Setting Up – Day 1

Today was my first day of setting up. I took in all the staging and hardware required including 2 larger lengths of lycra following on from the last post. In fact, as I stitched the eyelets into the material the night before, I tried hanging it with 5 points of attachment rather than the planned 10 and found this arrangement to be satisfactory.

Here is phone camera snap of the room as I found it

And here is picture if the room with the screens up.

Much of my time spent in the room was trying out different screen and projector placements. There’s a fire exit to keep clear in the corner of the room which determines where I can place the screens, which are at a fixed angle to each other. Similarly, there are constraints on projector throw distance. In the end I have settled for a floor position for the projectors although I will try to raise them slightly tomorrow. With the images being back-projected, one can see the projector light through the screen, which I’ve noticed is an issue with most back projection set-ups. I opted to have the projectors low as it seems to be slightly less off-putting than having them closer to eye-level behind the screen.

It would be great to have a studio space where I can try out relative screen/projector positioning, including near-ceiling placement, without having to fix mounting plates – ie some kind of fixed frame I could hook into. This kind of staging research through trial and error is just not possible at home – a good reason for me to aim toward acquiring a studio space at some point in the future.

Even with optimum set-up, images projected by the 2000 Lumens-rated projectors are only visible when the room is in near-darkness. Ideally the room would be in total darkness, but this would be difficult to achieve without hanging fabric on or painting the walls which is beyond scope at the moment.

Leaving the equipment in situ, I came back home to try to create a 10 minutes or so test piece to play through the installation on Saturday, my second and last set-up day. Once again I have been plagued by problems relating to creating a faithful recording of the audio-visual output I am able to produce ‘live’.

Screen capture frame-at-a-time direct from Processing produces good quality visual results but is intrinsically difficult to match up with recorded audio. Similarly, exporting video direct from Processing using the Java video library produces great results but then the length of video is nowhere near the length of independently recorded audio, indicating that the video is not actually placing frames accurately. I have spent some time looking around for solutions but to date the best one I can come up with is Quicktime screen record, which unfortunately records the whole screen (most of which is of course not required). However, by dropping the screen resolution and placing a black image behind the Processing window (to mitigate cropping issues later) I have been able to achieve 15fps of combined audio-visual recording, which would seem poor in other circumstances, but at least it is the frame rate that drops rather than the time management of frames.

Once I have the screen recording, I use After Effects to crop and up-scale the image, which has the effect of creating 2 pixel wide lines in the video. This is actually desirable as otherwise the lines are too fine and are somewhat lost when projected. I had tried to thicken the lines in Processing but immediately quartered my frame rate as a result, so quickly returned them to 1 pixel wide.

I also use After Effects to apply a glow filter, inspired by the iMovie effect ‘Dream’, as the result lifts the image – on the one hand giving more luminance to the brighter areas and on the other hand ‘smoothing’ the light-dark balance.

Unfortunately this whole process is very time-consuming with a 15 minute capture taking 2 hours to render. Of course, in trying to solve a set of problems, I am actually identifying detailed requirements for an optimum future work flow.

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