Thursday, 13 March 2014

TEDxUofM 2014


It has started...

Day 1

Here is a quick look at  of setting up, from first hanging lights to the first afternoon rehearsals.

And who's that guy in the red shirt down front...?

Day 2:

Setting up the passes in the lobby of Power Center in anticipation of attendees picking them up.

The other installations were also coming along.  The Electronic Lunch project masterminded by Conor Barry, the very cool live 3D modeling setup by Josh Williams (John's son), and a photo booth were mixed in with the artwork and hanging paint stir sticks.

Day 3 - the Show!

Since there are so many, I used smaller photos.

A little video of the audience filling the house...

Some shots of the lobby:

The hanging paint sticks.
The sticks with questions.
The swag table.
Some swag.
More swag.
Josh Williams' 3D scanning station.
He scans you against the wall, then you see the 3D
model right away via his projector.  Sweet...
(As soon as I get it, I will post the 3D model Josh made of me!)

Here it is!

The photo booth - "TED-ified".

Conor's lobby installation:


Passes still waiting to be picked up.
Jane and Mike, this year's co-chairs.
Rehearsing, seen through the set.
Tech table, mostly complete.
The "clicker" USB receivers are mounted on a
music stand on the left for better reception.
This is the schematic drawing of that cluttered table above.


Adam and Cole, our amazing PPT Wranglers.
Robert Alexander setting up his great data-driven synthesis system for his talk.
Kelsey talking with Vic Strecher at the tech table, pre-show.
A TEDx-er taking a shot backstage.
Tom from the sound crew testing the piano setup.

Travis behind the mixing console.
Cletus at the lighting board.
The Great Paper Airplane Launch!  
The programs included a printed sheet of paper with various markings.  
The creators of this model then came on stage and told everyone how to fold 
their very own paper airplane.  
Audience folding planes, as seen on TV!

Then on the count of 3, everyone launched at the same time!

My photo is a bit blurry, but you can see the lines of launching planes - it was great!
Anne Curzan on stage, on screen.  Great talk about - what else? - language.

Ever wonder what it's like to be on the Power Center stage?

Backstage, showing PowerPoint Central and the Video record table.
All the ropes behind them are the Fly Rail, used to bring pipes over the stage up and down.

Front and center, on the edge of the stage.
The tech tables above are off to the left, by the fly rail.

Now, enjoy this "Bird's Eye" view, then click on this link 
to go to a 360 panorama that you can spin around in!

This  year's TEDx was wonderful - smoothly produced, well thought out, and really, really fun!

Can't wait till next year!


Friday, 31 January 2014

Two "Transforming Learning for a Third Century" Grants

I am part of 2 grant proposals submitted to the UM's Teaching and Learning for the Third Century (TLTC) grant program.

The primary faculty member for the first one is Bill De Young of the Dance Dept.  He wants to produce an enhanced eBook that will help him teach dance students.  He is very good at many of the3 technical aspects of dancing, but he also has a lot to say about what he calls "The Path of the Dance Artist".   You can download a PDF of Bill's grant proposal here.

Here are a few shots of Bill and some student dancers during a test shoot at the end of the Fall 2013 term.  We shot this so we would have some footage to work with to determine how we might want to shoot the dancers for various parts of the eBook.  This footage lets us explore chromakey, motion tracking, and motion capture.

The motion capture system in front of the green screen.

Bill working with one of the dancers.

Another view as Bill works with the dancers.

The primary faculty member for the second one is Yaron Eliav of the Near Eastern Studies Dept.  He teaches the history of the ancient lands of Israel/Palestine and has come up with a very interesting way to better engage his students.

He has been working with LSA's LRC to set up a number of enhanced web resources, with highly tagged images,movies and readings.  I got involved when they were looking for a way to create virtual versions of objects at the Kelsey museum.  Students were going to be able to handle the actual objects but would need to be able to refer to them throughout the term for various assignments.

We ended up creating both Quicktime VR photo-based models as well as 3D versions using Autodesk 123DCatch, an free online app.

I have also proposed presenting this work at this year's New Media Consortium conference in June.   Dr. Justin Winger, also working with the project, would present with me.

A meeting at the end of the Fall 2013 term of the team working with Yaron.
Todd Austin of LSA-ISS talks to Arkady (from Russia) and Yaron
in the Duderstadt Center's video conference suite.
ANother view, showing more of what the suite looks like.

More on these grants as they develop.


WCBN transmitter Update pt. 2

Here are a few shots taken on a very snowy Saturday afternoon in late December when four of us went up to the transmitter to have a photo taken for the Ann Arbor Observer.

The bad news is that because testing of the new transmitter proved beyond a doubt that we would totally disrupt a lot of labs near this site, we will never be able to use this lovely new structure.  We have started the process of finding a new site for our 3000 watt transmitter, more on the west side of central campus.

Even so, here's what it all looks like after the fine job Jim Campbell did organizing this project.

The gang on the roof for our photo shoot for the Ann Arbor Observer.
Tom Bray, Jim Campbell, Liz Wason, Ben Yee.
This is me trying to recreate the shot of Floyd Miller in a similar pose with our old antenna.

Here is a stitched image of the whole antenna tower structure. You can see the
I-beams added to the roof to support the whole thing.

The two weird shapes on the left are protective covers for the actual antenna elements of our new antenna array.

This is looking up the new tower.  On the right you can see our old 200 watt antenna sticking out  Still the one we are using.

Close up of the I-beams supporting the new tower. 
Close up of an attachment point for the new guy wires.

This is how the guy wires are attached.
It is a twist of wire rope over what is essentially a plastic cable.
This ensures there is not electrical path between the guy wires and the building.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Michigan Stadium Laser Show, Last Notre Dame Game, 9-7-2013

Let me get this out right up front:  it was an amazing week.  It's not often that one gets unfettered access to every part of Michigan Stadium as part of a crew setting up for a very expensive ($200K+) and highly anticipated part of the halftime show of what was being billed as THE college football game of, well, pretty much all time.  According to the UM Athletic Dept., at least.  This was the last time UM was going to play Notre Dame, maybe forever.

My role was to be the UM liaison part of the laser team as needed, to document the process & event, and to be useful where I could.  This is the kind of production event where, despite all the planning, on-the-spot thinking and coordination is expected.  I have a great deal of experience with live event/theater/media production so this was a natural fit for me.
NOTE my "M" arm sling; this was 2 weeks after a serious shoulder injury.

The planning started in the Spring, and Sunday Sept. 1 found crews from Texas, California and Ann Arbor working with UM staff to get all the gear moved into position, set up and coordinated with the band rehearsals to turn this all into a halftime show at Michigan Stadium.

The loudest reaction in the halftime show was when they turned off ALL the stadium lights.  

Not only has this has never happened before, it's never even been asked about before.  It was not a surprise that many people were reluctant to allow all the lights to be turned off.  In the end, they agreed that the Jumbotron displays at each end of the stadium would provide enough light to keep everyone safe.  It was approved with the bright white screens that were at the start of the show.   It got quite a bit darker when the light level dropped when the screens starting showing live video from the field.

The second loudest reaction was for the laser image of the dancer in the end zones.  

I'm particularly proud of that because of the role of the DMC.  I captured a member of the dance team in the video studio, pulled out sections of specific moves and processed them to provide a movie used to create the outline needed to generate the vector file used by the laser software to "write" the image of the dancer in the end zones.  At the time, it as noted that this (and the DMC) was the only part of the operation that was actually on schedule.  

A lack of timely information kept making things harder as we went along, but the talent, professionalism and dedication of the laser/lighting teams insured that in the end it all worked.  It was clear that this was no one's first rodeo.

The plan had a number of vans with lasers circling the exterior of the stadium: 2 vans with a laser painting the back side of each Jumbotron (scoreboard) with text and images; 3 vans with lasers painting around the crown of Crisler Arena with text and images; 1 laser on the photo deck on the top floor of the press box doing the scrolling text on the top row of panels on the skybox side opposite, 2 lasers under each Jumbotron painting the inside (display) surface of the opposite scoreboard and 2 lasers (one each) on the roof of each tower creating the images on the field.

Bo on the back of the North end scoreboard.
I need to be clear here:  these were very powerful lasers:  safety was our overriding concern.  These were not "laser pointer" lasers. They were more like "No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!" lasers. Any laser requiring 2 or more digits defining its output is dangerous.

Ann Arbor folks were running the lasers in several of the vans.  I took my turn running the scrolling text in the stadium when I wasn't shooting video of the process, and overall it was an experience that I will never forget.  It had me interfacing with UM staff that I would not normally cross paths with, and I got a chance to say hello to some of the TEL Systems staff (Mario & Chris) that are always there on game days standing by or acting as the stadium audio engineer.  Wilm Pierson, the son of a local lighting and production contractor that I've known for 30 years, was the designer and operator for the Synchrotron moving lights.
The synchrolites could be seen for miles...
...but getting them on the roof was "non-trivial".
It was great to see how Athletics does things compared to other units I've worked with on campus.  Resources do make a difference.

OK, here are some links.  More details and more video and photos follow.

My edit of the laser highlights at halftime

A longer clip from the "Mirror Ball Cam" - kind of weird and fun

Friday, 22 November 2013

How One Student Sees Me

It is not often that one gets to truly see one's self through someone else's eyes, and I was delighted to find that I liked the person she evoked.

Other than that, I'll just let this speak for itself.

Georgia Hampton
John Gutosky
Documentary Photography Assignment

I’ve taken a course about photojournalism in the past, and for that reason I probably shouldn’t be as anxious about approaching strangers in order to photograph them as I am. So, for this very quick assignment, I was frustrated with myself for being so uncertain when I initially went out to find someone to photograph. I kept coming up with excuses not to ask someone walking by. Then, however, I saw this man giving a lecture to a group of students in the 3D lab at the Duderstadt; he was wearing flip-up glasses (the kind that older people wear) but instead of normal glasses they were 3D glasses. Immediately I forced myself to get over my inhibitions because you just don’t see glasses that outrageous every day.
Thomas Bray, the man with the silly glasses, is what his business card describes as a “converging technologies consultant.” In basic terms, that means that if you want to convey a certain emotion in your video exhibition, need help navigating the 3D printer, or have an idea and have no idea what kind of technology to use to make it happen, Tom is the person you want to talk to. When I first began talking to him I thanked him for putting up with me and my camera, to which he quickly responded that he didn’t feel this was something to “put up with” at all. He said that in his mind art is something incredibly important, and that he was glad that he could be a part of it. By the end of the conversation he asked me to send him the photos I took of him and any interview I had, which I’m glad to do (Hello Tom!). I talked to him for maybe ten minutes, and in those ten minutes his enthusiasm for art and for innovation was so palpable that I left the conversation feeling excited for no discernable reason.
While I was trying to find a way to get him to talk about how he is “different,” he actually brought that up himself. We were talking about the faculty and staff at the university and how most of them know a great deal about one specific subject. He added that many people at this university probably know infinitely more than he does about any given thing. What makes Tom unique, however, is his wide range of knowledge, whether it is in theater or engineering or numerous other fields. I find this quality to be extremely important in a university, especially a university like this one that encourages the melding of very different programs. I hope there are more people like Tom Bray around Michigan who inspire people to create and explore.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Case For The Cube: MCubed Report, Nov 15, 2013

I was part of the production team for the MCubed event on Friday November 15th.

"The Case For the Cube", as it was called, was akin to a mid-term book report on all the projects that had been "cubed" with this funding.

Overall it went very well, and all of us on the MCubed team were well pleased at the end of the day.

For the final presentation ("Jeweled Net...") of the afternoon sessions in the League, I brought in 2 extra projectors to expand the map generated of the dark matter in the universe.  It looked very cool on the ceiling in Mendelssohn theater.  You can see the onstage screen at the bottom of this video:

I enlisted some of the TedxUofM kids to help crew the presenter stations and provided some of the hardware used to streamline the presentations, laptops & timers, but mostly my role was to make sure that AV Squared, the production company providing the bulk of the AV gear, brought the right tools and was guided in how to work the event.  I also worked at varying levels with two of the presenting groups: "Jeweled Net of the Vast Invisible" (singled out by Provost Martha Pollack as her very favorite title!) and "Opening the Music Archive: Community, Memory and Ethical Access".

"Jeweled Net" is a project to sonify and visualize the Dark Matter in the Universe, hence the "Vast Invisible" part.  The team was Greg Tarle, an astrophysicist, Jim Cogswell, visual artist and Stephen Rush, musician.

"Opening the Music Archive" was Kelly Askew of the African Studies Center, Paul Conway of the School of Information, and David Wallace of SI.  It's about getting audio assets out and available to people on line.

The MCubed team was planning to have the whole event in Lydia Mendelssohn Theater in the Michigan League, but when they suddenly had 1100 people register they decided to move the morning sessions to Rackham Auditorium - Mendelssohn only seats 640.

As it turned out they could have stayed in the League for the entire event because there were so many no-shows.  The event organizers were stunned at the over 50% of those registered that did not show up for Tony Fadell's keynote address.  Tony Fadell led the iPod development team, most of the iPhone development, and then went on to design the Nest series of home technology devices (currently a thermostat and smoke detector).

Here is a schematic drawing of the gear I provided for the presenters setup at both sites.
The top shows the location and content displayed for the three monitors at the front edge of the stage. This is 2 identical "confidence" monitors that mirror what is being projected, and one smaller monitor that displays the timer application being run on the iPad.  Both the iPad and the 21 presenter laptops are on a table offstage, along with all the VGA switching and distribution gear.  There is one cable bundle that ran across the front of the stage in this setup.

Why do we use VGA?  Mostly because we have the gear to do it, but also because VGA still avoids issues like maximum distances in digital distribution.

Photos, first from Lydia Mendelssohn Theater in the Michigan League (check out the video clip later):

View of the stage from "Presentation Control".  Note the monitors on the downstage lip of the stage.

View of the Command Center offstage right.

And from Rackham:

The TedX crew on site, along with Pat Murphy from Michigan Productions.
More TedX'ers, here to help escort presenters around the space and watch their stuff.
Tricia from AV2 at the wireless mic station at the back of the house in Rackham.
All the presenters were wired/unwired back here, away from the audience.
Me with CoE Dean Dave Munson (left) and Tony Fadell at Rackham.

It was gratifying to work with some old friends on their presentations, and apparently they also enjoyed it.  Quoting Jim Cogswell:

It is always a pleasure to work with you.  You know what you're doing, I can trust you to operate at the highest standards of craft and creativity, and I learn so much each time.  Thanks for shaping that presentation.  Looking forward to my next chance to do something again.  

Jim Cogswell
Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Professor of Art & Design
Penny W Stamps School of Art & Design
University of Michigan

I'll post links to other shots as they come available.