The National Conference on Undergraduate Education (NCUR) is, as its name suggests, the country’s premiere outlet for scholarly and creative work by undergraduates. UVU dance student Molly Buonforte, who participated at the Utah Conference on Undergraduate Research (UCUR), and I were able to make the trip to the University of Kentucky to present a reworked version of Dance Loops. Following the nomenclature from software releases, this version was the “Golden Master],” which refers to the production-ready version of software. This was our largest audience by far, as well as the first performance on an actual theatre stage (yay!). It was also the first performance with original music, as I created two pieces in GarageBand for the performance.
Despite the “Golden Master” nomenclature, there was a string of technical difficulties that nearly prevented the performance: the extension cable for the Kinect didn’t work, then the extension cable for the USB web cam didn’t work, then I couldn’t set up the Mira app with wi-fi to control the effects, then I couldn’t set it up over a private connection. Eventually we moved the entire performance about six feet downstage so I could sit at the edge and control the laptop manually. Sub-optimal, but it worked. Always nice to know that if Plans A, B, C, and D don’t work, there is still a Plan E.
The video for this performance, while still amateurish, is better than the others. Enjoy!
After learning a little more about what to do and what NOT to do with your first rendition of Dance Loops (i.e., the “alpha release” @ UCUR), we had a chance to do a few things over for our “open beta” (AKA the “nearly there” version). This time, we were at the Scholarship of Teaching and Engagement Conference (SoTE) at my home school, Utah Valley University, in Orem, Utah. Superstar UVU dancer Hannah Braegger McKeachnie reprised her role from Dance Loops and performed the first section, to the music of Julia Kent (with an edited version of “Gardermoen”). We still performed in a sub-optimal environment – a partitioned meeting room, in this case – and we still have abominable video but, otherwise, things went beautifully. We also got to meet some wondeful people from other schools who were interested in the piece and may be able to contribute in some way in the future. Very exciting! But, for now, here is our monkeywrench video:
In the software world, the “alpha release” is the “not-quite-ready-for-primetime” version. It is usually circulated internally so the bugs can be worked out, although there are occasionally public alpha releases by very daring (or foolish) companies. I’m not totally sure which of the two camps we fall into, but here is an extremely non-professional video – we like to call it the “bootleg version” – of our first public performance of Dance Loops.
Now, a few alpha release issues with this performance.
The video is shot way off to the side and aimed wrong. The primary video camera didn’t work and, well, this is what we have. Better than nothing (but maybe not by much).
It’s in a classroom auditorium with a very shallow stage and no theatre lighting, but that’s the nature of this event.
The projections are way too fuzzy for this situation; we wanted them a little fuzzy but on this shiny surface it was really exaggerated.
The videos are projected too high; we wanted to avoid the wood rail but learned that the videos need to be on the same level as the dancer and the same size to work best, wood rail be damned.
We though that there was too much synchronization in the projections during the last rehearsal, so I removed a bunch of unity from the programming for this. Big mistake; it just looked jumbled. Never change things without rehearsing first!
We also told the dancers that they didn’t need to follow their phrases so closely and to just play around with. They did exactly what we told them to but, again, it looked to mushy. Again, never change things without rehearsing!
So, we learned some important lessons. Nevertheless, it was a good experience. Hannah will get to her part again in a few weeks and Molly will do a variation on hers (and another) a week after that. We’re learning!
My final project for my independent studies course in Jitter was to revisit a dance piece called “Hello World” that my wife, choreographer Jacque Bell, and I created back in October of 2012 for Repertory Dance Theatre here in Salt Lake City, Utah. (You can see an entry with still image and links to reviews here or another with a video of the performance here.) My major goal for this project was to explore the possibilities of Max/MSP/Jitter (with an emphasis on the latter…) for use in future dance and technology pieces, especially Dance Loops, the major project that Jacque, Nichole Ortega, and I are working on for this year and next.
I did two major things for this Jitter project:
Worked with several different visual effects within Jitter (as facilitated by the Vizzie modules); and
Experimented with using a hardware controller – a Korg nanoKONTROL2, in this case – to manipulate video in real time.
Overall, it was a lot of fun and I think there’s a lot of potential there. I’ll spend the next several months learning ways to work out the kinks in the patch, as not everything worked reliably, and learning how to use other hardware, such as my Kinects, Novation Launchpads, Akai APC40 and 20, KMI Softstep and QuNeo, as well as the projectors, etc. (That’s the nice thing about grant money – you can get some excellent gear!)
The major lesson is that it is much, much, much easier to do a lot of this in Max/MSP/Jitter than it is in Processing, which is what I have been using for the last two or three years. The programming is easier, the performance seems to be much smoother, and the hardware integration is way, way easier. (I find it curious, though, that there are hardly any books written about Max/MSP/Jitter, while there are at least a dozen fabulous books about Processing. Go figure.)
I’ve included a few still shots at the top of this post and a rather lengthy walk-through of the patch (where not much seems to be working right at the moment…) below.
La voilà! The edited – and now sonified! – video from our fabulous art/technology creation, “Hello World.” Although I posted on this recently, here’s the basic idea: “Hello World” is a collaboration between my lovely wife, choreographer Jacque Lynn Bell, and me. I did the sound editing/design and created the projected visuals in Processing. The piece was performed by Repertory Dance Theatre (rdtutah.org) at the Rose Wagner Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah, 4-6 October 2012. The videography and editing were both by Lynne Wimmer (thank you, Lynne!).
La voilà! The edited video from our fabulous art/technology creation, “Hello World.” Although I posted on this recently, here’s the basic idea: “Hello World” is a collaboration between my lovely wife, choreographer Jacque Lynn Bell, and me. I did the sound editing/design and created the projected visuals in Processing. The piece was performed by Repertory Dance Theatre (rdtutah.org) at the Rose Wagner Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah, 4-6 October 2012. The videography and editing were both by Lynne Wimmer (thank you, Lynne!).
[The link below is supposed to load the video automatically – and sometimes it does – but you may need to click on it manually to see the video.]
Tonight was “dig+it+art,” otherwise known as the Capstone Showing for the Arts Technology Certificate Program at the University of Utah. As I have been participating in this program all year for my sabbatical, I got to show a piece as well. My piece was entitled “Dots and Lines and Dance and All of Us.”
To create it, I recruited a group of dancers (mostly freshman modern dance students at the University of Utah but also my wife, Jacque, who is a professional modern dance choreographer) and had each of them improvise a 10-second sequence that I filmed with a Kinect hooked up to my MacBook and running through Processing. From there, I took the RGB video at 1 FPS and ran it through a nice, blurry B&W filter, placed the 100 resulting images on a grid in random order, and made it possible to connect the images from a dance with a Catmull-Rom spline. (Of course….) I also created videos of the point clouds and skeletons, also at 1 FPS. Each of the three parts – clouds, grid, and skeletons – was projected on a large wall. Lots of fun!