Databending: Where next?

I’ve been exploring databending for awhile now and whilst I quite like it I do wonder where it can go next, or rather, where I can take it next. Whilst I like the chaos and apparent random results achieved in opening up an image file in a hex/text editor and mucking around I feel that more could be done with the result. I feel that the modified image (or sound) should part of a design, not the design itself. With that in mind I’ve been doing an experiment mixing the chaotic but more controlled output of Alchemy and several modified images

April (by hellocatfood)

Essentially what I have done with the images is applied a clipping path to them using a few of the shapes present in the original image. There of course is then scope for editing the SVG in similar ways.

April Bent (by hellocatfood)

This is a very similar technique to preparing a .psd with many layers and then modifying it. It has been discussed whether this way of using the resultant image constitutes databentbending, but you could argue that with databending you’re attempting to reproduce and control the output of a glitch or error and so if you’re then able to control it it is no longer an error.

Regardless of classifications I’d really like to see where I can take databending next and how I can incorporate errors into design.

Chiptune Marching Band

On Saturday 24th October I was at Space Studios in London to attend the Chiptune Marching Band workshop. I was really excited to go to this as I haven’t had a chance to dedicate my time to a single project with my breadboard and Arduino board.

Chiptune Marching Band (by hellocatfood) Chiptune Marching Band (by hellocatfood) Chiptune Marching Band (by hellocatfood)

After introductions we got down to making our noise making device. Essentially we were following instructions from a booklet, but more in depth explanations to how the different parts work were available if requested. My device had a light sensor which altered my sound, as shown below.

Once we finished our devices, which happened rather quickly, we took to the streets of Hackney to engage the masses in our noise!

Chiptune Marching Band (by hellocatfood) Chiptune Marching Band (by hellocatfood) Chiptune Marching Band (by hellocatfood)

There was a performance from pixelh8, Dave Giffiths (who I saw at OpenLab earlier this year) and others later on in the evening, but a slow train back home meant I had to miss it.

As usual this is exactly the sort of thing I’d like to see happening in Birmingham and the West Midlands. fizzPOP, which I run with help from Nikki and others, and 8Bit Lounge are going some way to filling this void and hopefully there’s some good news coming up in the next few days.

All You Can Eat Zine

All You Can Eat Zine

Zines by a.a.s Group, Lizz Lunney and ATTA girl

On Thursday night there was a whole host of cultural events going on in Birmingham. The one that I spent most of my time at was the All You Can Eat Zine event at the Sunflower Lounge hosted by Gallery Of Owls.

Since last year they’ve been regularly making atheir own zine, the GZEAN. Soon after An Endless Supply appeared and from the amount of zines available last night it seems like there is a small, but dedicated zine culture in Birmingham, which is definitely inspiring and reassuring for people looking to start their own.

The general price range was about £2 for a zine, which seems fair. Taking a flick through you could take a guess at how some were produced. For example, you could see that An Endless supply is made on computer with desktop publishing software (and possibly the a.a.s Group zine) whilst ATTA girl and GZEAN are clearly put together by hand. In a way it’s reflective of how times have changed and access to tools increases and learning curves to use software decreases.

There were also a few performances. First up was Richard Peel who did an adaptation of Dracular in about 10 minutes. The two actors mimed to the vocal track which really did make it funnier!

Richard Peel Richard Peel Pez on Drums

The next that I saw before I had to leave was Pez on drums. He had ambient music going throughout the speakers which he drummed along to. In a rather experimental twist he’d sometimes hit his guitar with his drum stick which worked quite well. Have a look and listen for yourself.


(The sound didn’t come out as expected, but I like it more for that reason)

Going to this event really inspired me to start up a zine again. Midge was right in saying that you can sometimes overthink yourself out of doing a zine and part of it is just getting up and doing it.

Watch this space!

8Bit Lounge

8Bit Lounge

I’ve been helping run a night at the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath called 8Bit Lounge. To explain what it is imagine the coming together of beer, Gameboy music/chiptunes and old consoles!

A male hippo, apparently Justin and Mark battle it out @genzaichi and @stef on X-Men @peteashton on the decks

There’s been two nights so far, the most recent being Tuesday 6th October, which you can read about over at fizzPOP.org.uk. We’re somewhat lacking in 8Bit consoles (the lowest bit number was a 32bit Sega Saturn with 10-player Bomberman) but that’s something I hope to remedy when I get my Commodore 64 down from the attic

I’d like to see more things like the improvised music that we had at the last night and also things like livecoding, which has taken off big time in London recently. Still, it’s all early days.

The next night is on November 3rd so come on down!

Family Portrait

After seeing some of my recent work I was asked to do a family portrait. The last time I did a portrait on such a large scale was in 2007 in Adobe Illustrator and the last time I did a realistic portrait was probably back in 2006 of an old photographer buddy. I’ve been using Inkscape for just over a year now and whilst I’ve been doing little bits and pieces I haven’t actually done a major illustration.

As always I started with the outline first and filled it in with basic colours. I used GIMP and a very useful cutout filter to help me visualise how I was going to layer the colours and shapes that I needed. From there it was a simple case of refining and perfecting! Have a look at some of the progress shots:

1 2 3 4

The finished product looks like so and is probably my favourite piece this year:

The finished family portrait

The finished family portrait

The finished result was printed onto a canvas and is mounted on their wall. Yay!

If you’re that kinda person you can have a look at the wireframe of the image:

wireframe 1 wireframe 2 wireframe 3 wireframe 4

Overall working in Inkscape was quite easy in terms of drawing. One bit of praise I often hear about it is its drawing and node editing tools, and it really did feel quite easy to draw this. However, there are two areas where I feel Inkscape hindered my creativity in creating this piece.

The first is how it implements brushes. Inkscape does this by using the Pattern Along Path Live Path Effect, which in some instances can be more useful than Illustrator’s brush tools. What I feel some users want is for the pattern to act as the stroke of a path and to still be able to edit the fill of a path. This would’ve been very useful for me when drawing the hair.

The second is it’s lack of extensive layer blending modes. Currently Inkscape has five layer blend modes, which includes normal/no blend and these can only be implemented on layers, not individual objects. As far as I know you were able to set the blend mode for each paths in 0.44, but it was removed for technical reasons. I achieved the effects in my earlier work by, at times, combining over ten different blend modes on individual objects. Take a look at this walkthrough by popular vector artist verucasalt82 and you’ll see why it can be quite handy. So, in the absence of blend modes for individual paths could we see a few more blend modes, overlay in particular?

With all of that said, you can see that Inkscape is still a very capable program. I overcame many of the problems I described by just doing things a little different than usual.

Ubuntu Bug Jam

Ubuntu Bug Jam

From Friday 2nd to Sunday many Ubuntu, Linux and Open Source enthusiasts descended upon the Linux Emporium to take part in the Ubuntu Bug Jam. In the words of an Ubuntu blogger, the Ubuntu Bug Jam is:

…a world-wide online and face-to-face event to get people together to fix Ubuntu bugs – we want to get as many people online fixing bugs, having a great time doing so, and putting their brick in the wall for free software. This is not only a great opportunity to really help Ubuntu, but to also get together with other Ubuntu fans to make a difference together, either via your LoCo team, your LUG, other free software group, or just getting people together in your house/apartment to fix bugs and have a great time.

This is the second time I’ve been to a bug jam. The first time I went I hadn’t even used Ubuntu, so only managed to report one bug and otherwise mostly focused on reporting stuff in Inkscape as I use it more often.

This time was a similar affair. Apart from testing out the beta of the next release of Ubuntu (the Karmic Koala) and asking for help in fixing bugs in my own system I mostly spent time testing bugs in Inkscape and suggesting features for future releases of Ubuntu.

Overall, I think reporting any bug in any package or program helps everyone and one thing I really like about open source is its transparency and honesty in its errors. That is, it’s not ashamed to admit that there are a few bugs here and there.

Making a Disco Ball using Blender and Inkscape

Awhile back I started doing a few experiments using Blender and Inkscape together. One of my creations from this was a ball.

Blender/Inkscape Sphere (by hellocatfood)

Recently one Inkscape user created a tutorial describing how to make a disco ball directly in Inkscape. Looking back at that ball that I made it kinda resembles a disco ball, so I decided to write a tutorial on how I did it.

This tutorial assumes that you know at least something about Blender and Inkscape. If not, go look at these tutorials for Inkscape and these tutorials for Blender. As with any program, the more you use it, the better you get at it.

We’re going to need three things before we begin. First install Blender. It’s available for Mac, Windows, Linux and probably any other system you can think of. Did I mention that it’s completely free? Next, install the VRM plugin for Blender. This is a free Blender plugin that allows you to export your Blender objects as an SVG (the file format that Inkscape uses by default). I’ve discussed the usefulness of this plugin before. Lastly, install Inkscape, if you don’t have it already. I’ll be using a beta build of 0.47, which should be officially coming out within the next two weeks. If not, just grab a beta build as it’s pretty stable.

Once you’ve installed these programs open up Blender and you’ll see the cube on screen.

The cube is usually the first thing you see.

The cube is usually the first thing you see.

Depending on how best you work you may want to switch to Camera view. You can do this by either clicking on View > Camera or pressing Num0 (the 0 key on the keypad). What we now see is what the camera sees. If you were to export this as a jpg or SVG this is the angle that you’d see it from.

oooh, shiny 3D!

oooh, shiny 3D!

We need remove this cube and add a UVsphere to the screen. Right-click on the cube and press X or Del to delete it.

Bye bye cube!

Bye bye cube!

To add a UVSphere, in the main window press the Spacebar and then go to Add > Mesh > UVSphere.

Add a UVsphere

Add a UVsphere

You’ll now see another dialogue box asking you to specify the rings and segments. This is important as it’ll define how many tiles there are in your disco ball. Think of these options in this way. The segments option is like the segments of an orange and cuts through the sphere vertically. The rings option cuts through it horizontally. These diagrams might explain it better:

Segments go vertically

Segments go vertically

Rings go horizontally

Rings go horizontally

Put the two together...

Put the two together...

The default is for both to be 32, but, if you want more tiles increase the value and if you want less decrease it. Once you’ve chosen press ok and your sphere should be on screen.

UVsphere

UVsphere

You can reposition, rotate or scale your sphere if needed. To reposition it, with the sphere selected (right-click it if it isn’t selected) press the G key. This grabs the object that’s selected and allows you to move it freely. Try moving your mouse about. This can be useful, but we’re working in a 3D environment which…er.. has three dimensions that you can move along. To move it along a set axis you can either left-click the arrows coming out from the sphere or, after pressing the G key, press the key that corresponds to the axis that you want to move it along. For example, if I wanted to move the sphere along the X axis (the red line) I’d press the G key, the the X key. Now, no matter how I move the mouse the movements of the sphere are constrained to the X axis.

Similarly, to rotate the sphere press the R key and to scale it press the S key. The same rules about constraining it to a certain axis can still apply.

You can do things such as repositioning the camera other such trickery but for that you’ll need to learn more about Blender for that.

With your sphere now ready go to Render (at the top of the screen) and then press VRM.

The VRM options window

The VRM options window

I left the options as they are, but if you feel adventurous have a mess around. When you’re ready press the Render button and then choose the place on your computer to save it and what name to give it and finally press Save SVG. You’ll notice the egg timer appears in place of your mouse cursor to let you know that something’s happening but otherwise there’s a handy progress bar at the top of the screen.

Blender Screenshot

Open up the saved object in Inkscape and voila!

It's an SVG Sphere!

It's an SVG Sphere!

That’s the first part of this tutorial done! The next part draws upon some of my own experiments but is also taken from the original tutorial.

When you’ve opened up the sphere you’ll notice that it’s all one object. This is because all of the paths (the tiles) are grouped into one. You can ungroup it if you want but for this tutorial you don’t need to. Give your object a base a fill and stroke colour. You can do this using either the colour palette at the bottom of the screen or the Fill and Stroke dialogue (Object > Fill and Stroke or Ctrl + Shift + F).

Applying fill and stroke colour

Applying fill and stroke colour

The final step of this tutorial from me is the following. With the base colour selected we’re now going to randomise the colours but within that hue. To do this we’re going to use the randomise filter which is located in (in Inkscape 0.47) Extensions > Color > Randomise.

Leave the Hue option unchecked (unless you want a multicoloured sphere) and then press Apply.

Your finished disco ball!

Your finished disco ball!

There is of course more that you can do to make this disco ball look more realistic but take a look at the tutorial that inspired this one and come up with something of your own ;-)

Click to download the SVG

Click to download the SVG