Archive for the 'software' Category

Shillito A. M. Digital Crafts: Industial Technologies for Applied Artists and Designer Makers. 2013

This book by Ann Marie Shillito has been published in October 2013 by Bloomsbury. The first heading of the introduction reads, ‘Don’t be intimidated!’ and serves as Shillito’s motivational motto for the interested maker who is on the verge to engage with digital technologies. ‘I want this book to empower, knowing that engagement with and access to digital technologies will continue to improve and that as designer makers we have exceptional knowledge and expertise to take full advantage of all the means available to enhance our practice.’

Digital crafts cover sml

A practicing designer/maker with a background as a jeweller, Shillito is also the founder of Anarkik3D developer of the 3D modelling product Cloud9. This software enables the user to employ haptic feedback – with a force feedback device – to model virtual 3D objects using also their sense of touch. (I was priveledged to tested an early prototype of this system – it had also stereo-scopic vision co-located with the users real gestural positions).

I like the fact that this complex and multifaceted theme is introduced by an experienced maker. In writing this book, Shillito has also included the voices and works of 45 international contributors who have included digital technologies together with their practice to various degrees.

Being image rich, this book makes it easy to see the diverse opportunities digital technologies have to offer for craft and design practitioners. It takes an honest look as to what would be requried from a maker to access these opportunities. The investment in acquiring the necessary skills is significant. A chapter each is given to 2D and 3D technologies and there distinct applications. Chapter 6 ‘Accessing digital technologies’ might be of particular interest to the novice digital/maker.

Chapter 2, ‘A craft-minded approach’, touches on important questions for contemporary making that sees traditional disciplines becoming less defined through the very technologies that hold so much potential for them. This chapter sets the context against which this book draws its value. It canvases the value of the skills and approaches unique to the designer/maker that both inform the output the creative works as well as the development/application of these digitally-based processes.

I have been familiar with all the technologies introduced in Digital Crafts and have used a fair part of them directly. While all aspects are illustrated with completed works by competent digital Designer/makers, I would have been interested to see how some of these works progressed from conception to realisation.

Digital Craft is certainly a worthwhile resource for anyone interested in the contemporary Designer/Maker model as well as the current state of digital manufacturing and the processes required to access them.

Link to Anarkik3D


ur QR

I am getting quite fond of QR (quick reference) codes. These strange square pattern link the ‘real’ world to information or places in cyperspace. You can ‘read’ them with your smart phone – I use the iPhone app QRReader – or create them with their phone or on a website like qrstuff. Such a code can assist with promoting professional practice and can find its way on your business and invitation cards as well as your email signature block.

Here is a QR code linking straight to my new website.

(Either scan it with a QR reader or just click on it)


Pixler online image editor 1. Levels, crop and resize

Pixler is a fantastic free image editor showing how powerful online tools have become. Springing to life inside you internet browser t running on both a Mac or PC, all you need is internet access. If you know Photoshop you will find familiar tools in similar places.

You can view YouTube tutorials here.

The following steps illustrate how an image could be improved and resized for online viewing, like an online learning site. The image has a lot to be improved on eg the contrast enhanced (using the Levels tool), cropped  and resized for screen viewing.

This image taken on a cloudy day with out a proper background and lighting serves as a the starting point.

Image to be prepared for screen viewing

Image to be prepared for screen viewing

1.) Open Pixler and the image to be edited.

test image open in Pixler

2.) Enhance contrast. From the ‘Adjustment’ menu select ‘Levels’ use the sliders to set the ‘black and white points’ as well as the balance.

Select 'levels' in the adjustment menu

Select 'levels' in the adjustment menu

levels adjusted, note the change in contrast.

levels adjusted, note the change in contrast.

3.) If needed use the crop tool to ‘frame’ the object in the image.

Crop tool applied to the image

Unwanted parts of the image cropped away

4.) Resize for screen viewing. I recommend to set the image to 1024 pixels wide or 768 high. Please note if the width is 1024 but the hight is more then 768, then adjust the hight to 768 even the resulting width is then less then 1024. An image in portrait format might be 768 pixels high but only a few hundred pixels wide.

Select image size from the 'Image' menu

Select image size from the 'Image' menu

    Image size menu
Image size menu

To save the image, select Save from the ‘File’ menu. I would recommend to change the name of the image to not save over (loose) the original image if  you have adjusted the image size (pixel count).

This is the saved file in full resolution (click to open)

Final image for screen viewing

Final image for screen viewing

You can find out more about Pixlr on its FAQ site. You can also see tutorials on YouTube here.

Soon I will post how to remove the background and add a shadow to the image.

Prezi, or no more powerpoint for me!

Recently I came across ‘Prezi’, a non-linear presentation tool. I am totally impressed by this simple and fun-to-use online software.
Its  easy to organise and present text, images and video’s in a fluent way that can convey complex topics.

'Home' view of Hockney 'Prezi'

One can ‘zoom’ to any point of the presentation and back without  a sense of breaking the presentation. I enjoyed its smooth moves and flexibility for this presentation about iPad drawings by David Hockney (link to post about these iPad drawings).

The only improvement I would like to suggest is better text editing eg more font options.

Best to check out Prezi for yourself here.

All you can do with materials

‘One can do only four things with material’, is my current theory I like to test with this post. Four steps apply to the majority of making processes and some aspects of these are shifting from the makers workbench to distributed digital fabrication online.

It is worthwhile to look at these shifts in more detail as the mastery of digital technologies is involved in defining contemporary craft practitioners as ‘Designer Makers’.

The four processes are:

Cutting – Forming – Fusing Finishing

About these categories:

Many materials used by makers are available in flat, like sheet metal, fabric, glass. Traditional cutting tools such as saws, scissors, blades are used on them, while at the same time digitally controlled cutting processes like laser & water-jet cutting or CNC plasma cutting are becoming more and more accessible. Digital processes influence most significantly the first category, cutting. Just about all flat materials can be ‘fashioned’ this way, allowing the maker to achieve repeatable precision parts countless times. These technologies are still very specialised and expensive usually out of reach of the individual maker. However a growing fabber network will bring these tools closer to the workshop of the individual maker.

The forming is still mostly in the hands of the crafts practitioner with digital 3 dimensional processes only on the periphery and used in niche applications. Once cut to size, many materials are traditionally formed through impact like the use of hammers or with the help of heat, steam or formed into and over molds. Rabid prototyping is a representing the digital fabrication for this category. For example in contemporary jewelery very detailed 3D wax or polymer prints are used to achieve –  once cast in metal – very unique results.

The third category, fusing, relies heavily on the skilled work of the maker and no influence of any digital technology in this category is evident. All crafts have developed processes of combining materials either two of the same kind or as a mix of different materials. Some are permanent while others can be separated again. These fusing processes include welding, gluing, riveting, stitching, bolting.

Finishing: the treatment of the works surface is typically one of the last steps in the making process, while adding significant value to the finished object, it is time consuming.  Many of the finishing processes are completed by hand. However an increasing number of digital and computer controlled processes are relevant to this category such as digital printing on fabric, laser engraving. Some of the finishing processes are mechanical or chemical and can include techniques such as engraving, polishing, printing, anodizing, lacquering.

Digital fabrication has without doubt much to offer for contemporary craft practice and over time will get more important for the contemporary designer maker. By becoming more accessible digital fabrication has the potential to contribute significantly across the entire making processes.

To integrate these technologies with traditional tools the maker has to add the required digital skills to the tool set as well. Just about all cutting processes I mentioned are based on the ability to generate vector based drawings. These would require a basic knowledge of a software such as Illustrator.

To address rapid prototyping processes, one has to master a CAD program first. Typically this requires a much steeper learning curve until one is able to create a well-formed 3D computer model. However non of these skills can’t be learned (or taught for that matter).

Together with an increasingly fast, accessible internet and more user friendly web 2 services, digital fabrication is ready to be explored creatively.

Seadragon meets Photosynth, the more shards the clearer the view.

A friend from Germany has recently send me this extremely exciting link about the most interesting image visualization software I have seen for some time. Especially with the demonstrated possibility to harness the global collective visual data with many applications for education and entertainment.

The Photosynth technology preview is a taste of this new – and most exciting – way to view images on a computer. This software takes a large collection of photos of a place or an object, analyzes them for similarities, and then displays the photos in a reconstructed three-dimensional space, showing you how each one relates to the next.

Its architect, Blaise Aguera y Arcas, shows it off in this standing-ovation demo (you will need broadband).

Using photos of oft-snapped subjects (like Notre Dame) scraped from around the Web, Photosynth (based on Seadragon technology) creates breathtaking multidimensional spaces with zoom and navigation features that outstrip all expectation.

Seadragon promises speed of navigation is independent of the size or number of objects (images and large amounts of text) and its performance depends only on the ratio of bandwidth to pixels on the screen. This leads to smooth transitions and near perfect scaling for screens of any resolution (wall-sized displays to mobile devices).

Seadragon is an incubation project resulting from the acquisition of Seadragon Software in February by Microsoft.

You can access gigabytes of photos in seconds, view a scene from nearly any angle, find similar photos with a single click, and zoom in to make the smallest detail as big as your monitor.

Its aim is to change the way we use screens so that visual information can be smoothly browsed regardless of the amount of data involved or the bandwidth of the network.

Just imagine the possibilities of a convergence of Photosynth/Seadragon and flickr, google earth and second life like systems for education. I just hope this helpful and exciting technology will filter through to average customers and not suddenly disappear from the public eye.

images of work