My first semester at ITP has come to an end. It really went by fast, and I am talking about things now I couldn't have fathomed even knowing about four months ago.
My first semester at ITP has come to an end. It really went by fast, and I am talking about things now I couldn’t have fathomed even knowing about four months ago.
In case any perspective students or other first year students are reading this, here are a couple of thoughts that crossed my mind multiple times during my first semester in graduate school that were shared by many of my classmates:
- You will think everyone is smarter than you. Everyone else will think that as well. In some cases, one of you will be right. It doesn’t matter. You can’t compare yourself to anyone, since the class is so diverse and comes from so many different professions, countries and backgrounds.
- You will think you are paying too much for too little. Again, in many cases this is probably true, and not just at NYU. But what you are paying for is the opportunity to join the NYU community, for the chance to learn from some of the greatest minds in the field and for the community experience you will soon contribute to. If you think of graduate school in these terms, it’s well worth the investment.
- You will be called an elitist. Deal with it and move on. If you entertain this thought for more than 30 seconds you’re wasting your time.
- You will be frustrated by pass/fail classes. Some of your classmates will come to every class late. They will work fewer hours and still get the same ‘Pass’ on their transcripts. This doesn’t mean that you will invest less effort, but you will (hopefully) invest more time in your work because you want to, not because you have to. Your reward will be your projects. That’s what grad school is about.
I’d love anyone else who may be reading this and has also completed one semester of graduate school to weigh in as well.
You're invited to join us at the place that Fred Wilson said, " defines a distinguishing characteristic of the New York Internet community."
Tomorrow is the beginning of the ITP Winter Show. You’re invited to join us at the place that Fred Wilson said, “ defines a distinguishing characteristic of the New York Internet community.”
I’ve been working hard to get my project, Project Run Away, up and ready to go. The rest of my classmates have some incredibly cool projects lined up to show as well.
If you’re in the New York area, stop by and check out the bleeding edge of where art and technology intersect.
Thanks to Steven Lehrberger for the image.
Project Run Away is an interactive story where you are the main character.
Note: This project was first shown at the ITP Winter Show 2008.
Project Run Away
Project Run Away is an interactive story where you are the main character. Your assistant shows you an embarrassing photo that was published in a recent magazine and informs you that the paparazzi have staked out your building hoping to capture another humiliating image. As he distracts the gathered media outside your door, you race to the elevator and, with the help of the building’s residents, create a disguise that will allow you to escape unseen. But before they will help you, you’ve got to help them.
The purpose of this project is to try and create a new type of game interaction with a sense of physicality and presence. We constructed a five story building out of plexiglass. Each floor has a super bright LED in the back to illuminate it once it is unlocked through game play. There is an elevator button that uses an FSR corresponding to each floor next to the door, which is secured with Velcro and a plastic hinge.
Inside each floor is a piece of your disguise. In order to unlock the level and receive the element of the disguise, you first have to interact with the resident of the floor and complete a request. These requests range from exercising with an aerobics instructor to helping a painter complete his newest work. Only after you have put on the entire disguise will you be able to leave the building without being spotted.
The code is written in Processing and consists of mostly boolean variables and switch cases to ensure that the user progresses through the game and completes the milestones to move on. Each floor consists of four parts: an introductory video, an interaction, another video and the floor choice. The user cannot complete some floors until he or she first completes others. The user also cannot win the game without first visiting all of the floors, regardless of the order.
Observations & Research
The project is inspired by the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books from my youth. You can go to any part of the story after completing each chapter, and it still makes sense. There have been many examples of this in the digital age, but most involve little interaction outside of clicking a button. The goal of this project is to make that interaction more meaningful for the user but maintain enough entertainment to keep other viewers engaged.
Aside from time constraints, the biggest challenge thus far is getting of the code to play nicely in Processing. Video is notoriously difficult to manipulate in this environment (many prefer Open FrameWorks or Jitter). Many hours were spent trying to get the video to simply play. All of the interactions work in their own sketches, but there is still some difficulty getting them to work in the main sketch.
Another challenge for a project like this is story boarding. Once the scenes were filmed, there wasn’t much room to make changes to accommodate construction or coding changes.
There is a physical replica of the building made out of plexiglass. Each floor has a two way mirror in front so that you cannot see what is inside. When the user completes the floor, a superbrite LED illuminates the contents, and the user can open the door and put it on. Next to each floor is an elevator button constructed of force sensors. The appropriate amount of force on these buttons moves the elevator to the corresponding floor.
There is a video camera that is used for image capture, sound and motion detection. There is also a monitor/computer used to execute the program.
More background information on the project’s creation is available here.
Play the Game
You can play a modified version of the game thanks to YouTube. Start here:
This project was a collaboration between Aaron Uhrmacher and Winslow Porter.
For my Comm Lab final, I wanted to play with Final Cut Pro and at the same time experiment with different ways to mash up audio and video.
For my Comm Lab final, I wanted to play with Final Cut Pro and at the same time experiment with different ways to mash up audio and video. Lately I’ve been most interested in the ephemeral videos that are licensed under Creative Commons on Archive.org.
Since it’s the end of the semester, I wanted to find footage that I could do something funny with but that might also be relevant to our time here. I stumbled upon a video from the 1988 series, “Computer Chronicles,” where they covered the first ever Computer Bowl. It was a gathering of geeks from the east coast and west coast, including luminaries like Bill Joy from Sun, Esther Dyson and Mitch Kapor (who, for the record, ripped it up).
Ultimately, I was blocked creatively. The raw footage (including the TV commercials at the end) were so funny by themselves, I couldn’t figure out what to do with them. I thought about finding episodes of both the Simpsons and Family Guy that I could remix for the east coast vs. west coast battle. I also thought about how to play with the audio and video to make it funnier. Here’s the result:
Given the time constraints and my lack of experience in Final Cut, I think it turned out pretty nice. However, I still think the audio needs some work.
Sara Bremen and I used the first line from Chekhov's "The Seagull" as the inspiration for this short piece using After Effects.
For our first foray into After Effects, Sara and I created a short clip using the first line of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull” for inspiration.
It was a lot of fun learning how to use the program, but also frustrating. We got a quick and dirty 30 minute tutorial and class, and then set out to create our piece. Part of the problem was that we had collected assets the week before, and once I learned more about how After Effects worked, I had wished that we picked different images as our starting point.
Also, I had started creating the project on my computer and Sara had done the same in the lab at school. Unfortunately, we had different versions of the program and therefore couldn’t combine them. We ended up rebuilding my section in AE.
I’m pretty pleased with the final result, especially given our time constraints.
This week Winslow and I made some great progress on our ICM/PComp finals, tentatively titled "Sharp Shooters." There's probably a better name that we'll end up with, but it's working for now. I'll update our progress in three areas: filming, coding and construction.
This week Winslow and I made some great progress on our ICM/PComp finals, tentatively titled “Sharp Shooters.” There’s probably a better name that we’ll end up with, but it’s working for now. I’ll update our progress in three areas: filming, coding and construction.
We made the most progress this week in developing our storyline and actually shooting all of the scenes. Both of us agree that it doesn’t matter how interactive the technology is if people aren’t interested in the story, so we’re working hard on that.
The first scene we shot was with Michelle’s dog, Saul. He was very cute, but we probably shouldn’t have started by working with animals. It was tough because we couldn’t keep him framed against the wall, and we also weren’t able to get the exact shot with the green ball that we needed for the shot to work.
After that experience, we moved on to a much more agreeable actor, Dimitrius. He played the role of the doorman, and he did a great job. As we were shooting this scene, we realized that our original idea – to have the celebrity visit all of the floors and get objects to use on other floors – was a bit more complicated than necessary. It made more sense for the celebrity to receive different parts of the disguise as the user moves between the floors. With that in mind, we made a few changes in our scenes so we could get back on track.
This week, we received some valuable feedback from our PComp classes after we presented our project. The main critique was that the story, while interesting, was a lot of work for very little reward. The opinion was that we needed to simplify the construction and add more interaction to make this a fun experience. So while we were filming, we worked on some code ideas.
We want to incorporate two different games that users will play in order to clear their floors. Here’s a list of our code challenges:
- Serial communication between the force sensor representing the elevator buttons and Processing that will allow us to simulate movement between floors;
- Serial communication between the LEDs and Processing that will indicate when the floor has been cleared;
- Code to capture an image of the user when s/he begins the game that will be integrated into a layer later on;
- Code to layer a captured image with a pre-exisiting graphic;
We made some good progress on building the tower this week. I went down to Canal Plastics and purchased a piece of two-way mirror ($40!) that we can use for the front of the door. We also need to buy hinges for the doors and start thinking about how we want to wire it.
Good progress this week, but we have Thanksgiving next week and only one week after that to get it all done. I know we will complete the project, but we have a lot of different tasks to work on at the same time.
Alex, Zach, Michelle and I decided to work together on the two-minute video assignment for CommLab...
Alex, Zach, Michelle and I decided to work together on the two-minute video assignment for CommLab. When we met for the first time, we started talking about different story ideas. Alex said there was a story he always wanted to tell about a pianist who is walking home and has his fingers broken by a mugger for no other reason that he’s pure evil.
I wasn’t really in to the idea. For one, I was much more interested in doing something funny. If the audience is my CommLab peers, then I wanted to make them laugh. We decided that we would take the basic premise, then go and draw up our own storyboards. A few days later, we’d get together and compare.
Here’s what our combined storyboards looked like:
As you can see, I tried to take it another direction by adding a clown, but the group wasn’t feeling it. I agreed that this would be a new experience and that I would try something new, like making a dramatic/horror type film.
The first challenge was finding a place to shoot a piano scene. It’s amazing that ITP has no connections or agreements with any other departments within Tisch, so we were forced to scavenge. I don’t mind guerilla style shooting, but it does seem a bit ridiculous given that we’re part of NYU, which has state of the art facilities that I assume my tuition helps fund. Nonetheless…
It took us about two full days to shoot all of the scenes we wanted, and we did so focusing on the pianist’s hands and avoiding any face shots. Lighting proved challenging, but I also learned a lot as we tried to appropriately light so many different scenes.
Alex shared this video as inspiration:
The editing was probably the hardest part of all this, mostly because the lab isn’t really set up for four people to huddle around a computer. The process was slow, with most of us taking turns in different shifts over the weekend to prepare a final cut.
There were, of course, disagreements. Some people felt that their ideas weren’t listened to or respected. While it’s an unfortunate outcome, I think it’s a risk that all collaborative processes run. I’m very pleased with the final result!
So without further ado, here is Sonata No. 666:
In last week's post, I described the background inspiration and research for this interactive video/game. This week, Winslow and I made a lot of progress in bringing this idea to fruition.
It’s pretty interesting to watch how my final project is evolving week over week. Last week, Sharp Shooters was only going to be my ICM final, and this week, it has transformed to both a group project (working with Winslow Porter) and also a combined final for both my ICM and Physical Computing classes.
In last week’s post, I described the background inspiration and research for this interactive video/game. This week, Winslow and I made a lot of progress in bringing this idea to fruition. First, we simplified. The success of this final is not about using lots of different types of technology so much as it’s about having a simple, fun narrative that engages the user. To that end, we really want a story that is easy to tell and to follow and that the user can experience within 2-3 minutes. I think we’re almost there, but it’s a lot of work getting the story to that place.
We’ve done a lot of brainstorming over the last week, as you can see. Here is one of our early attempts at organizing our game:
which then turned into:
which is now:
On the table in front of you (in real life) will be a video camera, an elevator control panel and a small scale replica of the building in which you, as the main character, are located.
The main character will be you, which means that everyone will talk directly to the camera. As it starts out, your assistant throws a newspaper down on the table with your picture and says that an embarassing story has been published about you. The paparazzi have staked out the building and you have to get out without them seeing you. He/she says that the residents of the building are pretty loyal and will help you to escape. Your assistant then puts on a disguise and leaves the room, giving you time to get to the elevator.
You run to the elevator and start going floor to floor. When the doors to the elevators open, some of the building’s “odder” residents are there. In their own special way, they try to help facilitate your escape. After you complete the task on each level, you unlock that level of the building. Only after each level is unlocked will you be able to escape unnoticed.
Our work is really now divided into three parts: filming, coding and construction.
This has proved a huge challenge thus far. There is an ample supply of willing actors, but finding a location to nail down has been difficult. It’s amazing to me that ITP has so much camera equipment yet no agreement with the film school or any other department to secure space for us to film our projects. We have asked friends and put out notes on the list serve to find a location, but we’re still waiting on a lot of places. Since Thanksgiving is coming up, we have a pretty tight deadline for filming. The goal is to shoot on Friday and Saturday so that we can move on to the more crucial part of this assignment, namely the coding and the construction.
Our initial idea is pretty ambitious, and the coding challenge right now is mostly organizational. There are a series of options on each level of the building, and we have to organize the logic for that. In addition, each level has a different challenge the user must overcome in order to move forward, so we’re working with several different libraries (minim, to start).
There are two objects that need to be built: the elevator control panel and the small scale replica of the building. We are going to start with the building replica. The idea here is that the plexiglass structure will have the same number of floors as there are floors in the game. In each floor, there will be an object that is unlocked after you complete the level. The object is initially hidden behind two way glass, and then revealed with a bright LED upon “winning” the level. Here are some initial images from constructing the tower:
GOALS FOR THIS WEEK
Complete construction of the tower, complete filming and make significant progress on code.