It’s (all) about time! [Isadora and Duration – a new paradox?]

Approximately 4 months ago a new discussion came up on the isadora forum regarding Duration a ‘timeline for creative coding. Create live performances, interactive installations, and music visualizations by synchronously composing servos, lighting, and projection’ At first I will admit I though; thats nice, a cool tool and one to remember. Bookmarked the website and that was that.

A few weeks later whilst going through the Isadora forum I spotted that this discussion was starting to develop more and more and as I helped (a tiny amount!) to unwrap the OSC capabilities was it then that I though just how powerful this could be with Isadora.

As you can see in the post it was March when I commented on just how powerful this ‘time’ business could be. Now I know first hand that Isadora was not originally made not to conform to ‘normal’ time, let me explain… Reading Marks paper/work and talking to him first hand on a fair few occasions; Isadora works in percentages (%) because the time aspect is almost irrelevant as its a live, real time performance software. It troubles some users at times, but of the 9+ years i’ve worked with Isadora it has never stopped me doing anything. In fact eliminating the time factor has made things a little less complicated for me. Instead of triggering the next ‘thing/action’ at 1 minute and 29 seconds you just trigger it at 99% (if the video was 1 minute 30 seconds long for example) The only time (pun intended!) that it causes me trouble has been dialogue between dancers or actor who are using the end of a track or video as a cue to walk of stage…. at 1 minute and 29 seconds!

So anyway. Duration. Duration can, is, going to, might, change Isadora and turn this perception on it’s head; because it can control Isadora using a *drum roll* timeline. It does this by using OSC and the timeline can be anything from 1 second to days upon days, weeks, a month – ideal for instillation and commercial work.

This means you can create your Isadora scene(s) and then using a few OSC listeners and if you are clever like the guys on our forum, you can create your own users actors. Thus; playing back your Isadora stages in order over a fixed period of time. Because Duration is obviously a software it can, doesn’t have to be,  be looped. So there actually is no end point.

There is also Iannix; but its more more complicated, but same principle.

So maybe Isadora will no longer need a space to jump to the next scene? Maybe setting up lots of complicated MIDI triggers, DMX triggers and HID triggers will be solved once a show has been sequenced? But does it make it boring, too easy? It’s not really what Isadora is about but the fact that you can do it now is nice. And who am I to say it’s boring, if it’s what the job requires then do it I guess.

Duration and Isadora, working together, control time – a new paradox?



10 thoughts on “It’s (all) about time! [Isadora and Duration – a new paradox?]

  1. is it all about time… or actually about relationship? i am going to take some time to think and add some extra thoughts….

  2. they’re tools for certain jobs. its great that OSC can glue them together. when Bruno first told me about Duration, i couldn’t really understand how it could be useful. but now i realize that its a great way to trigger stuff in Isadora that needs precision timing.
    some Isadora actors use percentage, some use frames for timing, and these can vary hugely according to the framerate you’re getting at any particular time. a patch might run comfortably at 28 or 29 fps, where 30 frames will take a second, but then if you have to introduce something heavy duty like a blur actor, the fps might drop to 10 – so your 30 frame timer will take 3 seconds. hopefully, triggering stuff from Duration will make things more accurate, and less dependent on processor performance.
    as Graham mentions, its not going to be relevant to the majority of uses of Isadora, but for those times when you want more control, these tools might be able to provide it. but that’s why i love Isadora – its so flexible it can be applied in myriad ways, and rather than learning how to use every new bit of software that emerges, you can just learn how to use Isadora deeply and she constantly comes up with new ways of achieving your vision. (particularly with the help of the worldwide gurus on the forum)
    cheers G.

  3. thoughts part 2… my position on this is relative to experiences with a timeline based application prior to my experiments with isadora.

    isadora offers relationships between actors that can be dynamic, something that a timeline application will struggle to do. i liked in john’s comment about frame rates being processor dependent.

    there’s also the client side of things. i’m my client so when things slow down i can either see them as negative or positive occurances and there’s a whole interesting debate about which i prefer. when the client is external to self, the slowing down probably becomes an annoyance that the client wants explaining. if the system that your programming is very time / sync dependent then spreading the load of calculations across as many processors as possible would be my ideal.

    so what of this duration. i looked at it back in those months ago and in principle it lit me up but in practice there is something holding me back that i’ve not identified what it is yet.

    i want dynamic results within the work i do. i want to set up relationhips between actors to realise something and i want to be surprised when something i didn’t expect to happen happens. from experience working with a timeline, once it’s set up it does the same thing over and over again. if that’s what a client wants then use duration, however that’s possible to do in isadora. maybe duration is an easier way to set up a fixed relationship patch than in isadora.

    for now i want to work dynamically, so isadora remains the application of choice.

    i reserve the right to make a part 3 ….

    • Some deep thinking from both of you.

      @John: you are absolutely right in regards to “you can just learn how to use Isadora deeply and she constantly comes up with new ways of achieving your vision” as there are so many users it (her?) in a vast majority of ways and on a multitude of levels – which I think is great.

      @particle-p: wow some great comments about the relationship between actors and other software. I suspect that the reason you may currently be held up a little about Duration is that it isn’t the easiest thing to set up. OSC in its nature is a lot of numbers, ports and more numbers. It’s not a fluid as Syphon for instance (although you cant compare the two I refer to syphon because it passes information (video frames) to and from software via a protocol) but take a look at some of the pre-made user actors and I am sure you will get to grasps with it.

      I think the key statement here is that; now you can if you want too… not everyone will but some might. Some might use Duration for one off projects. We may get a flood of users who now use/buy/experiment with Isadora simply because they want a software that can motion track (one of Isadora’s strongest and practically unrivaled quality I might add) but ALSO be in a timeline format as well as, at any time, have manual control to change effects via MIDI, sound, DMX, etc. What other software can do this? It basically opens up a whole new pathway.

  4. part 3 ….

    from watching the duration demo again i now remember why i’ve not gone further with it. i don’t feel like i can walk into the space that duration provides. in contast, mark’s isadora videos very quickly take me into the space that isadora describes and quickly gets me connecting and seeing results.

    a relationship is a connection between at least two things. some relationships are more interesting than others.

    the question i’m left with is “what does duration add to the relationship i already have with isadora?” it’s up to me isn’t it. once again it’s that choice thing.

    maybe there will be a part 4 ….

  5. part 4

    catching up today i see now where duration begins to fit in. duration is holding isadora’s hand towards a world of show control and all that goes with that.

    i have of course spent a fruitless time attempting to get osc back into duration from isadora to see within the discussion that this is somewhat problematic.

    if however show control is the name of the game then duration and isadora does start to become a formidable realtionship.

    so getting back to your starting point @vjskulpture, maybe yes there is something new and exciting about to become possible, with isadora’s new bff.

    if there’s to be a part 5… i think my own relationship with duration needs to find it’s own meaning…. as with any new relationship …. time will tell. xx

    • Thanks for your comments.

      Here is another scenario.

      A composer makes a 10 minute piece of music for a dance show. You decide to use isadora because it can motion track the dancers, play back video, live feed with effects and so on. Now you can drop the file into Duration and create triggers, envelopes and other ‘stuff’ to send into Isadora via OSC. Everything will be perfectly in time (regardless of frames/FPS, etc as John has kindly commented on for us).

      Also during rehearsals it means you can jump back to that exact time/section that the dancers/actors ask for. Depending on the type of piece you are doing this can be problematic. (we have all had a video playing in movie player and you want to ‘jump back’ to watch a bit again, but you have to watch it all the way through…. well maybe with some clever OSC programming you can link the movie timeline (percentage) to communicate with the global Duration timeline?

      Lots to think about!

      • i like your 10 minute piece senario because personally it links me to my show control experience. what you describe is exactly what you would want in that situation as a show control programmer. i might even have to dust of my passport and get ready for the offers of work to flood back in !

        in terms of your video jump senario, it’s made me consider how the video is produced in the first place, and for a show control projec this is very much a consideration.

        for example i programmed the show control system for an outdoor show. the producers were aware of the risks of weather and right place right time factors relative to the soundtrack. i worked with the composer and audio system designer to arrive at a solution where the show control operator had options at the end of each section to extend the musical soundtrack to allow for stuff to catch up. the soundtrack was seemless in it’s playback because of the work i did in pre – production.

        therefore in terms of your 10 minute dance piece, if the video component is divided into “parts” when jumping back in rehearsals it would be possible to resync with the next “part” of the video. i know this makes sense to me, i hope through my dsylexic ramblings the method of production thinking has come across. i am of course available for consulatation and programming for interesting projects both in the uk and internationally. blatent self promotion as i have show control experience that currently is under used in projects.

  6. part 5

    i’m a convert.

    i’ve overcome the words that describe the tracks and now see that duration is a valid show control option.

    i feel that duration and isadora working on a production is valid and powerful.

    i’m quite surprised by my reactions to duration in the last 24 hours.

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