Creating animations for Stereoscope

We want you to participate in creating amazing animations for Stereoscope. We understand Stereoscope as an artistic platform that enables others to do fancy things with it instead of just doing everything on our own and achieve only 10% of what is possible. By joining forces with the public we are are going to provide much more interesting content for everybody.

Looking at the mere size of Stereoscope it is obvious that most people want to automatically and programmatically generate animations using existing tools or a self-created tool chain of your choice. To do that, we have set up a number of options for you how to do this.

The Virtual Matrix

Stereoscope is pretty special in regard to its pixel layout. The Toronto City Hall features two towers: the West Tower with 22 windows on each floor with the facade being broken up in two areas with 7 floors in the lower and 8 floors in the upper part. The East Tower is slightly larger, featuring 30 windows per floor with 9 consecutive floors in the lower and 12 floors in the upper part. In total, the building features 960 windows facing inwards.

As each tower is visually split up in two we think of the whole area as being for separate screens that itself form a compound display. But we honor the space in between: we came up with the idea of a Virtual Matrix that actually covers a much bigger area than can actually be seen. The whole virtual matrix is 96 x 32 pixels wide.

The four screens are located within this virtual matrix at positions that correspond to the actual physical location on the two towers. That way you can create a huge picture or animation that spans all four screens. Some parts won't be seen as they are located between the towers. But if your animations pans and zooms, moves and morphs you will slowly move your image around the visible area creating the impression of a much bigger display than there actually is. The four screens itself form form windows looking at the actual image.

Here is a reference sheet documenting the exact position of the four screens within the Virtual Matrix:

Download: Blinkenlights Stereoscope Virtual Matrix Reference Sheet (PDF)

You might wonder why we left so much space to the left and to the right of the screens. The answer is simple: imagine the Virtual Matrix as a projection of a cylinder standing right inside the building. The left edge then touches the right edge effectively creating an infinite matrix. So if you want to rotate things on the building you can just take the Virtual Matrix and shift your image on the matrix to the left (or to the right respectively) and reinsert every column on the other side once it gets pushed out.

Directly generating or converting your material

If you write your own generator software or format converter, you should target the Blinkenlights Movies format that represents animations in a rather simple and mostly self-explanatory XML-based format. Once you can figure out how to convert your data to our movie format, you are done.

Stereoscope Creation Tools (for Mac OS X)

If you work on a Mac, use can leverage our Stereoscope Creation Tools which include the Stereoscope Simulator QC (which is a stripped down version of the Stereoscope Simulator for Mac OS X which provides a realistic 3D impression once finalized), the Stereoscope Player (to playback Blinkenlights Movies for Stereoscope) and a copy of the Stereoscope Paint application (see below).

In addition to these three applications the tools provide plug-ins for the Quartz Composer animation program that comes with Mac OS X Leopard (10.5). Once you install these plugins, you can use Quartz Composer to create beautiful animations that can be sent to the simulator program and instantly convert your results to the Blinkenlights Movies format that you can then submit for playback on Stereoscope later on.

Download: Stereoscope Creation Tools for Mac OS X (14.6 MB) [md5 a328fd1eb450f3e566e07c30e958c1c8]

Please refer to the enclosed "Getting Started" document for detailed instructions how to use and setup the Creation Tool Suite.

Stereoscope Paint

Stereoscope Paint ScreenshotStereoscope Paint ScreenshotStereoscope Paint is a simple animation tool following that allows you create simple animations by painting pictures pixel by pixel and by adding frames one by one. Stereoscope Paint runs both on Mac OS X and Windows computers. Once you are done designing your movie, you can save your animation to a Blinkenlights Movie file that you can later submit to us using our web form.

As the lower levels of the building is partly obscured we let you only target the two upper parts (the upper screens as we call it). You must choose which side to target. You might want to use the smaller screen for simpler animations and the bigger one for stuff that needs more pixels.

Download Stereoscope Paint:

Blinkenlights Library for Processing

Processing LogoProcessing LogoAnother valuable tool to create animations for Stereoscope is the Blinkenlights Library for the programming language Processing. This library extends Processing to be able to stream animations to the Blinkenlights Simulator and to write Blinkenlights Movies for easy submission.

Download: Blinkenlights Library for Processing (1 MB)

Read the enclosed README document for detailed instructions on how to use this library. Thanks to Robin Senior for his contribution who also maintains a copy of the documentation online.