Well, the semester is slowly winding down and man I cannot believe I’ve finished the last class of my Master’s degree. That flew by. Last Wednesday my Interactive Exhibit Design Course held a showcase to debut our final projects to each other, our professor and a few community members with interest in digital history. I know that I learned a ton with this project and judging by my fellow classmates’ projects, they did too. This blog post will provide an in-depth look at my own project, how it was made, set backs, comebacks and what I would do differently next time. So let’s get to it.
The Quick Version
If reading through a lengthy blog post about process and trial errors isn’t your bag, I highly suggest checking out these videos to get the general idea of what my project was all about! VIEWER WARNING: The first is just me explaining my project to my professor at the showcase, so it’s a fairly casual discussion of the project and there is some background noise but you do get to see more of the project. The second video is a bit more straightforward.
What exactly is my project?
I explained it in the videos but to present a more clear idea, I will explain my project in two parts.
First, I created a home made gramophone with a crank to move the vinyl at a more even pace (or so I thought). I built this part of my project in two phases with a lot of different tweaks and changes. In the first phase I used a cardboard box as the base. Then I created an amplification horn out of scrapbook paper which I fashioned together with a product called Makedo (basically tiny plastic fasteners). Next I created a stand for the horn, also out of Makedos. This allowed for a flexible “arm” so that the horn could be lifted off of the vinyl record. On the tip of the horn, I attached a sewing pin which acted as the needle. Very quickly, I realized it would need more weight so I taped some coins to the very end of it. Creating the spinner was the trickiest part. First, I tried to use a dowel, and a hole through the box that went through the record and into the box. Unfortunately, this was too skinny to actually spin the record. Next, I tried using a pencil as recommended by the Makedo website. Since this was still to skinny, I tried taping it but the tape just slid up when you tried to push the pencil through the record. Finally I thought maybe that it wasn’t the width of the dowel that needed to be changed but rather something needed to stick to the bottom of the record in order to create friction and make it spin. To do this I used a cork coaster that I had lying around home and a 45 adapter. This seemed to work!!! You could spin the record by spinning the dowel and actually hear the song! It was pretty cool. Here’s a video of that as well as some photographs of the process of making the first prototype.
I was very happy about the results of that but I wanted to do two things. A) I wanted to pretty it up. B) I wanted to add a handle where you could crank the vinyl and play it more evenly, making it easier to play and giving it a better sound. I succeeded in doing both of these things but one lesson I learned is that you shouldn’t try to fix what ain’t broken! Okay in actual reality I was glad I pushed myself to add the handle but it just didn’t sound quite as good as the previous model. First though, I built a new base out of spruce and ply wood. Then I drilled holes through it for the dowel, handle and stand where the Makedos would clip through. There was a few mistakes with where I drilled as you’ll be able to see from underneath. I tried several times to make a belt-handle combination that worked. First though, my professor made one for me that was pretty impressive and I have to thank him for that!! I made a home made platter out of foamcore to make it spin and although it worked, it was a bit wobbly and I just couldn’t think about how to incorporate it into a base. Instead, I combined the two (this new crank with the old prototype). I used the belt and handle, connecting them under the base so they were hidden. I didn’t use the medal parts of his model (sorry I don’t know the technical term for this)! I also searched all over London for a small enough barring to make the crank work. This is kind of a simplistic look at how the crank worked but to speak more specifically on that, there was a plastic chain attached to two sprockets (one small one large). Each side was fastened to the bottom of the machine. The larger sprocket had a little medal post attached to it which was stuck up inside the dowel and small wooden ball (each of which I had my boyfriend- thanks for that-drill a hole in). They were hot glued together to ensure everything would stick and would also ensure that the record would spin. The cork coaster was used again to make sure the record spun and it seemed to work well! The only problem was that the song just didn’t play quite as well as with the old one. I think it’s because when spinning by the dowel and not a hand crank, the user has more control and is able to judge what rate to spin at based on how the words come out. Still, it worked fairly similarly and was really cool in my opinion! Check out if you can figure out what song I was playing by this popular sound bite! You can also see a few photographs of the gramophone below that. When you read this, the cutting of the video may still be editing in YouTube so if the 1 minute and 50 seconds one comes up then fast forward to 1 minute and 10 seconds- no cheating! I even uploaded this one on April 9th and it’s still not edited yet- hopefully YouTube fixes this issue soon!
Then came the world’s smallest rock n’ roll museum- at least a prototype of this made out of cardboard boxes. The most laborious part of this turned out to be getting all the walls painted in time but a couple of them turned out pretty cool. I fasted the structure together with Makedos so that it would stand up straight. Here is the structure when I first put it together and a couple of the walls being painted. I tried to make a short hallway with the smaller boxes and then the actual interactive space with the bigger boxes. Please take note that it was probably a hilarious site to see me trying to get two giant washing machine boxes to my car in the Leon’s parking lot on a very, very windy day. I ended up flipping this structure inside out so that the entire inside was painted.
The next step was going crate diving for the all the records that I wanted to use for my project. I picked up used copies since a) buying new ones would blow the budget and b)the needle on my gramophone is simply a sewing needle and not the type you would find on your regular turntable. I was very successful and again have to give a big shout out to the Village Idiot in Wortley Village- possibly the best used vinyl vendor in London, Ontario. You can read more about my crate diving experience, which literally meant going to every vendor in the city, in my previous post. In the end I came home with a great collection for the museum including vinyl by the following artists: Three Dog Night, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan, Jimmi Hendrix, The Mamas and the Papas, The Beatles, The Who, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Pink Floyd, the Beach Boys, The Doors, and Gordon Lightfoot.
The next step was to Layar activate each and every single one of these albums. For those of you who don’t know what Layar is, it is an “augmented reality app”, meaning it allows you to create a project that is digitally interactive for its users. This involved first, taking photos or finding photos of each of the album covers online. For most I could just Google search the image but for a few (Rumors, Fleetwood Mac for example) there were marks on the album and so they had to be photographed personally and uploaded for the program to recognize the specific cover. Once the images were uploaded to the Layar website, I researched each album for its importance to the music industry and cool things about it. I learned some pretty cool stuff! For example, did you know that at the time it was recorded, Queen’s Night at the Opera was the most expensive album ever recorded? Did you know that if you turn up Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon loud enough you can hear the Beatles’ Ticket to Ride at one point?
After researching, I created videos using my webcam that discussed my research. This meant creating a different video for each album cover that I had. I then uploaded it to YouTube (which took a while, believe me). Next, I embedded each of the YouTube videos over the images already in Layar so that each album cover had its subsequent video on top of it on the website. After that, I found a music video or cool recording for each album and layered it underneath of the video of me talking about the album. Finally, I published the campaign so that it was live. Once this was done, it meant that any user of my project could scan any of the album covers with their iOS, Android or Google Glass device and the two corresponding videos would pop up on their device’s screen! Finally, I lined the walls of my rock n’ roll museum with the album covers for display purposes and so that the users could easily access the albums. Additionally, I brought in an iPad so that everybody viewing the project could have accessibility to this portion of the project. If you’d like to try out this portion of the project, go to the App store on your device, type in Layar and let it download onto your device. Next, open the app and scan the photograph below. Two hidden videos should pop up when you do this! Remember to keep your device pointed at the image until it brings you to YouTube and don’t forget to press play!
In conclusion, I was very happy with my gramophone and my World’s Smallest Rock n’ Roll Museum. It was a really fun project to work on and I learned a lot about physical creation and integrating it with digital technology.
What I would have done differently
I learned a few good lessons from this project and now know a few things I would have done differently with more time or if I did the project over again. I also have a few suggestions for if it was ever made into a real museum exhibit, since this model was more a prototype than anything.
1. I would not have uploaded all my videos to YouTube at the same time. Despite it being over 48 hours before presenting when the videos finished uploading, the edits I made to them in YouTube were still not processed by the site by presentation day. What this meant was that when people scanned a few of the videos, there were clips of me messing up my lines, getting frustrated and starting again. Thankfully by now, all the cuts have been processed and this is gone.
2. I would have continued to work on the crank so that the gramophone sounded as good as the first model. I think tightening up the collar would have helped with this a bit but I simply ran out of time. Additionally, in the future I would love to try and add a motor to it. I did try this briefly but when I hooked the wires up to a nine-volt battery like I saw somebody do online, it spun way to fast and I had no clue how to remedy this, let alone by the due date. However, on the day of presentations, somebody did make a suggestion to me on how to do this and I think I may try it in the future!
3. If this was going in a real museum, it would clearly not be made out of card board boxes. I do however think they worked pretty well for this project.
4. If this was going in a museum, I would also be required to get copyrights for each of the album covers that I Layar activated but since I don’t think Stevie Nicks will be coming after me anytime soon I think I’m okay! Additionally, I did not pay for the Layar project so it will eventually expire.
5. I would have liked to add a doorway with hippie beads to go through.
6. The original plan was to make the museum specifically about the Yorkville music scene in the 1960s. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that finding enough vinyl of Yorkville artists under budget and in time was pretty much impossible. However, it is a project idea that I’d like to look at in the future.
Overall and a Great Big Thank You!
I had so much fun working on this project and I want to thank everybody who kept up with my work on it via Twitter, WordPress and especially Facebook. I also want to thank my professor Bill Turkel for the awesome assignment (I think more university assignments should have this amount of freedom. It certainly teaches self-discipline!) and Ryan for helping me drill holes in stuff when I probably would have drilled holes through my fingers! Stay tuned for my next few blogs on the conclusion of my Masters degree and what I learned from it as well as a follow up to my previous post about Tillsonburg’s tobacco industry!