Unit x. Line of Enquiry

For our Unit x project the plan is to build a dark room installation. The element of chance is illustrated in the refraction of an amalgamation of images blasted through warped glass.

First of all we had to establish that we could actually get some sort of reflective or refractive material to project through. We visited the glass blowing facility in the university and asked if they could commission us some glass or give us some old samples to use. The glass technician asked that we draw some examples of what we want. Here are the ideas we had.

Early on we wanted to use full glass pieces but these would have to be quite small as full glass uses lots of material and time to sculpt. Our designs also had facets and faces that would take far too long to polish; unpolished faces would block light and limit the refraction. The group decided on a round ball, a jagged shape and the wobbly flame shape. However, after a quick test I did with a small light and a Kilner cup, the I found the hollow objects shine more brightly that a solid one. {which will be more suitable}

We borrowed a hollow glass vessel to test if the effect would even work at all and we could develop the idea further. We hired out a dark room and a projector and found flowing colourful videos to test what compositions would give the best effect. These are some images from that test;

The glass completely dispersed the images and emitted wispy liquefied patterns out of random colour information. An interesting development was that the light bouncing around the vessel would mix and create colours that weren’t in the original image. The outcome was so successful that we asked for 3 similar and hollow shapes to be made instead of solid ones. After some consideration of space in the exhibition, we decided that only two vessels would be more suitable.

It is interesting to see the glass as distortions of seeing. The installation is intended to provide the audience with an experience of seeing; not the physical world as filled with beings objects and events all separately, but as everything that is, was or will be the continuum of energy flowing freely, randomly and in absolute constancy in creating what we know as perceived existence. Considering this, it has been established that sound plays a great aspect of sensing and perception. Conor and Matt have suggested some ways to generate a random sound wave from a live feed. Using live or rather real ambient sound clips to mix would work most effectively to maximize the experience – and uses the same principles used to generate imagery.


In the meantime, the group had gone out to collect images from a walk around town and then these are colour manipulated with various combinations of affects generated at random. The test was repeated with these new shapes and the results are very pleasing. The light spread is significantly bigger with these vessels with them being wider. The display uses the same principle of light as representative of energy that Peter Erskine aimed to portray. While he split light, we are mixing it; or rather allowing it to mix itself in whatever information is translated.

Over the course of each test, there has been many mixed results in how effectively compositions work. It seems some of the darker areas seem very strong in breaking apart shapes and give the illusion of flowing beams or independent movement in and around the space. I decided it would be interesting to experiment with some techniques learned in the 2D animation workshops. These two tests were created with the combined techniques of digital ‘paper cut out’ and ‘stream of consciousness’ experiments in mind.

In collecting imagery for the final production, we had to determine a location randomly by dropping a pin on a map – these are from in and around Whitworth.

The images and films collected her were manipulated and put through the glass while in after affects, this helped in acknowledging how a new composition would look in case we couldn’t get another projector on the night. Equipment being a rather significant roadblock in our progress, especially when it comes to plinths and space – we had to test as often as possible. This ultimately always gave us a clear strategies in solving problems we encounter with software; with the six of us present someone would always have a solution.


The Day we final got to have a look at our exhibition spaces at London Scottish house was the first real clear indication as to how the final product may look (it is still very much left to chance) though this is most definitely to our advantage. At this point we have all the components we need to put together, as every test we have done has been in different rooms, each has come out very different with all the variables this concept has; its near impossible to recreate any of the displays exactly. Its rather unknown as to how it will look in that particular space with both vessels lit.

Originally, we had toyed with the idea of having a rotating plinth but as time and technical resources go, it would not have been a small job. The next idea was to have the projectors stand and project up through the glass – this also would have taken much time and resource to build a see through shelf and suspend a projector vertically. Luckily the AV store had projector plinths already built – we may have to have two of these and build a small shelf on the front.


We had plans to use the small office room space to projector display – these are drawn up designs what the the set up may have been. I had pointed out this may be rather tight for people to walk into the space without entirely blocking out the beams. Although we would have had much more control over the spread of light and sound contamination into other displays. At this point we were still undecided on how sound could be controlled by the audience – similar to Haraldson’s interactive light shows. The difference here being that he is a master coder and we did not have those kind of skills. Therefore we would likely not be using a keyboard.


We are allocated a back wall space that requires us to build most of the environment, idealy out of fabric – adding greatly to the liquid euphoric nature of the production. We would have used a black environment however black absorbs light and the walls would work much better when white and reflective. Using white cloth would make the light visible from outside and entice onlooker through the curtain. Curiosity of what might happen is the foundation of human nature – why we take chances. Below are the new initial ideas for the space.


Conor produced new audio from existing films and made them ethereal and yet still recognizable.

Throughout all the technical developments, ha have been working on multiple animated sequences to layer over the films. The film below is some of the tests using various coloured shapes and also black ‘anomalies’.

I can easily see the sequences with coloured shapes are too loud to even identify any independent movement – the black shapes work so much more prominently against a vivid base.

Drawing basic shaped and formations in flash and moving them along a path with a classic tween made the production fast and efficient. Each video was animated and exported on a transparent stage in Edge Animate so they could easily be composited over films in Premiere Pro. To generate random combinations I could import them under one source and have them dropped in to premiere out of sequence. As the animations are black shapes on a transparent background, it is impossible to identify anything that was in the clip until ran over a film – aiding indiscriminate design.

A composition of the abstract animated films.

So far Polly, Daisy, Matt, Johnathan, Conor and myself have all been absolutely involved with every step of production.


“In the dark and slightly blurry”

 – Dynamic group description


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