Friday, 31 January 2014

Two "Transforming Learning for a Third Century" Grants


Yaron Eliav got his grant, Bill DeYoung did not.  BIll is reworking his proposal and will apply for an internal grant at the SOMTD.

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

2013: Michigan Stadium Laser Show, Last Notre Dame Game, 9-7-13

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