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  Dec.30.13 Week52



Let's go for a drive with Projection Advertising's new car simulator... Richard Burns tells us: "TouchDesigner was used to bring data in from the car via serial, then we had our own car controller component...and a collision detection system we built."

The project is featured in the January Issue of Computer Arts Magazine which is not available on the shelves yet in North America at least so here are some images and a transcript of the body of the text. Congratulations team!

The Design Brief - Lizzy Chase

The initial brief was quite loose because the client wanted to get our most creative ideas. How could we design a cool experience to show off the Nissan Leaf? The idea of projecting onto the windows developed from that point onwards.

We then got the full brief to design and make an interactive experience for the public to view in the Nissan Innovation Station area of the O2 Arena in London. Nissan wanted people to experience the car, see that it provides a normal driving experience while being quieter than any non-electric vehicle, and - in-keeping with the advertising for the Leaf - to "feel the surge" of accelerating.

We made style references in Photoshop for the city and landscape. The environment is realistic, but stylized in a futuristic, electronic way. The basis for the look and feel came from the fact that the car is electric, while the colour scheme was inspired by the Leaf's blue branding. We had a lot of contact with the car so we all knew what it was like to drive it.

Work In Progress - Richard Burns

After initial concepting, we created matte paintings and refined the look and feel while doing tests to work out how the car would function within the virtual environment. The landscape is almost energetic, with power lines moving around - we're using electricity in a fairly literal way.

Users can choose from three routes by taking different turns at the traffic lights, encouraging them to put their foot down and accelerate again. Three London landmarks point them in the right direction: Battersea Power Station, The Shard and Tower Bridge.

To start with, we built 3D wireframe models of the city to create the journey layout, then painted directly onto the 3D models in 3D-Coat. Rahter than having the light affect the environment in 3D, we put in traditional compositing techniques after it had been rendered, keying out areas and using that to create light lines. The graphics are all rendered in real time apart from the introduction, but we wanted to ensure we achieved the quality of pre-rendered content.

We used TouchDesigner for almost every aspect of the project, from bringing in 3D geometry and compositing to standard things you might normally do in Nuke. It's a very efficient, powerful platform and is great for communicating between devices. We built in some physics to allow the car to move around - the environment responds to steering, acceleration and braking as you drive along the rolling road, which functions like a treadmill.

We started out using an Xbox 350 controller to check we had the basic functions - left, right, forward - in place, then moved onto a PC game steering wheel. The actual car provided very different information and moved away from any kind of arcade game feel.

Using rear projection from outside the car meant we were essentially reversing the images. We used a rear projection film, a bit like vinyl but slightly more rigid, which provides a wider viewing angle. When we made changes on-site, we were effectively working with backwards content.

Conclusion - Lizzy Chase

Turn left or right at the junction rather than driving straight on and the environment swings round to meet you - a much more efficient way of doing things. You drive into a tunnel where you're asked to really put your foot down, then you arrive back at the O2. That final part of the drive was based on photos of the actual room.

The idea was to show people that you can leave the city and come back within one battery charge, showcasing the fact that the Nissan Leaf has an impressively long charge. You can see the projected content from outside the car as well. While the experience is primarily for the driver and passengers, we wanted to entice people by giving them a preview.

This is a novel way of enabling people to experience the car without actually taking it out for a test drive. Projecting a virtual world onto the windscreen and side windows makes for a very immersive experience. it's really reactive - you're pressing the accelerator, steering round corners and choosing which way to turn, so it's about as real as a virtual test drive could get.


See also: Projection Advertising

This week we were very pleased to learn of 2 new TouchDesigner projects produced by individuals collaborating admirably from opposite sides of New Zealand's North Island. We spoke with Oliver Ellmers, a contractor at Storybox and Puck Murphy about these projects in a recent article, preview here:


Oliver Ellmers: I first found TouchDesigner a little over a year ago while studying interactive design papers at Victoria University's School of Design. Since then, I have pretty much been using it for all audio visual or interactive jobs or projects that come my way. Quite often I find TouchDesigner useful for non-real time compositing and post production applications when working with animation and video, to add that little bit of extra spark to elements - whether it be taking advantage of its real time GLSL prototyping post effects or taking advantage of the Operators for quickly drafting compositing techniques.

Puck Murphy: I discovered Touchdesigner shortly after taking 'The Time Machine' for spin in 2011 (at that point I had been using MaxMSP for the data wrangling / triggering etc.) Coming from about 15 years of VFX and compositing, primarily using Autodesk's FLAME, TouchDesigner's nodal work flow was instantly understandable and i got to the 'jamming' part of the learning curve really fast. The first full project I rolled out on TouchDesigner was 'An Interactive Earth', with Jon Baxter at Perceptual Engineering, since then there's been a steady flow of ideas, opportunities and projects that have opened now that I/we have TouchDesigner in the tool belt. It has been great to find a program that can handle constant changes in the design brief right up the last minute while still loading up and doing the same thing today as it did yesterday. With the help of an awesome support team I've been able to say 'Yes' to any challenge that comes up! Loving the possibilities for the future...

Read More>>


The latest real-time generative audio-visual composition from Patrik Lechner qua4 premiered in Vienna at the Velak Gala earlier this month. qua4 consists of a sequence of recorded realtime TouchDesigner works, edited in TouchDesigner with more realtime "stuff" added over top. The remarkable audio tracks are also realtime improvisations cut together.

Earlier this year we published an article on the Derivative blog: Patrik Lechner's Relentlessly Non-linear, Fully Generated Universe, where Patrik details his processes, influences and methodology. A facinating and recommended read, and here are a couple of extracts that speak to the above:

Attributing a central principle based on iteration and improvisation to his work Patrik expresses a strong aversion to linear editing tools (which for him places what is lively in an aesthetic in danger of being deadened). He goes on to describe a very dynamic practice that requires (a) first building modular tools to create the work - without getting indefinitely lost in tool-building and (b) producing work that is as unrehearsed as possible, procedurally.

Patrik: I'm very interested in building my own tools for what I do, because I hate working with things that I don't understand to some extent, and I can't live without modularity and the possibility of adding whatever features I need. Also I have a deep and emotional reluctance to working with linear editing tools, be it in audio or video. I simply believe in a certain liveliness in aesthetics that is in danger of being killed (at least for me) if things repeat without alternation - it becomes so static.

So iteration and improvisation became a central principle for me in doing music, and I'm sure that in my visual work it also has a big influence. Music and video production are kind of the same thing for me, it's just mapping of data in a way that feels appealing, controlling this data in realtime and exploring ways of generating mappings and data that is "meaningful"


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