Most of us, at some point, have dreamed about playing guitar. Maybe some of you even tried, but your efforts didn’t pan out. Lessons were too expensive, no time to practice, the instructor was a jerk, you felt you had no talent. You gave up, but you never let go of the fantasy.
Thanks to iPerform3D, you now have a chance to try again. This website offers state-of-the-art technology and upper-echelon instructors online seven days a week, around the clock. You work at your own pace, on your schedule, via your computer. Guitar lessons are streamed, and thanks to the patented MoCap 360 motion capture technology, you can literally zoom in on the lessons at any angle to study and understand exactly what the instructor is doing.
Josh Vittek, Media Relations, spoke to Planet ILL about the many features of iPerform3D and what it offers to guitar students on every level.
Planet Ill: What is the history of iPerform3D?
Josh Vittek: iPerform3D is the brainchild of a group of guys just hanging out one night back in late 2005. They all came from different backgrounds with different careers, and over a few beers the conversation led to learning how to play guitar. As fate would have it, one was a professional guitar player, one a computer programmer, one from finance and venture capital, etc., all with a common desire to either learn how to play guitar or learn how to play it better.
Planet Ill: Where did they see a void in the market and how did they feel that iPerform3D could fill it?
Josh Vittek The initial conversation quickly moved to these very topics. They wanted to identify what those voids were and how, as a collective whole, they could knock down those walls to learning the guitar. Fortunately, in those initial conversations was one of the world’s leading guitar players and instructors, Steve Trovato. Beside all of his performing accolades, Steve has created instructional material for over 25 years and he has evolved with all of the different media formats. He’s also a professor at USC and teaches privately, so there really was no one better to answer these questions from the instructor’s point of view. And given the different skill levels of the rest of us, we all put our problems on the table and addressed them one by one.
Planet Ill: How long was iPerform3D in development and when was the official launch?
Josh Vittek: Development took about two years with plenty of trial and error. We originally launched as a desktop application in 2008, but as soon as we did, Internet speeds started increasing around the world. It became very clear, very fast, that we needed to expand this into a web-based platform. The R&D behind that process took us another year to complete, and besides some minor improvements, puts us right where we are today.
Planet Ill: Please explain some of the website’s key features, including MoCap360, to our readers, including how these features work together to create a comprehensive learning experience.
Josh Vittek: Like most other instructional products on the market today, we provide the user standard music notation, complete tablature, video instruction and backing tracks. But it is the MoCap360 that sets us apart. Most people will be familiar with mocap used in video games or such movies as Avatar and Beowulf. We’re using the same technology.
For the lessons, the guitar instructors get into a skinsuit that is dotted up with hundreds of detectable dots. In fact, the key difference in the iPerform3d process is that the instructor’s hands are markered with over 100 “dots” alone! This allows us to record the subtleties of finger performance at extremely high detail. They then climb inside a cage that surrounds them with 50 motion-capture cameras where we record the motion, instruction dialog and guitar performance simultaneously. Then we decided to take it one step further. We wanted to let the student get right in underneath the hands of the instructors, and the only way to achieve this was to get the cameras and sensors right in there. We bought some new guitars just so we could cut them up with saws and routers.
This is basically how we got all of the different viewpoints. After the capture, we connect the performer’s “dots” to the iPerform3D character, like digital puppet strings in the computer. Every tiny move of the instructor is mirrored exactly by the character in 3D with millimeter precision. The resulting motion data is then cleaned up and converted into an animation file where the avatar skin is added. The audio files are then processed (at three different speeds) and synchronized to the display through our web-based 3D-enabled application, and the end result is an immersive 360-degree lesson experience. There is a brief video that gives the big picture overview:.
Josh Vittek: The MoCap360 puts us head and shoulders above any of the competition. This process allows the student to literally move in underneath the picking hand of the instructor, to literally get right in there between the palm of his hands and the guitar strings, slow down the speed and see exactly how each finger moves to execute a certain guitar playing technique. The user can even move the view to show exactly how the instructor sees his very own hands play. You can view the lesson from any angle, at any speed, without losing pitch, tempo or quality. Nothing else out there can provide that to a student, and I’m sure a real instructor would get a little uncomfortable with you trying to get that close for certain vantage points.
Planet Ill: How did you assemble the instructors for iPerform3D? What were you specifically seeking in assembling this team?
Vittek: We all agreed that we wanted instructors that not only talked the talk but could walk the walk. With Steve in charge of all the instructional material, and his influence, we were able to hand-select the instructors. First and foremost, we wanted great instructors. But we also wanted great instructors that had extensive performance experience. All of them have traveled the world supporting some of the biggest names in music, like Sheila E., Julio Iglesias Jr., Bonnie Raitt, Marc Anthony and the Backstreet Boys. In fact, one instructor, Tariq Akoni, has been guitarist and/or musical director for Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Rob Thomas, Joss Stone, and he is currently out with Josh Groban. These teachers bring some very impressive credentials to the table.
Planet Ill: Are there plans to expand the online drum lessons to include instructors?
Josh Vittek: Actually, we have an entire series of drum lessons taught by none other than Mike Mangini. Mike’s one of the most accomplished, highly decorated drummers of our time. Mike has performed with Steven Tyler, Extreme, Steve Vai, Mike Kinneally, and is now the drummer of Dream Theater. We were able to team up with Mike through our partnership with Zildjian. The drum lessons are available as an annual membership for $29.95
Planet Ill: Who is the ideal student for iPerform3D? Is this strictly for beginners, or can intermediate players also benefit from the program?
Josh Vittek: The ideal student is anyone, anywhere in the world, who wants to play guitar. For beginners, we specifically created three beginning guitar courses to help anyone at any skill level. They are structured courses called “Guitar Basics,” “Rock Lead for Beginners” and Rock Rhythm for Beginners.” The student can go through them at their own pace and can view the materials as often as they need to before moving on. We also have over 250 lessons for intermediate and advance levels. We deliver a huge assortment of lessons designed to give guitar players the skills they need to succeed at all levels, in an assortment of styles.
Through our research and Steve’s experience, one of the best ways to teach a student a new technique is to associate it to something they are already familiar with. So a lot of the lessons are structured in a way that references the style of someone else. For example, a student wants to learn a funky rock lick, we provide them a lesson in the style of Nuno Bettencourt from Extreme. Using Nuno as a point of reference, the student has a greater chance of comprehending and successfully completing the lesson.
Planet Ill: How will iPerform3D grow with its user base?
Josh Vittek: Our plans include the traditional online marketing strategies, along with effective PR and social media. We have also started to see some good growth in customer referrals, which is great. A happy customer is by far our best way to get the word out and it is a testament to all the R&D in the initial stages. As the user base grows, the content will grow as well. One of the greatest things about learning how to play guitar is that it never stops. There is an endless supply of styles, techniques and knowledge that grows every day with every new talent that breaks through.
For a limited time, iPerform3D is offering monthly memberships for $19.95 and annual membership for $99.95 (58 percent savings over the monthly price). Learn more at http://www.iperform3d.com/revolutionary_3d_lessons.aspx,
Learn more about instructor Steve Trovato here: http://planetill.com/2011/05/steve-trovato-guitar-hero/
Elianne Halbersberg is a freelance writer whose work has been published by Guitar Edge, Mix, Premier Guitar, Gibson.com, Electronic Musician, Audio Media, Ink 19 and numerous other magazines and websites.
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