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Landscapes of Self

A common paradigm in the new media genre are pieces that reflect some aspect of the viewer's visual appearance - virtual "mirrors" that take in live video input (usually via webcam) and then feed back that visual data in intriguing ways. My interest in using this technology is not to simply present a two dimensional "mirror," but to combine that effect with 3D graphics, creating an onscreen virtual space that is sculptural and architectural, as well as, graphical. I call the approach "3D Video Sculpture."

click on a picture for a larger version

"Landscapes of Self" was actually the very first piece of software I put together involving the ideas that I would expand with later 3D Video Sculpture works. It works with simple principles of 3D extrusion - brighter colors stick out further from the surface of cubes that make up the video image than darker ones. It is very much a more mature (technically and conceptually) version of a work I did in Shockwave a year ago.

As it sat on my hard drive dormant as I expanded on the technology to be more expressive and meaningful as a real time piece, I never forgot the basis of my initial fascination with the software. "Landscapes" in motion wasn't actually what I found most interesting about it - it was the still screenshots I took of it to send excitedly to friends that I thought were the really cool product of the thing.

A still of the live video image that the screenshots on this page were derived from.

As I've noted with my other works, I'm not necessarily interested in direct re-representation - "mirrors" don't interest me as something that I want to do. And "Landscapes" as viewed from a frontal view may be interesting and fun to play with, but when the array of semi transparent cubes were viewed from different angles as if they were sitting on a flat plane - a futuristic land or cityscape suddenly appeared, with hills and architecture, depending on the color values at those places on the flat video image.

click on a picture for a larger version

In a sense, these stills are unavoidably representational, and that's more than okay as far as I'm concerned. I see the software driving "Landscapes" as a new way of capturing visual moments in time, a 3D landscape version of a photograph, where the self captured by the camera is transformed by color values, geometry, and the virtual "camera" to a mysterious and futuristic image that is utterly irreproducible.

The software was created in Windows C++ using Visual C++ .NET, using Quicktime for live video capture and OpenGL for graphics.

A big thanks to Daniel Shiffman and nehe.gamedev.net.

e-mail me at edtang at antiexperience.com

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