Failing with the Kinect and replacement Project

After having spent several weeks attempting to work with the Kinect, no progress has been made, with no back up plan in sight. The intended purpose of it, was to act as a trigger for a user to refresh the random comics page. While this idea was intriguing, the fact that I was having so much difficulty with getting it to work, did put doubts in my mind as to completing the project.

With this in mind, I have had to redesign the initial random page, to include its own button to act as a trigger. The new button needed to match the theme of the project. As a final resort, it was redesigned to resemble a word balloon, with the words ‘begin again’. While the Kinect would have been an incredibly interesting edition to the project, its implementation was just not possible with my current skill set, and determination. I feel that, even with more time, I would probably not have been able to implement it successfully. While it was an interesting notion, It did not feel like a good use for the Kinect, and came off as slightly arbitrary. I think if I had have got it working, it would have just been to show off that I could get it to work, rather than adding to the projects own style and core.

In place of the second project, I experimented with randomisation using Flash instead of HTML, only instead of using comic book images, I used quotes from papers and books that I had used through-out the course so far. While each of the articles talks about how we use media, and interacting with them, they all come at it from a different angle, with a different core subject. Stringing them together, in a random fashion, they still appear to make some sense, much in the same way as the images for the random comic do. Much in the same way as film editing, and the gutter between panels, our brains fill in the spaces and attempt to make sense of what is provided for us.

How My Practice Has Developed

Over the course of these projects, I have learned how my ideas develop, far more then improving the development process. The short turn around for each project meant that I had to make decisions rather quickly, and decide whether or not the idea is feasible or manageable in the time allotted. In situations where the original plan showed signs that it could not be achieved by the half way point, I then had to learn how to quickly adapt the idea to fit both the assigned subject and skill set I have at my disposal. Over the weeks, I did find that I can be overly ambitious when it comes to what can be done, and I have been left in situations where the work could not be completed, due to a steeper learning curve than I had expected. Towards the end of the projects, this did subtly correct itself, until it came to the final projects. I feel that when it does come to developing ideas, I should give myself far longer to learn new skills if they are required. In the case of using the Kinect, this may be a lost course.

New things I have Learnt

Through these weekly projects, I found myself researching topics and situations I had not seriously considered. While not a field I think I will enter, I found the subjects of 3D printing and the interactive elements used for performance to be heavily engaging. The prospect of a physical object, created and designed completely by digital means brings to mind classic science fiction movies and television series. Works of fiction that were created with the intent of such devices, such as Star Trek’s replicators, someday existing. However, their creation was predicted to happen much later than now, some time in the 22nd or 23rd century. The advances being made recently, with experiments going beyond printing with just plastic, advances in printing with human tissue for medical purposes, and edible materials for custom food, have created a reality far closer to science fiction, much earlier than speculated.

Advances with integrating interactive elements, such as lighting and sound, into a live performance, are yielding some very promising and engaging results. The Royal Shakespeare Companies recent production of The Tempest has bucked their usual trend, and integrated interactive animations, CG motion capture, and live action actors to bring to life the creatures depicted in Shakespeare’s notorious play. These integrations give the theatre a move cinematic approach, something that can draw in those less likely to see standard Shakespeare on the stage, creating a wider audience.

Inspiration and Influences

When it comes to random image generation, I think a lot about both comics and films.  The idea of placing images in sequence, regardless of their meaning, conjures to mind an explanation given by Alfred Hitchcock on the purpose of editing, when discussing the making of Psycho (1960). He uses an example of a man staring straight forward with a blank expression, followed by a shot of the same man smiling. By inserting an imagine in between, you create an association between the two images of the man, giving him a reason for his smile. However, the image used creates a meaning in your mind behind the smile. The examples he uses are one of a woman playing with a child, giving the man’s smile a kindly appearance, while the second is of a topless woman sunbathing, with the man’s smile giving off a more lecherous appearance.

The sequence of images may, in reality, have no connection to each other, but by placing them in sequence, our minds create meaning. Scott McCloud draws attention to this as well while talking about comic panels. “In film, closure takes place continuously – twenty four times per second, in fact – as our minds, aided by the persistence of vision, transform a series of still pictures into a story of continuous motion. A medium requiring even more closure is television, which, in realist is just a single point of light, racing across the screen so fast that it’s described my face hundreds of times before you can even swallow that corn chip! Between such automatic electronic closure and the simpler closure of everyday life – there lies a medium of communication and expression which uses closure like no other, a medium where the audience is a willing and conscious collaborator and closure is the agent of change, time and motion.” [McCloud.1993:65] “Nothing is see between the two panels, but experience tells you something must be there! Comic panels fracture both time and space, offering a jagged staccato rhythm of unconnected moments. But closure allows us to connect these moments and mentally construct a continuous, unified reality.” [McCloud.1993:67].

  • Psycho (1960) Film. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. [Blu-ray] US: Universal Pictures.
  • The Making of Psycho. (1997) Documentary. Directed by Laurent Bouzereau. [Blu-ray] US: Universal Pictures.
  • McCloud, S. (1993) Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. Harper Collins: New York.
  • Bordwell, D. & Thompson, K. (2004) Film Art: An Introduction. McGraw Hill: New York.

Randomised Text Database Improvement.

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Going back through research done so far for Practical 1, I collected a series of quotes to use as part of the database. The quotes range from McLuhan, McCloud, Manovich to Yorke, discussing everything from comic book theory, narrative, database cinema, and our relationship with technology.screenshot-195

These were added to the array in place of the standard, Apple, Banana, and Grapes, and then tested. Once tested, I needed a way to let the screen cycle through the quotes. After some research to find an answer, I added a timer to the code that would move to the next frame after 5 seconds. Frame two has the exact same code and would cycle back to frame one after 5 seconds, creating a never ending loop that would randomly cycle through the quotes.

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Improving the Random Comic

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New images were added to the database, and the original images were re examined to delete images that are not square, giving all the images a more uniform corrolation. Using the CSS script, all images were edited to fit a width and height of 300px, and then positioned better. A refresh button was added to the page itself to supply visual acompanyment to the random comics nature, and to provide the unasuming user with the notion that they need to interact with the artifact.

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Button Placement – Random Generation

ipad-with-button-protoThrough discussions, the idea was posed to have the button at the bottom of the screen. Though the suggestion to place it in the bottom corner was appealing, it came with its own problems, namely which corner to place it in. While the bottom left seemed like a good choice when imagining it, the right hand dominance of the general public causes a slight disconnect when they are forced to do something that is left handed. The idea of placing the button on top was also an option, but imagining someone reaching up for it, would cause their arm to block the screen during its opening moments. While this could be negated by providing a slow opening, this may also put the user off by thinking that the entire program was slow paced.

Database and Image sizes, overlapping problem

screenshot-184Problems with a larger database have been slightly fixed by only linking a certain selection to select panels. This does create the problem that images can only be drawn from a subset in each panel, and not the database as a whole.

screenshot-185CSS script was added to apply to all images that keep them at a 200px width, this would be applied to height as well, but some panels are longer than others, and because of the random database, I cannot guarantee which panel will overlap where between the layers. It may be worth going back through the database and only keeping ones that are truly square, or as close to as possible. What if a panel was dedicated to these taller images? Move them into a separate folder and test?

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Contined project – Slight problem

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screenshot-181A slight problem appears to have occured. A somewhat larger database has been culled, and placed into several duplicate databases to test a theory. Each function has been linked to each of the folders and set to random using Javascript. Problem now arrises that the functions all reference the same random number, causing the same image to appear in each panel. Simplist option would be to rename and number different images in the folders, but a better sollution must be available.

  • Miracleman #1
  • Action Comics #1 (1938)
  • Daredevil Redemption #1
  • Doctor Strange #1 (2015)
  • Secret Origins of the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes (1990)
  • Uncanny Avengers #1 (2013)