Sunday, March 15, 2015

What's in a pose?

The Pose Fair will open the next month, and I'm already planning for it. Last night, after setting up for this round of The Liaison Collaborative, I reviewed the ad pics of all pose sets I've released.

If you know a little of my SL history, then you know that photography in SL is something that attracted my attention very early in the days. One of the moments I enjoyed the most, just a bit after my first year, was the creation of these photos (which was an order from a girl that wanted photos for her profile and picks):
Those pictures were taken in 2010, so don't expect finding anything mesh in them... at all. Anyway, that is not the point. At that moment, the only thing I was able to do, apart than arranging the scenario, was to add a pose script to the chair, a pose, and after a lot of trial and error, have the avatar at the position and rotation I wanted. It was just a month after that I started teaching in SL, and something I taught was creating poses with QAvimator. That made me to be closer of being able of creating scenes with the exact poses I wanted. My SLife became more complicated, though, and I think I only could create the poses I did show at class (Remember that saying? Those that can, do, those that can't, teach.)

My SLife became more complicated, then two years and half later, it became... a lot less complicated than it was :-)

It was then when, slowly, I started creating some poses. I confess, when I started, I was at a loss about what to do. Stands sets? Sitting sets? Nowadays, I've created quite several stands, sits... But with the exception of three sets, none of them have received that name. The rest are, in fact, mixed: stands, sits, and anything else, together in the same set. To me, it is easier to create poses when they have to follow a theme, or a story. Just stands, for the sake of it, feels like bureaucracy. I've never been good at anything that resembles to routine. You may wonder, how about the deadlines for events, isn't that routine? I don't feel them as routine, because what matters to me, is the poses I'm creating. Themes change constantly, so there's not a chance to feel it like I have to. It always feels like Yay! Fun!

Some themes and fairs have evoked some feelings in me. For example, it was for the World Goth Fair, last year, that I created two pose sets called Solitude and Despair. When Día de los Muertos was suggested for Pose me Amazing, I made Why did you leave me? There have been more, but these are enough to have me get to the point I wanted to reach.

There's a lot more in a pose, than simply rotating limbs until you get the result you think you want. That's a mistake I did, and the poses never came out being believable.

To begin with, when you work the poses, you aren't in SL. I use the Avastar plugin for Blender. When I create poses, this is what I see:

And this is what I finally have in SL, once I decide on an outfit, background, windlight, and turn ALM on, for materials and shadows:

You get used to this, yes, but it's always an exercise of imagination. Will this look good in SL? As I found out while working with poses, it's difficult to get the poses right.

The first thing you have to learn, if you want to make believable poses, is how your body moves, bends... When you're walking, are the hips straight, or swaying a little to the side? Does this change if you're carrying weight? When you want to look behind, which body parts will be affected by that motion? When you raise your hand to touch your hair, which is the natural position of your hand? And your elbow?

I'm not saying I've aced this, but I've noticed I'm a lot more self aware of my own motion since I started creating poses. I'm always studying my body. No, not that way. Well. Maybe that way, too. Okay, that way, too.

Once you start learning what makes a pose, a believable one, you learn the next, necessary thing: cursing the SL avatar. Like a sailor would.

You are going to find out the additional issues that the SL avatar introduces. The crotch will break easily, so easily, that you will think there's no way to have it behaving, unless the legs are closed. Why the shoulders bend that way? Doesn't that hurt? Is that the shin poking through the thigh? Why in all heavens, if the hand is separated from the body in Blender, those fingers are sinking on my tummy? (This is bound to happen even more often if you wear mesh hands).

The same way you stumble against this, you learn how to balance some poses in those difficult areas. If the leg stretches a little more, you may get rid of the shin-poking. If the buttocks look like a sharpened tool, maybe rotating the hips can soften the effect, readjusting then the torso. This may not be the exact pose you wanted to create, but it makes for a close enough pose that will not break so badly in SL.

One more issue in getting the pose and mood that you want, is the lack of facial expressions in SL. I know that there are facial expressions in SL, but hardly any of them is usable for photography. I can recall of very few times when facial expressions helped me. I've found that the eyelid mesh prop from Slink has helped me more times, for closed eyes.

There's another problem in creating poses: The huge variety of avatar shapes we may find, will make that some poses will not work for some shapes. For example, if you work with a skinny avatar in your program of choice, and the hands are right above the hips, chances are high that the pose will not work for curvy avatars: their hands will sink in their hips. Different arm lengths may make that one avatar sits, holding themselves with their hands on the floor, and others will have their hands floating. Unfortunately, there's not much that you can do about. At most, using inworld tools that will let you tweak a pose, to adapt it to your shape, like Animare.

Creating couple poses is even more complicated. If the avatars are separate, the problems you find are just the ones I've mentioned before, per avatar. But if they have to hold hands, hug, tangle their legs... Make sure of leaving a little of space, because once in SL, for one reason or another, fingers will sink, etc. And of course, different avatar shapes make for couple poses being even more complicated. You can make them work for specific shapes. If those shapes are well proportioned, your poses will work for many avatars. Not that this is of any comfort, but at least, not all is lost.

Still, with all these problems, it is possible to create believable poses for SL. It is possible to create stories with them, and proof is all the people that, in fact, create stories with them. Browse Flickr accounts that are created by SL people, if you don't believe me :-)

I started writing scripts and books as my main job in SL, and it still is my main activity. Creating poses has taken a little of time from that, but I'm not regretting it, at all. I'm being able of making a secondary job from one of my passions: telling stories, keeping my imagination alive, making everybody else to crawl in sadness when I achieve to portray feelings in just one shot.

Finally, if you're selling poses, keep this in mind: the best of poses will look as a bad job if the photography is poor. When you sell poses, you're not just selling poses. You are selling a whole scenario, a story, a feeling. Be it best friends, love, lust, wandering around the world, being silly... Poor photography will ruin your job. I'm not saying this as an expert in photography (I can't even get defined shadows because my computer cannot handle them), but as a consumer: I've bought many poses in the past, and now that I'm at the other side of the fence, I remember how the photography did make a difference to me, when it came to taking a purchase decision.

There's a lot more in a pose, than simply rotating limbs. I'm sure that, now, you understand why I said that. Have a wonderful day :-)


Mesh body: Lara, from Maitreya
Mesh hands: Lara's hands, from Maitreya
Mesh feet: Lara's feet, from Maitreya

Skin: Lulu 02 C, Jamaica, from Glam Affair
Freckles: Cassiopea Cosmetics, A (tn), from Glam Affair

Hair: Chick Habit, Red eye flight (and tinted), from Clawtooth
Top: Cabana top, Celeste, from Baiastice
Jeans: Kiara jeans bootcut, Black, from Pixicat
Boots: Leather ankle boots, Dark brown, from Aphorism

Poses and suitcase prop: I'm late! (first photo) and Travel #2 - Come back soon (second photo), Black Tulip (mine), out now at The Liaison Collaborative


Skin: Cruz, 02b Tan Skin, unshaved + base + bodyhair, from Redgrave
Eyes: Promise, blue 1, from MADesigns
Glasses: Custom Eyewear - SCT, from Gos
Mesh hands: Slink Male Hands (AvEnhance) - Relax, from Slink
Hairbase: Hair Base - Dark Brown, from MADesigns
Hair: Garrett - Dark Brown VII, from MADesigns

Shirt: Real Shirt - Closed - Long Sleeves - Tucked, from hoorenbeek
Pants: Mesh Versa Pants - Straight - Brown, from hoorenbeek
Shoes: Regal Shoes - Black with Black Socks, from hoorenbeek

Pose and suitcase prop: Travel #2 - Come back soon, Black Tulip (mine), out now at The Liaison Collaborative

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