Week 4

09 November 2012

Monday and Tuesday were spent with Storythings, and a lovely gang of developers (and friends) working on an internal hack day for a charity: building prototype products to show them what’s possible with a centralised content API. There are two more days next week on this. I’d wrapped up a small prototype by the end of the second day, and have got an interesting, more data-oriented one to work up next week, which should be good. Lovely people to work with all around, though, and some excellent lunches over on Hanbury St.

Wednesday was mainly spent working on a pitch with Rachel from Caper. This was following up some work we’d done the week before – turning our ideas and sketches into writing that met the requirements of an application form. And making a video; that led to me breaking out Premiere and my voice recorder for the second time in two weeks.

The rest of the week turned into business development and working for myself. A few meetings on Thursday and Friday, which might turn into nice leads in future. And, on Thursday, some time hacking up a small prototype piece of software – partly to refamiliarise myself with a few auth techniques, and partly to scratch an itch for some friends. A few hours saw auth with Flickr and caching lists of photos up and running; hopefully I’ll get some time in the near future to wrap that project up, although as ever, finessing the interactions and UI is already growing as I think about it.

Other good news on Friday was the effective completion of the RSC project: the work is complete, and we’ve got a launch date for it. That’ll be when press releases go out, and when I can take the wraps off it, and finally show you all. That’s in a little under two weeks time. Exciting!

And that was Week 4.

Week 3

02 November 2012

Week 3, and time to slowly reveal my codename system.

Codenames, then. They were a thing we used at Berg, and lots of my colleagues and peers use them for referring to projects. They might sound a bit macho and secretive, but they do fulfil a useful purpose: it’s nice to give things a name before you’re in a place to reveal them. It makes writing about upcoming work much easier, too: things now have a single name, rather than a vague description. It took me a while to find a theme – I didn’t want anything too SF or militaristic, which is hard when you’re trying to find good codenames – but in the end I found a big enough list of names within a theme, that also had the requisite poetry to it; it makes me smile every time I pick one. +5 points if you’ve work out what they’re named for.

A few interesting meetings this week – talking to my friends at PAN Studio about potential collaboration, and working on a pitch (which my pipeline document tells me is codenamed Detling) with Rachel Coldicutt at Caper.

I also spent a day doing some work for Makielab – an exploration of a small problem space, to help with some decision making. It turned into a battle between me and geometry, but it moved a few things on, so I hope it proved useful.

And finally, I pushed the RSC project through to what, I hope, is its conclusion. That meant: picking up a second batch of laser-cutting, printing some posters, and finishing up the promotional materials.

The promotional website has not been too complex – a single-page site covering off the main elements of the project – but I’ve also put a chunk of time into a short explanatory video. Video always takes longer than you realise, but I’m pleased with the results; I hit “export” on Friday afternoon on the final thing. As well as learning quite a lot about Adobe Premiere, I’ve been reminded of how much better a film looks when it’s got good audio. The 69p clapperboard app I bought for my phone was worth every penny. Filming, still photography, and editing, took up most of the rest of the week.

And, I hope, we’ll launch the thing formally in a few weeks. I’m really excited to show you what I’ve been up to; I’m very proud of it.

November is looking quite healthy; next week sees the first two days of four total through Storythings (“Cheriton” in my pipeline spreadsheet). I’m still trying to pin down December’s work – get in touch if you’re looking for the sort of stuff I do (or: ask me if you don’t know what it is I do).

Week 2

29 October 2012

A week featuring a lot of business development – ie, meetings. A few of those might lead to interesting things; others were just worthwhile having to catch up with old friends. That included some talking with Makielab, where I currently have a desk, and in return for a desk I’ve said I’ll do a small amount of regular work for them. On the Friday of Week 2, we explored what the first piece of work might bbe.

When not in meetings, I pushed on with the RSC project. Several successes here. I wrapped up the data-recording (for the second play I’m producing visualisations on), finalised the print output format, produced the print design for the second play, and started work on the promotional website.

I shot a chunk of film for the explanatory video on Friday, recording some live audio, and also a guide voiceover, which will need replacing next week. I’ve now got an idea of what shots are missing, and what might need replacing – I can shoot these once I’ve got the final physical artefacts produced.

Speaking of physical artefacts: the biggest success here was getting the first material back from Cut Laser Cut. I was a bit wary of what was going to emerge, but the result turned out to be very beautiful indeed, and won’t need re-cutting. Given that, Week 3 should see the remaining laser-cutting going out the door almost immediately.

So Spirits… is in good shape. I’m hoping to spend at most a couple more days on this – one to wrap up the promotional copy, and then one to wrap up the film and photography once all the materials are back from fabricators. Then, hopefully, it’s just a case of delivering things to Stratford and setting a small site live. It’ll be exciting to have my first actual piece of work since going freelance live, and I’m a bit anxious to finish it all up.

Otherwise: I continue to consider options for the end of the year. There are some interesting things hovering, and it’s a case of seeing if they’ll come into land. (If you’re looking for a smart developer/interaction designer for short projects before the end of the year, or have a Tom-shaped project lying around – do get in touch).

Week 1

22 October 2012

Late again. Oops.

This week began with two days of interaction design work for Good Night Lamp. I’ve written more about that over at their website already. It was a pretty successful couple of days, with lots of new directions explored.

Wednesday and Thursday were spent really pinning down some aspects of the RSC project: tidying up the repository, making the “recording” tool conform to stage aspect ratios, increasing the resolution of recording, and beginning to move towards a final print design.

I also started investigating quotes for print and physical fabrication, and sent the first prototype design to Cut Laser Cut – hoping to get something back early in Week 2.

And then Friday was Playful, which was a really lovely day – one of the strongest Playfuls in years. Particular highlights for me were Einar and Anab, both addressing interesting issues and challenges that face designers not just of games and playful experiences, but almost anything. A great day out, with good company, and lots to take away and chew on.

Next week sees a bit more business development, and hopefully steering the RSC work towards its conclusion by the end of the week. Part of next week’s work is producing the final output materials, and also producing the promotional work around the project – a website and a short film.

Week 0

15 October 2012

I have totally failed to finish updating my vanity domain to be more than just a holding page, so my weeknotes for freelance work will have to start here, for the time being. And as for indexing them from zero – well, why not. And as for doing them at the beginning of Week 1 rather than the end of Week 0: well, I was out, and Late Weeknotes seem to be the trend.

A gentle week to kick off with, mainly focused on some business development (ie: having lunch or coffee with people), administration (setting up accounting software, picking project codename schemes, and beginning to maintain a pipeline) and working on the project I’m doing for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

That’s developing really nicely. I’ve still not written much about it at length because it’s evolving a little as I work on it. Still, rather than being cryptic, now’s a good as time as any to start talking about it.

The project is called Spirits Melted Into Air, and it’s a piece of work about logging actors’ positions on stage during performance and turning that data into secondary artworks. It arose from the idea that many people’s many interactions with Shakespeare are with the text, when, in fact, the RSC’s work is about performance: performance which is shaped not by a text (given how few stage direction we have in the printed versions of Shakespeare) but by an actor, a director, a motion coach, perhaps a fight choreographer, and (crucially) the audience on a given night.

I’m producing this data through a piece of software I’ve written – in Processing – which allows me to trace motion (by hand) from video. It’s a little crude, but is producing valuable results. Then, I’m writing more software to output that into useful formats, and turning that into art.

I am developing it in the open, albeit somewhat cryptically, over at Github, where you can find several Processing experiments and some diary notes. But really, it probably won’t make much sense until I write it up properly.

The big leaps forward this week were acquiring some source material from Stratford, whittling it down to size with some ffmpeg voodoo, and making my simple 2D demo work in skewed 3D space. Oh, and beginning the graphic design of the output.

Lined up for next week (it’s this week really): two days design work, sketching and exploring an interaction space with the Good Night Lamp team, two days thinking about the RSC, a little business development, and Playful on Friday.

Good week 0, really.

  • "Occasionally, as we discuss designs and possibilities, Nick gets a look in his eyes, like he’s going to have punch physics in the brain. Physics looks back at him like a spoilt four year old teasing a doberman. It’s the best stand off you’ve ever seen." I have seen this look.
    (tags: berg weeknotes )