art entertainment wired culture

Jaunt – Meet the Crazy Camera That Can Make Movies for the Oculus Rift (Jordan Kushins-Gizmodo)

Oculus Rift
Oculus Rift (Photo credit: Digitas Photos)

If Facebook buying Oculus for a cool $2 billion is a step towards democratizing the currently-niche platform, Jaunt seems like an equally monumental step towards making awesome virtual reality content that appeals to folks beyond the gaming community. The VR movies in addition to VR games.

via Meet the Crazy Camera That Can Make Movies for the Oculus Rift.

Amazing story about a stealthy little company with a 3D video recording rig. This isn’t James Cameron like motion capture for 3D rendering. This is just 2D video in real time stitched together. No modeling, or texture-mapping, or animating required. Just run the video camera, capture the footage, bring it back to the studio and stitch it all together. Watch the production on your Oculus Rift head set. If you can produce 3D movies with this without having to invest in the James Cameron high end, ultra-expensive virtual sets, you just lowered the barriers to entry.

I’m also kind of disappointed that in the article the author keeps insisting that you “had to be there”. Telling us words cannot express the experience is like telling me in writing the “dog ate my homework”. I guess I “had to be there” for that too. Anyway you put it, telling me more about the company and the premises and about the prototypes means you’re writing for a Venture Capital audience, not someone who might make work using the camera or those who might consume the work made by the artists working with the camera. I say just cave into the temptation and TRY expressing the experience in words. Don’t worry if you fail, as you’ve just increased the comment rate on your story, engaging people longer after the initial date the story was published. In spite off the lack of daring, to describe the experience, I picked up enough detail, extrapolated it enough and read between the lines in a way that indicates this camera rig might well be the killer app, or authoring app for the Oculus Rift platform. Let’s hope it sees the light of day and makes it market quicker than the Google Glass prototypes floating around these days.

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art entertainment gpu

Nvidia Pulls off ‘Industrial Light and Magic’-Like Tools | EE Times

Image representing NVidia as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

The president of VMware said after seeing it (and not knowing what he was seeing), “Wow, what movie is that?” And that’s what it’s all about — dispersion of disbelief. You’ve heard me talk about this before, and we’re almost there. I famously predicted at a prestigious event three years ago that by 2015 there would be no more human actors, it would be all CG. Well I may end up being 52% or better right (phew).    – Jon Peddie

via Nvidia Pulls off ‘Industrial Light and Magic’-Like Tools | EE Times. Jon Peddie has covered the 3D animation, modeling and simulation market for YEARS. And when you can get a rise out of him like the quote above from EETimes, you have accomplished something. Between NVidia’s hardware and now its GameWorks suite of software modeling tools, you have in a word created Digital Cinema. Jon goes on to talk about how the digital simulation demo convinced a VMWare exec it was real live actors on a set. That’s how good things are getting.

And the metaphor/simile of comparing ILM to NVidia’s toolkits off the shelf is also telling. No longer does one need to have on staff computer scientists, physicists and mathematicians to help model, and simulate things like particle systems and hair. It’s all there along with ocean waves, and smoke altogether in the toolkit ready to use. Putting these tools into the hands of the users will only herald a new era of less esoteric, less high end, exclusive access to the best algorithms and tools.

nVidia GameWorks by itself will be useful to some people but re-packaging it in a way that embeds it in an existing workflow will widen the level of adoption.Whether that’s for a casual user or a student in a 3D modeling and animation course at a University. The follow-on to this is getting the APIs publishedto tap into this through current off the shelf tools like AutoCAD, 3D StudioMax, Blender, Maya, etc. Once the favorite tools can bring up a dialog box and start adding a particle system, full ray tracing to a scene at this level of quality, things will really start to take off. The other possibility is to flesh out GameWorks in a way that makes it more of a standalone, easily adopted  brand new package creatives could adopt and eventually migrate to over time. That would be another path to using GameWorks as an end-to-end digital cinema creation package.

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art gpu mobile

AnandTech | The Pixel Density Race and its Technical Merits

Italiano: Descrizione di un pixel
Italiano: Descrizione di un pixel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If there is any single number that people point to for resolution, it is the 1 arcminute value that Apple uses to indicate a “Retina Display”.

via AnandTech | The Pixel Density Race and its Technical Merits.

Earlier in my job where I work, I had to try and recommend the resolution people needed to get a good picture using a scanner or a digital camera. As we know the resolution arms race knows no bounds. First in scanners then in digital cameras. The same is true now for displays. How fine is fine enough. Is it noticeable, is it beneficial? The technical limits that enforce lower resolution usually are tied to costs. For the consumer level product cost has to fit into a narrow range, and the perceived benefit of “higher quality” or sharpness are rarely enough to get someone to spend more. But as phones can be upgraded for free and printers and scanners are now commodity items, you just keep slowly migrating up to the next model for little to no entry threshold cost. And everything is just ‘better’, all higher rez, and therefore by association higher quality, sharper, etc.

I used to quote or try to pin down a rule of thumb I found once regarding the acuity of the human eye. Some of this was just gained  by noticing things when I started out using Photoshop and trying to print to Imagesetters and Laser Printers. At some point in the past someone decided 300 dpi is what a laser printer needed in order to reproduce text on letter size paper. As for displays, I bumped into a quote from an IBM study on visual acuity that indicated the human eye can discern display pixels in the 225 ppi range. I tried many times to find the actual publication where that appears so I could site it. But no luck, I only found it as a footnote on a webpage from another manufacturer. Now in this article we get more stats on human vision, much more extensive than that vague footnote all those years ago.

What can one conclude from all the data in this article? Just the same thing, that resolution arms races are still being waged by manufacturers. This time however it’s in mobile phones, not printers, not scanners, not digital cameras. Those battles were fought and now there’s damned little product differentiation. Mobile phones will fall into that pattern and people will be less and less Apple fanbois or Samsung fanbois. We’ll all just upgrade to a newer version of whatever phone is cheap and expect to always have the increased spec hardware, and higher resolution, better quality, all that jazz. It is one more case where everything old is new again. My suspicion is we’ll see this happen when a true VR goggle hits the market with real competitors attempting to gain advantage with technical superiority or more research and development. Bring on the the VR Wars I say.

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art technology

Delia Derbyshire – BBC Radiophonic Workshop – Dr. Who Theme

This image is of a screencap from the document...
This image is of a screencap from the documentary Doctor Who: Origins, it is intended for use in the article “Delia Derbyshire” to visually aid and provide critical commentary in describing the subject of the article. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Delia Derbyshire – BBC Radiophonic Workshop – Dr. Who Theme

It’s 50 years since the first episode of Dr. Who aired on the BBC. How will you celebrate? I’m reading this wonder tract from The (British Tech website) and marveling both at the detail and expertise that went into original recordings made by Derbyshire and the subsequent writing that tells the history of it. Amazing story-telling and amazing work all in one.

In the pre-computer, pre-synthesizer, pre-sampler era everything had to be done using razor blades and 1/4-1/2″ audio tape. There were no midi timing signals or timecode, there were only the splices and the china marker on the back side to tell where things go. And in addition to that there was the composition and creation of the sounds that first needed to be captured to tape. Whether it was test tone generators or found sound, it all was fodder for the final mix. And since none of these items actually were not accurate they needed to be further processed into something like scalar notes. This was the alchemy and magic that went into recording of the original Dr. Who theme.

This article is rather long, but totally worth it as it goes into the greatest detail to date of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Delia Derbyshire got the Dr. Who theme recorded and on air back in Nov. 1963.


art computers science & technology

A Conversation with Ed Catmull – ACM Queue

EC: Here are the things I would say in support of that. One of them, which I think is really important—and this is true especially of the elementary schools—is that training in drawing is teaching people to observe.
PH: Which is what you want in scientists, right?
EC: Thats right. Or doctors or lawyers. You want people who are observant. I think most people were not trained under artists, so they have an incorrect image of what an artist actually does. Theres a complete disconnect with what they do. But there are places where this understanding comes across, such as in that famous book by Betty Edwards [Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain].

via A Conversation with Ed Catmull – ACM Queue.

This interview is with a computer scientist named Ed Catmull. In the time Ed Catmull entered the field, we’ve gone from computers crunching numbers like a desktop calculator to computers doing full 3D animated films. Ed Catmull’s single most important goal was to created an animated film using a computer. He eventually accomplished that and more onced he helped form up Pixar. All of his research and academic work was focused on that one goal.

I’m always surprised to see what references or influences people quote in interviews. In fact, I am really encouraged. It was about 1988 or so when I took a copy of Betty Edward’s book my mom had and started reading it and doing some of the exercises in it. Stranger still I want back to college and majored in art (not drawing but Photography). So I think I understand exactly what Ed Catmull means when he talks about being observant. In every job I’ve had computer related or otherwise that ability to be observant just doesn’t exist in a large number of people. Eventually people begin to ask me how do know all this stuff, when did you learn it? Most times, the things they are most impressed by are things like noticing something and trying a different strategy in attempting to fix a problem. The proof is, I can do this with things I am unfamiliar with and usually make some headway towards fixing a thing. Whether that thing is mechanical, or computer related doesn’t matter. I make good guesses and it’s not because I’m an expert in anything, I merely notice things. That’s all it is.

So maybe everyone should read and go through Betty Edwards’s book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. If nothing else it might make you feel a little dislocated and uncomfortable. It might shake you up, and make you question some pre-conceived notions about yourself like, the feeling you can’t draw or you are not good at art. I think with practice, anyone can draw and with practice anyone can become observant.

art entertainment media wired culture

My love letter to Public Television

The days I spent watching educational programs on PBS I think gave me an interesting way of seeing the world. And I am not alone:

Exposure to Samuel Beckett, art-appreciation documentaries, “Masterpiece Theatre,” and grade Z film gave me the rudiments of an aesthetic education. And a good thing, too, because nobody in the local school system would have used the expression “aesthetic education,” or considered it worth offering.

via Views: The Plug-In Syllabus – Inside Higher Ed

Those were golden halcyon days watching the weird shows fly by. I remember seeing Firing Line briefly and Steve Allen’s program and Dick Cavett’s program. I’m not saying I ‘watched’ them, but I would see them in passing hoping to find a repeat of Sesame Street. My parents would watch Masterpiece Theatre religiously, which I hated because I wanted to watch what else was on Sunday nights. Usually it was NBC’s Police Story or some other violent, low-brow entertainment.

Now all that old TV “content” can be recycled to the public airwaves of the Interwebs. All that was old is new again. Which means I should try tracking down all those old episodes of Omnibus that made the transition from BBC to PBS. Sometimes I think PBS and BBC should have formed up a single International Media conglomerate and shared more costs in preparation for the large scale media consolidation of the ’80s. And certainly they could have hedged their enterprises somewhat against the proliferation of Satellite and Cable TV networks.

Oh, if I could  just get the BBC for several hours in the evening or even during the day. I would watch Emmerdale or Eastenders, I would even watch Tesco commercials. Doesn’t matter to me. Too much of what we watch locally on TV is a kind of bubble like prison, meant to reinforce, nay indoctrinate one in the predominant culture. And more choices hasn’t helped as the media owners don’t let the media flow freely cross international borders.

Welcome to Internet U, via Video

I was raised on the most successful initiatives from Public Television, or ETV as it was previously known (E standing for Educational of course). Sesame Street, 3-2-1 Contact, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and Reading Rainbow were my bread and butter as a kid. And yet while those educational programs were major successes, television’s promise of bringing education and instruction to a wide audience was left largely unfulfilled in the United States. Proponents of educational TV faced the harsh realities of the large amounts of funding required to create and maintain television programing placed upon them. The need to satisfy the large …
(Read more at source)

As a kid I watched PBS a lot. One reason being in the 1970s funding for PBS kids shows and educational programs was better than it is now. As kids we would watch hours of programming and then we would be rewarded, REWARDED with a fund-raising drive once a year. The reason I say rewarded is PBS went out of its way to entertain and bring in new viewers. They would air special programs especially for the fund-raising drive. I remember one year they aired Woodstock as the centerpiece of one year’s fund-raising campaign. That was the cool part, you never knew what they would pull out to reward us when they were asking for money. And what did we get in return?

WGBH, the Boston superstation for PBS and WNET 13 in New York would crank out the jams. Some of it was experimental, some of it was just downright good. There was Sesame Street, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, Electric Company, Zoom and eventually 3-2-1 Contact. And even in school our teacher’s would fire up the TV in the days before the VCR to show us certain science programs different times of the week. Sometimes it would be a reading program, or a science program. At one point during the Carter Administration, all the kids were encouraged to learn the Metric System. So for about one year we watched  a program once a week to teach us the metric system. Turns out we didn’t go metric.

After school was good too. We had a TV show produced by a “local” TV station in Sioux Falls, SD. It was hosted by the weatherman on KELO-TV. It was called Captain 11. I knew kids who had gone down to Sioux Falls and gotten on the TV show. And there was also a drawing for a prize on each episode. It was a giant plastic tootsie roll with tootsie roll lollipop candies inside. I never saw any of my friends on that show. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. I saw every Hanna-Barbera cartoon, and a few Our Gang short films along the way. Why I spent more time watching TV than I can even add up. It’s a lot that’s for sure.

Super-jet Dinosaur Fun-monkeys

art entertainment wired culture

‘Wait For Me’ : Moby @ NPR Music

I am a fan of David Lynch. I saw the movie Blue Velvet once on MTV of all places. It wasn’t in its entirety but it did have all the adult content. It was more frightening than any horror movie I saw up until or after that time. Because its horror is so palpable. It is as real as me sitting here typing or getting up to go to the bathroom or driving to work. Its plainness and realness are what raises my level of paranoia 100 percent.

As a person David Lynch seems very mild, and he’s pretty happy generally and kind of nostalgic. He put up a website some years back to allow fans to contribute to his causes. Meditation is a big deal for him, and he’s trying to setup a large scale school for teaching tascendental meditation. So it’s always a shock or slightly unsettling to see him speak about something he hates. David Lynch hates Product Placement and knows that watching a movie on a telephone is much worse than seeing on a big movie screen. I haven’t really thought about David Lynch very recently. But a link to an NPR website reviewing new music from the Artis Moby caught my attention.

Moby, June 15, 2009 – Moby has just made his best record in 10 years — at least I think so. The new record by the DJ, singer, bassist, keyboardist, guitarist and all-around renaissance man, Wait for Me, is filled with beauty, sadness and celebration.

via Exclusive First Listen: Moby, ‘Wait For Me’ : NPR Music.

Moby had said in an interview he was inspired by an interview done by BAFTA for it’s David Lean Lecture Series. Moby felt Lynch was saying being creative was more important than the market for the work being created. Which led me to finding the original video and transcript of the interview:

David Lynch from the BAFTA David Lean Lecture:

“Everybody probably knows that success is just as dangerous as failure, maybe more. You second guess yourself from then on because you’re afraid to fall. Failure? Terrible at first but then, oh man, total freedom. There is nowhere to go but up, and it’s a very good thing.”

Moby asked David Lynch to make a video for one of the music tracks. Here’s the link to video on pitchfork:…

So given this interesting combination of thoughts and ideas and inspiration all I can say is I’m so happy the web allows people to find those little seeds to start big fires burning. Lynch is right. Creativity is the thing. Or as Lynch likes to say the little fish that allow you to catch the really deep, abstract big fish. I too have received inspiration from finding the original album posted on I listened to the whole thing all the way through rather than a track at a time. Moby designed this to be an old style ‘album’ experience and he handcrafted it, a very personal work. I like it. I like it a lot. It’s fantastic. Run out and buy it, or download it or something. Do it. Do it now!


Gordon Bunshaft vs. Robert Venturi

Every school of thought wages battles during its reign in order to maintain dominance, to be popular and cool. Most recently posted an article indicating Blogs are so 2004. All the ‘cool’ kids had graduated up to Twitter instead. Moving targets being what they are (a barrier to entry) Jeffrey Zeldman took this as a dumb attempt to tastemake at the expense of established bloggers. More specifically it was a misguided attempt to file a provocative story on a short deadline. All the same Zeldman’s negative reaction follows a familiar pattern of righteous indignation, and attempts to question the authority of the author. Ah, History where would we be without ye.

After writing the original blog post about my attempts to read through Learning from Las Vegas I came across a little contoversial nugget near the end of the book. Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour put a number of proposals for projects and plans in the last third of the book to demonstrate some of the implementation of philosophy they had developed as an architectural and landscape design outfit. Yes, they had learned from Las Vegas, and Levittown. Now they had to show what they learned. In so doing a number of design projects and competitions came up where Requests for Proposals went out and design firms entered into competition.

One of these projects was for a speculative office building just south of the Mall in Washington DC. The group judging submissions was called the Washington DC Fine Arts Commission and ultimately they had final say on the esthetics of any finally chosen design. At this point all is fine and well until Venturi begins to start to complain about the role of Architectural Review Boards or similar bodies like the Fine Arts Commission. Whereas Zoning boards have straightforward rules and laws governing the building site and proposals for buildings on those same sites, all bets are off with the Architectural Review Board. ARB’s and similar purveyors of taste are in Venturi’s opinion not bound by rules, statutes, laws or best practices. Instead the Architectural Review is an Aribtrary Review meant to impress a vague sense of taste and decorum onto something another creative enterprise (the design firm) has placed much effort.

How then can a Review Board who hasn’t a business interest to protect or a legal precedent to uphold have so much power and weild it so clumsily? In the article on this project Venturi went to great pains to explain to members of the Fine Arts Commission that the building’s plan and program were fully agreed upon by his client and in the process money and contracts were being exchanged with lawyers present. These were things hard to undo. But that was immaterial to this review board who proceeded to tear apart the fundamental design and request changes be made for no other reason than to satisfy the whims of the review board. Venturi notes that this is the worst possible situation any architect can find themselves in when it comes to getting things done on schedule and on budget. A review board can severely alter the economics of any project through its request for changes.

That in fact is exactly what happened as the review board met no less than 5 times to look at this one project. Due to scheduling conflicts and members of the review board having other jobs, the schedule can become quite delayed. This affected the budget as costs for materials inflated in price. Similarly, the site plan changed in the middle of the process and robbed the original site of valuable square footage that made the project economically feasible. By the end of the process the project never got built. The actions of a review board helped sink the whole enterprise.

Worse yet, in Venturi’s recollection of the process was the bullying and insults targeted at Venturi’s original design proposal. This brings me to my original reason for writing this article. One prominent member of the Washington DC Fine Arts commission was a big name architect from the illustrious NY City firm of Skidmore Owings and Merril (SOM). This company single-handedly brought the avant garde to the masses in commercial and private buildings the world over. Gordon Bunshaft had broken new ground in the Modern movement or International style of architecture with a number of commissions in Chicago and NYC. He was a genius by all accounts and very well aware of it. Along with this authority came an overarching ego that was going to level all threats to the established order of which he was a part. Enter postmodern architecture in the form of Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates.

Venturi was visible in the publishing arena through articles written for architecture magazines and a few books. He was attempting to question the dominant style that had evolved from Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and Ludwig Mies Van der rohe. Throw in Louis I. Kahn, IM Pei and Phillip Johnson and Gordon Bunshaft as the heirs of the mantle of Moderne and now you can see this couldn’t end well for Robert Venturi. Nowhere in the article does Venturi go into any discussion of who Bunshaft is or what he had accomplished up until then. Instead he treats Bunshaft as a sudo faceless bureaucrat appointed to this arbitrary review board. Which makes this all the more impressive as you read Venturi’s account of how mean Bunshaft was through all the precedings of each review board meeting. If Bunshaft didn’t have score to settle with Venturi I would be surprised. The other possibility is maybe Bunshaft hated everything he ever saw in a review board meeting regardless of who the designer was. Here now is a sampling of what Robert Venturi recollects from meetings with the DC Fine Arts Commission back in 1968:

“We felt the overall scheme was greatly improved,” said a letter from the Chairman:

We now look forward to seeing an imaginative development of the architectural expression of the building. Unfortunately, the sketches that we saw showed a very bland and unrelieved treatment of the facade. In fact, there was little difference between the paving pattern and the building itself. Surely the architect can do better than this.

Bunshaft said,

… We disapprove the exterior one hundred percent. We don’t like it at all. It is very coarse, has no character of any sort . . . a sort of nonentity of architecture. I think the indication of signs and things is a deliberate effort to be anti- design, to sort of let everybody have a ball. The grayness of the building, coarseness of joining and detailing — I think you might say we think it is ugly and I think that’s about all we have to say.

Venturi now was defending his right as architect to design the building himself:

At the fourth meeting we tried to show that sophisticated architects had carefully designed the proportions and details of the facade to look ordinary because the extraordinary building in this neighborhood is at the end of Maryland Avenue with a big dome on top.

Aline Saarinen noted that our elevations looked like wallpaper.

Bunshaft continued:

We all listened to [Venturi’s] spiel at the previous meeting. . . . I think the position in a nutshell is for an architect to make a very good building for that site not, in his career, to do a building that is different than the one he did before, or that is different from what is au courant. . . . Remember this is Washington.

So things went all the way to one more full meeting before everyone got tired and just approved the final revision:

[At the fifth meeting we presented the design that passed. It followed the spirit of the law. The Kafkaesque aura, the personal insults, the questionable professional ethics, and the superficial process of review perpetrated by this particular board are revealed in our account of our experience.]

Which brings me to the final last evidence of what transpired. Let’s first start with the original model of the project:

Transportation Square proposal

Now let’s see the final submission:Transportation Square final submission

This is an ugly building, the DC Commission of Fine Arts got what they deserved. But luckily for Robert Venturi this thing never got built. Gordon Bunshaft however got his big ugly Concrete Doughnut built right on the Mall to house modern artwork for the Smithsonian Institute. One only need look at the Hirshorn Museum to see the height of what Gordon Bunshaft considers ‘architecture’. In a turn of poetic justice Bunshaft’s own house on Long Island the Travertine House eventually was left to rot by the daughter of none other than Martha Stewart. The historical stature of Bunshaft and his accomplishments held no sway with Ms. Stewart and eventually led to the house being torn down. A fitting legacy ending to a man who dumped all over Robert Venturi during the review period for this project by the DC Fine Arts Commission.