As we all know, I’ve been playing with cameras and a robot all semester. My inspiration for using a robot to do paintings with light came from Chris Noel who created this KUKA light painting robot for Ars Electronica.
Since painting and animations has already been done, my partner Quan and I decided to still use the robot to light paint, but light paint using computational focus blur. Quan is the designer, and I am the programmer, so we had very distinct roles in this project. This truly was an experiment since neither of us knew what to expect. All we had seen was these pictures of fireworks being focus blurred by hand:
In my original endeavor to computationally control focus was to use the Canon SDK, which I have used before to take pictures, but controlling the focus turned out to be much more complicated. Then we decided to try a simpler solution of 3D printing one gear to put around the focus ring of a DSLR, and one to put on the end of a servo and control the focus ring with a servo. This was a solid solution, but a cleaner one ended up being to use the Black Magic Micro Cinema Camera. This is a very hackable camera that allowed me to computationally control the focus blur with a PWM signal.
Then I created an app using ofxTimeline to control the focus of the BMMCC and the colors of an LED that was attached to the end of the robot arm. The robot arm would then move in predetermined shapes as we computationally controlled the focus. Focus blur is usually done manually and on events that cannot be controlled, like fireworks. This was an entirely controlled situation that we could play with every aspect of, because we controlled every variable. Quan then used Echo in Aftereffects to average the frames and create these “long exposure” images.
The first tests we did were with random focusing, and they looked interesting, but they also looked computer generated. In the second shoot, we aimed to integrate the streaks with real objects.
Outline of a reflective object:
Reflected by a Mirror
Through a Glass Bowl
Through a Large Plastic Container