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Mixed media

interacting with the future

Article from The Mix, April 1995

Your passport to future worlds

As technology continues its exponential curve into cyberspace, keeping abreast of developments can be a nightmare. Rest easy as Mixed Media takes you by the hand and tiptoes through the tulip field of sound and vision that is Multimedia

The mouse goes scouse

If proof be needed that the use of electronic media in film, video and art is becoming increasingly popular, then Liverpool's Video Positive 95 festival is the sticky jam-filled custard pudding. Starting on the 29th April, and continuing until the 6th May (with additional exhibitions scheduled until June 4th) this is, to date, the largest gathering of computer-animated film and video to take place in the UK. The whole festival takes place across eight of the city's galleries in 50 different events, ranging from exhibitions, installations, performances and seminars.

Amongst the exhibitors are remnants of last year's V-Topia, including a repeat performance of Graham Ellard and Stephen Johnstone's interactive cinematic voyage, Passagen, and a new exhibit by Lynn Hershman titled America's Finest; peering through the sights of a rifle at all manner of historic atrocities. How macabre.

Other works include several UK and international premieres, such as Not Final; an infinitely looping film of an aircraft plunging to the ground; the CD-ROM gallery, where viewers can participate in the selection of artwork in the computer, and The Toy Box; published on CD-ROM, this is an interactive piece consisting of twenty small scale projects. You can even buy yourself a copy of The Toybox on CD-ROM (Mac format), which also includes a guide to the whole Video Positive festival.

As well as these, and an unaccountable number of other artworks, there is a series of seminars at the Tate Gallery all encompassed by the broad title of Technocultures. A complete festival calendar is available to buy, which incorporates a detailed guide, additional essays and articles, costing £6.50 (plus £1 postage and packing in the UK). The Toybox CD costs £15.50 (plus 50p postage and packing). Whatever your views on the invasion of computer media into the art world, there is bound to be something from the few weeks of pixelised paraphernalia to suit your taste. Whilst all Video Positive exhibitions are free, some of the other prices for screenings and performances vary. For unlimited entry to almost all of the events, you can buy a Video Pass for the whole festival at £20 (£15 for concessions), or for just the weekend dated April 29-30th at £10 (£7.50 concessions).

More information can be obtained from Moviola at: Bluecoat Chambers, (Contact Details).

Video Positive - Main events

29 April
Seminar Tate Gallery
Games of Art and War
Screening Unity Theatre
Performance Bluecoat Concert Hall
Screening Unity Theatre
Access All Areas

30 April
Seminar Tate Gallery
Who's Looking at You?
Screening Unity Theatre
Long Live the New Flesh
Screening Unity Theatre
Ireland Stories

1 May
Screening Unity Theatre
Decent Exposure

2 May
Performance Bluecoat Concert Hall
Learning to Fly
Screening Unity Theatre
Mittel Europa

3 May
Education Tate Gallery
Student Conference day 1
Screening Unity Theatre
Accentuate The Positive
Performance Bluecoat Concert Hall
Poetry Slam
Screening Unity Theatre
Student Programme

4 May
Seminar Tate Gallery
Student Conference
Screening Unity Theatre
Screening Unity Theatre

5 May
Seminar Tate Gallery
Electronic Nation
Event Tate Gallery
Rapid Eye 3
Screening Unity Theatre
Beauty and the Beast

6 May
Event Blackburne House
Live Wires
Seminar Tate Gallery
Art, Science and the new 
Screening Unity Theatre
Performance Palmhouse, Sefton Park
Screening Unity Theatre
Fuzzy Logic

Windmills of your hard-drive

Soften the picture with a bit of de-jagging

When God created the universe, he had an infinitesimal amount of space on which to weave his masterpiece. Had he had just two pages, God may have found it a little difficult cramming everything in. Last month, we began exploring Apex Media, but owing to a finite canvas (unlike the omnipotent one's), the animation features were left out. Until now, that is...

Apex's transport bar allows animations to be played back in whole or part. A box on the menu bar dictates this: 'A' selecting all frames, 'F', just the currently displayed frame, and 'S', a selected range of frames. The latter is most useful for performing edits, cuts, and overlaying other images and animations over specific frames. Animations can be combined in a number of ways; straight forward edits (where the loaded animation overwrites all the frames selected), is the most simple way. Some interesting effects can be achieved using the 'overlay' and 'underlay' options (setting different masking colours), when merging animations, or even static images. The most obvious use is when applying a cel animation to a background, as they do in cartoons.

With the motion blur utility it is possible to make everything look as though you've drunk dry a brewery

In addition to the morphing and distortion effects, Apex has some other quite extraordinary devices for manipulating animations. Motion blur works by taking the frame before, and the frame after, and creating a 'ghost' copy of both on the intermediate frame. The effect is to create a blurring motion as an object is moved. Whole or part images can be affected, depending on the setting of the user-definable area selector. A different kind of blurring can be obtained with the image de-jag tool, although unlike the motion blur, this tends to be more useful for single frames only. You can perform this several times over, the picture becoming softer after each application. Uses for this include the tidying up of noise in digitised images, and for creating subtle backgrounds.

Also for cleaning up digitised animations and stills, are the noise and motion suppression buttons; applying these can save a huge amount of disk space, compressing the file content, and removing unwanted pixel information (each pixel using 2 bytes in true colour soon adds up!).

The new Expose card should be available by the time you read this, offering true colour-digitising and video for the Falcon and Apex. Expose has the ability to capture true colour images of up to 768 x 512 pixels in 24-bit (true) colour. Real-time capturing works at the highest resolution of 512 x 320 in 16-bit colour, with resolutions of 6fps at the slowest, and 25fps at 128 x 80. The card features two connectors for S-VHS and RCA-type composite, ensuring compatibility with most home video equipment.

The 'picture in picture' (or PIP) facility allows on-screen video images to be displayed in any GEM program, so you preview images whilst performing edits in other programs. An accompanying program maps the incoming digitised image on to a cube, which in turn can be spun and zoomed in on, all in real-time. Expose costs £369 when bought with Apex Media (even if you've bought Apex already, you're entitled to the special offer).

More from: Titan Designs, (Contact Details).

Cultural attachments

Should the UK ever become part of Europe, rather than just a pokey little island off the side of it, we ought to get used to communicating with our continental neighbours. And when the French have a new programme of computer-animated films, there seems like no better excuse for a bit of communiqué. The programme, aptly titled Connected, includes work by Marco Caro (KO Kid), Beriou, Michel Bret and Cecile Babiole, all culminating in 75 minutes of 'sophisticated experimentation and flair'.

Performances start on the 26th April at the Institut Francais, and then on to an appearance at Video Positive (see guide) on the 29th. The National Film Theatre will be the next destination on May 1st, finishing off on the 2nd with a screening at the CCA in Glasgow.

For more information, contact: Institut Francais, (Contact Details). National Film Theatre, (Contact Details). CCA, (Contact Details).

Fuzzy Update

The next performance in the Digital Underground series at the National Film Theatre is by the internationally acclaimed computer artist William Latham. The film, titled Unearthly Delights, features a complete collage of Latham's work, including some never-before-seen material made especially for The Shamen.

The imagery contained within the marathon 75 minutes takes the form of computer-generated genetic algorithms, creating and mutating strange shapes. Some Unearthly Delights take place at the National Film Theatre, London SE1, on Thursday, April 20th at 8.30pm. Also, a number of other programmes in the Digital Underground series are touring the country, including Fuzzy Logic, previewed last month.

Telephone the NFT for more details on (Contact Details). Alternatively, you can find out about material in the Digital Underground series by emailing Film and Video Umbrella at: (Contact Details)

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Heavy fretting

Publisher: The Mix - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

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The Mix - Apr 1995

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Chris Needham

Previous article in this issue:

> Toolbox

Next article in this issue:

> Heavy fretting

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