2S2 AR (doll house AR) & haptic work (desk)

04/10/22 Following on from the work that I have done to add an AR layer using Artivive to one of my paintings and the work that’s been done with the NSA artists, I’m working on a Doll’s house animation for the Sticks and Bones show at The Crypt, St Ives. This work alongside the work documented below and the construction of an animated film using the life drawing work of all the artists in the Sticks and Bones show (test shots below 1.1). Next up for the life drawing animation is to test the projection onto muslin and decide where in the space to hand that and position the projector. Projector tested to see if it’s bright enough and if the videos would play from a USB stick – took a while to figure out how to use the in-project videoplayer, but that is capable of looping the video as had been hoped. This means fewer wires and no necessary laptop.

1.1 Test sequence using Photoshop videoediting tools and its in built transitions

I like the timings of the transitions in this test sequence; the longerlife drawing animation that I did last week in Photoshop’s video editing facility is a little too quick and needs altering – even though it’s currently defeating me how to easily lengthen multiple blocks (AE far easier and it’s likely I will use that to stitch together shorter sequences made for the sake of time in PS!).

There are some issues with the Dolls House though that might prove problematic. First off it is REALLY dark in there. I’ve wallpapered the inside of it with my doodles – and there are repeat patterns – will this mean that ARTIVIVE will trigger at multiple points?

These images did not work well with the app at the level of exposure show here; however increasing exposure lead to ARTIVIVE giving them a 2 rating, and oddly enough even in the gloom the app did register the images and overlay a placeholder video. So that established now means working on the animation that will work across the three images. More anon…

I’m working on a haptic piece for the Sticks and Bones show in November @St Ives. I had acquired an old wooden school desk that carries the scars from likely several decades of bored school kids, images, texts and seemingly attacking the desk with a compass. It’s a single desk with a deep well.

Taking a cue from the shots inside the school room in the 1972 version of The Wickerman, I wanted to use haptics to bring the desk into the domain of folk horror.

I’ve had several conversations with one of the programmers at work, and they put me in touch with the robotics technician. My concept was to give the sense that when the desk was opened, an audio file with the sound of a flock of crows taking to the wing was triggered. The robotics technician also confirmed that as well as using a sensor to trigger the sound file resident on a small Arduino board, we could also make the desk ‘shake’ to bring the desk to an audiences’ attention and encourage them to open the lid. He will obtain a motor and internal power supply to do this. The well in the back of the desk is deep enough to take all this and a speaker. They will be covered by twigs and feathers. The desk is already slightly misaligned and a bit off balance so that will facilitate the ‘shake’.

Working in this way is moving my current practice towards my academic practice – I like the holism of that, as well as pushing towards installation work and dovetailing more intensively the digital into my work. Possibilities are now revealing themselves! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


work over the past week has been mainly technical in nature in prep for The Crypt ‘Sticks and Bones’ show.

  • Videoediting sequences of life drawing together exploring different durations and transitional modes using Premier Pro. over 60 images in the sequence from 4 different artists (different sizes and ratios).
  • Getting to grips with particles in Maya for the first of the 3 AR videos for the Dolls house. It’s been a while since I used Maya (2019), so lots of new features. I used nPatricles to make a turbulent sphere; lots of problems rendering out with Arnold (you can’t now render out to video either via Fmod). Key technical learning here – use caching to allow Arnold to render particles. Lots to play with here in terms of turbulence, collision modalities, dropping in specific particle shapes, filling objects with particles etc.
  • Deep use of Premier Pro to turn the particle footage into working video. Learned a bunch of stuff: how to smooth out reverse footage; how create viable durations; nesting and unnesting; Cropping, filling objects with particles, alerting gravity and movement parameters.

What did I learn in terms of my practice?

What’s going so well here is that I’ve finally found ways to marry my digital skills (design & technical) with my art practice. This feels like a breakthrough. That does not mean I want to abandon the painting for composting and modelling however; instead it is all about how these work relationally. Artivive has helped with this certainly, as has working with the NSA artists, which has meant I have had to do my research. I also don’t want to end up being the technician for collective shows, so I might therefore bring the videomaking into the realm of my practice hereonin (a nice addition for NSA shows when they arise).

Duration, light and dimensionality is key to what I am doing here – still always in the folk horror milieu and through the lens of animism. Ideas came quickly for the doll house and for the desk project – a relief as time is short (2 weeks to go before the show). The desk will I hope move in interesting ways with the addition of the motor (alongside the audio assets), powered by a lead battery (found object after it was discarded as a backup power device by the University). The lifedrawing video will be projected onto a wall at the show as the intention to project it onto muslin didn’t really help with readability and impact. Trial and error have been the order of the day, particularly with durations for the video work and the particle behavior for the 3D modelling.

The NSA show hanging was a good instructor as to the problems people have with the app. Some people thought it just worked by opening their camera – not reading the download instructions. Some people had issues downloading the app (although there was strong wifi in Tremenheere gallery). But to date, 57 views have been recorded by the app. Instructions need to be posted near the painting and be obviously placed.

Painting with AR layer in Tremenheere Gallery (information on how to view AR written below – is it large enough?

Documentation of physical assets, images, and videos are here:

Doll House Physical object – the scratch-built doll house originates from the likely the 60s, based on a very ‘ordinary’ urban house (30s); chosen for its ‘ordinary’ and hand-built form. Walls were then covered in my doodles (abandoned house – myth of the black house etc). The idea was then to ‘haunt’ it with AR artifacts.

Three AR events can be seen in the top three rooms: Energy ball on left, Crow in the middle, and text on the back wall in the right room. Each item type chosen to call on folk horror imagery (via urban myth), drawing on the ‘attraction of obsolescence’ that decaying familiar domestic buildings communicate so well. ‘A Witch House’ in my mythos.

AR event one – Energy balls, what you see below is the first render out of Maya (after a lot of things NOT working) – however not quite lively enough!

Several trials and errors later… 3 days of play; here’s a low-res version of the final video for this element of the doll house; reversal to extend the length and to fit within the 8 seconds permitted output of Artivive for its video (they specify 45 seconds as most people will watch).

particle effect energy ball final video
Mapped onto the image/wallpaper on the back of the doll house wall of right upper room, shown below

doll house decoration with my doodles back drop ‘painting’ for Artivive AR

Second doll house AR is animated crows. I wanted a flock of them coming out but couldn’t find footage where they come at you in space….this was the nearest I could find. Stock footage was then edited in Pro for size and clarity.

The final footage with duration changes

3rd AR – text – placeholder

Desk images and sounds. to come

video footage teaser (just the first 8 seconds) of the AR as viewed through the camera lens – the bird seems to disappear into the wall leaving a rather wonderful shape at the end – very happy with what it looks like inplace (despite worries about the bird clipping the framing).
and the particles (8 seconds of footage) – the 3D worked really well here and the size fits nicely in the space – perhaps a bit overstated but at such small scales that’s what seems to work best.

24/10/2 The content of the last animation took a while to figure out in terms of what text I felt worked with the other images and with the overarching concept. I had in mind something that looked like graffiti but which has an occult flavour. Trawling my witchcraft books, I felt that some things felt too esoteric for a folk horror context, hermetic obscurism isn’t really in the mode of folk magic and folk horror. I happened to watch (for the fourth time), a film version of Macbeth (2015 dir Justin Kurzel) (a film that brilliantly translates the text into atmospheric visual storytelling). I went back to words spun up by the three witches, scouring their speeches for something that sat right but which wasn’t so easily identified as ‘hubble bubble’. The power of three, nine times nine.

The next task was to find a visual modality that was readable but acted as a bridge to the energy ball. I was also worried about readability against a busy background. So usual process..built and lit in Maya, put together in Pro and then worked up in After Effects; black background to ensure transparency in Artivive.

here’s some work in progress

Cleaned up doll’s house image (my doodles pasted onto the walls) to help Artivive recognise the image in a dark context.
Maya screen grab – Maya work in process. Particle effects mapped on to text (3D), and lighting (3 lights – area and spotlight). Rendered out using Arnold.
Premier Pro editing of the sequence – changing ratio and playing with the lighting.
After effects – SFX more glow – not too much or the text won’t be readable in the context of the doll’s house and its busy background. Record of inserts.
Final animation for the ‘text’ element of the installation piece. Pleased with it perhaps rather lost the smokey effect because of the way that the glow FX smoothed the text.

Images of this at the Sticks and Bones show to follow.

Crow Desk concept, photos and film 08/11/22

The concept/proposition: create a haptic audio event relevant to a folk horror theme, using a vintage school desk. Key referent was a scene in The Wicker Man, where a desk is opened by the policeman to reveal a beetle attached to a pin by a string. The aim is to give the impression that a flock of crows flies out of the desk when it is opened.

Inside the desk is a raspberry pi to play the audio file and to trigger it as the desk opens. Some problems with the sound level have been solved (not sufficient headroom on the audio recording). There was an intention to include a motor in the desk to make it randomly move to suggest something was inside it but this ran into resource issues and just the sound-triggered haptic was made. I particularly like the muffled sounds of the crows when the lid is closed. but the sound file was playing – the trigger method was tweaked to work if you just bang on the desk instead of just when it is opened. What worked – the connection to the theme seems strong and it works with the use of crows within the AR for the dolls house and the reference back to FH key text The Wicker Man. The desk concept/actuality seems a suitable addition to the thematic ‘sticks and bones’ as a outshoot of folk horror. The film below is without the sticks inside the desk that will cover the Pi and speaker.

Crow desk demo

Tech learning (ie what I looked up on YouTube):

Aesthetic/my practice learning

The value of working with AR in relation to my own practice. Opening up to more installation work and making the images MOVE – very much in keeping with my focus on animism & magic.

What’s next?

I’m next intended to work with Vuforia as that will provide more flexibility than Artivive even though Vuforia is browser-based which is a bit of a drawback.

By tanyakrzywinskablog

After working in the computer industry and spending some years conducting research into cinema and digital media, I became convinced that the innovative qualities of videogames as participatory media required closer academic attention. As such I have spent most of my career championing the inclusion of games within the academy, and arguing for games as an art form, a role I continue as a Professor at Falmouth University. Alongside this, and my scholarly work on the Gothic, I also maintain, in various forms, a visual art practice. This blog comes out of enrolling on the MA Fine Art degree programme at Central Sr Martins. It is mainly a record of my reflections on the work that I have undertaken for the degree. After having written about folk horror in games and cinema as an academic, this blog will focus on folk horror as a focus for my art practice.

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