KEXP is more than a radio station - it's an institution, for both Seattle and for music fans worldwide.
The public station is known not just for its radio or web stream broadcasts, but increasingly for its at once polished and intimate video recordings of live in-studio performances from legends and up-and-comers alike.
In its former, more modest studios, KEXP's rather small live performance room became known for the christmas lights twinkling in the background bokeh.
Recently, through the largesse of its fans and a number of supporting organizations in the Seattle area, KEXP was given entirely new, updated facilities, including a vastly upgraded live performance room. Along with the new space, it was time to upgrade the look.
For Listen, in a project supported by Microsoft as part of their Music x Technology initiative, we teamed up with LED engineer and technical director David Crumley and our strategic partners Slanted Studios to create a wraparound low-resolution LED wall with custom software to drive it.
The system is, at its heart, driven by TouchDesigner, which is used to generate about 15 custom animations - a mix of particle systems, 3D geometry, fluid simulations, and basic shader approaches, with some looks using the Kinect to capture and animate performers' movements. All are controlled by a Surface tablet from which the team can change any looks' colors, speed, brightness, and masking on the fly.
The LED display itself is a custom-manufactured system to Crumley's spec, permanently installed into the structure of the room. Inherent in the system design was an added challengeportunity (opporchallenge?) in that alternating LED columns were offset by 6" both vertically and in depth, creating opportunities for parallax effects and challenges in signal generation and previs.
After a successful kickoff performance in January 2017, we look forward to seeing what the KEXP team do with the system and seeing the twinkle in the background of their videos for years to come.
Production Companies: Hard Work Party & Slanted Studios for Listen and Microsoft
Producer: Jen Vance
Technical Direction and LED Engineering: David Crumley
Software Development and Realtime Animations: Noah Norman and Michelle Higa
Additional Animations: Michelle Higa and Terra Henderson
Surface Programming: Charlie Whitney
Jan 11, 2017
Photos 1 and 4 [the good ones] by Amber Knecht for KEXP
The New York City Ballet Art Series is a continuation of the work started by New York State Theater architect Philip Johnson and NYCB founder Lincoln Kirstein, a curatorial tradition dating back to the theater's founding in 1964. Work in the space includes a permanent collection of works featuring some by Jasper Johns and Lee Bontecou, and more recently, as part of the annual Art Series program, installations by Dustin Yellin, FAILE, and JR.
For their 2017 installation, the fifth in the new Art Series, NYCB commissioned Finnish artist Santtu Mustonen, whose work begins as paint and is presented here as digital animations that flutter and breathe like living brushstrokes.
For the 6-week installation, Hard Work Party provided technical direction, spec'ing playback hardware, projection, and lighting, as well as providing programming services, creating a custom, scheduled playback platform for the 4-channel video, accompanying audio, and lighting animations.
We worked closely with AV integrators SenovvA, who provided projection design and rental support, fabricators Gamma NYC, who designed, built, and rigged the screens, and Santtu's representation, Hugo and Marie, who coordinated the effort.
The scale of the finished piece is colossal. The projection geometry is borderline preposterous (we surprised even Panasonic with this one). The bang for the buck is stupendous (hat tips all around). The result is at once awesome and subtle.
Because of the scale and complexity of the projections, as well as the audience proximity to the screens, we used HAP Q, an open-source codec whose compression quality and performance were a must for this project. The compression allowed us to play back high-quality 4K video from an inexpensive commodity PC without losing the dynamics and subtlety of the busy and textured particle system.
For command and control, we used TouchDesigner. TouchDesigner's flexibility allowed us to continually grade the video playback for changing lighting and projection conditions, as well as to calibrate the smart lights used to illuminate the statues, both in terms of focus and color quality. Critically, TouchDesigner also allowed us to accommodate the ballet's scheduling needs, facilitating automatic projection, lighting, and sound strike and kill commands throughout the 6-week run without the use of external scheduling hardware.
Santtu's work shines, and his 14-minute composition feels painterly, austere, and delicate writ large in the promenade. We're very proud of this one.
Production Company: Hugo and Marie
Artist: Santtu Mustonen
Producers: Jason Scott Rosen and Masha Spaic
Technical Direction, Systems Design, and Programming: Hard Work Party
AV Integration and Projection Design: SenovvA
Screen Fabrication and Rigging: Gamma NYC
Animation: Johnny Lee
Special thanks to Marquerite Mehler, Karen Girty, and Jill Jefferson at NYCB
Some photos courtesy of Alex Di Suvero and Hugo and Marie
Interactive Installation for 12 Players
(2) x UHD Video Walls
TouchDesigner, Kinect, Nvidia Quadro K6000, Custom Server Hardware
Composition VI is a site-specific artwork installed in the lobby of Viacom's Times Square building at 1515 Broadway.
The piece was the result of a series of independent creative iterations, beginning with meditative live image manipulation and eventually arriving at this complex force and particle system using Kinect input to drive interaction.
As visitors move through the lobby space, their paths and body movement are flattened into an orthographic space, spanning both massive video walls across the lobby, rendered as directional flechettes, and painted with a dynamic color system.
A sophisticated rule set, refined through extensive user testing, assigns attractive and repulsive forces and particle emitters to users' heads and hands. The result is a balanced system that responds immediately to passersby, welcomes initial exploration, and yet rewards long-term play and engagement.
We created this piece with our old pals and collaborators Slanted Studios and we're already looking forward to more fruitful collaborations and wondering why we haven't been doing this stuff together all along.
This piece was commissioned by Viacom's Catalyst group, supported by Art at Viacom, and made with TouchDesigner.
Special thanks to Matt Hanson and Matt Heron at Catalyst making this possible. Thanks also to Kathryn Henderson and Ana Kim at Slanted for making it real, and thanks to our rad group of test subjects for all the arm waving.
Nominated: Animated Com Award, Stuttgart Festival of Animated Film
Production Companies: Slanted Studios & Hard Work Party
Artists: Michelle Higa Fox and Noah Norman
Producer: Kathryn Henderson
Optimization: Mary Franck
Production Assistant: Ana Kim
Special Thanks: Kinda Akash, Sougwen Chung, Yussef Cole, Guillermo Echevarria, Stuart Fox, Manna Hara, Erin Kilkenny, Gabe Liberti, Stephanie Lopez, Guilherme Marcondes, Nika Offenbac, Gabriel Pulecio, Dave Rife, Jake Rosenthal, Daniel Savage, David Schmüdde, Stephanie Swart, and Ed Uberia
Director of Screen Content: Matt Hanson
VP/Executive Producer: Matt Herron
Senior Vice President, Brand Strategy & Creative: Cheryl Family
Producer: Kathryn Henderson, Jennifer Vance
DP: Chris Willmore, D. Schmüdde
Editor: Ana J. Kim
October 13 – November 17, 2015
Giphy is where the internet goes for GIFs, and, increasingly, where artists go to showcase original work in low-res, bite-sized loops. In 2016, for the first time, Giphy and Rhizome.org wanted to bring GIF art, art that shares the GIF aesthetic, and art by artists known for their GIFs, into meatspace.
This meant, in various cases, high resolution, large scale, projection mapping, virtual reality, and interactivity, sometimes all at once.
We were thrilled at the chance to shoot from downtown with our old pals Dark Igloo on this one, finding creative solutions to technical challenges like calculating weird projection geometry for trompe l'oeil orthographic mapping, jiggering retractable ceiling tethers for idiosyncratic controller setups, and building a GIF-playing basketball arcade game.
GIFs and some images courtesy of Dark Igloo and GIPHY.
This piece is part of an exploration of my ongoing obsession with visual artifacts — specifically, in this case, the wagon-wheel effect.
While relatively simple to create, documenting a 'clean' performance of this piece presented some interesting challenges, including tearing, gamma, compression, and transcoding issues, all due to the tight, drastic changes in lighting dynamics. The most salient compromise - banding related to JPEG compression - is prominent.
More interesting, though, were issues related to the nature of this recording as documentation of a live performance. Keep an eye on the news section of this site for a future writeup.
Viewing in 60FPS in a darkened space with headphones turned up loud strongly recommended. The usual, really.
****Straight-up does not work on mobile. Requires 60FPS playback or you will be confused.****
Procedurally-generated models from Polyhedra Database used with permission by Felix Larreta.
Made in TouchDesigner.
In case you didn't know, Standard Transmission are the wizards behind the colorful, animatronic, interactive Macy's window displays that draw crowds of hundreds of thousands to their iconic Herald Square location during the holidays.
When they asked us to help with this Naughty or Nice o' Meter, patterned after the classic 'love tester' arcade games, we were excited just for the opportunity to visit Santa's workshop and watch the holiday sausage made.
For this build, we made a simple Python application that drives a series of relays based on interaction with a touch film placed on the glass. It's simple, but the trick was to make the system tunable so we could get the interaction just right as crowds of literally hundreds of thousands used it over the months it was up. Did we say hundreds of thousands?
Did you see it? Were you naughty??
Viacom's Times Square headquarters serves many roles — as office space, production studios, a tourist destination, and as a cultural organ - a place where thousands of employees and creators from the company's diverse networks come together and share a common vision and history.
Viacom's internal production studio, Catalyst, came to Hard Work Party and our strategic partners, Slanted Studios, with a need for communicating Viacom's rich history to new hires and VIP visitors. They had a large wall space in their soon-to-be-built visitors' center, a treasure trove of footage spanning decades, and access to Viacom's networks' many properties.
At the time, Catalyst knew we had a thing for transparent LCDs, and so of course they made their way into the design. This piece features a custom-made 84" selectively-transparent LCD enclosure with integrated lighting and a 10-point touchscreen.
The enclosure houses a series of modular dioramas, each of which has its own software-controlled lighting and mise en scène including lots of 3D-printed characters highlighting key moments from Viacom's past. User interaction with the touchscreen reveals the dioramas behind the opaque screen and triggers scene-specific lighting, giving a feeling of mystery to the box interior.
The system was designed from the ground up to take advantage of Catalyst's in-house animation capabilities — lighting, screen graphics, and dioramas are modular and can but updated on the fly. Plus the box doubles as a tanning booth!
Slanted Studios & Hard Work Party
Executive Creative Director: Michelle Higa Fox
Technical Director: Noah Norman
Producer: Jennifer Vance
Programming: Beau Burroughs, Mary Franck
Production Assistants: Ana Kim, John Hughes
Digital Fabrication: Gamma.NYC
Fabrication Designer: Marcus Swagger
LED and Wiring Specialist: Aaron Lobdell
Transport/Art Handling: Crozier Fine Arts
Viacom Catalyst: Branding & Strategy
SVP, Brand Strategy & Creative: Cheryl Family
VP/Executive Producer: Matt Herron
VP of Brand Strategy: Tori Turner
VP of Design: John Farrar
Director: Matt Hanson
Art Director: Sean McClintock
Animation Lead: Josh Lindo
Animation: Ross McCampbell, James Zanoni
3D Modeling: Scott Denton, Sean McClintock, Michael Berger, Ryan Kittleson, Casey Reuter, Tom Cushwa, Scott Hubbard
Fabrication: Elise Ferguson, Tim McDonald, James Zanoni, Benjamin Kress
3D Printing: Shapeways, New Lab, 3d Hubs, NRI
R&D Design & Animation: Carl Burton
R&D Prototyping: Michael Boczon
Video Editor: Jared Smith, Alex Zagey
Archival Footage Research: Jason Yorke
Copywriter: Tanya Davis Copy
Editor: Tory Mast Research: Jen Li
DP: Chris Willmore
Music: Ketsa "Within the Earth"
Glasslands Gallery is not just a music venue - it's our favorite place to see a show in NYC. It's also space that's been known for the installation art and idiosyncrasies that set the tone and give the room a DIY loft feel.
Our installation at Glasslands is a distributed, modular design that uses common mailer tubes (treated for flame retardancy) to house over 300 RGB LEDs, individually addressable, passed through diffusion, and mounted in clusters about the venue.
In an attempt to speak to the warm, intimate feel of the space, the design deliberately destabilizes the stage / house dichotomy by spreading from the upstage wall all the way to the entrance of the venue. Because each tube is individually addressable, the system can can highlight the three downstage 'chandeliers' over the performers' heads, or the cluster over the house DJ position, even individual tubes peeking into the bathroom stalls, or can treat the whole room as one large canvas, passing shapes through the point-space like spotlights or stripes.
Driving the system is our custom software, refined through over a year of development and onsite testing. It's a dynamic set of high-level controls that allows house sound engineer (GL has no full time lighting guy) to direct the software based on the same subjective criteria used to describe music, or the feel of an interior, offering direction like 'darker, cooler colors, dimmer in the house, slower moving', freeing up the venue crew to focus on the task at hand while providing adjustable, appropriate, and dynamic looks with minimal intervention, whether through the onscreen interface and built-in LFOs, MIDI controls, or OSC over wireless.
AM owes huge thanks to the Glasslands owners Rami Haykal and Jake Rosenthal, staff Josh Thiel and Cameron Hulk, plus Eileen Tang, Trevor Hufnagel, Francisco Casablanca, Guillermo Echevarria, Dark Momino, Chuck Reina, and many more who gave countless hours to project, strictly on faith and love of tubes.
Made in Max.
Lighting Engineering: Jason Fellows
Avery Tare photos courtesy of Jason Bergman
Grid photo courtesy of Eileen Tang
Tubesoft uses the very awesome imp.dmx ArtNet library by David Butler.
The machine loads a series of GIFs via GIPHY's API and switches GIFs when you make a bucket. Super simple and super addictive.
The guts are a Raspberry Pi equipped with an IR beam-break sensor which is polled with synchronous modulation (because fluorescents) through an ADS1115 ADC. The Pi hosts a webserver that serves up the HTML display page, which can run on any device on the same network (in this case a Mac Mini) and gets its commands via websocket from the Pi sensing daemon.
The device also hosts an admin page that lets users change the search query used to load GIFs, which is a bit of an easter egg after somebody has been playing it for a while.
We're already exploding with ideas for v2 ... this thing is a slam dunk.
Images courtesy of Dark Igloo.
Visual experiments, each made and documented within one hour, mostly done in TouchDesigner.
Horse Majeure is a step driven, social fitness game.
It's horse racing for people. The game is still in beta as we work on the algorithm (there is a lot of math in being a bookie), but we're playtesting it now and it's much more fun than sweating for no reason.
While still a seemingly neverending collection of CADs and part numbers, cocktail napkins, butcher paper, and rejected 3D prototypes, the soon-to-be deconstructed display 'FTV' is the result of nearly six years of design and prototyping with furniture design-builder Kai-Wei Hsu and architect Ben Gray.
The design separates the analog and digital components of a single-bounce rear-projection display, leaving visible only wood, brass, and a specialized projection surface.
When activated, the system gives the appearance of a 'magic screen', seemingly an image peeled from a conventional screen and stood in space on a minimalist stand.
We hope to have our first presentable prototype in early 2017 - sign up for the mailing list for updates.
Aside from the citywide festivals, the radio broadcasts, and the daily newspaper, a large part of RBMA's visible output is in the form of its lecture series.
For RBMA's 2013 NYC academy, their journalist and musician interviewers conducted informal talks with some 50 luminaries from all aspects of music production, arrangement, and performance, notably including Philip Glass, James Murphy, Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Nigel Godrich, Brian Eno, Debbie Harry, Giorgio Moroder, Q-Tip, El-P, Van Dyke Parks, ?uestlove, and Rakim. Followup questions after each talk came from RBMA participants, studio assistants, and staff, among whom were Flying Lotus, Four Tet, Just Blaze, Thundercat, Throwing Snow, and Koreless.
For the series, alongside epic documentarians and old friends M ss ng P eces, Hard Work Party designed and ran a 3-camera studio, audio system, and DSP components, directing the crew to create the lecture films hosted on the RBMA site.
During the planning and buildout phases of the space, we worked with Inaba architects , systems integrators, automation engineers, and RBMA's in-house studio, radio, and media teams to advise on issues of design as they pertain to future uses for shoots and performance.
Pictured, from top to bottom:
RBMA founder Torsten Schmidt talking to Brian Eno pre-interview
Flying Lotus interviews Nigel Godrich
Debbie Harry and Chris Stein on the couch
Lee 'Scratch' Perry, the Upsetter, Godfather of Dub
For presentation at Vanity Fair's Fashion in Film Festival, BMW commissioned the production of four short films collectively titled 'Spotlight on Innovation'. The bios focused on innovators from fields like urban planning, exploration, and fashion, and VF wanted them presented in a form that spoke to the theme.
Hard Work Party, working here with Industria Creative, knew it had to fit in with museum surroundings - clean, built-in, and permanent. The function had to be simple and robust enough to withstand constant use by the public, unmonitored for 3 days.
For the physical display component, we built a rear-projection system housed in a custom cabinet - a single projector throwing what looked like 5 separate channels of content onto floating panels of custom-cut rear projection plexiglass.
For interactive playback control, we wrote an iOS app and embedded the iPad into a purpose-built kiosk.
Control messages originating at the kiosk made their way to our purpose-made software playback system to allow on-the-fly adjustment of video geometry and timing, making it possible to fine tune the placement of images on the floating panels throughout the settling process of the housing cabinet.
The result was kind of magic. Check the shaky-cam video to get the gag.
Thumbnail image courtesy of Owen Hope for Industria Creative
For all three iterations of F5, an NYC-based 2-day creativity conference, Hard Work Party has handled all technical production elements from vendor contracting and stage design to run of show and show call. More than most, this production requires close coordination with presenters to accommodate some particularly challenging technical needs.
2011's lineup featuring with live musical performances from Kid Koala, Tanya Morgan, and Wayne White, some puppets, a huge balloon sculpture, a coordinated balloon drop, a robot, a moderated talk with acclaimed director Mark Romanek, and, most importantly, ecstatic attendees.
In 2015, with the demise of Roseland Ballroom, the conference headed to Terminal 5 with speakers like maniac animator Gmunk, Cosmos director Brannon Braga, and Pentagram partner Eddie Opara in the lineup. This time around, we hosted an entire floor of art installations from teams like MPC, Positron / Voxiebox, Magnus Östergren (Goo Create) and our good friends Jodi Terwilliger (of HUSH), Antfood, and Dark Igloo.
Thumbnail photo by Adele Major
Over three years and more than 25 events, Hard Work Party worked with Cut&Paste to develop a touring graphic design battle.
By the 2009 tour, the show was hitting sixteen cities worldwide plus a global championship at Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC. Over the years, the show system expanded to twenty-four machines as a blend of Mac and PC hardware, enabling three simultaneous contests in 2D, 3D and motion graphics, live onstage and in plain view of crowds in spaces as varied as nightclubs, rock venues, design conferences, and office building atria.
Hard Work Party's technical direction, alongside production from partners e2K (North America) and Germination (UK), enabled this technically intricate live show to run smoothly across three continents, five voltages, and seven languages. all while fitting in four road cases small enough to check on a domestic flight.
Thumbnail and images 1-3 courtesy of Jason Lewis
For the American Museum of Natural History, Hard Work Party provides stage management services to the One Step Beyond event series, a long-running show New York Magazine calls "New York's Best Museum Party."
At the mobbed monthly concerts, HWP supervises sound check, stage access, and run of show in the museum's iconic Hall of the Universe.
Past events have featured live performances and DJ sets from Talib Kweli, Q-Tip, Questlove, James Blake, Kanye West, Passion Pit, Animal Collective, Crystal Castles, Peanut Butter Wolf, Yeasayer, Pete Rock, Chromeo, A-Trak, Kid Sister, Spank Rock, Flying Lotus, Prefuse 73, Dirty Projectors, The Rapture and Simian Mobile Disco.
Simian Mobile Disco photos by Brian Pennington
For WIRED Magazine's annual Manhattan popup, The WIRED Store, Hard Work Party's involvement runs the gamut. We work with production agencies like MKG, Mother, and TPG in preproduction and display design, staff hiring and training, buildout, and security installation; then in-store, providing management, event support, day-to-day technical operations, even granting on-camera interviews and studio appearances on behalf of WIRED to news, radio, cable and networks like PBS, FOX, NBC, Reuters, BBC, NY1, ABC, Sinovision, T7, Attack of the Show, LXTV, and Brian Lehrer.
2015 was the 11th year of HWP's relationship with WIRED and the project keeps getting better, each year introducing additional event programming, improved display designs, greater interactivity, and refined security and operations.
The stores have ranged widely in size and aesthetic – 2014's activation was a clean and minimal look sited in a new event space hosted by Milk Studios, whereas the 2011 store occupied 20,000 square feet in Conde Nast's building at 42nd and Broadway, with over 5,000 square feet of window frontage on one of the most heavily-trafficked corners in the world.
Some photos courtesy of Louis Seigal
Installation piece for a group show at the Cohen Gallery at the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts at Brown University.
LEDs, Max/MSP, Mac Mini, used LCD panel, shattered water pitcher, spraypaints, deception
The idea for this piece began with the knowledge that most of the other works in the group show would be rectangular - prints, photos, or animations on conventional screens. I work with displays intimately, maybe more than some, and I've been hurt by them in the past. I'm sick of them.
As such, my first instinct was to openly disrespect a screen, not to disregard it via omission, but something more - to 'break' it, and leave it unprotected at the foot of a 'real' object, somewhere it might be missed or kicked in the investigation of a 'thing'.
For the 'thing' I wanted a vessel on a plinth - a container - or, moreover, the idea of a container rather than the thing itself - so I acquired a glass pitcher and began an investigation into transparent silicone casting. After some research and consulting with those who know more, I found the shape and volume and need for a void on the bottom (to accommodate lighting) to be a poor fit for a cast in silicone.
After a good bit of experiment and tests down other avenues, I became frustrated with the only vessel I had - my reference and placeholder - the actual pitcher - and was at once overcome with the desire to smash it.
I put it in a bag and tapped it with a hammer and in that moment felt a rush of release. The resulting fragmentation was workable - the remaining large parts recognizable as once a pitcher - but no longer a vessel in any real sense.
The color system visually offsets the two components and cycles slowly through the hue wheel. It was enjoyable to watch people try to interact with the piece. It's not interactive. It's a sharp pile of broken glass and some Chinese LEDs.
I recently came to the conclusion that I likely unconsciously cribbed the name for this piece from The $10,000 Sculpture (in progress) by the very awesome Caleb Larsen, who is, as I just said, awesome.
We recommend you download 2006's instant classic, contender for free-est album ever, Handshake debut EP Impresses Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
SCREEN 18 x 32
MIRROR WORKING AREA 16x9
MIRROR ACTUAL 19 x 12 (1.5" on each side for extrusion / grip)
throw potential was 4.3-5.1'