Post-it Note Art on Campus

Following on from my previous Blog Post (online) highlighting a number of YouTube videos depicting Post-it note art, this post gives some idea of the Post-it Note murals that have materialised around the School of Computer Science and Digital Technology, Birmingham City University. As previously mentioned on a visit to the Google London offices over the summer, myself and a dozen other academics really enjoyed seeing the Post-it note art they had adorned their offices with.

To add a greater splash of colour around the School we purchased 15,300 3M Super Sticky Post-it Notes, this is sufficient to cover an area of around 88 square meters. The images below give some sense of the murals that have already been created, with many more likely to follow. These murals have been created by a number of placement students we have working here at the School. As can be expected they have all had a very distinctive Computing/Gaming theme to them.

What other Post-it Note murals do you think would be interesting to see?

Post-it Note Art

Post-it Note Art

Post-it Note Art

Post-it Note Art

Post-it Note Art

Post-it Note Art

Post-it Note Art

Post-it Note Art

Post-it Note Art

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BCU Global Game Jam 20-22 Jan 2017 – Event Summary

Over the weekend of Friday 20th Jan to Sunday 22nd Jan 2017 the Global Game Jam 2017 (online) took place. Tens of thousands took part at locations all around the globe, with Hawaii being the last to kick off. An embargo was in place on the theme until Hawaii had begun, the idea being not to talk about the theme online until Hawaii had joined in the fun. The theme for this year was “waves” which provided quite a deal of scope and direction for idea generation.

One of the locations for the Global Game Jam in the UK was BCU in Birmingham which was organised by Liam Sorta @LiamSorta and Andrew Wilson – Programme Leader for the BSc in Computer Games Technology @BCUGAMESTECH. The event had a great turnout of over 100 people, many from Birmingham, but others from Warwick, Southampton, Newcastle & as far afield as Australia (though had been in the UK since the first semester). It wasn’t just University students either, but also a good few graduates whom work in the games industry. Once the theme for this years jam was announced everybody broke up into teams (a little over 20 in total) and headed to the labs to do a quick brainstorm of ideas and routes to take, before getting down to making those ideas a reality. A large number of the teams made use of the Unity Games Engine, though one or two teams developed their games in Python.

One can see all the games that were uploaded to the Global Game Jam site from Birmingham (online). One of the great things about this is that you can download both the source code and executable, hence can play the game yourself and also learn how it was developed.

The Game that won the BCU “Innovation” prize was produced by a group called “Signal” (online) which was based on one having to navigate around a 3D environment that was pitch dark. One could emit sound waves to help see the outline of the environment & thereby navigate around the environment. This was very much akin to how Daredevil (2003) (IMDB) perceives the world and also similar to how Batman used “sonar” to see his way around a building in the dead of night – The Dark Knight (2008) (IMDB). The winning team for this prize had been selected by myself (online) and Mak Shama (online) having viewed all the presentations on the Sunday afternoon.

Representatives from two companies were also present at the Sunday presentations @VERYGOODFRIEND and @fishinabottle whom also selected teams to win prizes. Zen(x) (online) was particularly creative in developing a unique idea in the form of using a combination of a dozen sine wave calculations to control an onscreen icon, requiring the user to interact when it reached the centre line & therein changing the trajectory of the sine wave. The graphics had very clean lines and very much mirrored the “Zen” concept whereby the user could just relax and enjoy the game. Ooodle Showdown (online) was also another unique game for two players. It featured some very nice graphics and required players to navigate through a sea of characters something akin to a cross between the Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters and the Michelin Man. Each player (blue or red) could send out a sort of sonar wave and would turn the character that colour for a short while. The best thing to probably do is to download and play the game yourself to see how it works.

I had spent a good few hours each day at the game jam. It was really great to see the initial ideas dreamed up on the Friday evening evolve into quite functional games by Saturday and then on to more refined games by the time they needed to be uploaded on the Sunday prior to the afternoons presentations. All in all it was really great to see such a variety of fantastic games grow from an initial idea into a working game in just a matter of 48 hours. The well know phrase “two heads are better than one” certainly holds true whereby the key strengths and talents of teach team member could be harnessed towards one definitive goal and deadline.

Key Web Links
Global Game Jam Site (online)
BCU 2017 Game Uploads (online)
Twitter Hashtag #BCUGGJ17 (online)

Social Media Selection
The following selection of embedded tweets and instagram images from a number of those present during the event should help to give a good sense of what occurred over the 48 hour period.

View this post on Instagram

#bcuggj17 #afishysituation #gamedev

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

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#bcuggj17 #seewaves

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

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#bcuggj17 presentations

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#bcuggj17 #allhandsondeck

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#kingbooty #bcuggj17 #gamedev

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

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#bcuggj17 #oodleshowdown #gamedev

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

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#bcuggj17 #teammiodsnowstorm #omni amazing game idea!

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

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#necrodeulists #indiegamedev #gamedev #bcuggj17 #globalgamejam

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#wanishingwaves #bcuggj17 #gamedev

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#globalgamejam #bcuggj17 #indiegamedev #gamedev

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Dawn.

A post shared by Jonny Graney (@jonathancharlesgraney) on

Examples of Graphics, Animation and Fractals in Film

Vol Libre (1980) created by Loren Carpenter is an extremely well know example of early computer animation. It used fractal terrain generation of create a flythrough of a three dimensional landscape. This would in turn lead on to the development of the Genesis Sequence in Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan (1982) (IMDB).

The following video provides a nice bit of background about fractal terrain generation as described by Loren Carpenter himself. In 1978 he came across the book Fractals Form, Chance and Dimensions by Benoit Mandlebrot and having read the entire book twice started use fractal techniques to develop computer generated terrain.

Another good example of computer generated imagery is the Light Cycle battle from Tron (1982) (IMDB).

Tron Legacy (2010) (IMDB) features an updated Light Cycle battle.

Flight of the Navigator (1986) (IMDB) demonstrates the first use of image mapping the surrounding environment on to a surface. In this case it is mapped on to a Trimaxion Drone ship from Phaelon. It also features some nice scenes whereby the Drone ship morphs from “Class 3” mode to “Class 1” – thereby allowing it to efficiently cut through the Earths atmosphere.

Going back to Fractals – its interesting to see how Fractal Graphics seem to crop up in film’s from time to time such as the Mandelbrot Fractal paint job of a car featured in a desert scene from Transformers Revenge of the Fallen. This can be clearly scene at time index (0:36) in the following video clip.

Fractal techniques were again used to generate the lava spewing forth and landing upon a platform, on which Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker were engaged in a lightsaber battle, located on the volcanic planet Mustafar in Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith (2005) (IMDB).

Another nice example of fractals being mentioned in a film comes from Star Trek First Contact (1996) (IMDB), whereby the Sovereign Class USS Enterprise NCC1701-E is being taken over by the Borg. The Borg are trying to reroute main control to Engineering where they are based. Upon hearing this Captain Picard asks commander Data to “Lockout the main computer”, after some interaction with a console, Data responds by saying that “I have isolated the main computer with a fractal encryption code, it is highly unlikely the Borg will be able to break it”. Hence as you can see even in the 24th century, fractal techniques still prove to be very useful.

The term “Fractal Zoom” is used to describe the opening screen effect of Limitless (2011) (IMDB). The camera carries out a number of moves in the X, Y, Z planes commencing with a downward looking view onto a city street. One can read some further detail about how the effect was achieved (online).

Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) developed a new Fractal Rendering technique for Lucy (2014) (IMDB). An overview of this may be seen (online) with detail of the work being published at SIGGRAPH. The technique was used to render many of the space travel scenes in the film.

Fractal techniques were also used more recently in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) (IMDB). The following articles (online) (online) provides a good deal of detail on the use of fractal techniques, particularly in the creation of Ego’s planet. Such techniques may also be seen in other segments of the film.

Wikipedia has a nice list of computer animation in film and television available (online). Do you know of any other interesting examples of computer graphics / animation featured in films.

Quadcopter Flying Around Campus – Video

We had a number of very nice days last week, blue skies and sunshine all day long, hence as part of a module I have with 1st year computing students I took the class outside to experiment with some quadcopter flying. We had two DJI Phantom quadcopters in operation with Go Pro’s attached to capture the scene. One can see some still image captures at the following post.

In the first video above we were all arranged in a circle the radius being calculated by the average width of a student x the number of students / Pi / 2 / 2. This amounted to a radius of a little over 16 feet or roughly 33 feet in diameter. The reason for this was to attempt a “Bullet-time” capture of a quad-copter hovering in the centre of the circle, with the students taking photographs on all their phones. If you look closely at roughly the mid point of the video above you will see the second quadcopter taking off and flying around a little bit.


The flights took place towards the west end of campus next door to the Scott Sutherland Building and the Round Tower, see the map below.

Exploring DOF with PixelSense & the Canon EOS Utility

Around this time last year I made use of an MS Surface (MS PixelSense) Samsung SUR 40 to control a Camera using Canons EOS Utility. A Libec Swift Jib 50 and a Sony NX5E camera were used to capture the interaction with the MS PiexlSense table and transmit it to a series of projectors around the room.

The main idea behind the setup was to demonstrate the effects of Aperture & Focal Length on the Depth of Field. This time round however I took a HDMI output directly from the MS PixelSense table & fed it into the projection system of the lab. To establish the feed between the MS PixelSense & Projection System a HDMI splitter & 10 meter HDMI cable was used. The resulting image was outputted to 6 Epson Projectors and 2x 55″ NEC Displays around the lab. The following images below taken just before shutdown & tidy-up should give some sense of what the setup was like.

In addition we also spent some time taking a look at two sets of cineskates. You may also notice that some of the content shown on the MS PixelSense table looks to be some outdoor footage of a nice clear day. Had taken the class out the previous week to fly some Quad-copters around the campus, you can see some videos here & here as well as a flickr photo-set of images.

Exploring DOF in Class

Exploring DOF in Class

Exploring DOF in Class

Exploring DOF in Class

Exploring DOF in Class

Exploring DOF in Class

Exploring DOF in Class

Exploring DOF in Class

Exploring DOF in Class

Exploring DOF in Class

Exploring DOF in Class

Experimenting with Photography

The following videos demonstrate some interesting setups where as always light plays a hugely important role. The first example below is that of creating the Bokeh Effect. This is achieved using a long lens to set the background out of focus. The background has a dark card / velum lit from behind with a number of holes punched in it to allow light to stream through. Capturing an image of an object good and sharp in the foreground with the Bokeh Effect in the background can create some interesting effects. The addition of gels or coloured acetate sheets can add that extra dimension. Perhaps experimenting with a number of coloured acetates could generate a really nice effect. The addition of a reflective surface adds some really nice reflections into the mix both from the foreground object and the light streaming into the scene from the background.

Another interesting effect can be created with a zoom lens with a slow shutter of a few seconds. Varying the zoom over the time of the exposure to the imaging sensor generates an interesting blurring. You will see that the scene is initially composed with just one side on light, though the resulting exposure is a little dark, hence the addition of some additional lighting to the front of the subject solves this.

A fairly recent previous post looked at light painting, mainly from the perspective of a person creating shapes using a torch or a mobile. The video below is a different view on light painting where objects are illuminated with light. Varying the placement of the light, from back, front or even just from the top down creates quite an array of different shots.

Given that one can use black card in the production of the Bokeh Effect from the first video above another nice composition to try out is to photograph a wine glass making use of a few black cards to control the lighting / reflections of the scene.

If you are perhaps doing a good deal of product photography then you may find something like a Lastolite Cubelite to be of use, so that you can have nicely controlled soft lighting of the product you wish to capture.

Folding up one of these Cubelites can require a bit of practice.

Capturing an Instant in Time – Students Making a Splash

In the previous week with my class of about 100 first year computing students we looked at the process of panoramic photography and light-painting, hence were making use of long shutter durations. This week I thought it would be interesting to go in the opposite direction and capture moments in time of just hundreds or even thousands of a second. I had seen quite a few videos in the past, about capturing such imagery, using both flash and continuous based lighting, hence I gathered together a number of these videos and made a recent blog post about them.

This first image seen above is a composite of images taken from two of the three setups that were used. Firstly the stage was set for the capturing of soap bubbles gently floating down to earth. Next the students had a chance to drop some fruit and vegetables into an Aquarium. The final option was to pour some water into a wine glass and capture the some of the detail and beauty of flowing water that we overlook on a daily basis.

The day prior to class I set out to purchase some essentials, I began by getting some PVC tape, jugs, straws and glass scraper to clear the water from the aquarium after the splashes. Having being unsuccessful in finding soap bubbles, I ventured to another shop and was delighted to see they had a good variety, hence I purchased one of each set they had, this amounted to perhaps close to two liters of soap bubbles, so I was quite sure we would have enough for the photo-shoot. The final really large and important task was to find an Aquarium, so I headed in the direction of the beach to seek one out. I looked through quite a few different aquariums, and finally settled on a glass one of dimensions 24″ x 15″ x 12″ capable of holding about 65 liters of water. So with that I carted all this stuff back to the office.

Later that night I paid a visit to yet another shop to pick up some fruit and vegetables that should make a good splash in the aquarium. Also picked up some food colouring both yellow and blue for use with the water pouring into the wine glass setup. To capture any spillage from the glass I also picked up a paint tray! So that was more or less everything.

Given the class size was about 100 a video feed was setup between the green screen room in which the photography was taking place and the computer lab where all the students were working on some Photoshop and Illustrator tasks. That way they could see what was going on as the video feed was displayed on three projectors within the lab, hence they could move between one and the other depending on how busy the photographic session was. I have used this technique in the past on a few occasions and have found it to be very useful. All in all it took about an hour to set everything up for the shoot with the help of three students and the support team for the video feed.

The following photographs should give a sense of what was taking place in the green screen room with all three stages running concurrently. As you will see bubbles were being blown, peppers, strawberries and the like were being dropped into the aquarium & water was being poured into the wine glass. Five lights were used, two for both the aquarium and the bubbles, leaving just one for the wine glass. In total this amounted to the equivalent of 5320 watts of lighting keyed at a temperature of 5200 degrees kelvin.

The following set of images give a sense of what the room was like after a bit of tidying up was done and some things moved around a bit.

The next set of images just give a sense of the materials that were used for the photo-shoot taken around two hours prior to setting up the scenes. The large Nemo sitting happily on the aquarium will probably find a new home back on my desk but inside the aquarium, in which he fits nice and snugly. This of course has the added advantage of keeping him dust free once I find a suitable cover.

The final set of images include some of the water being poured into the wine glass along with the individual shots that were combined together in the first image of the post.

All in all I would guess that a few thousand photographs were taken in the course of a couple of hours. Its probably also safe to say that the students really seemed to enjoy the photo-shoot, especially given the room was such a hive of activity. Having a number of distinct but related tasks seemed to work well, one thing we didn’t do was to capture water drops falling and splashing into a pool of water, so that is perhaps something for next time, as one can use a few techniques for this alone. If you wish to see some of these images if greater detail, then you can take a look at the corresponding Album.