learning the ropes

things I made at ITP and after: sketches, prototypes, and other documentation

Thursday, February 7, 2008

rope&pulley Tests

Wendy came to ITP today to try out the rope&pulley system. We also shot some videos which better explain the interaction between the user and the system.


Here, the rope&pulley is controlling the playback speed, direction, and volume of a sample from Jimi Hendrix’s “Red House.”



posted by Michael at 11:37 pm  

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Max Patch Revisions

Today I made some revisions to the Max/MSP patches that interface the rope&pulley to the computer. In preparation for the videotaping session I’m doing with Wendy tomorrow, I wanted to make sure that it was easy to switch back and forth between the different patches. When I’ve done that in the past, I’ve always run into trouble — I invariably forget to configure some part of the patch. While cleaning up the patches I found that I could structure things in a way that may make it easier to combine them should the need arise.

I have three different versions of the patch now:
MAX - 2008 02 06 Audio Sample Player MAX - 2008 02 06 Audio Sample Player (unlocked)
- rope&pulley controls playback direction (and optionally speed) of user-selectable .wav audio samples.

MAX - 2008 02 06 MIDI Synth Controller MAX - 2008 02 06 MIDI Synth Controller (unlocked)
- rope&pulley plays notes on a MIDI synthesizer and can adjust two user-configurable MIDI realtime controller values.

MAX - 2008 02 06 with Movie MAX - 2008 02 06 with Movie (unlocked)
- rope&pulley scrubs a looped QuickTime movieplays. Scrubbing rate is mapped to the pulley’s rotation speed and the scaling of this value can be adjusted from the patch.

posted by Michael at 5:39 pm  

Monday, January 7, 2008

Tiny Surveillance Camera Housing

Wendy is worried about the tiny surveillance cameras. She wants some way to position them safely. After brainstorming, we realize that a tripod might be the quickest way to get up and running — the lowest barrier to getting to the next step. I will mount the cameras in small protective enclosures.


1/4″-20 turns out to be a very important specification for photography. This is the dimension of the bolt found on camera tripods.

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posted by Michael at 12:34 am  

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Making Observations


I showed Wendy the frame mount prototype. We copied some of her cell phone videos onto the frames and she encouraged me to join her in simply observing what I had made. This step, she told me, is so often overlooked or rushed. Taking the time to sit with the work you have created allows you to observe it so that the other phases of the creative process loop can take place. This brought the cycle all the way around for me. The frame prototype was a “completed” articulation of an idea that had passed through the observation phase (stemming from questions such as “what if the grid wasn’t embedded in the movies, but brought out into physical space using multiple frames’), the reflection phase (where my past ideas and construction techniques met up with the initial observations), and finally the articulation phase (where I built a physical artifact reflecting the previous two phases). With the physical artifact in front of us, we could observe again and bring the cycle around again.

posted by Michael at 11:11 pm  

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Frame Prototype Final Assembly

Another building session. I took apart the second digital photo frame — and found a surprise: the frames weren’t identical. There were subtle (and not so subtle) differences in the mechanical design of the frames. Even though the exteriors were identical, the circuit boards inside, and most importantly, the thickness of the two LCD screens were different . The lesson I learned was when dealing with multiples, make sure they really are the same before making decisions based on an assumption that they are the same.

Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-36 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-37 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-38 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-39 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-40 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-41 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-42

Fortunately, my cardboard construction allowed me to easily work around the problem. I used thinner spacers for the thicker frame and cut slots in the cardboard members for the extra cables on the second frame. In order to mount the detached circuit boards without precisely measuring the positions of screw holes, I simply laid the circuit board on the cardboard frame and poked a pen through the holes in the board to mark their positions. I used 18 gauge solid utility wire to fashion small stand-offs at each point I marked.

Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-43 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-45 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-46 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-50 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-51 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-53

With all of the members glued down and the circuit board standoffs in place, I lifted up the assembled to test its strength.

posted by Michael at 10:44 pm  

Monday, October 29, 2007

Frame Mounting System Attempt #2

Wendy wanted me to try another approach to making the prototype: building it up as quickly as possible without designing it. The key is to invest as little time as possible so we can see if it is worthwhile continuing. She asks me not to completely disregard the practicalities of eventually building the mounting system, but to keep them in the back of my mind rather than using them as my guiding working principles.

I sketch again.


This time, I’m focused on making a minimal structure that can support the two frames I have. I still want to separate the LCD from the circuit board, but I’m not worrying about modularity at all.

Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-20 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-21 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-23 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-24 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-25 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-26 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-27 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-29 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-32 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-33 Pandigital Photo Frame Hacking-35

posted by Michael at 8:13 pm  

Monday, October 22, 2007

Frame Mounting System Attempt #1

After the frame was open, I started trying ideas for the mounting system in cardboard. Here are the sketches I started with:

sketch1.bmp sketch2.bmp

I had in my mind that I would try to mock up a u-channel mounting system using cardboard. I visited McMaster-Carr’s website to learn more about u-channel. Suddenly, the project becomes more of an engineering project and less of a creative project. I was taking measurements and drafting things in Visio to try to get them to fit on paper before I built anything.

frame 001 frame 003

When I met with Wendy again, we talked about this tendency to invest to heavily too early in a process. She wanted me to try again — this time not focusing on duplicating ready-made materials in cardboard, but trying to piece something together in about two hours that will allow us to make some observations. Wendy is not even really sure what will happen when two frames are next to each other, so the quicker I can put this together, the quicker she’ll know if it is worth pursuing further.

posted by Michael at 11:39 pm  

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Beginning Work on Frame Prototype

One of the first projects I’m working on with Wendy is developing a prototype for a multi-frame mounting system for her cell phone video installations. Previously, she has shown her videos on individual photo frames, but is now considering how to package multiple frames into a single unit that is easy to ship to galleries and easy to operate.

One of the first things we consider is how close together we can mount the frames. I begin this investigation as I have begun many before — by taking things apart. Depending on how the LCD has been mounted inside the unit, I feel like we might be able to separate the LCD from the main circuit board and make it possible to mount LCD screens much closer together than we could if they were in their plastic frames.

Pandigital Surgery 001 Pandigital Surgery 003 Pandigital Surgery 004 Pandigital Surgery 005 Pandigital Surgery 006 Pandigital Surgery 007 Pandigital Surgery 008 Pandigital Surgery 009 Pandigital Surgery 010 Pandigital Surgery 011 Pandigital Surgery 012

One of Wendy’s other concerns is making the installations easy for gallery personnel and private collectors to operate. Presently, each frame must be powered on separately and the first movie clip must be selected manually. Would it be possible to chain the frames together somehow? As I took apart the frame, I had the idea that we could bring all of the infrared receivers together in a central location so that a single remote would operate them.

posted by Michael at 11:03 pm  

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