A Lesson In Projection

It’s been a while since I posted. The Festival Of Scott began on November 19th and continued for around 4 days, pretty much making me incapable of coherent speech, let alone dispensing worthwhile blog posts. After The Festival Of Scott ended, The Vacation Of Scott’s Immune System began, then I quickly hit The Madness Of Finders Keepers Preparation, which brings you all up to date…

As part of the music stage I was running at The Finders Keepers markets, I decided to introduce some live visuals. I started building a basic video mixer in Processing, but after a few ill-advised incarnations (v2, v3, v4, v5), I was distracted by the flashy lights of the newly released MaxForLive. With Jitter being a part of MaxForLive, I thought it would be a good chance to dip my toe into the graphic-programming-language-behemoth.

It wasn’t long before I realised I was out of my depth. For anyone looking to MaxForLive/MaxMSP for visuals, don’t expect to be able to jump straight into the deep end. You really do need to start with the basics, which Max does provide with a truly excellent tutorial system. Even though it’s a graphic language, it’s certainly no easier than taking on something like Processing. In fact, I’d probably recommend starting with Processing – I personally believe learning the basics of code helps to understand some of the structures within Max. And there are excellent opportunities to combine the two on the way.

Decision on output environment aside, I went to work turning the December flyer by Kevin Tran into something I could use for animation. I dropped it into Illustrator, traced the bulk of it with vector shapes and sent it through to After Effects, which is quickly becoming my favourite Adobe product.

The wiggle expression is also becoming my favourite quick trick in After Effects. AE allows you to input some shorthand code to take a lot of the time consuming work out of motion graphics and the wiggle expression adds some great random movement to elements. Here it is working its magic on The Finders Keepers title, with some basic puppeting on the ghost characters…

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More successful than the wiggling title was creating falling autumn leaves, for which I used this fantastic tutorial to create the 2.5D effect. I took around 30 vector leaf shapes from Illustrator, duplicated them in After Effects and added the wiggle expression to each (around 150 in the end). This is the result…

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These videos were made to mix with a live feed from the PS3 camera and artist titles (below). Using another great tutorial for video processing in Jitter, I put together a basic three channel video mixer to combine the Quicktime movies and live video in MaxForLive. A holiday project for me is to learn more about the Live-specific objects in MaxForLive, so I can make video responsive to audio.

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It may seem a little self-indulgent to post each of these videos here, but it turned out that here is the only place they’ll get to see the light of day (so to speak). In fact, it’s the light of day which stopped me from being able to use these videos at The Finders Keepers at all.

I’m planning on working with large scale outdoor projection next year at uni, so it was a hard lesson learned that a 3K lumen projector simply won’t cut it during daylight – even indoors. In fact, with the stage blown out with theatre lights, the projector didn’t even cut through at night time. Even when moving the projector just a few meters away from the screen, the amount of light in the space totally overwhelmed what is essentially a consumer level projector (at least in terms of brightness).

So whilst I was disappointed, I did learn how important it is to test this kind of equipment under performance conditions first. It’s also encouraged me to do some more research on how projectors work and what kind of machine I’m likely to need for any projects I take on next year. And perhaps to begin some none too subtle suggestions that my uni simply must have these resources for me to (ab)use.

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