Entries Tagged as 'Tools and Tech'

Deleting Old Art

May 10th, 2008 · No Comments · Tools and Tech


We’re currently doing some Spring cleaning, part of getting ready for our upcoming project in Finland. This week we’re Ebaying old equipment: tools bought for projects years ago and never re-used.

We’re also streamlining our project digital archives, focusing on projects completed before 2005 that have too many images taking up premium hard-drive space. Some projects have hundreds of images created to get the one or two images that would end up summarizing the project.

I don’t want to throw anything away but I fear an untamed mountain of data more. It’s also true that the more time goes by, the more we understand a project and can delete files reliably. Current projects have 1000s of images, but projects 8 years old seem to get edited down to less than 20 images [and in some cases less than 5].

It’s like I remember things in my head. I have more memories of recent events and fewer memories of what it was like a while ago. It seems right to have fewer memories of older things.


May 1st, 2008 · No Comments · Tools and Tech

our travels visualized on TravellersPoint.com

In seven weeks, we’ll be in Turku, Finland, working on our next video project. Five weeks from now, we’ll be Kökar, on the Åland archipelago, filming. Four weeks from now, we’ll be exploring Hamburg with Murray’s sister. In three weeks, it’ll be Berlin.

Two weeks from now, I’ll be in New Orleans on the 4th day of a cross-country road trip with a good friend and her three-year-old, en route from Providence to deliver the dog to my generous parents, who offered to keep him for the summer while Murray and I are in Europe.

In the span of the next seven weeks, I’m going to spend time in Boston; Providence; Baltimore; DC; Fredericksburg, VA; Asheville, NC; New Orleans; Houston; Dallas; London; Berlin; Bremen; Hamburg; Helsinki; Kökar; and Turku, Finland.

Forgive us if blogging is light for the next week or so as we finish up all the coordination needed to accomplish this journey. Once we’re on our way, though, you can expect regular, daily updates.

High Definition Format War: Blu-Ray Leading

January 10th, 2008 · No Comments · Tools and Tech


The Blu-Ray/HD-DVD high definition format war might be coming to an end. There is a lot of talk that Blu-Ray is taking more ground.

This war has been one of the best reasons for not switching to high definition yet. Of course, the main reason for artists and art institutions to wait a bit longer is that the cost associated with early technology adoption is rarely worth it. It pays to remain a few years behind (read: 10 times less expensive gear means money for more important things).

Drill Search Winner

November 30th, 2007 · No Comments · Tools and Tech


I’ve heard about Panasonic’s legendary drills for years. Since they’re only available at contractor tool stores, most people don’t know about them. I’ve talked to at least two tool repair technicians who claim they are the holy grail of drill engineering. When all the right people say the same thing it seems hard to consider anything else.

What made the Panasonic EYC142B kit, which includes a drill/driver, impact driver and flashlight (and available much cheaper than the official site says), beat the competition was a great balance of long lasting power (top of the line 3.0 amp, 14 volt Li-Ion batteries), features (well positioned LED light with switch, sturdy retractable belt clip) and extreme low weight (3.5 and 3.1 lb.). We’re constantly using these on ladders and in hard to reach places–having a solid belt hook and low weight helps tremendously.

Time for a New Drill

November 28th, 2007 · 2 Comments · Tools and Tech


We’ve been using the same drill for 10 years, and it’s finally starting to show its age. I’ve started to look into getting a replacement and am surprised by all the new models, features and options that have turned an otherwise go-to-the-store-and-come-back-with-something purchase into something that requires more research.

The biggest surprise is a new category of drill-like tools called impact drivers. They don’t have a chuck and are designed exclusively for driving screws. Their advantage is a unique motors geared specifically to their task and a unbelievably small size/weight. Anyone who has had to lug a giant drill driver around all day will recognize their value.

Although having two tools for the same thing that one tool previously did might seem like a step in the wrong direction, this actually makes sense. Like having multiple shoes, less wear is put on each. Additionally, I could use two drills simultaneously (one with a drill bit, the other with a screw bit) or have an extra driver for someone else, cutting assembly time.

I think a strong case can be made for considering following this trend of purchasing a new drill AND a new impact driver–and now is the time to decide that because if you buy them together you can use the same batteries and charger which drastically lowers the total price. In fact, there are many deals out there where you basically get both a drill and a impact driver for the same price as one.

My favorite drill and driver brands are Festool, Panasonic and Makita. Festool is comically expensive but will be the only cordless drill that is passed on through the generations (although batteries will have to be replaced). Panasonic, although not a name typically known for tools, is the drill/driver gold standard among contractors and has legendary battery life. Makita, although inferior to Festool and Panasonic for certain, delivers a solid product at half the cost.

I should note that I don’t consider Bosch or DeWalt because they are designed for people with larger hands, Hitachi because their products look silly, Millwaukee because they have battey issues (although make legendary corded tools) or Porter Cable because their drills are just too big (although I like and own many other PC products).

I’m just starting to wade into the water and will keep you posted.

New Internet Technology on the Horizon

November 19th, 2007 · 1 Comment · Tools and Tech

[Thanks Oliver] Wow.

New Video Technology on the Horizon

November 17th, 2007 · 2 Comments · Tools and Tech

Thanks: Create Digital Motion

In the next 10 years, the presentation methods for video will take unimaginable steps forward [another example: they are currently working on video projectors that fit into cell phones].

Bridge Construction Set

November 16th, 2007 · No Comments · Tools and Tech


Yesterday I downloaded the Bridge Construction Set simulation game, free from Apple’s web site, and haven’t put it down since. You build a bridge and then test it with real physics. Bridges are constructed however you want and then tested to see if they fall into the river or if they support animated cars, which delightfully crash into the river if your design is too creative.

It’s easy to use, although unfamiliar when you first view it. Here’s what I wish I knew:
1) Use the “edit” mode to create a bridge and “simulate” mode to test it.
2) In edit mode, click a circle on the road to insert a link and then click where the end of that piece goes.
3) Command-click a circle to delete a link.
4) In simulate mode the red pieces need help.

Oh no! I didn’t put enough cables in, my train’s gonna fall in the river with splash sounds and everything.


Portfolio Site Update

November 12th, 2007 · No Comments · Tools and Tech


We’ve been working on our portfolio update for a while now. It features new work, a new project organization and a “brief overview” (a quick way to see the top 15 images). Efficiency is key. Overly elaborate interfaces can dangerously shrink an audience’s patience (here’s an example).

We generally update this site twice a year to add new work and cycle older work to our Flickr and You Tube sites (the perfect place for older work–we even have our student work there). When we update we also reconsider the best way to format the site itself. We’ve had a online portfolio site for 6 years (since 2001); it has changed a lot since version 1. As our understanding of our work changes, the architecture of the portfolio site follows.

An older and consistent critique we heard about our portfolio site 2 years ago was that it was difficult to know what the art was: “was this a staged photo or a live performance?” To help with this, we started to organize our portfolio site by media: video in the video section, sculpture in the sculpture section and so on. However, for projects that contain several media, organizing by media only complicates matters further.

So for the last month we’ve been constructing a new organization for our portfolio site that preserves the multimedia nature of our projects while remaining clear about the media of project components. This new version is far from perfect, but it’s our first draft to negotiate this balance.

New Standards for Digital Art Portfolios: Part 2

October 24th, 2007 · No Comments · Education, Tools and Tech

[image source]

If web sites become the new standard for viewing artists’ portfolios, then a standard portfolio web site design protocol is needed. Some artists will prefer to create their own user interfaces, but I imagine the overwhelming majority have better things to do than learn web design or spend money hiring a specialist.

The portfolio web site should not be the art, except where it is the art. The portfolio web site should serve to easily communicate artists’ works. The more predictable the interfaces is, the easier it is for viewers to get to the art. Portfolio web sites should be invisible. Viewers should think about the art and nothing else.

A commonly used standard portfolio site design would accomplish this, however no standard will work if it is not easily available or at reasonable cost.

There are two design methods that could become a new standard for digital art portfolios. One is a lesser known feature of Adobe Photoshop and the other is Apple’s iWeb.

Few realize that Photoshop has the built-in ability to create portfolio web sites. Simply place your artwork in a folder, create a folder for the new site to be placed in and select “File”/”Automate”/”Web Photo Gallery…” A box comes up that lets you select one of twenty site styles. You then select your source and destination folders (the folders you’ve already created), surf the color and size preferences and click OK. Upload everything Photoshop sticks in the destination folder (using programs like Transmit, which is free from the Apple site) to your hosting service provider (we like pair.com which is about $10 a month) and boom: instant portfolio web site. It’s so easy I made an example with our work just for kicks (the hardest part was selecting which files to put in the source folder).

Note: if you need more text and want to use Photoshop, simply include the text under the image files (as part of the actual image file itself) or include the text as a separate image file.

Photoshop is extremely limited though, iWeb is a solid step up. IWeb is almost as easy to use and allows greater freedom in site design. It also has the advantage of being free for anyone who has a newish Mac. If you’ve bought a Mac in the last couple of years, chances are you already have it on your computer. Although it took about 5 minutes to make this — which is 4 minutes longer than Photoshop took — here is our work in an example iWeb site.

Note: in iWeb, all content is easily arrangable by dragging it around. My example site was done quickly with no real attention to spacing, etc.

Note to artists who don’t have a Mac: consider getting one. Put it on your credit card next to the Japan trip. Macs are no longer more expensive than PCs and they work the way artists think.

Read Part 1