Visj Sketches

Hey, Since last thursday I have been iterating on mapping to a geodesic dome shape. Here are some recordings.

This is a new map I made based on a different geodesic dome image. 

This image is what I used to create the map.

This image is what I used to create the map.

and the final map in mapio

and the final map in mapio

The map produced some interesting results, more of a flat kaleidoscope than a 3D object, but still very nice to look at. The the layers are positioned and flipped creates a nice 5 way kaleidoscope, but video is translated not flipped, which gives you a bit more variety. I really like the footage of driving under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, creates a beautiful spiral geometry. The liquid falling through the fish tank was shot at 45˚ so when on the map creates an interesting gemstone feel. In other experiments I rotated the angle of the side of the fish tank, provided appealing refraction effect. Clearly I need to think of more words to describe what I am doing!  

The lines in the middle of the video is footage of looking through to the sky through iron bars. As the camera moves around the size an orientation of the bars change, creating different patterns. The strong parallel lines give the illusion of depth, and this effect if furthered when projected. At one point you can see trees through the bars. This part goes on for a little while, but I think that this would work during a performance. Can't change things too much! 

Hope you enjoyed this video and run through! I'd love to hear your thoughts or if you want to hear about anything else. I have another new video up on Vimeo, see if you can find it ;) There will be a blog post about it soon :)

THURSDAY NIGHT 11 September 2014 - Live performance w/ Anatole at Free the Beats @ 505 in Surrey Hills. Come along, its free! More info.

All good!

Hey Friends! Just a little update with what is going on in my life. I have started working 3 days a week learning about growth and marketing for a start up, lots to learn, and working on some fun projects.  I think there will be some great things I learn that I can bring to the art world :)

Some gradients to clean your eyes with.

Some gradients to clean your eyes with.

2 Days a week I have solidly set aside for solely working on my art. So that means practising, but also heaps of organising, admin stuff, working on this website, finding new gigs, working on grants. Fun stuff! Really pleased that I have structured time in my week to make this happen!

Lastly, THE WEEKEND! So I can see my wonderful friends and family and enjoy what life has to offer, plus work in the evenings at clubs and venues to bring light to the people!

Lets see how this plays out! Stay tuned here for more updates and behind the scenes stuff.

xoxo Rory


10 free VJ clips!

Here are two sets of clips that you can use VJing or remix into whatever you want. Here is the Oil Set.  Great for backgrounds or adding colour too.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 11.07.47 AMAnd here is the geometry set. Full of black and white geometry. Use this for overlays, or cool layer masks. Or whatever you want to do!

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 4.25.23 PM

All clips are under creative commons, so do what you want with them :)

Let me know what you do with them! I used these clips to make my insane video.

2 sets, 10 clips in total. Enjoy!

 

VJing at Regrowth Festival 2014

In March I have been given the oppurtunity to do live visuals for Regrowth Festival just out of Braidwood, NSW. 

Here is the highlight reel from Regrowth 2014 that I edited. It has lots of stuff that I did the VJing for, plus some friends in the Optic Soup collective who I do VJing with. Had a really great time at Regrowth, such a receptive and friendly audience. I wanted to do a bit of a breakdown of some of my favourite shots, what they are, and why they are there.

To start with, we have the smoke and "optic soup visuals".

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 3.13.23 PM
Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 3.13.23 PM

This is a really simple screen, and it was used between sets on the wildflower stage. The smoke is easy to look at and really not distracting so the audience isn't stuck being distracted by a screen. It also keeps the colour tone very neutral and provides some ambient light between sets. Optic Soup Visuals is there for branding, and reminding people that someone (me!) is behind the computer controlling the screens.

Jelly dance

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 3.18.00 PM
Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 3.18.00 PM

One of my favourite parts of Regrowth was how creatively engaged the crowd was. The screens at the wildflower stage were rear projected onto petal shaped screens, with the projectors and screens all at human height. This meant that you could create shadows by standing in the way. A few times over the weekend people would dance behind the screens creating beautiful movements. When this happened I put on really simple animations/clips so the shadows could be seen easily.

Svelt dancing monkeys

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 3.22.28 PM
Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 3.22.28 PM

Sydney electro dance band svelt played on sunday night and they were so much fun to VJ too! Really high energy and got the crowd moving. Often with dance music it is pretty fun to play clips of people/cartoons dancing. This clip is some gorillas I found dancing which is pretty excellent. I put the band's name over the top of all the clips during their set, which looked really cool and gave their set a definite visual consistency. There were 2 screens on the wildflower stage, and they were mapped so they were mirrored. This was great for pure visuals, but when displaying text, one screen would be mirrored. No good! To get over this, I made the text layer flip based on the audio levels of the band, meaning that the text would change between normal and mirrored very quickly. Because of the eye's persistence of vision, you are able to read the text on either screen, without being swamped with information. The flicking in time to music also added to the excitement of svelt's music.

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 3.30.11 PM
Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 3.30.11 PM

Liquid Light and Flowers

This is some footage that I made myself. Flowers floating around my bathtub and some milk and coloured dyes with bubbles. The two layers are blended so the colours are opposite.

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 12.06.38 AM
Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 12.06.38 AM

Dog puppet shadowsAs I said above, the crowd at regrowth was really creative! A guy called Nic tore up some cardboard and made these awesome puppets!

Main Stage

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 12.11.54 AM
Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 12.11.54 AM
Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 10.48.21 PM
Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 10.48.21 PM

The main stage (treetop stage) at regrowth consisted of a hexagon screen with petals around the outside which were mapped, and two large white masks on either side of the stage. These masks were also mapped. We had great fun with the giant masks! On Saturday night, Alex (from Optic Soup) and I were using the computer's webcam to put our faces on the masks, a physical mask on the masks, and some balloon stress balls he had made. This was probably the most fun we had all weekend!

Darren

Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 10.57.54 PM
Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 10.57.54 PM

The cutest little boy Darren came to the VJ tent to have a look at what was going on, so I showed him some of the software we were using and asked if he wanted to be on the screens. I popped on the webcam and Darren went on the screens and he loved it! Had the biggest smile and played with all the effects. The crowd loved it too! Another great moment at Regrowth :)

Huge thanks to Metaeaux for the music, the regen team for organising the festival, my fellow optic soupticians for bringing the visuals and a huge thank you to everyone who attended for being so wonderful!

Hackagong 2013.

This past weekend I competed in Hackagong, a 36 hour weekend where participants work in small teams to create something awesome. This year I created geolight, two nested 3D printed geodesic domes and lights that create beautiful shadow patterns all over the room where geolight sits. 1014144_10152078072159992_1907096354_n

 

In less than 24 hours I moved this project from a thought to a computer model to a physical tangible object to a shapeshifting shadow machine. Most of it was possible through 3D printing. Having the ability to turn thoughts into reality so quickly is intensely satisfying and gratifying!

This picture sums me up pretty well. Sketchpad, iPad, mac, slinky, lights. coffee, pear, earphones, glasses, analogue watch and hemp jumper.

 

Before going into hackagong I knew I wanted to make an object that could be used to create shadows, and would probably involve the beautiful patterns created by a geodesic dome. As of friday night my plan was to make a hand held full geodesic dome which would have a light inside that could be used to create cool shadows. As I was cycling towards hackagong (I was right near north gong station) the thought came to me that it would be much more interesting seeing the shadows of two objects interacting. I have previously played with lights and shadows, and one of my favourite things it the huge change in scale, and also our brain's ability to determine depth from a 2D image. I wanted to put them together by projecting shadows onto the celling and walls of any room.

 

I started to draw a quick sketch (on pen and paper) of what I wanted to 3D print. I talked to  Chris (the build ambassador at Hackagong) about the dimensions I could print in and the feasibility of my project. He gave me the dimensions and thought my idea was cool and would work. I jumped back on the computer and started to build the geodesic domes as 3D models in sketchup. I found a great instrucable with instructions on how to build the model, as well as downloadable examples. I opened up the V1 example. I built the model into an enclosed object that could be sent to the printers. I downloaded an .stl exporter for sketchup and after fiddling around with the model, I took it over to Chris to have a final run through before we printed. He changed the scale and rotated it so it would be printed upside down as this would need less support materials and be faster.

 

And then we printed it!

 

I chose to print my first 3D printed object with blue sparkly plastic. Have to make the first thing rememberable! Bucky would be so proud.

 

 

In total it took about 4.5 hours to print. As you can see in the photos, the printer doesn't just print the object, but also a support structure that is used to hold it all in place while the object is printing.

 

The next step for me to remove the support structure. With a little patience and a little pair of pliers, I managed to break free the dome from the supports. Pretty cool stuff!

 

It was then time to work on the next, larger dome.

My plan was to make a V1 dome for the smaller inner dome and a V2 for the larger outer dome.

To move from a V1 to V2, all the triangles are split into 4, and then pushed out so all the points are equally spaced. The more triangles, the closer the object resembles a sphere.

hello world

I finished the model and then sent it to Chris the wonderful printer ambassador. I had to wait my turn as other teams were using the printer. We loaded my model into the software and it said that it would take 9hrs to print. Chris ummed and ahhed, but I convinced him to let me print it overnight, starting at 11.30pm. The condition was set that if something messed up with the printing, I wouldn't be able to reprint.

Sure enough the printing stuffed up :(

The ambient temperature of UniCentre in the middle of the night in the middle of winter was too cold for the 3D printers. The plastic didn't adhere to the base plate and started to peel off the plate. Less than 20 minutes into the print, it had to be abandoned.

 

It was sad, but all the teams who were printing started talking to each other as we waited for our objects to be produced. A guy called Daniel from a team sitting near me thought my idea was really cool, and said that he had a geodesic dome at home that I could borrow for the weekend. Great news! His team mate had gone home to get some things, so would be bringing the model back at 2am.

 

While I was waiting I did a bit of soldering and coding with my strip of LED lights. My plan was to use a BlinkM LED, but I couldn't find any in wollongong. I have ordered one from littlebird so I can further develop my idea. I used my trusty strip of 60 rgb leds, but I would like to use BlinkM because they can retain their programming of an internal circuit board and run of battery power. The strip lights are great for a concept, and soon enough lights were working and flashing and making cool shadows.

Around 2:30 am, a beautiful 1V geodesic dome appeared on my desk. Made out of recycled tin cans, it was just the right size. Thanks Daniel!

I went to find a dark space to try out the domes and shadows. Marc the IT guy came on the search with me. As we wandered around, we gathered a group of hackers jacked up on red bull... the first dark space we found was.... (no judgement) the guys bathroom downstairs. So, yes, we all hopped into a dark bathroom at about 3 in the morning and started to play with some coloured lights. It worked really well, but the situation was just a bit weird. We left and took over the HQ room, turned off all the lights, popped some bean bags on the ground, and turned on some Mission Control. Perfect. The lights came on and shadows were cast over the roof.

It was magical.

 

 

 

I created some wonderful effects that simply do not translate to photos. The roof becomes a giant surface for shadows to loom over you. Beautiful patterns of dozens of triangles spread across your vision and suddenly it feels like you are in a completely different space. My favourite part of this, and what I want to keep on exploring is the sense of depth that our brains create from the movement of the shadows. If you close one eye and move your head, you can still gather depth information by the way things move. In a (2D) movie, your brain can still figure out depth even though that information isn't actually there. What I find really interesting is that the shadows created by geolight can give you enough visual information to determine the physical shape of the object casting the shadows, even if you can't see the object itself. The nested domes create irregular patterns and confuse the eyes. By using multiple lights and different colours, you can change the number of shadows, how they intersect and the colours of the shadows.

After about two hours of experimenting with shadows, it was time for bed (5am!).

 

I packed up my stuff and cycled home in the freezing wollongong air.

I sleptwalked through a shift of work, and then returned to hackagong in the afternoon of the sunday to present what I had done to the judges and other teams. Lots of people were impressed, some of the judges thought it was a very interesting a unique use of 3D printing, and some people just didn't get what I was trying to do.

I guess the problem of not understanding lies somewhere in the middle of us. I need to work on how to explain the weird concepts and oddities that I am working on, and I would like other people to be more open to weirder things. I do kind of like it though, that what I am trying to do is difficult to translate into words and pictures, and it becomes something that you need to see in real life.

One of the judges asked for the business potential of geolight. I didn't really have an answer and I hadn't really thought of trying to sell it. I am putting the models online for you to print and the code too (see below). It is fairly simple and I would be keen to see what other people can do with the general structure of creating 3D shadows. Later in the evening when I put photos up on facebook a few friends asked if I was planning to sell it, and they would buy it, so yes! There is business potential. I think it needs a little more work before I would sell it, but it does seem like something that could sell: a 3D printed ambient light. At least in this sweet stage where 3D printing is 'cool' and not quite mainstream. I could go along a arduino open source type route: you can buy the assembled model, or download the files and make your own.

In the end, I didn't win any prizes for the geolight, but I had heaps of fun creating it. It gave me a taste of 3D printing and I want more! It is so easy to see how this technology is going to radically change the world. The experience of moving a thought to a physical tangible object was extremely gratifying, and being able to show what I was trying to do rather than explain what I am doing as I work towards making something was fantastic. I really want to get my hands on a 3D printer, because once you start printing, hundreds of improvements come to you. This is what is so exciting about making things with a 3D printer, the turn around time is relatively short, and the cost of the materials is also relatively low (and is only going to get lower. Exciting times.

 

Where to from here? Rework my model and print it again, make sure the big one prints out this time :)

More lights. More shadows. More objects. Work on programming lights into controllable patterns. Print bigger objects (for a larger scale of shadows) , make 3D objects that create 2D illusions. Scale bigger. If instead of projecting shadows on the inside of a room, imagine giant depth bending shadows on buildings. Im coming for you VIVID. ;)

 

MCA NOW - A reflection on Digital Media Summer Internship at the MCA

  Sky Mirror (Anish Kapoor 2006) Outside the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. This was the first photo on the #MCANow page.

I was selected to be a digital media summer intern at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. The internship was run in the Digital Media section of the Museum from January to March of 2013. I was working with Keir Winesmith, director of digital media at the MCA and Tristan Deratz, the MCA’s digital media fellow. I was given a project to create called MCA NOW.

 

MCA Now started as a project that would represent the physical space of the museum in the digital environment. MCA NOW would be a place where visitors not physically at the museum could get a sense of the physicality of the museum.

 

Final version of MCA NOW

The first thing I worked on was getting the current weather observations and displaying them on MCANow. I used the Bureau Of Meteorology's weather API to retrieve the latest observations from Sydney Observatory. This ended up being a little trickier than expected as the current observations are presented in formatted plain text and delivered over ftp. Initially this was working, but it was soon discovered that the BOMs FTP wasn’t the most reliable service. At the end of the project, the weather segment of MCANow was omitted, hopefully in the future it could be integrated once again, maybe this time using a JSON service.

I made a little script to tell the user if the museum was open and if it was closed, when it would reopen again. A bit of interface design that I am really pleased about is the change of scale used. Rather than saying that the museum is closed and will open again in 9 hours, the script will say “the museum will open tomorrow morning at 10”, at midnight this changes to “today at 10am” and only at 8am does the website start giving a countdown in hours and minutes.This was a great first step in getting my hands dirty in PHP and APIs. It had been around 2 years since I last used PHP so I was a little rusty, but I was fairly quick to get back on my feet. As MCA Now progressed, it moved from a closed system, where I would be working on the website using my own machine as the server and I would be the only one seeing the output, to an open system when we started to upload my work to the MCA’s server and make it public at mca.com.au/now. This was really rewarding seeing the work that I had done live on the MCA website, looking really nice surrounded by the rest of the website.

Early stages of MCANow page. We used a 3D rendering of the museum with red dots to show wifi access points. This part of the site has been changed to a relevant image of the MCA

Keir and I decided to make MCANow a social hub for the museum, allowing visitors to see instantly what was going on in the museum. I quickly set up a twitter account and twitter widget for MCANow. This twitter feed is a heavily populated feed of tweets from VSOs, visitors to the museum and people working behind the scenes at the museum.

Twitter has its own widget for you to use and customise, but Instagram does not, so we decided to make our own! Initially we started to look at 3rd party services such as Stackla, an Aussie startup which creates an aggregation of all social networks. In the end, we decided to make our own.

When we were searching for hashtags to use, we were initially reluctant to use #mcanow as it had spam posts from the Motor Club of America who have an affiliate program that is extremely popular ( have a quick search of #mca on instagram to see what I’m talking about). This led to the elegant solution of having a curated feed. This way we could keep spammers at bay and also use #mcanow for ourselves. When MCA Now started, there was only 2 posts tagged with #mcanow (both of them spam), now there are over 800 unique photos.The final instagram widget turned out in a similar manner to the twitter feed. It shows the main feed that gallery staff take photos of, and also photos that have been liked by the MCA instagram account.

Twitter and Instagram widgets for MCANow

After the success of the instagram widget, it was decided to move it from a small widget to digital signage to be displayed on HD TVs around the museum.

Initially we seeked and loaded all the images of instagram when the page was loaded. This made the load time of the pages 6 seconds, far too long for public display. To rectify this, images are now saved to the MCA’s server every minute. This was tested on the large displays originally with 6 photos, but it was found that we could fit 8 on the screen at once if we decreased the padding to the left and right.

Early test version of the Digital Signage. The bottom right font is in red as I was playing with positioning of the text.

 

Polished version of the digital signage. Notice the change of fonts and the images are now closer together.

Something was missing. I wanted to add a 3D flip transition to the images to draw the eye to screen, and bring a bit of interest to the display. Initially, I used CSS3 transitions and animations to make the images flip. This looked really great while I was testing it on my computer, but when the time came to try it out on the big screens it failed. Miserably. None of the images were moving and two were displayed at once. The digital screens are using an old version of firefox that doesn’t support CSS3, so it was back to the drawing board.

 

Final version of the digital signage screen with 8 photos at once.

I started looking for jQuery plug ins that would produce a similar effect, there were some, but they all had issues with frame rates and generally didn’t look as good as I would have liked. In the end I used css transforms and hid one image behind the other, after a set time the back image would drop in front of the original image. I used the jQuery library to ease in the drops so the look a bit more lifelike. Once this was uploaded to the big screens it looked fantastic. The images were loading, and flipping, and (most importantly) members of the public were taking and sharing photos tagged with #MCANow. I had a moment of “oh wow this is impressive” when I was in the MCA’s cafe and on the screen I could see the instagram screen that I had made and in the reflection of the screen I could see the Sydney Opera House.

MCA Now on the digital screens in the MCA Cafe.

 

After one more week of tyding up the code and finishing documentation, the internship had suddenly run its course, just as uni started to raise its hectic assignment filled head. My last day at the MCA was making sure everything was tickety boo, all the documentation of code was completed and everything was working as expected. I had lunch with another intern Kelly and we took instagram photos of our lunch. The last thing to do was to take a nice photo of me in front of one of the digital signage screens. If you look closely at the photo, you can see a photo of me in the photo of me.

Standing in front of my creation! MCA NOW!

 

Overall it was a great experience. It was a great way to see behind the scenes at a large art institution, although I only saw a small sliver of the full workings. A huge thank you to all who helped me out: Keir and Tristan for being such nice interviewers after my crash, and for being such nice 'bosses' :) To Keg De Souza for giving me advice and being heaps rad all of the time. Thanks to Mel and Justin and the other MCA staff I talked to. Thanks to my mum for letting me stay at her house :)

HUGE HUGE HUGE HUGE Thanks to Lucas Ihlein for pointing me towards this internship, giving me heaps of advice throughout the application process, being an excellent reference and overall just being the best. Thanks Lucas!

 

Visit MCA Now or visit the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia to see the digital screens.

Day 11+ 12

MCA NOW IS ZOOMING!  

Digital signs are on! Live. Open to the public. Looking sexy as hell.

8b8

This week was spent mainly polishing the digital signage section of MCA NOW. We want to show the public an glimpse of the digital version of the physical space, and how people are interacting with the space, artwork and museum on instagram. Currently we are showing 8 of the latest images uploaded or liked by MCA staff, and the MCA staff are liking images taken at the MCA (tagged with geolocation, #mca, or other relevant tags like #anishkapoor)

It looks really polished now. The fonts have been replaced with the MCA’s default font (its Katarine for those of you who are interested) and the logo is in place, and we have a super sexy grid.

 

The images that we are showing are in fact a random selection of 8 images from the last 20 images taken and liked. If someone is sitting and watching the screen for ages, each refresh of the screen will look different and have at least some new photos. When the feed is busy, new photos will be seen each time. When the museum is slow, we still have what appears to be a fresh selection of images. I have been putting heaps of effort into getting a image flip for the images to draw the eye, show more images and also give the experience of constantly new and updated images. CSS3 provides some really nice 3D transitions that are also fairly lightweight. So I put a couple of hours into trying to get them to work and finally when I had something looking a bit snazzy we went downstairs to the digital signs to give it a test run. Nadda. Turns out the digital signs are running an older version of firefox that doesn’t support CSS3 so no nice flips for us right now…. I have been working on a ‘fall down’ effect with jquery that hopefully will be implemented next week. It was a bit of a disappointment that I couldn’t get it working this week, but it just means I have to work extra hard next week. On the Wednesday afternoon I did lots of adjustments to the spacing and layout infront of the cafe’s digital screen. I looks really good on the giant displays!

MCA Day 7, 8, 9 +10

  Things are moving rapidly with MCA NOW, both the twitter and instagram widgets are polished and public, and looking very snazzy! The instagram widget is now super polished and looking quite sexy! Nice round corners and cool colours, and it is working! AND its live! Hooray!

 

I have been a bit lazy with blog posts, but I have been very busy between internship, work, moving house and playing settlers of catan!

FRQfh

On Tuesday night after work last week, the digital media team from the MCA headed to Sydney town hall to see Sir Tim Burners Lee give a lecture on the web. It was very interesting and he was quite an engaging speaker. The way he talked made it so clear that he was a computer scientist, which is really great! I think he is probably the most well known computer scientist alive today, so it was great to see him talk. He said some great stuff that made me really excited to be a programmer. “Lots of people see computers like white goods, like a fridge. You get one, you bring it hmoe and you fill it with things you like. If you dont have the things you like, or its broken, you get it repaired or buy a new one. This is where computers are different, you can program your comuter to make it do what you want’ - Tim Burners Lee.

 

After TBL’s talk there was an over crowded panel, and then a surprise projection mapping show on the back wall of the town hall…. It felt really out of place, like a 1990’s rave show that was impressed by PCs being connected to each other.

MCA day 5+6

Hello! Welcome back! Yes I have been naughty and haven't updated! But to be fair I was living in a leaky yucky house with no internet.... but now I am living in super nice house with INTERNET!! Hooray for modern technology!

 

Rainy day at the MCA

Talking of modern technology, I took the above 'cinemagraph' with my new Nokia Lumia 820 (plug! but actually it was given to me under the pretence that I use it so I can sell them) I think its a pretty cool little feature :)

MCA NOW beta

Lots of progress has been made since we last spoke. There is a live version of MCA NOW which is really exciting. After working on a project for a while and seeing few results, having something to show for your hard work is always a great feeling. mca.com.au/now is now floating around the internet, although there are no links to it (except that one ;) ) It has been really great to show friends and family what I have been working on.

So what is MCA NOW doing? (I love the name: It's very easy to make puns) Well, at the moment it tells you if the museum is currently open or closed, what the weather is doing at the MCA and most excitingly, shows curated feeds for twitter and instagram. Why curated? Well, as we talked about last time, #MCA is full of spam, so now we have an independent twitter feed that is dedicated to NOW. We also have an independent  instagram. We are giving gallery staff (you know, the people that tell you "please don't touch the artworks sir") iPod touches so that they can keep an eye on twitter and instagram for relevant MCA posts to retweet or like. Gallery staff can also contribute content, eg "Check out how busy Kapoor is right now" or upload a photo of something special to instagram. Hopefully this will keep the streams flowing full of fresh content! This also lets the public know about MCA NOW quickly, as gallery staff can talk to guests they see using instagram, and then show them MCA NOW.

Cool stuff!

I am keen to get out into the gallery and do some testing: talk to some guests about what they think of the website, if they would use it, what could be done better and just to see how they go about using the site. I would also like to talk to some gallery staff and see what they think about using the site and what they think of browsing through twitter and instagram to get relevant results.

MCA Day one and two.

First day at the MCA was exciting, a bit daunting, but very interesting. Tristan gave me a quick tour of the museum before it was open to the public. My favourite part was probably seeing Anish Kapoor’s My Red Homeland from a viewing deck above the floor, not open to the public. Pretty rad to see such a large scale work in an empty room. After the tour it was time to get to work! Keir ran through the project with me, MCA NOW. Sky Mirror

MCA NOW is a website that takes in the physical space of the museum and presents it as a website that can be viewed on a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. One of the key elements that make up MCA NOW is using live location data from inside the museum to present what areas are popular NOW. This would be useful to see what are popular exhibions to see, or to see what artworks lots of people are looking at. Conversely, it will be able to show you the least busy galleries for people who prefer to visit with less people around. It will also show when the cafe is most popular. There is other great location data we can get (for MCA admin, rather than the public) like how people move around the galleries, what rooms they visit, how long they spend there and other data that we don’t even know about yet! At the end of a visitor’s visit they can check out their trail and see where they went. MCA NOW will also show relevant data about the weather, when the museum is open, what special events are on today and any mentions of MCANOW on social networks like twitter and instagram.

Day one involved remembering how php works (it’s been about 2 years since I last played with php!) but thanks to the kind folks at learnable.com  who donated access to their site to our hackagong team, I was able to brush up my skills relatively quickly (well, hopefully!). I sucessfully got a php scrip grabbing weather data from the BOM and another script showing when the museum is open and closed, and counting down until when it opens again. Inititally, the countdown was in hours, but this gave stupid results like “the museum reopens in 16 hours”. No one knows how long 16 hours is! Well…… what I mean is, if I asked you to meet me in 16 hours, you wouldn’t know when it was, it would be far better for me to say, “hey I’ll meet you at 10 tomorrow morning”, so currently the scrip will tell you that the museum opens tomorrow at 10, then today at 10, then hour countdown from 3 hours and finally MCA NOW Open. Yeah, get to tie in the name, oh yeah. Day two was more php wrangling, this time with the instagram API. MCA seems to be a very popular acronym, and the museum shares it with the motor club of america, who seem to have some shady affiliate program going on. #mca is flooded with spam of pictures of cash and people saying how you cn make heaps of money too! #mcanow has a few too, but we still want visitors to be able to interact with MCA NOW on instagram, so currently the challenge is to pull the data from instagram based on if the picure is tagged with #mcanow and then if it has #cash or some other spam like triggers, not to show it on our MCANOW stream.

Have a look at a 360° panorama that I made outside the museum.

 

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I am still without internet at home, so blog posts are going up later than I write them.

MCA and all things great!

Hello and welcome back to my blog!

Great things are going on. I just put in an application for a digital media internship at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, located right on one of my favourite places in the world, Sydney Harbour! The internship starts in 2013 and looks really exciting. I have been working hard filling in application forms and selectrion criterias but they have all been handed in now. And even better news, I have a meeting with Melissa from the MCA  on Friday! How great! I will let you know how it goes!

Lots and lots of great stuff to talk about! I am going to be sharing more pictures and positivity with you, so come back soon.

LUTS - Living Under The Stars

This is an essay that I wrote for an assessment task for media arts. The assesment was supposed to be writing about the materiality of an artwork on Cockatoo Island for the 18th Sydney Biennale, but instead I wrote it on the materiality of LUTS - The planetarium I was working on with Keg de Sousa. This is the essay turned into a blog post so you can click on things :)

What exactly is LUTS? Well, it is a planetarium. A mini, Buckminster Fuller inspired, inflatable planetarium. If you have seen Keg’s (Schm/G)Igloo, then you have a basic idea of the shape. An inflatable dome that from the outside is around 3 or 4 meters tall and 7 or 8 meters across. There is a small entrance way on the side of the dome that you can crawl through. Opposite the entrance (on the outside of the dome) is a small fan attached to a tube connected to the planetarium, constantly pumping air into the walls of the dome. The dome is a double skinned, so when you are inside it is similar to a jumping castle, rather that being inside a big balloon. When you are inside the dome, hundreds of twinkling stars meet you, placed all throughout the inner dome. They lightly twinkle all around you, then after a while they all fade to black and different constellations all across the ‘sky’ light up one by one. After a few constellations light up, all the stars go back to their regular twinkling.

Thinking about the different ‘objects’ used in LUTS is an interesting experience both as an audience member and also someone who work on it and has had quite a bit of behind the scenes time with the work. The work has two main parts to it, the LED stars, and the dome itself.

The dome is made out of a black plastic material that Keg described to me as “similar to the material that they make sails out of’. The material is quite light, but doesn’t let any air through. It is flexible enough to fold the whole planetarium into a box, but once air is being pumped into it, it can hold itself up. The design of the dome is probably more important than the material that was used. A hemisphere broken into 12 sections (longitude lines). The sections are sewn together and air is allowed to pass from one section to another. To get into the planetarium, you have to squeeze through a small hole in one of the sections. The entrance was is a certain height and of a certain size that lets people know that they can go inside, and the slight glow from the lights draws people in too.

 

The location of the entrance is also important, if it were placed on the floor (seen to the left), the dome would struggle to maintain its shape and would probably collapse. The right picture shows the position of the entry.

The lights were the part of the project that I worked on the most. Most of my time during the project actually involved me soldering the LED’s prongs to wires that went down the inside of the planetarium that were going to be connected to Arduino chips (small computers) to control the flashing of the lights. The first wire we were using was some craft wire that Keg had brought back from a recent trip to America. Rolls of red and blue wires were quickly soldered together and ended up creating a massive tangled dread lock of wires. Keg’s original plan was to group all the wires together and make them go down together in one thick tube down one of the 12 seams. Keg was worried about the weight of the wires pulling on the dome might be too heavy. A problem we encountered early on was forgetting to mark which blue positive wire went with which red negative wire.  We spent an afternoon following the 3m+ stretch of wire from LED down to its end point, trying to untangle and match the positive and negative wires together.  A few trips to Jaycar later and Keg had a new, lightweight wire that was used for telephones. This wire came as two wires connected to each other (for positive and negative) which sold both the problem of the heavy wires and sorting through the matching wires. These lightweight wires now flow directly from the LED down the inside of the planetarium to the base, where they make their way to one of 3 Arduino computers.

This was a really interesting experience as it was one of the first times that I had really thought about exactly what was going on behind the scenes of an artwork. The wires are just as much a part of the work as the dome itself, without them there would be no lights. But the audience does’t see or think about the wires. The choice of wire that was used played a key part in the artwork. It is really interesting how this is an aspect of the work that is hidden (as are the computers that drive the lights).

 

There were 2 different types of LEDs used for the planetarium, ones with large bulbs that focused the light, and slightly smaller dimmer LEDs that spread the light at a wider angle. All of the LEDs were white, but some of them varied in temperature, so there are some that are a more yellow hue, some with a cooler blue hue.

The LEDs were programed to twinkle and fade between 7 different shades of brightness. When we inflated the planetarium and turned on the lights, something odd happened. The lights would twinkle normally, but when they were supposed to go completely off, some would stay just the tiniest bit lit, no lighter than a glow in the dark toy. But they weren’t completely off. This wasn’t something programmed in. The computer was sending the message to the light to turn off, but somehow a small amount of power was still going through and it managed to make them glow ever so slightly. Rather than worrying or try to fix this ‘bug’, Keg decided to embrace the seemingly innate ability of the LEDs to represent far away stars.  The final effect is amazing. Bright constellations flow across the sky, while tiny stars glow in the distance.

The bulbs of the LEDs are visible, while the prongs and wires are hidden behind the material as mentioned above. The LEDs are held in place by poking the prongs through the material and letting the material of the dome hold them in place (see the diagram to the left). The materiality of the dome allowed the led prongs to be pushed through, but was strong enough to hold the weight of the LED and the weight of the wires attached. Fun fact: over one kilometer of wire in inside the planetarium.

 

The first time we inflated the dome , uploaded the ‘twinkle’ code to the Arduinos and turned on the lights was an amazing moment. The lights all flicked on and started twinkling. “Wow” I said. “Yay!” said Keg. It was beautiful. Twinkling lights were all that could be seen. The dome is covered in them. It is large enough to stand in, but small enough to take up your entire view. All your vision is taken up by the black material and (more importantly) the twinkling stars. Keg called Lucas [Abela] in to have a look. “Beautiful, well done Keg!” he said as he leaned over to give her a kiss. “Rory and Danae helped too!” said Keg. Lucas leaned over and gave me a peck on the cheek. “Danae can get hers next time”. When Danae came over later that night, Lucas continued with his celebratory kissing spree.

It is hard to comment on the audience reaction to LUTS for two reasons:

  1. Everyone that I saw look at it was involved in making it
  2. It hasn’t been publicly shown! (Opens in Brisbane on the 24th of August) [At the time that I wrote this, It hadn't opened. You can see it now!! More info here.]

But from my own experience I know that it is a totally surrounding experience. You are not looking at a painting or a picture on a wall, you are inside the art.

Once it was working I spent a long time just sitting in it, watching the stars and the constellations move. It is really beautiful, peaceful and very reminiscent of looking at the real stars in the night sky. The only other person who has seen the work was Dodo the Husky. He didn’t seem to be amazed as the rest of us.

 

 

Working with Keg on the planetarium was a wonderful experience that I learned a lot from. Coming from a computer science back ground, everything I have generated has been digital. Everything has had a file format attached to part of it (are file formats a digital medium?). Seeing Keg’s process drawings revealed to me how much thought and effort needs to go into creating something for the physical world. Working out if the black material and air pressure could support the weight of all the wires, what was the best way to position the wires so they were invisible to the audience? Where should the entrance be placed? Size and location were also key in creating and perfecting the audience’s experience. All the materials used served a purposes, and the nuances of the materials provided something that couldn’t be generated if other materials were used.