Claus Uriza: Designing Pop Vox

From my conversation with Claus Uriza, founder of Pop Art Lab and the producer of Pop Vox, on how a musical performance show gets made in Second Life…

The show started on December 12, 2008, and all of our shows, they are online still, at Treet TV.  We had the official opening at Pop Art Lab, my sim in Second Life.  We spent most of the first half of 2008 on designing the set and streaming and getting stable streaming.

The people who helped, it was the community I joined during my first six months in Second Life.  I happened to meet some–well, a lot of–clever artists.  Mainly designers and sim owners, and they knew I was working with music in real life and know I was very serious about what I wanted to do in there.  I mentioned in the beginning, I wanted to do something with music and I wanted to create some music services.  So it was natural to ask my closest friends in there if they were able to and if they wanted to help me design this.  And this goes for both the PopArt Lab and also the very first TV studio we created.  It was all the same designers that also designed PopArt Lab.  So it was like, “hey, Claus is doing some cool things, we would love to help, and we would love to be part of all this.”

PAL

The very first show back then with Greg Hawkes, I was in the cast.  I hadn’t thought much about it, what my role was.  Usually we made these shows and Treet TV would put them online.  It was actually when I saw the rolling text at the end of these shows saying produced by Claus Uriza, I thought, okay, cool, I’m a producer now.

So it wasn’t anything I thought about that way, but looking back, I did handle all these tasks.  Well, what is a producer?  Making shows, I think.   My problem has always been I’m doing a bit about everything and I’m not very good at letting other people do things.  The problem running the first few shows, or maybe more, was that I was really doing a lot at the same time.  If you’re going to interview a rock star, you have to be pretty focused, but when you have to answer IMs and prepare group invitations at the same time as you’re sitting there…  So I didn’t think about what it was to be a producer back then.  It was just something that happened.

I remember, many times, they told me after the show–Starr Sonic from Treet TV–that everything must be very scheduled.  I have to create a run sheet for each show, and when you make virtual TV as live TV, as live recordings, everyone just has to be online, everything just has to be very precise.  Or else you waste everyone’s time.  And I was really new to all this.

Starr, she was very, what you call, tough.  I remember several shows when we were done with the show, she was asking questions and giving criticism.  And, of course, I’m the kind of guy who really likes and appreciates that kind of feedback.  Because that’s the only way we can make an effort.   So of course it was also made in a good way – we learned, it wasn’t bad intentions.  It was just to get the shows more tight.

PersiaBravin

And it was also Treet TV who said “Claus, you have to get people on board on this and that.”  When we did this first show with Greg Hawkes, I hadn’t been Skyping a lot and my English was not good, but it was okay, and I think that first interview I actually think I did a lot of the interview myself.  I met Persia Bravin, and she became the host on all shows.  I met her a week before the first Pop Vox show.  She’s actually a journalist in real life, and she’s interviewing people for real life all the time.  And that was one thing – because we wanted a good accent, we wanted someone who could speak English perfect.  Since Persia is from the U.K. and she’s very interested in music, it very soon became Persia who actually did most of the interview parts of our show.

We created the interview questions together, usually on Google Shared Docs.  And when we ran the show, she were actually doing 80 to 90% of the interview parts.  Then we usually had a host for the in-world audience.  It was also people from Pop Art Lab who came and told people where to sit and just help people who arrive at the show know how to, well, behave.

And of course we had Emily Hifeng; she’s pretty much been Pop Art Lab’s designer since back then.  And we also always had to argue with Treet TV, because we didn’t want a real life look-alike TV studio; we wanted to make all kinds of crazy stuff.  I mentioned for several shows, well, I want to jump up on an elephant and come into the studio on this elephant.  Or, I’m a cowboy for this show, I want to fire some guns and stuff like that.  But Treet TV turned down those ideas.

Overall, I was focused on getting an interested artist in for the show.  That was part one.  Secondly, my role was to create the final run sheet, which means we had a formula from Treet TV, where you have to put up the entire show, what happens each minute in the show.  And, well, I’m an audio guy, so the technical stuff about getting streams up, running, sounding good, and getting the set secure so there were no griefers.  Some of our shows had to be closed, which means we had to send invites out so only the people who were added to the accept list on the sim could attend.  So I handled more technical stuff in the shows, but also the promotion, which means posting on the web about the shows.

I think it’s not to put myself up on something, but I pretty much was involved with everything.  That was also the problem, at times, which was why I tried to delegate all these tasks and had hosts for the audience.

So when we had done like five or six shows, the only thing I really had to do was to put out the final run sheet and get the artists we were going to interview – that was big part, too, to get the artist familiar with Second Life, first of all.  Not all the artists have tried Second Life and so you had to get them seated correctly, tell the artist do not teleport your friends right in the middle of the show, and all kinds of stuff.

But maybe some people are not aware of how many – there are a lot of small, you could call, components, making a show, which have to be done correctly or else.  We did a show once where everything was prepared and we had done audio checks–usually we did checks with the artist, streaming their stuff a few days prior to the show–and finally when we were sitting there, we couldn’t get the streaming there, because the studio where they were going to record was in some office building, so actually we had to cancel that live recording.  We did the interview, but we couldn’t make the live recording due to a firewall in London!

As for the live studio audience, in the beginning we didn’t really ask them to do much.  We just asked them to come and we had created the studio where they were going to sit.  We asked them to come early and then our host would guide them to their seats and it went pretty well.  Later on we spent the last five minutes of each interview part where we asked the audience to put up questions in text so we were able to ask the artist questions from the audience.

PopVox studio

All of our shows have been run using Skype, which means we make our conference call via Skype.  Treet TV would catch  the call and send it to a server, and that server creates a URL, and this  URL you would put in your land media settings in your sim.  Which means that if we were going to record voice questions from the audience, we would have to had another set-up, to allow them to speak.  It’s much easier if you do that entirely on Second Life voice.

We have done it a few times; some of our shows have been machinima shorts and concert shows and those shows we did entirely using Second Life voice, as I remember.  But that was because we had speakers, and speakers were just better.  It’s easier to use Second Life voice and it’s actually more stable than many people say.  The only thing you have to worry about is that the speaker has to be placed in the same place.  If you have a stage, you have to ask the speaker to get up to the microphone on the stage.  And that was pretty hard to do in these live interview Pop Vox shows because then you had to ask the avatar to go up to the microphone and often we had to deal with a lot of lag.  And that’s also why I wasn’t allowed to ride into the shows on an elephant…too much lag…

And so to bring the audience up for questions live on voice is a bit more of a challenge.

It was good and bad, because people were a bit shy, because everything was recorded.  You could watch the whole show live on the internet, and you have to remember this is three years ago, so we usually limited our shows to about forty attendees.  So we didn’t get as much questions as I would have thought, or I would have liked, but it was a fun part, because it’s interesting if fans can ask artists questions directly.

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2 responses to “Claus Uriza: Designing Pop Vox

  1. Pingback: The View from the Crews | Virtual World Television·

  2. Pingback: Judging the Quality of VWTV | Virtual World Television·

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