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ACCURACY

 
     
 

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This is a discussion of the accuracy of animations and poses, but specific to their usage within Second Life on line.

GENERAL

Animations in Second Life are best case an approximation.

One of the most frustrating things to an animator is that believe it or not, we want perfection.  We often spend hours and much upload time and money trying to fix the most minor of things.  But best case, as we say above, animations in SL are an approximation - at least at this level of software and scripting within SL.

ANIMATIONS

Yes, we have gone through a lot of learning on how to do animations over time, and much can be done with learning to improve them.  But there are limits.  One of the limits quite frustrating is that Second Life does not load all of the animation information.  It rejects much in order to save server space - if it thinks that changes are too slight for Second Life to bother with.  But of course, those minor changes are often what smooth out a dance and make it more realistic.  So it becomes work to try and do your best even if some of your information and work will be thrown away on uploads. But there are more issues as we talk about below.

COUPLE ANIMATIONS

There are of course many couple animations in SL done by us and by others.  Let us talk about dance animations for couples as the example.  When an animator designs animations for avatars, we go with approximations and guesses, and we work with what I might call an average sized avatar.  But of course, there is no such thing as an average sized avatar.  Some are taller, some are shorter.  Making things even more complex arms legs and torsos can all be longer or shorter.  And so in a dance scene where the couple should be holding hands, their hands might not even touch or might be through their bodies rather than touching.  This is the difficulty of designing for averages when real avatars can be varied sizes and shapes.  And what is the guess on average?  For us, for same gender animations we assume the same size.  For hetero genders, one male one female, we do assume that the male may be taller by maybe 5%, or 10%.  And we also try to worry just a little that male arms and shoulders may be longer and larger than female arms and shoulders.  But of course, that is just a guess.  We just try and make the best guess.

Can it be fixed?  It might be able to be adjusted in some cases better for you and your specific partner.  For Intan dance ball dancing, few people seem to know this, but the page up and page down keys can sometimes adjust each dancer at a time.  For couple dance balls, if you are good at understanding how prims (objects) can get linked and unlinked, you could try and unlink them temporarily or longer and then adjusting the two balls, closer, further, or adjust one higher or lower than the other.  Be careful however on unlinking animation balls for couples or larger groups than couples.  You must be sure to leave them linked as you found them when you are done since often the animation balls will talk and synchronize with each other through their links.  And if there are no links, then there is no talking and no synchronizing of the dance partners.

Perhaps the safest method is the most complex to understand - a temporary unlinking.  To do this if you have animation balls - where I mean more than one ball.  Here is a method, and yes it might take practice.  You might also not have permissions to do these, but it is worth a try.

  1. Click on the combined dance balls.  Go to edit.  Under edit find the box on the top right that says "Edit linked Parts" and check that box.
  2. Now left click at anything BUT that object, such as left mouse clicking the floor away from it.
  3. Now select the one object in that group that you wish to edit by just left clicking that one item - perhaps one of two or more pose balls.  You will see you have this right if only that portion is highlighted.  If all of the joined prims are highlighted, then you did not single out the item you want and have an error, and need to do steps 1,2, and 3 again, likely after stopping editing altogether to allow reset.
  4. With that just one item of the grouping highlighted, move it as you wish for adjustment.
  5. When done, click off that box of "Edit Linked Parts" and hopefully, you are now adjusted.

SYNCHRONIZING

Again let us take the case of dancers.  Often an animator will need script to try and synchronize dancers or emotional animations.  At Owl and Pussycat, we do mostly our own synchronizing code.  We could not find anything available that we liked and some that said that they worked, did not work.  So we did our own script.  However, we quickly found as likely other animators have also, that there are few alternatives for how to do things.  The simplest way to view this is to realize that if you have two pose balls and they need to be synchronized, they must talk together.  There are several ways of doing that but the two most common ways are talking in the chat channel or any of the other approximate 100 talking channels SL provides.  The second is talking through the linked path between just those dancers combined by this animation.  We learned early on that the second path, talking by linking, is less error prone.  Talking in chat communication channels can always lead to a possibility of talking to other prims and dancers and pose balls around you, making a large communication nightmare.  So it is just safer to talk down the linking between the pose balls that are part of the same dance routine.

But here again, we find for SL today, even that is an approximation.  Basically the animator person can send sync signals accurately out when they are supposed to be.  However, SL acts on those signals and on the animation itself when it has time and gets around to it.  So lag can cause dancers to go out of sync.  And even though one would think dancers are on the same SL server and should have similar delays, SL can show a difference between dancers causing them to go out of sync.  Also an avatar can causer their own sync issues by clicking on the avatars, or at times adjusting profile, group or other.  Lots of things can cause couple avatars to go out of animation.  So we animators just assume that couples will go out of synchronization, and they will in SL, so we send sync signals every now and then to correct.  How often?  Intan dances seem to synchronize at the start and about 1 minute or less out, and thereafter maybe every 3 or 4 minutes.  Some dance balls sync every 10 seconds.  But there is no approach that leads to perfection.  Let us say that we guess the more sync signals the better.  But remember that SL does not always act on those sync signals fast, and a delay between partners will just make things worse.  So yes, synchronizing can make things worse if SL is lagging.  The other issue is the timing on synchronizing.  What we do is we want a synchronization right at the time when the dancers are back in their starting space so it looks flawless.  Let us say that the animation is 10 seconds long.  Well, then we want a sync signal right at 10 seconds when the person should be in the exact right location so no one sees the sync.  But what if SL is running slow and does the sync signals at 11 seconds rather than 10?  Then the avatar might have already started moving from their starting point - and the sync signal then becomes obvious when it drags the avatars a distance to restart them.

SUMMARY

With all of this, animations are an approximation.  The good animators try and look at what we are trying to do in order to give the best chance of success.  And we will at Owl and Pussycat always try to find the best alternative and the one most likely to succeed.  But it is an approximation.  Many in SL know that are at least a little forgiving on the issues..

 

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