Coder Beatz

Happy to be working with Birmingham Open Media to deliver Coder Beatz, a creative digital programme focusing on live coding for young black kids in the West Midlands.

Coder Beatz a new creative digital programme for young black kids aged between 11-15 years old.
We are running 4 monthly Coder Beatz workshops between November 2020 and February 2021. In each session we will be teaching kids how to create digital music and visuals using live coding and algorithms. The sessions will be delivered by Antonio Roberts who is a renowned digital artist and expert coder. Being a man of colour, Antonio is really passionate about inspiring young black kids to get skilled up on coding music and visuals.

Kids will not need any music or tech experience, and we will provide laptops and headphones for them at BOM’s art center.

Over four sessions I’ll be teaching how to use TidalCycles for making music and Improviz for making visuals. All of the details, including sign up details, can be found by contacting Birmingham Open Media.

On a personal level I’m really happy to be delivering this programme because during the six-ish years I’ve been live coding at Algoraves I’ve noticed that the scene is very good at addressing gender inequalities but, at least in the UK scene, it’s still very white (which could probably be said of electronic music more generally).

Through delivering the programme I hope to demonstrate the creative possibilities of programming and, while I don’t expect those who take part to become fully fledged Algoraves, I do hope it encourages them to explore ways of making digital music and art beyond the “standard” ways of using tools like Ableton and Adobe software.

I also recognise that there are other issues that need to be addressed to make live coding more diverse. For example, encouraging more black people to build live coding tools, recognising and celebrating the impact black culture has had on digital art/music… And I hope this is part of that process.

Please get in touch with BOM if you’re interested or know anyone who would be great for this!

Design Yourself: Evasive Techniques

In the fourth workshop of our Life Rewired inspired Design Yourself project, the Young Creatives worked with Yoke Collective in a workshop focused on the implications of facial recognition technology.

The group used Yoke Collective’s method of harnessing make up and hair extensions to avoid detection from facial recognition technologies. Combined with the creation of digital masks via SPARK AR as the cornerstone for our video, they explored the dynamics of power and privacy in the digital age. As a response to the workshop, artists Pietro Bardini and Vangelis Trichias worked with Antonio Roberts to create Evasive Techniques.

More information here: https://www.barbican.org.uk/read-watch-listen/design-yourself-evasive-techniques

Blender School, 12th – 29th May 2018

On 12th, 26th and 29th May I’m going to be running a three-part workshops series focusing on how to use Blender.

Blender is a popular free and open source 3D modeling program used by professionals and amateurs for 2D/3D animation, making assets for games, video editing, motion graphics, compositing and more.

Blender school will be a three-part workshop series that will act as an introduction to the software and its features. In these workshops you will be introduced to basic concepts of animation and navigating 3D space, eventually progressing to more advanced concepts and techniques such as particle generators, sculpting and compositing.

In the workshops we will cover:

  • Compositing
  • Interpolation
  • Video Editing
  • Sculpting
  • Modifiers
  • Particles – emitters and hair
  • Navigating Blender’s interface
  • Manipulating and editing objects
  • Using keyframes for animation

Participants will need the following for the workshops:

  • Blender, which can be downloaded here: https://www.blender.org/
  • A laptop. Blender is capable of running on almost all computers. However, as a 3D modeling program it requires more resources than most programs and, preferably, a dedicated graphics card. More details of laptop specification can be found here https://www.blender.org/download/requirements/
  • A three button mouse. Many of the commands in blender require the use of left, right and middle mouse buttons.

Tickets are £20 per workshop. Tickets for the workshops can be purchased here:
12th May, 13:00 – 17:00 – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/blender-school-1-tickets-45729838177
26th May, 13:00 – 17:00 – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/blender-school-2-tickets-45730042789
29th May, 18:00 – 21:00 – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/blender-school-3-tickets-45730155125

Art and Tech Social: Command-line image manipulation with ImageMagick, 7th March

On 7th March I’ll be delivering a short workshop at BOM on using ImageMagick for image manipulation.

Join us for local food and drinks from Southside and get hands-on making with a bunch of like-minded folks interested in art and tech. This new monthly event aims to inspire emerging creatives and offer peer-to-peer tech support in a friendly, collaborative environment. Each workshop is different, featuring a different guest speaker and activities.

ImageMagick is a suite of command-line utilities for manipulating images. Most of its capabilities can be found in programs with a graphical user interface (GUI) such as GIMP or Photoshop. ImageMagick differs in its ability to use algorithms and programming to quickly batch process a number of images, add effects, convert between common and uncommon file formats, apply filters, generative special effects, and more!

In this workshop Antonio Roberts will introduce you to the using the terminal to perform tasks usually carried out by GUI programs. By the end participants will have learnt:

  • how to install ImageMagick
  • How to convert between file formats
  • How to view advanced metadata
  • How to apply a variety of effects to images
  • How to optimize files for print and internet
  • How to create animated gifs with only a few keystrokes

The workshop is free to attend. To take part you should bring a Mac or Linux computer. ImageMagick does 100% work on Windows but the way the terminal/command line works is very different from Unix systems. For those without a Mac or Linux computer please contact louise@bom.org.uk. If you’re feeling brave you can install ImageMagick prior to the start of the workshop.

Pure Data for Beginners workshop at #ArtistsCompute2016, 10th September

On 10th September I’ll be delivering a Pure Data for Beginners workshop as part of #ArtistsCompute2016 in Coventry.

Pure Data Patching Circle

Having recognised that computers have changed society beyond measure #ArtistsCompute2016 is dedicated to mapping, presenting, probing and escalating this impact.

The festival, which is built around a large group exhibition of the same name, features many educational, participatory and enjoyable events including workshops, talks, screenings, performances and parties.

A full, detailed timetable is available here.

The workshop will be a short intense workshop focusing on the basics of using Pure Data and GEM. The workshop will take place from 11:00 – 12:30 at Fab Lab Coventry. They will already have computers there but if you have a laptop please ensure it has Pure Data install and that GEM is working. For details on booking and for information about all the other events please check in with Office for Art, Design and Technology.

One more thing…/h2>
Last Day is surprisingly still installed and is included as part of the festivities. Check it out if you haven’t seen it already before it’s gone!

Coding Camo Workshop – 15th – 17th August

The Office for Art, Design and Technology (led by Ryan Hughes) is delivering its Camouflage Season as a part of Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum’s exhibition, Concealment and Deception and as a part of Leamington Camouflage Festival. For its Coding Camo Workshop on the 17th August I’ll be delivering a Pure Data workshop at the headquarters of Office for Art, Design and Technology at Eaton House, Coventry.

codingcamo

This workshop will teach basic computer code using Processing, Pure Data and Live Code Lab and will result in a collaborative performance. The workshop will be led by Ryan Hughes and participants will benefit from 2 days working with established visiting practitioners, Antonio Roberts and Ashley James Brown. The final day of the workshop will focus on collaboratively composing a new work for performance which explores what camouflage might look like in the age of big data, ubiquitous wi-fi and so called smart devices.

Tickets for this four day workshop and performance are £40 (£30 concessions/under 20s) and can be obtained by sending to Ryan Hughes (rhpcdrs@gmail.com) a ~200 word statement explaining how the workshop would benefit your practice. Deadline is 9th August.

An Introduction to 3D Scanning and Printing, 14 – 16th May

Black Hole Club (the thing that I run) has teamed up with Workshop Birmingham and Backface to present a 3D Scanning and Printing workshop.

3dprintingscanning

Part 1: Saturday 14 May, 10am–5pm.
Venue: Eastside Projects

Led by Tim Milward of backface, a 3D scanning and printing company based in Digbeth, this practical workshop will introduce you to Photogrammetry a 3D scanning process that combines multiple photographic images to create high resolution textured digital ‘objects’ which can be 3D printed or used in digital contexts.

In this practical workshop Tim will demonstrate his professional scanning rig and equipment and will also introduce us to free software that artists and designers can use to make 3D scans. Workshop participants will scan a small object and then, under Tim’s guidance, will use free software to clean up and optimise the resulting 3D mesh and prepare it for 3D printing.

Part 2, Monday 16 May, 6–9pm
Venue: Vivid Projects, Minerva Works, Fazeley St.

Led by artist Antonio Roberts this workshop will introduce participants to Blender a free and open source 3D creation suite which supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline from modeling, rigging and animation to simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking.

Using the 3D meshes produced during Part 1 as a starting point, Antonio will introduce the basics of modifying meshes and optimizing them for 3D printing.

Full details are available on the Workshop Birmingham website. The total cost for the two day workshop is £25 and tickets can be bought here.

Remix Animation Workshop, 19th January

With the closing of my solo exhibition at Birmingham Open Media fast approaching, on 19th January I’ll be holding the final workshop. In the Remix Animation Workshop we’ll explore the art of remixing and reappropriation!

remixworkshop

In this workshop I will introduce open source software programs and discuss ideas around free culture. You will then have time to rework images downloaded from the Copy Bombs and from the University of Birmingham’s archives. Participants need to bring their laptops with the following free and open source software installed:

Any things made in this workshop will be included in the Remix Party on 20th January (more info on that sooooooon). Places free but limited, so book now to avoid disappointment.

Pure Data Patching Circles at BOM

From 16th March to 27th April I ran a four part Pure Data Patching Circle at Birmingham Open Media. It was originally intended to be an informal gathering of Pure Data and “creative coding” enthusiasts but quickly it turned into a course in using Pure Data. Here’s some of what I learnt from running it.

Patching Circle #1

This was an almost exact replication of the beginner’s Pure Data workshops that I’ve done in the past at places such as GLI.TC/H 2012, Vivid Projects and Flip Festival. I first introduced some of the projects that I have done and then dove straight into things like installing the software on different platforms.

This part, in itself, had a couple of issues. The biggest problem is that Pure Data Extended, which is the most feature-complete version of Pure Data, is effectively dead. It hasn’t received an update in over two years and the developer seems to have abandoned any efforts to update it. Because of this I was a bit cautious in instructing people to install this software. However, after evaluating the situation, taking a chance on Pure Data Wxtended, which is still in use today despite its age, seemed a better option than downloading Pure Data Vanilla and manually compiling/installing all the necessary libraries. Maybe one day PD L2Ork will be cross platform (something which may be possible thanks to a graphical user interface (GUI) rewrite effort), and maybe the whole infrastructure of PD will become more mature. Until then, Pure Data Extended was suitable.

Following the installation the very basics were covered. I explained the difference between object boxes, GUI boxes, messages boxes etc, and how to change their properties. These are simple concepts but really important to using Pure Data. People that joined later in the patching circles still picked up a bit of this information, but spending a lot of time on it ensured they understood fully.

The workshop concluded how to use the amplitude of microphone input to control the scale of an object that had their webcam feed as a texture. Not a necessarily useful feature but a great way to introduce interactive visuals and the potential of Pure Data.

One thing I learnt from this first Patching Circle is that there isn’t a big enough community of creative coders in Birmingham and the surrounding area to support informal, peer led meetups. For that reason I devised a course plan for the following Patching Circles.

pdpc_1

Patching Circle #2

Following feedback from the first Patching Circle I took a more structured approach to this Patching Circle. This was definitely the right approach as the topic, loading and using video, can be a difficult one to grasp and so needed a structured way to teach it. Loading videos is a surprisingly long-winded task. One point I emphasised is that in Pure Data nothing is assumed. For example, just because a [gemwin] has been created it doesn’t mean that it automatically renders its graphics. the [1( messages needs to be sent to it. Similarly, when working with video in Pure Data, even though a video is loaded it will not automatically play – that requires the [auto 1( message. Also, there is no direct function to loop a video. Instead a user would tell the [pix_film] object to go back to the first frame when it has finished playing all the frames. Yes, this is looping, but there is no simple [loop 1( message. Finally, being able to control the speed would require the user to manually advance frames and specify at what speed to advance to the next frame. This brings in the problem of knowing how many frames are in a video. A solution to this is shown below.

pdpc_2

We concluded the patching circle by learning how to add in custom controls using the [key] command. Having GUI boxes such as [tgl], [bng] etc allows a user to interface with the patch by using their mouse. However, in a live performance being quick to react is important and that’s where the limitations of the mouse are shown. Using [key] a user can map any key on their keyboard to anything in Pure Data. For example, k could trigger the [pix_kaleidoscope] effect and pressing the arrow keys could speed up or slow down video. Doing this is simple and requires just knowing which key is represented by which number.

With all this knowledge the participants learnt how to build a very simple video mixer.

pdpc_3

objects covered

[pix_film], [f]/[float], [key], [sel], [line], [pix_contrast], [pix_kaleidoscope] etc, [maxlib/scale], [tgl]

Patching Circle #3

Just like in typed programming languages, the appearance, layout and quality of Pure Data patches is just as important as whether it works. Similarly, learning how to reuse code makes patching more efficient and provides some future proofing. For the third patching circle I took a break from teaching interactivity to focus on creating interfaces, subpatches and abstractions.

The benefits of subpatches were quite easy to show. I gave the task to the participants to encapsulate all of the objects that they used to make a video player into one subpatch that they could easily reuse.

Moving on from this I asked them to build a single-button interface for it that would simply load a video and automatically play and loop it. Creating an interface for a patch is useful for two reasons: It allows you to easily navigate you patch and it can provide valuable feedback on what is happening. Unfortunately, using Graph-on-Parent and [canvas] objects to create interfaces is a somewhat tricky.

pdpc_a

The red box that shows what will be shown on the parent patch is not easily configurable. Yes, you can specify its dimensions and position, but being able to do it using resize handles would make this process a lot easier. The same applies to [canvas] objects. What we found is that even if an object is just a few pixels over the red line it will not show in the parent patch. Finally, and perhaps most annoyingly, the Z order of the objects cannot be changed. Instead, this is determined upon creation of the object, meaning if a user wants to have a [canvas] object behind their objects they either have to create it before everything else or cut and paste everything so that it’s restacked. Yes, quite annoying.

pdpc_4

Objects covered

[pd], [inlet], [outlet], [inlet~], [outlet~], comment, [$0]

Patching Circle #4

So far I had covered everthing that most regular VJ software can already do: play video files and add effects to them. Although not alone in this feature, Pure Data allows you to create complex patterns from its array of simple 3D shapes or your own models. By learning how to use [repeat] you can turn a simple [cube] object into an array of cubes that dance around. The last Patching Cirlce was perhaps the most difficult, even for myself, but I felt it shows best what Pure Data is capable of.

To explain how the [repeat] object works I showed the participants the Magnetophon video I made with Axel Debeul from databit.me in 2013

Despite their being an array of cubes on screen only one [cube] object is used. I [repeat]ed the [cube] a number of times, [translateXYZ]‘d it along the X axes and [rotateXYZ]‘d it then [repeat]ed it some more and [translateXYZ]‘d it along the Y axis. Doesn’t make sense? Perhaps this patch will help:

pdpc_5

What I had trouble explaining was how the [separator] object worked. My understanding is that it is similar to pushMatrix and popMatrix from Processing. Perhaps it is, and perhaps I still don’t fully understand how it works yet, but it didn’t work as I expected it to. Nonetheless, I gave the participants the task of recreating the stack of cubes and most of them succeeded. Even those that didn’t made some really interesting patterns.

Pure Data Patching Circle

Objects covered

[repeat], [draw (, [model], [multimodel], [separator]

Summary

Teaching a four-part course was an eye opener for me. It showed me that to really learn Pure Data you ned more than an introductory session. It also emphasised to me that face0to-face tuition is really beneficial to some people and probably would have helped me learn better in my early days of using Pure Data. Of course, if you want me to lead a beginner’s session or a more advance one just get in touch.