10 November 2010

Sweet Delight and Endless Night 111110

I haven't been playing with MaxMSP a lot lately, but Palle Lindqvist gave me a good excuse, enter S.T.M.D

Initially I played a bit with the audio input from an electronic stethoscope, trying to trigger actions on heart beats. I had no clue what Palle, had in mind until recently.
So what is S.T.M.D. ? He describes it as: "Experiential live audio-visual room installation. ". Conceptually I see it as a link between your inner and outer self, both literally and metaphorically, but it all makes sense instantly when you experience it...

Speaking of which, you are invited to the Sweet Delight and Endless Night group exhibition.

Plainly put exhibition = prohibition of inhibition, so do expect a surreal experience.
We'll be at 82 Great Eastern Street, from 7PM to 10PM.

Oh, I haven't talked about the technology yet...Would a magician give away his tricks ? Maybe after the show, so check back later for the nerdy bits.
All I can say for now is: lights, cameras, electronic stethoscope.


Well, not to bad for something pulled of quickly, but certainly not ideal. The complete system was quite complex: Heart beats detected through an electronic stethoscope and a webcam are the inputs. The outputs are lights controlled using
the DMX protocol and the heart beats and a projector displays the webcam feed on a plane drawn with OpenGL that gets 'exploded', again, on heart beats.
There was little time and many things to do, so in short: lots of dirty little hacks.

Here is a stethoscope signal processing test patcher:

Heart Beat Patcher Test from George Profenza on Vimeo.

One of the trickiest part was getting accurate readings, which were almost impossible in the installation's environment: a small room next to a massive room which resonated with the audience of multiple other pieces, but that's what a group exhibition is about. On the other hand, given it was an independent effort by a few students, it turned out ok.

Here is a fragment of the recordings Palle did. You will notice toward the end of the video that the beats (distorted webcam feed) isn't all that accurate:


2 October 2010

FOTB 2010

Another Flash On The Beach just finished, and it was a great one.
This year had just as much magic as my first one, back in 2007.

It even had a funny side, because as disturb media we did the opening act.

Found it hard to choose sessions yet again. This year though, attendees should be able
to access video recordings at some point. I hope this won't take too long. I remember the some of the videos made the site in spring.
Again, couldn't find a balance between design and development. Maybe it's just me, but sessions seemed more developer focused. Little mention about flash animation, but in defense, there were brilliant talks on motion graphics/video by Nando Costa(who made the amazing titles this year,featured bellow), Julien Vallée(whom disturb were delighted to meet) and Mr.Imagination-Running-Loose himself Cyriak Harris

FOTB 2010 Titles from Süperfad on Vimeo.

The theme this year seemed to be playfulness, a celebration of homo ludens in any environment, be it commercial or not.
Even from the first session, Grant Skinner showcased fun projects that tied creativity, games and practicality somehow together, from sound visualizers to Android/Phidgets/voice controlled cars. Speaking of sound visualizers, at the LFPUG Aftermath, Grant explained the fast and easy way to do visualizers in as3: leftPeak and rightPeak instead of computeSpectrum.

Andre Michelle did a great session on dynamic sound generation in flash player 10 and showed some awesome tunes people created using Audiotool. Also, he generously released the code used in his workshop.

Mario Klingermann announced his last talk for at least a year, but showed some amazing uses of image processing, including solving jigsaw puzzles. Luckily I had the chance to exchange a few thoughts on solving puzzles (as I'm solving simpler ones) and got some pretty good advice. It looks like I will be learning a lot of new things in the near future. Thank you for your help Mario!

Unfortunately I missed Stacey Mulcahy's session in favor of toxi's one. His session explained why opensource is so important in a very articulated and logical manner. It sounded so simple, to grow or not to grow...isolated systems do not develop as well as the ones in an open environment. It was a passing of experience from years of coding, and an great proof of that are the toxiclibs:

toxiclibs showreel 2010 from postspectacular on Vimeo.

I was lucky enough to win one of his 3d prints generated with toxic libs...YAY!

Robert Hodgin held another inspiring talk. His journey through computation and art helped gain hands on experience in re-creating things found in nature that we often take from granted. Personally I was very pleased to see how a mind that seemed split between art and logic somehow found peace. I say somehow, but what I mean is doing what you love and restlessly devote yourself to this. From magnetism to Radiolaria, Robert makes me think of a contemporary Ernst Haeckel.

Image originally from Robert Hodgin's Portfolio

Stefan Sagmeister closed the 1st day with a showcase of great design projects and a lot of lessons for life. If there's one word I could summarize Stefan by, without using foul language, I would say confidence.

The second day kicked off with the Elevator Pitch. A lot of good speakers, too little time(3mins each). Flashmagazine has a good feature on that. Some of the speakers, like Nicolas Barradeau, should have their very own session. There were other interesting talks on that pitch, including the Doomsday Console, as3sfxr(Thomas had an awesome 8-bit style presentation as well), xJSFL and many others. I thought I would see a talk by Matt Pearson this year, but he seems to be a bit busy with a great book on Processing and Generative Art.

Branden Hall also touched a bit on opensource, but also focused on HYPE!. Last year I posted a few details on HYPE!. It is a great framework, and hopefully more artists/designers will tinker with it. I remember the "good ol' days" when people just hacked away in flash mixing illustrations and scripts to produce amazing pieces. People like Erik Natzke, Joshua Davis, James Patterson, etc. matured creatively from such experiences, and still use Flash/actionscript to this day. Hopefully more people will pick this up and just have fun!
Branden also briefly mentioned scheme, and my mind went straight to live coding and fluxus. I recommended this to Branden and he was excited about it. Who knows, maybe we'll see something materialize from this.

Joa Ebert was the highlight on technical achievements in the world of Flash Player this year. From Apparat, Joa started of a new project called JITB which is a Flash Player that runs in the Java Virtual Machine. There were plently of amazing tech demos, including compiling Pixel Bender shaders to GLSL Shaders. I understood the bit about GLSL shaders as I played a used them a bit for my OpenGL coursework, but the rest of the talk was way over my head to be honest. At one point I was wondering why not learn Java instead, or use something else. One thing I can think of is, with this project, people that already know actionscript and use it for art installations/design projects could use they're existing knowledge, but get much faster results than what the Flash Player can deliver at the moment. That is one application that comes to mind, but surely there must be more.

After such a technical session I went to see Florian Schmitt's session. At some point in the talk, the line between art and design got blurred, which was nice too see.
Julien Vallée
showcased fun and playful motion graphics, again the theme of home ludens re-occured indirectly, not only in the colours and motion, but also in the material themselves. Instantly I was reminded of how fun it was to play with paper,scissors and colours.

Unfortunately I missed Mind Candy's talk, but my only excuse is, I did see them at LFPUG. Sorry Cat! I briefly spotted Mike Jewell, whom I had the pleasure to meet at Goldsmiths, and get his help as a PhD student. He did quite some impressive work for Moshi Monsters while he was there.

Nando Costa did a great talk about motion graphics, commercial work and the fun of just making things you like, even if they prove to be successful commercially or not. I didn't expect to see a session about failed projects, but that is a key to moving forward. You learn more from making mistakes than from fearing them. Fear never lead to anything, at least when creating. I linked this to being open vs. closed.

Brendan Dawes closed the second day with a brilliant talk. Less noisy than 2007(no more MaxMSP/turntable/webcam action), but insightful nevertheless.
It tied in with the cool things we learned in the Creative Computing course. If you've liked the videos from his session, do check out the ones from our Audio Visual Processing course

After 2 nights of drinking, I made it in halfway though the Jam Session.

Linked to the Elevator Pitch and people that didn't belong there, just because they're that good, I was glad to see Iain Lobb in a full session. I've seen a few of his previous talks. Obviously, he knows what his talking about and has plenty of hands-on experience, but his passion for what he does makes him a brilliant presenter. Proof of that, he filled the whole theater in just a few minutes and there were plenty more people that couldn't even make it it. John Davey should reconsider location for a future talk. If you're interested in Game Design and Flash, do have a look at his blog as he also shares the awesome interface he used in talk.

I missed Doug McCune's session, which sounded very interesting, but saw some awesome demos and learned about Spherical Harmonics in Ralph Hauwert's session.

Cyriak Harris was a proper break from the "ugly face of reality", if you haven't already, do check out his awesome videos.

Joshua Hirsch from bigspaceship had a talk about personal project in a commercial environment. I didn't see his talk last year, but I understood the one this year was pretty similar. Don't know if anybody else noticed, but the guy complained about not many employees committed to personal projects. After he mentioned that bigspaceship takes ownership of the ideas and some of the incentives were things like "meal in a restaurant" it was obvious to me. disturb isn't as large as bigspaceship, but it certainly treats personal projects and encourages ideas better.

The closing talk was given by Jared Tarbell. Another great talk about the link between nature, simple agents and emergent systems...creating complexity from simple behavior. Some new work was showcased, and there were a lot of insights into the manufacturing process of his artwork, from the algorithm running on a computer to the physical world(be it print, laser engraving, etc.)
In 2007 I saw Jared's talk for the first time and was amazed. Generous as he is, he gave some of his art pieces to the public, but I was way in the back. I was a bit sad I couldn't get one of his wood prints, but somehow, he threw one that landed straight onto my lap. That was magic! This year I thought I should go to the front. I didn't manage to catch a wooden cube, but chance made it so, that one felt into my open bag...again I might be tempted to carry on about how random things aren't actually random, and there's a reason for most events, but I will stop here. Luckily I had a little something for Jared too. With such awesome people to fuel my confidence, you will see some generative art pretty soon...

17 September 2010

Arduino & Actionscript - The resources

Things are getting busy again, but finally managed to get a bit of time to put the materials together from my talk at LFPUG

You can download the resources here.
The zip contains the slides(pdf), a readme file with instructions on how to setup your files for Arduino and how to configure serproxy.

The video recording of the talk is available (thanks Influxis)

If you have any problems comment on this page or send me an email.

Thanks again to Tink for the opportunity to talk at LFPUG and big thanks to disturb media for supporting me
with the presentation. The slide design is crafted by Jason Turner.

Big thanks to Daniel Hirschmann
for the awesome course taught at Goldsmiths. Remember, there are lot of good resources on the Physical Computing Wiki . Feel free to make use of Daniel's mailing list([physcomp][at][lists.plankman.com]).

This post should be on the disturb blog, but at the moment, Jace is a bit busy making sandwiches.

Conrad's talk will be at Flash On the Beach.
Disturb have a few surprises for you there.

See y'all offline !

16 August 2010

Arduino & Actionscript - The talk

Tink was kind enough to allow me to give a talk at the London Flash Platform User Group later this month.

I will be presenting an introduction to Arduino, sensors, actuators and all that geeky goodness.
There will be a few demos on how to communicate between Arduino and Actionscript, so hopefully,
is hardware doesn't fail, this will be pretty fun.

With years of experience in OOD, frameworks and TDD, Conrad Winchester will giving a talk before me on the Robotlegs micro-architecture.

If you're in London, do sign up and drop by RG/A's office in Clerkenwell as they will be hosting the talks this month.

Otherwise, stay tuned, video and slides will be posted here after the talk.

18 June 2010

The Mother Mind is free

The Mother Mind was released to the curious hearts and minds visiting Goldsmiths.
As mentioned in the previous post, balance shifted from a lot of live video processing,
to less. Instead the voice of Helene took over the performance, and technology just
aided here and there, trying to disguise itself as magic.

Here is a fragment from the performance:

For documentation purposes, here are is a video of a previous Max patcher:

Colour Sound from George Profenza on Vimeo.

Using jitter, I analyze the average colour in the video. The amount of red is mapped to the volume of the wind track and the amount of blue is mapped to the volume of the chimes track (both sounds from freesound.org).

The tracks were randomly chosen, but the Wind track seems to go with the waves somehow.

Here are some screenshot :

10 June 2010

Mother Mind

About a month ago I had the pleasure to meet Helene Nymann on the steps of Goldsmiths University Library. Long story short, I did a bit of research into sound, film, film sound and soundtracks, but didn't have the chance to work with great material, and Helene had great video material and no sound.

We tried a few simple techniques using Max/MSP/Jitter to analyze the video and alter pre-recorded sound. Helene also wanted to bring something new into this and tries to blend film, performance and gallery space into one. If you're interested in experimental video, live performance, and a bit of live signal processing, you're more than welcome to view Helene's project: Mothermind.

The performance will take place on the 17th of June, from 6PM to 9PM in Goldsmiths Richard Hoggart building(entrance 26 on the map bellow), in room 328.

Details to follow...

22 April 2010

Slides from the London Flash Developers and Designers Meetup Talk

Hello there,

The slides are available online now.
A bit compressed on slideshare:

Or the orginal in PDF format.

Quick warning: "Forgive me for my English is not so premium!"
There might be spelling errors here and there. If you find that
annoying, let me know and I'll fix the errors. I didn't plan time
for any proof reading, my bad.

Here are the links for some of the animation helpers presented
at the start of the session:

Stage Recorder by Slavomir Durej

Motion Sketch by Justin Putney/ajarproductions

LazyBoy Panel - manually declares stage instances based on a naming convention.

More handy tools in the presentation.

David will gather the files written at the presentation. Updates related to this talk will be posted here.

Oh, if want to get started with MooTools or see what the Adobe Open Source Media Framework is about, there is a talk next week at the London Flash Platform User Group.


20 April 2010

Speaking at London Flash Developers and Designers Meetup Group

I will be giving a talk on the 22nd of April at The London Flash Developers and Designers Meetup Group.

The talk will be about JSFL(Javascript Flash) and hopefully will help attendees getting started with automating aspects of the Flash IDE. Although there is some scripting involved, there are quite a few things in for designers/animators that use Flash as well. We will be looking at how to create some basic commands then move on to traversing the timeline and accessing the data of various elements.

Tired of doing the same tasks again and again in Flash ? Come a long and see how you can make it all easier.

The Flash Meetup takes place at London South Bank University in the Keyworth Building,
this Thursday at 7 PM. More details on the Meetup page.

16 April 2010

South Park style lip synch with actionscript 3.0

At disturb media we wrote a detailed tutorial on how to use the Sound and SoundMixer class in actionscript for something else, not just fancy sound visualizers.

The tutorial made it in issue 169 of WebDesigner Magazine
It's a 4 page feauture, lot's of details covered, do check it out!

Click on the image to see a demo.

The "heaps aweseome patrol captain" Chris designed the character and setup the assets,
and Alex performed and produced the sound. Big thanks !

14 April 2010


A great exhibition ended this Sunday, the Decode Gallery at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
I've seen a lot of great projects out from the likes of John Maeda, Casey Reas, Marius Watz, Golan Levin, Jonathan Harris, Joshua Davis, Robert Hodgin, Chris O'Shea, et al. It was the first time I've seen so much technology in a museum, at this scale.
More interesting than the technology itself was the chance to see the reactions of the other visitors.

An interesting catch is that the source code for the Decode Identity by Karsten Schmidt is released on GoogleCode, so people could submit recoded versions. I am way behind with my main project, but I spent a bit of Sunday tinkering with the code. I did run intro trouble when I had to put the images together as a video. I've used After Effects for the first time just to import a sequence of images and lay a sound track, but it took quite some time to get used to the basics for some reason. The sound is a fragment from a song by Valentin Leonat performed back in 2007. I've used the Minim library, FFT mostly to use the sound as a trigger for changes in the video. The drums control the mesh colour a bit (the intensity of the blue-ish tint), but the guitar controls
the background colour and the camera position on higher peaks and the distortion of the mesh throughout the length of the video.

The video doesn't feel the same way, as recording a sequence of images from Processing seems to take a lot of resources,
but I encourage you to download my version of the source code and have a look for yourselves.

Anyway, here is my late and tiny contribution:

Decode Tremolo from George Profenza on Vimeo.

Ok, back to some work now.

Oh, one last thing, the Decode Gallery ended, but there are still a few days to check out some digital goodness
on Digital Pioneers.

Take care,

26 March 2010

Time for another update

Finally a bit of time to breathe. A lot happening lately, again. Just finished 2 assignments, 1 more to go for now.
This time I'd like to share some of the things I study in Creative Computing at Goldsmiths, University of London.

I am handing in the project for Audio Visual Processing. The task given was to "implement interactive real-time audio
and video systems using the programming tool of your choice (either maxMSPJitter, C++ using provided libraries, or Java/Processing)."

There was plenty of information to sponge in a short amount of time, but very fun. What I've noticed so far is: the simpler, the better. What I mean is, if I use the right numbers by processing video or audio, the results might be a bit 'jittery' and might not convey a theme, that could be easier conveyed with a bit of cheating. The brain does a lot of things for us, and when it comes to video we only need 24 frames per second be fooled into seeing continuos animation, when linked to sound, the images gain value, and feed information (confirmation) back to the sound (source) in a strange but effective loop. I haven't managed to get the right balance between the data processed and the way to map that wisely so it's instantly and easily perceivable.

Well, enough talk for now. Here is a an attempt to modify 3d geometry (a plane) using video(color) and audio(peak amplitudes sampled every 40 milliseconds) as source. For some reason it makes me think it could be a 'quick'n'dirty' technique to achieve an effect similar to Michel Gondry's "Fell in Fell In Love With A Girl Lyrics" video for The White Stripes. The source video is a performance by Les Elephants Bizarres, talented friends from back home.

GridTest - Les Elephants Bizarres - Hello Says The Devil from George Profenza on Vimeo.

The colour channels from the video control the height of each grid square, coresponding to a group of polygons in the 3d plane. The resolution of the 3d plane and source video can be altered in realtime. The inputs can trigger a change all the time, or only when a change in peaks occurs, as with this video. Also the height can be controlled by the audio, not fully demonstrated in the video.
Click here for the MaxMSP/Jitter patches used to generate the videos(really compressed videos).

Here is a simpler attempt to modify a procedural 2d texture that in turn modifies the geometry of a 3d plane using sound as input. This time I used the pfft object narrow 3 ranges of frequencies (low, medium, high), but they're not very cleverly mapped to the texture inputs. The low frequencies control the scale of the procedural map, the peaks in medium frequencies change the procedural map, while the high frequencies alter the weight applied to the maps.

AudioVisual test - Valentin Leonat - Esti Departe from George Profenza on Vimeo.

Music by Valentin Leonat. Be sure to check out more tunes on Valentin's MySpace page.

The method to analyze audio is good enough, but not the method to control the visual. The inputs might work better with a glitchy tune. Here is the Ghost of 3.13 with Orchids and Lilacs

AudioVisual test - The Ghost Of 3.13 - Orchids And Lilacs from George Profenza on Vimeo.

2 February 2010

Missing myself

Detail from Nature by John Maeda

Sounds egoistic, and maybe it is. I didn't bother me much, until I've looked back and realized how I've changed. Well, we all change, we interact, we change others in return and so on. I used to draw more, create more, not better, just more. I was annoyed I didn't know enough code to make some of my ideas work. A few random events, like Jared Tarbell throwing one of his laser cuts wood models at me at FOTB'07...

... winning an Arduino at LFPUG, a few dozen coin flips always ending on the same side and I ended up studying Creative Computing at Goldsmiths, University of London. There was a lot of new material to cover (like Java, Processing, OpenGL, MaxMSPJitter, openframeworks, etc), but I've managed to do a decent job and I don't think I did it by my own.

Back in 2007 I just started to tinker with code(as2.0) and I was pretty bad at it, plus the amount of knowledge I had to cover scared me. AS3.0 was out and that was even scarier. When I was at FOTB I had a copy of Essential AS 3.0 which I used to get autographs from most of the great developers there like Keith Peters, Andre Michelle, Brendan Dawes, Erik Natze, Carlos Ulloa, etc.

In my head it was like I had their 'go-ahead'/approval and I'd owe it to them to learn all that. I managed to get a job in London in late April, early May 2008 which meant for a while I commuted from Canterbury, each morning waking at 5, sleeping a few hours a night and had to hand in my projects for Fine Arts and Digital Media at that time. Daily bus journeys meant 4 to 5 hours a day which meant when I wasn't instantly falling asleep after running to catch the bus I would read. The 'good luck charm' worked.

I got scared again when I had to start Creative Computing. Not a problem, I got Robert Hodgin's signature on my copy of Processing: A Programming Handbook
for Visual Designers and Artists
. I started to learn Processing and started to play with OpenGL a bit. I still regret I haven't caught James Patterson, although I did put about 10 or 11 forms in 2007 and in 2008 John Davey managed to get him on stage.

This year I am finishing my undergraduate studies. This is a bit unbelievable as this would be the 5th University I'm studying in, but the 1st degree I seem to finish. Now I don't know for sure where I will head, but as usual I 'smell' a direction and keep hitting walls from side to side in order to move forward. Sometimes I find shortcuts, sometimes I get lost for a while, it's all part of learning.

Now fear was creeping in regarding my direction, but I found a bit of light tonight.
I just got back from an amazing talk at the V&A given by John Maeda. I didn't realize how much I went into this whole computing thing and technology, I was thinking more about the geeky details than the ideas. Getting lost into creating tools and the most efficient way to build tools that I ran out of time to actually use them. As Jonathan Harris mentioned, tools are using me, not the other way around.

Thank you John Maeda for reminding me to finish what I've started. Oh, and thank you for the 'go-ahead' as well.

It is always great to meet your heroes in person, as a great man once said.