Tuesday Nights at Filma: Open Art-Tech Lab

Hey… We’ve been doing a little thing. Every week, on Tuesday nights, we’ve been getting together, nerding the eff out, and working on techie art projects. It’s fun, involves electricity, and you can bring your own projects down and join us if you want to. That’s right, you’re all welcome, assuming you can climb the stairs to our private makerspace.

Tuesday nights, at Filma – 7p to 9p. RSVP And get more details on meetup.

Art-Tech Lab – What the heck is that?

What defines art-hacking exactly? Uh, electrons? You know, stuff that uses electricity, somehow; at least that’s what we’ve been doing so far. We’re not really really that exclusionary though – so your project fits.

Art-Tech, including but not limited to: Coding, Projection Mapping, Electronics, LEDs

Here’s what Robert Graf and Carl Cosmos are up to these days during the weekly Art-Tech lab at Filma Collective.

Projection Mapping, Sensors, and Art That Counts Cats: Carl Cosmos

Hi, this is me (the person writing this post). I’ve been working on an interactive light sculpture. The idea is to create a sculpture, you know, a 3 dimensional object in physical reality, that lights up in a dynamic (or changing) way depending on what’s going on around it.

This is a completely new thing for me to do. I just turned 40, life is crazy, and I guess I just feel like doing something completely different artistically and learning some new things. Plus, I’ve been interested in how to make environmentally sensitive immersive electronic art for years – no time like the present to jump in.

Playing with madmapper and a recycling subwoofer cabinet

Now, I should say, I’m already a software engineer and I know languages like python pretty well. I kind of had some ideas of how to start the project, I just knew I would have to learn a lot of tech to make it happen. Here’s the basic idea for how my ‘interactive light sculpture’ works:

  1. Projection Mapping: To make the sculpture light up, I’m going to use projection mapping
  2. Interactivity: To make the sculpture interactive, I will use cameras and sensors like the x-box kinect

A computer will watch the environment, then it will draw a picture. Using projection mapping software, madmapper, the picture drawn in the last step will get chopped up and project onto the sculpture, and the sculpture will light up. This whole thing is a pipeline and well, I’m learning all the pieces of tech I will need for my pipeline. My first few weeks of Art-Tech lab I played with OpenCV and CUDA to explore image processing on my GPU (which I probably won’t use lol). Now I’m exploring MadMapper some more, going deeper on projection mapping. There’s so much tech, I tend to bounce around and explore different things as I work towards my goal. It seems like a lot, but I’ll have a pretty cool art piece by the end of the year for the Autumn Lights Festival (famous last words).

GPU based faced detection. If we can count faces, we can probably figure out how to count cats. Meow.

And what’s next for this project after some projection mapping? Well, image processing using deep learning of course. The prototype for this piece will likely count cats as a proof of concept. Yes, I can make art that responds to cats. Meow.

Breading Boarding a Nintendo: 6502 and VGA adapter by Robert Graf

This is an NES, not Graf’s project. Note the 6502 to the left 🙂

Ever wanted to build your own 8-bit vintage microcomputer? Well, you can. Artist Robert Graf has taken on just such an endeavor – to implement a 6502 (that would be, the insides of that chip in the upper diagram) and then connected it to a homebrewn VGA card.

One custom VGA card, coming right up
Debugging with an oscilloscope
Robert Graf displaying Robert Graf on his own custom VGA hardware

Graf isn’t necessarily doing this alone – these days there are artisanal electronics kits for all kinds of things 6502s, VGA adapters, ham radio transmitters, synthesizers – you name it, you can order a kit online and build it yourself. These kits have varying degrees of difficulty. Some of them do a lot for you and you just solder things to a board. In other cases they send you the parts and the instructions and that’s it. One time, with a different kit Graf was working on, he had to wind his own inductors; true store.

If you’ve got extreme attention to detail, an electronics lab, and don’t mind trying to debug things for days at a time, these kits offer a slightly easier way to get into digital electronics. Now, after several years here, Filma Collective has seen Robert Graf take on a few of these kits. The 6502 -> VGA on a breadboard is likely the most complicated so far.

One breadboarded 6502

Okay, it’s not quite a Nintendo, but maybe we can talk to Graf about implementing the tile based PPU and see if we can run a ROM or two yea? I bet we can get super mario brothers to work. Show up on Tuesday sometime, and let’s egg him on.

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