Dan Hume's Blog

Performance Video Final Piece
January 11, 2011, 4:39 pm
Filed under: Abelton Live 8, Modul8, Performance Video


For this project I decided to focus on the observation of daily life in the city. Like the music I’ve put together, everything builds up to a climax, e.g. daytime. Using the fader controls on the iPhone, every time a faders value is increased a piece of audio and imagery appears at the same time. I started the video off slowly with some ambient music that is accompanied by a image of canary wharf, showing the awakening of the scene. Then using the middle rotary control, at the bottom of the iPhone’s interface, movement begins to develop. As all the fader controls are increased, the whole scene comes to life.


The above video is a pre-recording of a live performance I did at home. I used my iPhone to control Modul8 and Ableton Live together to make a live audio and visual performance. Due to having lots of trial version software, doing a live performance at the crit most definitely wouldn’t have gone to plan. I was using this application called Osculator, which sends out MIDI signals from the TouchOSC on the iPhone to any audio software. The trial version of  Osculator has a limited time until it gets interrupted by a message saying that it needs to be activated. I have tried purchasing a serial from the company to activate it, but the activation codes didn’t seem to work so I was still cursed with same issue. However, the pre-crecorded video demonstrates my idea perfectly well.

This project was quite challenging to begin with. When I think back to what my initial ideas were, I feel the final outcome is quite different… Visually that is. The idea of converging both visual performing and audio performing together has been my main focus point of this project, which I feel I’ve achieved.

I started out wanting to make an iPhone application that would allow you to control both audio and visuals at the same time. I later discovered that there was an application called TouchOSC, which allows you to create your own interface, which can then be mapped to any audio software, just like a normal mixer. Before I discovered the TouchOSC application, I found myself looking and making my very own custom made multi-touch trackpad. This was achieved by using a decent sized cardboard box, which was roughly the height and with of an  width of an A4 piece of paper. I used a basic picture frame, which would act as the interface. I used a thin sheet of plain A4 paper to go underneath of the glass of the frame. I then installed a webcam inside the box so any movement made on the frame glass will be picked up from the camera and the data will be sent to this piece of software called Community Core Vision.

The brief entailed that the overall piece should combine both sound and visuals that are generated by a live performance. I’m not a musician and I’ve ever used any professional audio software until now. I thought this project would be the best opportunity to get to learn a bit of the basics of creating a simple track in Abelton Live. Phil gave me a good incite into the overall interface of Ableton and I took from him what I thought would be relevant for my idea. Abelton can be used for two purposes, mixing or recording. For me I was mixing… to a certain extent. I basically gathered 6 audio tracks I bought from a CD containing lots of royalty free liquid drum and bass loops. I think mixed them together to make one piece of music that was on a loop. The reason I did this was because it linked into my idea really well. The building up of the start of a day, links in with the building up to a piece of music.

For the visuals I was introduced to another piece of software called Modul8. From the beginning of my initial idea, I was trying to work out if it was possible to use After Effects and be able to use that as a tool to make a live performance with. The reason I was fixated on using After Effects was because of the flexibility and the varied effects it has to offer. However, I later discovered I could use Modul8 to my advantage. After experimenting with bits of footage I had, I realized Modul8 was quite a flexible piece of software and there were lots of things I could do with video and still images.

One of the difficulties I had was mapping the midi controls from Abelton into Modul8. After doing some quick research into this I found out that the IAC Driver, which is already installed on macs, needs to be enabled live so that the data from Ableton can be sent to Modul8; therefore the two programmes become in sync with each other. It was a very simple solution in the end… like most things.

There are definitely ways in which I could improve this project. The audio is one thing I could improve on upon. Throughout the video I’ve used  a mixture of looped samples, so if I had to do this again I would possibly look at mixing in more detail to get a varied production in the music. The visuals could also be improved upon by experimenting with more layers and mapping each to different obscure sounds, just to make a scene more interesting. I think if I had a bit more time I’d like to have thought more about how the visuals could be displayed as a performance. The initial idea throughout this project is that they would be displayed on a backdrop/screen behind a DJ in a club environment.

Modul8 Visual Development
January 7, 2011, 11:47 pm
Filed under: After Effects, Modul8, Performance Video

After showing Phil my initial video test, he felt the idea I was trying to portray didn’t reflect from the visuals I had used. I could see where he was coming from because the video didn’t really give any connotations about time passing by, which is what I’m exploring in this video.

I’ve now added different visuals that will hopefully give the audience a sense of what the piece about. The image of Canary Wharf  is still going to be included in this, as the main focal point of the visuals, but I’ve enhanced the image with a time-lapse video of clouds sailing through the sky. To do this I used After Effects.

I decided to mask out the sky background of the image to help boost the appearance of backdrop visuals. This was also so I could be in control of that particular area of the image, where I want to embed the time-lapse into.

I imported the video into After Effects and then dragged into composition, on top of the image layer.

Then next thing was to use the Luma Matte effect, which embeds the video into the image like in the screenshot below.

Video Preview

I have got another backdrop for the canary wharf scene. It’s a time-lapse video, which I found in my files, of the clocks by canary wharf… ironically. The whole pice is about time passing and this video fits the description perfectly. Now I wanted to make this backdrop blend well without it spilling too much into city landscape image. I thought if I used the masked layer I used to cut out the city image with in After Effects, it should prevent any of the backdrop video showing through the city image.

I dragged the video into the top half of the composition and since it was a mask, the bottom half where the city image hides the rest of the video showing through.

I like to make the edges smooth when blending two bits of video together, so I used the feather tool to make the edges denser. This made a small proportion of the video spill over into the city image area, but it should work well nonetheless.

Video Preview

I rendered a short clip in After Effects with both layers combined to see what the outcome would look like. I’m pretty happy with how it looks, but it may turn out slightly different in Modul8… but hopefully it will look better!

MIDI Mapping in Modul8
January 7, 2011, 8:11 pm
Filed under: Modul8, Performance Video

I’ve managed to map the TouchOSC controls on my iPhone to Modul8 as well as in Ableton. I did have an issue with mapping some of the channels in Ableton to the channels in Modul8. I was only able to assign one channel in Modul8, until I realised at the top of the screen there were three menu tabs, Focus, Position and Layerset and Position. I was in the focus menu, which only allows you to assign one channel to a MIDI control, but you are able to assign controls to the effects on that particular channel.

I then switched to the Position menu, which gives you more flexibility about what Midi controls you can assign to and access to all the layers in Modul8. After I discovered this, I was able to map all the controls I needed to on my TouchOSC editor.

Test Video

Above is a short extract I did, after mapping TouchOSC to Modul8, of the iPhone controlling Modul8 and Ableton Live at the same time. I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out!

Integrating Modul8 with Ableton
December 22, 2010, 5:58 pm
Filed under: Abelton Live 8, Modul8, Performance Video

I’ve now pretty much got the audio sorted for this project and the visuals are coming together. I’m now at the stage where I need Modul8 and Ableton to talk to teach other. After some research I discovered that the IAC driver on the mac is the tool to use for this process. It’s basically the communicator, which enables you to send data from one software to another so they become connected.

The IAC driver can be found in Applications, Utilities, MIDI Setup and Show MIDI Window. When I opened the window I double clicked on the IAC Driver Icon, which brought up another window (IAC Driver Properties).

I made sure the device was online. In Ableton’s preference window, under the MIDI tab, the IAC Bus 1 Driver was now showing in the MIDI ports.

Then I went into Modul8’s preferences and clicked on the Key/Midi Mapping tab. I enabled both the Osculator and IAC Driver device.

Then this allows the midi output data from Ableton to sent to Ableton. From here, I was able to start adding the midi controls in Modul8 on my TouchOSC interface. I am using the same controls as I was in Ableton. I am linking the sounds with certain visuals and effects.

Developing Idea and Visuals
December 19, 2010, 5:12 pm
Filed under: Modul8, Performance Video

Just been playing around with some visual effects in Modul8. On the way back home from Bournemouth, I recorded some video footage of the landscapes whilst sat on the train. I then imported these clips into Modul8 and composited them over the Canary Wharf image.

The image above shows the output result of the video and the still image composited together, using the Luma Key. Once you’ve applied the Luma Key to each layer, it gives you more freedom to experiment with other effects.  Below is the output result with each layer being extruded to create the illusion of depth.

In Modul8 I’ve looked at using the Extrusion effect, which duplicates layers of an image and pulls them apart creating a sense of depth. Below are a couple of videos I recorded of the visuals I made in Modul8.

Without Effects

With Effects

I don’t want to create anything majorly abstract. I really love city life and I want to show the observation of the build up of high energy that a city emits. When you watch time lapse videos of cities landscapes, they are often describes as micro chips processing information all the time. That’s pretty much what I’m trying to get across here. I like to think of a city as a big powerful computer that is constantly processing information.

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