Projects: Personal/Allotment/Allotment 2

Allotment 2 was based around the idea of gaming and retro technology. It took place in December 2009. I worked closely with James Houston to realise some of the work for the show. We generated core concepts together and helped refine ideas collectively. We also tackled different technical challenges seperately and together bringing our shared skillsets to the work. The night also involved work by other performers in the form of acting as croupiers in strange games of BlackJack. I also donated my tabletop original Taito colour Space Invader arcade cabinet to the cause. With electronic music on the PA and Rubik Cube 'cube-off's in action it was a memorable event. It should be said however that (for various technical reasons) the documentation for this show is a bit slim. I undertook 3 separate works for the show: FPS/IRL, PPLPONG V1.0 and Lightwork; I also exhibited Chasing 1000, a collaborative video artwork made with Roddy Buchanan in the early 1990's.


FPS/IRL

This piece was a true collaboration with James and involved the design and construction of a custom arcade cabinet (a Tempest clone), and fitting it with industrial joysticks, display and components. It had a basic finish with no livery. It looked like an anonymous arcade cabinet. Using the joystick, visitor could control the view on screen of the space itself, moving a camera through the space and turning and reversing. At some point visitors would often see themselves on the screen and move the camera towards themselves. Only then did they realise what was happening: an actor, wearing a tiny wireless camera on his chest was walking towards them, also wearing a large set of enclosed headphones. As the joystick was pushed right , the actor turned right, an so on. What was on screen was what the actor was seeing.


Technically it was a bit of a tangle to make this happen. After many different attempts using different technologies, James and I settled on a mixture of analogue. A mac sat inside the cabinet, running a custom app, which responded to the input from the joystick microswitches. The app simply translated this input into stereo sound: tone on left to turn left, on right to turn right, in both left and right to go forward. The audio out from the Mac was sent to the input of a wireless headphone base station, so the sound could be heard on the headphones. The video out from the wireless video camera went straight in to the display. The whole system joined up and the entire experience succeeded in mimicking the control a modern FPS game.

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PPLPONG V1.0

PPLPONG V1.0 was equally as compex as FPS/IRL, involving the use of computers, motion tracking software, thermal imaging IR cameras, projectors, Atari game controllers and even televisions and videos.

The original idea for this piece developed from experimentation in motion tracking in Director. This code was married with code which generated a pixel-perfect Pong game clone, allowing the system to track video input and use it to affect the trajectory of the ball. The plan was to mount the tracking camera on the ceiling next to the projector and look down upon the game space, tracking people as they walked across the area. This became in impossibility due to the constraint of the ceiling height and the lack of field of view of the camera - we basically couldn't fit the entire projected play area into the frame of the camera. We couldn't get any lenses for our camera which would allow this to happen - the camera was no ordinary camera - it was an extremely expensive (hired) thermal imaging infrared camera with a fixed lens. The thermal imaging view was perfect however, allowing people to be easily separated from moving projection. The workaround was to point the camera elsewhere and have visitors inadvertently affect the game from elsewhere in the space. It worked excellently - as the space became busier, the camera picked up more activity, the software tracked this and created more obstacles in the scene, multiplying to make gaming more frenetic and chaotic.

The game was split into 3 'levels', split across the entire evening (this 3 level structure was used throughout the event). Level 1 used the thermal IR camera allowing users to attempt to play a normal game of Pong  as people bounced the ball around. Level 2 cleared the IR camera and tracking, but introduced some automated 'bots' (in the form of moving circles), which wandered and stopped in the scene, again bouncing the ball around but less chaotically (think Pong meets bagatelle). Level 3 introduced another camera into the scene. This camera was mounted on a nearby wall pointing down and diagonally at the floor projection, and the feed from theis was pushed out into the projected scene itself, creating an extremely strange and compelling visual recursion - people enjoyed walking across and watching themselves disappear into the fractal hole at the centre of the game space. Level 3 also introduced hundreds of independent game balls and an overall chaos ensued - instead of first to reach 10 the game became first to reach 100, and games were over in 30 seconds. Every bounce of every ball in every level produced a bleep or a bloop and was amplified in the space creating a powerful electronic cacophony.

Many thanks to Thermascan for their support in supplying the thermal IR camera.

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Lightwork

More info soon..

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Chasing 1000

More info soon..

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A view back across the space
The plans of the arcade cabinet
A beautiful render of the cabinet by James
A user controlling the view of the camera
Turning right
The real life avatar

Users played the game sitting down through an old television setLevel 1 used thermal feedback from the crowd to affect the physics of the ball
Me [left] totally beating James ;-)Level 2 saw the appearance of autonomous purple bots which roamed the play area bouncing the ball aroundLevel 3 used a camera to feed back a live signal back into the game space picking up anyone in shotEach game was played to 10Some watched the floor, some the screen
A view from the sofaAs the space filled up, so did the game with thermal obstacles

The initial plan for the laser drawing

The only known shot of the lasers

Chasing 1000 was positioned parallel to a table tennis table
The end of Chasing 1000 - we head the ball 1192 times

The tabletop Space Invaders in action