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I’ve migrated this blog to Tumblr! Go here: pondermake.tumblr.com
Here’s the project setup, an hour before the show (and me, nervous and excited.)
it’s fun, it’s funny
Once people got it, they really loved it! People described it as “fun,” “addicting,” that they could “just keep going.” People smiled, laughed, got silly with the sounds: “ba-ba-ba-ba…. aaaaah….. hellooooooo?”
I would feel a little nervous if I saw them put on headphones without reacting… then immediately relax if they started smiling. “That’s so funny,” they’d say about the sounds. “Like a bunch of animals,” or “a load of babies.”
I feel good that I built up enough of a system that people started imagining other applications for it…
What if you could use it as a gameboard base, and create other blocks, puzzles, and drawings to play on top?
What if you could build upwards? Or save your song?
fewer bricks is better
It was often more effective to play with a few bricks at a time. More than roughly 2 of each color made everything a very noisy wash. From an interaction standpoint, it felt important to be able to see the causality of what you were building.
kids just wanna play
Kids just want to play with legos. They’re the best testers in that way, regardless of your project’s audience, because they’re not going to listen to you… they’re not going to read… they’re just going to explore hands first.
Here are some nice things that thoughtful little people made.
Like some of the adults, too, the kids were driven by what looked cool, not what sounded best. In fact, the temptation to make something with Legos was so strong that even people who were just loitering would just drop some bricks on the canvas for fun.
go with the grain
In some ways, I made a project which is against the grain of legos. You can’t push things together very hard, and you can’t stack things to any novel result.
In some ways, it was much better for adults, because it required deliberate care and attention. One parent said of their kid, “She doesn’t really know what to listen for.”
Adults might love the concept behind it, or start dreaming about the business prospects…
Legos shouldn’t required deliberate care and attention. In this sense, my project opposed Lego-ness.
My project also opposed the grain of public interactive showcases: it was very sensitive to changes in noise and light. The tech wasn’t too forgiving– errors in image-processing sometimes felt jarring and obvious.
Finally, as more visitors came and played with it, it would often behave more and more “broken” until I restarted it. Though, I think that’s probably common for many projects. Still, my dream for it was for recorded voices to accumulate, erase, and become more interesting over time, capturing the vibe of the last musician.
Since week 1, week 2, and week 3, I’ve been focused on fabrication and making the Record function work. I also refined the interface, but I still dont think it’s a very smooth or clear UI. If I continued this project, I’d want to work on that more.
I started putting the electronics together, and playing with more reliable webcam structures.
I still wanted “record custom color” to work, but abandoned it when learning a) it was harder than I thought, and b) it was confusing.
Above: building portholes and thinking how to design an easily debuggable, wire-friendly enclosure.
A lot of this kind of fabrication felt new to me: laser cutting, working with wood, working (very little) with metal. This week was making it look polished, and putting functional finishing touches (making the switches work and fit better.)
My animation partner Kellee and I had some great traction on this After Effects project in our first week…
See also: momotaro storyboard
…and since then it’s just been a real crunch. Still, we got a good bulk of the work done after Thanksgiving Break, and there were just bits and pieces we wanted to fill in for end of semester.
Here’s the finished animation, now with some simple music. 🎵
illustrations by Eigorou Futamata
song by Dee Yan-Key from freemusicarchive.org
In our in-class share, we got some helpful feedback on our nearly-done piece.
Last week, I hauled a big effort and incorporated the changes. I built two more scenes, and I’m happy with how they came out.
Compare the original drawing for this scene…
…with the drama created by 3D layers, and loads of post-processing work:
I also created a new composite image for a scene that we didn’t have illustrations for:
In iMovie (no, I don’t know how to use Premier yet…) I added a “page flip” transition:
I generally think these are way too cheesy/gimmicky. Though, since this is following in the footsteps of other animation illustrations, it seems to work OK.
My perfectionist self wants to jump in and fix other things, but in the end, it’s still just an exercise– and I’ve learned so much from it.
Definitely, if one were to nitpick, I’d say that adding consistency to lighting & shadow would really unify and smooth out the disparate scenes.
I loved the process of building this out, once I had a story. As time consuming as it was, it was also exciting to have full control over my own 3D world.
This 48-second story shows a woman from our Mars colony coming back and planting an incubator-grown seedling back on the last fertile ground on Earth.
I was inspired by all the science fiction I’ve been absorbing recently, in small amounts, here and there.
For one, there is premise of Jess X Snow’s film, Motherland: a Latinx scientist on life support from the last plant on Earth. Then there’s the Octavia Butler novel I bought, about a young black girl with supernatural abilities in a dystopian future. (In the first chapter, she ponders the fate of a late female astronaut, who wished to be buried on Mars.)
I also just dream that the first human on Mars is female– even more powerful if she’s a woman of color. I’d like to tell more stories about nurturing future ecologies, and healing from the ways we exploit our planet today.
I showed the video to people and they got the context immediately. Amazing that just a few cameras and Mixamo loops is all it takes to create a full reality.
Some questions I still have:
Here are some images from my process:
Eyeball mats are creepy but also so interesting. It reveals a little into how this mathematically complex image is built.
Finding it hard to get fine-grain control in Fuse for geometry manipulation. Lol, whoops:
It took me a looong time to terraform the land just how I wanted. I was happy to find vehicles on Free3D.
Also, you can flesh out SO much with materials alone.
One Eric quote that I appreciate so much in retrospect: “Let’s just beat it into submission.”
Our last class was a few weeks ago already. To end, we watched this video:
Jeri Ellsworth has in many ways been rejected from all institutions (high school, company jobs, the capitalist intellectual property jungle). And still she continues to persevere and make cool shit.
She has been my hero lately, and will def continue to be.
To be completely honest– as straightforward as everyone says this class is– there were some moments I was frustrated nearly to tears. I realized I was being pushed to a point of, “I just don’t get this.” In retrospect, I realize that is an IMPORTANT moment in learning anything.
My friend, who tutors youth who don’t speak English as their first language, described to me this “affective barrier” that happens– a kind of mental block where second-language students feel so lost and daunted that they kind of shut down and block everything out.
I’ve seen girls as LES girl’s club hit this wall. Not because they are learning ESL, but because circuitry in itself is a whole new language in itself. Girls who have never soldered before, they’re asked to breadboard with delicate switches which break and break again. Of course they’ll say things like, “I don’t want to do this. I’m DONE.”
As for me, I pushed through the semester, and built every in-class lab. And they WORKED.
And now, for some labs that I beat into submission:
5 – amplifier w/ noise reduction
This ups the ante from #3, which also uses microphone input. I also don’t understand this one very well.
This uses two chips which work their magic by a) collecting the mic input and b) reducing noise, somehow.
It was the first time I’ve drawn out a complex circuit to plan it. It helped a little, but still distracting because I start thinking visually instead of logically.
My initial few tries did not work. One of those discouraging moments where you think you did everything right—only to realize you didn’t even know what you didn’t know.
I fixed the wiring a few times. (I messed up the decoupling stuff on the left with the capacitors.)
During office hours, we ended up replacing every single main component. Sometimes stuff is buggy. In the end it worked 💪
6 – breathing LED
Last week’s breathing LED was similar to #2. This one uses a 555, and two capacitors to regular the fading. This one worked for me almost on the first try.
Turns out the pot was taking too high a resistance value. **shakes fist at components drawer**
A lot of times now I’ve used the wrong resistor, sometimes by an order of magnitude. It’s cool that the system is flexible enough that it often still works.
7 – LED touch-switch with transistors
It’s a really simple circuit, but still it didn’t work on the first try. Why not?
I realized that I understood the relationships between parts perfectly on this one. Which felt good. Turns out all that went wrong was that I misread the part, and I followed a transistor wiring diagram that was for the wrong part.
That was a relief: to know that I got it, and I just needed to Google the right thing.
And that’s it!
Our last class learned how an integrated circuit is made, as well as learned about this mind-blowing, mechanical computer. It was so beautiful.
I was pretty damn moved by the whole class. Way to drop the unexpected feels on the last day.
Spent this weekend at home recuperating from the week.
It was a rainy few days where I only left home once per day.
I was so tired. I moved in slow leaps and small bounds on fabrication… something that is very new and daunting to me, but felt very good after I reflect on my work Sunday.
Also, at this point, p5.js finally works!
and fabrication is coming along… (cardboard mockup)
trying different interfaces for record dashboard
workspace circa 5pm today
to-do list, circa 4pm