Théo Lepage-Richer

Fab Academy / Digital Fabrication 2015

Mapping through Sound; or, the Beginning of DJ Funky Fab

To begin with, I have to admit that I might have got off subject a bit this week. There is a project that I had wanted to pursue for quite a while now, and I might have slightly shoved it down the throat of this week’s assignment.

Few months ago, I assisted to a lecture by interactive designer Camille Scherrer and, among other projects, she presented her turning plates – a revamped turntable for plates translating their design into minimalist soundtracks. This project doesn’t really need any ameliorations in its own, but I had been tempted to make a new iteration of it for quite a while – using different materials and codes, yet still evoking the turntable aesthetics.

I therefore started off by designing, milling and soldering what seemed to me as the most appropriate input device for this end – the synchronous detection board. I retained the original design, but changed the form of the board to give it a more ‘headshell’-like form (files here). After having tested it with Neil’s code, I opened Processing 3 and tried to program the appropriate script. The workflow went quite well, despite my very limited experience with this software – as with the other programming-related weeks, I simply tried to find various scripts showcasing desired behaviors, and ‘puzzled’ them together into what I want. In the end, the trickiest part was to figure out the serial communication part of the script – luckily, Ferdi shared with us a script using serial communication from one of his students from last year, Tiago Figueiredo, and I could then easily adapt it to my script. In the end, my script can translate an input into musical cues, use the keyboard as a synthesizer and visually represent the musical variations that it stages (file here).

Noise is Only Noise You Can't See from Theo L. Richer on Vimeo.

From there, I diverted a bit from the ‘interface’ part of the project, and started working on the physical aspect of the piece. Using an old hard drive, my DC motor board from last week and a rubber band (very high tech), I could build a Fab-looking (or dystopia-looking, it depends on who is talking) turntable, on which I glued an elliptic design that I had cut with the vinyl cutter. The final result might indeed look like some pile of trash, but the sensor indeed picks up the turning board’s variations and seems to follow a certain rhythm. I could indeed ameliorate the sensibility of the board and refine the code’s design, but, for this week, I am quite satisfied with this very early prototype of this project I would love to go back to at some point.

If You Can Fab It, You Can Spin It from Theo L. Richer on Vimeo.

DJ Funky Fab from Theo L. Richer on Vimeo.

See below for all the details/for each step.

Your Name

  • Week: 14
  • Subject: Interface and Application Programming
  • Tools: EAGLE, Modela, Processing, Vinyl Cutter
  • Objective: Write an application that interfaces with an input and/or output device
  • Files: Click here

Project 01a
Making the board was indeed easy, but I had few problems when I tried to test it with Neil’s code – every single time I tried to upload something on it, I would get a message error telling me that the c code I was trying to upload couldn’t be read. Looking online, I stumbled upon Alessandra Ferreira’s Fab Academy journal, in which she explains how she ran into the same problems and how she could manage to resolve them. Outside two typos in the code itself – “from Tkinter import” should actually be “from tkinter import”, while “print (command line: serial_port)” shoud be “#print (command line: serial_port)” - I realized that I had to install Python 3, which could then be used to install pyserial. To do so, I simply downloaded Homebrew, which allows to easily install the two latters with two simple commands in Terminal (“brew install python” and “pip3 install pyserial”). I could subsequently run Neil’s code without any problem.
Project 01a
I don’t have much to add about the programming part itself – I have already described my workflow above, and I don’t see how I could elaborate on it – so I simply recommend anybody interested to download my script and read it directly to understand its internal logics (it’s really nothing fancy). To ‘build’ the turntable itself, I simply rummaged through IAAC’s boxes of scrap hardware and found a old hard drive whose disk was still spinning smoothly (which was surprising, with the pile of dust that it was lost into). From there, I took my DC motor board from two weeks ago, modified Neil’s test code so it would simply spin slowly in one direction – finding by trial and error the lowest amount of electrical inputs the DC motor needs to keep on spinning (script downloadable here) – and connected it to the hard drive with a rubber band.
Project 01a
For the board itself, I found online an elliptic, galaxy-like design that I downloaded as is (shall the gods of copyrights be merciful with me) and cut it with the vinyl cutter. It was my first time using this machine, and it went really easily with the Fab Modules. After having got rid of the vinyl part that I didn’t need, I used three strips of scotch tape to lift all the vinyl strips together, and simply stuck them to a piece of cardboard. My first embodied sample was then ready to blast some beats (if you’re into minimalist ones, obviously)!