ProRes Decoder and DNxHD for Windows

If you're using Windows and you want to use a video that's been encoded using ProRes, you have to install a decoder. You can't Encode to ProRes on Windows, but you can still use stuff that uses the codec.

If you TRANSCODE it into a visually lossless format to work with that isn't quite as humongous as Animation at full quality, use Avid's DNxHD. It's free to download, it works on Mac and Windows, and it's great. It's not as great as ProRes, but it's still excellent.

You Wanna Syphon a What, Now?

I mentioned Syphon in class, and folks seemed a little bit "WTF." That's normal.

It's one of those things that is so powerful in the abstract that it's tough at first to see why it's so amazing. Just imagine being able to use a live screen from pretty much any application as a video source in any other application.

Like let's say you write a simple live-drawing sketch in Processing. But you want to draw over a video loop. You's use Resolume to have the loop going, then you could use the Syphon functionality to have your Processing sketch show up in Resolume, mixed on top of the looping video as if it were just another video.

Processing and Programmatics

You've already used Max for creative coding in our New Media Art class. It's great, and it was the original way for artists to program. It's powerful, it's popular, and you run into it a lot. But it's also got some issues. It's old, it has some problems slowing down with really complicated things, and it can be a little weird to learn.

So, there's a few ways to do creative coding that are newer and very popular. None of these things are perfomative in and of themselves, but you could certainly use them performatively.

The biggest is Processing. It's free and very lightweight. If you are interested in learning how to program at all, it's designed for visual artists to learn to code (in comparison, Max was originally an audio coding platform, and even after all these years, it still feels like video is an afterthought). There you can use Processing to control an Arduino microcontroller, or you can just embed simple sketches on your website. Thousands of artists use this, so there's lots of examples to watch and learn from at places like Open Processing, which means that there's lots of documentation, and a huge community to help you.

There's Pd (PureData). It's an open source platform that is a lot like Max was when it first came out. Some people like Pd. Many people hate it, me included. But it's free and you program by visually sketching things out.

We was one piece the other day made on OpenFrameworks. Imagine Processing, but using C++ as the base language. You get incredible performance because the language runs closer to the metal, but C++ is not a trivial thing to work with. Very difficult. Hence, much smaller community. But if you already know C++, it's amazing. Do NOT start with this.

Apple makes Quartz Composer. It's Mac-only, and part of the free Xcode developer tools. It's ridiculously powerful, and visual. Most of the best apps (Resolume, VDMX, etc) can incorporate QC compositions right inside them. But beware, QC only LOOKS easy. It's simple, but definitely not easy. (While in my opinion, something like Processing is pretty easy, but not simple. Its looks pretty complicated if you just glance at it.)

In a fantasy world, we'd have a separate class JUST in Processing, right? All we need are enough bodies to teach all this stuff and still teach the core classes. On the other hand, this stuff is honestly best uncovered in the context of something you want to do. If you want to incorporate this is your work, go right ahead, and I'll help as you need.

Loops and Chicken Stock

In performance class on Friday, I was trying to explain the heart of a loop-making assignment (and indeed, how to think about loops).

A few students had made some overly complex loops, almost with a mini-narrative within it. But the problem is, that takes all the decision making away from the place where you need it: during a performance.

Then it hit me: you're not supposed to make soup at this point. Making loops is making stock, and ingredient that will allow the soup to be the best it can be. I have to say, it's a really good metaphor.

As a case in point, check out the linked recipe for Alton Brown's chicken stock (or another stock, it doesn't matter).

It's a base. Chicken carcasses, some aromatic vegetables, some herbs, water. There are some decision here, yes? It's got onions and thyme and bay leaves, so it's generally going to be moving the final dishes in a certain direction. You can tell from experience what general direction. If there were spring onions, ginger, and anise instead of onions, thyme and bay, then you'd know the stock would move generally in a different direction.

But in either case there's no salt (or soy sauce), no cognac (or rice wine), no overly decisive spices. Those things are left for the actual recipe of the soup. This is a recipe for an ingredient. Nested ingredients. Like a nested composition in AfterEffects.

You could buy stock. Which might be ok if you're trying to whip up something fast for a sick kid on a Tuesday. And you might buy premade loops. It might be good or bad, but it's not yours, and it hasn't been thought through by you.

There's a million other ways to take the analogy too far, but you get it. So when you are making loops, you want to make some decisions (but not too many), but you want to defer others (but not too many).

Real-Time Face Tracking and Projection Mapping

Sorry this is the first projection mapping example I'm posting to this blog. Incredibly difficult, technically. And this video is more of a proof on concept than an artwork. But you sort of get a sense of what is possible and what is needed to do projection mapping.

Remember, though. tech demos and proofs of concepts are necessary steps in testing things. But they are not in and of themselves artworks.

A Parallel Blog is Still Better than Social Media

So here's the thing. I want to encourage advanced students of the media arts to develop a few new habits. First is to read deeply and widely in regular subjects that pertain to their development as artists. Second is to cultivate that curiosity as an independent pursuit.

The problem with me setting up every possible course reading on Blackboard is that it perpetuates a habit of weakness—professor gives me things and I read those things when I am told to read those things. This leads to all kinds of problems. A professor shouldn't be the sole lens through which information is bent. And there's also this sense a lot of times among students that if a reading doesn't have an obvious 1:1 correspondence to a LEARNING OUTCOME then it can't possibly be relevant or important.

Social media conglomerates are trying to be the one-stop way for people to get all their information—personal correspondence, news, everything—but they are only sort of ok for this. The algorithms that determine what you see and don't see are opaque and suspect, and every bit of it is designed to be montetized using clickthroughs as the measurement of quality. So things that grab your attention and generate comments are weighted far more heavily, because those companies are ad-selling companies.

RSS used to be a much more popular way to read serialized and syndicated writing, but the number one way this was done was through Google Reader. Google killed Google Reader when they decided they needed to funnel all their traffic through Google+ to combat what they saw as a threat from Facebook and Twitter (because again, first and foremost, Google is in the ad selling business). Internet intellectuals freaked out because there was no good replacement for Google Reader. Now there are a few. Newsblur is the best. Feedly is OK and very nice looking. They both have free versions, but are wisely supported by subscriptions instead of ad sales.

Which bring me to this, my second blog. I have a blog already, which I use for my normal writing and such. But I have started Quark Shoebox as a place to put current and relevant things for students of the media arts. Art. Think pieces. How-tos.

Follow in your RSS reader, and as you see things I post that you like, follow those authors and add them to your reader as well. Then when you are in the mindset to read (which is not the same mindset as poking around on social media), read widely and deeply.

Installing ProRes and DNxHD

I'm mostly writing this for students who need this information to turn in master-quality videos at the end of the semester, but maybe it'll be useful to others.

Ideally, you want to be working in a visually lossless codec all through your editing process. It'll take up more drive space, sure, but it'll perform so much better and you won't have to worry about double-compressing or stuff like that.

The big two at the time of this writing are Apple's ProRes and Avid's DNxHD. Both are good. They need to be installed on the system you're using to be able to use the codecs.

DNxHD is cross-platform, you can download it for free from Avid here, it's one of the many codecs included in the package.

ProRes is a bit better, but you can't encode with it on Windows. You can download it free from Apple here. However, if you don't have Final Cut Pro, Compressor, or Motion installed, it won't let you install it directly. To install ProRes codecs without those applications, you'll need to remove the codecs from the installer using a free application called unpkg.

When you unpackage the codecs, you'll need to move them by hand into the appropriate places on your hard drive. Luckily, they are mapped out for you. The folders you just unpackaged are in the directory structure /Library/Quicktime/ and /Library/Video/Professional Video Workflow Plug-Ins. All you need to do is move them into those folders at the root of your own hard drive, creating them if you don't already have them. Remember, you're putting them in the Library folder at the root of your drive, not the Library folder in your user directory. Obviously, you'll need administrator access to the machine.

Some Urban Design Links

These are a few (just a few, so you don't get overwhelmed) examples of visualizations in urban design for my MART 210 class. They're very different from each other, there's no single way to do it.

     U6 Photomontages - Photo-Realistic Visualisation and Photomontages - Other Projects

     Rethinking the Streetspace: What's Next? | Planetizen


     Illustration, Visual Analysis, Animation & Interactive by Focus 360

Remember, your job is not really to be an effective urban designer. Your job is to show that you could create the visuals for an urban designer.

Getting Software for Class

This post is to follow up with some of the questions in class on Friday, namely "do I have to buy this stuff?" and "where do I get this stuff, anyway?"

Again, the answer is "no, you don't have to buy a computer or software for this clas or this major." However, since you almost certainly have a computer anyway, the question is more along the lines of "how can you do your work on the machine you have?"

I don't think you should buy this software for this class. You can do it later when once you've decided that this is what you want to do regularly. The Student Edition for the Adobe Creative Cloud, which gives you everything they've got, is about $30/month (with a one year commitment) That link is here.

BUT, as I also talked about in class, older versions of this software are also available. Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere CS2 are here.

Take note, however. First, Adobe CS2 doesn't have Dreamweaver (they bought the company that made it after CS2 came out). So you'll still need a web design application. More about that later.

Second, this whole "giving Adobe CS2 away" thing is not quite 100% the case. Except that it is. But it's not. More info about that here: "Is Abobe Giving Away CS2 or Not?"