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Eliciting a Double Take: Sidewalk Tetherball

September 11, 2012

Assignment: Create a double take installation in public. In collaboration with Ben Light.

Comperas Midterm: Image Time Comparator

March 5, 2012

While working on The Image Time Comparator for my Where-When Picture Project, I felt like it was on a good trajectory for a nice-sized midterm project. In the previous iteration, the user can compare a current webcam image with an image from 24 hours ago by moving the mouse up and down on the screen. Here are the enhancements I made from most significant to least:

  • Viewer can select how far back in time they want to go, from 5 minutes to 6 days
  • Viewer can view embedded time-lapse videos for the past 24 hours and all hourly images since the project started
  • A floating welcome screen introduces the viewer to the project
  • The server now pulls the images from an IP camera instead of a firewire webcam. The firewire webcam was entirely unreliable and the quality of the new camera is better (a little).
  • Mouse movement left to right now moves time forward (instead of up to down)
  • Image was resized so as to fit into browser window without cropping

Coding the interface to select a time frame was incredibly time consuming. I wanted to ensure that the link bar on the bottom indicated which view was selected and that took quite a bit of PHP coding. I also spent many hours tweaking a bash scripts to generate both time-lapses. Here’s what one of them looks like:

# creates timelapse video from all the jpgs saved in the 24 hour folder
# copy files starting from 24h ago to a work directory, named sequentially:
for (( i=1439; i > 0; i-- )) do
  infile="/Users/matt/Sites/images/`date -v-${i}M +%H%M`.jpg"
  newfile=$(printf "/Users/matt/Sites/vid/work/%04d.jpg" ${b}) #04 pad to length of 4
  cp ${infile} ${newfile}
  let b=b+1
# make video from those files: (flags: -r: frame rate, -b: bit rate, -y: force overwrite, -i: input
/usr/local/bin/ffmpeg -r 30 -b 3800 -y -i /Users/matt/Sites/vid/work/%04d.jpg /Users/matt/Sites/vid/work/full24hvid.mp4 &> /Users/matt/Sites/vid/vid.log
# making the videos takes time, we don't want public files
# to be written while they're being accessed by the web user
# so move the ffmpeg output file to replace the public filename:
mv /Users/matt/Sites/vid/work/full24hvid.mp4 /Users/matt/Sites/vid/full24hvid.mp4 
# clean up work files:
rm /Users/matt/Sites/vid/work/*

I am especially proud of this because I haven’t done much bash scripting at all, and this is actually rather complex. It goes through each archived image (which uses a timestamp as a filename), copies it to a working directory with new names (representing the appropriate frame number), 0 through 1439 for each minute in 24 hours. Then it calls ffmpeg to assemble the jpegs into an MP4 and finally, it deletes the work files. This operation is run once an hour, as set up in the crontab.

Electrical Discharge Machining Resources

February 16, 2012

Materials: Any material that conducts electricity

Local EDM Shop: MasterGrind
National/Online Shop: Xact Wire EDM Corporation
National Shop (includes wire and sinker EDM): Reliable EDM

Sinker EDM:

Wire EDM:

Notes about EDM:

  • Doesn’t stress the work piece as with grinding or milling
  • Keeps it cooler, limiting expansion of workpiece (which would harm accuracy)
  • EDM drills for holes too small for a drill bit
  • EDM drills for holes on angles
  • EDM drills for holes within recess
  • EDM drills for deep, small holes
  • Wire EDM for cutting squares
  • Wire EDM for cutting through thick material

Drive By: Project Promotion

February 15, 2012

This Thursday night, February 16th, Sean McIntyre and I will be holding a Drive By on how to promote yourself and your projects to blogs, newspapers, magazines, and television shows:

You’ve made an awesome project and now you want to get a little bit of attention for it, right? Getting press coverage for your work is critical if you want to the maximum amount of opportunities to flow your way. Sean and Matt will share their tips for how to pitch your projects to blogs, newspapers, magazines, and television shows. Sean will talk about integrating PR into your project lifecycle and Matt will give his perspective on pitching and being pitched.

Sound Experiments

February 15, 2012

Our challenge this week was to create a video to go along with a soundtrack that was given to us.

Looking out the Window

February 13, 2012

I’ve been playing around with using face tracking to help make images/renderings of spaces on a computer screen seem more realistic because of the way that they’re responsive to the position of our eyes. I think this would be an interesting thing to play with for websites. I have a bit more work to make it seem more realistic but I’m getting there. It may help to separate the background into additional layers. The code is below:
Here’s the code

Deconstructing Spitzer Hall of Human Origins at AMNH

February 9, 2012

In contrast to the Islamic Lands galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the design in the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins is much more prevalent. Which follows reason. On one hand, the Met is displaying its collection as a way of showing the effect of the spread of Islam on art and artifacts. On the other hand, The Hall of Human Origins starts from a topic: how humans came to be as a species, what makes us similar and different from other species, and what’s so special about our species. The exhibition elements serve the sole purpose to tell this story.

When you enter the exhibit, before you even get to the three topics above, you’re in an area that answers the question “how do we know all this?” To the left is a section on DNA and to the right is a section on fossils. With so much space, media, artifacts, and panels dedicated to these two types of evidence, I couldn’t help but think that it’s a reaction to creationists (a video later in the exhibit is explicitly so). One thing is for sure, the first impression of this area is this exhibit is going to be loaded with information. It feels so rich with information, there’s no way I was going to be able to move through it at a good pace an pick up more than half of it. It feels a bit daunting. The presentation of the information is enticing however. There’s plenty to see, touch, and hear.

The purpose of the second gallery is to allow us to “walk through time” from the first humans about 6-7 million years ago until the first homo sapien, about 15,000 years ago. The signs indicate that there’s a particular way that you’re supposed to walk through the gallery in order to view the story of our evolution in chronological order. The sign says, “just has human evolution did not follow a straight line, neither should you.” This left me a little confused. What exactly does it mean that it didn’t follow a straight line? And then that also initially made me feel that I wasn’t supposed to follow their map. After all, the path on the map may not be straight, but it is linear. So as a visitor, I’m thinking: “Evolution wasn’t a straight line, but it was linear,” not quite sure what that means.

What I liked so much about this gallery was the traditional dioramas in it, those that you would typically find at a museum of natural history. While the exhibit may be entirely modern in style, it’s a bit of a relief that the designers didn’t do away with all traditional forms of exhibition for a museum like this. It was almost comforting to see this familiar exhibit display. The other thing that caught my eye was the use of a very consistent visual style to call out how long ago each element was from. That’s the central idea of this gallery, as we “walk through millions of years of history.” We’re given a clear idea of how time is moving. I found myself looking for this graphical cue in each display in order to keep my “temporal bearings” as I viewed the exhibit.

The next area we walk into is called the Symbolic World. It looks at creative expression in early humans to give us a sense of how they made sense of their world. Using the “viewport” of such artifacts to draw these conclusions is extremely effective in getting this idea across and making me feel that I’m “getting my money’s worth” from the exhibit. It’s also a nice break from looking at bones, fossils and DNA models.

The last gallery ends with the concept of what makes humans so special, focusing on biology (like the brain), language, music, art and a few other elements. This area felt a little too “loose” for me. In other words, I had to work a little harder to understand why I was looking at what I was looking at. The display at the front of the gallery, the ones that tells us why we’re looking at these elements is very text-heavy and this idea is buried in it. If you breeze by that panel, you don’t have a sense of why there are all these displays. I’m not sure how I would approach this differently, and perhaps since the subject matter here is a a lot more disparate, it’s a problem that isn’t easily solved within the realm of exhibition design.

Overall, the exhibit scores fairly high for me. If I would change anything, I would take some stuff away, it almost feels too rich in content. So much so, that it feels daunting. Other than that, the style, flow, lighting, artifacts, and media are all very well presented and were definitely engaging.