Very Public People

I was recently involved in a project called Very Public People led by Ania Bas that took place at The Public in West Bromwich:

The Very Public Person project is the brainchild of artist Ania Bas, and will see visitors to The Public meeting a variety of individuals who play a part in West Bromwich’s community.

The talks will celebrate the input of people who contribute to the life and culture of the area.

As an interviewer of a “Very Public Person” I just had to ask them about who they are, what they do… everything that makes that person who they are. It’s the sort of thing you see in interviews with celebrities where they talk about themselves for hours on end. Despite how self-indulgent that may be it does make the person feel special and unique

To me, this project is all about making the community feel important and making them feel like celebrities. Everyone in a community, not just West Bromwich, has a story to tell and in some way contributes to making that community unique. Why not celebrate this?

The “Very Public Person” that myself and another interviewer spoke with really embodied someone who was proud of their city and local community. He’s around 60 years old and has lived in West Bromwich most of his life. He’s seen businesses come and go and has witnessed many changes in society and in the landscape, including the building of The Public, which is where the interview took place. There has been quite a lot of criticism of the gallery, with some people feeling like it’s a big waste of space in the wrong city.

In some ways I can understand their concerns. Why build a new gallery in a city not widely known for its culture? I think that The Public may just be the kind of radical thinking that is needed to raise a city’s profile. Whether it works or not is down to the public (I know, bad pun!) and their reaction. The person I interviewed seemed quite enthusiastic about the building and the idea that a city should celebrate its history but also concentrate on building a more vibrant future that can eventually celebrate more, newer success stories.

There will be a book containing snippets and photos from the interviews and at some point you’ll be able to visit the gallery to hear the interviews. I’ll alert you when it’s ready.


I was showing a friend some open source software for design and evenetally came to Alchemy. Within just 10 minutes of srcibbling and then doing a bit of post processing in GIMP 2.7 I had this:

Click to download the psd file. Made in GIMP 2.7

I like when accidents like this happen

Live coding at fizzPOP

Ever since I went down to an Openlab workshop last year I’ve been fascinated by live coding. From Wikipedia:

Live coding (sometimes known as ‘interactive programming’, ‘on-the-fly programming’, ‘just in time programming’) is the name given to the process of writing software in realtime as part of a performance.

I thought about doing live coding for myself ever since, so at fizzPOP‘s latest hack session I thought I’d make use of massive screen and try a bit out for myself using a purpose-built program called Fluxus, which uses the Scheme programming language.

fizzPOP Hack Session: 18th February (by hellocatfood)

I had briefly looked at Fluxus before but had never actually built anything in it or even used Scheme before, so stuck to modifying one of the example scripts provided in the program. Here’s a video of my results:

You can see that an aspect of live coding is seeing how something is built, which could explain the decision to overlay the code over the visuals. I quite like it, some might not.

I’ll be attempting to do some more livecoding at the next fizzPOP hack session on March 3rd

Dataface update

You may remember from my earlier blog post that I’ve been working on a databent typeface. It was mentioned a fair while back now, but I have been doing bits of work on it every now and then. Here’s a bit of my progress so far:

Ass you can see some of the characters are more recognisable than others. In fact, looking at it again I can’t really remember what some of them were. As I’m planning on having most characters mapped out, in upper and lower case, progress will be a bit slow, so I’ll aim for April for a completed font.

Visualising BitJam

On Thursday 4th February I was Stoke-on-Trent for BitJam. I still don’t have anything ready to show on stage but thought I’d use the night as a testing ground for some of my ideas. I wanted to investigate ways in which to interpret what was happening around me. The main performance of the night was from a chap called Arctic Sunrise

For my first test I fired up Alchemy and attempted to draw the music. Alchemy fortunately has a few tools that can make your sketches react to sounds. They are Create > Mic Shapes and Affect > Mic Expand. Here’s the result of using both of them together

Visualising BitJam (by hellocatfood)

And a nice little animation of those done using GIMP and Openshot.

The next method was to use the Echobender script on a webcam pointing at the stage. Obvious errors in the sound recording actually kinda complimented the video. However, I’m a lil bit disappointed by the speed of the script at the moment. I may investigate doing something similar in Processing.

The final method involved a bit of post-processing. I made a short compilation of clips I shot at BitJam and then opened the video in a text editor and replaced loads of text with other text. The output was then reencoded using Avidemux

So, there you have it! Now to figure out how I can turn this into some sort of performance

Streams of data

One of my overall goals is to find a way to databend live video. I’m sure there’s a way to do it with Processing and PureData but I’m not yet proficient in those programs so they’re out of the question for now. In the meantime I thought to try and hack the Echobender script to databend my webcam images.

>tonyg provides a great tutorial on how to convert live webcam images into audio, which I’ve used as a starting point for my hack.

The process for making it works is as follows:

  • Images from the webcam are saved to the computer
  • These are converted to a .bmp file then renamed to a .raw file
  • Sox applies an audio effect to the .raw file
  • The .raw file is converted back to a .bmp then to a .jpg
  • The updated webcam image is displayed to a window and updated once every second

Sound overly complicated? It probably is. Like the Echobender script you’ll need ImageMagick and Sox but we’ll also be using Webcam, which you can install via sudo apt-get install webcam

If you haven’t already, create a file called .webcamrc in your home directory (/home/yourusername) and enter this text into it:

delay = 0
text = “”

local = 1
tmp = uploading.jpg
file = webcam.jpg
dir = .
debug = 1

Now create a file called grabframe, place it in your home directory and fill it with this:


while [ ! -e webcam.jpg ]; do sleep 0.1; done
convert webcam.jpg frame.bmp
cp frame.bmp frame.raw
sox -r 482170 -e u-law frame.raw frame2.raw echos 0.8 0.9 5000 0.3 1800 0.25
convert -size 640x240 -depth 4 rgb:frame2.raw -trim -flip -flop output.bmp
convert output-0.bmp output.jpg

To start things running, open up three terminal instances:

  • In shell number one, run webcam.
  • In shell number two, run “while true; do ./grabframe ; done.
  • In shell number three, run display -update 1 output.jpg


I know it’s quite slow, but I haven’t yet found a way to update faster and it’ll still be restricted by the time it takes Sox/ImageMagick to perform their conversions.

Thanks again to tonyg, Imbecil and Mez for their help and inspiration


Myself and Mez recently finished a script called Echobender that automatically databends images.

Click to view on GitHub

To use it you’ll need:

  • A computer with Linux installed. I don’t have a Windows or Mac PC so I can’t test it on those
  • Sox. On Ubuntu you can install it via sudo apt-get install sox
  • Convert, which is part of ImageMagick. On Ubuntu you can install it via sudo apt-get install imagemagick

Once you have those installed just execute ./ from the terminal and then drop a .jpg or .bmp file into it. The output will be in a folder called “echo”.

If you look closely at the script you can see a way to convert any data into an image! I’ll leave that one up to you… Here’s the source code for all those interested:

Thanks to Imbecil‘s MPegFucker script for much of the inspiration.