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My final major project idea – advice please!

Oct 08 2008 | 6:53 pm


I intend to us Max 5 to code a system that enables some sort of physical interface to manipulate a composition in a real-time performance.

I’m thinking something along the lines of an interactive chess board which I’ve seen recently on YouTube. My only reservation is I have no idea where to start with building the electronics and sensors that I would need to interpret the physical interface, such as the chess pieces moving on the chess board, for example, and what I would need to then get them talking to my computer. Are there any components and hardware you can recommend to me?

I’m also fairly new to Max – we first looked at it last term and although I scored an A for my assignment I’m still a bit nervous!

Any thoughts, comments, suggestions would be much appreciated.

Many thanks.

Oct 08 2008 | 11:30 pm

My advice is:

Figure out exactly what you want to do before you go out and buy all kinds of sensors and gizmos.

What do I mean by "figure out exactly what you want to do"? I mean, figure out what your composition is going to sound like, what kind of physical gestures or movements are going to manipulate the composition and how. Exactly. Down to the last detail.

Like: "A pedal switch will change the key to G#. A proximity sensor will trigger xyz sound effect. A camera will track the movements of my hands in a 2-dimensional plane and will map the x-axis position of my hand to the pitch of a melody, and the y-axis to the volume."

Get very detailed in your description.

(Hint: This is the hardest part of creating a good max patch.)

THEN, once all that work is done, you won’t have to ask anyone what sensors and hardware you’ll need. The composition you have conceived will dictate what is required. The only questions you might have to ask are:

"I need to track the movement of my hand in a 2-dimensional plane for the purposes of mapping the x-axis and y-axis positions to the pitch and volume of a melody. What is the best hardware to use to do that?"

Those are easy questions for us to answer.

Good luck!

Oct 09 2008 | 12:19 am

Thanks for the advice, I shall get my serious thinking hat on!

Oct 09 2008 | 12:46 am

Good luck with this, let us know how you get on!

I did some video camera tracking for a piece of coursework recently. I suspended a web camera from the ceiling of a room and used jitter to plot and track some points on a virtual grid which would trigger the manipulation of some samples whenever one of the points crossed into a neighbouring grid square, it worked quite well and a similar technique might be of use to you for plotting chess moves. One difficulty would probably be the chess players hands moving over the board when you really only want to monitor the playing pieces. Just an idea though. I could only get hold of a webcam and not any fun motion/distance/pressure sensors but they would have been much more interesting to use.


Oct 09 2008 | 12:56 am

Since the chessboard interface has been
done several times before [Let’s see –
the Marcel Duchamp piece, Richard Chartier,
anyone else want to raise their hands?],
why not consider another game? You’d be
less likely to suffer from comparison.

To my knowledge, no one has ever used
the card game Sheepshead as a source. It
might be a little Sconnie*, but hey. The
world is so full of games, why stick with
one that’s been done already several times?


* a shortening of "Wisconsin"

Oct 09 2008 | 12:58 am

TWISTER! that would be jokes!


Oct 09 2008 | 8:38 pm

Twister!? That would actually be pretty damn fun .. *thinks*

Oct 09 2008 | 10:54 pm

I’m glad my wine influenced rambling has inspired you! But yes I agree it would be a bit more exciting. The more interaction the "audience" has with the performance the better in my eyes. Crossing the boundary between audience and performer is one of my favourite things about composing interactive music with max/msp/jitter. Keep us in the loop as your development of this project continues.


Oct 10 2008 | 1:46 pm

On 09.10.2008, at 22:38, Jessica Howard wrote:
> Twister!? That would actually be pretty damn fun .. *thinks*

If you go Twister, check out Playsation dance mats, very cheap and
easy to interface with Max (ps2usb adaptor -> hi)


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