My Tea Party Nightmare

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!

 

TextViz

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.

The site is currently up in a ..very alpha.. state here. I’ll post updates when we get things to work better. The Processing sketch works wonderfully, but unfortunately not in javascript mode as there is a disconnect between Processing 2.0 and Processing.js in their data loading functions. When I figure that out I’ll post both up as well. Just a heads up!

-Ali

Animation

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.

Creating an API for a Tapestry

I recently met Marshall Reese and Nora Ligorano, the creators of the Fiber Optic Tapestry, a digital light sculpture. The Tapestry is a series of small square grids of woven fiber optics lit by super brite LED’s, encased and hung up on the wall. The system is driven by a series of programs written by several collaborators which can be visualizations of static scripts or dynamically pulled data.

The tapestry is gorgeous. If you’ve only seen photos or videos you really haven’t had a chance to appreciate how amazing it is. ¬†Marshall and Nora are building a second version and are looking for more visualizations and animations to be built for the tapestry, and I’m hoping to join their long list of amazing collaborators.

My final project for ICM is to attempt to create a library of sorts of functions and classes that will allow for the creation of scripts for the tapestry, as well as a WYSIWYG environment to ‘draw’ onto the tapestry and animate.

Collaborative coding and creation

School was out this Monday and Tuesday as a result of the Columbus Day holiday which they evidently take very seriously here in New England. Nonetheless I had to work at the Equipment Room, which meant that I had to report to an empty campus and work on an almost empty floor. I say almost because this is ITP, even when the floor is closed the floor is never empty. I ran into my coworker Mark Kleback and Phan Visutyothapibal who were working on a piece of code for a collaborative project. They had decided to “shoot” text out of the screen at the viewer in a matter that resembled the cosmic rays shooting through the universe in this frame from 2001: A Space Odessey:

Cosmic Ray Scene from 2001 Space Odyssey
Cosmic Ray Scene from 2001 Space Odyssey

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A more complex primitive

I’ve been working on a slightly more complex primitive box. Not entirely sure why. Nonetheless I’ve been having some fun with the challenge of wrapping my head around a 3D object, and I’ve managed this little piece of code:

*hint, hold the mouse to see how different the box actually is than the simple primitive.
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Simple Animated Complexity

We were watching the mesmerizing animations and mechanations of John Cage’s Matrix 3 last week in our Computational Media class when I fell in love with the idea of simple repetitions to create motion.

Obviously this is not a new concept, but I’ve always been fascinated by simple shapes and how some incredibly talented individuals can create poetic complex structures through simple repetition. Take for example the intricately designed arabesque tiles found throughout Islamic architecture. Most of these structures are built upon a single vocabulary of specific shapes, but through subtle variations the structures gain a mystic quality.

With this in mind, I went about creating a simple experiment in simple animated complexity.
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