Some of my work [video]


A good friend Dan Shorten from Anomic (Multi-Media Theatre) hired me for various projects in 2012 and January 2013. You can see a trail of these events in my past posts.

Basically I worked in all of the development stages and then worked in the background as a sort of’ technical supervision’ role for all three of the projects in the video. If Isadora had any hick-ups I could jump in and solve and problems; especially in Helsinki were the conditions were so extreme.

This professional video from Polymath films did a fantastic job as they followed Dan and the various projects from start to finish.  I was lucky enough to be interviewed at the Heslinki Event at LUX too; you can find my section from 7:10 (but watch it all its well worth it!)

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‘Reveal’ Report Part.2 [LUX – Helsinki]


If you haven’t already, please read Part 1 [HERE]

So, after about a year of planning I flew out to join Dan and two of his third year students from Guild Hall School of Drama (London) in Helsinki. The first thing that hit me was the weather; it took your breath away it was that cold. I arrived about 11:30,  after a beer I went straight to bed… but the next day we got up and went straight to the cabin.

THE CABIN

We had a porta-cabin upon which all the computer hardware was kept. (We where lucky as some people had tents!) And this was pretty much my view for the next 6 days…

Lots of coffee cups lying about!

AND IT BEGINS…

The first two days we had to set up, test and check the system. Then LUX was officially open and the public could all the pieces in full glory. Public viewing times where 4:00 PM until 10:00PM

We spent two days fine tuning and making the Isadora patch perfect. The sun went down about 3 so we had a short while to preview the images properly… this was from day one…

Sorry for image quality I was shaking holding my phone!

Day One

We attracted a lot of attention! So much so that people where blocking the pathway and filling up on the stairs in the image above!

People going about their daily business walking or cycling home had to stop and ask people to move out of the way. It was great to see so early on.

It became clear after only a few hours that children understood it straight away and some of the elder people took a little longer to figure out the concept and interaction. We found that a lot of people didn’t want to interact with the piece and just wanted to watch. But the flow of people made it work anyway. As people walked directly up to the cameras they soon realised that they where blocking the cameras and revealing more of the wall. We had a few dogs sniff the cameras and push buggies also looked good interacting with the wall images as they rolled by.

Some interesting observations for me including a guy swinging a white plastic bag around his head for about half an hour, a man and woman dancing like robots and a small child physically touching the wall and projected light thinking that it was somehow physically interactive.

The first night went really quick and some of the patches didn’t look as good as expected. But overall we where happy…. we then went for a beer and didn’t get home until 4 in the morning! The guys at sun effects looked after us and it was all networking (of course!).

TECHNICAL DIAGRAM

This is just a simple technical diagram to show the workflow.

It’s not the best diagram but it gives you an idea of the layout

‘Reveal’ Report Part.1 [LUX – Helsinki]


Approximately a year ago a good friend of mine Dan Shorten (Anomic) rang me up with an offer I couldn’t refuse….

He needed a bit of a hand with some technical guidance for a project called Reveal which would be shown at LUX, Helsinki in January 2013. So after many trips to London over the last year we developed, tested and created an Isadora patch and I happy report that it all went well.

I have had quite a few people ask me how it worked, technical details and the hardware used. I decided before I went that I’d write a report when I got back so below is as much detail as I can give…

THE CONCEPT

The concept was obviously driven by Dan as the artist. He had the ideas but the odd effect was influenced from me. Dan has some great ideas and nothing is too crazy! I love having a beer with Dan as I can often see him thinking of an idea and I just sit waiting for him to ask me of its possible, then between us we try and make it a reality. This was the case for Reveal.

The concept was started by finding out that Lux had given Dan a huge section of wall to project onto. This is no normal wall, it’s the side wall of a location callee the Baana which is a little tricky to describe, it’s like a mini valley running through the city which used to be a railway line. It had been converted to a walkway and cycle path last year for the locals to get quickly to and from the centre of town.

The image below shows this a little better.

The Banna by day.

We had limited knowledge as to how busy this area would be, obviously not living in Finland we didn’t know the area, the people or the conditions. We also didn’t know how active the people would be. Anyone who has worked with the public will know; people are unpredictable. Would people stop and interact and engage?

Another slight issue was the weather. Saying ‘it was cold’ just doesn’t cut it! It was so cold it hurt… But the local production crew and security firm assured us that it was a ‘good week’ and the week before had it dropped to -25 with the wind chill. This was as cold as the North Pole apparently. I will discuss problem and issues in more depth my next post.

The concept and focus of Reveal was to allow people to reveal parts of the wall and engage them in a variety of different ways. We wanted it to be somewhat random, bright and changing every 10/15 minutes. We didn’t want it to be a self contained and automated system either. We wanted it to be as interactive as possible but we could change the images/video whenever we wanted in response the the audience.

As Dan states on his website;

“…’Reveal’ is an interactive and participatory video installation in which the public can influence their surroundings by “revealing” the hidden possibilities in everyday spaces. Specially composed music and the sounds help create a fascinating new environment”

So we decided for 70% of the scenes in Isadora to use layers. When no one was in the space, or if no one was moving then we would project a near exact digital replica of the wall. It was just like a digital mask. Then the people moving, or the cyclists flying by made the reveal part by becoming active or human masks; moving the digital wall out of the way to see what is underneath. The human/live camera feeds worked as the mask, this raw video feed combined with short video delays, motion blurs and lots of other isadora configurations this made the reveal much more interesting. Image shows this below:

A screen shot of Reveal and the masking idea

Using the Eyes actor in Isadora (which I have a few tutorials on inside this blog!) we used simple but effective calculations, curvatures and scaling to ramp up music samples and background loops. So the louder the music became the more people moved and danced, etc.

This Baana is a new area for Helsinki and the people there where only just starting to use it. It was popular for cyclists though and we had to take that into consideration. As it was unlikely the people on bikes would stop and interact; yet we wanted them to be involved – even if they didn’t know it! So the reveal part of this worked really well because as cyclists went whizzing by the people watching got to see a really cool effect, this then spurred them on to get interactive with the space themselves.

HARDWARE

We used an Apple Mac Pro Tower, which was amazingly specked out!

  • Mac Pro tower 2x 3.06GHz 6 core Intel Xeon
  • 64gig of RAM
  • 1 x TB 7200 drive
  • 3 x 512 SDD drives
  • Mountain Lion OS
  • DataPath x4 DVI graphics expansion module
  • 3 x Panasonic PT EX16KE XGA (1024 x 768) LCD projectors
  • DVI splitters to feed 3 x preview monitors
  • Lots of cables and power.
  • Coffee Machine!

SOFTWARE

Software was just Isadora running version 1.3.0f25. No additional tracking software or fancy quartz plug-ins. Isadora programming at its best!

Isadora had about 20-25 scenes all doing different things, some quite subtly different than others, some very unique. In some patches we used all three live feed cameras and in others just one (generally the middle camera). Again; this was just to mix things up. We had one crash and that was only because we where editing effects live and we messed something up. So its safe to stay isadora worked amazingly.

PRE-PRODUCTION

Dan took a hi-res photo of the wall during his first visit and stitched it together to give us something to work from in terms of scale and general planning. This helped a lot.

In London Dan started work on content for the piece. I seen a few edits whilst I was down there and they looked brilliant. All of the work was done in After Effects and Cinema 4D (which Dan is geting far to good at using!) My only input was general generation of ideas and introducing him to the 3D Element plug in from Andrew Kramer.

We had a few smaller projects on the go which helped us prepare and work out the video mapping side of things which was great. Dan also flew Isadora creator Mark Coniglio over to the UK to run a few ideas past him, ask about hardware set up and generally ask as much as we could whilst he was there. Mark always amazes me at how hard he works and he had some great ideas too.

All video and image files where 2600*600 quicktime running the ProRes codec.

We though we would have to use software edge blending but luckily the projectors had that feature built in so it was less work for the machine. And being a flat wall (well flat-ish) we didn’t require really advanced soft edge blending/warping.

A screen shot of the live CCTV cameras in InfraRed mode.

A screen shot of the live CCTV cameras in InfraRed mode.

Thank you to this person who filmed a bit…. (I have more videos on the way)

// So thats the end of part one…. I will post the next section in the next few days.

Skulpture