Monthly Archives: March 2017

Making my MA Project Sculptures – Life Size

Here are some pictures of progress so far.

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Suzy posing as Theresa, the optician’s wife. First part of ten, her face. 3D Printed in plaster infused with superglue.

3D File ready for printing. Face of Leo. Part one of nine. Print file prepared using Cura software. Note the print time of Six days 15 hours on my Ultimaker 2+ Extended.

159 hours to go! Then only another 8 parts.


Tutorial with Jonathan Kearney – 24 March 2017

Our discussion first focused on my recent work. We talked about what I had done during the Tate Exchange. I explained that I had attended all four Digital Maker Collective days during February and March. This event was held over the entire 5th floor of the Switch House, Tate Modern, I led an activity entitled ‘Virtual meets Reality’ ably assisted by Kirstin Barnes (MFA CSM) and Aurelie Freoua (MA FAD Alumni), and in the Feb sessions also by some BA students from Camberwell and Wimbledon. This activity involved helping visitors experience for themselves Google Tilt-Brush, a 3D painting app using HTC Vive Virtual Reality equipment, and Mixed Reality using the Microsoft Hololens headset, as well as 3D scanning using the Occipital Structure Sensor attached to a mini iPad. These activities were well attended and had a ‘Wow’ factor for most people trying them out for the first time.

I also offered a similar activity during our Low Residency in Feb, with much needed help from Manolis Perrakis, an MA Fine Art Digital first year on-line student from Greece, who had prior experience with the HoloLens. Jonathan tried both the HoloLens and Tilt-Brush during that session. He has a strong preference for the HoloLens, as you can still see what is around you when using it, holograms being projected into the real world space of the Camberwell Photography Studio. Whereas, with the HTC Vive you are in another Virtual World altogether.

I have assisted my wife Suzy, with her installation for an MA Museums and Galleries exhibition at the Platform Gallery, Kingston University which finished last week. This exhibition will be transferring to the Museum of the Future, Surbiton next week. Here, we exhibited ‘The Scream 2030’. This is a 3D printed sculpture produced from a highly detailed scan made using the Veronica Scanner developed by the Factum Foundation (who pioneered 3D printing in archeology allowing destroyed artifacts from antiquity, such as in Palmyra, to be reproduced). It is also a Hologram, produced from the same scan, and shown using the Hololens. The idea was that an original sculpture on display which had to be removed for conservation, was away on loan, or perhaps was ‘conserved’ as a hologram, could still be seen in its original setting. The idea was to show what is possible now, but which may be commonplace in 2030.

Above you can see ‘The Scream 2030’ on a plinth, and then on the floor, with one of the attendees viewing the exhibit holographically using the HoloLens. Below you can see what the viewer saw in the HoloLens (this picture was taken during the Tate Exchange, hence a different colour plinth).


This has some relevance to my proposed post MA Research, as it illustrates how an object could be ‘conserved’ as a hologram. See my blog on my PhD Research proposal.

Our discussion then moved on to my proposed MA show (which will be installing in only 14 weeks time!!!). I explained that my exhibit was planned to be in three layers and based on the book ‘The optician of Lampedusa’. The three layers are: a large video projection of seagulls diving and screeching as a backdrop scene, two life-size sculptures representing Theresa, the opticians wife, and one of the refugees, and I had hoped that the third layer would be holographic recordings of the actors’ narratives viewed and heard in the HoloLens.

I said that I would be using video from a photo library for the backdrop, as previously discussed with Prof. Lucy Orta and discussed in my earlier blog.

The sculpture of Theresa is the same as the maquette used in the exhibit ‘The Scream 2030’, except that it will be life-size, and representing the time when she first saw refugees drowning in the sea. The face of this sculpture has just been 3D printed and can be seen below. The sculpture is being printed in ten parts, so that each part fits within the bounding box (maximum print size) of the Projet 360 printer at CSM. These will need to be assembled and sanded, which I plan to do over the Easter break.

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I also showed Jonathan a small 3D print that I had produced (on my Ultimaker 3D printer) alongside that of the one I intend to use for the refugee. The latter was produced from the scan I had made of the actor Leo Wringer. Both can be seen below. Jonathan commented that the pose for the refugee was a perfect choice. Well done Leo.

I related the issue I was having with making a 3-5 minute holographic video of the actors narrating their parts, to be seen in the HoloLens. At that time, I only knew that it was proving difficult. Now I know why (see my last blog). It is impossible with my knowledge and resources. So I set the expectation that it would be a 2D video seen in the HoloLens, so that a viewer could also see the rest of the physical exhibit. This is not so easy either, as I am now beginning to discover (more about this in a future blog).

I talked about Lucy Orta’s comment that perhaps all three layers were too much. That the purpose of the piece to invoke empathy for the refugee situation generally, may be better achieved with either the sculptures or the HoloLens narratives alongside the backdrop video, but not both. Perhaps even down-scaling even further with only the voices of the actors. Jonathan could see her point and given the difficulties I was having with the HoloLens narrative thought that the sculptures against the backdrop video were good enough to be my finished exhibit. This may well end up to be the case, but I will continue the learning experience with devising a script for the actors, directing and video recording their performances against a green screen, editing the video to remove the background using the software Isadora, and finally exporting the edited videos to the HoloLens or other device (perhaps editing their performances into the backdrop video of the sea),

I concluded that I would make as many of these ‘assets’ as I could in the time left, and then decide which to use in my final exhibit, which would be dependent upon the exhibition space yet to be allocated to me and the other MA Show exhibits I am sharing it with.

MA Show: Mission Impossible – where my ambitions exceed my capabilities

One of the layers of my MA Show is intended to be a holographic recording of two actors narrating my exhibit. After a great deal of research, I could not find out how to do this. So I asked Microsoft, and was referred to a HoloLens specialist in Romania. He had an idea how this might have been done but did not know for certain, so consulted some other experts. I did not get an answer but was instead referred to the HoloLens Forum, which shed no further light on the subject. Then I found this YouTube video which did.

How Microsoft records Holographic video content for the HoloLens

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Apparently we start by capturing performances with 106 (YES one hundred and six) synchronised RGB and infrared cameras on a calibrated green screen stage. Need I continue? If you do, you can see from the video that it gets MUCH more challenging. Sadly beyond the capabilities and pockets of most mortals including myself.

So I will have to adapt this aspect of my MA Show, and have yet to figure out what and how. I will post another a blog when I do.

Preparing to Make my MA Project Holographic Film

This will be viewed in the Microsoft Hololens, which I continue to discover more about during my trials at home, my visits to CSM 4D Digital Studios, and during my stint at the Digital Maker Collective Tate Exchange (last one next week). I have also bought a book about making Holograms for the Hololens. Terrifying!!! Here is Sharon trying it out at the last Tate Exchange.


My home project has been to take the 3D scanned image of the Theresa sculpture into the Hololens, scale the result and place it within a real life environment. Much easier said than done. However, I did it, following the idiots guide to Hololens (but for geniuses only). Sadly, Theresa literally filled the room when viewed through the Hololens. I could only scale her down to the size of a house (sorry Theresa), but I could move it in a limited way. I sought help from Sion Fletcher who teaches Unity etc at CSM. His approach was to make a Unity program to achieve what I was looking for. It took him the best part of half a day. Quick for Holographic program development. It worked but was highly unstable. The images of Theresa were correctly scaled but they took 5 minutes to appear, then would disappear, only to reappear in a completely different place in my house, which took me 10 minutes to locate. Then the hologram would refuse to be moved more than a few centimetres at a time.

Suzy, who is participating in her first MA show, having seen the extremely enticing holograms of ballerina’s and the like, asked to include her scan (as Theresa) using the Hololens in her first Kingston University MA show ‘Museums in 2030’. I was on the rack, and panicking as her show set up is this coming Monday. Fortunately, I read the Hololens instructions again and realised that there were size and format limitations to any imported file. This was yesterday (Friday). So I set about trying to convert an SLS file (used to print the Theresa sculpture at CSM), to SDK (used by the Ultimaker 3D printers at Camberwell, and the make I own). I experimented with lots of software, as I had to go via converting to OBJ (used by my 3D scanner). Ughh! I was pulling my hair out by lunchtime. Then I thought about using Blender (which I had never used before). Jonathan loaded it on to the Mac in our studio, and with a few hints from Alejandro (who was busy using it that afternoon for his own presentation the next day) amazingly I did it. This time it worked. Scaled from over 2 metres in size to 20 cm wide. Reduced from 77,000 vertices to 28,500, under the 30,000 prescribed maximum, and directly converted to SDK  from STL, and within the file size limit of 25 MB, down from 100 MB. So I went ho,e to try it on the Hololens using their standard method. Miracles. It worked. And was stable. It did not run about the house. Nor did it keep disappearing.  Success. Relief.

Now I have to teach Suzy how to use the Hololens and manipulate her holographic sculpture in the exhibition space at Kingston University. Exciting. The private view is Tuesday next week. I will put pictures on my blog.

Last week I also tried Green Screen filming for the first time. This is necessary for me to understand when it comes to filming my actors for the Hololens. Alasdair, Vic, and Mady worked together in the Digital Media studio at Camberwell. We played around with Leonora software (which Vic understood) and equipment borrowed form the Camberwell loan store (a first for Alasdair and I). Here are a few video clips and pics of how we got on.


Due to the four week break due to Easter and Camberwell building work, Alasdair and I and the rest of our small team are decamping to Alasdair’s studio at the bottom of his garden in Barnes. We could not loan the equipment over this time so decided to buy it as it was not as expensive as we first thought. It will give us a level of independence when everyone from Camberwell BA and MA want to use the Digital Media Green Screen studio and loan equipment when we need to. It will also be a backup for me in case I am unable to use the wrap around Green Screen facility at Wimbledon for my final shoot. This looks exceedingly likely as it is currently booked out to Wimbledon Theatre Design students until July! So a necessary investment we think.



Making my MA Project background video

I had intended to film this myself, leaning over the side of a boat with a camera dangled half in and half out of the sea, while attracting seagulls to dive and screech. No mean feat for a complete novice film producer!

However, I was rescued by two events. Firstly, Lucy Orta said that this was not the main event of my project and that it was therefore OK to use (expensive for the right quality) stock library clips. Secondly, while my Vuze camera is due to be delivered shortly, they have not yet released a waterproof case, and do not expect to until around August/September. After my MA Show!

I have looked at stock film from Getty Images, and Michael is going to point me towards some others. I will find out more when Michael and I meet this coming Friday.

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Getty Image Library

Making my MA Project Sculptures

Two sculptures of characters in the book ‘The Optician of Lampedusa’ are included as part of my MA final show exhibit. One is of Theresa, the optician’s wife who was in the rescue boat, and the other is one of the surviving refugees. My wife Suzy is the actor playing Theresa, and Leo Wringer is the actor with the role of the refugee.

I have already described how Suzy was 3D scanned using the Veronica Scanner loaned to the Royal Academy by Factum Arte. This produced fantastic detail, much more than can be achieved with other scanners. The scan file was used in the Digital Fabrication Department at Central Saint Martins to 3D print a 20 cm tall maquette, the largest size that could be produced by CSM’s Project 360 Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printer. The maquette was then used to decide how to make a life sized bust of Theresa by breaking up the sculpture and printing it in several pieces. This was a difficult process, as I had to double the dimensions while leaving the facial features intact. Each piece needed to fit within the maximum dimensions of the 3D printer. It is now being 3D printed in ten parts, which I hope to collect next Friday: A jigsaw puzzle for me to assemble later. I know that the fit will not be exact as shrinkage during and after printing occurs, and at different rates because several printing runs are needed to produce all the pieces of the finished sculpture. My experience with 3D printing ‘Vanessa in pose’, made in only four parts, indicates that a fair amount of post-production work will be involved.

Earlier this week I arranged a 3D scanning session in the basement Photographic Studio at Camberwell. This was to scan Leo in pose as a refugee. In preparation, I consulted with Michael Meuller who is advising on a treatment and script for the actors, on what poses Leo should make. We agreed on three based on the following ideas from Emma Jane Kirby’s book.

First moment – the rescue.
The man they had just pulled from the water was hysterical, jabbing his finger back down to the water. He kept repeating a word over and over again but he didn’t seem to understand any Italian.
It was Matteo who thought to try and speak in English.
“What do you want?” he urged him. “We can help if you tell us slowly in English”
The man looked at them imploringly, tears pouring down his face.”Please,” he said , holding his hands together as if in prayer. “Children, there are many children”

Second moment – meeting his rescuers again at the reception centre.
It didn’t matter that they didn’t share a language. He seemed to understand how worried his rescuers were to see how he was faring. He gave them the thumbs up to re-assure them he was okay then inclined his head on his open palm to indicate he was just very tired. He held his hand over his heart and pointed his finger at his rescuer. You gave me life, he was saying. You gave me life.

Third moment – ceremony at sea on the boat that saved him to commemorate first anniversary of the rescue.
The man turned from the sea and faced his rescuer, holding out his hand.
“Come,”he said, looking him squarely in the eye. “Come and be with us.”
So they joined hands, looking out to sea, and the refugee began to pray. He could feel the collective pulse of them all, throbbing in his own wrists. He could feel their shared lifeline.

After that I had to consider the limitations of the scanning equipment and software I used, namely the Structure Sensor attached to a mini iPad with Itseez3D software. The bust profile does not easily accommodate outward hand gestures, as they fall outside the viewing frame. So during the session Leo improvised each pose in an acting sense and I directed him taking into account the technical limitations of the equipment. Here are 2D pictures of some of the results.

The images were viewed by Leo, Michael, Suzy and last but not least Becky for advice about the best to use to make a foundry bronze. Technical difficulties with some of the poses (for example, printing or lost wax processing the pointing finger, or digital imperfections due to Leo moving) ruled them out. We also had to consider the juxtaposition with Suzy’s pose, first seeing with horror refugees drowning in the sea. Finally we chose this combination.

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From the texture image it can be seen that the raw 3D scan has lost quite a lot of detail, notably around the eyes. However we thought that the haunted look created suited the disturbing message we were trying to convey. It was necessary to make a small 3D print (6 cm x 6 cm) of the two sculptures together to see the effect in reality. I 3D printed Leo as the refugee in this pose overnight. It took eleven hours at high quality at 50% density!! I have another meeting at CSM Digital Fabrication next Friday when I will arrange for a 20cm tall maquette to be 3D printed using their SLS printer. At the same time I will discuss how the 3D file should be split in order to make this sculpture life size too.

These sculptures will materially influence the script for the holographic video of the characters’ narratives. I have set up a meeting next Friday evening with Michael, the scriptwriter and Suzy to move this aspect of the work forward. Leo is off to Mexico for a week to teach professional actors how to perform Shakespeare, and then to select the best for roles in a production.

Onwards and upwards!





Passagens at UAL LCC and tutorial with Prof Lucy Orta at UAL London College of Fashion

Passagens is a series of four debates, hosted by Prof Lucy Orta, UAL Chair of Art and the Environment, which I have attended recently. I felt that these debates directly related to my planned MA final show exhibit.

Drawing on the current debate following the recent UK vote to leave the EU, postgraduate students, UAL staff, alumni, practitioners and researchers in this field, were invited to join the Passagens series of reading groups, which offers a broad historical context and insight by artists and curators whose work evolve around the themes of migration, social sustainability and the environment.

During one debate a film was shown called ‘Les Sauteurs – Those who jump’. The film was about refugees from across Africa, who leave their homes to travel from as far as Mali and the Ivory Coast. They end up hiding in woods near a huge triple layered fence segregating the border with Morocco, and for them , the gateway to Spain and the rest of the EU. Their challenge was to jump the wall. One refugee died trying. Some had tried many times, and were in these makeshift camps for up to two years. Many sustained injuries from failed attempts. The Moroccan police and military sought out these camps, and burnt what little belongings the refugees had, and individuals sustained beatings if caught either running away or between the layers of fencing while trying to jump. Only if the refugees landed on Moroccan soil after jumping three fences could they seek asylum. Some did. Which encouraged others to try. Many were interned in camps in Morocco, and later sent back as economic migrants. Only those seeking political asylum, escaping persecution were allowed to leave, most trying for destinations in the EU. Even then, many are sent back to the EU country they first landed in, despite travelling elsewhere to join family members. It was very moving, invoking much empathy from the audience. And a feeling of helplessness.

I was able to participate in the debate and discuss the subject and my work with Lucy Orta. This was followed up by a tutorial in her office at LCF.

I explained in more detail the aim of my MA exhibit, namely to invoke empathy from those who viewed it. To engender a softening of attitude towards refugees in this situation, whether economic migrants or those escaping persecution. Perhaps, a groundswell of opinion in UK would cause the UK government for example, to help more people, particularly lone children, in this situation. We in the UK cannot cope with a flood of refugees but I feel that we can do a lot more. However, current attitudes of the electorate lean in the opposite direction. My exhibit is a small contribution to help change this attitude for the better. So that we can engage more with our moral compass, rather than put our economic interests first.

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I also showed Lucy the three layers of my proposed work: a background film of seagulls diving and screeching as portrayed in the book ‘The Optician of Lampedusa’; two life-sized sculptures, of the wife of the optician who was in the rescue boat, and a refugee who was pulled from the water and survived; and a holographic view of the same people narrating their experience, with the first two layers visible in the background. In order to better understand the latter, Lucy tried the Hololens glasses to see examples of animated and speaking holograms. I explained that Mixed Reality was very new, where holograms are projected into real world, and in my case in front of the rest of the exhibit.

Her reaction was good, but she felt that all layers together would be overload. Each could perhaps operate on their own, or the exhibit could consist of less elements. For example, the background film could be shown with the holograms only. I explained that I had two audiences at the same time, as most viewers would not be seeing the holograms as someone using the glasses would probably do so for the duration of the actors’ narratives, say five minutes or so. and the other viewers would therefore not see what was happening. I suppose that I could project the actors conventionally, but this only adds a fourth layer and compounds the issue.

We talked about not making the sculptures life-sized, but leaving small versions on a shelf alongside the main exhibit. The idea being that they did not dominate the main message created by the holograms and the background video. I also asked whether I should subtly change the seagulls to drowning heads in the video, and this idea was immediately rejected. We also discussed whether the refugee should be alive or dead in the piece, and concluded that it would best serve the message if he were alive, as in reality he would not otherwise be in a position to speak about his experience. Obvious really.

Lucy referred me to a video called Superflex Kwasa Kwasa. It is about two islands in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and Mozambique. One called Mayotte decided to become French again, and thus became part of the European Union. It is the outermost part of the EU being a 14 hour flight from Paris. The two islands are only 76 km apart and families can be split between the two. Yet to travel from the sister island to Mayott means that you are treated as a refugee. Boats patrol the seas to deter travel between the two islands.

Finally we discussed the space in which the piece would be exhibited. I said that this would necessarily be a compromise as I will be sharing space with other MA finalists. I have an issue with the space anyway. In the basement, which is in darkness, one would see the video and the sculptures if they were spotlighted, but not the holograms which require a dim light. The Hololens would also only be available for a few performances when I am present (they cost a great deal). In the sunlit rooms above, the opposite is true. The only layer that would be clearly seen are the sculptures. Additionally, the composition may be affected by the person or persons I am sharing the space with. Ideally I want the viewers to hear at least the seagulls in the background video, and possibly the narration without headphones. I have discussed sharing a space with Alasdair, who wants to show his video with sound without headphones. Perhaps we could use the same projector and sound equipment, but alternate each piece. I have to think further about the overall composition related to either space, and the people I may be sharing it with. Lucy suggested that I make up my mind what I need and make an early strong request for it. Those that leave it too late or are too easy-going usually get what is left. I said that we are deciding as a group of students how to curate the space.

Lots to think and make decisions about. Lucy is happy to see me again when my ideas are further developed. I look forward to that.