Object of Desire #01 The Buchla 2000e Modular Synthesiser

Object of desire #01. A new feature we’ll be running on the Fluid Blog, Objects of Desire, object which for whatever reason we have fallen in love with. And I’m starting the ball rolling with the Buchla 2000e Modular Synthesiser -

If you buy a contemporary off the shelf Synthesiser today it will be a keyboard shaped with a few knobs and a button which you can select from 100′s (in some cases 1000′s) of preset sounds all of which are fairly “musical” for want of another word, with a few wacky sound effects thrown in for effect. The internal layout of your instrument will be fixed to oscillator (creates the sound) to envelope (shapes the sound) to filter (alters the timbre of the sound) and then to output.

And so once you’ve plugged it into the mains and the output into your amp.. and then even with the most rudimentary keyboard skills your ready to go, with no prior knowledge of electronic music, you’ll be able to flip rapidly between sounds – you’ll never go out of tune and you’ll impress everyone..

This wasn’t always the case in the early years, the first commercially available Synthesiser’s were modulars – that is each was split in various modules which controlled / manipulated / or generated the sound, if you plugged this into the mains nothing would happen (apart from the mains light going on). You would have to physically plug one unit into another via patch cable’s and adjusting the numerous dias and knobs on each of the modules to create a sound, this not only required an understanding of the principals of electronic music but a great amount of time it can take hours (if not days) of work to create the one sound.. Then to create another sound all the cables would have to be pulled out and the whole process would have to start again..

With the advent of digital technology it was widely assumed that they redundant technology. But the big advantage was that Modulars had was the synth could be patched together in widely unconventional ways  based on the whim of the user and create unconventional “non musical” sounds and slight adjustments on any of the parameters can cause radical or subtle changes in the sound – this war on the tyranny of the preset is why we are seeing a massive resurgent of interest in Modular synth’s fuelled by a cottage industry of small independent designers working closely with musicians to produce custom units..

Modular synths were developed independently in the 1960′s by a number of people, Bob Moog being the most well know – less know was the Californian designer Don Buchla – Whist the majority attached keyboards onto there machines Buchla was much more of a maverick he wanted his instruments to be seen as a totally new way of not only creating music but of thinking about music – The problem with putting a keyboard on a Synthesiser is you immediately think of it as well…. a keyboard instrument, with all it entails, conventional european scales / chord / melody and rhythm (cue endless 1970′s prog rock synth solo’s!)..

Buchla synths were controlled in a number of ways the most famous being touch sensitive pads which by pressing down could control one variable, moving your finger forward and back controlled another and side to side another. With multiple pad’s the musician could control a vast number of variables rapidly and with great sensitivity. Coupled with this Buchla synths had a number of modules which created random functions which changed the sound in unexpected ways. I’ve spoken to one musician after a devastating live performance who said he’s only ever 75% in control of his Buchla and 25% is unexpected, so it them becomes like an improvisational dance with his synth rather than a conventional performance..

Although I’m never in favour of “punching a nail in with my fist rather than use a hammer” there is a downside to ease of use – and often the design of the physical and digital tools we use, coupled with the need for creating something quickly to fit into deadlines – can often railroad us into creating and thinking about art in conventional and staid ways.. rather that the necessity we have to do as creative artists of redesigning the wheel once in a while .

One of the first piece created with the Buchla was “Silver Apples of the Moon” by Morton Subotnick in 1968. Here’s some footage of him recently demonstrating the operation of the Buchla – you can see him using the touch pad unit

For all it unconventionality / natty utilitarian brushed metal panels, coloured knobs, flashing lights and wire’s, right out of a mad scientists lair.. and of course sounding totally and utterly fantastic – The Buchla 200e synth in my object of desire..

CATEGORIES: Design, Music, Technology

Design Inspired by the World Cup in Brazil

With Sunday’s world cup final fast approaching and since I’ve recently returned from my trip over to Brazil, I thought it would be good to create a bit of a collection of all my favourite bits of design related to the world cup.

It all begins for me, as Im sure it does for many others, with the release of the kits each team will be wearing for the world cup. This tends to be an all out war between giants Nike and Adidas with both stealing ideas from each other. I personally, have always been a Nike man myself. I find Adidas a bit boring and they restrict themselves with their three stripes. Even though I always look out for the Brazil and England shirt, France’s home and away shirts are the clear winners for me. They’re beauties! You can see all this years kits here.

Another reason I prefer Nike’s offerings to Adidas in the kit department is the fact that adidas’ kits always seem to be produced from a template. There is a theme running across all their shirts with slight adjustments between each one. Where as Nike always appear that they tackle each shirt as a separate job. Perfectly illustrated by this piece on the fonts that were used for each country’s name and number on the back of the shirt. Nike collaborated with Wim Crouwel for the Netherlands font and Neville Brody for England. Stu McArthur, Design Director at Nike Football explains “we design unique fonts for the best NIKE teams as an extension of the ‘pride’ elements of each kit design. the font’s are created with a focus of being culturally relevant, as well as playing a role in completing the kit’s overall design.”

Then there is the big battle of the TV campaigns. Again, Im much more partial to Nike’s advertising. Who could forget the park life ad, the brazilians in the airport and the scorpion tournament in the cage! Sadly Nike’s ads have been much of a muchness over the last few years. This animated film however is a different matter breaking from the live action tradition and showing our football heroes as we’ve never seen them before. ‘The Last Game’ has almost 200m views and has since been extended with a series of short animations. More info about the film can be found here.

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The official poster for the world cup was released along with posters representing each host city. All are very bright and colourful and in keeping with Brazil’s flamboyant image. However I found this series of illustrations by Portuguese Illustrator Andre Chiote more interesting. Chiote illustrated five of the 12 World Cup stadiums in Brazil, using his signature style that highlights key elements of a building’s design with blocks of colour.

There are always a huge variety of apps released for a major sporting event and this years world cup was no different. Most of them did similar stuff like providing live scores, schedules, statistics and tables etc. However this beautifully simple calendar created by London design consultancy Karoshi stood out from the crowd for me. Ok it might not have all the bells and whistles but who cares when it looks this good. This digital wall chart was also made into a B2 poster screen printed in silver.

Staying with simple typography based design, The World 32 is a project by Criswell Lappin, a Brooklyn-based creative director who runs the creative consultancy Wellnow Design. Football history in the form of simple facts and numbers for each of the 32 teams in the world cup is what he’s gone for. Wouldn’t mind a print myself, possibly not england’s though…makes for poor reading compared to Germany and Brazil.

During the world cup, I started following the Art of Sport and found their collection of minimal prints representing each nation really interesting. Plus its always fun trying to guess the country…or maybe thats just me. The Art of Sport is co-founded by top designers (and rival Liverpool and Arsenal fans) JP Stallard and Rob Duncan.

From the simple and elegant, to these bold and patriotic illustrations done by Brazilian designer Cristiano Siqueira for ESPN. The 32 pieces representing each nation, combine comic-like illustrations of key players with elements from their nation’s flag and the team nickname to create these heroic pride inspiring images.

And finally, one more set of player illustrations by Jon Rogers. These differ greatly from the previous collection in that they are much more gritty. His key players collection here was obviously admired as The Guardian asked him to create some banners for their World Cup 2014 Show. As for the football… I think Germany will be a little too much for player/manager/one man team Lionel Messi!

CATEGORIES: Advertising, Applications, Art, Design, Events, Illustration

GOOGLE CARDBOARD TURNS SMARTPHONES VIRTUAL REALITY HEADSET

Google Cardboard

A very clever bod at google has come up with this in his spare time, google cardboard turns smartphones into a virtual reality headsets making virtual reality accessible to a wider audience. That’s where Google Cardboard, perhaps one of the most important, quirky, and ingenious advances in consumer VR since the Rift itself, comes in. The flat packed cardboard holds the phone within itself when the headset it made up, and the developer that has created this uses the phone to split the view point for each eye, google ‘hopes to encourage developers to build the next generation of immersive digital experiences and make them available to everyone.’

You can even cut the cardboard housing, the schematics for which are posted online (PDF), out of a pizza box.

CATEGORIES: Applications, Technology

TUMBLR OF THE WEEK

So here we are tumblr of the week – week 2, things are looking up. This particular tumblr is pretty great, it took me a few seconds to clock exactly what was going on when I first landed on the site but when I did, I warmed to the concept immediately. In a nutshell its gritty street photography, but all images are taken within the realms of a video game.

Below is the “about” text from the tumblr which explains it all, some interesting GTA trivia also.

As you may or may not have heard, the video game Grand Theft Auto V, was released (September 17, 2013) after more than 5 years in the making. It went on to make $800 million in the first 24 hours of sales, and it was also the most expensive game ever made.

Being a big fan of GTA, I went to the midnight launch and played the night away. As I played, I noticed that the characters had cameras on their phones, which could be uploaded to Rockstar’s Social Club under my username, ArtCows, and from there, I could save them to my computer. With this new tool, and the huge world of Los Santos, I started experimenting with the camera and the digital streets.

What I found was remarkable. The game is so realistic that it felt like being in the streets outside, running around for shots, anticipating passersby’s movements and reactions. In a way, it was also incredibly frightening that these algorithms could look so real, or is it that we ourselves are becoming ever more algorithmic?

In this blog, I will share with you the street photographs that I will be taking through my characters in GTA V.

Click HERE for your one way ticket to the mean streets.

CATEGORIES: Art, Design, Documentary, Environment, Games, Miscellaneous, Photography

TUMBLR OF THE WEEK

We will endeavour to bring you one good tumblr every week ( or month, depending on how busy we are ) this week is an oldie, but a classic tumblr none the less. Things organised neatly is a beautifully simple idea that reaches out to the nosey parker and obsessive compulsive in us all.

I do enjoy these images a great deal especially the ones where people empty the contents of their life or brief case onto the internet in an orderly fashion for all to see. I am dubious about the amount of hipster film cameras I see in these arrangements  and wonder do they ever use them to take real life photographs, and where do you even get film processed these days. Hmmm.

Check out the proliferation of organisation right HERE

CATEGORIES: Art, Design, Documentary, Illustration, Magazines, Photography, Travel

RISE OF THE INDIE DEVELOPERS

With the last few years seeing a major rise in independent games, is 2014 the year for independent developers? The emergence of crowd funding as a financing method has made things potentially a lot easier. Kickstarter alone last year saw $57 million in pledges, often creating a well needed hype around the game.

Tools like Unity are also making it cheaper and easier to create new games. Although with Apple recently noting there are more than 1 million apps in the app store, there are hundreds, if not thousands of new games on mobile devices at any given week, proving to be a very competitive industry.

CATEGORIES: Design, Documentary, Music, Studio, Uncategorized

MARK HARRIS

Wonder what our designers do when they’re not designing? Mark Harris one of our 3D and digital designers here at Fluid has now released another album named ‘The Angry Child’, If you would like to know a little more about Marks Musical side project check out his interview about his forthcoming release HERE

CATEGORIES: Art, Design, Music

XBOXONE VS PS4

With Playstation releasing its console a week before Xbox it was clear they were going to get a head start, but within just over a month of both the consoles releases respectively, Playstation is still out selling the Xbox, with 3.6 million consoles sold over Xbox’s 3 million.

So why is the Playstation selling more? A technical comparison reveals the Playstation is around 50% faster with a significantly more powerful GPU- graphics processing unit. Of course one of the main factors is the price, and with the Xbox one selling at £429.99, £80 more than the Playstation, you can see the appeal. The Xbox though, does include a Kinect camera with Playstation charging around £50 for their equivalent.

CATEGORIES: Art, Design, Documentary, Games, Technology

ALIEN TAKEOVER

If you have the pleasure on going on the IGN website in the new few days we have an Aliens – Isolation take over advert running. The advert runs a gameplay / story trailer video which give you a little taster of the scope and quality of the game. Check it out HERE.

CATEGORIES: Design, Documentary, Miscellaneous

MIND BLOWING VISUALS

We know this has been floating around the internet now for a little while but its too good not to post.Box explores the synthesis of real and digital space through projection-mapping onto moving surfaces. The short film documents a live performance, captured entirely in camera. Watch the video HERE.

CATEGORIES: Design, Environment, Exhibition