Thursday, 29 November 2012

Melanie Manos Gallery consult

I talked with Melanie Manos, A&D faculty, about a gallery installation she is going to be doing in January at the Public Pool Gallery in Hamtramck, based on her piece for DLECTRICITY in Detroit on Oct. 5 & 6, 2012.

She shot some green screen footage in the DMC Video studio of her crawling across the floor with the intention of making it look like she was climbing a wall.  She had mapped out the real wall in Detroit onto which she was going to project her final footage and noted various real features like windows, ledges, etc.  These wer all marked out on the green floor when she shot her footage so that, when projected on the real wall, it would be more convincing as she moved around these real features.

For the gallery show, she wants to use old CRT TV's, probably of several sizes, and hoping to synchronize 4 DVD players to feed them.  I explained that it is actually pretty difficult and/or expensive to do that  and suggested using solid state media players, or possibly a couple of computers.  She is pondering her options.

As she had shot her footage as a climb, she was thinking of stacking them to make her movement vertical.  Given that the bezels of the TVs would provide a bit of a buffer zone between them, the sync could be within a frame or so and still work.  I suggested that she might think of it differently: what if she were to space the monitors far - or farther - apart in the gallery?  She could calculate the time it would take her to get from one to the other if she kept moving and time her 4 parts accordingly, giving the impression that she was moving through an invisible dimension that we could only see parts of through the 'windows' of her monitors.  She liked the idea of playing around with that, and we talked about a few installation details required by one or another version of her setup.  I expect to hear back from her again.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Hologram Projector project

I've been working with Eric Maslowski of the UM 3D Lab to see if we can resurrect a Hologram projector that is currently in the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments.

"What?" I hear you say. Here's the story.

This was born from an encounter between an Engineering professor (Juris Upanieks) and a Music Education professor (William Malm) at a party inaround 1970.  The Engineer was talking about this cool new technology called holography and the Music Guy immediately thought that this could be a great tool for teaching.  Rare instruments could be displayed to an entire class at once, in full 3D.

This was developed out at Willow Run Airport.  The university operated Willow Run Laboratories (WRL) from 1946 to 1972. WRL housed a number of physicists and engineers and produced many innovations, including the first ruby laser and work on holography.

In order to capture a full 360 degree view of each object, they built a black box big enough to accomodate the instruments they wanted to capture - maybe about 6' square.  They used rolls of film originally made for aerial surveillance photos, about 14" wide and in long rolls.  They ran the film around the length of interior of their black box, with the instrument in the middle, and through an aperture in one of the walls exposed the film with a laser.  Once developed, this film could be run through the hologram projector to show the instrument rotating 360 degrees at will.

Basically, it was a monochromatic holographic QTVR movie.  But this was in the early 1970's, and it was totally rockin' for that time.  The Bill Malm said that when they demonstrated it to a group of engineers the Rackham amphitheater at that time, they all gasped as one.  Pretty rewarding reaction from a bunch of jaded skeptics.

So the Stearns collection got it because it was images of some of their musical instruments.  But they have now decided that they would like to be rid of it, which is why they contacted the UM 3D Lab.  And why Eric,knowing my interest in these kind of things, contacted me.

Below are a few photos. the first one Eric took during his initial visit to the Stearns Collection to see this thing.  We hope to make a return visit soon, and I'll post about that visit.  The other two are from the UM press in the 70's and show the projector in operation.


Holographic film description of a Japanese string instrument and a Malaysian double reed.
At the bottom you can see the label for the "Film Drive" to rotate the object.
And yes, there were also tape recordings of the sound made by these instruments.
(You can see the "Sound" label in the lower right.)
The viewer was able to select which tape loop they wanted to hear.

 The projector set up.  The laser is in the back and the film spool can be seen in the center foreground.
William Malm and Juris Upanieks are pictured.

 Bill viewing one of the films with the alternate "personal viewing" arrangement.
You can see the pegs and head of the holographic instrument through the glass.

2012: Janet Maylie's Acting for the Camera Studio

I've been working with Janet Maylie at the School of Music, Theater and Dance for a few years.  I initially did the final installation of a video system for the Acting for the Camera TV studio as the Walgreen Drama Center was first opening up.  Since then I have worked with Janet to enable her to post her students' video clips on CTools, and to assist her, as she has become more comfortable with the technology, to move into doing multi-camera shoots.

The system as delivered to the Walgreen Center was based around a Sony AnyCast like the one in the photo.

Video files were recorded to an external drive, which had to be formatted as EXT3, a UNIX format.  We had to install special drivers on Janet's iMac so she could read the drive and copy files to her desktop.  That setup would sometimes get flaky for her, too.

The Sony cameras were decent enough, with CCUs and studio packs for remote focus & zoom and a top-mounted monitor.  And decent studio tripods with wheels.

Most recently, I've been consulting with Janet and the department Chair about what it would take to move the studio up into High Definition.  They decided to take the first step in that direction this week by purchasing a 55" Samsung LED flat screen display to replace the 42" Sony CRT they have been using.

I made sure they understood that the big CRT, while seeming like a technological dinosaur, was still the very best tool for watching the video clips they are creating in their Standard Def NTSC studio.  Playing those clips back on a display that is optimized for HDTV content means they will look different - and possibly not as good.  They are OK with trying it out, and if Janet really does not like how they look they can continue to use the big CRT until they do upgrade to HD.  The flat panel is VERY easy to store.

This purchase of a flat screen ultimately led to an entire upgrade to take the studio to HD, although Janet did go back to her CRT until the HD move happened.  TEL Systems of Ann Arbor provided the equipment and integration, with close consultation from me.

It includes:
  • 1 Roland VR-4HD Multi-Format AV mixer 
  • 1 Panasonic AG-UMR10 Recorder and SD cards
  • 3 Panasonic AJPX270 Camcorder with Lens 

The beauty of this system is that the recorder puts the files right onto an SD card, and it also has SDI in & out.  The Roland AV mixer outputs SDI, and the output of the recorder gets changed to HDMI to feed the large flat panel display.

The Roland mixer handles the audio as well as the video, just like the Sony AnyCast did, so it is a familiar interface for Janet to use.

The big screen is supplemented by a set of Leon speakers, directly wired into it in place off its internal speakers.

And the whole system is built into a podium and so has a small footprint.  It all slides easily in and out of the storage closet in the studio.

Here is what Janet had to say when I interviewed her about the creating the final system.


3D gallery projection

Today I did some tests with SAC faculty member Chris McNamara.

He is going to be setting up a gallery installation that requires 3 3D projection systems, so we have been looking at finding the sweet spot for price & performance when buying 6 projectors.

Playback of his 3D material was from 2 Technovision DV75N solid state media players.  They connect via ethernet and achieve rock solid sync, which is necessary for 3D material.

I've also used the AKMAN AMA 1080P, but their sync is only close - within a frame or two.

Today we tested 2 Viewsonic PJD6531w projectors.  They are 1280 x 800 (WXGA) and 3000 lumens.  They handled his 1080p material very well and looked pretty good.  The best part?  They cost under $800.
They have 2 VGA inputs with loop through for video and audio,as well as composite & S video, and and HDMI inputs.

Chris is going to see if he can get the gallery to spend the money for projectors that are 3500 lumens - and cost about $1400 each.  Quite a premium for 500 lumens, as all the other features are comparable.  These are the Mitsubishi WD570.

Well, we'll see what happens.