A few weeks ago I went to Niagara falls with my wife for a brief vacation over Thanksgiving. It was wonderful, the last time I’d been there was with my family as a child and I couldn’t remember much from the experience. I ended up shooting a few quick videos with my Lumix camera that I held on to, and when we returned I thought some of the video would make for great backgrounds in a animation I was working on.
All I knew at the time was I wanted to draw, I wanted to include the video from the falls, and I was frustrated at the state of American politics. The Thanksgiving break saw the passing of a deadline for a “super committee” to cut the budget deficit gracefully without letting a automatic across the board cut take effect. The deadline came and went without any action from congress.
Now after working with After Effects for several weeks, I’ll be the first to admit that I really don’t know how to work After Effects. It’s the same reason I never liked Flash for animating tweens and shapes, that is, the software algorithms often give you something incredibly unpleasant in the end which you have to spend hours and hours tweaking. Take a look for yourself. It’s not pretty, but it’s something!
Dekunle Somade, one of my many bright classmates and friends at ITP, came to me about an idea of his utilizing SMS messages to create a bulletin board for ITP students and others to communicate instantaneously, without the latency of email and unhindered by the email checking habits of the users of the bulletin board. Instead this was a public announcement system for all of ITP.
His idea has a lot of analogues and a lot of people are playing in the field, SMS is one of the few nearly universally adopted technologies in the world. Where smartphones have limitations, SMS messaging doesn’t. A lot of companies are using SMS to connect with customers and allow for experiential advertising. Dekunle’s idea wasn’t really new, but it was a place to start experimenting with a technology that permeates our world.
Where we thought we can provide something new was in the interface and the visualization. So we grouped together and worked on creating a php script backend that fed JSON to a Processing sketch that would visualize the messages.
Over the summer I worked on several projects that required a great deal of 3D modeling in Sketchup, and I loved it. I’ve worked with software like Maya before, but Sketchup is amazingly easy and fun to work with. When we signed up for courses this term at ITP the Communications Lab Animation section stood out to me. I was hoping to do more of the 3D modeling I did over the summer, but instead on a grander scale and with friends.
Careful however, about your preconceived notions. I assumed we’d be working with 3D modeling but the reality was much more basic and fun than that. The first project for Animation was a stop motion I worked on with my wife. Around this time I was spending a lot of time at ITP working in the ER and on projects, and as any ITPer can attest, you take on some of the attributes and qualities of the walking dead. This is the inspiration for our little project.