From the start of the semester, we knew that there were in fact two deliverables we needed to achieve. The first is our showing of Franco Sciannameo’s Balli Plastici interpretation at the Performa 09 festival in New York, while the second is to develop a puppetry software that anyone can download and use to create their own interpretation of Fortunato Depero’s marionette work.
These deliverables are quite different from eachother and demand different things from our seven person team, so we thought it would be nice to give our readers some insight into the decisions we’ve made thus far.
In order to maximize our progress on each deliverable simultaneously, we decided early on that we would use our own software to build our performance for the festival. Once we had built a stable, functional version of the software, we began recording acts and scenes in earnest. Our own heavy use of the tool is currently informing our designs for features we plan to incorporate after the performance. That is to say, now that we have used our own software frequently for work on the Performa show, we have a lot of great ideas of what the final version of the software should have! Giving ourselves time to build the software allowed us to complete meaningful work towards both the performance and the eventual release of our puppetry program.
According to our own interpretation of Futurism itself, we felt it was important to make sure anyone could use our software. With this in mind, we knew we didn’t want our software to act as a full-featured animation package (like Autodesk Maya, for instance). Rather, we focused on a balance of providing animations for each puppet and allowing the user to have fun moving the puppets instead of focusing on detailed, frustrating minutiae that make the learning curve so difficult in professional animation. Knowing that we wanted the software to have this level of accessibility, we developed a user interface focusing on simplicity and ease of use. Our challenge there is making sure each option is clear while not providing a ton of confusing buttons for each feature. While we had discussed a variety of input devices – such as Wiimotes or analog sliders – to actually move the puppets around, we ultimately chose a standard mouse and keyboard, which we knew would be available in most households.
This focus on simplicity and accessibility has allowed us to create a reasonable plan for the development of our software over the course of the 16-week semester. With such a short development period, it’s very important that we balance our vision for what the software could be so that it is still achievable by the end, while still making it fun to use, and also leaving time for designing our performance in New York. Designing the experience that the audience will have from the moment they enter until the moment they leave is also an important consideration as we near the performance date.
You can probably imagine how using all of our team’s talents in parallel has helped us throughout the semester!