog. The comparison, however, was done before the release of the SpotOn and Artiste products.

As stated previously, each dance HUD (mentioned here or not) has its own pros and cons. The best way to decide which one you like is to try them yourself. However, that isn’t always possible (or affordable). I have personally used each of the four HUDs in performances, so I do have experience with all of them. One of the biggest questions users have is how easy it is to learn to use the HUD.

For the HUDDLES and Barre, there are still a large number of users (or people like me who have previously used the HUD), so it may not be difficult to find help. However, neither HUDDLES nor Barre offer much customer support. There are support groups in-world, but generally consist of users helping each other. The Barre creator has ceased customer support, and I could not locate any customer support for the HUDDLES. (The person listed on the creator’s profile for support is apparently no longer in SL.)

Neither HUD is particularly difficult to use, though the macros needed for group dancing with the Barre can be confusing. But for ‘wear and go’ use, any of the dance HUDs covered here work well.

Ease of use applies when learning the more advanced features of the HUDs, particularly with the Artiste suite of products. It simply does so many different things that there is a fairly steep learning curve. However, both SpotOn and the Artiste offer ongoing customer support, including one-on-one help.

One other consideration is how the HUD performs under laggy conditions. Every creator has done their best to make sure that their HUDs are as low-lag as possible. However, given the multitude of variables during performances (including the many different computer/viewer configurations), it is sometimes hard to say which product performs better.

I have tried to come up with a short list to compare some of the major features of the HUDs mentioned here. This, of course, does not cover all the features of the different HUDs, but is offered solely as a means of comparing some of the more pertinent features.

HUD Table

*Price reflects the entire suite of products

+The ability to dance groups using different dance sequences

~The ability to ‘layer’ animations in order to use only parts of animations in a sequence

This has been a brief overview of some of the more popular dance HUDs in Second Life. There are so many features and capabilities that it isn’t possible to compare them all in depth here. Decide what features are ‘must-haves’ and find a HUD that works for you. Any of the HUDs discussed here work for performance dancing, so experiment and have fun!

EDIT 11/10/2015:  Rachael Young, creator of the Barre, has announced recently that it will not be released open-source and is again under development.

SpotOn Stage Manager

SpotOn SMI’ve finally had a chance to unpack and try out the new Stage Manager from SpotOn.

I must say, it has some pretty nifty features.

I already own several rez boxes, so I was curious to see what new things I could do with it.

I’ve used a rez-faux rezzer (not my favorite), and I have the Multi-Scene rezzer, which I love.

I also have the Artiste rezzer, but I think that one I will do a separate review for, as it has a lot of very cool integrated features.

My curiosity about the SpotOn Stage Manager was piqued when I saw that you could use it at multiple venues (because it remembers the stage) and that you could rez it anywhere at your venue and it would still set up the build correctly.

The Old Way

Let me discuss for a minute how rezzing sets used to happen (and still does, in many cases).

Before there were rezzers, you would build your set at your home or building platform.

You would then pick it up as one coalesced object and then go to the performance venue.

Once there, you would rez the set, get it positioned correctly, and then pick it up.

You would then be able to use the ‘restore to last position’ feature to rez your set on the day of performance.

Some issues with this method is that ‘restore to last’ is not always available to use.

Also, depending on the items contained in your set build, linking it all together was not always possible or practical.

Rezzers Developed

When rezzers became available, they were widely adopted by performers.

Rezzers let you build your set elsewhere, pack everything into the rezzer, and then take the rezzer (with the set within it) to the performance venue.

In order to use a rezzer, all the items within it must have copy/mod permissions.

So no-copy items will not work with most rezzers.

Even though rezzers made some things easier, there were/are still issues.

With most rezzers, the position of the rezzer itself matters.

So often, you would go to the performance venue, rez the rez box, and then end up having to move the rez box around in order to get the set positioned correctly.

Maybe the venue prefers that the rezzers all be backstage or under the stage, so you would need to move it around to accommodate that desire.

There are ways around this issue, but it was/is still extra work.

With most rezzers, you will have a separate rezzer for each venue, because one set will not generally fit well on the stage at multiple venues (since the stages are usually different sizes).

SpotOn Stage Manager Benefits

SpotOn’s Stage Manager has similarities to other rezzers.

You can only rez one set at a time.

You can only use copy/mod items in your set builds.

SpotOn SM PersonalizedIt’s possible to personalize the Stage Manager – you can change the color (only to colors specified) and you can add a picture.

This is my personalized SM – I’ve changed the color to blue and added a photo so others know it’s my SM.

The biggest benefit of the SpotOn Stage Manager is that you can set it up to remember multiple stages.

Since many dancers perform at multiple venues, this is a great time saver.

You have a to do a bit of front-end work by going to each venue and setting up the rezzer to recognize each place.

The other big bonus with this rezzer is that where you rez/place the Stage Manager doesn’t matter.

Regardless of where you place the rezzer, your set will rez correctly.

Another small benefit is that with the Stage Manager, you don’t see objects rezzing out the audience and then disappearing as they snap into place.

SpotOn Stage Manager Differences

I did discover a few differences when using the Stage Manager versus using my Multi-Scene rezzer.

With the Multi-Scene, if I need to move something in my set build, I can reposition the object, and then ‘save back to object contents,’ and it will update the position of the object.

So the next time I rez the set, the change will be remembered.

Using the Stage Manager, you can’t save back to object contents.

You will have to reposition the object, get the notecard from the SM again, and then update the set notecard to reflect your change.

With the Multi-Scene rezzer, I could edit the rezzer box itself and reposition my set by moving the rez box.

Since the Stage Manager position is independent of the set position, you cannot do this with the Stage Manager.

Final Thoughts

I like the Stage Manager.

For me, the biggest benefit is being able to place it anywhere at a venue and have my stage rez correctly.

That said, setting it up can be somewhat tricky.

I’ve used it at two different venues successfully.

I set it up for a third venue, and for some reason, my set keeps rezzing too low.

I got the coordinates again, but it still didn’t work correctly.

I plan to revisit it again today, and hopefully I can figure out what I did wrong. :/

It’s also nice to be able to rez your sets and clear the stage via chat commands.

I set up buttons on my Performance Director HUD to rez and clear my set for an act.

There are a few things I wish it did (as well as other rezzers).

The Stage Manager does glow at the bottom to indicate that you have a set rezzed.

I would love to get some kind of chat notice that it was done rezzing my set and also when the stage was cleared.

The stage seems to clear almost instantly, so that may not be necessary, but some venues have performers waiting in green rooms, and it can be difficult to cam around to see if your set is done rezzing.

The Stage Manager is made to work seamlessly with other SpotOn products, so if you already own other products, you know they will all play nicely together. 🙂

You can purchase the Stage Manager at the SpotOn in-world store, or you can purchase it on Marketplace for $999L.

Spot On Stage Manager

I came across this video in my Google feed.

SpotOn Stage Manager

The new set rezzer/stage manager from SpotOn has a couple of features I thought were cool.

I like the ability for it to remember more than one stage – if you are a performer who does acts at more than one venue, that alone will be a huge timesaver.

I also like that the position/location of where you put the rezzer/manager doesn’t matter (unless I misunderstood the video).

For locations where you can’t ‘restore to last,’ trying to figure out where to put the rezzer can be a headache.

And then you have to move the rezzer and your set around until you have it placed correctly.

You can already include your movers as part of your set with other rezzers, though personally, I don’t like doing that.

With most rez boxes (including this one, from what I could tell), you can only rez one set at a time.

So if you like to rez your movers ahead of time in order to cache dances and get everyone in place, that’s not possible if you include them as part of your set.

I have seen some dancers use two rez boxes, one for sets and one for movers.

I’m not sure exactly when this will be available or what it will cost.

But it’s another option for those of us who perform.