/ Remote
Oriol Ferrer Mesià, Andy Cameron, Federico Urdaneta, Daniel Hirschmann
5 November, 2005

Other images: (Click to enlarge):

Remote is a visual and musical instrument based on real time and near real time input from global webcams. It is about sequence, repetition and musicality, both auditory and visual. It is generative in that it uses events out of the users control as the basis for animated musical loops. It is interactive in that the user can modulate the timing, length and combination of these loops to compose their own sequence in real time.

The sofware installation grabs images from a range of web cams around the world, saves the images to hard disk and then allows a player to play them back as looped sequences. The result is a time lapsed moving sequence of visual loops with a strong musical quality. In addition the playback software tracks changes between images in the sequence, formats them as MIDI and sends MIDI to Logic to create an auditory corollary of the visual sequence .

The playback interface allows the player to select which web cam is playing, change the number of frames in the loop and change the number of frames per second. For example, the player can select a web cam in New York's Times Square and change the loop from a sequence of 3 to 4 and then to 48. By selecting web cams in real time and changing their loop lengths, the player can ‘jam’ with web cams from around the world.

As new images are downloaded and become available for sequencing, the installation presents a slowly evolving set of musical possibilities based on whatever is happening in front of the remote web cams. The installation thus balances generative and interactive models in a single audio visual artwork.

The installation comprises a network connected G5 dual processor Macintosh, projector, speakers and either a keyboard or custom button interface. The custom software is made up of two modules – Collector which downloads new images and saves them onto the hard disk, and Remote which sequences the images. The installation also uses Logic and instruments from Garageband.

The currently installed version of Remote uses 4 instruments per web cam – acoustic bass, two xylophones and a drum kit. The instruments are mapped across the 4 quadrants of the image – top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right. Frame by frame changes in these quadrants will trigger notes from the instruments. Pitch information is generated depending on where the change between frames takes place along the vertical axis within a quadrant – the higher the position of the change in the image, the higher the note generated. The tracking software generates coloured squares to indicate when a change has been detected and when a MIDI event generated. This further serves to underline the connection between visual and auditory musicality which Remote seeks to exemplify.

The system was developed at Fabrica during 2005. It was first seen in public as part of Heiner Goebbel’s opera ‘Surrogate Cities’ at La Fenice, Venezia, 28 September 2005. It is now being exhibited at the Fabrica exhibition “I’ve been waiting for you” at the Triad Gallery Seoul, as part of the 4th New Media Arts Biennale in Korea.

Programming: Oriol Ferrer Mesià
Sound Design: Federico Urdaneta, Martyn Ware, Asa Bennett
Idea and direction: Andy Cameron
Physical Interface: Daniel Hirschmann

See videos here and here