Hardware and cabling

After figuring out that the simplest way for me to use 4 projectors was to use a PC that supported 4 outputs, my tutor (Liam Birtles) got in touch with IT at the university to ask whether they had a PC that would meet my requirements. They kindly said that they would build a PC for me with a 4 output video card. The PC has an NVIDIA Quadro M4000 graphics card inside, which has 4 Displayport outputs:

The projectors that I am lending out are all HDMI input, therefore I needed to get the right cables for the project – either HDMI-Displayport cables, or straight HDMI leads with a HDMI-Displayport adapter. Due to the sheer size of the project, I also needed to get cables that are long enough to stretch from the PC to the far side of the cylinder – approx 8-10㎡. These are the leads I ended up using:

1x 1.5m Displayport-HDMI cable
1x 5m HDMI cable with Displayport-HDMI adapter
2x 10m HDMI cable with Displayport-HDMI adapter

IT have also given me a transmitter, in case I need to go further than 10m.

The circumference of the cylinder is approx 6.3m, therefore each of the 4 projectors needs to project a throw of approx 1.6m wide. When rehearsing, I measured that to get a 1m wide throw on the surface, the projector needs to be approx 1.50m away, therefore, I need my projectors have around 3m throw distance to project the size I need.

Because I want the audio to be listened via headphones, I ordered wireless/bluetooth headphones. I did not realise that most PC’s do not have bluetooth capabilities, so I then had to purchase a USB Bluetooth dongle to be able to use the headphones.

New cylinder structure – 2nd Iteration

After the construction of the cylinder did not go as planned last time, I said that I would try out using solid metal bars instead of fibreglass rods, as these will be more sturdy and will not warp when put under any pressure. With the help of my mum, we were able to connect 3 bars together using bolts and screws because we could not find a single bar long enough (6.3m) –

My mum also created an extra piece of fabric to fold over the bar to hide this connection.

We then attached roman blind chord with toggles at points around the cylinder, with the chord tied to a clip in the middle (like last time)

This allowed for us to evenly erect the shape by making the toggles tighter until we eventually had a taut cylinder that is ready to have visuals projected onto.

Reflections All Around

The theme of reflections has been at the forefront of my project, from completing artists research to including it in my visuals as the predominant subject, I started to notice more and more reflections in my every day life that caught my attention.

The video below is a compilation of various videos that I have captured, that use reflection and refraction to create wonderful patterns, colours and glows. This style is reflected within my work, as I have taken inspiration from the colours and patterns that occur.

Visuals – Development

This post is an update of the visuals I am making. Since the last post about visuals, I feel they have developed a lot and I have learnt much more about the software and its capabilities.

The video below shows a compilation of 4 visuals – the first visual (0:00-0:10) uses Particular to mimic the patterns and colours of the reflections that I have been taking inspiration from. When there is movement in reflections, the intensity of the glow changes; this is why I chose to make the glow of the particles audio reactive. To develop this visual, I would like to slow down the wiggle movement as I think it is too fast at the moment, and I would also like to decrease the intensity of the glow because sometimes it burns out too bright.

The second video (0:10-0:17) uses the visuals I created for my dissertation, but they have been amended to fit the shape of the composition. I have added two opposite visuals which react to the audio in many ways – the x and y position of the emitter is reactive, as well as the amount of particles emitted. For improving this visual, I intent to add more colour into it, as well as making it bigger to fill up more of the composition.

The 3rd visual (0:17-0:27) is the start of a visual that I am wanting to progress much more. It makes use of a 3D looking sphere that is reflecting light, it then displaces in time to the music. I still need to tweak the audio reaction as it is slightly jumpy, as well as tweaking the surface of the sphere so it it completely smooth and does not have ridges in it.

The final visual on the video (0:27-0:41) makes use of Trapcode Form to make the visual look like a particle field. This is a development from the visuals in my Initial Visual Designs post; I have included the use of vibrant colours, as well as making full use of the camera tool to create movement and depth within the composition.

I still have a lot of development to do with these visuals but I am happy with how they are looking at the moment, and I am confident that I can change them a lot to improve the overall look.

Future Development

Throughout the process, I have been thinking a lot about the scope of this project. Whenever I had thoughts about how the cylinder could be built or the materials used etc, it made me think of entirely new ideas. When I was researching ways to build the cylinder, I looked at gazebos, tents, marquees, which made me think that Vivid Skin 2.0 could either be a tunnel in which the audience walks through and it surrounds them overhead – like when walking through an aquarium tunnel – or it could be individual domes in which the audience could lay down in and relax to the audio-visual performance.
Below are some rough initial sketches of how these could look:

For future development, I would like to work on making it more portable, because I can see this working at music and arts festivals as an installation. I would need to create a cylinder that is study while free-standing, but also has the flexibility to be mobile. With this, I also then think it would be a good idea to create a real-time system for the music visualisation, so the video would not have to be rendered prior. This then leaves options open for further interactivity and immersion, for example it could stream live music from a festival and automatically compose visuals through real-time rendering.

I would like to keep progressing this project once I have finished, because I do believe it has a lot of scope and a lot of ways in which it can be improved to heighten the overall immersive experience for the audience.

Didactic Text

As part of the unit, we have to write an approximately 100 word didactic text, briefly explaining our work. This will go as a caption within the exhibition, as well as on our profile on the exhibition website. For inspiration writing this, I went onto artists websites including; Joanie Lemercier, Ela Boyd, Lorna McNeill, as well as the TATE website, and looked at the captions for their artworks. It was interesting reading them because it explains how they perceive their work, even though others may have different perceptions of it. After reading some of them I became inspired to write mine, and this is what I wrote:

Vivid Skin explores the notions of audio-visual performance through an intimate projection experience; enabling audiences to transcend their everyday realities.
The installation is formed from a suspended enclosed cylinder, and combines light-projected, audio-reactive visuals with suited music compositions. Multiple projectors are used to create a seamless, 360° vision around the curved surface.
Audiences are given the opportunity to enter the cylinder individually and immerse themselves within the sensory performance that surrounds them. The installation becomes a window into the world of escapism through music performance.

Safe in Sound

One of the initial and predominant reasons for me creating this project, stemmed from my passion for live music and love of going to see live music concerts. For me, when I am at a concert, I am completely consumed by the music and what is going on around me, and for just that moment, nothing else matters other than the music and the atmosphere within the room.
Although I also love listening to music when I am at home, I don’t get that same sense of escapism that I do when I am at a concert, purely because there are so many other distractions that take my concentration and mind away from the music.

On 17th March I went to a gig from one of my favourite bands Lower Than Atlantis, and during their set, the lead singer Mike Duce stopped to talk about their latest album ‘Safe In Sound’ and why they had named it that.

“A lot of people use music as an escape. For me, I do my thinking when I go running, and I’ll have headphones on. I’ll listen to music, and I’ll escape. Whatever you’ve got going on in your life, for those three and a half minutes of a song it doesn’t matter. You feel safe in sound, that’s what the title means to me and maybe this album could be that for people. It could offer that escape. Just put it on and forget about the real world, you’re safe in sound.”
– Mike Duce

All these reasons combined, is the initial reasoning behind me making this project – I wanted to make something where people could listen to music with no distractions from anything other than the synced visuals. The idea was to merge the sense of being in a live concert, into the individual environment – the feeling of escaping forgetting everything else for that one moment in time.

Project Name

After deciding that I liked the name Synergy for my project, I mentioned it to a few people, who sadly did not have the same thoughts as me – they thought it sounded cliché and like a business buzz-word, which after doing some more googling on it, I realised they were right. I set myself the challenge of writing up everything I could think of to do with the project, and related words, to try and think of a new title:

Some of the titles that were a possibility, were:
– Particular Revolution
– cantusXoculus
– Candence Canvas
– Magic Lantern
But after a meeting with my supervisor, who suggested the canvas of the cylinder is almost like a ‘skin’, I decided I wanted to use that, along with something to describe the visuals. I see the visuals as being bright and colourful, therefore linking to the word ‘vivid’. Combining the two words to become ‘Vivid Skin’ gives a sense of enigma and mystery to the project, while also being obvious once one knows more about the project.
Next, I need to put together some designs for Vivid Skin for the print collateral.

Connecting multiple projectors…

I booked out 4 projectors from the media kit desk at uni, and just before I went to collect them I thought – how am I even going to connect these together to display different outputs? My MacBook only has 1 HDMI port and my iMac only supports 2 outputs, so I needed to find a different solution.

I thought about using a HDMI splitter, but then realised that would repeat the same image 4 times, rather than different images. I asked my tutor (Liam Birtles) for help on this issue, and he gave me a few options: using 4 computers and sync the video playback over the network, use a raspberry pi video wall, or any other video wall technology. Ideally, I do not want to use 4 computers because this requires a lot of equipment that may be needed by other students. So that left me with trying to use video wall technology, however, I also asked my housemate (Daniel Radford) if he knew of any possible solutions, and he told me his PC supports 4 displays. The outputs on his PC are: 3DP, 1 HDMI and 1 DVI. The connection on the projectors are only HDMI, therefore meaning I needed to get connectors and converters to DP to be able to use the PC. Luckily, the IT department at Uni had various cables and connectors, as well as me purchasing 1 DP-HDMI lead.

So to test on my housemates PC, I had 1 DVI-HDMI lead, 1 DP-HDMI adapter, 1 DP-HDMI lead, and 1 straight HDMI-HDMI. We plugged them all in and opened an image in Resolume, and we were able to put 4 different images onto 4 different displays, therefore showing that this method will work for my project!

I am in contact with the IT department at Uni about providing me with a PC that supports 4 displays, so that I don’t have to use my housemate’s all the time, however if it is not possible to get a PC from uni, then I can still use my housemate’s.

Fibreglass rods vs Metal poles

Near the beginning of this unit, once I had decided on a fabric to use, I made a mini/rough version of the cylinder, using fibreglass rods and a small amount of white polycotton to demonstrate how the cylinder would work:

However, after trying to hoist the cylinder at uni and realising it was not going to work, I had to rethink what I am going to use for the main circle, because the fibreglass rods were not strong enough to hold the shape. The main reason for using these fibreglass rods was for flexibility and portability, because I did not want the cylinder to only work in one specific place – I wanted to be able to move it wherever I needed it to go. Due to this not working in the space, I have had to use something more sturdy, however, this means it is less portable.

I have chosen to use long metal bars, which will be bent and hammered into the circle shape, so hopefully they will stay in that shape and not collapse like the fibreglass rods. These metal bars can also be drilled into, to make holes to tie the fabric around, as well as tie string through for hanging/hoisting purposes. In the image below, it shows a close up of the metal bar with fabric around it, but also a cable tie holding the fabric into the right place.

I will be testing this new metal structure soon and will be blogging the update.