XOXO, my experience + VR photos...

How I found out about XOXO

Many years back, I somehow stumbled upon Waxy.org. I actually can date it to 2011 because I remember the blog post I saw was a link to the House of Cosbys. A comedy sketch created by a relatively unknown Justin Roiland that, for a variety of obvious reasons, hasn’t really aged well, but was still packed with sparks of brilliance.

Anyhow, Waxy.org was a blog that managed to stand the test of time, and at some point I caught wind that the owner of the blog, Andy Baio, was running a conference. I was on the fence about going in 2016, but was living in NYC and had a hard time justifying the flight to Portland just for a conference.

Then, after the conf was over, I saw some amazing talks from 2016 and started kicking myself. My favorite was a talk by Jenn Schiffer. Also a fan of the talk by David Reese. Started looking back in the history and found this fascinating and sometimes bizarre gem as well by Justin Hall.

Anyhow, now that I live in Seattle, when the announcement for the 2018 conference popped up, I decided to go.

So on Thursday I left for work early to drive down to PDX to catch the conference.

It was by far the best conference I’ve ever attended. While the talks were great, the crowd was the main attraction. Everyone was a creator, and they tended to approach their own crafts with genuine human curiosity and interest. Also, people were abnormally kind and nurturing and gave others the space needed to share what they were up to, no matter how weird their way of thinking was…

Speaking of weird ways of thinking, I spent my time sharing what I’ve been fascinated by and curious about recently: VR photography. I had with me my VR camera along with my VR photo viewer:

With this setup, I would take a VR photo, and then pull out this VR headset out of my pocket and let people see themselves in this VR standard. And what’s so amazing about this VR standard is that you can see what just occurred, in 3d, and at full scale. The act of shooting my subject, transferring it to my phone, equipping this ridiculous VR headset to my phone, and sharing — all of that became a nice cozy ritual, which sorta felt like the ritual of a Polaroid. It also packed a nice wow factor when people finally saw themselves in full scale 3d.

So the photos I took were of some really amazing and interesting people, but one challenge of this type of photography is the setup it takes to view. Recently, I’ve discovered that a great way to sidestep this challenge is through gifs that wiggle between the two different lenses of the camera. So if you don’t have a VR headset and and want a glimmer of the 3D-ness of the photos, here are those gif representations:

If, however, you do have a Google Cardboard, or are willing to buy (currently only $3 over at Best Buy), you can peep the original, full-scale 3d photos in this album. To view:

  • Install “Google Photos” onto your phone

  • Click on the 360 icon on your phone when looking at the photo

  • Click on the Cardboard icon in the lower right corner of the image

  • Load your phone into your cardboard

At the conference, I got to dance w/ some really great shakers and movers, too! Portland has really REALLY stepped up it’s game in the dance scene over the last few years, and I saw some locals get down at a funk night while I was there. I also got to share a dance session with others at the conference, both at the funk night as well as at the party the last night of the conference, where there was a big dance circle.

I usually dislike dancing with strangers. I almost always abhor dancing with tech conference crowds. It’s often lots of awkwardness and pretension. But the dance party at the closing night of XOXO felt like we were at a wedding or something, just people who were genuinely happy having a good time and sharing and creating. I really still don’t understand how it was such a great environment, and I’ll be scratching my head for a while tryin to figure that out.

Anyhow, I’ll keep gushing about this conference for a few months, I’m sure. My wife rolls her eyes now when I bring up XOXO because I talk about it so much. As in, apparently it’s recently become my new “one time at band camp” moment.

Seattle VR Hackathon being announced -- in VR180

This last weekend I went to XOXO festival and had a totally bananas incredible time. I'm nowhere near through processing it as I met so many incredible and fun people, saw some phenomenal talks, and learned just boatloads.

I do eventually hope to blog more about the festival and how amazing it was, but real quickly I wanted to post this. Here's a photo and video I shot with my VR camera that I wanted to share ahead of everything else cuz of the timely nature of the message.

This video is a VR180 video.

It is compatible w/ most VR, including cheapo $5 systems. Click here for instructions.

So yeah, the Seattle Hackathon is coming up! That’s Oppie, the Seattle Hackathon mascot, being puppeted by Eva Hoerth, who I ran into at the XOXR Meetup. Consider attending the hackathon! Or, if you’re inclined, mentoring for it!


Truthfully, the photo format, is kinda awkward to deal with. The left & right eye images are linked through a unique VR180 format, which you can only separate w/ OSX or Linux. The distortion makes things hard to deal with. And while the images are nice and big (4k / eye), it can makes the handling a bit more cumbersome…

Well, at some point I remembered a cute trick I’d seen somewhere on the internet before. Just wiggle between two cameras, and you can instantly 3d-ify a stereogram... no 3d glasses required!

So this .gif ping-pongs between the left and right camera lenses. Check out how 3d this 2d image looks!


On the topic of blogging...

I realized recently that as much as I do it, I don't actually like chatting on social media.  Like, there are some aspects that are exciting... the freshness / liveness / the exhibitionist nature of it... but I've recently found it to be tedious, at least for what I want from the internet.

I was a pretty active blogger back while blogging was a more commonplace thing to do, and I really enjoyed doing it.  I think one of the main reasons I enjoyed it was because of why I did it.  I began blogging was because of a habit I picked up in college.  I went to art school, and an important part of my creative process was simply sharing work.  When I graduated I lost the rigid structure of weekly critiquing sessions imposed by my teachers, so I simply looked for something else and blogging filled that role.

I began, I think, by sharing incomplete ideas... ramblings.  Just things that I could tell were a part of my process -- my fascinations.  I didn't worry about appearing boring because the artistic process is often oh-so-painfully-boring.  I didn't strive to blow people's minds or change my audience's opinions.  I didn't even really have an audience in mind.  I just wanted to air out my thoughts a bit, I guess.

At some point along the way I met internet fame.  Nothing huge, but enough to excite me and make me aware of the potential eyeballs around what it meant to be on the internet.  Enough to make me want to be more concise and respect my audience in a new light.  Admirable, sure, but it started to mean that I'd not just let loose on what I loved because I was afraid I'd lose audience.

Oh, also, social media blew up -- which I think did something to how I engaged with the net -- like all of a sudden I was given a role to play.  While I used to be some dude who just shared as a part of my process, I let social media change me so that I became hyper-self conscious.  After all, I had this very 👍likeable and subscribable👍 identity to live up to.

Anyhow, I'm writing this because it fascinates me, and because I'm realizing that I really miss blogging... like, the type of rambly blogging I used to do.  So I think I'll return to this old format of internet publishing and work on keeping true to what I came here to do in the first place -- which is to give a status update on my progress.

So yeah -- that's where I'm at in my process.  I expect to be rambling a lot more on this blog shortly.  We'll see...

30 days to make 30 dance clips

Back in July I was feeling anxious to be practicing my creativity again.  I decided to re-up on my dancing game.  See, lately, my dancing has been feeling sorta paralyzed because I started paying too much attn to the production quality on my YouTube acct.  I often find that obsessing over the mediation of dance to be counter-productive to the craft I set out to do in the first place.

So I decided, screw it -- I just need to get sparked again.  So the plan was: dance to a track for 30 days straight in front of a camera.  In the beginning, I don't write anything down, but starting at day 5 I began writing notes in the description of the YouTube videos.

Learned a lot about many things: how to film, what features of dance I enjoy, what types of music resonate with me these days.  I can see big differences in skill between day 1 and day 30.

Most importantly, I definitely feel like I have a renewed confidence in my craft.  Fortunately, shortly after I finished recording these, I was able to put these skills to good use.  Folly Turtle, a sponsored dancer from LEDGloves.com visited Seattle and invited me out to meet some ridonkulous good glovers.  Don't know if I would have gone out if not for the practice.

Also, more recently, I was at a street fair and saw an open call for all-styles dancing -- to which I said, "Meh, fuck it, why not?"  Like, my old ass was for SURE outclassed by these dancers, but it was a blast to share and overcome a lot of my public performance anxiety and lay out 30 seconds of liquid in front of dozens of amazing dancers and maybe a few hundred in the crowd.

So yeah, here's a playlist of my dancing.  Remember to check out the notes in the descriptions of the videos on the YouTube page.  And below that is a snapshot of me getting down in front of a crowd taken by my sister-in-law.  A video of this exists somewhere (I think), so I'll update this post with that if I can locate it.  Still had some public performance jitters, but regardless, had a blast up there.


In Tree Dimensions -- and the inverse relationship between cameras and projectors

Back in June I went into the woods with a projector and a bunch of equipment to build an art piece.  It was a part of the Electric Sky Art Camp, a yearly art event in Skykomish Washington, a tiny town in the middle of the Cascade Mountains (pop ~200).

The piece was called "In Tree Dimensions", and it worked by leveraging how cameras and projectors work in tandem with each other.  The main idea is that there's a tree surrounded by phantom lights.  The brightness and location of these lights are controlled by a MIDI controller.

Here's some footage of the project.  My good camera broke in transit, so unfortunately the best documentation I have is this (heavily corrected) footage from my cell phone.

Dials 1 - 3 move lights around the left side, bottom, and right side of the tree.  Dials 4-5 rotate stationary lights.  Dial 6 looks like a car is passing through.  Dials 7-8 emulate Christmas lights that are strung on individual branches.

A bit about cameras and projectors

Before I get into how this particular project works, I first want to cover an interesting note about cameras and projectors.  Cameras and projectors do opposite things.  Cameras eat 3d spaces and leave behind film.  Projectors eat film and push it back out onto any surface it encounters in a 3d environment (of course, we usually try to project onto flat surfaces).

What's significant about the opposite nature of these devices is that when they are perfectly matched with one another, you get fantastically weird results.  I've experimented with this in past projects:

 The effects on this cake were made with a projector (not my work, found on  giphy )

The effects on this cake were made with a projector (not my work, found on giphy)

Related to all of this is a thing called projection mapping.  This is where people project compelling illusions onto the surface of 3d objects.  You've probably seen examples -- usually it's projecting onto buildings.

Almost all projection mapping uses techniques that rely on the relationship between cameras and projectors -- though in these cases, the cameras are virtual cameras in virtual 3d environments.  Use the camera to take footage of a virtual environment, and project it out onto an environment that geometrically identical to the virtual environment.  With some clever programming, this is a fast way to produce some really stunning effects.

Theory behind how "In Tree Dimensions" works

 Information flows from tree, to camera, to footage, to projector, back out to tree.

Information flows from tree, to camera, to footage, to projector, back out to tree.

So, I was going into this art event with a different plan.  I was under a tight deadline, and I couldn't afford to spend time constructing a digital 3d model of a tree I found in the woods, so I went with a more analogue hacky approach.  Instead of using a virtual camera, I used a real world camera.

So first, I recorded a tree under various lighting conditions.  To create these conditions, I simply pointed a work light at the tree and moved it around.  Then, I piped the footage back out onto the tree with a projector.  I programmed a MIDI controller so that it would be able to manipulate the footage, giving visitors the ability to replay and scrub through the past on a physical 3d object.

The devil is in the details...

Of course, pure theory only takes you so far, and if you want the project to look good, you have to do lots of clean up work in the process.

I couldn't just project the raw footage back out because of differences in optics between the camera and projector.  Also, to make sure the colors popped and looked good, I had to do some image enhancement.  This video quickly demonstrates what was done to the footage to make it ready to be projected.

Another example of where pure theory failed to help was when working conditions are just awful.  Like, working until 2am in the rain, cowering under a tarp that protected me and my gear from water damage, and improvising a camera situation because my good camera was broken in transit.  "Pure theory" doesn't really help you when the nearest Radioshack is a 2 hr drive away.

But fortunately for me, I was surrounded by an amazing community of new media artists from the greater Seattle area.  As you can see from this photo, I'm just elated and having an amazing time.  Everyone was super chill, super positive, and always willing to help.  And on top of all of this, they were crazy talented and the quality of their work kept me on my game, so I was especially lucky because I just moved out here from NYC and I just happened to stumble upon a cool crowd.

So a big thanks goes out to all of them for keeping my spirits up in these kinda stupid working conditions.  Also, thanks to the Electric Sky Retreat for hosting it and for giving me the opportunity to explore some of my work.  I definitely plan on building another project next year for this event.