Performers Go Web

With UpStage, the next theater is only a mouse click away.

when restarting the server using ./go.sh in order to activate the changes.

If all of your avatars lose their voices after this, you probably commented out the default voice definition as well. Bad idea! It's perfectly fine to redefine the command behind the default entry, but you must not leave UpStage without having one.

Rehearsal Time

When your stage is prepared, it is time to start rehearsing. This means all players need to log in and enter the relevant stage using the Stages link, http://localhost:8081/stages/, in the workshop. Once in, they at first find a big empty space, the stage, surrounded by the chat window to the right where all uttered text can be read. An image gallery is located beneath the chat window. Clicking one of the backdrop icons in the left part of the image gallery changes the stage design. The right part holds the props (Figure 5).

Figure 5. When choosing backdrops, one needs to consider that the outer-right portion will be obscured by the chat window.

Above the chat window users see a button bar that mainly serves to control avatars. The characters themselves can be found in the wardrobe above the buttons on the right-hand side. Here users find thumbnails of all avatars activated for this stage. If you click one of them, it appears in the mirror to the left of the wardrobe. Hence, a glimpse in the mirror always shows you which role you are playing.

But, your character can't be seen on stage at once. If you type some text in the input field below the chat window, your avatar acts as a voice-over. When you first click on the stage window, the avatar appears there and its utterances can be read as balloons (Figure 5). Whether UpStage shows the avatar's name as text on stage can be triggered by using the pink name button.

When you click elsewhere on stage, your avatar moves slowly there. If you want it to jump there at once, click the green fast button first; the orange slow button brings you back into slow-motion mode. To bring the character to a full stop use the red stop button.

To equip your avatar with a prop, click the appropriate thumbnail in the right part of the image gallery below the stage window. It then follows your avatar in all its movements.

When you click another thumbnail in the wardrobe, your old character remains on stage but can be overtaken by your coplayers. When the avatar you currently hold needs to leave the stage, use the yellow drop button. At the moment, this also is the only way to get rid of a prop. Even though it is possible to change props by clicking another prop icon—although this is not done entirely without side effects—this current UpStage version has no “get rid of prop” button yet.

The gray clear button empties the stage except for the avatars your coplayers are holding. The entire operation, however, has a side effect: before your coplayers can move their characters again, they have to reselect them in the wardrobe.

Sometimes it might seem as though things haven't disappeared from the stage. In most cases, a browser reload helps, but then you need to grab your avatar again.

When for some reason you need to start from scratch, you can use the red reset button. This should not be done during a performance or when others are on the same stage, as it dramatically throws everyone off and requires a browser reload. Some players even may need to log in again. Moving the reset button to a less-tempting location is on the priority fix list.

Figure 6. To applaud or to hoot, the audience can type into the chat.

If not logged in, one sees the stage and the chat window only (Figure 6). This however, doesn't mean the audience has no voice. Everything non-actors type in can be seen by everyone in the chat window, which makes UpStage a brilliant choice for on-line teaching and presentations. You can choose to respond or ignore the audience comments. The only differences are the audience text appears in gray font, without an avatar name attached, and it isn't spoken aloud. Hence the applause in UpStage is silent.

You can try it out even without installing UpStage. Every month Avatar Body Collision offers an open session for those interested in sampling and learning more about performing interactively with UpStage. Watch out for the next date (see Resources). Additional help is available through the user manual and the mailing list.

Resources for this article: /article/8056.

Patricia Jung (trish@answergirl.de) works as an editor and sysadmin for Open Source Press (www.opensourcepress.de). As such, she is happy to have the privilege of dealing with Linux and UNIX exclusively.

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