Saturday, February 26, 2011

on Palm Top Theater

Palm Top Theater
- a mobile 3D wunderkamer -


Is the bigger the better?  No, the smaller can also be nice! --- That is the standing point of Palm Top Theater exhibition.

This exhibition only uses familiar electronics like iPods and iPads, and all are covered with accessories called i3DG.  It lets you view 3D image, like a peepshow('kijkdoos' in Dutch).  You feel immediately immersed here; definitely different type of immersion than watching it on a big screen in a cinema.

The questions we had at the starting point was: can this i3DG become a new platform for expression?  What kind of new experiences can it offer to us?  And, can it become a new medium?

[technique and development]

The technique used here is called Pepper's Ghost, which has been used in a classical theater world for showing a ghost on a stage.  Jitsuro Mase, who has been teaching architecture at a technical college in Japan, applied this technique and developed his first prototype with a projector and a table in 2002. It was called "Table Theater". Later in 2008, he went smaller.  Following an advise from his producer DIRECTIONS, Inc., he developed a prototype for an iPod and called it "i3DG", associating "i", "3D", and "Gadget".

[goal of the exhibition]

Using "smart" gadgets like iPhones and iPods as its platform provides us enormous possibility of what we can do with it.  We can show animations and film clips, but we can also think of showing still images like photography and typography.  Also one can think of an interactive app that uses sound as an input, or that deals with
sensors like gravity sensor and accelerometer.  The goal of the exhibition was to challenge with the possibilities of i3DG in different aspects.

possible disciplines to cross over

- film
- animation, CG, cartoons
- theater, dance, performance
- live streaming

- photography
- illustration
- typography
- architecture

interaction (by making an interactive app with):
- sound as input
- compass sensor & GSP as input
- touch-panel (tapping, dragging)
- gravity-sensor (tilting)
- accelerometer (shaking)

For the Palm Top Theater Exhibition that took place as a part of International Film Festival Rotterdam 2011, we developed more than 30 works from 28 international artists.  They were displayed on i3DG's on 10 iPods, 5 iPads and a 32-inch TV.

[commissioned works]

5 works were developed by professional artists who got commissioned by us.  We selected artists from the different fields: experimental & abstract film (Joost Rekveld), CG & animation (Arno Coenen), video &
media art (Geert Mul), net & software art (Lia), and illustration art (Lina Kusaite & Performing Pictures).

(1) Joost Rekveld: His work #43.2 is an abstract film whose model is a biological phenomena.  Because of its details in the image that provides us a sensory texture, the image looks more like an object floating in the dark rather than an image, when it's displayed in the bigger screen.  This is the reason why we have allocated the biggest
32inch-i3DG for his work, and tried to make its environment as dark as possible.

(2) Arno Coenen: He made a 3D video for a heavy-metal music.  Like its music, the visual is punchy, and it never lets its audience walk away. He is a true craftman of the video: he uses the 3D layer effectively
and strategicly by letting a lot of things happening in the image, for example objects moving back and forth, left to right, trilling and rotating.

(3) Geert Mul: He layered the videos of the landscapes taken from the windows of the trains in different countries.  As a result, you take a virtual train ride of the impossible world: there is a Japanese
building in a landscape of South Africa.

(4) Lia and (5) Lina Kusaite & Performing Pictures: descriptions are in the [interactive works]

[interactive works]

We had 3 interactive apps developed for this exhibition.  They are "iPhone/iPod apps" as artworks, made with a programming language, and in that perspective they are distinctive from rest of the works.
These works are playful and intuitive, and there is no beginning and end.

Because of the playful aspect, we hang them from the ceiling in the exhibition, so that they can move freely in the air.  (Also this prevents the devices from falling.)  Especially children were fond of these works and they played endlessly.

(1) Lia: Her work SUM05 exclusively uses a gravity sensor of iPod. In the image, grass grow endlessly and they form a small forest.  Like the real grass that grow into the direction of the sun, this grass find their directions by the gravity sensor.

(2) Lina Kusaite & Performing Pictures: Based on the very fine illustration drawn with pencils by Lina, animating and programming was done by Performing Pictures.  Blowing into the microphone makes the
little girl floating like a balloon, or moving closer to you.  It became something between a poetic picture book and a playful music instrument.

(3) Emmanuel Flores El√≠as: "Disperse" is an interactive app that generates abstract image and sound by the movement of iPod.  It's so intuitive and responsive that when you have it in your hand you know already how to play with it.


A lot of works in this exhibition were developed in the workshop we gave for the local students over 1 months of period. The purpose here was:
- to try out i3DG as a common platform for creation
- to give an educational meaning to this project

The criteria of selectiing the exhibiting works:

- Is the work intentionally challenges 3D
- Is it showing glimpse of the further possibilities of i3DG?
- Would the audience sit and watch through the work, or do they get bored in a half way?"

Guided by the skillful teachers, Kasper van der Horst and Denise Pakes, their works became highly experimental and challenging. Ludmila Rodrigues worked out with the principle of RGB in her piece "Disconexus", allocating each color to the each layer of mirrors. Together they form B&W image, but by adding delay to the each layer
she challenges audience to watch it actively.  Amelia Kaczyska made in her piece "abusio" a small theater in i3DG.  By scaling the figure of the dancers in different sizes, she made a stage that the sense of scale and depth is not coherent anymore.

[space design]

The design of the space of this exhibition 

- provides audience a comfortable environment to watch through the pieces (not too long standing nor sitting)

- provides a cozy atmosphere that makes the audience feeling like being in a cafe or a lounge

- provides safety for the devices not to be stolen nor falling to the ground

- provides not too much yet enough lighting, so that the works look vivid

* 3 iPods (interactive works) are hang from the ceiling.

* 7 iPods (video works) are placed on the bar counters.

* 5 iPads are placed on the pedestals, at the height of the eyes.

* 1 32-inch-TV is placed on the specially designed pedestal, at the
height of the eyes.

Self-service coffee and tea was offered to the audience.

[audience's reaction]

Young and old, men and women, accountants and housewives: anyone was enthusiastic.

The average time that the audience spent in the exhibition room was about one hour.  This means that they often watched all the clips through, without being bored of.

Audience showed the respect for the environment and devices.  None of the devices were stolen nor broken.

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