Friday, 22 November 2013

2013: How One Student Sees Me

It is not often that one gets to truly see one's self through someone else's eyes.
In this case, I like the person she evokes. 

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.


Sunday, 17 November 2013

UM Victors for Michigan Campaign Kickoff - North Campus

Once again, I was part of the laser team that brought fun expressions of columnated light to campus - and some of the photos below actually made the front cover of the University Record, both online and print!

This time it was on the North Campus Diag & Lurie Tower as part of the College of Engineering's localized campaign kickoff event.  I worked with Holly Taylor & others at the CoE to help get things organized for the local Illuminatus team that did the Lumia lasers on Lurie Tower and the Daystar team from New York/California that brought in the big guns.

I also ended up handling the video projection part of the program, which was really no surprise; the laser guys were pretty busy, having lost a set up day/night due to bad weather and scheduling delays.

I had help in the form of someone holding an umbrella over me and the projector and the laptop screening the kickoff video.

Here are a few photos of the event and links to more.  Stay tuned, as I will post a few more on this site when I get them.


Overall view, with a good shot of the "Lumia" lasers on the tower.
They were passing out glasses made from glo-sticks which were, naturally, a big hit!

From a different angle.
A very recognizable block letter, eh?
The view from underneath the lasers, showing the screen for the video and then
line-drawing lasers, the scanning lasers, and the Lumia in the background.
Behind the scenes view from the laser position, during final setup.

Links to more photos on line:

the 'Flikr' site:

And some favorites:

Saturday, 26 October 2013

WCBN's new transmitter pt. 1

The installation of our new transmitter and antenna has begun!

WCBN is soon going to be broadcasting at 3000 watts instead of our current 200 watts.
We hope to be on the air at 3000 watts by the end of November, if all goes well.

We are at the end of a long process that required FCC approval, engineering studies, coordinating with the UM AEC , the EEDRC, various UM Plant Dept. Units and external contractors and engineers.

In order to support a bigger antenna mast to hold our bigger antenna, the UM Plant Dept. engineered a way to add I-beam parts to the existing roof structure to create a solid base to which Great Lakes Tower company will attach our new antenna mast and antenna.

Today - Saturday Oct. 26, 2013 - the fine folks from the UM Plant Dept. carried a handful of I-Beam pieces (up to 400 lbs!) and antenna tower sections up to the very topmost roof of the Dennison building, where our antenna lives (photo below).

You can see a 360 panorama with Jim checking the antenna mast sections that I took on the roof.  If you view it on an iPhone or iPad, click the little gyro icon in the bottom left corner of the screen and you can turn around and look up and down just as if you were there on the roof!  Or you can just spin around and up & down with your fingers.

And DO NOT miss the chance to view it in a very fun way.  At the top of the screen you will see 2 round buttons and one bowtie button.  Click the round button on the right for a full bird's eye view!

If you just view it on a computer, you can only spin around in circles.  Sorry.

And please forgive the "transporter accident" mis-alignments.
It was the best I could do in a cold and windy spot.  With a cell phone.

Oh, and both in the photo below, the pano and some other shots, you can see our current antenna, which is on a simple pipe-like support mast.  In the shot below, it is the one on the right.

Here on the roof are the I-beam parts that will be embedded in the roof to support the pieces of our new tower, whose 3 sections are also on the roof.  The red circle is where the new antenna tower will sit.

Here are shots of most of the parts that will make up our new antenna array.

One of 2 sections that will support the actual antenna elements.

A close-up showing a TIG weld between brass and copper.

Close-up of the 'antenna tuners'.
The rods on the left slide in and out to fine-tune for a
specific FM frequency once the antenna is assembled.

One of the 2 actual antenna elements that create the pattern of our broadcast footprint.
The 2 elements are arranged one above the other on the antenna mast.
Their orientation with each other and the world determine our broadcast pattern and coverage.

Close-up of the "Phillystran" non-conductive guy wire that keep the antenna mast stable.
 Our new tower will have 3 guy wires, just like our current one.

One of the 'connectors' that capture and hold the end of the guy wires at the rooftop attachment points.
It gets braided with the actual guy wire to form a very strong grip.

Finally, here's Jim Campbell with some shots of the parts of our new transmitter!

The parts that will go in the rack.

The 150 watt FM Exciter.
It's actually a low power transmitter that feeds
the input of the 3000 watt transmitter.

The 3000 watt transmitter!
It's designed thoughtfully: it has multiple power amp modules,
so if one fails all the others continue - although with a lesser power output.
The bad amp block can be replaced without turning off the transmitter, too!

I'll post more updates as the work continues.


Friday, 27 September 2013

Robert Marshall's Geodesic Dome in the UM Natural History Museum Rotunda

UPDATE on 11/19/2013:

This nicely edited version of the video from the shoot by Donald Harrison has just been posted on Vimeo.

Robert Marshall, a local geek and tinkerer, built this very large rotating geodesic Dome.  He has taken it to several Maker Fares where it has been a great hit.  When he had it in New York City, it was so popular he wore out 2 sets of the turntable it sits on!

People can get inside and get spun around, or just enjoy it from the exterior.

While not, strictly speaking, a UM gig, Amy Harris (Museum Director) and Matt Linke (Planetarium Director and long time DMC friend) were involved in making this happen.  Matt is usually involved in anything physical that is out of the ordinary at the Museum, like the Dance events that I have been involved with.

This is from the evening of Sept. 15th when Robert, Donald Harrison, Amy Nesbitt and I set the Dome up in the rotunda of the UM Exhibit Museum (on N. University at the bus stops).  We had one of Mike Gould's Lumia lasers (also used later on the North Campus) and some normal video lights.

When the finished video is posted I will add a link.
 In the meantime enjoy these couple of clips from that night.


(You can see these movies in HD on YouTube if you choose to do so.)

Final pieces are attached by Robert, 
with assistant (Amy Nesbitt) and documentarian (Donald Harrison) in place.

The dome gets a spin.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

2013 Scarlett Middle School Visit

On Thursday July 11th 2013 we had 70 middle school kids and about 15 School of Education graduate students descend on the Digital Media Commons for a tour and activities.

We met the week before with Charles Dershimer and planned how it would all go, deciding to split the group into manageable chunks.   Here's a schematic of the final schedule:


Things went more or less according to plan, and everyone had a wonderful experience.  I'll be posting more photos when I get some from the Scarlett folks, but this was Kathryn Young's lovely email the next day:

A couple of photos from Elly Schmitt (more to come!)
Steve Eberle and kids in front of the green screen on the monitor on
the left is the final composited image of them on Mt. Everest.

In the CCA waiting to go to the next activity.

In theVideo Game Archive

The Green Screen in DL1

The chromakey setup for the News

The kids on the News set

Adding their own voices to Toy Story

More Toy Story


And this all started with a seemingly simple request that arrived in Rob Pettigrew's email.
(feel free to skip along through the emails; I just wanted to keep the record)

-------------- <edited versions of emails> -------------------
On Wed, May 29, 2013 at 9:59 AM, Ralph Dershimer <> wrote:

The School of Education MAC program has our teaching interns working with Ann Arbor Middle school students at Scarlett Middle school in a summer school clinical program this June and July. 

We would like to bring the middle school students, and the teaching interns, (about 100 people total) to visit North Campus on day in July for an enrichment field trip as part of the collaboration between Scarlett and UM. 


R. Charles Dershimer, PhD
Clinical Assistant Professor

U-M Director, W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s Woodrow Wilson Michigan Teaching Fellowships

From: Ralph Dershimer <>
Date: Thu, May 30, 2013 at 6:56 AM

Rob, Glenda, Kathi and Dan-

I really appreciate this- this short event will have long term impacts on the lives of the students who visit. The date we are now focusing on is July 11th with the visit occurring between 12:30 and 2:00. 

I'm also connecting you Kathryn Young and Ari Bartolacci from the SOE who are both far more organized that I am and will likely be organizing the logistics of the tour. 

Best to everyone-

On May 30, 2013, at 6:58 AM, Ralph Dershimer <> wrote:

Hey Tom- I hope all is well-

Please see the message trail below - interested in getting involved in any of this on a personal level...?


On Jun 12, 2013, at 3:06 PM, Ralph Dershimer <> wrote:

Glenda and Tom- 

Thanks for making time to meet today- I think the ideas we generated are fantastic! The Scarlett students will really enjoy and learn from the experiences you all agreed to provide. 


On Jul 6, 2013, at 10:52 AM, Tom Bray <> wrote:

Hi Charles-

So I'm writing a script for the video studio groups to use when they are here.  I would like to include things about Scarlett that they would find fun and interesting, like "Principal Smith to serve 2 weeks of detention for chewing gum in the hallway", etc.  If there are particular figures at the school whose mention would be fun, if you can think of some situation to put them in, etc. that would be great.  I was also thinking of shooting some exterior video of the school so we could put one of them 'on the scene' via chromakey.

Any ideas would be great, and thanks.


Here's the rundown on the activities:

Tom Bray, Jacques Mersereau, Jeff Alder, Dave Greenspan and Ryan Wilcox in the Video Studio:
Students will either be on screen or operating cameras, audio, switching and recording equipment to make a TV newscast.

Steve Eberle in ChromaScreen/DL-1:   
Learn how the magic of greenscreen/bluescreen chromakey technology is used in TV and films. Stand on the surface of Mars!  Climb Mt. Everest!   Deliver a news report on a virtual news set!  It can all be done in front of the Digital Media Commons’ chroma screen.

Rishi Daftuar in the EM Studios:
Learn how the movie studios record the dialog for movies by recording your own voices as the characters in scenes from Toy Story.  Watch the scene as you record your voice along with the original characters.  Play it back and hear you performing the scene!

Dave Carter and the Video Game Archive:
See the evolution of video games first hand as you get to see real games, from early stand-alone consoles to the first “TV” games to some of today’s hardware.  Get a chance to play some of these games while you are there.


And here's the script I wrote for the Newscast:

<roll news music>
<fade UP Music & Graphic>
<fade Music under as we dissolve to 2 shot of anchors and hear from off-camera...>

ANNC:  Around the world, across the nation and up your street, it's the Scarlett Middle School News…..

<Music out; mics UP>
<cut to CU of A1>

A1: Good morning and welcome to the Scarlett News.  Our top story is a report that Mr. Sobolewski got into trouble this morning during a staff meeting - for passing notes.  We are still waiting for confirmation on this, but it seems he was trying to get Ms. Racine's Pillsbury Bake-off-winning recipe for ice cream sandwiches.  It is not clear whether he actually got the recipe during the meeting or if Ms. Racine gave it to him after class.

<cut to CU of A2>

A2: And now we take you live to Scarlett Middle School, where our field reporter is covering a breaking story.

<roll tape of Scarlett School for chromakey>
<cut to MS of student keyed over footage of Scarlett exterior>

A3:  Thanks, <NAME> . The story here concerns Mr. Vazquez's bullhorn, which has gone missing.

<CU A2>

A2: Do we know what happened to it?

<MS A3>

A3: Nothing has been ruled out yet, but at the moment it appears that he simply misplaced it.

<CU A2>

A2: We understand that the Roadrunner has also gone missing.  Are there any suspicions that he might have run off with the bullhorn?

<MS A3>

A3: They just want the roadrunner for questioning.

<CU A1>

A1: Has anyone actually ever heard him talk without the bullhorn?

<MS A3>

A3: (pause) No.

<CU A2>

A2: Thanks <NAME>. Thats all the time we have for the news for now.  Until next time, have a good time.

<roll news music>
<DISS to news graphic as music comes under and up>




DMC Video Studio, University of Michigan

Digital Media Commons Video Studio - a short tour

These few photos and video clip only give a VERY rough idea of what our studi is like.  I'll be adding to it but wanted to put something up here since I was asking you all about your studios.  I hope it gives you some idea of our space.  These are stills taken from various uses of the space that kind of show its scale.  The floor plan has actual measurements.

Finally there is this 3D modeled walk-through of the studio done several years ago by a student.  Not too exciting, but it gives you a better sense of the room, the walls, etc.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

PlanetBlue Visit to the A2 MRF

Check out the City of Ann Arbor's 5 minute video on how single stream recycling works:


On Friday June 28, a bus full of Planet Blue Ambassadors took a trip to the Materials Recovery Facility  (MRF) out near Platt & Ellsworth.

Looks like the sign had an accident.
 This is where all the sorting of recyclable materials happens, both for the City and for the UM.
The MRF building entrance.
After an orientation, we went in 2 groups for an inside tour after donning safety gear.

One of the things they told us was that they really don't want you to recycle small plastic lids or grocery bags.  The lids tend to get sorted as paper, and the bags tend to gum up the works of the conveyors - as sort of illustrated below.

Bag caught in the machinery.
Here is where the trucks dump the mixed recycles.

These doors stay open all year, whatever the weather!
Here is where the sorted recycles get bailed in preparation for shipping to the factories that use them.

The bailing machine is on the right.
The education center had some useful ways of getting the message across to school kids.

The most important thing we learned was to NOT recycle lids or grocery bags.  Who knew?


Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Danceworks Projection at the UM Exhibit Museum

UPDATE  9-12-2013

They did a reprise of the show right after school started.  Here's 2 photos.

Here's a stitch of what the rotunda looked like from above.  We got the video almost 2x bigger this time around.
This time we used a large SANYO with 0.8:1 wide lens.  Same mylar mirror.
earlier posting from June:

Here are some shots with dancers in them.  The first gives a good view of the venue and the second shows how they worked with the projections.  These were taken at a rehearsal.

The photographer is Kirk Donaldson.  The rest of his photos can be found on a June 7th post on the Ann Arbor Dance Works Facebook site:

Early in June I worked with Peter Sparling (Dance Faculty) and Matt Linke (UMEM Planetarium Director and all around helpful guy) to devise a way to get the best possible projection onto the center of the rotunda floor from the second story mezzanine.  This was for the Danceworks summer site-specific show. Excerpted from the full site, here are short descriptions of the works presented:

"Four choreographers find inspiration in cutting edge scientific research taking place at the University of Michigan and beyond. 

-a new work by Edisa Weeks, inspired by the spiraling structures of DNA.

-Jessica Fogel premieres a dance inspired by the research of UM Associate Professor of Astronomy Sally Oey, whose focus is the role of massive stars in the evolution of galaxies.

With 'How Autophagy Works",  Peter Sparling offers a dancer’s guide to cell biology that is both spoof and serious interdisciplinary research, freely interpreting the ongoing cellular process of autophagy, or “self-eating”, the body’s method of cleansing, recycling and defending against disease.

-Robin Wilson performs a new solo inspired by the book "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks", whose cells became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more."

Do visit their site for the full story.

Anyway, here's what the resulting projections looked like:

Peter created the circular images in his editing process.  The task was to find a way to make it as big as possible and as square (or round, actually) as possible.  If we had to shoot it at an angle there would be a lot of keystone distortion to try to correct.

The solution was to suspend a mylar mirror (saved from when the CAVE was refitted some years ago for just such possible uses) using 2 C-stands.  A C-stand is a standard film industry useful tripod style stand that holds lighting accessories or just about anything else that needs to be supported.

In this case, we set the poles at the top to be horizontal and attached the mirror to that.
The mirror is almost invisible in this shot, but you can see the projected image reflecting off of it.

This is Matt, the stage manager, and Peter:

Next is Peter and me adjusting the setup, followed by a shot taken just for the artistic merit.  ;^)

Unfortunately, I was at the NMC conference for the shows that weekend, but it was a big success.  If I can track down some photos I'll add them to this post.