04 October 2017

Swelter Pt 2 - Thermal cameras

Looking a bit more closely at the thermal that has become an increasingly integral part of the installation. I haven’t used them before but they seem like a really interesting bit of kit with a lot of potential and I can easily imagine myself using it for all sorts of other projects down the track.  Everything from finding the gaps in the insulation that are letting heat out off the house, through to checking out your circuits and wiring to check if anything overheating.

I did a fair bit of research into cameras before I finally committed to getting a Seek thermal camera, considering a range of factors I thought would be key to this project. There are a host of thermal cameras out there and it seems like you could pretty much pay as much as you lie with no upper limit if you were really keen to spend big.

Price was definitely one factor since it’s going to spend most of its time in the hands of eager youngsters. I decided it was probably better to get something at the more reasonable end of the price rather than hiring a really expensive as there is a distinct risk of it being damaged. Also, buying it outright hand having it for the whole development period rather than just hiring it in for a week at the end is already proving incredibly useful. I’m sure you get what you pay for and the more expensive models are a lot more accurate, but to be honest in this instance, where I’m just after a general impression so exact measurements aren’t really super critical.

Rather than having a screen of its own, plugs into your phone or other device which has the added bonus that you can just take a feed from that and project it up large on the wall so everyone can be a part of that experience.  Many of the other (much more expensive) models didn’t seem to have a way to get a video feed out of them…let alone a wireless one.

There was one other model I seriously considered the Flir One, which works in a very similar way to the Seek in that you use your phone as the screen. This one does a really interesting thing where it combines the low-res thermal image together with a stylised version the phone’s video to give a much higher level of detail (even if the actual thermal info isn’t any more detailed). Visually it may well have been a better option for this project. The reason I decided against it however, was the fact that rather than running off the phone’s battery it has its own internal battery and I wasn’t confident that the battery life was going to cut it for what I need. Given the camera is such an intrinsic component of the work now, I really can’t afford to have it out of the equation half the time while its off being recharged. Given I need it to be working all day long I think I’m still going to be running into battery issues with the Seek but at least Ill be able to swap it onto another device while the first one recharges. I’ve also seen reports of the Flir One batteries not having a terribly good lifespan and not being replaceable when they go which I don’t like just in principal. If anyone has one of these I’d love to hear about your experiences with it, especially on the battery front. 

There are quite a few comparisons kicking around on the internet if you're interested (here's one by cleantechnica) and they both seem to have their pros and cons. You can see in the image above how Flir One's blending of the thermal vision with the normal camera gives the image a lot more definition (even if there isnt actually any more thermal info in there) but for me at least  for the time being the battery thing was what won out in the end. If I’m feeling rich, perhaps I will get one of these as well so I can do a direct comparison. If fact if anyone out there has one that I could borrow to test and would like to support a worthy cause, that would be completely amazing.

You can see in this pic above how even after just a few minutes the black of the printing on the box is starting to show up in the thermal camera just because its dark and heating up faster.

25 September 2017

Swelter Pt1 - The idea

New project. Swelter.

The project is supported by Arts House, City of Melbourne through their Refuge project. http://www.artshouse.com.au/events/refuge/ . This year Refuge is looking at a heat event and with Swelter, I am exploring the concept of an urban heat island in a way that makes it hands-on, accessible and interesting for a younger audience. The basic plan is to build ourselves a room sized cardboard city, inflict a heat event upon it and see what happens.

Swelter will premiere at the Nati Frinj in November this year before heading down to Artshouse in Melbourne the following week for Refuge.  

More of an installation than a show as such, but building on some of those ideas I played with in Balance where you set up a mechanism to model a system and then let the participants come in and change the parameters to see what it does. Although Swelter is more of an installation than a performance, there are definitely some comparisons you could make with Balance. The citizens of Swelter city too, are similarly made of electronic elements and bare more than a passing resemble to the Balance islanders. The citizens of Swelter are built around thermal switch with a buzzer and a blinking LED so that as soon as their temperature crosses a certain threshold they start blinking and buzzing and will need to be rescues by the participants and taken to a refuge where they will be given first aid to bring their core temperature back under control.  From a design perspective its always a fund challenge to take all the elements that are needed to make something work and use these as the key elements of the character design.

The thermal camera that I got to experiment, with is emerging as a key part of making the whole a much more visual, much more immediate and much more intuitive experience (thanks Geordie).

Compared to a thermometer that just gives you a spot temperature at a specific point. The thermal camera gives you a much better sense of what is going on temperature wise across a whole scene. Once the heat cranks up it soon becomes apparent where the trouble spots are.

Move On

Hey look!

A video has just emerged from Jens Altheimer's ‘Move On’ project at Horsham's  Art Is… Festival earlier this year (shot and put together by Chris from Undergrounds Media ). Based on a series of chain reactions built or claimed farm machinery and other random  household items, this was a really great thing to be a part of. Hopefully it gets another life again somewhere down the track

24 September 2017

Balloons Pt 3 - Illuminate Wagga Installation

Here are a few shots from the actual installation of the balloons.

The reflections were almost my favourite part.
Up in Wagga Wagga for the Illuminate Festival on the banks for the Murrumbidgee river, the actual install for this was not quite as seamless as I’d hoped.  I had imagined a nice slow moving body of water with two buoys in place at either end and that it would be a simple matter of taking them out one by one to pop them into place. Pootle out with our boat full of balloons and causally clip them into place as we cruised down the line. For a big river the Murrumbidgee flows surprisingly fast (faster than I can swim anyway) and the site we were allocated “the Rocks” was a short section of rapids so the motor boat we had borrow wasn’t as useful as we’d hoped. Between the rapids, our marginal boating skills, and all the string and electrical cable we were laying out in the river were the boat ended up being more of a liability than anything else and, after tangling one of the lines in the propellor and nearly losing a balloon, we ended we abandoned the power boat and moved on to Plan B. 

“Plan B” was Greg paddling everything in with his inflatable canoe. Greg was just able to paddle fast enough to make headway up-stream but the moment he would stop paddling to try and tie a knot or clip on a balloon he would either be swept off downstream or sometimes hilariously capsized. 

“Plan C” we hadn’t really considered up until that point but basically it involved swimming the whole lot in instead, and given Greg’s recent efforts, it seemed only fair that it was might turn now to tackle the icy torrent. With snow still sitting in the hills at the rivers source, the water was properly Baltic, and given the speed it was moving I had to walk a hundred or so meters up stream and then just swim like hell out past the rapids with a rope between my teeth to try and reach the line we’d installed down the middle of the river. Once there, you’d have to feel your way down the line as the river dragged you along until you managed to find one of the to the attachment points we’d preinstalled. At that point, with one hand holding the central line to stop you being swept downstream, you had to make between using your other hand to tie then knot or paddling to keep your head above water.  If you let go of the line with your other hand you’d immediately just be swept downstream and have to start all over again. After a few abandoned attempts, the best way seemed to be to take a deep breath and then just let the river suck you under while you tied your knot or attached your shackle (or whatever your task was on that particular run). Once you’d done all that and caught your breath, you’d then have to swim back through the rapids to the bank, defrost for a moment in the sun (thankfully it was a sunny day) and then do it all again, and again… and again.  Rinse, tumble, defrost, repeat. I was so glad by the end of the afternoon that we’d gone for just four balloons rather than the eight we’d initially considered.

We didn’t even bother connecting the waterwheel I’d made which I’d designed to generate a nice graceful up-down sinusoidal motion in the balloons. After all the time Id spent getting it to work it was obvious that it was all for nought as the rapids were had their own movement pattern in mind for balloons that we couldn’t hope to compete with. So we just set the water-wheel up on the bank and the nice ploonky-plunk noises it made provided a pleasing soundtrack for the whole thing.

As the sun set on and afternoon of icy hilarity everything was in place and the lighting test that went pretty smoothly. A few hours noodling with the computer to get the light sequence right was relatively painless. To control the lights, I just ended up using Isadora sending DMX Out through an Enttec. The setup was based on the setup I’d built earlier to control the lights in Balance, but tweaked to give me live control over various aspects of the light sequence so that I could fairly easily control the speed of the changing colours and send pulses of colour down the line of balloons.

 You really dont get much of a sense fo scale with these as theyre so far out in the river but each of them was roughly the size of a small car.

23 March 2017

Balloons Pt 2

Testing the balloons in the water for height size etc.

somehow, after the stillest day ever,  struck by a freak windstorm mid test (hence the wobbliness of some of the balloons).

Still successful test all in all.

Photos by Greg Pritchard

08 March 2017

Red V Blue - Tyrrendarra Style

Took the Unicycle puppets town the coast to the Tyrendarra Show the other weekend (The centenary edition of the Tyrendarra Show no less! Thats pretty impressive).
Thanks to Adam Demmert for the photos (And all the help keeping it running over the course of the day).

And of course the inevitable hip, shoulder and buttock replacement. This is like the smash up derby of puppet shows.

Even Had a bit of time to streamline the set up a bit. Swapping out the ramps for some hyper-active  suspension in the unicycles.

Balloons Pt 1

Getting ready for a project up in Wagga at easter.

Early testing

20 February 2017

Balance Pt5 - 2016 Tour - Video Taster

Finally had a chance to sit down and edit together a clip from the 2016 Balance Tour.

Balance - (Regional Victoria Tour 2016) from dave jones on Vimeo.

Just in the process of dusting it all off again to see if it can be used as a educational tool/toy for kids to work through some ideas about renewable energy managing the supply and demand in a small town over the course of a day. Should be a good experiment.

Thanks again to Regional Arts Victoria for including Balances as part of their touring program and the Australian Children's Theatre Foundation for supporting me to make the show in the first place.