“Interactive architecture” has long been a phrase, a future echo – something coming – but it’s been tough to say what it would look like when it arrived. In the collaboration of Janet Echelman and Aaron Koblin this month, we see one form it might take.

Koblin and Echelman joined forces to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the TED Conference in Vancouver, in a massive 300-foot literal web (and Web) hung high above the water. Koblin is the well-known digital artist, now at Google, but the material of the work is rooted partly in old-world technique. Echelman – here sponsored by Autodesk – uses West Coast net-making knowledge to produce her sculptures in textiles – some 860,000 hand and machine-made knots and 145 miles of braided fiber, the studio says.

Koblin’s contribution is in setting that textile canvas into motion, via light painting in kinetic projections made by onlookers with mobile phones. As their fingers trace brightly-colored pathways across the surface, there’s a resonance with his landmark visualization “Flight Patterns.” There, the pathways of unknown aircraft was anonymous, faceless – images of planes flying through the night with perhaps tragic associations this month.

“Unnumbered Sparks” is itself a reference to anonymity, even in public participation. But the ephemeral performances of visitors in light is anything but faceless. People are simply delighted by their ability to make splashes of color from their pocket phones, as if someone has just given them a building-sized paintbrush or let them design a fireworks show. And this is the presumed magic of interactive architecture: the visuals themselves not only disrupt the monotony of the everyday, but involve the public in large-scale re-imaginings of that environment.

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Sounds and images need not be synthesized from fancy gear. The snap of a bra strap or the rustling sound of silk can become musical materials.

That’s exactly what happens in Faces of N., an EP and series of music videos made from the sounds of clothing, micro-edited into visual/sonic sequences. The project is the work of Gabriel Shalom, an interdisciplinary artist whose work often treads across media, and who has fused visual and sonic content before, treating each as a single material to be manipulated.

The first video is out this week, with five more to follow – one for each separate outfit, accompanied by separate tracks. And somehow, all of this fits into his theory of hypercubism, melding perspectives in cinema – see our previous write-up on his aesthetic theories there. But for now, it’s fun just to watch and take it in. We’ll have to see how this is spun into a complete album over the coming weeks.

Let’s look: Continue reading »


Okay, After Effects fans –


Yo Dawg, I hear you like Syphon, so I put Syphon in Your After Effects. Or something to that effect.

Say what? Well, Syphon, for those of you who have, um, never read this site, is a technology for connecting textures between apps on the Mac. And that includes tools like the wildly-popular MadMapper. There’s not only one use case for having a Syphon plug-in in After Effects, but one clear use case would be making adjustments to an animation in After Effects, live, while you test projection mapping (or other display mappings) in MadMapper.

It’s labeled an “experiment,” but the implementation looks very cool. A free trial is available; US$20 payment unlocks more resolutions if you like it.


Time to launch the Superior Danish Engineering hashtag.

Light Installations Show Reel 2013-2014 from Licht.Pfad Studio on Vimeo.

Seeing the future of light in performance, installation, and clubs doesn’t necessarily mean waiting around for some fantastic, new kind of lighting instrument. That requires big manufacturers making mass-market products, and their priorities don’t always align with artists.

Instead, what we’re seeing is often traditional lighting technologies, choreographed in spectacular new ways. With elaborate computer control, the lights themselves form architectural patterns, dance, and come alive.

Licht.Pfad have actually been behind a number of projects covered on this site. Using the visual development tool TouchDesigner, they’ve built their own tool for shows and installations, transforming lighting into responsive architectures that sometimes almost seems to breathe.

You can get a feel for what expressive range that can have in their show reel. Below, they walk us through their different projects.

And yes, this is yet another studio that has set up shop in Berlin. I think the implication is clear: even though the clients are now increasingly global, artists combining tech and expression are keen to find a location close to collaborators. The development process is in the backyard, even if the venue is often elsewhere (you’ll notice the clients are around “Europe” in a broad sense, but not Berlin).

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This shouldn’t work.

A video full of lasers, mountain ranges inexplicably floating through space, and endless shots of cats should seem a cloying, annoying play for eyeballs.

And yet …

Can’t … take my eyes … away … somehow. (And I’m a dog person, darnit.)

Thank Immo König. The solo director / motion graphics house did the visual production to the hypnotically-chilled rhythms of Phon.o in a matchup for the label 50 Weapons. König’s one-man band approach shows in a creation that’s inventive, but also tightly directed and paced. And he’s been doing this a while, in case you hadn’t guessed, a veteran compositor and effects and motion artist. (Listed on his site, only “Autodesk Flame, Adobe After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Nuke (Basic).” Okay, then. Guessing we’re getting all After Effects here.)

With dark, warm synths quivering against the lone beat and vocal loop, all the motion silliness seems dreamy, not camp, the afternoon reverie of a child instead of the mad ramblings of the Interwebs.

But a lot of this is the lovely music, including Kit Clayton – you’ll know him as a key figure behind Jitter (of Max/MSP Jitter). Yes, those are even his spectacles on the nose of a cat in the old Jitter image.


From the EP “Cracking Space Pt. 1″
Release Date: March 28, 2014

Production: Visualking
Music: Phon.o


Anyway, if you don’t like it, blame this entire post on some cat mind control tri–

Hey! What did happen there?!


Download the track from XLR8R.

Vuo 0.6 normal+specular mapping demo from Steve Mokris on Vimeo.

Vuo, aka “that visual development environment that isn’t Quartz Composer, continues to march forward.

Just a quick tidbit, but this looks like a tasty morsel: normal and specular maps on 3D objects mean more photo-realistic lighting. As the demo video puts it:

Vuo 0.6 supports normal+specular maps on 3D objects. Here’s a simple quad, textured with diffuse+normal+specular maps, and a point light moving around in front of the quad.

Nice stuff. And seeing this live opens up some new possibilities.

Of course, we’ve seen vvvv (“vee four”) do this for some time, but notice you’re now seeing it on a Mac. (Ahem.)

I’ll also use this somewhat minor update to call out – who’s using Vuo? Done any cool projects yet? Do share.

Previously, a more in-depth on this tool:
Vuo in Beta: A New Hope for Visual Development? [Resources]

Another demo:

Vuo 0.6 lighting demo from Steve Mokris on Vimeo.

It’s about time the maker movement tackled display technology.

Enter OSCAR (Open SCreen AdapteR). It’s the sort of super high-resolution 9.7″ LCD panel you’d expect trapped inside something like an iPad, but you can connect it directly to a computer via Arduino.

Now, the actual “DIY” bit here is pretty simple: it’s just the interface. But even just having the interface is fairly useful. The display tech itself remains mass-market, mass-produced, but by adding that raw display part to the interface, you can build your own projects – and there are clearly some installation and other DIY projects just waiting to happen.

And people building installations and other projects get more than just the ability to output to the display. Because the Arduino-based hardware acts as the controller, you also finally get to control rotation, backlight brightness, and other parameters – just the stuff you’re missing when you try to mount iPads into displays.

There are various versions here, depending on your needs; all work via DisplayPort/Thunderbolt.

I’m not sure OSCAR would work for every application here – a tablet retains touch, crucially, which this lacks – but it could be a sign of things to come.

And, of course, it’s on Kickstarter. GBP65 gets you the basic hardware; pricing goes up from there. The UK-based project ends in about a week.