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Archive for February 2012


We don’t need no water, let the m%(&f§)/”a burn!!!-Introducing the “firestarter” 3D-Printed digital musical interface (beatjazz controller)

Ooooh ho ho ho....yes!!! fi-yah, baby!!! Fi-yah!!! I wanted to post about this a few days ago but I wanted to have proper pictures and video to go with it! This is the full MkI beatjazz red! This has permanently replaced the beloved cardboard prototype that worked so well for so long. I needed a change of pace on the color front so I decided to encourage my other personality to reassert itself this year, by providing a visual cue. Fire red! It’s so gorgeous!! I was really happy that that I was able to get a full beatjazz system out of one spool of 1.75mm PLA plastic filament (100meters). This was also from faberdashery and seems to be very flexible (i.e. not brittle).

In the video, I had literally just IMG_0700gotten the system to work. I had mostly assembled the system by Monday evening but I, in my great wisdom, decided that it would be great to use hot glue to cover all of the open wiring in various places. I discovered that this particular brand of hot glue conducts electricity (for future reference I should use silicon). I burned up two arduinos and a couple of radios as well. By Tuesday morning (the day of the show in the video) it was very apparent that this wasn’t going to work so I just said "screw it" and built new sensor boards. It wasn’t hard, just lots of small tedious steps. But by 8pm I was getting proper data from the system so I packed it up and finished configuring it in the dressing room. I really didn’t know if it was going to work or not for the show, but the new hand units are very much a "musical prosthesis" now and felt very comfortable and intimate.

IMG_0891Over the weekend, the first controller contributor from the 1st crowdfunding campaign, winter 2011, came to berlin to finally receive his perk. I was still working on it when he got here. Needless to say, he was quite happy with how it turned out. I had the headset from the "firestarter" system (yes, that is what I call it) so we basically spent a couple of hours playing around like kids in transformer costumes.

I decided to go ahead and give him the working one because (a) I had already started on building the red one that would be mine (b) he has been so patient and supportive for waaaaaay longer than I thought it would take to complete his perk, and (c) he has had 3-4 versions of the software already and thus has a decent idea of how it works. That said, I didn’t realize how complex the system would be for others. I forget that I have played this system ALOT. I was overwhelmed with the list of little weird shit I needed to explain like when holding two joystick positions on the same hand, the last one latches until you click it again. And many more little things. I will use the next couple of weeks to make the software easy enough to use, out of the box, with simple instructions. I am very interested in an interactive tutorial built in PD-which I have begun-but I will hold off on that until the gestural synthesis system works (very soon).

IMG_0682There are a few design aspects that I am most proud of with this MkI design. The adjustable mouthpiece is EXACTLY how I imagined it. It sits in a perfect position for playing and besides the ear-hang thingies making me look like I have pixie ears, the whole contraptions so flexible and very comfortable. IMG_0699I put padding on top of the FSR's to spread out the finger presses across their surfaces and it gives the "keys" much more feedback. Much like drumpad pads. I feel that this new feel deserves a "tabla mode" just for playing percussive hits.

The lights illuminate the interior of the controller in a nice unexpected manner. It very much looks like a circuit, itself, when the lights catch its angles. I IMG_0693will definitely play with various lighting configs once the campaign has been wrapped up.

I can begin to be, like, slightly more normal again now. 18 hour days will shrink to 12 hour days until the software is functional...ok, that’s a lie. I will probably still do 18 hour days because that’s just my pace, but I can diversify my activities beyond simply learning cad and printing parts. Gestural synthesis is the main focus now. As well as printing perks for the other campaign contributors. I have been working on some very interesting 3d printed perks that are going to blow their minds and I can’t wait to wrap up this phase of the project so I can show them all how much I appreciate them for supporting my project. Without them, things would be very different.

from Monday I will begin a new series of posts based on the my analysis of electronic music sounds and how I will create their "spirit" within the gestural synthesis system so if you don’t like tech talk mixed with hippie talk, you won’t like them....otherwise, I will see the rest of you at the rabbit hole on Monday. l8r!


How the Borg play funk

3d-printed-beatjazz-controller-hand-units-2the beatjazz system continues to iterate itself to life. these are the hand units for the system. as with the headset, they continue to iterate themselves into more refined states, owing to having a means of easily creating updated parts. I had planned to have an associated video with this post but i decided to wait until after the weekend when the very first controller contributor comes to berlin to take reciept of his controller. i figure that will be a much better video than me sitting in front of my webcam.

the reason for the differences in color between the two units in the pictures is (a) i ran out of black PLA filament (biodegradeable plastic derived from plants-Polylactic acid) and the silver one is for the contributor, while the black/silver one is for frankensteining various parts.   i ordered the silver PLA from a filament supplier in the UK called Faberdashery. one word; GORGEOUS! on the spool it was already beautiful but once i started extruding it into parts i was in shock at how gorgeous it is. they really know what they are doing. very high quality with little flecks of reflection and it extrudes very smoothly and evenly without breaking off as was the case with some other PLA i have used in the short time i have been printing with this material.

IMG_0671I have had a chance to play with them over the last few days. the action is very much solid and sure. i have not added padding for the keys and may keep it that way. it very much feels like a musical prosthesis now. the palm bracing system i designed seems to work well but i wont really know until i have sweated with it in a club. in comparison with the cardboard prototypes, this feels more like it is part of my hand and there is more of a feeling of confidence that i can do more expressive gestures as if feels more robust and is about 30% smaller, though slightly heavier.

the old design served it purpose though, as many of the immediate design cues were gleaned directly from the prototype, namely the fsr positioning and susequent "rim" around each key to funnel the fingwer into its proper place, the joystick angles and the palm bracing mechanism.  also, the lights now not only provide indication of the element color, but illuminate the exposed internal circuitry.  i had created a version that was enclosed (which is where 50% of the black PLA ended up) and it looked like some sort of black gourd.  it did not look nearly as cool as i thought it was going to, so i regrouped and went back to my exposed circuit design, and i am over the moon with how it came out. 

IMG_0640last week i looked at how i wired the internals of the prototype and i realized that it was wildly inefficient.  i was able to compress all of the circuitry onto a small prototyping board that attaches directly to the arduino fio that acts as the sensor interface. 
i find that it tells its own story not least of which it say "i am a functional interface" which will go some way towards convincing people that it is not some sort of trick to convince them that the person playing it is just dancing with lights on their hands.

one by one, i will be getting these controllers out to their contributors in the coming weeks with the first being this weekend.  with him here at my flat (workshop?!) I will be able to refine certain aspects that i designed to be multi-size and see if they translate.  should be a lot of fun any way it goes.
back on monday with video. l8r.

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