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Monthly Archives: April 2012

I’m going to make this brief as it’s the Easter weekend. I mainly wanted to post an image and movie from the process showing on Thursday which ended the Mons residency. Hopefully they speak for themselves, since the primary focus of this stage was to develop the visual and sonic aesthetics. Neither is completely there yet – we had some technical limitations in this residency as we didn’t have the high-end PC we’ll use for the finalised portal, and could only use two Kinects, while the final portal will have three (and finally not have a Kinect stuck in the middle of the screen!). Also of course, it’s only one portal, so the other three users aren’t there. I’m happy that the ‘look and feel’ of it is approaching the final form though, so mission accomplished! Thanks to all at Transcultures for making it happen, and the University of Mons for hosting us. Now, on to the final stretch, the final residency in Enghien-les-Bains, Paris in May, and the opening in London, Paris, Brussels and Istanbul on the 9th June..

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Significant progress has been made with the first physical portal this week, which is very exciting. Yesterday I went down to Aurelian’s house in the French countryside, where the portal has been taking shape in his garage. Very impressive and imposing on first sighting. I also went to see the site that has been arranged for the opening in June, which is equally impressive. This Galeries Royales St Hubert, right in the centre of Brussels, just literally off the main square. It’s a great big space, very light and airy, and no-one will be able to miss the great big me and my shadow portal appearing from nowhere in the middle of it, like a 2001 (the film, not the year) monolith (thanks Nicolas for that one). This is being arranged with the Cinema Galeries, who have been very helpful and enthusiastic – thanks!

Today the portal arrived in the chapel. The design is great for putting up (and taking down) super quickly, just like lego (and I love lego). It’s still not complete, as it doesn’t have the inner (fabric) wall or a roof, but I think it’ll serve for now to give an impression of what the space will feel like. Today we’re moving all the equipment etc. into there, and hopefully we’ll have a prototype portal!

Just a little example of the attention to detail I’m trying to bring to the sound rebuild:

As before, the sounds for the ‘traces’ – the little trails of particles that are left behind by user movement in the space – which I think might be one of the key interaction sounds, is made up of little clicks which set off (pitched) resonant filters.

In Istanbul and London, these clicks were made synthetically (just a tiny burst of white noise with an envelope) – they had no ‘texture’ to them and were all exactly the same.

What I want to do now is for every click to be different, and for the clicks for each portal to be very slightly different to the others. To do this, I’ve gone back to my musique concrete roots, and have used recorded sounds instead of synthetic ones. I’ve found four sources that are excellent sources of clicks – polystyrene packing material, combs, magnetoids (anyone remember them?) and dead leaves (from the back yard of the Transcultures house). I’ve recorded a stretch of sound for each of them, and then edited out every seperate little click. So now, each portal has over 100 clicks to choose from, which makes a subtle but crucial difference, and makes the whole thing a little more ‘alive’ somehow.

It’s the little things..

I’ve evolved the sound a bit more over the last few days. It’s the same basic idea and material, but with a little more variety in terms of the layers I’m using and the way they’re controlled. I feel like this is a bit of a balancing act here – it needs to be quite approachable I think, given the sheer variety of people who are likely to engage with the final piece. But it also needs to be distinctive and characterful – I don’t want to play to the lowest common denominator. It also needs to be interactive, but I want it to have a convincing musical flow to it. It needs to be a result of the users’ movement, but also encourage people to move (in some way be ‘good to dance to’). Finally it needs to be sparse enough that cause and effect are clear (I’m hoping the sound might function as an integral part of the navigation and general usability), but complex and varied enough to be interesting. Tricky..

I don’t think I should develop this much more before we reconnect the sound and image (and interactivity). Hopefully we’ll do this over the next couple of days and start to form an overall audiovisual aesthetic and a new model for interaction. We should hopefully be building the first portal during this time, so it’s an exciting few days we have ahead!