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are identified through staff-student meetings. Although the school's knowledge resources
are excellent, it is felt that there are areas for improvement regarding support for the
practice of dance. Students currently practise in the dance studio which has a mirror and a
music system, but little else. In addition to this, the number of students studying a single
subject area imposes serious limitations on the size of a performance and the number of
dancers it can involve.The number of students in a class ranges from five to twenty and,
although classes collaborate on performances, dances with more than forty dancers have
always been logistically impossible.The choreography students in particular feel the
adverse effects of this limitation, since experience of doing choreography for large casts is
both challenging and demanding.
While the school has some excellent multimedia resources (including video and slides
of past productions and visiting performers, purchased videos and DVDs, files of `footprint'
dance patterns), these items tend to be underused in comparison with traditional teaching
methods. Students and staff alike feel that these learning resources, although useful for
theoretical study, lack `physicality' and are of little practical use.
With avatar and motion capture technology having progressed to the point where
although still fairly expensive it is within the school's budget, the ICT and teaching staff
decide to implement a collaborative multimedia dance and choreography resource that
will use motion capture and human body avatars to record and present dance movements.
The school begins by investigating sources of male and female avatars that move real-
istically within their surroundings.They discover several experienced companies who
already have this technology in place and specialise in kinaesthetic motion capture. After
commissioning and reviewing a requirements capture, the project is put out to tender. By
this stage the school has decided that the resources and applications will be organised in
two themes `Learning and Practice', and `Creation and Presentation'.
The Learning and Practice section will have a searchable database of dance movements
from all styles and periods (with appropriate metadata), each with an animated avatar
who `performs' the movement.This is linked to other material such as the dance pattern,
still or moving images (from the existing collections) of the movement within a dance,
and textual historical and contextual information about the movement. Finally, a drum
rhythm or repeating musical sample will be incorporated which can be set at various
tempos to help in practising the step.
The Creation and Presentation section will allow users to capture a movement which
will be mapped onto an avatar, and subsequently viewed, stored and recalled.This must
also allow the user to `instruct' the avatars according to steps and movements already
stored in the database, or with real-time input.The timing and synchronisation of move-
ments and the placing of avatars on a virtual stage, thus visualising an entire performance,
should be the ultimate goal.
It is expected that performance specialists will be the group most likely to use the
Learning and Practice modules, although all students are expected to develop a thorough
theoretical knowledge which will be enhanced by this interconnected resource. Both
dancers and choreographers will benefit greatly from the dance visualisation applications
and it is anticipated that fully realised avatar performances may be submissible as course-
work for the choreographers, and made accessible to a wider community.
The ICT and teaching staff work together with a digital avatar specialist, developing
and testing the application, and finally installing the system in a new multimedia room,
which combines a large space with motion capture equipment and several workstations.
The system is installed in the school's computer lab, and staff and students are consulted
Cultural Agents
and Avatars
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