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My degree has come to an end and the show has gone down really well. Sol is getting a great amount of online attention and interest from a few individuals.

As it stands, the model does very little so I had to make a demo video that shows how it will eventually work. The video is a complex series of button presses done in time with a pre-prepared track and LED animations. I insisted on doing this in one take which was a tedious but rewarding pursuit!

The next phase of this project will be to develop the software side of things in PureData and have Sol communicating with it over USB. This will allow me to refine the functions and workflow and get a few units out for testing. If all goes well I hope to eventually have the device working independently, without any external hardware. By incorporating serial communication over USB Sol could also be used as a controller for production software or digital DJing.

I wanted a rubberised finish on my whole model, similar to Aiaiai’s TMAs. This proved quite expensive and difficult to achieve without using industrial techniques so I set about mimicking the finish using matt paint and different sanding methods. I also built rigs that allowed me to move and rotate the model pieces while they were wet.

I decided to build my prototype by hand from a low density aerated plastic called Cibatool. It has similar properties to wood but has a uniform density and machines really nicely. During the build I became well acquainted with a lovely hand operated mill and rotating chuck. If I was to have one machine in my future workshop, this would be the one.

I’ll miss this old thing…

In order to get through the daunting task of soldering 64 LEDs I set up a system, making sure that everything was well thought out to the end. After all, a single mistake could mean 63 subsequent mistakes! Using perf board meant I could have multiple connections on one LED leg. Once prepared, I inserted the LED modules into a rig and wired them up.

I was surprised at how beautiful the result was…

So far I have been doing all my testing with high output red LEDs simply because I had them lying around after my monome build. Today I did some quick tests with other colours and realised the impact that this decision will have on my final product.

Aspects such as wavelength, intensity and viewing angle are all important factors when choosing LEDs. I had a similar issue with my monome build but the forums had plenty of discussion on the topic…now I’m all on my own! At the moment I’m leaning towards amber/orange for its warmth and high output per Watt. Light around the red/orange portion of the visual spectrum also happens to be optimum for visibility in low-light conditions (hence its use in street lamps).

Meet MAX. He’s very small but VERY useful. He will allow me to control 64 LEDs with only 3 pins on my Arduino. However, I thought he was too cute to perform such a big task so I nastied him up a bit using the worst soldering iron I have ever seen.

Now he looks like a mini deforesting machine…



I did some tests for a purely aesthetic feature of my device. The light from the upward facing LEDs will ‘bleed’ into a surrounding perspex ring. This produces an interesting visual feature for any audience that may be watching a performance. The thinner perspex (1mm) produced more seamless transitions between the LEDs with less defined illumination. The frosting also distributed the light a bit better. It is also worth mentioning that the LEDs in the videos are pointing directly at the Perspex strip. In reality the light will come from the side of the bulbs…more testing!

Below is an example of some basic functionality of my looper. I hacked the stop point out of a potentiometer so it rotates fully and used it to send an absolute value to an Arduino. Pure Data patch compliments of this guy.

Initial attempts to maintain this research blog have been hindered by…well, research. However, after some initial concepts and developments I finally have some solid work to post!

My initial design intent was to make electronic music performance more tangible and expressive. The result of my research is a portable device which allows the recording, layering and manipulation of audio loops on the fly. Audio can be recorded in (internal mic or line in), pitched up or down, stretched or shortened, chopped and re-arranged, and manipulated with various effects.

At the moment I have a fairly refined sketch model that demonstrates approximate sizing and basic interaction. The main point of interaction between user and device is a rotating platter.  Buttons in the centre of the platter will perform various operations while determining the platter’s function. A ring of 64 LEDs around the perimeter of the platter give feedback on what the device is currently doing. Some test results to follow!

Recent college pressure has meant that my expendable time is…well…not expendable. This has resulted in an abandonment of certain aspects of my regular daily life, such as making music and perusing the internet for the newest of news. The former has been difficult to leave alone but the absence of the latter  has had some welcome results.

I realised how much of my time was being used up leafing through recent articles on design and music technology. While I don’t discount the benefit of these in the furthering of my knowledge, I found that  I was regularly crossing the line between inspiration and that overwhelming feeling one gets after overexposure to this inspirational material. Seeing too much of your heroes can make you feel somewhat inadequate.

The constant stream of new information flowing through my head had allowed little room for my own thoughts to develop (an effect also induced by our favourite social networking sites). To combat this I have ignored my feed reader and Facespace and only drop in on favourite blogs every so often. All this headspace has led me to develop my own ideas instead of looking at everyone elses in envy. It has also led me to begin writing this blog which, ironically, is what I was avoiding in the first place…

Stop reading my thoughts and go have your own.

Otherwise, read this for further inspiration.


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