MAX to Control Sound – Need Advice.

Jun 12, 2006 at 6:17pm

MAX to Control Sound – Need Advice.

Hi,

I am about to create an art installation for which I will employ MAX MSP. I’m relatively new to MAX and so I think it might be wise to run a question or 2 by you all.

My piece in on Synaesthesia and Art and involves the building of a room in which participants will walk. The room has a surround sound system (6 speakers in total) and lights.

I want to track movement of participants: Is it best for me to use some kind of ‘plate’ sensors, which I could position on the floor under a carpet and on which participants could walk?

When users interact with a sensor I want to affect the sound playing through the speakers. I have composed a soundtrack using the software ‘reason’. There are 6 layers in total all working together as a contrapuntal composition. I want to sensors to turn off and on these particular layers (tracks) based on where participants are standing in the room. I want to use about 5 sensors in total to cover the space. For example, if a participant goes to the back of the room to view a photograph on the wall the texture of the sound/music should change.

Lastly I want to use sensors to affect the lighting. Has anyone used lights in an installation situation and if so what a good approach. Sorry about the long tread but I just want to get some opinions before I get my head into this work.

I appreciate your help, with thanks!

#26386
Jun 12, 2006 at 9:39pm

Welcome to the world of interactive spaces.

When I was a kid, my father gave me a wonderful book called “Volkswagen Repair for the Complete Idiot” (absolutely no offense meant!) This book allowed me to fix the ’67 camper-van we had rusting in the backyard and spend the most glorious summer I could have imagined driving about with friends through the hills and mountains of southern California. It has also been the formative factor of each and every constructive project I have undertaken, including a great many interactive artworks. Basically, the book explains, in an interesting, humorous and inspiring manner, how to repair engines and why they work the way they do.
I wish that there had been such a book about sensors and interactive music/video/light when I started out. Perhaps one of us will someday write one. Some of the precepts will never change, due to the artistic nature of the subject, whereas the technical perspective is likely to shift perpetually.

In lieu of such a book, here are a couple of tips:

You can track the movement of a public in several ways, the easiest of all being to use normal contact-switches (the cheapest are simply push-buttons under a wooden construction). If you set up a sort of logic-table, listing what you would like to achieve and the coinciding possibilities with how you could achieve it, you will soon find that refinements in technique increase the complexity of the project exponentially. For instance: it is easy to track one person in a room; where there is a closed switch is where they are standing. What happens when you have two people? Which person is triggering which switch? Etc. Etc.
One very intersting way to track public is using a WebCam, in conjunction with EyesWeb, JitterCV or other such programs. This necessitates more computing power; I use one PC entirely for tracking, and each camera has its own PC.
Other cheap ways are:
-InfraRed detectors
-LDR reflection detectors
-Piezo-Ceramic discs in conjunction with a Drum-Machine.

Lights:
Most modern DMX lighting-desks accept MIDI, and there are also cheap and easy ways to connect MAX directly to a Dimmer-Pack. The expensive part is the Dimmer-Pack. If you can borrow or rent one (or you are just simply wealthy and can buy one) then you can work wonders between music and lighting, using absolutely any commercially available lights.

Have fun with the project!

Dayton

#78790
Jun 13, 2006 at 12:14am

Hey, it’s so cool that I can actually *answer* a question here instead of always being the one asking them!

I recently did a sound installation very similar to what you are describing, only the users were wearing headphones (same thing as far as the Max/MSP programming is concerned, though).

I tracked the users’ movements by installing a camera overhead, and each user had a coloured LED light on top of their headset (built from cheap parts from the local electronics surplus store). That way, more than one user could be tracked at a time, as each user had a different colour. If you just want some sound to play out of a particular speaker if someone is nearby, it would be even easier (i.e. no need to differentiate between users).

The environment had to be quite dark, though, or else it wouldn’t work. At the moment I am working on modifying the tracking system so that the camera is looking for an infra-red beam (also a simple build using IR LEDs), so that it can run in light-filled environments.

Now I’m not a programmer, so someone else did the programming in Max/MSP & Jitter for me. So I can’t really answer your questions as to how to program this, but if you want more details about what I did please feel free to contact me.
lbeckste at ryerson dot ca

Cheers,
Lori

#78791
Jun 13, 2006 at 7:29am

Hi

> When I was a kid, my father gave me a wonderful book called “Volkswagen Repair for the Complete Idiot” (absolutely no offense meant!) This book allowed me to fix the ’67 camper-van we had rusting in the backyard and spend the most glorious summer I could have imagined driving about with friends through the hills and mountains of southern California. It has also been the formative factor of each and every constructive project I have undertaken, including a great many interactive artworks. Basically, the book explains, in an interesting, humorous and inspiring manner, how to repair engines and why they work the way they do.
> I wish that there had been such a book about sensors and interactive music/video/light when I started out. Perhaps one of us will someday write one.

I think that such a book exists, look at:

Handmade Electronic Music the art of hardware hacking by Nicolas Collins

http://www.bentfestival.org/bookparty.html

http://www.cdemusic.org/store/cde_search.cfm?keywords=mb266

All the best

Alessandro Fogar

#78792
Jun 13, 2006 at 4:30pm

Another great book on the subject is Physical Computing
by Dan O’Sullivan and Tom Igoe:

http://itp.nyu.edu/~dbo3/physical/physical.html

Brian

#78793

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