Daniel Phelps

Maker/Educator

The Future American Retrospective (2019)

 

 

 

The Future American Retrospective project can be found here: https://www.farvr.org/

My work as an Integrated Media Artist has allowed me to create and contribute to a wide variety of technology research initiatives and narratives. From robotics to linear documentary storytelling, my work always strives to incorporate emerging technology and apply it to emerging interdisciplinary fields.

 

The Future American Retrospective: A Telerobotic VR Experience, is a documentary film & installation project that incorporates robotic camera control, Virtual Reality, and novel Documentary filmmaking techniques into a truly social experience intended question how our future-selves will reflect upon this uncertain time in history.

 

This work builds upon my recent applied research in robotics and my abilities as a traditional documentary storyteller. Emerging technologies will converge in the construction of the narrative. Creating new ways to document scenes, interviews, and group conversation in Virtual Reality, as well as creating an interactive and distinctive playback medium in the form of a robotic, multi-channel installation piece.

 

The Future American Retrospective (FARvr) is an oral history and Virtual Reality (VR) Documentary project that aims to document and preserve stories, viewpoints, and timely issues of Americana.

The project consists of three points of public interaction (Capture, Experience, Share):

  1. Public availability of VR documentary resources. A mobile, high-end Virtual Reality capture system can be setup in almost any event or location, easing the complexity of capturing stories for FARvr.
  2. Public multi-channel VR installation piece. The FARvr installation is a way for groups of people to experience the oral histories and stories captured in VR. This mobile installation consists of multiple large monitors and surround sound so that 1-8 people can share the VR experience without the need for a computer or isolating VR goggles. See prototype, figure 1.1
  3. Online access to all recorded media and transcripts. All VR media, audio, and transcriptions will be available via an online repository for the world to experience and share. All media licensed in Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

 

 

 

We are at a compelling period in this country’s history. Politics, technology, and disparate generations of Americans are shaping our future in ways that we could not even imagine ten or fifteen years ago. How will we look back at the political decisions made, our interaction with technology, and how we saw one another as a society of individuals? What does the diversity of our country have in common and are we all looking for the same refuge in our future?

 

The Future American Retrospective: A Telerobotic VR Experience, at its core, is a virtual reality documentary film that explores and presents these questions in unique ways. The project will question how people find their news and information, what sources and outlets shape their views, and ultimately how they feel about their future. I will sample a diverse pool of interview subjects, locations, and groups of seemingly dissimilar socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. This project will attempt to document the past-present while exhibiting it to our future selves as both a VR film and multi-channel installation piece.

 

Additionally, all technology developed for this project will have its construction documented and open-sourced under an “Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)” license so that future VR filmmakers can develop the technology further. Pushing the fledgling medium to a place that lives beyond the scope of this proposal.

 

This method in which the story will be crafted has its roots in Errol Morris’s Interrotron device . This innovative documentary approach has not only lent itself to the unique look in his films but more so the byproduct of his Interrotron technology humanizes the filmmaking process. My approach will turn his device on its end by completely removing the filmmaker from the process rather than embedding them into it. By creating anonymity and dehumanizing the filmmaking process, I intend to create a wall for the subject and filmmaker to hide behind. This technique will allow for pushing the interview process past traditional boundaries by creating a faceless, cold machine that a subject can berate, reveal, bully, and find solace behind metal and lens. The intent is to mimic online conversation and interaction in the real world.

 

This research method will explore how technology influences group-think in face-to-face environments. For example, the project could record an interview groups at an outdoor KKK rally as well as several members in their rural home. Inversely we would then travel to public housing in an urban area to gather discussion with minority youth communities. Anonymity will allow the filmmaker to engage with people and demographics that they would otherwise be uncomfortable approaching to interview. Inversely, the filmmaker would also explore how the public would react to the new VR recording methods that remove the human face from “real life” interactions.

 

As a way to uniquely craft this story, I intend to employ virtual reality (VR) cameras and robotic telepresence (telerobotics) as the film’s primary recording and playback medium. This, first of its kind, approach will revoke the traditional human relationship between filmmaker and subject from the recording method. Interviews and environmental footage will be conducted by the Robocam VR Platform (Figure A.) and the interview subjects will never meet or see who (the filmmaker) is intrigued by their habits and curious about their future. The technology that interacts with its subjects, will in essence, become the filmmaker itself. The only human involvement in the production of the project will be in the conducting of the interviews and edited narrative as a human intermediate device. Anonymity will be the device of both the filmmaker and the subject. Never the two will meet in the form of the flesh, emulating the virtual interactions and engagement of our age.

 

Furthermore, the presentation medium will be a robotic installation comprised of a humanoid robot experiencing the VR/multi-channel narrative (Figure B.). As the 20 to 30-minute narrative documentary plays on the four screens surrounding the humanoid robot (Softbank Robotics NAO platform), the robot will react and emote what it is hearing and seeing. Representing our future selves, the NAO will be programmed to react to the films multiple narratives in 360° movement, expressing traditional human emotions such as shame, excitement, wonder, and curiosity. This robotic representation and emotional programming will attempt to re-humanize the narrative with sentiment and dynamism.

 

The installation experience will provide the viewer with 360° movements around the installation, allowing one to follow the additional narrative and direction that the robot provides. Participants may also choose to diverge from the robotic attention steering and choose their own screen and storyline to follow. An alternative medium will also be provided alongside the installation as traditional VR Documentary format (VR goggles). The production and post-production of this project will be completed in 2017 with an initial confirmed gallery commitment from the York College Art Gallery for a 2-month show in the Spring of 2019.

Winter Abandon

Winter Abandon

NTSC Television and 3G Anaglyph video installation. Programmed using MAX/MSP/JITTER and multiple Arduino inputs to trigger Quicktime Events via MACos.

My intent was not to create an immersive experience… By addressing the fact that Much like 3D, the full effect of homelessness can never be fully realized.

 

Raw, anaglyph footage from installation (to be trigger via TV inputs; channel, volum, and power)

 

 

Peripheral Visions iPad Installation

This piece used a Jailbroken iPad and heavily modified Prezi presentation software.

Prezi and automated hacking tools to morph the consumer software into an installation platform

Hundreds of HQ scans and video “borrowed” from the NYPLibrary via a pocket scanner over a 3-month period. 

Curated by Maria Antonella Pelizzari and with the help of curatorial assistants, Peripheral Visions: Italian Photography in Context, 1950s-Present, is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog with writing by the curator and researchers and published by Charta Editions, Milan and distributed by D.A.P. globally.

Media and Framework Used for installation (LINK)

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

Giuseppe Pagano (1896–1945)

Image and text: Casabella continuità 265, July 1962“[Pictured]: Looking through one of two penetration tunnels inside [the] courts [of the INA-Casa and INCIS Quarter, Via Cavedone, Bologna].”

Images and text: Casabella continuità, April-May 1957“The buildings near Palermo for a ceramic factory consist, apart from the factory itself, of a group of factory houses for the factory employees and of a house for the manager, which is now being erected… Below: A North view of the factory and the group of the workers’ houses seen from the factory.”

Image and text: Casabella continuità, December 1962

“Since those held in Rome, the meetings and congresses of the National Institute of Town-Planning (INU) have assumed a precise institutional role: they provide the occasion for… high-level discussion and collaboration between town-planners and lawyers, economists, politicians, and lawmakers.”

Image and text: U.S. Economic Cooperation Administration (Documentation of Marshall Plan Activities), ca. 1948-ca. 1955“Matera, Italy: Italy’s government and America’s Economic Cooperation Administration cooperate to build a new housing project for the people of Matera. Note the Marshall Plan shield on the hoarding.”

Casabella & Domus History

Cover, Domus 205, January 1946

No problem is solved if it does not at once respond to utility, morals, and aesthetics.

A house is no house if it is not warm in winter, cool in summer, serene in every season, receiving the family in harmonious spaces. A house is no house if it does not contain a corner for reading poetry, an alcove, a bathtub, a kitchen. This is the house of man. And a man is no man if he does not possess such a house. Does this house exist? Did it ever exist?…

A magazine can be an instrument, a filter for establishing the criterion of choice…It is a matter of forming a style, a technique, a morality as terms of a single function. It is a matter of building a society…Let us all help each other to find the harmony between the human measure and divine proportion.

(Ernesto N. Rogers, “Program: Domus, the House of Man”)

Interventions in southern Italy were fueled in part by the sassi of Matera. Frequently referred to as “the shame of Italy,” this district consisted of ancient cliffside dwellings with few hygienic amenities. Perhaps most shocking to the Italian public, many residents of the stassi brought their farm animals inside at night, sleeping side by side with cows or sheep in order to prevent their theft. Although Matera became a rallying point for intervention in the South, the entire region was economically underdeveloped and deeply impoverished, due in large part to residual effects from Fascist zoning policies. Town-planning and the arrival of factories contributed to the region’s turnaround.

Image and text: Domus 483, February 1970“The visual continuity between the interior and exterior spaces through the transparent… walls puts the predominant structural feature in evidence: the “U” shaped section of the roof slab.”

Images: Casabella continuità, December 1953-January 1954

Viale Etiopia’s eight residential towers make prominent use of efficient reinforced-concrete piers and standardized construction elements, while “regional” details–such as majolica tiling and wrought iron balconies–lend the design a broader aesthetic appeal.

The 1949 Fanfani Plan addressed Italy’s postwar housing crisis only secondarily; intended to create jobs by stimulating the construction industry, the legislation provided for a government-sponsored mass housing program, which was to be overseen by the newly formed public agency INA-Casa.

Early INA-Casa projects commonly followed an “enclosed quarter” model. Many peripheral districts lacked easy access to basic services, prompting progressive architects to design public housing estates equipped with schools, recreation centers, shops, and clinics, among other facilities. However, such projects often remained incomplete, with later phases of construction delayed or canceled as a result of bureaucratic inefficiency and the uncertain availability of government funding.

Writing in July 1961, Aldo Rossi asserted that the INA-Casa quarters were “no more than islands of poverty cut off from any organic relationship with the city.” In December 1962, Giuseppe Samonà made a similar assertion: “Of course, the times of naively revolutionary ideological choices have passed, and the social experiments in quarters of the city… have palled.” These assessments reflect the impact of “the new dimension,” a model for urban growth that treats the city as a series of interrelated parts, with particular attention given to socioeconomic circumstances. In the pages of Casabella continuità, attention shifted from mass housing estates to “directional centers,” infrastructural buildings or roadways designed to link isolated neighborhoods with much-needed services located in alternative city centers.

In a June 1943 article for Costruzioni-Casabella, editor Giuseppe Pagano looked ahead to postwar Italy, calling for a reconstruction plan that would fully resolve “the problem of human habitation” before attending to the restoration of historical monuments. Guided by a reformist agenda throughout his tenure, Pagano had previously drawn attention to overcrowding and structural deficiencies in the low-income housing of Milan’s Corso Garibaldi quarter. He envisioned alternative residences shaped according to the practical concerns of “the people”; stripped of adornment, these cost-efficient designs promoted physical and spiritual wellbeing with modern hygienic amenities and ready access shared outdoor spaces. In his extended analysis of public housing, Pagano anticipated many of the questions that would drive architectural discourse following the war.

After a brief stint as editor of Domus magazine, Ernesto Nathan Rogers took charge of the newly revived and retitled Casabella continuità in December 1953; he treated the magazine as a forum for the investigation of socially responsible architecture and urban planning practices; and as Pagano had done before him, he defended the relevance of traditional and vernacular forms to modernist building design. Appearing in the inaugural issue of Casabella continuità, Mario Ridolfi and Wolfgang Frankl’s Viale Etiopia quarter (1948–1954), represents an effective assimilation of modernist and popular design vocabularies.

As the 1950s came to a close, progressive Italian architects began to look beyond questions of form in order to embrace the discipline of urban planning. Although Rogers remained in his official leadership role at Casabella continuità until 1964, younger colleagues Aldo Rossi and Francesco Tentori became increasingly influential; promoted to editorial positions in 1961, this next generation of architects took up the investigation of Italy’s urban peripheries.

Modern & Vernacular

Images: Casabella continuità, April-May 1957

Construction of a House: INA-Casa (Tula, Italy) ca. 1950

Italy’s economic miracle (ca. 1957-1963) represented a moment of spectacular industrial growth as the economy shifted from an agrarian to a manufacturing base. The promise of employment in Italy’s large northern cities–particularly Milan, Turin, and Genoa–prompted a mass migration of rural and southern Italians. The swelling urban population strained infrastructures, creating housing shortages and promoting the development of economically and socially disenfranchised districts on the urban periphery.

Urban Peripheries

Images and text: Domus 483, February 1970“This recent work of Vittoriano Viganò’s–[the Attiva Plant] in the plain between Novi Ligure and Alessandria–stresses the coherence of his architectural language. See the dynamic relationship of the structure with the site: the horizontal development of the architecture underlines the wide flat landscape, while creating a definite image recognizable from afar. See the staggered progress of the low boundary walls and the green areas filtrating between the buildings.”

Italy’s economic miracle (ca. 1957-1963) represented a moment of spectacular industrial growth as the economy shifted from an agrarian to a manufacturing base. The promise of employment in Italy’s large northern cities–particularly Milan, Turin, and Genoa–prompted a mass migration of rural and southern Italians. The swelling urban population strained infrastructures, creating housing shortages and promoting the development of economically and socially disenfranchised districts on the urban periphery.

Images and text: Casabella continuità 253, July 1961“The face of the contemporary city is for the most part represented by the outskirts: a large part of humanity is born, grows up, and lives on the outskirts of cities, that is, in those huge zones which rose rapidly around the old centers and now together with all the signs and scars of too rapid a growth, show a new and more intense vitality.”(Aldo Rossi, “The City and the Outskirts”)

`

Images and text: Casabella continuità, December 1953-January 1954

“View of the buildings completed and inhabited. There are shops on the ground floor. The other buildings are not yet completed.”

Images and text: Casabella 391, July 1974

“Here are two subsidized buildings specifically designed for the Gallaratese quarter, Milan, where for some time now the inhabitants have been clamoring for houses and social services.”

Southern Transformation

Public Housing Projects

Image and text: Casabella continuità 199, December 1953-January 1954“The true conscience of the Modern Movement lies in its continual transcendence: in its never-ending conquest of itself with every form acquired… [T]hus when I talk of continuity, I am talking of a dynamic continuity, which is to say, of a continuos sense of tradition, well beyond the coarse nominalistic meaning of the word.” (Ernesto N. Rogers, “Continuità”)

“When painting, the cinema, and literature deal with the city, they reflect this aspect in which everything is in itself rich with new motifs: the man of the metropolis is now the man of the suburbs, the most typical feelings of our time are attributed to the residents of this zone.”

(Aldo Rossi, “The City and the Outskirts,” Casabella continuità 253, July 1961)

Image: Casabella continuità, December 1962

Introduced in 1959, the term la nuova dimensione–”the new dimension”–refers to a model for urban growth in which the city is treated as a series of interrelated parts, including center, periphery, and socioeconomic foundation. In practical terms, “the new dimension” extended the purview of architecture from questions of form and style to the realm of urban planning.

“Houses for Workers (Meolo, Italy),” Foto Giacomelli, Venice, 1950

Images: Casabella continuità 270, December 1962

Giuseppe Pagano promoted an architecture based on the simple functionality of rural peasant dwellings; designed to support the routine activities of daily life, these structures were efficient in cost and construction and expressed pride in an “authentic” Italian vernacular tradition. Still, Pagano was deeply invested in the notion of modernity; he embraced engineering and technology, calling for expanded infrastructure for the delivery of running water, electricity, and telephone lines–and highlighting the need to promote hygienic living spaces with adequate light and fresh air for all Italians.

Rogers also championed regional and vernacular styles, citing the importance of “continuità”–continuity–or integration of the new into the existing urban environment. English critic Reyner Banham famously accused Rogers of supporting an “infantile regression” in Italian architecture, prompting a heated exchange between the two in a series of magazine editorials. Rogers’ Torre Velasca, Milan (1958) became a symbol of this negotiation between old and new forms, drawing harsh criticism from many of Europe’s avant-garde architects. By contrast, Gio Ponti’s Torre Pirelli, Milan (1960) was widely celebrated as a sign of Italian economic progress, with its sleek soaring lines emulating an American skyscraper.

In the wake of global political upheaval, architectural style became a hotly contested matter; classicism was dismissed as the language of oppressive Fascist monuments, while pure modernism seemed to express a naive faith in technological progress—and a willful ignorance of the devastation wrought by war machinery. The vernacular inflections of many INA-Casa projects, by contrast, signaled the arrival of a democratic Italy committed to fulfilling the material and psychological needs of “the people.”

Images and text: Casabella continuità 253, July 1961

“[Pictured]: Works in progress for the new quick traffic roads through Milan. The too late development of quick traffic roads in and out of the city…seem rather poor as compared with the actual city size expanding over wider areas already thickly built…”

Building Reform & Politics

Industrial Buildings

Ernesto Nathan Rogers (1909–1969)

Aldo Rossi (1931-1997)

Image and text: Casabella continuità 270, December 1962

“This issue on the city and region is dedicated to Adriano Olivetti, who was the first in Italy to grasp the historical and instrumental importance of their relationship and their interdependence.”

(Ernesto N. Rogers, “Unity Throughout Adriano Olivetti’s Life”)

Image and text: U.S. Economic Cooperation Administration (Documentation of Marshall Plan Activities), ca. 1948-ca. 1955

“The picture shows Larderello in the background with refrigerators and plant buildings. At left [are] some of the new apartment houses which have been built for employees.”

 

Sonic Graffiti

Sonic Graffiti: Hacking the Subconscious Through Aural Cues

The project presented to funding sources through 2015. Was abandoned due to legal and permit issues. Artist considering gorilla art and self-financing as an alternate installation method.

 

Abstract:

 

Every day we are exposed to sounds from both natural and man-made sources. Our ears are constantly bombarded with cues that tell us more about our environment. Everything from train conductor announcements, to the beeps and clicks to your iPod, assist in providing the information that one needs to navigate and interact with the modern world.

 

Depending on your profession, your ear might be trained to pick up on sounds that trigger an ingrained response due to training or repetition. For example, a fighter pilot through many hours of training will respond to certain aural feedback coming from his cockpit. In turn, a construction worker understands the sonic landscape of the construction site with all of it crashes of manufacturing and beeps of warning.

Other than the aural cues of a distinct profession, what are the cues that tie the human race together? Do certain sounds connect us all? Obviously, the farmer has a very different set of daily environmental sounds, and therefore different reactionary cues in his environment than the urbanite would have in theirs. And while our daily experiences may be different sonically, we may have a set of sounds that binds us all together through evolution.

 

It is well known that certain sounds trigger a mammalian response often referred to the flight or fight response. This response prepares the body to either run from danger or challenges it. Engrained in us over our evolution, our subconscious can inherently identify sounds in our environment that can cause us harm, and react. This emotional, sonic exploit, is often used in movies. Whereas, the low hum of bees will be laid into the background track of a scene to heighten a moment (The Exorcist, 1973). Or by the use of sudden loud sounds to interrupt a quiet moment often used in every horror film since 1923. The effect is used to literally strike fear into an audience.

 

I believe that we all share a pool of environmental, aural cues, that trigger an uncontrollable emotional or physical response. My project intends to manipulate those emotional responses by exploring these sounds via context, repetition, and source identifiable. How do these sounds interact with the conscious/unconscious mind?

 

 

Project Outline

 

My inspiration for this project came from the more effective, modern, graffiti artists such as Banksy. Specifically a piece where, in 2005, he placed subverted artworks in the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York. What worked about his art subversion was the subtlety that it was presented. His art was placed in an environment where the context allowed it to be accepted as “real art” and then interpreted by museum-goers as such.  He used context to gain access to visitors interpretive minds. Without this subversion, the more traditional museum visitor probably would not have viewed his pieces in this new, established, context.

The Sonic Graffiti project borrows not from Banksy’s social commentary, but from what I believe his core approach is when choosing the environment for his art. A decision-making process to maximize context, interpretation and create an “art space” from nothing but a perceived area.

I plan to plant audio projecting devices within spaces where people gather. These “Improvised Sonic Devices”, or I.S.D.’s,  will then project sound through a variety of mechanical and acoustically practical means. Chosen sounds will be denoted by the context of the space, and the audience available. The key to a covert Sonic Graffiti show is the subtlety that the piece is presented and the physical and emotional responses that they elicit from the unwilling participants.

 

While the sounds and implementation may vary from any two Sonic Graffiti pieces, I believe that there are three main factors that are used in both a Banksy project and Sonic Graffiti. The core approach to this project needs to consider the environment, sounds produced, and finally, the devices used.

 

When considering a Sonic Graffiti project, a matrix is created that assists in denoting the application and programming of the I.S.D.’s. The three variables in the matrix are the environment, sound, and device. Examples of each variable can be but are not limited to, those found below.

Environment

Requirements: Quiet enough for I.S.D’s to be heard, complex enough to be hidden.

Examples:

  • Library
  • Small Park
  • Gym
  • Lounge
  • Art Installations
  • Museums
  • Schools
  • Restaurants
  • Restrooms
  • Airplanes

 

Sounds

Requirements: Illicit physical or emotional response out of participants, given context.

Examples:

  • Practical (aka mechanical) Applications
    • Taps
    • Broken Bell
    • Chime
    • Pops/clicks
    • Physical vibration through low Hertz
    • Rattle

  • Speaker Based Applications
    • Hiss
    • Whiz
    • Falling rocks
    • Infrasound
    • Baby
    • Siren
    • Mammalian Distress
    • Screeching car
    • Voice

 

Devices

Requirements: Long lasting. Programmable volume and duration for sound projection.

 

Examples:

  • AC Powered “Vampire” devices
    • Edison plug
    • Incandescent
    • Fluorescent
    • Power over Ethernet (POE)

  • Solar Powered
    • Indoor
    • Outdoor

  • Wind Powered

  • Battery Powered
    • Magnetic
    • Sticky
    • Clippy

The intent of a Sonic Graffiti installation is to heighten the awareness of the audio environment. By using sounds hard-wired into our collective unconscious, the installation will generate a physical response that will enhance attentiveness in the participant, therefore increasing the perception of their acoustic environment.

 

Since the piece is variable due to the open interpretation by the participants, this cognizance will come in many forms. From searching out the source of the sound (I.S.D.), to the subtle curiosity of the modified environment. Ultimately, certain sounds and their manufactured environments should be perceived and not heard. This “subtle hack” should be invisible, much in the way the humming of bees presented in the exorcist was only intended for the audience’s subconscious.

Practical Installation

Location: Hudson River Greenway. Westside Highway and 64th Street, New York NY.

 

Potential visitors to the audio installation would visit sonicgraffiti.info to find the current location of the Sonic Graffiti Project.

The Hudson River Greenway provides everything that a good Sonic Graffiti installation needs to be sustainable and successful; A quiet space where people congregate and relax, access to energy sources (e.g. Sunlight, wind, public utilities, etc.), areas for concealment of I.S.D.s, and a relatively subdued background noise provided by the Westside Highway.

 

The installation will utilize every type of I.S.D. in the Sonic Graffiti arsenal. A minimum of 5 pieces will be used to create the installation. The main goal of this installation is to generate a certain sense of awareness in the visitors of the greenway. By using sounds and vibrations, visitors will seek their source, therefore exploring the space and changing the intent of the visit.

 

Devices Used

Thumper – Battery powered. Conductive transmission though steel by spring loaded hammer mechanism.

 

Buzzer – Public utility powered. Buzzing and cracking sound emanated through the speaker and concealed in a light pole.

Talker – Battery Powered. This device transmits a one-sided conversation to visitors sitting on the park bench.

Beekeeper – Solar Powered. Playing back the sound of a hive of bees in the grass, this device is meant to distress passerby’s curious of the ornamental grass.

Whaler – Wind-powered. This device is the only I.S.D that will not be concealed. Hiding the device is not needed because it is unreachable from the installation. The sounds of dolphins and whales emanate from the partially submerged pier off of the Hudson River Greenway.

Maker-Culture and You:How 3D Printing and Hands-On Learning Can Augment Traditional Pedagogy

Workshop and Webinar facilitated by Daniel Phelps, Performing & Fine Arts Adjunct Assistant Professor & Multimedia Production Specialist.

Originally recorded on April 3rd, 2014

Sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL).

Can 3D printing help accomplish your course goals? This workshop willexplore how creative pedagogy using 3D printing & design can enhance your coursework, leading to increased interest and understanding in your subject matter. Learn by invention in York College’s Makerspace. This event will also be simulcast in Google Hangouts

Participation does not require Blackboard or any other technology.

An Ode to the “Professional” Editor #FCPX

This post has been cross listed by me from the York Comm Tech Blog at yorkcommtech.net.

On April 12, 2011, Final Cut Pro saw its first major redesign and update since 2001… Even earlier if you remember the program as Key Grip (the name of the program at Apple purchased as the foundation for FCP in 1999).

As I tuned into the twitter feeds of #FCP last night to experience the cumulative reaction of the 1700 people at the FCPUG users SuperMeet at NAB, I found myself to be outside of the “Reality Distortion Field” normally found in Apple keynote addresses. You see, unlike the next iPhone or the next iPad, Final Cut Pro has been theprogram that I have made my living for the past 10 years. It has been my lifeblood, a passion, and the one piece of software that I can truly say I’m an expert with. What makes me so comfortable with this program I know how to fix this bugger when it breaks. I know how to avoid problems with this clunker because of known bugs, and more importantly I can navigate this program with an efficiency that takes years to develop. It is another thing altogether to create something wonderful with this tool.

But as I utter these words, I realize that there are many other programs I rely on to do my job. Microsoft Word, any e-mail program, any operating system… These are all just cogs in a greater skill-set to do my job effectively and efficiently. By owning Microsoft Word I don’t call myself a professional writer. By knowing how to navigate WordPress, I’m not a professional blogger. And by owning a hammer and knowing that I can swing it, does not make me a carpenter. Anyone can give themselves a creative title until they have to build “it”. Only then, can someone can be called a “Professional”, whether it be a writer, a blogger, or Jesus.

With that said. If Jesus have been an editor, he would use Final Cut Pro X.

 

In my analysis of this announcement, I will look at this the changes to FCP from two different perspectives. One from an editors perspective, and the other from the role of an Educator and Multimedia Systems Administrator. Additionally, because this announcement was a “sneak peek” I will not recap the feature-set. For a complete list of changes to the program thus far, or to watch the Keynote address please visit the following links:

Feature List: http://aol.it/gHtcHz
Keynote Video: http://bit.ly/i9AFJx

From an Editors Perspective:

Forgoing the easy analysis of Final Cut Pro X as “iMovie on Steroids”, I truly believe Apple is trying to accomplish many goals. One of the obvious goals in the demo was efficiency disguised as making things “easier” for the editor. Every single new feature that was demoed is intended to make finding your media faster, and implementing decisions quicker.

As the demo for Magnetic Timeline and Compound Clips was happening, I was counting the steps or “clicks” that I would no longer have to do for insert editing or choosing b-roll/environmental. Those who perform many repetitive actions to nested sequence of over 700 clips know what I’m talking about. Those micro-tasks add up quick,  and after seeing FCPX “editing during ingest” of h.264, I was sold. Those features alone can save hours.

The Twitterverse might ask, “So what about the UI?”.. Well to that I say, “Meh”. UI’s change. They become more efficient, especially in Apple’s world. So what if it looks like iMovie. Spend a week with the program and learn how to be more efficient by starting over. You’re a professional, aren’t you? You’ve done it before with almost every other program you have. Grow up.

There is no way that this upgrade will make FCP less powerful. It provides the underpinnings to an exciting, powerful future where any format will “just work.” Isn’t that how we want all of our software to do… Just work with what we want? Apple is leveraging it’s core technologies (Open CL, Grand Central Dispatch, and Core Animation) to make things in FCP “just work.” From DSLR’s to flip cams, to legacy codecs (I’m looking at you DV).. These decisions [by Apple] will make editing easier for everyone because it strips the high-level of understanding away and makes the technology invisible.

Knowing how to fix compression problems with mpeg-2 will always come in handy, but if those problems are not there in the first place because the software “took care of it”, who’s to know, and who’s to care? Producers only care about the final product. As an editor/producer I look forward to a more efficient and seamless FCP experience so that I can concentrate on creativity and story, not codecs and metadata. Jesus can do my offline.

 

From a Systems Administrator/Educator Perspective:

If this version of Final Cut is not adopted by the professional community, FCP is dead as a Pro App. Lots of people will use it, but a toy it will be.

The decision to continue with Final Cut in the classroom will only be decided if it is taken seriously in the post-production world. Will the new price ($299.00) scare post-production houses away? Or will producers ask for FCPX by name, to keep costs down? The assumption 10 years ago was that because FCP was cheap and accessible, it would require lower post-production costs and “less-skilled” editors. Producers quickly realized that only the former turned out to be true. But the “non-professionals” still called themselves shooters and editors… with their DVX-100’s and XL-1’s, they pointed their Quicktime Export to YouTube, starting MANYcareers in the process. Consumers became producers with technology that was now more accessible.

I owe some of my career to my basement and my XL-1. My early knowledge and adoption gave me a leg up at the first of many small studios that I have worked. This (DV+FCP) was technology that caught salty Media-100 and Fast VM/Linear “Professional Editors” off-guard, and changed an industry in 8 years. I don’t believe this version (of FCP) will make waves like it did in the 2000’s… but you will see a new generation of filmmakers with DSLR’s and Macbooks creating stories with a different (read: more advanced) aesthetic than DV and our G4’s hurled at the industry 10 years ago.

So will I install FCPX in the classroom? Only if it benefits the students professionally.. and that depends ultimately on how you define a “professional”. This will take time. But given the current economic condition of education right now… There may be a clear choice. Adobe, and especially Avid, are more nimble and affordable than ever, but a 4G modem, a Macbook preloaded with FCPX, tied to a Canon T2i, for under 2K?.. Well that sounds like anyone, anywhere, can tell a professionalstory.

I say as an editor, use it immediately. If you like it add it to your toolset and move on. If it’s more efficient, tell producers that you can get it done faster in FCPX. Charge less, make more.

As a systems administrator. Wait a year. Look at the details. Call production houses and media outlets to see what their plans are. They will tell you their direction. The popular vote wins. (hint: most provide multiple NLE’s)

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to let me know. You can also find me on the twits @danielphelps, or  email me at dphelps{at}york.cuny.edu

 

 

Dimensional Interpretation: 3D Technologies vs. Popular Culture

Technology will never succeed in recreating the richness that the five senses deliver our brain to interpret our world. The human race’s innate ability to capture an orthographic record of our experiences has progressed over the millennia in the pursuit of an image that represents the most accurate depiction available during that particular time period. Our ability record still and moving images has come a long way from early cave drawings. Just as cave drawings are no longer in vogue for a variety of reasons, there are many factors that dictate the popularity or acceptance of any given visual recording medium. Specifically, over the past 150 years, the technology to succeed traditional two-dimensional (2D) visual representation has been widely available to provide another dimension to the human visual record. These three dimensional (3D) technologies have provided us with the ability to represent the world in ways closer to the one decoded in our consciousness. Although the apparatus and technology for this 3D facsimile of our world has evolved since it was first conceived, civilization has yet to embrace it, as it has other popular forms of visual media. Are media consumers ready to finally embrace this medium? More importantly, will we have a choice?

Early philosophers and scientists have long known the science and theory of 3D vision. Specifically, the dominant physiological apparatus of binocular vision is what allows all sighted living beings to interpret the three dimensional world that we live in. The physician Galen noted this recognition of binocular vision as the major sense that lends itself to 3D vision. In the second century A.D. Galen notes in his writing On the Use of the Different Parts of the Human Body, “that a person standing near a column and observing first with the left eye and then with the right eye will see different portions of the background column” (qtd. in Zone 5). That is, each eye records a slightly different images from one another. These two images are interpreted by the brain to translate spatial depth and object dimension. Further study by Charles Wheatstone in 1838 would go on to define the characteristics of binocular vision and the techniques that would be required to recreate 3d vision from two separate 2D images. This “Binocular disparity is one of the most, if not the most effective depth cue.” (Pizlo 119).

Along with his hand drawings included in his paper, he also debuted a new invention dubbed the “stereoscope”, and was able to successfully prove that the recreation of three-dimensional space was possible using traditional and undiscovered orthographic techniques. The stereoscope was able to provide two separate images to each eye, effectively tricking the spatial recognition portion of the brain into interpreting depth. This form of 3D viewing of 2D media would not become popular, at the time, due to its difficulty to reproduce the 3D effect with hand drawn or hand painted images.

While stereoscopic hand drawing was successful within the scientific community in the early 1800’s, the general public would not embrace the technology until the mid 19th century when Wheatstone’s stereoscopic techniques would be combined with early photographic methods. With the introduction of stereo photography in conjunction with a cheaper mass-produced stereoscopic apparatus dubbed the “Holmes Stereoscope,” named after its inventor, Oliver Wendell Holmes. In Rosalind E. Krauss’ book “The Optical Unconsciousness,” the rise of the Holmes stereoscope as a popular form of viewing of 3D media had nothing to do with it’s technological superiority. Krauss states, “For the Wheatstone stereoscope, a product of physiological research in the 1830’s, was constructed to produce it’s experience of depth in a way that proved to be much more powerful than later devices such as the Holmes or Brewster stereoscope”(133). The popularity of the Holmes Stereoscope was due to its simplicity and affordability, not its technical advantage.

With the invention of the moving image in the late 19th century, and the development of the narrative storytelling model using motion pictures in the early days of the 20th century, the technology to capture and playback stereoscopic images quickly developed. Moving images quickly replaced their still counterparts for the dominant form of popular media. The popular stereoscope gave way to movies and the motion picture.

The recording of a stereo image, whether still or moving, has remained unchanged since the mid 1800’s. Essentially, two disparate images are taken, using two cameras or lenses. The placement of these imagers must be positioned, on average, 2.5 inches a part. Referred to as the inter-ocular or inter-axial distance, this particular distance is representative of the average gap between human eyes. This distance can be changed to manipulate the 3D effect during recording or playback, to achieve a more sensational 3D result. This adjustable width, straight ahead approach to shooting 3D is often referred to as “parallel” recording. Parallel recording is the simplest form of reproducing 3D images.

For added enhancement of the dept effect, the technique of “convergence” was introduced to further emulate the natural vision of the eyes. Convergence can simply be explained by the visual phenomena of the eyes “crossing” to view an object that is closer than an object that is far away. To understand this effect, all one must do is to hold an object about 4 inches from the eyes and examine the natural tendency of the eyes to cross to keep the item in view. Although convergence is used to further the effect of 3D, its use can also become a determent to the 3D effect because of subtle differences between the shape of eyes versus the shape of film or a video imager. Whereas the eye has a round “image plane” the technology that is used to record electronic images (ccd’s and film) are flat. This inherent flatness produces distortions in each eye that the brain has trouble resolving the intended 3D effect. The human eyes and brain usually correct for deviations in color, resolution and brightness. In the case of the “keystoning” effect created by the convergence method, the brain has trouble believing the effect and produces increased eye strain. Keystoning is one of many defects in the 3D recording process.

To talk about only the recording method of 3D images would only be half of what makes stereoscopy effective. The technology for viewing 3D motion pictures is just as essential as the capture method. Over the past 100 years, several forms of 3D projection and display have been developed and all are in use today. Essentially the technology uses the same principles that were developed by Wheatstone’s experiments in the mid 19th century; isolate recorded left and right images and deliver them simultaneously to each eye.

In order of development, the types of 3D playback can be broken down into 5 different technologies; anaglyph, polarized, active shutter, isolated stereoscopic, and auto stereoscopic. Anaglyph display technology is the cheapest and most inferior technology. Often using the classic red/blue glasses, this technology separates the left and right images into two colors, red for right and blue for left. The user wears red and blue glasses to filter out the opposite image when viewed on screen. This method creates inferior color representation due to the filters red/blue display method.

The polarized method uses two types of polarized lenses (circular or linear) to produce the left and right image, along with the opposite polarization in the form of glasses that filter the polarized light from the audience. Unlike anaglyph, polarized tech does not alter the color of the recorded material and produces a full color image.

Active shutter technology uses glasses that contain a battery to actively “block” out projected left and right images. The shutter method also produces a full color image and lends itself to being a simple, yet expensive, playback technology. This method is the current technology most widely available to home television sets.

Isolated stereoscopic technology is an updated form of the stereoscope that uses small displays with double images to produce the 3D effect. This cheap and pocketable 3D tech is often used in wearable glasses or cases for mobile devices.

The holy grail of 3D display technology is referred to as “auto stereoscopic”. This is the only method that uses no glasses and relies on shifted lens technology to deliver each image to both eyes. Essentially, the auto stereoscopic delivery system overlays small lenses on a transmissive screen such as a LCD. Each row of lenses sends one image left, and one image right. Images are only able to be viewed by one eye at a time, essentially blocking any overlapping that can occur with any other system. Auto stereoscopic screens produce a “sweet” spot for the user. That is, the intended audience must be an exact distance away from the screen for the 3D effect to work.

With all of the various forms of technologies available for 3D viewing developed over the years, why haven’t 3D movies, television and overall 3D storytelling become the dominant form of media? A story that is told in a format that more closely resembles human depth and vision has to be superior, right? Well, there are many reasons that 3D has not become consistently popular over the years.

Some would argue that the technology is not convincing enough, while others would argue that what the 3rd dimension adds to storytelling has not been widely accepted due to it’s improper use as a storytelling apparatus. Ray Zone writes in “Stereoscopic Cinema and the Origins of 3D Film.”

When the first publicly exhibited stereoscopic motion pictures were shown in 1915 at the Astor Theater in New York. Lynde Denig, a reviewer for

Moving Picture World, wrote. “These pictures would appeal first by reason of their novelty, then because of the wonderful effects obtained, and after

that, when they had become familiar, there would be the same old demand for an interesting story,” (qtd. in Zone 84).

During the early 20th century, 3D and 2D storytelling were in direct competition for an audience via stereoscopic cards and movies, respectively. Although the technology to playback 3D films was widely available, albeit inferior to the quality of similar 2D storytelling experience, the audience preferred the 2D familiarity. Eventually the 2D movie became the favored medium for storytelling due to its simplicity and believability. The “composite, synthetic nature of the stereoscopic image could never be fully effaced. An apparatus openly based on a principle of disparity, on a “binocular” body, and on an illusion patently derived from the binary referent of the stereoscopic card of paired images” (Crary, 133). 2D wasn’t better or worse than 3D because of its lack of realism, but because of its familiarity and ease of acceptance with the audience. The public was able to “see” the film from a distance rather than be a part of it due to a technical 3D “brain hack”. Although 3D storytelling persisted and at times flourished over the next 95 years, its popularity has never been able to match the 2D juggernaut that is modern cinema.

So what is the future of 3D storytelling? Well, in today’s 3D world, the technology to record and playback 3D has not changed much. What has changed is the proliferation and access to 3D tech, and more importantly, content.

Over the past 3 years, a resurgence in 3D has been adopted by many consumer companies and content producers. Phones and gaming systems are available with auto stereoscopic screens, TV’s are available to playback 3D with the assistance of active shutter technology, universal standards have been set, and the number of 3D capable theatres has increased world wide to over 7,000. The consumer push of 3D technology is only going to increase as tech companies encourage consumers to purchase the latest and greatest media devices. James Cameron agrees that consumer televisions are the future, but are lacking in one key area, content.

“We’re going to have 3D TVs all around us … and we’re going to need thousands of hours of sports, comedy and music and all kinds of entertainment,”(qtd. Herskovitz, and Lewis 1-1).

 

If visual 3D is to be finally accepted in our society, I believe that the driving force will not be the technology, but the quality of the content created for the 3D apparatus. Current technology is often seen as a gimmick or hook to drive the media consumer to devour (and pay) for the content. With the different 3D technologies being pushed upon us without the content to support it, it’s the content that will ultimately drive the embracing of the medium. Movies like “Avatar” that shun the traditional spectacle that 3D has been seen as in the past, the 3rd dimension will become another storytelling device, much like computer generated graphics have changed modern storytelling. 3D will have to be seen and used by storytellers as not a device to sell ticket or gadgets, but as a way to deliver depth and further understanding of the story, game, or user interface. Stereographer Jeanne Guillot’s dissertation entitled, “Is 3D Cinema Necessarily Spectacular?” Goes on to say:

This is the reason why I feel rather confident about the future of 3D cinema. I believe it will spark the curiosity and certainly the creativity of a number of directors, who will find ways of bringing this format into new realms. Stereoscopy is too rich a medium to remain confined to a restricted realm. (74)

 

3D has not changed much in the past 150 years. From still photography to 3D on mobile devices, the technology of 3D has never driven its adoption. The sensation of depth that 3D gives to viewers is no more than another storytelling tool. I believe that what will finally push this cinematic device over the tipping point into widespread acceptance, will be the quality of the content using new cinematic techniques. A new breed of storytellers that have unprecedented and universal access to the technology will develop 3D into a new art form. One that is accepted by the masses not for its “wow” factor, but for the feeling it yields to the story, character, or theme presented before them.

 

Works Cited

Crary, Jonathan. Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 1999. Print.

Crary, Jonathan. Techniques of the Observer: on Vision and Modernity in the 19th Century. Cambridge: MIT, 1992. Print.

Guillot, Jeanne. “Is 3D Cinema Necessarily Spectacular?” French Film Festival, Richmond Virginia. La Fémis, 01092009. Web. 1 May 2010. <http://www.frenchfilm.vcu.edu/2010/pdf/Version%20final%20de%20la %20these%20en%20anglais.pdf>.

Krauss, Rosalind E. The Optical Unconscious. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 1993. Print.

Pizlo, Zygmunt. 3D Shape: Its Unique Place in Visual Perception. Cambridge: MIT, 2008. Print.

Zone, Ray. Stereoscopic Cinema & the Origins of 3-D Film, 1838-1952. Lexington, Ky: University of Kentucky, 2007. Print.

Herskovitz, Jon, and Chris Lewis. “Avatar’s James Cameron urges producers to embrace 3D TV.” Reuters 13 May 2010: 1-1. Web. 14 May 2010. <http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE64C1CE20100513?feedType=RSS&f eedName=technologyNews&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&ut m_campaign=Feed:+reuters/UKTechnologyNews+(News+/+UK+/+Technolo gy+News)&utm_content=Google+Reader>.