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FX FACTORY

FX Factory Interactive installation for children
A project of the Bonn Development Workshop for Computer Media in connection with the intention of establishing the model MEET (Multimedial Theater Education Environments).

AUTHORS

Bodo Lensch Kopie Doris Vila David Weinstein Peter Serocka Petr Zubek Kopie Robert Solomon
Bodo Lensch Doris Vila David Weinstein Peter Serocka Petr Zubek Robert Solomon
Gudrun Teich Kopie Cindia Wong Aeldrik Pander Bernd Bleßmann Birgit Günster Kopie Farez Rahmun
Gudrun Teich Cindia Wong Aeldrik Pander Bernd Bleßmann Birgit Günster Farez Rahmun


The 2001 author's workshop of MEET:
Bodo Lensch (production, administration),
Doris Vila (artistic administration);
David Weinstein (music),
Peter Serocka (Virtual sets, graphic animation, Tracking),
Petr Zubek and Gudrun Teich (Virtual Actors, animation),
Biba Vickovic (Illustration)
Cindia Wong and (graphic, animation),
Aeldrik Pander (Sound, audiodome-programming),
Bernd Bleßmann (programming, networks),
Birgit Günster (media-educational and theater-educational accompanying),
Robert Solomon (choreographic accompanying),
Fares Rahmun (acoustics design, audiodome-radio play).

The FX Factory is an interactive installation structured into scenes for a group of 5-8 children. The specifications of the dimensions of the Environments are the support of the interaction of larger groups and the support of cooperative strategies of the group members.

The target group are children in the primary school age of 6 to 10 years.

TECHNICAL
The technical basis is a type of interactive media stage developed in the Animax multimedial theater.

The childrens' place of action is defined by a 8x8m large surface marked with a white square-shaped dancing area in the centre of the darkened theater. Around it the floor is coloured black. The foundation of this surface consists of a swinging floor, common in dance-theaters. The top of the surface consists of 144 wooden square elements which can vibrate, each euipped with a 50 W Soundfloor element. Over the surface, in the middle of the 4 quadrants, four Marquee 8500 data projectors with downwards pointing lenses are 6.5 m above the ground. Close to each projector a downward pointing CCD-camera is attached with an infrared filter as well as a 50 W infrared-flooder. The place of action is vaulted by an arrangement of 40 loudspeakers which is dome-shaped and of which the lower ring has a diameter of 14 m (audiodome).

The technical basis is a type of interactive media stage developed in the Animax multimedial theater. The childrens' place of action is defined by a 8x8m large surface marked with a white square-shaped dancing area in the centre of the darkened theater. Around it the floor is coloured black. The foundation of this surface consists of a swinging floor, common in dance-theaters. The top of the surface consists of 144 wooden square elements which can vibrate, each euipped with a 50 W Soundfloor element. Over the surface, in the middle of the 4 quadrants, four Marquee 8500 data projectors with downwards pointing lenses are 6.5 m above the ground. Close to each projector a downward pointing CCD-camera is attached with an infrared filter as well as a 50 W infrared-flooder. The place of action is vaulted by an arrangement of 40 loudspeakers which is dome-shaped and of which the lower ring has a diameter of 14 m (audiodome).

By means of the projectors and a modular system based on PCs for the construction of any desired size of big displays for graphic presentations and including video, an 8x8 large floor projection was established.

By their positions and movements, e.g. jumping around, the eight children can influence the contents of the floor projection individually, with the whole group or in subgroups. They all wear black baseball caps, the tops of the caps equipped with infrared-light-reflecting foil. The videotracking registers the IR-light-reflection. By using four cameras and computer systems, the videotracking is fast and stable enough for the allocation of the eight children. Stereoscopic evaluation makes an integration of actions, for example jumping, possible. The interactively controllable graphics and their succession in scenes are to be found in a programm module in the controll-machine preceding the four presentation computers. The data of the input media is interpreted here and used for the controlling of the graphics, the way grafic events can become a trigger for acoustic events (e.g., collision of surfaces: Underscoring as a medium for the recording of sounds in cartoons). An additional projection (320 X 120 cm) is situated 3 m away from the border of the action surface and in approximately 2 m of height. It gives insight to the direction room of the FX Factory, from where from the young inventor WHOOZIT later later talks to the children.

FX factory


The first aim was to analyse the basic function samples, the framework of possible later scenes. With the hand and head equipment for the mathematic visualization of graphic animation and inclusion of the tracking data (their direct visual interpretation), small game situations are created with own strategies, solution patterns, and dramaturgy:

FX factory

Trackingvisualisation Representation of the positions of the traced persons as circular, colored marks on the ground projection.
In addition: the derived vectorial speeds and accelerations are displayed as arrows. Classification of different movement forms (aimless vs. directed) movement, and representation in colour coding.


Serves for testing and demonstrating the tracking-technology.
Light-cone game Application of the Trackingvisualisation. The mark-surfaces appear like light-cones of lamps or floodlights which cut out and light up parts of a picture apparently firmly situated on the ground, while the surroundings remain black or invisible. The diameter of the virtual light-cone increases with the speed of movement. In the FX Factory it is set up as a searching game and, in addition, the pictures are animated.
Traces-game Application of the trackingvisualisation, especially of the coloured coding of the different movement forms. Marks work as virtual pencils or brushes, remaining as traces on the ground projection. In the FX Factory it is set up as a "drawing-machine" (Purple Harmony Engine).
Plasma-billiard The tracked persons can put dots of light on the ground projection in motion by bumping and displacing different light-spots. On the one hand, the dots of light behave like billard balls, while they can bump together and at the playing field border. However,on the other hand, dots of light with the same colour also search for mutual closeness and lump to plasmalike objects. It is motivated by simplified models from molecule physics and set up in the FX Factory as a game to the defend a home- base from a source of danger.
Grid-game The tracked persons leave coloured tracks in a fixed square lattice. The surface and produced tracks turn slowly around the center of the ground, like a revolving stage. In the FX Factory the developed game consists in connecting fixed points with fitting and coloured pipes to repair a "control centre".
Layer-game Different --partially transparent-- graphic layers are projected on top of each other on the ground to give the impression of depth or of space below the ground level. The highest layer consists of squared plates, which cover the lower layers entirely when they appear, or gradually let through the lower layers while they disappear. In the FX Factory the tracked persons then cover and "seal" the lowest graphic level (the grid game) with layers of such virtual plates.
Wirbelama By running around the stage center the tracked persons produce a successive stir or whirlpool of triangles on the ground projection. This becomes independent of the persons and fills out the whole surface for a short time before it revolves to the stage border and then releases a new graphic layer. In the FX Factory this effect is used for the transition into a new game scene.
FX factory

The scenic and dramaturgical framework consists of these animations and the to the story of FX-Factory belonging decisive screen sequences and sound elements. After the children are equipped with their baseball caps with the reflectors and when they enter the dark Animax-hall, the game begins with a prologue: the slapsticklike, funny panorama-radio playmakes the children begin to locate the sound sources that are situated in the darkened area and look at them. (steps leading from the stage surroundings to the woodden stairway, onto the gallery, WHOOZIT's head bumping into a steel bar with a scream of pain which interrupts his long monolog while searching for the mistake in the machine, WHOOZIT wandering around on top of the grid ceiling and finally, his falling-down to the direction window where the inventor then appears as a comic figure and notices the children).

Assumption: The brilliant tinkerer WHOOZIT has been working on an invention since a long time in the lab FX Factory, a studio for special effects.

FX factory

Until now, his fantastic machines have not been of big interest yet. Therefore, WHOOZIT is surprised and very much excited, that the Nobel prize committee has announced its coming to a demonstration of his invention. WHOOZIT's prepartions for the demonstration are running on full speed, when something unexpected happens! But he alone cannot solve the problem, his only hope is help from elsewhere, his inventor-colleagues....

The children enter the darkened Animax-hall and immediately find themselves on a big square surface which represents the lab of the tinkerer WHOOZIT. WHOOZIT is just making his newest invention ready for the big demonstration. But there are problems with the machine. Now the children must help energetically and with much movement to get the new engine going.

But the light has gone out on account of the machine error. It also reduces the energy supply to the lab. The children learn how to move a cone of light surrounding them in the darkness, another invention of WHOOZIT's, which makes it possible to find the broken machine (one of eight machines).

When the children locate the broken machine, the action field is flooded by viruses which try to penetrate and threaten the control centre which is in a lower layer of the lab. Now the children get to know the instrument the searching light - and in cooperative, synchronized joint movement an instrument merging to a floodlight- from another side: by pushing their surrounding aura reinforced with teeth and short joint approaches and braking, a chance seems to appear to stop the microbes from penetrating the black hole in the middle of the stage which apparently attracts all the microbes. But even this quickly implemented invention of WHOOZIT does not solve the problem, and the children must eventually start the Wirbelama, a sort of time- and space-machine to move down to the control centre. There, they must fix the main pipelines they find when they arrive.
Unfortunately, the revolving stage electronics have also broken down, which means that the eight meter disc with its fixed screw-obstacles is in a constant and slow movement.

This game situation requires a high level of concentration and mutual helping of the children for a solution. Predominantly, the task for every child is: connecting two points with a line in a turning area - even the complex spatial sound network turns in the same speed with it- but arbitrarily and different with every demo the obstacle screws emerge at different places. They don't allow a straight junction at some places and force the children to a detour which, however, has consequences for the positions of all other main pipes. This destroys the early winner's dream ("Finished!").

After this complex choreography there is some running and jumping around. The machines call with vague rumbling under the childrens' feet for the sealing of the floor with plates, accompanied by a groovy rhythm. Then, the " Purple Harmony Engine " is once again ready for the demonstration and can be tried out by the children immediately. Right when they finish their picture, the Nobel prize committee rings the doorbell.
A material-/exercise-book put together by a media educationist for a post-evaluation of the FX-Factory is available for teachers.

The event from 9/1/2002 till 3/3/2002 was well accepted and was sold out in just a few days after the WDR ran a report on the FX Factory on the 25/1/2002 during the programm "service time family "

The psychological institute of the Bonn university is integrated into the scientific accompanying of the FX Factory and therefore of the MEET-project. Dr. PD Michael Kavsek (dpt. development psychology and educational psychology) is examining the video-recordings of the behaviour of the children in context of a dissertation advised by him. This data is provided by the BEC which uses a specially developed recording system.

THE PEOPLE

FX factory people FX factory people
FX factory people FX factory people

 

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