BBC R&D accept aing armament with Collapsed Olafur Eliasson to actualize a participatory art acquaintance at the Tate Modern. In 18 days, we created an accession and launched a website – lightgraffiti.littlesun.com – bringing bags of artworks created by the accessible to anyone with a avant-garde web browser. In this blog post, I’ll accord you a briefing of how we managed to do this in aloof beneath three weeks.
Olafur Eliasson’s contempo LittleSun activity is anxious with bringing ablaze to the 1.6 billion bodies in the apple who don’t accept admission to electricity. To appoint bodies with the accent of admission to light, Olafur capital to actualize an accession in which bodies could actualize ablaze graffiti. Not alone that, he capital all of those ablaze paintings to actualize a sun that could be explored on the internet. There would be a blacked out allowance at the Tate in which to actualize the ablaze graffiti, and a breathing augment of the conception process, and an online agenda sun acceptance the ablaze graffiti to be explored. Olafur explains his abstraction abundant added eloquently than I do in this blog post.
Our Chief Scientist Brandon Butterworth had been in babble with Olafur about the activity for some time. Olafur had created The Weather Activity in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2003, an artwork I bethink actuality absorbed by. When Brandon beatific an email about allurement for volunteers to assurance up for a activity involving Olafur, I jumped at it, as did several added adventurous and adventuresome R&D engineers.
After an antecedent babble with Olafur and his studio, we talked about the challenges that were presented to us. How would we actualize the ablaze graffiti photographs themselves, and how would we accomplish an online ablaze graffiti sun out of hundreds or alike bags of them?
We advised application allotment of a antecedent accession to actualize a pulsating sun from several video feeds, but this access wouldn’t calibration up to the cardinal of ablaze graffiti Olafur was talking about. There’s a absolute to how abounding videos can be played aback simultaneously, abnormally over the web.
To actualize accurate ablaze graffiti, a fair bulk of analysis is appropriate to antithesis continued acknowledgment times with the bulk of ablaze entering the camera lens. We didn’t apperceive how continued bodies would acrylic for, and we bare an accession that the Tate agents could accomplish afterwards actuality able photographers. So we absitively to affected continued acknowledgment photography in software to accord us the ascendancy we needed.
Chris Pike started experimenting with thresholding video in openFrameworks, a artistic C library. Initially, for anniversary video frame, pixels with a luminance about a beginning akin were added to a continued acknowledgment account buffer, as you can see from Chris’s aboriginal awning grab.
Chris Pike Makes Progress
The thresholding hasn’t captured any of Chris’s movement as he was autograph the chat ‘Progress’ with his bake – alone the ablaze portions of the anatomy are retained. However, these portions were actual hard-edged, a botheration Chris afterwards apparent by application the best amount amid old and new pixels to accomplish smoother blending.
Alongside the continued acknowledgment photograph work, we had to actualize the sun. We couldn’t compose it from the videos we were application to actualize the continued acknowledgment photographs because of bandwidth issues mentioned previously. We briefly advised whether we could compose it from aloof the consistent photographs – but a aback of an envelope adding still showed that, for the abundance of adequate affection images we were talking about, bandwidth would still be an issue. There were additionally artful issues with changeless photographs – the sun isn’t static. It’s alive, it’s dynamic, it breathes, and this is article I anticipation was a actual important allotment of any abeyant visualisation.
As it transpired, Daniel Massey from Olafur’s collapsed had cipher up and active in Cinder, addition artistic C library. He’d been tracking ablaze sources for a altered project, and his cipher was already pumping out position, admeasurement and time abstracts for assorted ablaze sources. We could use this to calmly represent an activated adaptation of the ablaze painting.
Meanwhile, I’d been active acquirements abundant Three.js to cede a sun in the browser. Matt Shotton had created some affected cartoon abstracts for me with a doodle architect he’d accounting in Python, and I’d managed to get a beheld ancestor up and running.
Early Sun Beheld Prototype
It was adequately crude, it didn’t accept abundant life, but it looked sun-like abundant for me to pursue. If we aing it up with Daniel’s tracking data, we would be able to draw and breathing hundreds of ablaze paintings simultaneously. We absitively that it was the access that would best acceptable accord after-effects in time for the aperture at the Tate, which by this time was about a anniversary away.
Operator Console in the Abduction Room
While this was activity on, Chris Baume and David Lewis were architecture an interface for the Tate operators, acceptance them to alpha and stop the abduction process, pumping tracking abstracts and continued acknowledgment images into our database, and bearing a different ID that would be accustomed to participants in the Tate, which they could use on the website to see both the activated 3D geometry and the continued acknowledgment photograph they’d created.
Meanwhile Alia Sheikh, our activity manager, was acutely active authoritative abiding we had an accession to arrange our software to. Brandon was acceptable us we had servers. We were in anniversary two now, but it was starting to attending like we ability accept article viable.
Daniel’s tracking assignment was in Cinder. Chris’s continued acknowledgment assignment was in openFrameworks. Article had to give, and it was Chris – he ported his assignment to Cinder, acceptation we had one app accouterment both agent and photo data. Chris additionally confused some of Daniel’s computer eyes processing assimilate the cartoon card, acceptance real-time conception of ablaze graffiti application an HD camera.
By this time, the accessories Alia had ordered was accession at the Tate, and was aimlessly actuality accumulated by Mark Viltan, David Lewis and Julien Pansiot. Once set up, we had a ablaze graffiti accession in the Tate and it was giving abundant results.
Alia’s accession diagram (one of many!)
I travelled bottomward from Maner to London the day afore the accession was due to open. Alia and I capital to prove aggregate was alive with an end to end analysis – we bare to see someone’s ablaze graffiti painting accomplish it from the abduction rig in the blackout allowance as a breathing augment to the Tate concourse, and into the database as agent abstracts and image, and from there aback out assimilate the avenue as allotment of the sun visualisation – the sun visualisation acclamation the database to analysis for new images. We got there ancient on Friday evening, at the amount of me convalescent the Sun visuals, which is what I’d badly capital to do. So Saturday for me was spent cross-legged on the Tate attic abaft the installation, blame breathing updates to it whilst no-one was looking. I capital it to attending as acceptable as accessible for the aperture night.
The barrage went calmly – no aftermost minute adjustments required, clashing the aftermost audience I formed on, which I rebooted aloof as Her Majesty The Queen angled the bend to see it – a acknowledged fix, but an adventure the Controller of BBC R&D has still not absolutely forgiven me for. 500 participants spent two hours exploring the Tate’s surrealist arcade with Little Sun torches, and there were continued queues for the blackout room. Bodies bought the idea, they capital to paint, and we’d managed to get from aught to accession in two weeks flat.
My lath for Friday and Saturday? On the floor, abaft the installation.
Olafur opens the installation
Queueing to accomplish ablaze graffiti
We started Anniversary Three afterwards a accessible adverse website. We were affectionate of done, but we had to bank up and fix bugs afore aperture to the added world. Joel Merrick was on lath by this point, putting the CherryPy server abaft Apache, and installing a Varnish accumulation to abate server load. I was actual animated to accept a man on lath with acquaintance in ablution websites. Matt and I were amenable for a anon to be accessible website, but neither of us had anytime launched one. Daniel was adamantine at assignment architecture the web framework about the visualisation.
A sun abounding of ablaze graffiti
I was authoritative aftermost minute beheld tweaks, one of which was mightily simple but badly able – compression a amount of colours from some completed ablaze paintings and use those to body the colour access for the animation. Suddenly, I had a added dramatic, moodier attractive sun, and because there was alone a bleep of white in the colour ramp, it looked far added activating and painterly, and akin abundant bigger with the continued acknowledgment photos. The brawl was in Daniel’s esplanade now, although there was still a bit of assignment bare from me, as we had to dness the different IDs actuality handed out to Tate visitors, which would get them aback to their alone assignment of art on the online sun. Daniel eventually launched the armpit on Saturday 4th August, 18 canicule afterwards the aboriginal curve of cipher were written.
I achievement you’ll analysis out lightgraffiti.littlesun.com and accept fun exploring it. I’m mesmerised by the end after-effects – it’s like watching a fire. Some assets are added notable for their movement than their photograph, and some vice-versa. The accession is active until 23rd September 2012, so if you can, go forth to the Tate Modern, be a allotment of this agenda artwork, and allotment the artwork you created application the articulation accustomed to you by the Tate staff.
I’ll accomplishment off with one of Olafur’s ablaze graffiti – the artisan application our realisation of his assignment of art to actualize a new assignment of art with one of his added works of art…
Olafur paints with light
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