Tagged supercollider

Mills College Signal Flow 2015: Days 2 and 3

Friday and Saturday went very well at Signal Flow. I spend the day on Friday going through my code to see if I could get things running more consistently and managed to figure out a workaround. The Timer library for Arduino ended up being the answer to my woes, and I was able to set up a signal to be sent to Processing at set intervals in order to keep the videos active when the board wasn’t touched awhile.

I also made some fliers to get people in the door, since the installation is so far removed from the music building and other Signal Flow festivities. L and I put them up all over campus and they definitely did the trick.

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Lots of people came through and stayed awhile to stare at the weather balloon. I switched up the videos a lot yesterday to make sure it was always pretty fresh. My friend came to document everything and filmed for a good hour or so, so I’ll have plenty of good material to work with. People were really interested in the balloon and the projections, and I had SuperCollider throwing out my binary sequences as well as a semi-randomized pattern for my retrigger signal from Arduino. I pointed the speakers at the walls on either side of the room and it spatialized nicely. Most of the frequencies I used were harmonically related so they resonated nicely with each other in the room and it became very immersive. It was interesting talking with people about the history of the Ouija board and Spiritualism, and about early Electronic music and the Occult (some interesting connections there). A few groups used the Ouija board to ask some questions and had fun with the answers. One lady asked it when her granddaughter would be born, which I thought was sweet.

The new code worked so well that I was even able to leave everything unattended for a couple of hours to go watch everyone’s performances! That was an exciting change, as I had mostly been babysitting the installation in case things froze up. The tricky thing is that the capacitance threshold seems to be well calibrated to my body but not all bodies, so some people had a harder time triggering the letters. The fact that each letter has a different threshold is also not entirely helpful. I am going to spend some time after this weekend testing each individual point and calibrating everything individually, as well as setting an integer range as an output so I can use the board as a MIDI controller with Max MSP and Ableton.

Mills College Signal Flow 2015: Day One!

Yesterday was the first day of Signal Flow (and the day I was finally allowed into the space I am using to setup my installation)! It was definitely an interesting setup. I had a buddy help me move the ladder but the rest was all me. It took something like 12 hours but everything is working.

So, what is “everything”? Short answer:

Exploring the realm that separates and connects matter and spirit, American Spiritualism is a tradition rooted in material artifacts and superstition. The Ouija board is an object that conjures both fear and hope: that we can reach beyond matter to find that which has been lost– or forgotten. Interpreted as both parlor game and ritual, what can a talking board reveal about our memories, our regrets, and the American dream?

An interactive touch sensitive Ouija board that triggers 16mm found footage projected onto an 8 foot weather balloon suspended from the ceiling and plays binary representations of each letter, number, symbol, or word as sound patterns.

The long answer:

I built a larger than standard sized Ouija board out of wood, hand painted the letters with homemade conductive ink, tapped copper nails through the board, soldered onto them, hooked each letter, number, symbol, and word up to an individual pin of an Arduino Mega 2560, a 10M resistor, plus a common pin. There is also a ground bus consisting of copper tape along the edges and center of the interior of the board. I wrote Arduino code to measure the capacitance levels on each pin and to send a character representing each touch point to Processing if that capacitance is over a certain threshold. Arduino also measures the time that has passed alongside a set interval of 50 seconds to trigger a video if the interface is left untouched for a certain time.

Whenever Processing receives a character, it is then tested against a  series of conditions to trigger a corresponding video clip from an array and play that video on loop until a new condition is met. In addition to the video trigger, Processing also sends an OSC message to SuperCollider when a character matches yet another condition, and SuperCollider plays a pattern consisting of two frequencies or pitches representing 0 and 1 in a binary representation of each letter, number, symbol, or word.

All video is found footage from the Prelinger Archives. Mostly 16mm home movies.

I am still playing with my code to see if there is a more elegant way to keep things moving. As is, you have to interact with the interface at least every five minutes or so or the video will stop, probably because the longer the Arduino runs, the less practical it is to measure the elapsed time against my interval.

Anyway, here are some photos from the last couple of weeks, preparation, construction, and setup.

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An elaborate clamping system that eventually resulted in the most symmetrical wood working I have ever achieved. My previous attempts include only a very wobbly step stool that I made in 6th grade, and that my mom still makes fun of.

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First coat of hand painted conductive letters.

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After first clear coat. Fun fact: you can paint over conductive paint and still maintain a connection between the surface and paint. This is probably useful to know.
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First shot at wiring.

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With ground bus implemented. I rewired the entire resistor board after this because I was unhappy with how untidy and potentially problematic it was.

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With conductive planchette and LED candles.

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The weather balloon suspended from the ceiling. I made a surprisingly effective four point hanging system that is adjustable from a platform in the rafters accessible by ladder.

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A more artsy shot of the board.

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Some unknown ladies having a fun time on a trolley at some unknown amusement park. All of the footage used is from the Prelinger Archives. I found a bunch of really fascinating 16mm home movies from the 1930s through the 1980s or so. Lots of really beautifully decaying and forgotten family vacations and moments.

About 7 people saw the installation yesterday before I got too tired and went home to go to bed because I had to be at work today at 8am. Back to it tonight!