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Article categories: Issue 70
February 24th, 2009

In September 2008 Matthew Gingold received ANAT’s Professional Development Travel Grant funding which allowed him to travel from Melbourne, Australia to the Yamaguchi Centre for Art and Media (YCAM), in Japan to take part in the InterLab – openFrameworks workshop. Below, he shares his experiences during the workshop.


Screen shot from Matthew Gingold’s registered video application developed with openFrameworks.

openFrameworks (oF) was developed “…for folks using computers for creative, artistic  expression and who would like low level access to the data inside of media in order to manipulate, analyze or explore. That audience we felt was significantly underserved by the current crop of C++ libraries.”

Initiated and maintained by Zach Lieberman and Theo Watson, both with extensive international media arts practices, oF has been used in several significant installation and performance contexts including Laser Tag with the Graffiti Research Lab (GRL). oF wraps several open source c/c++ libraries whilst maintaining access to the original source code. It is cross-platform compatible with OS X, Windows and Linux.

YCAM, established in 2003 as a cultural-arts events complex and platform for sharing computer and IT-based media technology, has a strong track record of collaboratively developing technologies and productions with international and Japanese new media, theatre, sound, video and dance artists, including the legendary Dumb Type.

I arrived a day early for the workshop to see Ensembles, a series of installations by Otomo Yoshihide celebrating YCAM’s fifth anniversary. Quartets, Without Records, Hyper WR Player and Filaments all explored ideas of collecting and collective creation through performance and sculptural elements. Orchestras was by far the most impressive and complex installation in Ensembles, with over 2000 samples from 100+ contributors, more than 70 speakers and 200 objects suspended from the ceiling, five robotic mirrors lighting up the objects and an ‘underground’ wonderland of smashed records, guitars, wireless headphones and turntables. It was particularly interesting to see how all the works in Ensembles meshed performance, installation, sculpture and algorithmic composition, questioning notions of who is the performer and what is being performed.

The first day of the InterLab Workshop began with Zach and Theo giving us a brief background to openFrameworks and the philosophy behind the project, before outlining their own arts practices. Then it was our turn to show our work and talk about what we hoped to get out of the workshop. With 17 participants (15 from Japan, 1 from Korea and myself) the breadth and depth of work shown was amazing and a little intimidating! Works ranged from installation and performance instruments through to physical-computing, web-design and industrial 3D imaging.


Robotic mirrors in Orchestra’s, Otomo YoshihideTakamine Tadasu, YCAM 2008.

On day two, participants outlined what they wanted to make during the workshop. I decided to port the work I had been doing in processing with registered video. This is a process whereby the silhouetted outline of a performers’ body is used as a mask for projections directly back onto the same performer. The setup usually involves a camera and a projector closely aligned together, and infrared lighting (either onto the performers, or onto the background behind the performers) in order to get a more distinct silhouette of their outline.

I began experimenting – using camera images, distorting them (in order to remove discrepancies between the camera and the projector) and refining the outline of the silhouette. It became apparent that I was going to have a difficult day. Being new to programming in c/c++, and quite unaccustomed to the strictness of the syntax and memory management, I struggled at first to get my applications to compile. I stayed up until 4am reading c++ tutorials on the difference between vectors and arrays; variables, pointers, and dereferences. Fun.

I arrived on day three bleary eyed to a workshop presented by Prof. Etsuko Ueda (Nara Sangyo University), a world expert on openCV (an open source library for computer vision). Afterwards, with help from Theo, and examples from his work with the GRL, my application began to take shape. YCAM supplied me with a video projector, awn infra-red light and a CCTV camera, so I could make some test footage. I stayed up late… very late. But it was working!

By day four everyone was looking tired, yet focused. I tested my application with the camera and projector setup and then fine-tuned features like full-screen mode and the video and particle systems I would later project. Before lunch we were taken on a tour of YCAM by Miki Fukuda and were given insights by Ito Takayuki on the production of Otomo Yoshihide’s installations. The tour reconfirmed the world-class nature of YCAM’s facilities and practice of not only curating, but also developing and educating the public about art and media.

That afternoon we presented our workshop projects to the group. The projects were great given the very short amount of time to develop them. My favorites were Hiroyuki Satake’s facial recognition project (that swapped peoples heads in real-time); Suguru Sasaki’s extremely beautiful contour finding, particle generating project; Seo Hyojung’s very funny rock-paper-scissors application in which you play the classic game against god (who always wins); and Tomoyuki Mukasa’s (failed but now ongoing) attempt at getting the Parallel Tracking And Motion library to work inside oF (an Augmented Reality project coming out of Oxford University that is awesome). A full list of projects can be found on the oF wiki and edited video of the entire workshop is available courtesy of the YCAM InterLab.

My presentation was successful. With Zach dancing around in the projection, everyone went ‘oooh’ when I switched from video to particle system imagery – it was a very nice moment. I was super-happy to have learnt so much. The aesthetic and efficiency improvements made by porting my work from Processing to openFrameworks were significant and I also learnt a number of new methods for manipulating video and vector data.

The openFrameworks workshop involved overcoming a steep learning curve and represents an important development in my creative and professional practice. openFrameworks provides an excellent community, forums, feedback and examples, and gives me access to the 10 to 100 times efficiency gains of c/c++ over Java based scripting languages. My participation greatly strengthened my skills as an artist and programmer and exposed me to new approaches and networks in the media art field.

All photos copyright © Matthew Gingold 2008

Matthew Gingold
Matthew Gingold is a media artist, performer, curator and critic. He also works as a programmer, producer and technical director for artists and arts organisations, including Experimenta Media Arts.

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