Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Never! in the Parallel World

Never! at The Victoria and Albert Museum, 2016

On Friday 25 November, I installed my 'Never!' custom pinball machine and Playable Prints projects into the Japan Galleries at the V&A as part of their Friday Late.

November's Friday Late was titled Parallel Worlds:
"What does it mean to augment your reality? From VR to the rise of AR, 2016 has seen our virtual and physical worlds collide like never before with game design leading the way. Let us distort your reality across a host of arcades, workshops and playful interventions that welcome you into new worlds."

It was an amazing event, feel lucky to have been a little *flippin* part of it! Thanks to the amazing team at the V&A.

Photos by V&A

Friday, 25 November 2016

Parallel Worlds - Friday Late at the V&A

"What does it mean to augment your reality? From VR to the rise of AR, 2016 has seen our virtual and physical worlds collide like never before with game design leading the way. Let us distort your reality across a host of arcades, workshops and playful interventions that welcome you into new worlds."
More info about Friday Late

Delighted my pinball machine "Never!" and recent Playable Prints projects will be exhibiting at the V&A for November's Friday Late!

Friday Late is FREE and drop in
All events are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Never! New power supply + driver issue

Since the last update, there's been some progress and uncovering some more issues to solve...

If you're just landing on this post, all of my work on the pinball machine (part of my recent MA) is documented in past blog posts.

The new power supply (link to model) arrived yesterday and it was fitted right away. It's clear how much better quality it is, and I now realise the old one wasn't really suitable for the project. The advice is to always buy new (the previous was second hand) and to not go down the cheap and cheerful route.

Continuing my little self set assignment of experimenting with videoing progress and speaking to camera. Not perfect, but trying to find the balance between quick and quality.

Fixing this power issue made some other issues apparent - the solenoid (or coil) for the out hole kicker was burnt out. Luckily I have a big box of old parts and had a few spare. Once that was fitted, something still wasn't right...

The transistor on the driver board which relates to the out hole had also blown. I should have checked it closer before, but now is the time to fix these problems!

Will be replacing the transistor today, and hope to make another update tomorrow....

*EDIT* 18/11/16
After attempting to make the replacement myself, I damaged the driver board further. Lifting up the pads on the pcb board where you solder to make connections. I've been a bit flustered about making the fix, and also my solder iron is one of those cheap ones from Maplin. I should have thought through a bit more before diving in, I guess I was feeling a bit up against time, considering I will be on my way to the exhibition this time next week.

MyPinballs (who makes the boards) is stepping in to fix for me and should be turned around in a few days. I can take a breath, get on with a few of the other preparations.

Updates next week!

As always I welcome feedback, please comment or tweet @jonosandilands

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Never give up!

After a busy summer since finishing the MA, I have finally found time to reflect on the process, including building Never! the pinball machine. 

If you're just landing on this post, all of my work on the MA is documented in past blog posts.

So where did we leave off?
It's been some time since I've given a video update about my progress on the pinball machine, so I just wanted to clear the air, documenting the progress to get back up and running again.

Last week I picked up after some time away from the project. I revisited some of the mistakes & parts that broke down during degree show. Still some work to do, which I am documenting in this progress post this week.

Lately I've often found myself sat in front of a camera for interviews about my work. It's not something I've ever been comfortable doing, so I am using my own process blog as practice to make that go smoother and less scary!

Recording progress is really hard to do when so busy. Before it was motivated by being a journal for the MA. I'm trying to get into the way of making it ongoing, and video may be an easier way to do that.

Exhibition news
Very happy to be getting the pinball machine out in public again. It's going to be at none other than the V&A on 25 November as part of their monthly Friday Late programme, which is titled "Parallel Worlds" this month. The machine will be placed alongside my recent Playable Prints project, which has been the focus of my summer residency at the Watershed in Bristol.

As always I welcome feedback, please comment or tweet @jonosandilands

Stay tuned for more updates during the week.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Never stop evaluating

It's been a few months now since the end of my three years of MA Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking. Strange feeling making conclusions and processing everything. It's been a real epic journey. I've met some of the most talented and inspiring fellow students and staff at UWE, while developing my technical and research skills. 

The outcomes are almost irrelevant, but for me these really sum up the ambition and direction of my work.

All of my work on the MA is documented in past blog posts, and now with some hindsight, things start to piece together:

Why Pinball?
A pinball machine is a great example of printmaking, from the screenprinted playfield wood to the backlit glass and the potential for 3D printed and digitally cut parts.

As a theme it really underpins the idea of Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking and links up different strands of my practice as a Designer, Printmaker and Visual Artist.

Read more:

How pinball inspired me
I’ve thrown myself into the world of pinball over the past two - three years, during this time I’ve played over 100 pinball machines all with different themes and competed in local pinball leagues, at the time of writing I am ranked 5180th in the World and 121st in UK. (I've not played in a while!) 

As well as playing I have had the opportunity to develop my professional practice alongside Heighway Pinball - the UK’s only commercial manufacturer of pinball machines; MyPinballs - a one man company hacking and modifying pinball machines and; State of Play - the BAFTA winning iOS games developer who have just released the beautiful pinball game, INKS. 

An older post about what I learned from play:

I’m hoping to tap into nostalgia and memories of pinball. I believe there is a growing market for digital artworks in homes, creating *almost* a product that could potential be a topic of conversation and of course income as I work together different strands of my professional practice.

Read more:

My goals in the project

  • An incredibly ambitious project to build a pinball machine.
  • For viewers in a gallery to play on a pinball machine.
  • To elevate my work to a higher standard for exhibiting and funding of future projects.
Read more:

The natural progressions within the time
The Mini Print and Student Exchange projects were incredibly important to me and worked alongside my main project of building a pinball machine, these allowed outlets for experimentation (and escapism) which ultimately led to the pinball digital prints, with embedded digital screen.

More on Mini Print:
More on Student Exchange Exhibition:

Seeking out reference to how artists are using screen based technology in art
We're starting to see a growing number of artists using interactivity and more specifically games as part of their work. Embedding digital technology into objects can never really be made to look seamless, yet we're starting to see advances and ideas paving the way for the future:
"Soon to see digital screens that can be made into any physical shape"
- Elephant, p189, Issue 23

"The seamless integration between the real and physical is still an unaccomplished goal: we can usually still distinguish artificial elements from real ones with ease. But when digital projections are involved the border between real and fiction becomes less predictable" 
- Neural, p30, Issue 51

Please do touch...
As an artist, I’m interested in making physical artworks layered with digital technology designed for gallery viewers to interact with. The interaction can lead to new experiences and audiences for art. To do this I sought out national exhibitions that were exploring the topic of new media art to observe methods and display techniques for these types of artworks.

On a jaunt to London to catch some exhibitions I observed how artists and galleries are choosing to display digital artworks;

On the style...
The journey to find the direction in style was tough mentally. I put somewhat pressure on the idea of the outcome, which in evaluating suppressed creativity, and held up being able to move forward at a faster speed.

Eventually I realised to evoke memories and pull people in, I had to create references to traditional pinball styles but links to my own creativity, like what I had done in past printmaking projects

Tutorials with professional visiting artists inspired and helped me make realisations about direction.

On the concept/style:
Art Direction:

The Outcome
I have been in some apprehension about the outcome of the main project since conceivement of the idea. With so many parts coming together at the last minute it could have gone either way really. My planning of having everything ready to go together really paid off.

The fact is, the outcome of all pieces of work have absolutely exceeded my original expectations, the concept has driven new ideas of storytelling in my work, with the medium of pinball enabling and opening doors to many different opportunities.

With so many parts to the project I planned a staged execution. Working on this over the course of the year has meant I could span out larger budgets and production times for certain parts.

This way of working has meant that certain decisions had to be made at pivotal moments before the generation of artwork or before certain parts were bought, meaning a more retro fit approach to final assembly. (this would be a problem for mass production, but not so much for a one-off)

Read more:

What went wrong
Usually something goes wrong with projects of this nature while working on a small budget. I just don’t see them as wrong doings anymore, I use this as part of the project. I really believe that a smaller budget can make a project better as it challenges you in creative ways (of course I wouldn’t be writing that in a funding application, don’t worry).

I underestimated time and labor required of myself to produce a project like this.

The main failure was having enough time to fully programme the game. It’s the part that's lacking and when it won’t be hugely noticeable, it will lead to some bad gameplay experiences.

Not having a scoring system present, when is not to much of a worry in terms of a sculptural gallery work, it does mean that the natural competitive streak in people can’t really be brought out, which is part of gaming!

Read more:

Is there anything new you have been taught from this?
In terms of skills, many of the techniques were new developments of previously learned processes. Building on these skills and becoming more professional and independent.

It has left me desiring collaboration. Much of my work is done in solitude and through various aspects such as music collaboration or working with MyPinballs on the game code, I see benefits of asking for help more.

Read more:

Would you do anything differently next time? 
This is usually in the top 10 questions to ask. Although not wanting to sound like I have regrets of what I have done, I think it goes without saying that it would be a very different if I did it again.

The challenges and effort faced sourcing pinball parts from multiple sources and some parts not being available or having to repurpose something for the job. If a next time. I would find a full and intact working machine as a starting point, instead of piecing together and finding that like a charity shop jigsaw the most important pieces are missing.

I see what I’ve done as a record of a certain time, the outcome is a certain way due to the many factors and decisions taken, sometimes overthought or made in haste. It’s amazing that it exists in some ways, but ... no I'll leave it at that for now...

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Diversity in Print

Tewkesbury Roses Theatre
Monday 14 November - Sunday 4 December 2016
Private View Friday 18 November 5-7pm

Seventeen contemporary printmakers from Bristol, Stroud, Cheltenham and Gloucester will be exhibiting their work in an exhibition that showcases the diverse nature of print making and their unique approaches to the art-form, from traditional copper plate etching and letterpress, through to screen prints from robot drawn images, and digital technology combined with traditional print processes.

Most of the contributors are graduates and technical/teaching staff from the MA Multi-Disciplinary Printmaking course at UWE in Bristol, but there’s also work from artists who have never exhibited before.

Many of these artists will have explored and used traditional printmaking methods such as etching, lithography, relief, screen print: but more often the works on show utilise and combine other more contemporary methods of production, such as photography, casting, and embedded digital technology.

This exhibition creates the opportunity to see the work of some really exciting printmakers and shows the sheer range and multiplicity that printmaking can offer!

Contributing Artists:
Bridget Alexander
Dan Juskus
Charlotte Biszewski
Jude Lau
Jane Bromham
Emily Lucas
Frea Buckler
Wendy Rhodes
Nick Greenglass
Monika Rycerz
Lucy Guenot
Jono Sandilands
Sylvain Guenot
Dave Sully
Roxanne Goffin
Stephanie Turnbull
Philip Johnson

Friday, 16 September 2016

London Exhibitions September 2016

I'm heading to London for a few days next week so, it's time for another jaunt around some London exhibitions.

Discord: A sound installation
Part of Paths to Utopia 
1 July 2016 - 2 October 2016
Somerset House
Free, book online

Media Networks
Tate Modern

Tate Modern 
Worth putting in as it's own thing as haven't been to the new building

Björk Digital
1 September – 23 October 2016
£15.00/ £12.50

And of course the main event... I'm exhibiting alongside some of my fellow MA Printmaking (now) Alumni:
Contemporaries in Print
23 - 27 September 2016
5th Base Gallery
PV 23 at 6pm

Let me know if any more suggestions

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Never: Music for Pinball game

Collaboration with Marshall Brill

Marshall is Producer & DJ based in Glasgow, Scotland, with releases on West End Communications & The Exquisite Pain Recordings. We're good friends from teenage years in Shetland and we've played in various bands over the years. He DJ'd at the opening night of The Art of Ping Pong in 2012 curating an excellent set of table tennis inspired music including the awesome Inspector Norse by Todd Terje.

The Cafe Del Marsh EP was released earlier this year, check it out below.

Sound is a huge part of pinball and what is so alluring and mesmerising about it: I knew this was something I didn't want to leave to the last minute. 

It's been vital collaborating and asking for help in some aspects of this ambitious project, particularly when the area of expertise is out with my skill-set. So no surprise sound is one of those areas, and has usually been something left as an after thought rather than a planned out element in past projects.

I was behind in finalising documentation about the custom pinball game in order to commission any sounds. Having heard the Cafe Del Marsh EP, particularly the first track Spanish Wine, I knew I wanted to work with Marshall. Leaving as open brief as possible for free reign in the style, with some guidelines for how the sounds could work with the game, visuals of the printed artwork, and some extra pinball inspiration all sent via the Audio Requirements document.

This is the first time I've written a document to pass onto someone to commission music, so there were a few extra technical questions about how the game works (I've since added these to the original document). But this is a learning process, I'm sure I will be able to create a better document faster in future. I always imagine writing types of things as big scary documents, but they are actually really helpful to lay down direction in a project, I tend to get carried away or distracted.

Within hours Marshall had got back to me with a rough sketch. There are a few bars of the four different sections of music which run during the game; Intro, Mode Start, Jackpot, End Ball.

"I thought because of the colours of the pinball machine (bright primary colours), in your face digital sounds might work best. Inspired by the tones in the video of the Greatest Pinball machines of the 90s"

Upon hearing the sketch while standing next to the playfield, I could just feel how things were starting to come together, the sounds really relate to the visual style of the game, bolstering it up as a strong pinball game and artwork.

Although in total delight and excitement about the sketch, I gave a little feedback to help Marshall finalise the music.

A week later I was supplied with a development as well as the final loops to be used in the pinball machine.

The process
Clearly knowing each other has helped the process, I'm not sure approaching someone I didn't know so well would have been such smooth sailing. Although my short time frame may have been quite an ask, I think it shows what can be done in a short time and my belief that a deadline helps move a project on to another level.

Marshall's producing process in a way relates to my own creative making, when there are some days when you can make and tinker for hours and still not be happy with the outcomes.
"Its quite fun working with conditions set, not something i do very often at all very easy to get caught tweaking stuff infinitely and never finishing..."
It's definitely interesting and exciting hearing the response to the game artwork and the brief, seeing how someone approaches the topic from a different creative viewpoint.

We're both interested in the life of the track past the pinball machine. Marshall has plans to continue working on the song to get it to the point of release. I will also use the full track in promo videos I plan to make during degree show.

Formatting Issues
The only issue that has arisen is the format of the audio when installing for use of the MyPinballs Custom Controller. There is a very specific audio format due to the format the boards (running Arduino) can support. It's easy to quickly update using the built in SD card, but not having much knowledge in audio formatting it took me some time to work out a system for conversion.

WAV encoding for the sound files should be:
Sample Rate: 22kHz
Encoding: PCM
Bits Per Sample: 8
Channels: 1 (Mono)

After some working around I figured out a system for converting the supplied audio for use with the control boards. My process for conversion is as follows:
  1. Convert audio from 44 kHz -> 22khz using a generic online audio convertor
    • For this convertor I use settings: 
      • Format: WAV
      • Quality: TAPE
      • Channels: 1
  2. Taking the converted audio into Audacity
    • In Preferences change the default sample rate to 22050 hz
    • Export with settings: 
      • File Type: Other Uncompressed Files
      • Header: WAV (Microsoft)
      • Encoding: Unsigned 8-bit PCM
After this conversion the sounds work perfectly fine, and a quick test of starting a game

Huge thanks to Marshall for helping me out with this project! Please go check out his music on Soundcloud.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Never: Backbox

The backbox was something I had always planned to review at the time of completing the playfield. There was a question if I was going to have one or not, due to tight timescales.

Now that work on playfield assembly is almost completed it is the time to get the backbox done. I really think it is a necessary component, but my design is very simply a lightbox style backbox. At this point it will have no interactivity with the game only as a sign like panel.

I'm doing this alongside some other little bits and pieces that I'm still finishing up on the playfield

Making the Lightbox frame

The backbox is 600x600mm, so I knock up the outter frame with some timber the depth I require
It's simply glued and pinned together, held roughly in place with ratchet straps. It doesn't really need to be perfect.
Giving an idea for my more slimline approach, theres no electronics or mechanisms to be housed in the backbox so it can be a little smaller. I had already designed a flat panel at the top of the cabinet for this size.

It totally transforms the feel of the machine, realise how important the backbox is for the pinball aesthetic

The frame is sprayed to match the cabinet, with a handcut stencil this time with simple graphics
I'm using 'L' shaped trim to hide the fixing of the perspex, deciding which colour to go for. Yellow is too weak!
Perspex supplied next day. What a world we live in! Spray painted with a handcut logo. Saving budget and time.
The perspex is set in place as the trim is glued on. Nothing too difficult, keeping it simple.

And check it out! Ready to mount in place.
A bog standard 12v LED strip is attached behind the perspex to glow 
Ok a late night of working, this is looking excellent! Notice the cabinet protector/frame made in the same way
Tomorrow the pinball machine gets transported to the degree show space!