Digital Studio – Week 11

Digital Studio – Week 11
Close up of model

It was time to get physical this week, and I decided to create a small-scale mockup of where the project is currently at. I’m well aware that light projections will behave in different ways when in situ (as opposed to sitting on my computer screen), so playing with the intermediary stage of a model building facade is designed to present any problems before they get too… uh… big.

It really was quite nice to get away from the computer for a while, and I spent some time with my old friend, foam-core, enjoying art and craft time…

It's art and craft time!

The facade was based on a cast created by a gaming modeller. This simply provided me with a shape that wouldn’t be too complex to begin with, but still includes plenty of change in depth. Regardless of where I end up installing the final work, it certainly won’t be a flat screen. Once the final space for the piece is locked down, it may be worthwhile creating a more detailed model, to once again test what will be more developed ideas.

The building foundations
Putting in the pillars
Finished facade

I was actually quite happy with the final model. It has some great shapes to play with and enough flat spaces to allow some experimentation between changes in depth. The plan is to now continue using this model to test coding from Max/MSP (MaxForLive) and Quartz Composer, at least until I have an idea of where the work will take place.

The code I used for this mockup was really a culmination of the tests I have been working on in Max/MSP and Quartz Composer up until this point. Using the ability to ‘publish’ parameters in Quartz Composer, I controlled the position and size of Quartz cubes imported into Max/MSP (MaxForLive), with the depth effected by the velocity of MIDI notes, triggered randomly in Ableton Live. The lighting – also created by Quartz’s inbuilt Lighting module – took it’s position from motion tracking (blob detection) via a USB camera, with infrared lens


The full testing setup

The lighting position – controlled by movement captured on camera – was clearly quite jumpy. Whether this was an issue with the camera losing sight of the torch being used or a coding issue, I’m yet to find out. The camera, which was hanging above the setup, was possibly too close to the action to forgive any tilt in the torch lens…



The Max/MSP patches I created for this mockup (image control source and sound control source) have highlighted a few issues that need to be addressed. The first is how to prevent values spiking quickly, like the lighting position and brightness. I also noticed that the more extreme values lost the effect I’m after: when the cubes projected further out, they simply look like 3D models. It was when the lighting and depth of the cubes was more subtle that the effect of the building physically shifting was greater.

Setting up the position and size of each cube was also time-consuming with the patch as it stands. Life would be much simpler if using Memo’s quad-warping patch in Quartz, to quickly stretch each element to fit a position on the building. Having said that, it may also be worth exploring the use of the building facade itself, rendered as a 3D model. It could be interesting to see how much more strain this puts on the computer, processing so many more shapes in Quartz and Max/MSP.

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