Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Experiment 2: Implementation

Claudio L. Midolo
Marko Tandefelt Loretta J. Wolozin
October 17th 2008

Current thesis concept

Lossy Light Memories lives within the domains of visual memory, emotion and that of our relationship, as human beings, with technology. This project first motivation emerged from the differences I noticed taking place within the transition between analog photography and its digital counterpart during which, gradually but incessantly, surprise has been traded for immediacy, quality and speed have been preferred over unique visual identity and intimacy has been overshadowed by convenience, ultimately letting the already very homogeneous non professional photographic design panorama to be lead by the value of productivity instead of humanity. The design choices taken by the leading manufacturers in the photographic non professional market explicitly show this situation; all the cameras are proud to display the same high performances: they are fast, the quality of their picture is increasing exponentially and their price is dropping more and more while time passes. Some new cameras even claims to be able to connect to the internet so in addition to instantly play back the shot, they are able to instantly share it with virtually the rest of the world. Looking at this panorama more in depth it is clear how the digital devices that are supposedly created and designed to capture and store our emotions condensed in a memory crystallized in the visual form of a photograph, just mimic and enhance those elements of productivity, those parameters which, during the era of analog photography, discriminated a device into a being considered either a professional device or a non professional device; a device for the masses. As a consequence at the present time the access to photo cameras able to perform as well as those professional ones that just some years ago were considered to be at the highest level of performances is broad and relatively easy to reach, but a pattern has started to emerge, that of the lost of humanity among this race towards quality, speed and convenience. Cameras are not designed to be closer to the nature of the shot they are taking, of the memory they are recording but just to be faster, better and cheaper, disregarding completely those possibilities that the very digital medium would be able to disclose, guiding non professional photography towards a design perspective closer to emotions and human , not economical, values.
The design I’m going to propose in order to, hopefully, solve or ,at least , sensitize the photographic community toward the issues formerly mentioned is that of an actual digital camera. The device I’m envisioning will be formed starting with the deconstruction of the fundamental conceptual basis that has always existed in photography, that of the unity of the element which captures the image and the element which stores the image. The camera I’m going to create will exist in the form of a divided object, split into two halves, each one able to perform just one specific function of either capture and transmit a visual memory or retrieve and play back a visual memory. While the two halves will be displaced in both time and space they will be inherently connected to each other in remote. Until the two fragments are physically separated, some constrains will limit both the capture and playback processes: for example the person who holds the capture device won’t have at its disposal an unlimited amount of captures, but a limit will exist, regulating the proportion of the memories captured and their effective output on the receiver device. From the receiver side certain conditions will have to be met in order to retrieve and enjoy the visual memories intimately shared by the “capturer” such as silence, darkness and the presence of the person who owns the receiver half. These constrains will be present until the moment when the two two halves will be finally physically reunited as in that precise moment the two parts will recognize each other, opening themselves up to letting the two persons freely enjoy the intimate sharing moment. It is interesting to notice that in a possible scenario of usage this system enables a powerful interaction, that of the complementarity of experiences over the shared memories; the person who captured the visual memories will know everything about their context but has never seen them before, while the person who receives the visual memories has already seen them all, but knows nothing about their context. This way the sharing event will be empowered by the common need of each person to complete their “half” memory with that of the other.
The visual memory itself will be an artifact similar to a photograph, it will live as light on a physical medium but won’t be a print, it will seem to be still while instead will move over time. In reality it will be a high speed high resolution short video, played back in a specific way exploiting both its spatial and temporal qualities. Two immediate effects will be those of adding a sense of motion and the enhancement of the curiosity a single shot will be able to excite, as each visual memory will have much more moving details than a still photograph The look and feel of the interface will be almost “magical” to encourage a suspension of disbelief to let the users focus on the experience itself and not on the actual technology that make it happen. The final goal will be the restoration and enhancement of digital visual memories emotional value, ultimately suggesting a different perspective over the relationship with digital consumer tools, not in the direction of production, guided by the elements of speed, quality and conveniency but in that of humanity grounded on emotion and meaningfulness.

Experiment/research objective
The core experiment I’ve chosen will focus on one aspect of the prototyping process specifically that of implementation. The goal I’m trying to achieve through this experiment is that of successfully build an test the technological framework that will enable me to have a solid ground to build my design upon. It is basically a system to record a video and transmit it remotely to another connected client on the network.

Design questions
What are specific working design questions you are attempting to answer by conducting this experiment?
Whether it is possible to create a system able to record high resolution, hi speed video and send it to a remotely connected client over a TCP network.

Experiment/research description
I’ve started this experiment trying to find the best environment that would have enabled me to achieve this first, preliminary goal and, in perspective, would let me further expand the system in any direction the design would lead me to. First I tried using Processing (Java) and Apache. The combination of the two worked very well but when I started playing back videos with resolution higher than 320x240, the video output became slow and unresponsive exposing the problems of the Java platform in terms of fast video playback and manipulation. In order to find a solution I started working with the Openframeworks library by Zachary Lieberman and Theo Watson, a collection of c, c++ code that let non hardcore c programmers experiment with graphics, sound, video and many other advanced features of the language. In a small time I created the basic application that, with the support of Apache and MAMP, is able to record, transmit and playback a high resolution, high frame rate video.

Results & Conclusion
The experiment proved to be successful, the c language seems to provide the performances and flexibility I’m going to rely on later in the project.

VII. Next steps
The next experiment will be about the possible look and feel of the Lossy Light Memories device, dealing also with the new emerging concepts of physical distance as the controller of the speed of the transmission of the visual memories from the recorder to the receiver and the quantum nature of the interface itself.

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