Here you’ll find a collection of various tutorials and examples of what my work with Isadora has looked like. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m constantly learning new techniques and approaches when it comes to programming with Isadora, and programming in general. What does that mean? Well, it means that some of these resources are better than others. These materials also cover a wide berth of material ant not always in any particular order. In general, these tutorials are also mostly text based. I plan to add video versions of most of these in the future, but I always start by writing them down.
Why?! I ask myself that question all the time. I think one of the reasons I write these tutorials out as text and pictures is because it gives you, dear learner / reader, the ability to skim through the material. I’m not going to hold you hostage for 5 or 20 minutes only to discover that I didn’t teach you what you needed / wanted to learn. These are made so you can skip to the bottom or the middle to find the piece of information you’re looking for. If there’s one of these that you think would be especially better as a video, use the contact link at the top of the page and let me know – doesn’t mean I can make it right away, but it is always nice to know what materials people are hungry to know more about.
About a month ago I was playing messing about in Isadora and discovered the Text/ure actor. Unlike some of the other text display actors, this one hides a secret. This actor lets you copy and paste into a whole block of text that you can then display one line at a time. Why do that? Well, that’s a fine question, and at the time I didn’t have a good reason to use this technique, but it seemed interesting and I tucked it into the back of my mind.
How do we start to think about working with OSC in Isadora. On a simple TouchOSC panel layout I wanted the position of Slider 1 to inversely change the position of Slider 2, and vise versa. In this way, moving Slider 1 up moves Slider 2 down, and moving Slider 2 up moves Slider 1 down. In performance setting it’s unlikely that I’d need something this simple, but for the sake of testing an idea this seemed like it would give me the kind of information that I might need.
The more I work with Isadora, the more I feel like there isn’t anything it can’t do. As a programming environment for live performance it’s a fast way to build, create, and modify visual environments. One of the most interesting avenues for exploration in this regard is working with Quartz Composer. Quartz is a part of Apple’s integrated graphics technologies for developers and is built to render both 2D and 3D content by using the system’s GPU. This, for the most part, means that Quartz is fast. On top of being fast, it allows you access to GPU accelerated rendering making for visualizations that would be difficult if you were only relying on CPU strength.
This summer, as I’m thinking about future production work for the coming years, I’ve started to consider what kind of live data I want to be able to use in the context of live performance. To that end, one of the more interesting sensors worth examining are accelerometers. While there are lots of ways to work with these seniors, a simple way to get started is to use an iPhone or iPod touch to broadcast it’s data over a wireless network. In a project that I tackled in the Spring of 2013 I used this technique when working with TouchDesigner on a piece of installation art.
In continuing to think about (and work with) accelerometer data it’s important to look at what information you’re actually getting from the sensor. I’ve started exploring this process by creating a simple Isadora patch to visualize this flow of information, and to document how the data corresponds to the motion of an iPod touch or iPhone.
Buttons are very handy interface controls. Before we get started, it’s important to cover a few considerations about how buttons work. When working with a physical button, like an arcade button on a midi controller, the action of pressing the button completes a circuit. When you release the button, you also break the circuit. In Isadora, we can control what happens when we press a button. Specifically, we can control what values are being transmitted when the button isn’t being pressed, when it is being pressed, and how the behaves (does it toggle, or is the signal momentary). Thinking about how a button behaves will help as you start to build an interface, simple or complex.
To get started, there are few different ways to reveal the control panel. You can: select it from the drop down menu use Command-Shift-C to see only the control panel or use Control-Shift-S to see a split of the control panel and the programming space. If you’ve turned on the Grid for your programming space you’ll be able to see a distinct difference between the control panel space (on the left) and the programming space (on the right). You’ll also notice that with your Control panel active your actor selection bins have been replaced by control panel operators.
Back in March I had an opportunity to see a production called Kindur put on by the Italian Company Compagnia TPO. One of the most beautiful and compelling effects that they utilized during the show was to use a live-camera to create a mask that revealed a hidden color field. The technique of using a live feed in this way allows a programmer to work with smaller resolution input video while still achieving a very fluid and beautiful effect.
For an upcoming show one of the many problems that I’ll need to solve is how to work with multiple machines and multiple operating systems over a network. My current plan for addressing the needs of this production will be to use one machine to drive the interactive media, and then to slave two computers for cued media playback. This will allow me to distribute the media playback over several machines while driving the whole system from a single machine. My current plan is to use one Mac Pro to work with live data while slaving two Windows’ 7 PCs for traditionally cued media playback. The Mac Pro will drive a Barco, while the PC’s each drive a Sanyo projector each. This should give me the best of both worlds in some respects. Distributed playback, similar to WatchOut’s approach to media playback, while also allowing for more complex visual manipulation of live-captured video.
One of my charges in working on this production was to explore how to work with particles in Isadora (our planned play-back system). I started this process by doing a little digging on the web for examples, and the most useful resource that I found as a starting point was the Mark Coniglio (Isadora’s creator) example file. Here Mark has a very helpful breakdown of several different kinds of typical operations in Isadora, including a particle system. Looking at the Particle System Actor can feel a little daunting. In my case, The typical approach of toggling and noodling with values to look for changes wasn’t really producing any valuable results. It wasn’t until I took a close look at Mark’s example patch that I was able to finally make some head way.
I know. You love your iDevice / Android. You love your phone, your tablet, your phablet, your you name it. You love them. Better yet, you’ve discovered Hexler’s TouchOSC and the thought of controlling your show / set / performance set you on fire – literally. You were beside yourself with glee and quickly set yourself to the task of triggering things remotely. Let’s be honest, it’s awesome. It’s beyond awesome, in some respects there are few things cooler than being able to build a second interface for a programming environment that works on your favorite touch screen device. But before we get too proud of ourselves, let’s have a moment of honesty. True honesty. You’ve dabbled and scrambled, but have you ever really sat down to fully understand all of the different kinds of buttons and switches in TouchOSC? I mean really looked at them and thought about what they’re good for? I know, because I hadn’t either. But it’s time, and it’s time in a big way.
The newly devised piece that I’ve been working on here at ASU finally opened this last weekend. Named “The Fall of the House of Escher” the production explores concepts of quantum physics, choice, fate, and meaning through by combining the works of MC Escher and Edgar Allen Poe. The production has been challenging in many respects, but perhaps one of the most challenging elements that’s largely invisible to the audience is how we technically move through this production.
Media design is an interesting beast in the theatre. Designers are called upon to create digital scenery, interactive installations, abstract imagery, immersive environments, ghost like apparitions, and a whole litany of other illusions or optical candy. The media designer is part system engineer, part installation specialist, and part content creator. This kind of design straddles a very unique part of the theatrical experience as it sits somewhere between the concrete and the ephemeral. We’re often asked to create site specific work that relates to the geometry and architecture of the play, and at the same time challenged to explore what can be expressed through sound and light.
Last semester Boyd Branch offered a class called the Theatre of Science that was aimed at exploring how we represent science in various modes expression. Boyd especially wanted to call attention to the complexity of addressing issues about how todays research science might be applied in future consumable products. As a part of this process his class helped to craft two potential performance scenarios based on our discussion, readings, and findings. One of these was Neuro, the bar of the future. Take a cue from today’s obsession with mixology (also called bartending), we aimed to imagine a future where the drinks your ordered weren’t just booze filled fun-times, but something a little more insipidly inspiring. What if you could order a drink that made you a better person? What if you could order a drink that helped you erase your human frailties? Are you too greedy, have specialty cocktail of neuro-chemicals and vitamins to help make you generous. Too loving or giving, have something to toughen you up a little so you’re not so easily taken advantage of.