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  Dec.03.15 Christopher Bauder's Mesmerizing Kinetic Lights System Soars

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2015 Vodafone - CeBIT, Hanover.


Brainchild of Christopher Bauder, the modular Kinetic Light System is an award-winning product embedding TouchDesigner which choreographs and moves not just light and pixels but actual physical objects, high above one’s head via steel wire and powered cable DMX winches to which large arrays of light elements are tethered.

It is an amazing system that has produced stunning results for a variety of installations both temporary and permanent while without fail catching people by surprise with its organic, mesmerizing movement.

In early 2015 TouchDesigner was brought into the Kinetic Lights ecosystem to provide an environment for show creation and to control movement and lights. We started a conversation with Christopher Bauder shortly thereafter which after almost 3 years to the day is at last ready to share! It’s a marathon of an interview which had to be put on hold several times due to Kinetic Lights’ success and the ensuing demand it ignited all over the world. We’d like to thank Mr. Bauder for spending so much time answering our questions and sharing his wealth of insight and experience and trust our readers will enjoy!

GRID performance with Robert Henke (Monolake) at the Fête des Lumières Light Art Festival 2013 in Lyon.

Derivative: Looking back through your succesion of work what stands out is a defiance of constraints - spatially, dimensionally, by medium, movement, forms, and certainly by scale and complexity! You don't like flat or 'box' anything! You design and produce complete systems that seem to live unhinged (well technically not quite!) in environments-at-large. (System defined as: (1.) a set of connected things or parts forming a complex whole, in particular; systems as (2.) a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network; and (3.) systems as a way of thinking that is based on a big idea?)

Christopher Bauder: Yes, I like that! Describes pretty well what I love and what I am after!

D: Can you tell us a bit about your background then, how you came to realize this and do what you do?

CB: I studied "Visual Communication" at the University of the Arts in Berlin, Germany. I was specialising in "media design" and the newly emerging "interaction design". It was all 2D screen design at the time and I always imagined that there should be something more to interact with than a screen, mouse and keyboard. Everything felt so flat and unemotional.

One semester we were given the task to use an everyday household item and extend it with a digital function. I chose an ordinary stepladder and used some sensors and midi connection to turn it into a musical instrument. When hardware and software finally came together and I triggered my samples on the computer, I was thrilled by the newly found option to hook up stuff to a computer as alternative input or output device. We even performed as a kind of band with several so called ToneLadders and toured extensively for two years all over Europe from media festival to media festival.

Since then I am always trying to question and reinvent the principles of how we interact with computers and how computer generated information can be displayed outside the computer in our physical world.

 
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  Sep.21.15 An Interactive Sonic Play-Space in a Maze of Netting

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"When you walk in, you'll see a series of netting, mesh material… We want you to touch it. It's all very hands-on. There's six sections within this maze of netting that people can go up to each station. Within those stations my song has been, essentially, dissected and spread out across 44 speakers going around the rectangle of the space. So if you're in section one, and you are interacting with the netting and the material, the Microsoft Kinect cameras are essentially following your movements. Whatever you're doing with your arms and your hands, if you're pushing on the netting, the depth is being translated to data that goes into the master mainframe computer, which is running my song in real time on Ableton Live." Matthew Dear Discusses His Installation at the New Museum, Pitchfork

photo Drew Reynolds
photo Drew Reynolds
photo Drew Reynolds

DELQA is a collaboration between Matthew Dear and a talented Brooklyn-based creative team that puts visitors "inside Dear's music" with the ability to change and affect the composition by interacting with arrangements of netting in a gallery space. It is a playful and very clever interactive piece conceived of and produced in-part by Gabe Liberti and Dave Rife of Dave and Gabe, multimedia artists who design and build interactive sound and light installations.

The musical composition is multi-layered and dynamic such that the arrangement and sound synthesis can be transformed on the fly. In an interview with Microsoft, Dear explained he "wanted to compose a sonic dreamscape, fully realizing that dreams are weird and not always black and white. The music rests between peaceful and chaotic states, allowing the listener to come up with their own story while engaging with the piece."

We had the pleasure of meeting Gabe and Dave at a recent TouchIn NYC meetup organized by Kamil Narwatil of VolvoxLabs where Gabe presented on the project. Afterwards we had a chance to learn more about how the project came about and how the team combined skills in architecture, acoustics, interaction design, and music to create an experience that allowed the audience to be participants in this musical realization.

Gabe Liberti: It was the most immersive experience we've been able to create yet and leveraged all of our skills from spatial sound design to real-time interactive lighting. The crowd reaction was magical because they were listening, physically exploring, and also performing the music and visuals happening all around them. It was an opportunity for us to design and install a 44-channel spatial audio system that transformed the gallery into a living world of sound.

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  Aug.26.15 Exhibit Item/Awakening

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Last year we wrote about the brilliant multimedia dance performance PIÈCE À VIVRE (Living Room), a collaborative work between Moscow-based artists and new media producers Evgeniy Afonin and Yan Kalnberzin, who also co-founded the creative company Russian Visual Artists. We were understandably excited when Evgeniy contacted us to share his most recent project EXHIBIT ITEM/AWAKENING.

The contemporary dance performance strikes out in bold and innovative directions. Most notably, the entire production takes place on a semitransparent glass stage platform comprised of a complex lighting and video setup. LED strips and other lighting devices are embedded inside the stage under the glass which is projection-mapped from above. Finally "hydrogel", a substance resembling shaved ice or slushy snow covers the stage forming a medium upon which the performer - well... slides.

Almost all control, video, and LED content production and synchronization was achieved with TouchDesigner.

EXHIBIT ITEM/AWAKENING was recently awarded two prizes from the prestigious "Golden Mask Award", the National Theatre Award established in 1993 by the Theatre Union of the Russian Federation. The Golden Mask Award is the most prestigious award presented to productions in all genres of theatre art: drama, opera, ballet, modern dance, operetta, musical, and puppet theatre."

Receiving their awards: Evgeniy Afonin, Anna Abalikhina, Galina Solodovnikova, Yuriy Chulkov, Sergey Vasilyev

The first prize was awarded to the entire team for "Contemporary Dance/Best Production", and a remarkable achievement (in the traditional theatrical world where LED and projection mapping rarely make an appearance), Evgeniy and his partner Sergey Vasilyev received a second award for "Best Light Designer in Musical Theatre".

The play is now in the repertory of stately Alexandrinskiy Theatre in Saint Petersburg where the theatre staff handles the TouchDesigner-based lighting system via an interface Evgeniy designed specifically for this purpose.

It's a stunning work and a spectacular achievement! Evgeniy tells us about the making of the production below, thank-you Evgeniy!

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  Aug.19.15 Maotik's Light Bearers: 2,500 Fireflies Animate and Delight

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"On a summer evening, the air is filled with the flash of fireflies calling to one another. Intrigued by their dialogue we created a poetic representation of their conversation.

Our immersive environment is a multmedia interpretation of a natural ecosystem that combines thousands of original crafted objects with state-of-the-art technology such as lasers. Visitors are invited to participate in the experience by creating their own audiovisual show inspired by the frail beauty of fireflies, they themselves become light bearers."

ŠAdrien Williams
ŠAdrien Williams

There can be no immunity to the surprise and delight experienced when suddenly in the darkness of a hot summer night, one encounters the glimmering pulses of fireflies in the tall grass. Mathieu Le Sourd, a.k.a. Maotik, together with multidisciplinary artist Etienne Paquette have designed Light Bearers, a very magical installation that simulates this wondrous experience indoors at Montreal's Insectarium.

Furthermore this swarm of 'fireflies', which are in fact 2,500 light bulbs filled with light-diffusing tonic water, can be controlled at one's whimsy, by activating an invisible hand-guided laser. "Point at different spots across the elegant glass field and Le Sourd's clever combination of Leap Motion sensors and TouchDesigner software will set them aglow like the lightning bugs that inspired them." we learn at The Creators Project.

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  Feb.24.15 Vincent Houzé on Rapid-Prototyping and Working in Real Time

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My first steps with Arduino and a little proof of concept. Rotating the little white knob drives the cardboard box rotation and the virtual box rotation the rocks collide with. Graphics and sim generated with TouchDesigner. Mapping is a bit approximate, adhesive tape and 12$ servo can only take you so far.
Paper + pico projector + TouchDesigner

We first became aquainted with Vincent Houzé through the very compelling and often amusing videos he shares of his artistic and R&D experiments. Made with TouchDesigner, these short video proofs-of-concept for dynamic simulations, video mapping and GLSL shaders typically also incorporate paper, cardboard, glue and sometimes Arduino and rotors. They appreciably make their often complex point simply and elegantly with easy to find resources, showing an excellent aptitude for designing and prototyping with TouchDesigner.

Vincent currently lives in New York and works on large scale architectural installations and interactive installations. He is currently employed by award-winning company AV&C and also collaborates with local artists and designers like VolvoxLabs for example, where he brought his expertise in real time 3D graphics to shaping the Dubfire show.

Most recently we were intrigued by the teaser for Hybrid, a dance performance with immersive projections of motion and sound reactive visuals where Vincent designed and developed the visuals. We thought this would be an opportune time to catch up and have a conversation about Vincent's work.

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  Feb.16.15 Luminosity - Keith Lostracco's TouchDesigner Media Server

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Blizzcon StarcraftII Stage Mapped

There exists an impressive and growing range of TouchDesigner-built tools and applications authored by the community to perform and operate live shows. The most recent and likely ambitious we've seen to date is Keith Lostracco's brand new TouchDesigner media server 'Luminosity'.

No stranger to taking on the building of dauntingly complex systems (see Keith Lostracco's Mindbending Fractal World "Escape Time"), Keith tells us Luminosity was built to create a front end for TouchDesigner aimed at providing operators with an easy-to-use interface to perform, control, and distribute realtime media while retaining the open-ended programmability of TouchDesigner as well as its speed.

Keith describes Luminosity's functionality as combining a high-end media server, a VJ program, and TouchDesigner. The same types of audio routing and distribution methods found in digital audio workstations and mixers were implemented here to process video and data as well as audio.

The initial idea - which was to facilitate the playing of clips (video, TouchDesigner Components and audio clips) in a similar way that popular VJ softwares or Ableton Live does, quickly evolved to taking on the functionality of high-end media server systems.

A staggering undertaking with spectacularly comprehensive results, Luminosity was debuted for V Squared Labs' Blizzcon Starcraft where 12 projectors 3d mapped the complex stage with full previs, and again at the Superbowl this weekend to manage a 24-projector ESPN event.

With a number of features pending, this tool is not quite 'finished' but it's a fair prediction that Luminosity will prove to be useful in many places and that it will continue to evolve.

Over to Keith.

Luminosity Main Interface

 

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