Tuesday, 14 April 2015

2015 Ann Arbor: Fool Moon

Fool Moon was way better this year than last year: it didn't snow or have 50 mile an hour winds.

On Friday April 10 Vodo Jumato - VO-ratima Orawannukul, DO-nald Harrison, JU-stin Dykhouse, MA-rtin Thoburn and TO-m Bray - set up their giant projection monolith and painted the side of the office building at Main & Washington with appropriately foolish visuals.

I was prepared for inclement weather this year. I had tarps and a plan.   Once I had a couple of people to help it only took about 5-10 minutes to completely secure it from the wind and rain.  And once again we had Donald's guitar amp strapped to the lower plank for ballast.

Here are shots of "before" and "after" wrapping:


In the above photos you can see the planks we used as a work surface and to support projectors.
We had a small projector pointing out the back showing the twitter feed.

In the above photos you can see the 'windows' I made out of 8 mil clear plastic, for the projector up top and for the VJs below.

The view from the top, showing the VJ work surface, Voratima and Donald.

Martin and Donald at work.  Martin's laptop was a source for Donald's laptop
via a Blackmagic Intensity Pro.  You can see the window.

Donald's laptop, my darkroom timer and the Hard Hat Cam.  We used the
timer to turn off a light to remind us it was time to run a sponsor logo.

The view from outside the window.

Me! From outside the "Rear Window" from where we projected the
Twitter feed on the wall behind us.

My Live Feed Hard Hat Camera:

Tiny camera on the left of this photo, batteries and Xmtr on top.

Battery packs for the camera secured with the camera headband.

Another side view.

I walked out into the crowd and got in front of someone and said "Look at the wall!".  When they did they would see themselves as part of the projection.  It was a big hit, even though it was not great video quality.  The piece missing form the QTVR is the headlamp I attached so I could both aim the camera and light my subject.

Here is a link to a QTVR movie of my live video camera hard hat

You can download it.  It will only be QTVR if you use Quicktime 7. QT 10 will open it as a still.


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

2014 UM Museum of Natural History Display Repair

I got a call from Matt Linke, our friend at the Museum, asking if I could take a look at a display that stopped working.  It had some kind of media player and played some video loops when a visitor pushed a button.

The problem was that the "attract loop" would play fine, but the 3 buttons meant to trigger 3 different video clips were not triggering the clips: it just kept playing the attract loop.  The buttons would light up while the button was pushed, but that was it.

Well, that sounded like a job for me!  I've been doing a lot with media players recently, with or without triggered playback.  And I figured that if I could not get it working, I could likely swap his box out for one of my AKMAN 1080HD media players until they decided what to do.

Here's what was on Matt's bench when I arrived:

Matt Linke at his bench with the exhibit housing
You see the box on the right for containing everything, with the front panel that holds the video display and a speaker leaning up against it.  The small TV was just used for troubleshooting.

Imagine my surprise to see that the media player was an AKMAN product: the Flash A/V media player.   We have a handful of their more current models of HD video players and I like this company's products.

The AKMAN media player
This discontinued model plays MPEG2 files out as standard definition composite or s-video, and has both audio line outputs and speaker outputs.  It has 3 sets of "Input" contacts that are connected to the external buttons.  They were using one set with three inputs - it's that sliver of a green block connector with 4 wires coming out at the top of the unit.  That toggle switch adhered to the top is for changing the audio output level.  It connects to a couple of contacts on the back for VOL+ and VOL-.  This setting is intended to be done once, and then left alone.  This device resets to FULL LOUD at every restart, which is why one needs some sort of control like this.

The Button - Relay - AKMAN controller
This Direct Logic 05 controller senses button closures and then sends out appropriate control signals to the AKMAN player.  A pressed button would light up and stay lit for the duration of the video clip triggered.  This unit also prevented any other button pushes from registering during playback of a clip (except the attract loop).  It's a pretty nice little box.

Lighting the buttons can not be done by the AKMAN units, but the other logic parts of what it does can be done by our current AKMAN units without an external controller.

So it turned out that the main reason it had not been playing back any files for a while is because the relay controller wires were plugged into the wrong block.  Took a while for us to get there, because that connector block had been clearly labeled to go into the *wrong* spot.  Go figure.  But we didn't get there right away.  We did some investigating on whether the files on the card were set up properly, etc.  We renamed some folders to match what was given in the manual for this device (found on the AKMAN web site) but still didn't have a fix.

I called my friend Jason Akman, son of the founder of the company, to ask if he knew anything about these units.  He was surprised - in a good way - to hear that one of these old units was still out there and sort of working.  He didn't have any ideas we had not thought of yet, so we did the last thing that might make a difference: go to a Windows machine and delete all the invisible files that a Mac writes on the storage card.

That worked, and everything was working as intended once again.  Below is a shot of the thing looping the silent "attract loop", waiting for button input.

It's turned sideways so I could show you how it would look to a visitor, but here's a photo once it was all working.  A satisfying task for the morning!

Oh yes - the video clips are about ants!