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Friday, 28 October 2011

UnReality: Closing Statement

I am going to close this project with my conceptual statement from the portfolio hand-in.  I feel it sums up what I took away most from the project, and what I think it conceptually demonstrated best.  The journey itself went well and We all were pleased with the final outcome.

I wasn't really a major part of the technical aspects of the project, nor did I play a major role in the experience itself come time of the event, but thanks to my team-mates everything went smoothly. I would work with any one of you again in the future without question.

Good Run.  Hope our players had as much fun as we did.
"A detailed outline of why your group chose this reality including reflection on group dynamics, philosophical and artistic inspirations, theoretical frameworks utilised etc.

With our latest 'Unreality' project we were tasked with the creation of an alternate reality ‘journey’.

It became clear early on in the concept stages that as a group we were looking at producing a narrative which held our 'players' hands and guided them through our alternate reality. Immersion was going to be a key aspect of our journey, not only did we want to create a fundamental story, but we wanted to create the feel of an entire living breathing world behind it. We wanted to offer an 'experience', -one that was memorable and affected our players. As a group we wished above all else, to make our story believable, If we truly made our players forget that this was a work of fiction, we would have achieved our target of building a truly weighted alternate reality.

To this end we arrived at the concept of submerging players in a world that parallels our own, run by a totalitarian regime, and plagued by political unrest. Our core theme was the battle between obedience and free-will. We drew a lot of creative inspiration from similarly themed works of fiction such as George Orwell's novel '1984', and the movie 'Equilibrium' directed by Kurt Wimmer. In hindsight these contemporary works shone through our own narrative quite substantially, however when dealing with common themes such as 'theft of human 'emotion or creativity' or 'life under constant surveillance from a disembodied higher power, it was always going to be hard to steer entirely away from the aforementioned works of fiction.

This battle between free-will and obedience would be what drove the majority of the project. Once we were past the concept stages, developing this theme was the point of interest that kept us as a group moving forward in the same direction. Group members were strong in favor of having player choice involved in the project. Once talked over it was apparent that giving players the decision to choose right or wrong, good or bad would increase the interactivity of the journey but may not necessarily add to the level of immersion we all aimed for. Instead we found a happy medium, we offered opportunities to our players to change their path without giving them a fork in the road. Instead of implementing a black or white decision, we created a constant morally grey area for the players to dwell in for the best part of thirty minutes. It was this approach that posed the questions to our players -Are you in favor of going along with your orders from start to finish? Or are you prepared to risk consequence for what may be the better thing to do. Who are the 'good guys' and 'bad guys'in this situation? This was a decision that had no concrete answer, but the choice was there for players to make their own internal decision.

The notion of surveillance was also one that lent itself well to our framework, as it allowed us to impose on our players a feeling of anxiety. While they were being guided through their deceptive tour of the city we tried to demonstrate that they were being not only watched but analyzed. That they were being tested. By removing their control of the situation, and limiting the amount of information they were given in advance, we aimed to essentially confuse our players.

Confusion itself is a powerful tool when creating an alternate reality. Whilst treading the fine line between a structured lack of understanding, and complete discord, players we felt would be submerged in a survival situation. Nothing prompts drastic change (such as believing you have been transported to an alternate reality) like necessity. We realized that this confusion had the capacity to hinder our journey, but hope that it instead added to the experience.

Dealing with these themes, and the nature of violence in political unrest (We may have been affected ourselves by the current 'Occupy' protests) our journey took a slightly darker, more nefarious undertone than we had originally anticipated. This again hopefully supplemented our key goal of immersion' rather than distracting the players throughout the experience."

UnReality: SlideShow

UnReality: My Role

Being in charge of creating visual components of the world was a job i volunteered for.  It would allow me to develop my ability with a tablet, which is something I have been working on lately.  I could also work away at it whilst the group focused on technical tasks.

It was evident that the easiest way to flesh out the alternate reality was to incorporate as many small intricacies as possible.  This was where my role would prove to be important.

Several examples within:

UnReality: Building a World

So we looked at a 'murder mystery', that was a no go.  Where next?

Choice: A key theme in our project

Thursday, 27 October 2011

UnReality: Starting Out

With our latest project we have been tasked with creating an alternate reality, and immersing a group within it.  We are to essentially take this group (including but not limited to our tutors) on a journey through this alternate reality utilizing multiple media, which involve both physical and digital content.

Word Heavy!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Behind Closed Doors -Full Cobra Mix v 01

Behind Closed Doors -Full Cobra Mix v 01

Aural Terrains: Spooky Section Development

I was tasked specifically with creating a "Spooky" section to contribute to the final mix.  This would be slightly more atmospheric than some of the other sections and would be paramount in subtly engaging the listener during the troughs of the piece.

Lots of research and development after the jump.  You have been warned.

Spooky Section by Ryan Caddell

5min Bass Section by Lee Simpson

Alien Section by Jared Tobin

Water Section by Ben Clapp

Vocal Section by Chris Starkey

Monday, 29 August 2011

Aural Terrains: Space and Meaning

After visiting the Audio Foundation we had several potential places to send up a number of different installations.  However there was one space in particular which we noticed that captivated us.  In the foyer area at the base of the already quite spooky and atmospheric stairwell was a slat doorway leading to an unused warehouse space.  The area was inaccessible and did not belong to 'The Audio Foundation', but rather the adjoining 'Tie Factory building.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Aural Terrains. Brainstorming

Over the last few days we have developed and trashed several ideas.  As a group we are all in agreement of the general direction we wish to take the latest project, however we have scratched several ideas already due to location constraints, capability etc.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Aural Terrains. Installation/Performance

We are gearing up for another reasonably large project at the moment.  We have been rather loosely tasked to come up with a presentation or installation to be executed at the Audio Foundation in two weeks time.  For me personally this has come as a massive relief.  The small scale projects were beginning to take a toll on my overall level of stimulation.  I think I'm just the kind of person that needs to be constructively working on something big, or I tend to find myself not working at all.

Cool Video of Non-Newtonian fluid being vibrated on top of a speaker cone.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Aural Terrains. Circuit Bending

We've been 'toying' around in class this week, experimenting with a process known as circuit bending -a process which I was completely unfamiliar with at the beginning of the week.  To an extent it is still a bit of a mystery, I get what is happening to a certain degree, but I'm not sure how it works.  I have no idea how far it can be taken or what is possible when implementing circuit bending techniques when experimenting with sound.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Aural Terrains. Hand-In One: Sound Bites

Gourmet Listening.

For this hand-in we were tasked with creating a three minute sound clip comprised of recordings we had made this week.  We were to find places of personal interest, and record any noise there that captured our attention. 

With our project we decided to fill our three minute track with sounds created in the kitchen.  I thought this would be a good place to gather samples from.  It would provide interesting "sound-bites" (geddit?) that everyone would be familiar with but not necessarily recognize.

Aural Terrains. Noise as an Art-Form

In the first week of semester one we have been dissecting the idea that noise without music can be viewed (or heard) as a legitimate art-form.  That sound can be independently sculpted into bodies of work without rhythm or melody.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Somewhat Unrelated. Clearing my Head.

I am now officially one semester into the AUT Bachelor of Creative Technologies program. The course itself is completely different to what I had anticipated. I have toyed with ideas and methods which I never would have glanced at six months ago. Realistically though I wonder how much I am actually learning.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Catching Up. Star Trak

Have gotten fairly behind with blogging.  This project has been handed in and assessed already.  Anyway I think this video should demonstrate what we achieved and there will be some finished footage after the jump.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Flaneur: Developing the Star Idea. (Visualization)

Wrote out a HUGE blog entry for this section, and lost it with google downtime.  So apologies if this particular entry feels a little rushed.

Video kind of unrelated to the project. More appropriate than Austin Powers I guess.  Sick visualization though.

With the visualization aspect of this project we had initially planned on using maps of the stars, constellations etc. We discussed possibilities, and what we were capable of doing without letting this become an obstacle.  We moved away from this idea though.  After brainstorming, we came up with the concept of creating musical sound from the footage we shoot.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Flaneur: Developing the Star Idea. (Apparatus)

We eventually decided to run with the idea of filming the stars.  We still had a long way to go before we reached the idea we are currently working on.  I will split the development stages into 'Apparatus' and 'Visualization' sections to distinguish the growth we went through with each.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Flaneur: Second Concept (The Stars)


 Our second concept was all about the stars.  Creating imagery and sound out of the celestial canopy. This bad boy above is what set the ball rolling after initially coming up with the idea.  Just happens to be shot with a fisheye lens too.

Flaneur: Initial Idea (Underwater)

Our initial concept was to utilize water to show a different side of Auckland city.  We were to fully submerge the camera in water to show the city after it had been completely overrun by the ocean.

We were aiming to demonstrate the future, beyond human civilization. After the city had been swallowed by the ocean, after mother nature had taken the planet back.  We aimed to employ the idea that human life is insignificant, and that the planet has us at its mercy.  Something which is easy to forget living in densely populated areas.

Project 4: Flaneur (Project Dissection) A little bit boring-you have been warned

Task: To analyze what is expected within our new assignment -which is to design and build a piece of 'Flaneur Apparatus'.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Wearable Interface.

Short project blog-wise.

Struggled throughout the entirety of this project.  Initially ran with using a gun (I realise this was frowned upon from the get go).  I wanted to get the project rolling so left the creative aspect up in the air.  The gun fit in with the theme of our movie, and allowed me to focus on getting the work done.

Max/MSP was a disaster.  Programming was an aspect of the course I was completely unfamiliar with, and missed the immediate introductory lessons.  I quickly found out though, that the majority of using this program involved searching for existing code on the internet.  It was relatively easy to find, and if something didn't suit, forums easily provided Max/MSP enthusiasts who were keen to help.

To this end I came up with the basic idea to manipulate the tempo of the gunfight scene from our last project.  The tempo was a focus of our film, we built slow throughout the story and finished with the gunfight.  We were aiming to flip the slow pace on its head and create contrast between the plot driven scenes, and the action scenes.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Latest Project Woes

Latest project is proving really tricky.

We are designing a wearable interface to work together with the video produced last time round.  This means we essentially have to take a keyboard or other input peripheral apart, and redesign the systems to work via something that we wear.  we then have to use the new fangled piece of equipment to manipulate the video onscreen.

Some of the examples of similar work blew me away.  At this stage I have no idea how I'm going to use the little programming knowledge, and even less experience with the inner workings of the input devices to achieve what I think is expected.  Most of my time so far has been spent getting my head around the tools, and not on how i can creatively utilize them.

The tricky part I am finding is not the hardware aspect of the project but the programming, and what to do with the material onscreen to re-tell, or re-imagine the video in a creatively inspired way.

I missed a few classes immediately after the last hand-in, and as a result feel like I'm just fishing in the dark. 

Stop whining...

Figure it out.

Love Ryan

Monday, 11 April 2011

Red: Audio Analysis

The audio that we used to complement the footage was mainly provided by team mate and friend Chris Starkey.  His approach was to create rough and ambient sound with the music, as opposed to definitive catchy tunes.  This worked in cohesion with the gritty nature of the film to immerse the viewer in the dark and grungy story.

As all the audio was layered on after the rough video cut had been produced, it was easy to observe the nature of each shot, and compliment the footage with audio scene by scene.  By doing so the audio was attached to the project to add depth, and to emphasize each scene individually. The end result was a relatively seamless progression of sound, that moved in time with, and complimented the video well.

Red: The Pantry Door-Cam Fiasco

 "Commited" -Nuff said

Red: Shot Analysis

Several shots that stood out to me.  Some for technical issues we overcame, some for the developments that were made as a result of the shots themselves.

Red: Static Imagery

Poster created for the Film:

DVD Cover Art:

Red: Role Critique (Art Director)

As the 'Art Director' of the project I felt it was my position to ensure everything we were trying to convey through our short film was visually done to a standard that we were all happy with.  I was first presented with the opportunity to do so during the planning stages. 

At this point we had developed a solid story and had developed an approach and aesthetic regarding our main characters and settings.  I thought this would be a good opportunity to cement these ideas by creating a relatively detailed story board consisting not only of plot outline, but of particular shot choices and cinematic approach.  This allowed us to really envision what we were going to do step-by-step, and to individually contribute to the planning of the film's aesthetics.  Once this was completed, the actual filming stages, although still time-consuming and choppy, were a lot more organized than if this stage had not been implemented.

I feel a lot of responsibility when making the choices regarding cinematography, which as the art director i felt responsible for.  I was happy and confident with the decisions I made. Whilst most of the work we produced was done so by the team as a whole, I felt it was good to be in the position where I felt capable enough to step in and make a final decision.  this allowed us to push forward on potentially time-wasting shots, and work at a much more efficient rate.  In the future, if I was to take a role as art director again, or even push a cinematography-specific position, it would be good to commit entirely to this role.  Having everyone involved in a specialized position would allow more focus on individual aspects of the film.  As long as every member involved was confident with what they were doing, and gelled well with the rest of the group, it would make for a very productive way to approach the work at hand.

Lastly I was able to really take charge with the static imagery attached to the film (poster and DVD cover art).  This was something I was looking forward to, and was allowed absolute creative freedom from the rest of the group.  I took in ideas, and implemented ideas of my own.  I observed the general direction of the film, and pushed the aesthetic idea we were collectively aiming for.  The end result was something I was very proud of.  incorporating the aforementioned bold contrasting 'Sin City'-esque visuals, whilst remaining independently stylized.  As was I believe the general visual style of the project as a whole.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Red: Final Cut

So here's the final cut.  I think I'll post it now to add some relevance to my previous posts, and look at doing some shooting/editing specific posts afterwards.

Red: Granny

An important part of this project was seeing how far you could travel while remaining true to the original story.  I think there is an important aspect of our movie regarding this approach that may not be immediately obvious upon watching our film.

We wanted to maintain the idea that the big connection between 'The Wolf' and 'Red' was 'Granny'.  In the original tale 'The Wolf' takes 'Granny's place in bed to fool the unsuspecting visitor and draw her close enough to eat.  We wished to maintain this idea by setting up that Red was regularly visiting her Granny in hospital, whilst under surveillance from the wolf-pack. 

I feel as well as being an important part of the project, this is an important detail in the story, and potentially one that wasn't clear enough after watching our final cut.

Red: Wolf / the Bad Guys

The antagonist of Little Red Riding Hood is 'The Wolf'.  He is hungry and malicious, he has already fed on Granny within the tale but is hell bent on chowing down on Little Red Riding Hood next.  Using the guise of Granny as bait, the wolf lures Red' close enough and feasts on his second victim of the day. 

We have chosen to represent 'The Wolf' in a different way.  In our version "The Wolf' is the ambiguous head of a crime syndicate, responsible for the string of human trafficking related kidnappings that Jack has been detective-ing most recently. Ultimately they are responsible for the kidnapping of Marcie, which gives Jack the missing piece of the puzzle he's looking for, and leads to 'The Wolf's demise.

We wanted the wolf to be as mysterious as possible.  We initiallly struggled to determine whether to place 'The Wolf' as the head of the organization, or to have the title refer to the organization itself.  In the end we left this detail somewhat up in the air.  The role was filled by an individual, but the title was never used on camera.

We had a shot towards the beginning of the movie which worked out really well.  It depicted 'The Wolf' in the back of his car, lit and sillhouetted from behind. I feel it accurately demonstrated the importance of the character (being chauffer driven by his henchmen) and retained the enigmatic nature of his character by not revealing his face.  From here we cut to a shot of his hands going through the file, choosing girls as his next kidnapping victims.  We also used this shot to implement a small tattoo on his hand -the alpha symbol from the ancient greek alphabet.  This was to represent his ststus as alpha male of his 'pack'  to play on the idea that the wolf may refer to the group as opposed to the leader himself.

The character was based on concepts rather than existing fictional material.  I suppose a few of the ideas could be taken again from the movie Pulp Fiction -where the main players discuss and introduce the viewer to 'Marcellus Wallace' before the character himself is shown on screen.
Pulp Fiction Scene: Thanks Embedding disabled.

Also I've been running hrough the Mass Effect series recently and comparisons could be drawn between the character of 'The Wolf' and 'The Illusive Man'-for obvious reasons.  Their 'illusiveness', they are calm and assertively coy.  They both end up at the end of their respective titles being a bit of a wimp.

Quite a wicked character.  Fun to play ( both in his attitude, and lack of screentime)  Will try write a seperate entry regarding acting later.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Red: Little Red Riding Hood.

Red Riding Hood.  The victim and the source of the story from the original fable. 

W however opted to tell our re-imagining from the perspective of Jack our lumberjack/detective.  As a result we found with no intention, that Little Red Riding Hood (or Marcie) had taken a backseat insofar as character development goes.

The imagery was simple, we wanted to make her clothes reasonably generic so we could demonstrate that she was the average 'girl next door' type (In no way disrespect towards our amazing shoe-filler Larissa Pedersen).  She was targeted by the wolf to be kidnapped for human-trafficking because she fit the bill of attractive 19-20y.o. female, not because she was special in any way.

However to define her as Little Red Riding Hood and one of the leads we gave her the trademark vibrant red overcoat.  We initially wanted to go with a semi-dressy overcoat, but ended up going with a red hoodie, this forced the colour on the screen to contrast to the desired degree, but retained the idea that she was just another girl wandering around our seemingly very dangerous city.  Poor girl...


Thursday, 31 March 2011

Red: Character Bio: The Lumberjack

Our adapted tale of Little Red Riding Hood will feature a narrative told by our protagonist.  A detective named Jack.

 Jack is based on the lumberjack featured in the original fable, who appears at the end of the story, cuts the wolf open and saves the yet undigested Red (and Granny)  Is it strange that I'm spiteful of this eventual outcome?

Our depiction of this character is a man riddled with troubles about the inability to solve his case.  He has been after the Wolf for some time but has so far been unable to close the file; the Wolf is still at large. With the eventual kidnapping of Little Red Riding Hood, this all changes.  Jack is the only hope of saving the young girl from who knows what gruesome fate.  This also allows him the opportunity to close on his nemesis, and deliver justice as only a lumberjack could.

I'm thinking a lot of this:

A little bit of this:

Mostly this guy though, I think I unwillingly modeled the entire character of Jack on John Constantine when approaching the storyboard, and the image has just kind of stuck. For me anyway:

A little less of these:

Red: Style.

So basically we are going to rip 'Sin City' off.

If I didn't post it everyone who read about and/or seen our short film would pin it down anyway.

I guess drawing the Crime/Detective genre from the hat aptly pointed us all in that direction from the start.  We wanted to create a desolate urban story, something that dealt with hyper-violent and vulgar themes, but retained its believability. 

The distinct visual style of 'Sin City' would lend itself to the story of Little Red Riding Hood amazingly well -blowing up the red on a reasonably neutral (if not completely black and white) background. It has also been used by another recently released Red Riding Hood adaptation, which I guess we could cop some flack for but I'm willing to take it.  We had vision as to how to make our film aesthetically powerful, we'll stick to that vision and see if we can pull it off.

The narration element was used throughout the entirety of 'Sin City' as it will be in our movie.  This we thought would be an easy method to transcribe the original story into our new grittier modern version, and reach the level of detail we are hoping to achieve in 4-6mins.

Our characters in essence are quite similar, but maybe that's just a reflection of the stereotypical cynic detective.

We also looked at crime dramas from modern cinema, particularly Scorsese's 'The Departed'.  Its use of troubled protagonist and shady mob-boss contributed a lot to our characters. The relationship between whom, we developed in a pulpy style modeled on Quentin Tarantino's movies.  We are aiming to keep the viewer engaged by chopping the story up to a small degree and letting it all pan out as we go deeper in.

Lastly, what I wanted to do now that I had access to one of the fancy new Steady Cam's from the department was try build a few shots based on one really long take.  Something I loved about 'Children of Men' and 'Kick-Ass'.  Not going to be on the same scale (being that Children Of Men's longest shot is nigh on 5minutes continuous action-packed footage) but I'll give it a crack. -Children of Men ridiculous shot.

*Kick-Ass scene not one long shot, but the seamless transition is pretty sweet. Definately where I want to go with the action scene from our movie. 

New Project: Red Riding Hood. (Expect Robox Results Soon)

Our new task is to create an altered version of a kids fable or nursery rhyme, adapted to fit a randomly chosen genre.

We drew Crime/Detective.  We have chosen to adapt Little Red Riding Hood.

We have recently been running through several minor projects using final cut and adobe premier.  Including Reverse-Film Production, and Editing exercises.  Honestly, I initially thought I was going to struggle with this project. The idea of being on the performance side of the lens is one that doesn't appeal to me, but the editing process, the development of ideas into particular scenes and interactions. the intricate level of detail involved in cinematography as an art-form, these do.  Until now these had been outweighed by the nauseous unease involved with performing for a camera, but a week in I'm now looking forward to whatever rolls I have to play, just to see what we can achieve with the finished product.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Robox Ep5-Construction ([Insert Semi-Witty Reference]) -too tired

We were ready to move onto the physical construction of our project. First was the robot.

Whilst we were in the development stages for the project, to alleviate the burden of our time constraints a little, Sam plunged into the construction of the robot. The design was fairly simple, the base model was similar to the initial tribot bar the back wheel (we replaced that with sledges to create more interesting textures on the paint surface. To house the vivid that would mark the roof, the frame was heightened slightly which caused problems -the robot was very top heavy and prone to toppling at very little provocation. He ran on two wheels, to counter the stability issue we resorted to the original third wheel design (just like the tribot) Once he was operational we added the ultra-sonic sensor to navigate the area. Once he reached a certain distance from a wall he would perform a randomly generated turn and continue forward. Also to add patterns to the artwork, we incorporated an arm extension with a sponge attached at its rear. This ran on the third available motor, and was linked to a sound sensor. When this was triggered (by noises over a certain decibel reading such as claps or shouts) the arm would slap the ground; causing a paint 'splodge'.  tweaks were made constantly throughout the process.  But the main design remained the same throughout.

Robox Ep4-Establishing Meaning (Psyche)

So I've delved into where we're going with the Robox briefly, but I'd like to go into more detail concerning the running theory behind what it's trying to demonstrate. It gets a bit fluffy (it's late, and I've drank too much caffeine) so skip this one if you want to avoid the 'mind-f**k'.

Essentially to me it started off as a duality thing, a coexistence between the robot and the programmer. The robot is dependent on the instructions, without these he is incapable of anything at all. On the other hand though the programmer does not create anything at all, the body of work itself is all produced by the robot. This idea would be conveyed with the two canvases, the vivid showing man's direct input, whilst the paint shows man's ultimate vision. The robot executes this on its own terms therefore creating a partnership.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Robox Ep3-First Development (Ball Rolling)

We had an idea, now we had to figure out how to make it happen.  If we had consistently learned anything from our previous assignments it was the importance of thorough planning.

We were going to create a robot that randomly generated a path and printed designs on two surfaces, one above and one below, essentially sandwiching the robot between the two.  On the top we originally wanted to use floods of paint to produce a wash of colour.  We would fix a ball to the top of our unit which would 'roll' over the paint surface creating a trail.  Several problems arose: 1. We had no idea what to depict on the base, as the top canvas demonstrated the concept of duality which we were initially aiming to do.  The second canvas was somewhat redundant.  2.  On a much simpler note, gravity would take its toll on the paint and taint the bottom surface ruining the functionality of the design.  We changed to the idea of distributing the paint onto the bottom surface whilst using a large vivid tightly fixed to the top of the robot, to trace his path on the upper canvas.  We had a list of things to research.

Eventually after much youtube deliberation we decided the NXT hardware didn't provide the means to carry and apply the paint without help from some other system.  We looked into options (even considering water balloons again) ultimately settling on some sort of syringe, if we could make it work as an affordable and efficient option.

Robox Ep2-Brainstorming (Getting Lost)

So I had my outline and for a while I allowed my mind to wander.  I had abandoned logic and any potential meaning temporarily in exchange I was racking my brain for what would be a really dope way to approach the project.

Off the bat I was worried about how i was going to get the robot to draw anything, seemed daunting.  Trying to teach a robot to move from one spot to another was hard enough to program, it'd be murder to get it to produce a work of art.  I was hung up on poorly drawn vivid- lineart images and how weary and frustrated that would make me.  During our run-down with Gabe i quickly realised this was not going to be the case.  I had to broaden my horizons, add a little creative flair

Robox Ep1-Interpretation (Waffle)

Am way behind on blogging, this entry may be pretty big so I'll try break it up.

We were given the task of creating another robot using the kits we had been using for the last fortnight.  The task this time was to create a robot that "does not perform a functional task, but communicates or expresses an idea." we were to produce a "drawing machine."

After spending time reading through the brief and letting the concept sink in, I landed on the interpretation of the brief that I ran with for the entirety of the project; which I'll try and convey.  Essentially we were to create a robot that responded to interactivity in an expressive way, the machine, the drawing, and the 'performance' of demonstrating the capabilities of our machine would all be taken into consideration and assessed.  However I feel that there were several underlying factors that we needed to take into consideration to connect better with the aims of the brief.  What we focused on heavily, and tried to communicate was the concept that the robot was "expressing an idea" - there had to be a purpose for what the machine was ultimately creating, and that final product had to have some commonality between the robot and ourselves.

It was also pretty clear that we would be heavily assessed on the content of our journal, our reflective statement, and what we have blogged about over the course of the project.  So I may have shot myself in the foot by leaving the blogging so late.  Will need to work on running a tighter ship with the next project.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Recap/Looking Ahead

I'm actually running a little behind on these blog updates but I feel now would be a good time to reflect on the course so far, and my thoughts for the future.  A little "meta-reflection"

We have already started the next group assignment which has allowed me to move into a different working group, and has allowed us a little more freedom to move within a given brief.  I felt that the initial projects with the Mindstorm kits were albeit challenging, they were limited in how far we could really differentiate what we were doing from one another.  Maybe I'm trying to run before I learn to walk here (I realise we were still learning the programme with our previous projects).  I can't wait for the coursework to open up, so I can see what we're all capable of, myself included.

For the future, most of all I'm feeling like i want to crack into some larger projects both to see some more results, and work with some different people.  We have such a diverse little community of individuals working in the BCT department.

p.s.  Finding myself spending a lot of time playing with photoshop developing digital illustration techniques now that I have access to it anytime I feel like.  If anyone from BCT (or otherwise) who's into that sort of thing does find themselves on here, and you happen to read this particular entry, we should tee something up. I know I have a lot to learn and a lot of practise to do, if anyone's willing to teach or work together.


What Next?

Our next assignment was to utilize everything we had learned and put into practise with the robots so far, to send them on a designated path, from A to B.  For our group, this was a struggle and in the end we weren't able to make it happen.

Our logic was sound,  we were going to avoid using sensors as this initially seemed like the more complicated programming choice.  Instead we would run our robot on a completely pre-ordained path, that we would input and perfect with trial and error.  There ended up being a whole lot of trial involved, and even more error.  With a little more time planning beforehand, and a little more time spent playing with the NXT software to learn the correct methods, we could have followed the approach that was employed by the majority of the other groups in class (moving our LEGO robot from A to B using sensors to gather and interpret the surrounding environment).

Our technique involved a lot of room for error.  Initially it was vital that our robot was set off from a consistent starting point.  The life of our batteries affected the rotation of the wheels, and therefore the length of its forward movements, and the degree of its turns.  We had to maintain the condition and allignment of the robot itself to insure consistent movement (a problem not helped by the fact that we had to take it apart in the morning to insert fresh batteries).  Lastly I'm fairly sure that the movement of the robots after programming was naturally pretty inconsistent anyway, so we were fighting an uphill battle from the start.  It would have been far more efficient to train the little guy to read the current situation, and decide for himself how to navigate from A to B.

I was losing my cool.

Even though we chose what seemed to be the easier option, we should have had the foresight to see that these issues were possible.  Probable even.  We were a fairly promising group to begin with, but we didn't make it to the end of the course when it mattered.

Props to our group for fitting into character though.  Our character the thief was implemented by sneaking around the outskirts of the room as opposed to a direct route, and our shady head movements charmed a few of our classmates.

Next time though we'll definately do things differently. Can't win em' all but.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Pretty Much A.I.

We recently produced a new character to integrate into the game of chess.  Our latest small assignment was to develop the character idea into a LEGO Mindstorm Robot. To portray a development from our initial assignment the LEGO robot had to emulate the characteristics, and behaviour of the chess piece we had earlier designed.

We got off pretty easy at this stage.  Compared to some of the other more eccentric characters developed by the rest of the class, we had a moderately simple design, with an easy loop-able path.  This allowed more time to focus on tuning the finer points of our newly introduced chess character into the robot.

Simple is good.

After spending the day refining our maniacal laugh, and our on-screen devious eyes, we were happy with the final product.  We left WT005 with absolute faith that our robot was capable of displaying exactly what we needed it to.

We arrive next morning to display our achievements and succumb to what is apparently a mistake made every year; we forgot to charge our batteries.  Along with a few minor hiccups which we missed overnight (it's important to finalize all your programming after your robot is fully constructed, physical adjustments as small as they may be require programming adjustments).

7.jpgPlan these things ahead.  six degrees of separation is a big enough issue to deal with never-mind having to alter the behavior of your construction because you've knocked a wheel out by 2mm when replacing the batteries.  If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing right.

Needless to say, no Nobel prize in the mail yet, but there's always tomorrow.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Playin' Chess

Developing Robots From LEGO.

Years of chocolate abuse, cartoon network marathons and STAR WARS kit-sets are finally paying off;  I always told my old man my early twenties were being spent productively.

Step 1. Designing a new chess piece to fit into the existing game.
Our Chess piece to begin with was 'the Beggar', a filthy little obstacle piece that erratically moved around the board getting in the players way.  more of an obstacle- an uncontrolled unit on the board.


Working within the constraints we couldn't use this idea (The restrictions involving a minimum movement space of three squares, and the theme of a homeless decrepit hungry old pauper stumbling around the board).  For the sake of the character, and consistent storytelling, we changed to a much more nimble and vicious avatar-'The Thief'.  This piece moves around the center of the board in a square robbing surrounding pieces of their equipment and ipods, thereby disabling them for a turn.

The story telling aspect was a new spin on what i had thought of as a purely aesthetic and functional design brief.  But the more I thought about the relevance of these details, and the more the project develops, the more comfortable I feel.  I guess that's why we're being pushed to develop back stories and bio's for inanimate chess pieces, because they do represent something flesh and blood (bar the rook maybe).  Something that has the potential to tell a story of its own (imagine the tale of the powerful but burdened king as the turmoil of a game of chess unfolds.  Its our job as the creative minds driving a creative industry to breathe life into the things we work with.  otherwise maybe we should be doing another course of tertiary education instead, like business (number-crunching dweebs).  I'm glad BCT has made me think like this in the first week.


My name is Ryan.
I am enrolled at AUT studying Creative technologies.
This is a blog devoted to my progress within said course.
I'm into Illustration, and aim to develop this skillset via said course.
I used my illustrations in my entry portfolio.
I'm 23. I'm probably slightly older than the majority of the class but don't hold that against me.
I like turtles, peanut butter, motorbikes, tattoos, superheroes, check shirts, coffee and photoshop.  Any combination of these things would be pretty rad too.
I have a mildly scottish accent.  Charles our HOD has a much thicker one.  I'll bring it up with him soon.
I've never blogged before, this is very unfamiliar.  Forgive me if I'm doing it wrong.

See you at school. Thank you, You're welcome and Goodnight.