Francois Rabbath: Art of the Left Hand
Immediately following the release of the Art of the Bow DVD in the summer of 2005 François announced his desire to produce a DVD featuring his technique for the left hand. While many of the basic concepts of this technique have now become relatively commonplace - such as starting beginning bassists in the middle of the neck, using the harmonics to define left hand positions, and pivoting to reach more than a whole step in a single position - he wanted to demonstrate the depth of his left hand technique with all of the subtlety and the detail that a DVD using biomechanics animation could provide.
Why, some have asked, does one need to use biomechanics to show the intricacies of Rabbath's left hand - one can see what he is doing clearly from straight video? The simplest answer is that once a biomechanics model has been captured, then it is possible to view the motion of the arm and fingers from angles that are not possible to catch with conventional video cameras. For instance, in the Art of the Bow DVD, a set of animations demonstrates the motion of the bow as if the viewer is looking through François' back - a kind of mirror effect.
The issues surrounding a left hand DVD however are far more complex. The bow and the bones of the bow arm are each straight and move in a more or less limited plane. One can predict the range of motion, despite the intricacies, with relative ease and a basic skeleton of a bass is all that is required to see the motion of the right arm. The left hand, however, moves in a much complex range of motions; large motions up and down the neck of the instrument, as well as quite small and intricate motions within a single position. Furthermore, observing the world of the left hand requires a left hand that interacts with the physical details of a bass.
The bow DVD utilized the animation derived directly from the biomechanics data - within the same software. However, the left hand DVD requires a virtual bass, bow and François with some detail interacting together. The biomechanics data has been handed over to Ball State's animators in what is known as the VIA Lab. Because this process is so new, there is quite a bit of trial and error involved in the process and this has required an extensive amount of time. A virtual "cartoon" version of François, bass, and bow had to be created. They needed to be designed to fit the skeleton of the biomechanics marker set and finally, all three elements must be able to dance together convincingly.