It was only recently confirmed which space I am to use for my degree show installation, giving me roughly a month of certainty. Fortunately, I was assigned my first choice: the space I put the most into planning for. Even so, my idea was far from solid. This post documents my attempts to start putting my ideas into the world by selecting materials and altering my design with them in mind.

Overview

I have just finished updating the 3D model of my installation. I am likely to use the image below for my entry in the online version of the degree show catalogue.

 

The dimensions of this model correspond very closely to those of the materials I've ordered. The platform may not look that sturdy, as no diagonal wooden struts or fixing plates/brackets are included. Nonetheless, it is 20cm wider than I originally planned for, and has three additional pairs of vertical supports. I have made the barriers between the speakers and the space for the audience considerably shorter, in order to save on cloth and wood. Even after taking this step, I need 29m of 1.4m white curtain lining and nearly 100 meters of timber for all of the barriers – not to mention screws, staples, T-Brackets and L-Brackets.

Platform

The platform will be made of 45mm x 45mm timber, joined using steel brackets and screws, and if the structure still seems unsound, reinforced with diagonal struts made from offcuts. It is also likely that I will need to attach my platform to the walls, as the platform needs to take my weight; I've left the choice of masonry screws/bolts until after I've discussed the matter with technical staff.

 

At the bottom of the above image, you can see the three sheets of 1.24m x 2.48m 12mm thick MDF I'll be using for the top of the platforms.

Barriers

The barriers need to be opaque, white and not to muffle the sound from the speakers. This rules out barriers made entirely out of wood. I have considered a number of fabrics, to stretch over a wooden frame. 3 pass blackout material was too thick and airtight, and muffled sound to some extent. I also considered canvas, which would have worked, but would not have been white unless painted, in which case it would have tightened as it dried and put a lot of stress on my frames. I eventually opted for some cheap white poly-cotton curtain liner.

The barriers will be made in sections, probably before I set up my installation, and need to be very precisely sized if they are to make an effective wall. This is so important, that I may leave some of the smaller sections until I know exactly how long they need to be.

Misc.

All of the other major components of the installation are electronic.

The three pairs of speakers are Genius SP HF1800A desktop stereo models. I bought them due to their good sound quality and the fact that the right and left speakers came separately and could be connected using a RCA extension lead, meaning that they could go anywhere, relative to each other. After an initial failure, I have acquired some good quality RCA extensions, that don't cause signal strength to attenuate.

The webcam is a Logitec C 905. It has a fairly wide-angle Carl Ziess lens, with an middle-macro focal range. What this means is that I can purposefully adjust the focus to be too near, so that the images of people in the space are more blob-like.This should help my motion tracking software to read them as individual moving objects. In order to position this webcam above the space, I needed a USB extension, and not just any would do, it has to have an active repeater to reinforce the signal over a distance. I bought such an extension and it worked perfectly when I tested it. If it proves not to be long enough, I may find myself testing the claim that these active repeater USB extensions can be daisy-chained together.

Taking into account the speakers, webcam, cables, timber, fastenings and cloth, this installation could easily come to £700. Including tools and inevitable unforeseen costs, this could climb even higher, hopefully not reaching quadrupal figures.

I have effectively finished the second year of my BA, and can resume work on an unrelated project: Switch. I started Swich during my leave of absence last year and after re-enrolling I have been torn between my art and interactive storytelling practices, to the detriment of both, I suspect.

This is how I left Switch:

Screen-shot of Switch as of 29/05/2012

I'm not happy with most of the dialogue. The above seems too prolix, imprecise and metaphorical. While this may have been my intention, I now hope to achieve something similar by referring mainly to specific events and experiences. Of course, I need a good application to edit the dialogue script. I have considered returning to the general web-based JSON editor I used before, but have instead resolved to write my own in Visual Studio. This should teach me a lot and make my writing process a bit less clunky. It is especially convenient considering that most of the worked examples in the book on C# and object oriented programming sitting on my desk are in the Visual Studio environment.

Here is my first messy sketch for the application:

Low quality image of sketch for user interface and data structure of dialogue editing application.

Humble origins, I know. However, since this is the only task I've set myself other than finishing up this semester's animation and research for my dissertation, I think I stand a fair chance of pulling it off.

I posted some time ago about the dialogue system for Unity I am working on. I have made some progress since that post, and now have a system in place for importing dialogue information from external files. Namely, humble TXT files, using the fairly simple JSON format.

At present, I can enter data in a text editor, save it, and the rest is automated. This is almost a viable way of authoring content, but for two problems.

The first of these is human error: I might miss a comma here or accidentally enter an extra brace there, rendering at least part of the file unreadable. The second problem is that this method renders the writing process fiddly and slow. Any sudden burst of activity on my part might be stymied by my endless, repetitive copy/paste operations and double checking for errors. Ideally, any repetitive work which favours consistency is carried out by a machine.

I may be forced to bite the bullet and put most of my effort into writing a decent editor for my files. This will mean getting my head around Windows forms or something similar and may stretch my minimal coding skills. I can always work on my files in a text editor until I build or find something better.