February 21st, 2013
I just published an epic article over on Creative Applications detailing the use of different kinds of cameras in interactive installations. Check it out, and add any additional tips in the comments there!:
July 6th, 2012
December 20th, 2011
Hm..haven’t gotten to post here very recently unfortunately, but this is a special tradition of mine. Despite that fact that only a few people read these, it’s kind of fun to have these for my own reference..just to ground my future self and be like ‘whoa..you liked that album that much in 2006??’
I try and keep criteria similar each year, but nothing really beats out those gut feeling albums…the ones where you are like ‘Ok..that’s in the top 3 for sure..no matter what happens.’ Other criteria are things like how much I listened to the album, and perceived originality.
This was also the first full year where I didn’t have access to WRPI and it’s constant stream of new music, so I was much more reliant on word of mouth and what I could glean from popular websites. That said, I didn’t get to listen to as much new music over the last year as I had in the past few years, but I think my list still has some really strong pieces in it.
Let’s get to it!
12. Starfucker – Reptilian
Not a bad return for this Portland band. Their debut was really great, and this delivered a few good hits. These guys know how to handle a really simple pop melody.
Key Track: Julius
11. Feist – Metals
A certain special someone really enjoys this album and would have it as her #1. It feels a little less colorful to me than The Reminder did, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable…just a different experience.
Key Tracks: The Bad in Eachother, How come you never go there?
10. The Dodos – No Color
I haven’t been into their previous work that much, but this one slowly worked its way into my listening cycle in February and March and I found myself becoming interested in more and more of the songs on the album. The album felt much more cohesive to me and was a good one to digest all at once.
Key Tracks: Black Night, Good, Don’t Try and Hide It.
9. Phantogram – Nightlife EP
Of course I’m just a little bit biased on this one if you know me well… Phantogram returns with some of their newest material is almost 3 years. I have been doing visuals for them since 2008 so I am quite familiar with their first set of songs by now. These new songs gave me a fresh perspective on a band that I hope continues to do amazing work…now I just need to hold out for another full length.
Key Tracks: Don’t Move (really one of their greatest songs since…ever), 16 Years
8. Talkdemonic – The Ruins
The Pacific-Northwesterners, Talkdemonic, return with a really solid offering. It’s perfect music to sit and analyze, or to have in the background while you get some work done. In this album they offer an even more refined sound of viola, drums and synth from their other albums (still all instrumental). Ruins even sees them toying with slightly longer song structures (one track cracks the 5 minute mark, which is impressive for a band that averages about 2 minutes per track). This album sees a return to some of their amazingly inventive drumbeats that we saw a lot of in Beat Romantic. Overall, the album have a cohesiveness, but it carries some of the dark melancholy of Eyes at Half Mast, but with a more determined/powerful undercurrent.
Key Tracks: Ruins, Slumber Verses, City Sleep.
7. Son Lux – We Are Rising
As part of a challenge issued from NPR, Son Lux wrote and recorded an entire album in 28 days during the month of February. He documented the whole process, and it was really great to be able to follow along with the creative flow of an artist I really admire. It doesn’t have the cohesive/overarching structure/polish feeling I got out of his incredible 2008 album At War with Walls and Mazes, but it has a lot of really interesting moments strewn throughout that make it a great piece…and I’m not looking for the same kind of meticulous detail in an album made in only 28 days anyway, hah. If only I could communicate how much anticipation I had to finally hear the entire version of “All the Right Things” after hearing an early small sample of the giant drop from the NPR blog..it’s still an amazing sonic moment to hear. The insane polyrhythms going on in “Let Go” are another example of an artist that is really in control of his sonic world.
Key Tracks: All the Right Things, Let Go, Flickers, Rising
6. The Antlers – Burst Apart
The Antler’s previous album, Hospice, seemed like it was all over the place for a while. I felt like there was much less buzz around this album, but that it was still well received. This one felt much less like a concept album, and more like they were writing to make songs that would be a little more stage appropriate. Hospice was a brilliant album, but didn’t necessarily translate to live performances in the same way. I kept returning to the album, and every time a new song would stick out to me or I would find another stuck in my head at certain points.
Key Tracks: Parentheses, No Widow, Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out.
5. Bright Eyes – The People’s Key
I always have a soft spot for Bright Eyes. It usually takes me a while to adjust to the new albums, but I just keep giving them a try until they really click with me. This album had some similarities to the previous, Cassadaga, but had some more electric/rock tracks mixed in than usual and with an unusual almost alt-country sci-fi theme to it. The album didn’t give me a “Lover I Don’t Have to Love,” or a “Lime Tree,” or a “Lua”, but what was important for me is that it still ended up being an album that only a band like Bright Eyes could make.
Key Tracks: Beginner’s Mind, Ladder Song, Approximate Sunlight
Oh goodness this was an album I was waiting for. Mirrored was definitely a great album, but it seemed very far from their EP C/B EP days that originally drew me to them. They lost one of their core members, but still managed to crank out some really amazing pieces. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the single, Ice Cream, at first but that has easily become one of my favorites from the album. The real standout for me is “Futura,” a song that has a really great texture and shape to it…not to mention one of the best drum solos I’ve ever heard. Do yourself a favor and check out their video for My Machines as well.
Key Tracks: Futura, Ice Cream, My Machines
3. Braids – Native Speaker
This is a strange album for me because technically I was listening to it in 2010 because I was hard at work on my first commissioned music video. Braids is one of the few bands that has really successfully won me over with a live show before hearing their recorded tracks. After seeing them for the first time I went up to them and told them I really wanted to work with them for visuals or whatever they wanted. This album will always have a special place for me because of how all of that worked out. It’s definitely a bizarre album in retrospect, but it has a lot of really unique soundscape moments and I’m already really looking forward to their next effort. Oh yeah, I think this album wins best album art for me, too.
Key Tracks: Lemonade, Plath Heart, Glass Deers
2. Hooray For Earth – True Loves
Another album I have a really personal connection to. Someone had offered me the chance to throw together a ton of visuals in a week for this album, and I took it without knowing a whole lot about them. I had heard Hooray for Earth’s debut EP, Momo, but it didn’t stick with me too much. After many repeated listens while working on their visuals I started to notice “Hey..these songs are amazing!” The whole album has a great cohesiveness to it. It has a great heavy and dimensional sound to it with a very interesting color palette. It’s strange how accurate album covers start to feel to me when listening to an album over and over.
Key Tracks: Realize It’s Not the Sun, True Loves, Black Trees
1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
I was very late to the party on the previous Bon Iver album, but I have been following a lot of his other projects (Volcano Choir, Gayngs) so I was really curious about what he would be returning with this time. On the first listen-through’s on albums I’m sort of subconsciously searching for that one song that is like “Ok, this is going to be my favorite track” but this album made that really difficult. I had to give each song sort of it’s own few days in the spotlight. The only knock I really had for it was that it seemed much more like a winter album so it was strange to see it come out mid-spring..so it should be interesting to see how it is in the dead of winter. There isn’t a whole lot more I can say about this album that hasn’t already been raved about all over the internets, but it definitely deserves a listen.
Key Tracks: Calgary, Michicant, Holocene
No particular order this year, but these are some of my favorites I’ve heard this year:
Phantogram – Don’t Move
Bon Iver – Michicant
M83 – Midnight City
Bright Eyes – Beginner’s Mind
The Antlers – Parentheses
Battles – Futura
Son Lux – Let Go
Feist – The bad in eachother
Starfucker – Julius
Braids – Lemonade
March 27th, 2011
Haven’t posted much in a while. I recently completed some touring visuals for Hooray for Earth and got to play with them live here in Brooklyn. I also just wrapped up a music video for Banjo or Freakout’s song Idiot Rain which will be debuting any day now. Here is a screenshot of that:
Slowly putting together something for a sort of “projection mapping how to” to the best of my abilities. In the meantime, I’ve been working on my own projection mapping project with a buckyball shape. Building everything in quartz composer with a lot of Kineme and 1024 plugins…then eventually will farm everything out to VDMX for any other live elements. I’ll hopefully be able to share any useful pieces I make as well, but the kineme and 1024 things make stuff work so nicely already that it’s hard to improve anything. Here some pics of what I’ve got as some test setups:
And the rest here
January 27th, 2011
Whew…after over a month of hard work shooting, editing and shooting and editing, my video for Braids’ song Plath Heart has finally been released into the wild. It is my very first official music video and I’m really excited that I got to work with such a talented group.
This video really embodied ‘experimental’ for me, mostly due to how I approached the project. The song has a very unusual structure to me, so it was very hard to fit a kind of story line to it. I was stuck initially when trying to figure out the visual piece of the song. Luckily, after meeting with the band, I was able to pick out a few phrases and ideas that they claimed they could ‘see’ as part of the song. Some of the key phrases that stuck out were “metallic”, “detailed”, “birth” and “tunnel”. I also asked for what they saw as the color palette of the song, and stuck to that as much as possible.
Then for weeks I played around with strange filming techniques and materials. I ended up with about 2 hours of footage by the end of everything. I wanted to keep the video as immediate as possible, to stick to some of my expertise as a live visualist. I spent hours just laying down clips that I had shot and just sort of building everything from the ground up, without a clear vision of where I was going to end up. In some ways, I think that helped the piece, but it made it incredibly difficult to start off. I wanted to be able to communicate something powerful without putting together a complete “storyline” in my head, so that I could match the way I felt about the song. I’m so used to just letting things happen by chance, so it was hard to come back and apply a little more control to a piece. A lot of things were still kept to chance…strangely enough, even through 13 different versions and edits, the first 40 seconds or so ended up staying the same from the very first version.
I wish I had some photos of how i got some of the shots I did, some of it would be pretty comical. Instead of ruining the magic for the whole thing, I’ll explain one of the main shots. Even I was surprised about how the ‘water’/'flashing lights sections turned out since they looked so otherworldly, but it was a very simple setup. For that shot, all I did was set my camera pointing up on my record player and turned it on…and then dangled some tinsel which was backlit by a flashlight. That random experiment ended up being the bookends of the entire video. I’m glad I had to make this video around the holidays, because I was able to stock up on things like tinsel, battery powered christmas lights and other unusual metallic materials. Another shot involved macro shooting of a glass bowl of milky water that happened to fit perfectly on top of my desk lamp.
Overall I feel really satisfied with the way the video came out. It was a battle between editing for microscopic musical events while keeping a view on the larger picture. In the end it was a lot of shuffling around different events until it became very fluid. I couldn’t really explain the ‘story’ in words if you asked me, but I’d say most music videos I like would get a similar comment from me. In the end, the video is open to a lot of different interpretations, just like the song.
Some really great reviews coming in about the video…so many different interpretations that I haven’t even imagined. From an analysis of Sylvia Plath’s relationships, and sasquatch’s intestines to just traveling down a “hairy tube”
October 31st, 2010
Saturday was mostly a blur of activity. I hit a kind of lull at the end of friday in terms of thinking of ideas, but I got several things done yesterday. I made a couple drafts for simple music videos for random songs that came on shuffle. Everything was very tied into using the Jones Sequencer and having it switch based on audio cues. I tried another lo-fi bullet time experiment as well with more cameras and a more exact setup. I tried to focus on the idea of making a video in a single shot…whatever actions I could fit into the space of a song, that would be the entire completed video.
All in all I have maybe 5 or 6 pieces that will be edited down into final projects over the next few weeks which is exciting…some of them I’m more interested in than others, but here is a list of what I came up with:
1. Short documentation video on the Wobbulator
2. Video for Gayngs – Walker
3. Video elements/ideas for The Velvet Teen – No Star
4. Video for Metric – He lied about death (cover of a Stars song)
5. Drum circle performance piece
There are a few other random source pieces that I gathered and in total I have about 40 to 50gb of stuff I’ve gathered this week..not bad for being all on my own.
I’ve learned a lot of interesting things this week…despite being turned off by some of the look of analog video effects and things of that nature, digital video still has a lot of different things to catch up to in many other areas. After spending years with my jitter performance patch, I am very used to the responsiveness of digital interfaces for video effects, but with analog everything was just that much faster for my brain to feel way more connected to my actions…the difference of a few milliseconds was all it took. Turning knobs on oscillators, while faster, also felt very unpredictable but it was a welcome unpredictability..something to be mastered. Also, having a constant framerate despite pumping tons of things into the system was something that I had to get used to.
I was also struck by the ability to use multiple sources with analog equipment. I’m no stranger to TV switchers and things like that, but the Jones sequencer seemed like something that would be completely impossible for digital visualists. The fact that I could live switch between 8 sources from between ~1 and ~20000hz was really amazing, and it was part of the reason why I used the sequencer so much. I’m so used to being able to plug in one firewire camera and maybe mixing in some source video from my harddrive, but not much more than that…the ability to work with multiple sources at such a rapid rate was really great.
It was also interesting to come here with my two HD cameras and realize a place like this is in a sort of arrested development. None of the equipment here will ever work with resolutions greater than standard definition and it’s confusing to think about that. Now we can do many of the same things in software at whatever resolution we want, but it’s definitely missing this physical element of plugging crazy boxes together and crossing your fingers. When talking with Hank Rudolph he said one of the points of the center is about real-time interaction and real-time experimentation, and that’s really what it communicated to me. He seemed skeptical of HD because people ended up trading some of the interesting things that were happening with video for greater resolution instead of greater speed…and so rendering times end up falling behind real-time. I’m sure we’ll get there eventually, but for now this place is still an incredibly important resource.
Many thanks to Sherry Hocking and Hank Rudolph for allowing me time here, it was really an eye opener and I hope to return again soon.
October 30th, 2010
I feel like I’m starting to run out of steam today. Yesterday felt comparatively productive, but I’m not too upset since I’ve been getting a lot done these past few days. Today I learned one of the last pieces of equipment, a framebuffer that runs off of an old Amiga computer (loaded off two floppy disks). It allows you to store 32 frames in a circular buffer, and you can play the buffer back as a loop and replace certain frames as you go around to make animations. The catch is that it only operates with 16 gray levels and 256 lines of resolution. You can however replace each gray level with a different color if you wish for simple color mapping.
After that, I wandered around town, hit the local candyshop, and tried to clear my head for a little while. There is an amazing, huge bookstore right across the street that primarily sells antique books. I looked through several arithmetic textbooks from the 1800s, one of which had an addition table and a subtraction table (in addition to a multiplication table).
When I came back, I tried another lo-fi bullettime experiment using audio triggers. I spent the rest of the afternoon running my jitter patch in and looping it back around as a source and manipulating the feedback overtop of the source video…but that proved to be a difficult beast to tame. I then turned to reddit to find out if any of my fellow nerds had any interesting ideas for the equipment I hadn’t thought of yet, but I haven’t hit a goldmine yet.
The rest of the night has been trying to get a handle on using the +/- 5V oscillator bank to generate video signals, and then playing more with simple feedback and audio triggers on the wobbulator. No big plans for the last full day tomorrow except to gather some more random source footage and begin to pack up.
October 29th, 2010
Whew..long day..hence making this post after midnight. After another lesson on the Sandin video manipulator and the Jones sequencer, I had a full day ahead of me. After writing last night I made a gigantic feedback loop using 3 monitors, 3 cameras and two computers running skype. The results weren’t that interesting but I achieved about a .5 second delay through the whole system…it was fun to set up at least.
After learning the Jones sequencer, a device which uses an oscillator to switch between 8 different sources, I set to work with a couple projects. The first thing that came to me was to make a sort of lo-fi ‘bullet time’ effect with the 7 cameras available here. At first i set them all up in a semicircle pointing at a central point, and it worked to a point, but the inaccuracies in my pointing ended up throwing it off..but the result looked like a weird kind of slit scan hybrid. Still working on the sync for this one…
Then I spent some time getting more documentation of the Wobbulator. There doesnt seem to be any quality videos of it around the internets, so I’m going to try and cut together a good sample of footage. Got some really nice patterns going today.
I returned to the bullet time concept after trying a few other random experiments. This time I arranged the cameras in a circle around a central point, and this was a little more interesting looking. I got footage of myself walking around and other confusing looking 7-viewpoint images. Then I had an idea for a goofy piece I’ll be calling ‘Drumcircle’
By using a mic as a trigger, I used different drum pieces around the studio to change the viewpoint of the camera as I hit the drums. I did a couple iterations of this piece, with a simple slow, self triggered switch, and a few with automated, oscillator driven camera switches. Hopefully it all works out..I may have to try again tomorrow if I can figure out how to get my audio trigger to be a little more responsive.
October 28th, 2010
Another day in fabulous Owego at the Experimental Television Center (need I remind you it was voted the coolest small town in America by the readers of Budget Travel Magazine!). Last night I took a long timelapse out my window and let it run until this morning. Came out ok, but was about as exciting as most timelapses are…I have a better idea for tonight, but I’ll have to see how it plays out.
After breakfast, my first lessons on the ETC system began led by the incredibly patient and knowledgeable Hank Rudolph. After flipping on three power strips, the entire beast sprang to life. I was run through the relatively simple router for getting my inputs and outputs to their final destinations. The really impressive piece for me is a 64 x 64 switching matrix where absolutely everything is labeled and used.
(Click all images in this post for a larger size..way more pictures in a picasa link at the bottom!)
That’s 64 separate sliders with 64 positions each. Essentially everything in the system can be run into everything else with a few relatively mild exceptions….it’s a really impressive piece of technology. We then moved onto the Jones keyer, a custom luminance keyer that is controllable by control voltages (CV) provided by an external oscillator or MIDI. Next was the Jones Colorizer, a 4 channel color mixer that is also controllable by CV, and the Ross Switcher, a pretty straightforward video switcher. Pictures and other fun stuff after the jump!
October 26th, 2010
I arrived in Owego, NY (no not Oswego…) in the mid afternoon and wandered down the tree lined streets to the ETC. Owego, apparently one of the “coolest small towns in america” is really nice. It’s a very interesting mix of downtown and residential. Coming in the fall is really great because everything has that sort of overcast look to it, while the trees are exploding with color. I sort of expect small towns to eternally look like they do in the fall. I would like to see this place under a blanket of snow though. Also, this is the kind of place where people will ask you why you’re taking pictures of the surroundings…
Arriving at the Experimental TV Center, up the stairs past the storage area of a gift shop, I actually went into the office at first. I was saying to myself “Oh…is this all?” There was a desk, futon for sleeping, wall of tapes and a toilet facing the Susquehanna river with no curtain to hide yourself. After relaxing in there for a while, I decided to poke around to see if I had missed something. Opening the adjacent door, it was like that scene in the Goonies where they find the secret ship room full of One Eyed Willy’s treasure. Words of course, don’t do it justice:
(Click images for the larger version)
There will be more detailed pictures and descriptions after the jump. Tomorrow I learn how to actually turn the equipment on and how to patch my computer into it and stuff like that.
Lots more pictures after the jump!