The Wonders of Internet Collaboration

When I was a child I dreamt of many things. From acting, singing, drawing and dancing, I wanted to do it all! Just like most children, the world was my oyster and I could see no reason why any of this could be unattainable.10326369_1507031152850623_853988464_n
But then I grew older and started to become more aware of how others perceived me and what made me happy in life. I started pushing my wants and needs aside to focus on a more ‘realistic’ way of life and, just like the grades that defined my education, I became critical to the point where I was too anxiously crippled to even attempt to chase those dreams that I had once seen as such a positive goal for my life.

As the years passed my innocent and simple approach to living a life filled with creative ambition seemed to fade into a distant memory. I couldn’t see the point in spending time on something that I could not receive a physical reward from and I had forgotten the simple pleasures of simply doing something for no reason other than to feed my own creativity and happiness. Life got in the way, there was hardly any time in the day to do what society needed of me to squeeze anything else in between. Work, school, friends and family. Simple in it’s own right, but none of it was solely for me. None of it was fulfilling the dreams and hopes that remained locked away in the back of my mind, next to childhood memories of happier times.

It wasn’t until I forced myself to leave these comforts, to stop living the life that felt almost too perfectly laid out for me, that I realised what I had been missing since becoming an ‘adult’. By locking away these passions I had forgotten who I was, I had locked my own uniqueness away. By this time I had packed up my belongings and moved hours away from my home town, distancing myself from loved ones and the life that I had become so accustomed to living. From this distance I noticed the small child inside of me that was screaming for release in every birthday present that I meticulously handmade, and every school assignment that I found any excuse to put in extra work for if I could turn it into an elaborate video, drawing or music piece. These were the parts of me that defined who I was, but because I could find no purpose for them I had laid them to rest for all these years.

So, without my old life to distract me, without worry of others judgment from those who I admired around me, I finally opened up that dusty box of hopes and dreams and spread them all over the internet. It sounds ironic when I explain how a few physical people could make me feel so anxious about my creations, yet I could share them with a global audience online, but the Internet hosts a completely different environment. People here can see your creations, be that drawing, singing, animations, writing, and sure they can judge but they are miles away. They don’t know who you are personally and that makes their judgment less personal and more constructive, which only pushed my creativity even further. On the Internet you cannot help but find inspiration around every corner, through videos and blog posts, people from all around the world doing what they love for no purpose apart from the fact that it simply makes them happy and they want to share this with others. They’re proud of who they are and what they can achieve. They understand that they’re ‘work’ might not appease everyone, it might not meet the expectations of an ‘A*’ grade. But that’s not the point. The point is… Nothing really. That’s the point. Why should we feel the need to constantly impress others if we are already satisfied?

I digress, there is more that the Internet has to offer than just a place to host our uniqueness and creativity. The Internet is able to bring inspiration to others, to make us all realise that it’s okay to let their inner child out. But even better, the Internet makes it easier to achieve our goals through the wonders of global collaboration. Do you want to animate but you can only draw? Do you want to make a film but can’t act? Do you want to sing songs but can’t play an instrument? If you’re brave enough to show your dedication to your dreams online then through the wonders of the Internet, there’s someone, maybe multiple people and amazing communities out there who can help you achieve your goals.

TLDR: I have been singing ever since I was a child, choosing to write songs and poems in every note book that I could find and putting on performances in front of my friends and family every chance that I could get. This filled my life with joy and passion until I was told that this way of life could not last, I could not make a living from it and I would never be able to surpass the competition that would surround me in this industry. My mindset around these passions changed from naive happiness to suddenly being aware that however I spent my time should be supplying me money and a means of living. But that simply isn’t so. I need to supply myself with happiness over anything else (of course money is a factor that we all have to be aware of, however it doesn’t always have to be the driving force).

Through the internet I have found a community of so many wonderful, tight-knit and likeminded people that don’t judge me for spending my time doing what I love for that simple fact. In fact that’s what brought them together, that’s what makes them so unique to me, and that’s what helps me to achieve my hopes, dreams and goals that have been engrained in me ever since I was a child. From sharing what I love and what makes me happy I’ve attracted others who enjoy what I do to offer their talents and passions to for me collaborate with for no other reason than because it would make them happy. That’s beautiful.

The result of this? My first fully produced and edited music video. Yes, it might look silly to some, being dedicated to my favourite childhood game, but that’s irrelevant. I did what I love, I sang and I wrote lyrics. But I collaborated with a most talented and passionate music producer who I am now working on an EP with. I edited and created VFX. But I got to film with an equally talented and passionate videographer who made the video quality so much more crisp than I ever could have achieved on my own. Even better, I reached out to a community online who send me audio and video files of themselves to flesh out the song even more, becoming a harmony within the final song and appearing in the music video itself.

Not a penny spent, not a penny gained, but I’ve never been happier to set the child within me free.

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‘Who is Terror?’ – Interactive Video using Raspberry Pi

This past year I have been chosen as one of the first 9 Raspberry Pi Creative Technologists in the UK; each of whom have come from different creative backgrounds, such as animation, photography and even magic! Throughout this programme we were shown various uses of the Raspberry Pi, a miniature and affordable computer, as well as the basics of how programme in Python, create functioning circuit boards and use hardware form the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins. We learned this all with the ultimate aim of using this new technical knowledge to enhance our creative skills that we already had; helping us evolve from ‘Creatives’ to ‘Creative Technologists’! We then showed this newfound knowledge off with a project of our very own to exhibit at a Raspberry Pi Creative Technologist exhibition held and ran by ourselves!
rpctThe exhibition went extremely well, being held in Cambridge at Raspberry Pi Headquarters, and I couldn’t help but be so inspired by all of the creative projects surrounding me; from a projection mapped pop-up book to a html game that lit up a sculpture the more it was played. Every project was completely unique and equally amazing!

So what was my exhibition piece? AN INTERACTIVE VIDEO!

Before I go into details, watch this video to get a good flavour of the project and also see some fun clips from the exhibition 🙂

The Hardware

I used:

  • Raspberry Pi 2
  • Motion Sensor
  • Buttons
  • Bread Board
  • PiCamera
  • HDMI Cable (Connected to a monitor or, in my case, projector to play the video)
  • Speakers for local audio output, attached to the Pi

Before starting this programme I knew nothing about circuit boards or physical hardware engineering, but for this interactive video I knew that I needed some physical interaction to change the state of the video so I needed to use some hardware. I needed two buttons and a motion sensor to be hooked up to the Pi at the same time using the GPIO pins on the Pi itself.

motion sensorThe motion sensor could be connected straight onto the Pi using a 5v pin, ground pin and whichever number I wanted (and would have to refer to this number in my Python script). The wires should be connected correctly according to what is stated on the underside of the sensor board and to the correct pins, you can check this by seeing a Raspberry Pi 2 GPIO pin chart online. Luckily there is a lot of documentation of there of how to set this up such as this blog post on the Raspberry Pi blog itself.

ButonsThe buttons however needed to be attached to a bread board, which worked well for me as I could then decorate this bread board afterwards and stick it onto the outside of my decorated dolls house. For each button I needed one cable to be connected to a ground pin and another to be connected to a numbered pin of my choosing (like the motion sensor, I would refer to this pin number in my Python script). Again, there’s much documentation out there about how to easily set this up, such as this blog post on the Raspberry Pi website.

To double check you have everything wired up okay you can simply open up the Python editor on the Raspberry Pi and, looking through the GPIOZero documentation, use some simple test codes to check whether the inputs are working as the be expected. It’s worth noting here that the motion sensor does have two potentiometers (little orange screws) that allow you to adjust the sensitivity of the sensor and the detection time.

As well as this I attached the PiCamera straight onto the Pi by inserting it into the camera port, stated on the Pi board, with the blue strip facing towards the USB ports. To ensure the camera was enabled by the pi I opened up the terminal and typed sudo raspi-config to show the configuration settings and made sure that the PiCamera was enabled.

It’s worth noting that when running videos off the Raspberry Pi it’s wise to split the GPU! I split mine to 128 but it may need to be higher for larger video sizes.

This may all sound like a mess of wires and cables but here’s what the project looked like in the end:

physicalhouse

Hidden within that dolls house is: the Raspberry Pi, speakers, motion sensor and the PiCamera, hidden behind a physical cut-out of ‘Terror’. The HDMI cable connecting to the projector, through which the video will be playing, comes out of a hole at the side of the house. As you can see, I’ve been able to disguise the bread board well by turning it into a sign for the audience to know which button does what when interacting with the video.

The Code: Python

Packages and libraries used:

To ensure that I had what I needed installed on the Raspberry Pi, ready to use it in my code, I ran ‘sudo apt-get update’ and ‘sudo apt-get upgrade’ from the terminal (the sudo is needed to that the computer knows you’re a super user… Yes, kinda like a superhero!… But not really)

You should then be able to run ‘sudo pip install [package]’ from inside the terminal and be able to install the libraries and packages needed to put to good use!

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 05.10.47

Setting up the imports and variables is the most important part when coding, so we know what to refer to! To the left is all of my imports, ones that I have mentioned above plus a couple of extras. Includes such as ‘time import sleep’ are very handy as it allows you to sleep your programme while it runs, giving you more control over debugging and the timing in which different parts of the script run at. I’ve also included ‘from subprocess import call’ and ‘import os’ because I was finding that the omxplayer could be a little buggy with playing back audio files and would play them within the terminal but not the Python script, using this I could call a process through the terminal from my Python script.

As explained earlier I have set the variable names for each of my hardware components so that they are easily identifiable as I worked my way through the code. I have stated which GPIO pin each component is connected to so that the script can access them.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 06.02.14After this I added simple functions such as the terrorcam() function which was called whenever the audience pressed the rightbutton and would use OMXPlayer to pause the video, then display a camera preview from the PiCamera with an overlay image of Terror’s haunting eyes staring out of the cracks of the dolls house (don’t forget the camera is within the dolls house, hidden behind a cut-out of Terror). As well as this it uses the terminal to play a sound clip of some unnerving breathing, sleeps for a second and then stops the camera previw and uses OMXPlayer to play the video again. To create the image of Terrors eyes to overlay over the camera preview I simply zoomed into my existing image of Terror and made sure that the image size was of the same output size of the camera preview; 1280 x 720.

Top Tip: If you’re struggling to debug, add print comments to every action the script has to take. That way you can see where the script reaches before it breaks and what needs your attention!

Tweeting an image to twitter with customised overlay

The internet is a wonderful place, full of open-source code and well documented tutorials! Much like RaspiTV’s well documented tutorial on how to tweet an image with overlay text and a logo, this I was very happy about as I really wanted the image of the person who peeked into the house to not only tweet them, but show them within the ‘Terror World’ that they had just seen within the video. So it’s as if I had brought them into the narrative itself!

whoisterrorAfter creating my own @WhoIsTerror twitter page and setting up an app through http://apps.twitter.com I was then able to retrieve my own Twitter consumer keys and access tokens to use the code presented within the RaspiTV blog post and looked in to ImageMagick to understand more about the positioning of an image on top of the picture that it taken by the PiCamera. By reading this documentation I saw that by changing RaspiTV’s code to ‘-gravity center -composite’ I could simply have my image overlaid directly in the centre of the image that had been taken by the PiCamera. All I then needed to make sure of was that my image was the same size as the output of the picture taken by the PiCamera so that it would match up perfectly.

The end result turned out looking great! A picture was taken and my scene, a .png image of the street of ‘Terror’ was placed over their faces, putting them right in the centre of the action!

terrortwitter

Looping the script

Surprisingly, (or unsurprisingly to some who know better), the most difficult part of the coding process was the part that I had assumed would be the easiest; getting the script to loop throughout the day so I didn’t have to keep running it each time a new person came to experience the interactive video.

There seemed to be a bug with the OMXPlayer being ran through Python that when the video finished playing it would kill the OMXPlayer entirely, disregarding the variable that I had originally set at the top of the script for my video file.Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 06.04.59

So what the genius Ben Nuttall did was put the variable within the while loop, and changed the experience slightly so that the pi waited for motion and when triggered the tweetpic() function has to be called before looping again. This way the video file will always be assigned and ready to play!

Conclusion: Having a physical object made the whole narrative a lot more immersive and fun for the audience involved! 

If you would like to see how I created the illustrations and how I used projection to bring those illustrations to life around me then check out this video:

Feel free to contact me if you would like to chat about interactive videos, immersive experiences or anything of that ilk! All ideas, questions or proposals welcome 🙂

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Patreon – Fund me… If you wanna?

Patreon is something I have known of for a very long time now. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s a website that allows content creators (of any kind) to be funded by their audience if they want to, having them pay a certain amount to them each month to help fund their creative living and goals.

To me this idea has always seem half amazing and half stingy… I didn’t know if I was ‘good enough’ or ‘working hard enough’ to earn the right to ask people outright for money. I would think of the idea for a fleeting moment and then shrug it off by reminding myself that I don’t create things for money; I do it for my own creative outlet and the payment of others happiness from viewing and experiencing my content is enough.

Now, this is still very much the case. However I have recently been trying to set a more scheduled ‘work flow’ for my YouTube videos, gameplay live streaming and other things relating my YagmanX community as I often seem to be hoarded with so many ideas surrounding it but can never find the time to make it happen. However, I’ve noticed that I’m finding it hard to prioritise this as much as I so desperately want to. There are many reasons why this is (University being an obvious major point) but one main one is simply money. However much I insist I don’t care about it, I need it. If I find a job offer or get an email about a business meeting that could lead to a potential job then, even though I may not fully want to, I have to drop what I’m doing and go for it! I have to research for that certain job instead of work on a cool idea for a next video, I have to travel to the workplace instead of travel to events that could benefit YagmanX.

This might be coming off as moany. I hope it’s not. I’m so grateful that I have what I have and I’ve worked so hard for it so it’s so refreshing to see my reach growing, to read lovely comments and to receive such positive motivation from the online community. But I want to do more, I want to have more time to put more effort into what I love and giving you all the best that I can! To get more time it would be nice for me to not have to worry about money as much to fund my university studies and living, it would be nice for me to finally stop hoarding my ideas to myself and have them become rusty in a forgotten part of my memory.

I guess I just need to put my hands up and say: Yes, a little help would be lovely thank you.

So maybe Patreon wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all? It could make all the difference! It could mean more videos, better quality, being able to comply with the content you ask to see more of, more interactive creations, more time to spend communicating with you all. Or it might just make no difference at all. But I guess that’s all up to you. I’ve had so many lovely emails asking for a way to show their gratitude, which still baffles me! So perhaps this way it would be beneficial for all of us 🙂

Anyway, I’ve set one up. Yup, my own Patreon account.

If you have as little as $1 a month to give then it would mean the world to me and you would help me towards my dream for making more content, more frequently and at even better quality! There are even some perks for those who do want to make a donation 😉

However, if you can’t afford to or simply don’t want to then honestly, it’s perfectly fine and I totally understand. Just being involved with my content is enough to make me happy so thank you!

https://www.patreon.com/yagmanx?ty=h

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Creating a 360 interactive music video for YouTube (on a budget)

After days of getting my head around what best video qualities to use for these super stretched-out 360 videos and how to create one from my digital assets as well as what in the world FFmpeg was, and ultimately battling with my computers constantly overloaded hard drive, I have finally created my very own 4K resolution 360 interactive music video!

Now I’m writing down all of the steps that I used to reach this point for my own benefit as well as yours as I intend to be playing around with 360 video a LOT more! This is only the beginning of a beautiful journey…

First things first, I don’t have the money for a beautiful 360 camera to record my videos on; I know, boo-hoo, poor me! Instead I can use my knowledge of the digital-verse to my advantage and create all the assets I need from there! Ultimately I’d love to play around with creating 360 videos from animations that are specifically tailored for that medium; but let’s not get ahead of myself, first of all I need to know the basics of how to even get a video to render in 360 in the first place!

My weapons of choice were Maya, to create all of my 3D assets and make the little scene that my audience will be able to look around in! Originally I wanted to also use a 360 camera in Maya to render out the 360 video but I also really like what can be done with animating video and adding effects like smoke and other things easily within Unity3D so instead I decided to go with exporting my scene into Unity3D, replacing all of the textures and adding the necessary tweaks, such as rippling water on top of my underwater scene, lighting, and then animating the main camera slowly around so that it pans the area while the audience can have a good look around.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 16.24.57

After creating all of this I then found this wonderful little tool from the Unity asset store called VR Panorama 360 Renderer which made my life 10x easier! It’s not free but I felt it was worth the £30 or so that I spent, this tool allows you to render out your camera animation as stereo 360 panoramas and 4k videos. I tweaked the settings to allow high quality and have the settings ready for YouTube (how to set these is all in the Readme file of the VR Panorama 360 Renderer, with inbuilt settings for 4k YouTube format), saving them out as an image sequence. Then was the dreaded wait while my laptop went berzerk, making all types of strange noises! I must have done this at least 5 times until I was happy with the desired video at the end, some of the images would end up corrupt because of my poor lil’ computer, but if you have a much better one then this shouldn’t be a problem, I just had to have my video a bit shorter than I wanted but I’ll work on this for next time!

Anyway, once the image sequence has been rendered then it’s time to use FFmpeg, and wow is this useful once you get your head around how to use it! If you don’t already know then look up a little on how to navigate around your computer using the command line, there’s loads of useful videos and documentation online.

Here’s the command that I used to do the magic and create my video ‘test.mp4’ (later renamed) from my folder of images that I just made.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 10.09.19

Let’s start from the beginning: I didn’t use macports, like a lot of websites will suggest, to install FFmpeg, my computer didn’t have enough memory for all that jazz so I simply got the FFmpeg file and moved it somewhere that i could easily find it, in my home directory, and then referenced this when using it to make the new video.

With this in mind, watch this video that helped me greatly with how to do this. The number 25 related to how many frames per second and image2 simply means that it’s looking for image files. My start number is the number I wanted my video to start from within the image sequence, as I said my computer corrupted a bunch so I had to start from a little way in and then have this correlate down the images to create the file. These image files were all named as such: ‘img_00645.jpg’, ‘img_00646.jpg’, ‘img_00647.jpg’ and so on. Because of this we need to tell the computer that the image numbers are 5 digits wide and integers counting up, we do this by stating ‘%05d’ in between the image name, so overall it is ‘img_%05d.jpg’. The next part is to say what

This would have been easy peasy, if I hadn’t wanted to add audio along with it. Now, all I have to edit video is iMovie, have I explained that I have little money yet? So my initial thinking was to simply load the new video into iMovie, add my song over the top and then share it out as a new video. NOPE, NOPE, NOPE! iMovie automatically crops the video, meaning that it will work as a 360 video, but there will be a huge line appearing where the video can’t stitch together correctly because it’s been cropped. Now we have a problem….

So back with my learning of FFmpeg, as it turns out, it can also add audio to a video, perfect! Below is what I used to add the .mp3 file to the video file, for some odd reason though, this only seemed to work when I output a .mov file, but for the YouTube 360 Python script to work (which is the LAST STEP, don’t worry you haven’t missed anything) we need a .mp4 format. *Sigh* more work… It’s fine, we’ll get there eventually. This command didn’t work without using the ‘-map’ which states which source is the video and which is the audio. More on that here.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 12.06.57

I’d like to stress now that I know there are some programs that I could use to convert these, and I did try multiple ones, attempting to make my life easier, but all they did was lower the quality considerably which actually made my life harder. By attempting to get my head around FFmpeg I was able to keep a high quality which is very important when uploading 360 videos as because it’s so wide and get wrapped around it will seem worse quality anyway, we want to import the video in as high a quality as possible so that it’s still enjoyable to watch!

With the audio and video merged into an mov file, all there was to do now was to export that again as an .mp4 file using FFmpeg again:

mp4

Gosh, nearly there! And the quality is still amazing which baffles me! So now I had to actually inject the piece of Python script that would make YouTube see this video as a 360 one. YouTube have a video on how to do this here. Watch the video and then follow the github link to see that it’s completely different layout than the original video helping you understand. Oh, the joys of the internet. So instead of downloading it, go into the releases tab and download the previous version before it got all fancy and updated, it still works fine.

Once this is downloaded you can follow the video step-by-step, putting the Python script in your home directory and running it on your video that you want to render as being 360 for YouTube:

youtube

Then upload and viola!!! It should work! If it doesn’t then be patient, mine took about 10 minutes after processing to actually become 360, all that time I was scratching my head and ready to cry but all I had to do was be patient! The video was even in 4k resolution as well, even after all those changes!

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 12.21.54

EDIT

Okay so, I noticed that my song was a tad longer than the 360 video, which was fine because the video just stopped playing while my song trailed off to an end so it didn’t seem too abrupt or weird… But me being the silly perfectionist I am just needed to edit the video. I want a fancy fade in and a nice cut away at the end to round off the song. So I opened it back up in iMovie hoping to find a solution and BOOM! I realised that I could adjust the cropping… WHY DID I NOT THINK OF THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE?! The whole reason why I didn’t use iMovie was because it cropped the video but I can just manually have the whole video fit in the frame. What a numpty.

So after editing it how I liked I then exported it at the best quality that I could (high quality and 4k), took the same steps to add the python script to the .mp4 file and uploaded it to YouTube to see which video came out more crisp and clear.

And guess what, the iMovie video did come out as 4k as well it didn’t look as crisp as my original video at all, even when I watched them in Quicktime Player before uploading them I could tell a difference. You can have a look at the iMovie version but I have decided not to make it public. As well as this you can see a black circle where I have fitted the video to the iMovie editor, so I guess it wasn’t so simple after all!

Overall I’m very pleased with the outcome of my first 360 video. It’s well put together, showing no lines or seam edges and is probably the highest quality of video that I have on my entire YouTube channel! Now I just need to find a way for me to be able to edit the video and have full control over audio within the 360 video. I also want to experiment with putting videos inside of my 3d scenes, so it look someones perceptive of watching a television screen.

It hasn’t been easy but it’s sure been fun and I can’t wait to make more 360 videos! If you would like me to make one for you then do get in touch or if you want to come up with ideas about what we can create with this awesome medium then let’s chat!

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Part of A World I Can’t Understand

As I sat in my university room, stressing over deadlines to meet and work to be completed I scrolled through Twitter and saw of a decision that I had thought to be simply illogical. A debate that had been talked about for the past week, that had called for marches and gatherings all around the UK, that had been the forefront of every social media website and newspaper article that I had looked at. Of course I’m talking about the decision for the UK to bomb Syria. I realised then that my worries of a university deadline were obsolete; there is much more going on in the world that worries me far more than a late essay hand-in.

Fallout-Vault-Boy-SadThis debate had been playing on my mind for the past couple of days, keeping me up at night as I scrolled through feeds full of the videos from Syrian survivors, articles of the atrocities that have been happening all over the world; what they have done to us, and what we are about to do to them. Playing Fallout 4 I can’t help but push back the worry of living in a post-apocalyptic world, because nobody can know what the future truly holds and war never changes. Becoming excited about the new Star Wars film I am reminded of the Rebel Alliance who fight so valiantly against the Galactic Empire, and if our world was like that of Star Wars then which side is which?

Of course, this is the real world, not some game or movie franchise. But that’s exactly it. This is real life. Real lives are in real danger and we can’t simply blame good or evil because in all honestly things are never quite black and white.

I’d like to say now that I am naive. I do not know everything about what went on in the House of Commons, I have not heard the details of both sides of the debate. I am still relatively young, and well, I guess I am known to be a bit of an optimistic dreamer.

But I just don’t understand how a decision like this has been made. No, I’m not talking about the decision itself as, to be honest, I don’t want to go too far into that debate for the reasons stated above and the obvious notion that I don’t want to anger or upset anyone who may disagree with what I have to say. I’m talking about the way that the decision has been made and who it has been made by.


As I scroll through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Medium, the list goes on, I see countless pleas against such an important and life-changing decision in the form of debates, articles, videos, status’, etc. People are crying out for their country to hear them but the only ones who get to make the decisions cannot be reached. How can we do such an act in the name of our beloved country when it seems that the majority of people living here are against such act? Do we get a say in how we should be handling our worldly matters?

In any situation; be it a creative project, a career change, a marriage proposal, a fresh perspective from persons outside of the involved situation is always a positive one. In fact it’s even encouraged! So where is the fresh perspective when making a decision as dire as this? I cannot simply sit back and let somebody else make a decision on behalf of this country when I believe it will not benefit anybody, not the opposition or even ourselves. My opinion is my own and my reasonings are ones that I understand might not line up in the same way as others so I do not wish to shun or disgruntle anyone who thinks otherwise, I can respect a healthy debate and other opinions. I just want to understand how this has happened and how the UK citizens, those who live and work hard to live within our own country can become a part of this debate.

Should we be expected to just sit back and carry on with our lives? Should I just pick up my pen and carry on with my university studies without giving another worry toward this situation now the decision has been set in stone? I simply cannot. I sit within the walls of a warm house with a fridge filled with food and my family a comfortable phone call away and it pains me to know that I should be blissfully ignorant within my ‘safe haven’ of what atrocities are really happening within this world of mine, of ours. I suppose I should feel lucky. But I have a burning desire within me to help those less fortunate that is always held down under a pot of fear that’s constantly teetering on edge ready to douse the flames.

But despite this, I do want to help. I want my opinion to be heard; to be taken into account. Doesn’t everyone?

We need our opinions to be heard so that we can help. Because people need help.

Have a cat to lighten the mood

Have a cat to lighten the mood

I’m not too sure how to end this rant. I just needed to write this all out to calm my racing thoughts and to perhaps see if others feel the same. I wish it were as simple as me just pulling my warm duvet over my head and forgetting today, or any other day happened. But I can’t and I mustn’t because as I said; people need help. I can’t help if I’m hidden.

On a lighter note, this is why I love YouTube and all of the wonderful community surrounding YagmanX, together perhaps we can be a little louder and maybe one day be heard. Either that or we’ll gather enough folk to make the biggest and most badass space ship ever and maybe I’ll find somewhere that I can actually understand. With you all.

Thank you to everyone who supports me, it means the world to me (and as you can see I do really care about the world). I hope you’re all safe, well and happy.

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Open Frameworks Workshop with Joel Lewis [RPCT]

One of the major perks of being a Raspberry Pi Creative Technologist are the workshop weekends we attend, where we get to go to a totally different city and meet with inspiring and knowledgable individuals that can help us on our journey towards our final exhibition and showing off our digital projects!

Last workshop we visited London to spend the weekend over with Joel Lewis at Hellicar & Lewis; a craft, design and technology studio that specialises in engagement. Here, Joel opened our minds to the wonder that is open Frameworks!

Hellicar & Lewish RPCT

Open Frameworks is ‘an open source C++ toolkit for creative coding’. Yes, creative coding, that’s a thing! On first glances oF can seem quite intimidating with it’s countless amounts of libraries, add-ons and documentation attached to it. For us, taking a look through it all, we couldn’t help but get immediately excited about everything that oF had to offer us, from projection mapping and facial recognition to graphic rendering and animation as well as so much more! But without some guidance it’s easy to become overwhelmed by it all.

Lucky for us, Joel Lewis is an open Frameworks wizard and quickly squished any negative or fearsome thoughts we may initially have had by showing us some of the inspiring work that he and his team at Hellicar & Lewis had produced using this framework. They have created work for organisations such as an interactive arctic dome installation for Greenpeace, and commercial pieces for brands such as Nike with an interactive live broadcast for of Nike’s ‘Festival of Feel’. However, what impressed me the most was how they had used what the framework had to offer to create pieces of technology to help make people’s lives better; one major piece of work being Somability. This is a series of technology applications which included interaction such as visual amplification and rhythmic interaction, these put together promoted expressive movement and collaboration among people with profound and multiple learning difficulties.

Joel explained how using open Frameworks for his projects was like putting a puzzle together. Instead of having to get bogged down with the long-winded ‘codey’ and mathematical parts of the problem, all that has to be done is to search for the different functionalities that you wish to use; be that particle manipulation, beat detection, whatever you wish! Open Frameworks is likely to have the code already there for you to use, or at least have something close to what you need. Then all that’s left for you to do is the creative process, fitting the puzzle pieces together to create something new and utterly awesome! Of course, sometimes these puzzle pieces might not always fit snugly, the code may need to be tweaked to suit our projects needs so Joel led us through the simple steps of changing an application that had already be made. From importing libraries to manipulating the design and display of the application in relative to the mouse movement, we quickly realised that there was nothing to be intimated by with this framework, it was a matter of tweaking code that was already readily available for us and, overall, having fun!

Joel also emphasised his love for the open source community during the workshop. Gone are the days where people want to hide their work and keep their findings to themselves so as to become better than their peers; todays world is all about being open and sharing with the community! Every library and add-on within oF has been created by somebody and shared freely, asking for nothing in return. That might sound crazy but in reality it’s actually very clever! Not only do you help others (such as myself) to learn how to code by looking at examples and tweaking bits that are already there to suit my own needs, you also get the benefits of the community building upon your initial piece of code, fixing bugs or even making it better than you could have yourself. Heck, somebody might even see your open source code and offer you a job from it! An open source community is also a friendly one, one where people actually want to help others instead of simply focus on their own projects, and therefore the open Framework’s forum is always full of people willing to pass on their knowledge to others and help wherever they can; which is great news for us newbs!

Joel Lewis and RPCT

After the weekend at Hellicar & Lewis I’m left feeling very excited about what open Frameworks and the open source community surrounding it has to offer and can’t wait to start piecing together my own puzzle!

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My Future Goals- Film and Games (University)

It’s been a while since I have written a blog post here, for that I apologise. What’s my excuse? I’ve been sorting out my future, or at least attempting to figure out what sort of future I envision myself having. But I guess we never really know where we envision ourselves being in ‘5 years time’, so instead we just have to focus on what makes us happy and what we feel most passionate about.

Which has brought me to university! I had a lot of doubts about university, mainly because of how ridiculously expensive it has become but the more I thought about spending 3 years immersing myself in what I’m passionate about, developing my skills and emerging my own styles, I knew that I wanted to go. I still have such a yearning to learn, a thirst for knowledge that hasn’t been quenched yet! Not to mention the wonderful, creative people that I have already started to meet along the way!

Left to right- Chloe Debonnaire, Nicole Harman-Smith, Natalie Hodgins, Connor Albinson, Billie Williams

Left to right- Chloe Debonnaire, Nicole Harman-Smith, Natalie Hodgins, me, Tarald Tvedt, Sugini Nageswaran, Billie Williams, Connor Albinson

But, what knowledge do I hope to achieve through my 3 years at university?

Originally I was studying Digital Film and Screen Arts, with a strong passion for film in a new-age sense. Living in a world where reaching out to the other side of the world is just a keyboard click away I see the film medium as the best way to reach out to these people, through websites such as YouTube or Twitch we can easily reach out to one another, influencing and connecting with others lives through a screen and hopefully having a positive impact on them. This is the kind of film that I have a passion for; it’s the social side, the interactive nature, the communication and impact that happens around the video itself.

However, since starting the course I began noticing that the interactivity that I so craved to learn and innovate with does not reside within the film industry already and so cannot be taught by a film-based course. As it’s not the professional quality that I’m looking to delve further into, it’s the impact that I can have on viewers and the community that I can create through offering a more interactive and immersive experience with my videos.

I love games. I’ve always loved games. They offer what films never have, a chance to become the starring role; to become truly immersed in the narrative by developing emotional attachments with the in-game characters and ultimately controlling the flow, or even nowadays, the outcome of the narrative itself.

lava monster

Painted in photoshop

So perhaps I’ve been following the wrong route and instead of trying to bring new interactive elements into the already well-established film industry, I could take what I so love about film and bring it with me on my journey through understanding and experimenting with the interactive and immersive elements that are offered to me within the gaming industry.

Plus, being able to create 3D worlds, draw 2D characters and put them all together using object oriented programming to tell an immersive narrative is pretty darn cool!

If you would like to follow my progression within this Computer Game Arts course then follow my university blog: http://yagmanx.blogspot.co.uk/

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Brighton Mini Maker Faire – Emoti

Since developing Emoti at the Art Hackathon I couldn’t help but look around for events that I believe could help get our little project out in the public eye. What better event than a Maker Faire?! (Especially one that’s in one of my favourite seaside cities in the UK, Brighton)

ASSEMBLE EMOTI DREAM TEAM!

emoti team

Only a few of our original team could attend the Maker Faire; (from left to right) Bawar Jalal, Milton De Paula, myself and Katherine Hudson. Together we started brainstorming how we could get Emoti to be shown in all of it’s glory at Brighton Mini Maker Faire! Starting with a web page and a concept to use Emoti as a way to showcase Hackathons and the power of what can be created out of merging techies and designers, we signed up as Makers and awaited our confirmation.

The email came back a week or so later, EMOTI WAS IN! We were going to be Makers with our own table space to show off our project and do as we please; this was to be my very first showcase of Emoti, or anything as a matter of fact!

As the Maker Faire came closer we discussed how best to display our visual installation and all agreed that a dark environment was needed for the audience to experience Emoti’s message and colourful beauty fully. Because of the audio that we have incorporated with the installation it also works best with headphones and in an intimate, enclosed space where the viewer can’t be disturbed by their surroundings. We finally decided that the most feasible and effective solution would be to place Emoti in a large rectangle box, draped in black cloth for the audience to pear into, this would also cause some curiosity about what is inside the box which will hopefully attract people to come and check Emoti out even more. (we’re all suckers for the unknown!) Luckily, Katherine’s house mate, James Sargent, is a carpenter who was very kindly able to offer us help with this.

emoti boxbusiness cardsWeeks of perfecting the site, tweaking Emoti and creating personalised business cards went by until suddenly the Brighton Mini Maker Faire was only a couple of days away and I was on my way to London to get together with our dream team and start the set up for our installation.

The first day was spent collecting all of the equipment needed for the creation of the Emoti box: wood, black cloth, glue, nails, etc. We then had a hand at carpentry, under the watchful eye of a professional of course (James Sargent). Luckily we made the box with all fingers in tact and smiles still on our faces. Atop the box we fitted Katherine’s newly made Emoti logo which gave the whole structure a much more polished finish that we could all be proud of.

Enough rambling, how was the event?!

Being in Brighton was amazing, myself and another Emoti member, Milton, arrived on the day before the main event to set up the Raspberry Pi, placing it within the HDMIPi and putting it all together into our brand new Emoti box. This was also a great opportunity to have a sneak peak at what was in store for the main event! Looking around at all of the tech, twinkling lights and crafts I couldn’t help but feel excitement roaring inside of me, especially when free pizza and beer was announced!

Brighton hostel viewSleeping in a hostel that night lead us to meeting even more interesting people who had travelled from around the world and fallen in love with the small seaside city of Brighton. I can’t blame them, it really is a beautiful place to be! After a night of talking to them about their adventurous travels and explaining Maker Faire’s, technology and Raspberry Pi with them, we fell asleep, ready to face the fun-packed day of Brighton Mini Maker Faire!

However the next morning, DISASTER STRIKES! Bugs have appeared from seemingly nowhere, yet the doors are opening to the public! In a frantic frenzy we code like man men (and women), hoping to get Emoti up and ready for the event as soon as possible. But of course we don’t want to confuse the people, so what should we do? Reference Seven of course! With a “What’s in the box? – Come back at 11” sign on top of the box we started to spark some curiosity and (hopefully) distracted the public from the real problems that we were encountering behind the scenes.

It’s not long until Emoti is back up and running, ready for people to marvel at the wonderful visualisation of the emotional state of the twitter-verse! It was so exciting and exhilarating watching people become drawn to our black box out of curiosity and take a peak inside. COJnE3uWgAEe0iRThose who hadn’t read what it was about became confused very quickly by the blocks of colour dancing around the screen and different audio clips clashing together, understandably so, and I was more then happy to explain to them exactly what our sculpture was showing them; how it was using real-time tweets to represent the overall emotions of twitter through colour and audio. Watching them understand the concept and become excited about it themselves was the best part, each person who came out of the experience explained how overwhelming it could be to become immersed within the box, especially once they understood what was being shown to them.

Many people had ideas of their own for Emoti, such as using it in the news and only pulling the data from people who were tweeting about a certain topic to try and determine the emotion that the majority of the public were feeling about a certain topic or event. This Emoti webpage could replace the background of the newsman as a visual representation of the emotional state of the world around the most recent news stories. What a genius idea that is!

I now completely understand why people love to bark on about how amazing open source is! When you open your creations and ideas to the world it can spark other people’s creativity, having them expand upon the initial idea or project, leading to people working together to make something even more incredible than the original creator could have even imagined!

maker faire

Overall my experience of Brighton Mini Maker Faire was an overwhelmingly positive one. Not only to showcase Emoti for the first time, but also to check out so many diverse Maker projects and workshops, from technology to hand-made arts and crafts! Everyone I encountered there was full of enthusiasm to share their knowledge and excitement to learn from those around them as well. The Maker community is simply a bunch of friendly, creative and intelligent people; most of whom are essentially big kids who can’t help but tinker with things and make cool stuff, even if it has no purpose, and that’s what makes them all so much fun to be around.

Watch my video on Brighton Maker Faire for more information:

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Raspberry Pi Creative Technologist: Origins!

Me and Pi

For years I’ve felt trapped in an endless battle over where I want to be in my ‘career’. Conflicted over my mutual passion for both narrative and using technology to be endlessly creative with the stories that I come up with. It seemed the war over what society deems as ‘creativity’ and what I perceived to be true was never to end.

From education where I used my initiative to adapt my ‘media course’ to include games development and web development units along with the usual film and radio ones, and left hoping to mould my own future the way that I foresaw it. But instead, fell into a trap of corporate ideals within the working world; forcing me to choose between the forward-thinking robots of the ‘tech’ world, or the pitches and brainstorming world of the ‘creatives’, with little room for anything in between.

creative technologists

This is when I stumbled across the Creative Technologist Programme by Raspberry Pi. This programme advertised itself to be ‘focused on supporting and inspiring young people who are interested in creative uses of technology.’ My jaw dropped, excitement splurging as I frantically applied to the best of my ability (a total of 3 times by accident, perhaps a bit too eager)

Tadaarrr!

Thus concludes the origins of how I became a Creative Technologist!

Raspberry Pi Towers

As a Creative Technologist I’m able to meet inspiring people from the Raspberry Pi community, from those within the Foundation to those attending Raspberry Jams and other events / meetups. Draw knowledge from successful individuals with other companies such as Hellicar and Lewis, FutureEverything, Pimoroni and more. Gain experience from getting involved in hackathons as well as independently learning about technology and what can be achieved with it.

All the while I’ll be working towards a top secret project which will be exhibited by the end of the programme, around April of next year.

Throughout this time I’ll be updating this blog with my experiences throughout the Creative Technologist programme; where I go, who I meet and what I learn. Everything! Apart from my project…

My project remains TOP SECRET!

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Why I left London

melndon

I awoke groggy, alcohol still lingering in my system from last nights leaving drinks. Co-workers, senior management, ex-colleagues, all of whom I class as friends me andnaturewere there to give me the best send off by buying me endless drinks, recounting my first days at the company and eagerly questioning where my next adventure lays…

Reaching my usual London underground station, I pass the crowds of busy people, rushing to get to work and suddenly feel the urgency in my pace slow. This is the last time I’ll be here, going on this route to work. I look around me at the faces of strangers, tired eyes burning into phone screens and newspaper articles, and wonder: have I travelled with them before? Was I always in too much of a rush to notice? Why do they never look back at me? Why do we never speak? The tube pulls into the station and the all familiar uncomfortable shoving begins,  it seems us Londoners forgot what English folk are well known for; queuing.

My thoughts shift, showing a petite girl, timidly stepping aside for people to enter the tube, not wanting to be a part of the awkward intimacy that came with forcing herself onto the packed carriage. She held her head low, trying to hide the panic that she felt rising within herself. For a girl who used to be too scared to even talk to a sales person behind a counter, moving to London as the first time of living away from home was a BIG deal, one that would change me forever. I’ve come so far from being that timid girl, afraid of the sweaty confrontation within rush-hour on the London Underground.

So many times that girl wanted to escape London, to run from the stresses of a new environment, to run from the expectations of a fresh and fast-paced job role in the advertising world, to run from the loneliness of being in a city which held so many people who ironically were so distrusting and ignorant of one another as strangers.

Now, two years on from the timid girl who entered London for the first time, I have left. But I haven’t escaped. I left because of what London had taught me, how it moulded me, and I will never forget that.

What did it teach me?

London is filled with success. It’s a city that’s known for it’s opportunities, career-focused inhabitants, innovative events and luxurious life style. This is all true, although the life style is far from ‘luxurious’ if you can’t afford it. The most luxuries my house shares offered were the rare moments when the mice decided to move on to another home and the boiler worked for more than a few weeks, but that was all part of my character building. (Plus the mice were actually kinda cute.)

Coming from the laid-back seaside city of Plymouth, Londoners were the most ambitious people I had ever met and I couldn’t help but look at them in awe. From the ‘big-shots’ with their fancy job titles, to the creative ‘hipsters’ with a vision who seemed to simply have luck on their side, but always knew deep down what they were doing. secretcinemaIt’s true, Londoners might not seem like the most considerate and friendly of people when they’re rushing to their next conference meeting or in heavy thought over their next ‘big idea’; but these people know success, they’re surrounded by it every day! Within this lifestyle it is the norm to dream big and to work hard for it. Where else would you hear of a successful cereal café or an over-the-top cinema experience that makes you dress up and gives you roles before you even reach the event?

You’re probably wondering why I left such an inspiring city. But that’s just the thing, I don’t believe it’s the city, I believe it’s the mindset that makes these successes. The people I met in London are so positive about their visions and aren’t afraid to take chances and fail a few times before they get to where they envision themselves being. They simply won’t settle for anything less than their own aspirations.

That’s where moving comes into this. I may seem ‘successful’ to others by having a job as a Developer in a well-known advertising company and living in this fast-paced city that others only dream to live in; but that’s not my aspiration.me tree I have a need to travel, a longing to explore overgrown forests and jump into the chilly English waters, a want to embrace strangers and fill their lives with a little more joy. I have a dream to understand narrative, play with storytelling mediums and create things for myself; to work hard but with a passion and a love for the work that I produce.

Living in London has taught me to chase my dreams and never give up. That with hard work come great rewards. Leaving the city that opened my eyes to how attainable success really is was scary, and I’m still not 100% sure of where I will end up to obtain my goals; but I know that I can, and I know that I will. I’ll take this essence of London life and keep it with me throughout my life-long adventures.

I will not settle for anything less than my own aspirations. Nobody should. We are all worthy of success if we just believe it.

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