Monday, June 8, 2009

Digital Dance Off - An Exclusive Vid and a Brief Tutorial

by Aaron Mystery

Yesterday, in the middle of a bland uncreative spell, I challenged my brother to a digital dance-off - I would make a video of dancing characters on my computer, and he would do the same on his. One hour. May the best man win.

Not everything went exactly as planned.

First, both of us took longer than an hour. I was arrogant enough to use a software plug-in I've never touched (we'll come to that in the tutorial). Second, I went longer than the one-minute video we established in the rules by almost double. Third, when I tried to render the animation in one whole two-minute block (rendering animations over 15-30 seconds is dicey) it of course went corrupt after waiting on it for over an hour.

My brother had his own share of difficulties, but that's for him to blog about - he wouldn't let me post his video, which was live action dancing and some new audio enhanced by some visual effects and backed by the Brethren and the Evil Empire song "The Too Much Fun Club Rides Again" from our third album.

The only objective audience member gave the victory to me, but I didn't deserve it. Watch the video below, and I'll tell you how I took this challenge on like a true hack:

"Thirty" is technically a song (as a rough demo here) from the upcoming Brethren and the Evil Empire album, the band I'm part of. However, I didn't play at all on this track - it's all my brother. Hack points right off the bat - using my brother's own unfinished song against him.

Next, I didn't use one of the animation software programs I paid for - I used a FREE one that anyone can download. It's called DazStudio (2.3), and although I've had some form of DazStudio installed on my computer since before any other, I have always overlooked it. You can download DazStudio when you go to and navigate to the software section. I only started playing with it recently because I was beta testing version 3, which promises to integrate better with my other programs. Using FREE software you hardly know: Double hack points.

The characters are part of The Heavies series by 3D Universe (whom I love) - the two bears are Bert and Bertha from Heavies #1 and the elephant is Ernie from Heavies #2. Each set costs $21.95 at Daz3D. (Suckermouth fans with note I use Bert and Bertha as the Doctor and Nurse in a Bastard Piece Theater storyline.) I didn't make any modifications to The Heavies figures for the dance-off video - just scaled Ernie up a bit since, as an elephant, he should be bigger. Definite Hack points for using the figures right "out of the box".

For the characters' dancing animations, I used pre-built ones provided in the DazStudio plug-in AniMate. I bought the AniMate bundle, which included the AniPad plug-in and the Dance animations (or AniBlocks, as they're technically called). The AniMate Bundle is available at Daz3D for $99.95. Using pre-made animations and a plug-in I've never even touched before: Double the hack points.

That's it, folks. Download free program, spend about $150 on extras, find a song your brother made, and you have yourself a digital dance-off entry worthy of the world's greatest hack.

My heroes would be shamed, but luckily I'm not in the dancing cartoon animal business.

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