Monday, July 29, 2013

Time Lapse Video for Exhibition Assessment

Hi fellow bloggers,
 The time lapse video I posted (and especially the camera I used) has people thinking of interesting things we can do with time lapse video. Three of us are currently looking at using time lapse video to assess the success of exhibition design, especially for hands-on activities. The idea is that this would be a more efficient way to do a tracking and timing study. The educator in the group is wondering if anyone has done this before and if so, what were the results. Do any of you know of previous studies of this sort of thing? The time lapse cameras have only come down in price fairly recently, so I think there won't be any previous projects. But if you know of something, could you drop me a line:


An update: Although our management did express interest in the concept, the funding request for the time-lapse cameras was denied with instructions to look into other ways to do the same thing, like with our security cameras.  But I would still be interested if anyone knows of a similar project to use time lapse for exhibition assessment. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Article: What do curators want from the AV community?

From the article: 

"Clearly the participants on both sides of the industry are doing something well: museums are selecting the right equipment and methods of communication, suppliers are responding with suitable systems and together the appeal to the visiting public is growing.  

Mark Taylor: “The classic way of showing an exhibit with a printed label no longer works.  In the digital age, visitors expect to be ‘users’ and to interact with the museum, seeking out and educating themselves on what they find interesting,” however he notes a point of caution: “We must avoid adopting digital techniques just for the sake of it; not to attempt to outdo the amusement parks, rather we need to ways to enhance the visitor experiences."

Read the whole thing here: 
InAVate - Museums - What do curators want from the AV community?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Home Brew Multimedia Tour

This is a project that I've worked on for a couple of years, almost as a hobby. To contract with an audio tour company for an exhibition tour is expensive. The last tour we did with an audio tour company had a development cost of $30,000, plus rental of the tour players.  A multimedia tour is even more expensive because of the greater labor involved in developing one. An app can be expensive, too. I once estimated that an exhibition would have to draw an attendance of 90,000 or more to break even on the audio tour costs, and we rarely see that kind of attendance.  As a result, we rarely can afford to have an audio tour, multimedia tour, or app developed for an exhibition. A cell phone tour is much lower in cost and fairly easy to upload and manage, but the audio quality is low.  So I've been on a mission to find an easy way to deploy tour content on a mobile website.

We use WordPress a lot. The museum website is actually a WordPress site, highly customized by Madhouse Creative, a local multimedia design firm. I created a social networking and training website for our docents using WordPress, and I've even created a visitor comment kiosk using WordPress. So I started looking into WordPress as a platform for multimedia tours. I think I'm about 90% there. If you go to on a smartphone, you see a mock tour page with content about an Egyptian statue in our collection. If you go to the same URL on a desktop computer, you get my rather lame personal blog.

WordPress was designed to be a blogging tool.  Note that I am talking about the free WordPress software installed on your own server, not, which is a for-profit company which sets up blogs on their server.  If you have web hosting with access to a control panel, you probably have the ability to install WordPress. Depending on your hosting service, you may even be able to have more than one installation of WordPress.  I can set up multiple subdomains for free and install WordPress in them, letting me set up special-purpose websites for as long or short a time as we need them.

The appearance of a WordPress site is governed by templates called themes. Functionality is added using plugins. Themes and plugins are added from the control panel of your WordPress site. There are thousands of free themes and plugins available to allow you to easily do virtually anything you might want to do with a website.

The switching between the desktop and mobile versions of my site is done automatically by a plugin called  WP Touch, which includes a mobile theme that is used when your site is accessed by a smartphone.  The video on the page was uploaded to Vimeo and embedded on the page. The text was copied from a gallery label. The icon for the audio element was something I created and uploaded to the site.  It links to an MP3 file I uploaded to the site as well. If this all sounds complicated, trust me it isn't. If you can use Microsoft Word, you can use WordPress.  The only mildly complicated part is installing WordPress, and with my hosting service that was pretty easy, too.

I would be very interested in getting feedback on this idea. I think it has promise. It lets small institutions deploy multimedia content at minimal cost, as long as they have wifi in the building. It would eat up a user's 3G bandwidth to take a multimedia tour using their data connection.  If you combined a site like this with QR codes on gallery labels, you would have a pretty simple and foolproof touring system without the need to purchase or rent tour players. The part I'm not completely happy with yet is the audio. Because the video is streamed from Vimeo, the viewer can start watching it reasonably quickly while the rest of the file downloads. The audio, however, must be completely downloaded to your phone before the file plays. I need a way to stream audio. The dumb solution would be to create a video with a single still image and the audio file  and upload it to Vimeo. But I would like to find an audio plugin that would handle things a little more elegantly.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Time Lapse Video

The Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion has an artist residency program called G.A.P.P. (Glass Artist Pavilion Project).  At first the artists in residence were all glass artists, but more recently they have been artists in other media who were interested in working with the glass artists on staff in the Pavilion.  The current artist in residence is Erwin Redl. He is perhaps best known for draping the Whitney Museum in red and blue lights for the 2002 Whitney Biennial, Redl works with tiny light-emitting diodes mounted in a grid to play with viewers’ perceptions of space and architecture.  For his project in the Pavilion, Erwin and the GP glass artists created a series of glass balls filled with red liquid.  These are suspended in an array inside a light well in the Pavilion that is open to the sky.  Since nearly all of the interior and exterior walls of the Pavilion are glass, visitors can see the balls moving in response to the wind.  The installation is titled "Floating."

My part in this came when Erwin requested that we create a time lapse video of the installation for the entire year that it is to be in place.  I had never done a time lapse video before, so this sounded like fun.  I started looking into cameras, and the first one that came to mind was a Go Pro Hero 3, which is advertised as shooting time lapse.  We bought one, I went through the manual and set up the camera on a tripod outside the light well, and let it run.  The next day I removed the card, uploaded the images, and found that it had only run for two hours.  It turns out that although it will function as a time lapse camera, the battery is only good for two hours under optimum conditions.  Go Pro Support said in response to my query that no, I shouldn't try to run it directly off a charger; it would overheat and could explode!  Great little camera, but not what we needed in this situation.

What to do?  I did a Google search for time lapse cameras and came up with the Brinno TLC 200.  It's a dedicated time lapse camera and it's battery life at the settings I wanted to use is two months!!!  It shoots 720p video and it's only $130.  (The GoPro, by the way, doesn't shoot time lapse video. It takes a series of still images which you then have to drop into the timeline in your editing software.  The Brinno gives you an AVI file.)
 It looks like a toy, but what a great little camera!  It's insanely easy to set up and accepts SDHC cards.  Here's a shot of the installation.  You can see the tripod with the Brinno in the air space at the back of the light well.

 I want to get a few more.  I can think of lots of things to do with them.  You can get attachments to turn it into a stop animation camera or a motion detection camera, and you can get a waterproof housing for it.

Here's the video.  The only problems are the occasional reflections that show the camera.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Timothy Motz, Introduction

Hello everyone!  I’m delighted to be joining this group and to make the virtual acquaintance of all of you.  I have come to museum video production by a very roundabout route.  I have worked in art museums for over 30 years and have my doctorate in the History of Art, specializing in Greek and Roman art.  The first ten years of my career were spent as an assistant curator of Ancient Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts.  I backed into video as the Manager of Educational Media in the Education Department at the Toledo Museum of Art, where I have been for the last 20 years.  In that position I was responsible for maintaining the museum web site, designing interactive gallery kiosks, managing audio tour projects, making felt boards, casting crayons into deodorant containers (seriously!), etc.  We bought our first video camera (a Panasonic DVC-30) several years ago thinking that I would be shooting short clips to use in gallery kiosks.  

In January of 2013 the Toledo Museum of Art reorganized its staff into new teams.  I am now a Media Producer in the Design Studio, which is part of the Visitor Engagement team.  The Design Studio is led by our exhibit designer and includes me, two graphic designers, and eventually (budget permitting) a web developer.

Except for a few short training workshops, I am completely self-taught in interactive design and video production, so I’m a little in awe of the rest of you.  If you look at the videos on our YouTube channel you can watch me learn to shoot and edit by trial and error.  I started editing with Premiere Elements and am now working with Premiere Pro CS6.  The museum is Windows-only, and that pretty much determined which editing software I would use.  We now have a Panasonic HMC-150, a Nikon D800, and a D5100.  I’ve been using the Panasonic for a couple of years, but am just investigating the Nikons.  The rest of my equipment is pretty much prosumer level.  I have a couple of Audio-Technica wireless mics, two Shure wired lapel mics,  an Azden SGM-2 shotgun mic, a Røde Videomic Pro, and a little TASCAM digital audio recorder.  Yes, I have a thing for microphones.  You can never have too many of them.  I claimed a castoff set of Lowel Tota lights but am hoping that in this fiscal year I can get some lights that would give me a bit more control.  I am now working on a Dell Precision T3600, which is a relief.  When we made the switch from SD to HD, the shortcomings of my previous computer became painfully obvious.   

I have nothing against buying pro level equipment, but we are serious about budgets here.  I try to spend my budget where it will have the most impact on the product.  My mic boom is a painter’s pole and my equipment cart is a Stanley Fat Max that I bought at Home Depot.  The Fat Max is actually a great equipment cart.

I am not only a one-man band, I have additional duties beyond audio and video production.  In the short term I am still managing Rights and Reproductions and will continue to have some role in photography and AV support.  I’m excited that this group has formed and I’m very interested in what the rest of you are doing.