For for a few years, I’ve been a part of a research project that is driven by Arvid Engström at the Interactive Institute / Mobile Life Centre, in Stockholm. I’ve written about this project here earlier.
Arvid has been researching around a VJ application using video streams from mobile phone cameras over the HSPA net (commonly known as ”Turbo 3G”). There can be many contributors (cameras) and one VJ that will decide what is being broadcasted. The VJ can give feedback to the people filming by showing that they are ”on air”, vibrate their phones for attention or send messages. The application goes under the name ”SwarmCam” for the time being.
The opensource software Movino is used to receive video over the HSPA-net and Max/MSP is used to mix the video sources and present the final output. In this case these softwares are run on a Macbook Pro. The software that must be present in the mobile phones to be able to connect to SwarmCam is written for Symbian. Unfortunately there are just few phones where user are allowed to install their own software.
The HSPA-net unfortunately has pretty big limits in upload speeds in it’s current state, which results in a pretty pixelated video quality. But with future cellphone nets we will be able to have much better video quality.
When I was testing the application for the first time with my DJ colleague, Henrik Berggren, the user interface wasn’t quite done yet. It was merely smacked together the night before. Even if this early version left a lot to wish for, one could clearly see it’s potential. The main functionality could be summed up like this:
- Crossfader between source A/B and hard cuts between A/B.
- Crossfader between B/C where C is pre made clips from the media bank.
- Tempo control for clips from the media bank.
- Media bank for pre made clips (that can be mixed with the live streams) and loops from the loop editor.
- Image controls for source A/B.
- The loop editor.
What impressed me the most of all these functions was the loop editor. The app will always buffer a few seconds of video. When you see something in a live stream that you want to record, just hit ”rec” and the recording will start a few seconds back in time (using the buffer). In that way you won’t miss the beginning of the action. The start and end of the recorded sequence can then be trimmed and saved as a loop in the media bank. This method of recording starting back in time is very smart and I haven’t seen it either in video or audio applications ever before.
On march 4 me and Henrik will demo SwarmCam when Mobile Life hosts an open house evening at the Interactive Institute. I’m hoping for a few additions like blend modes and MIDI-mapping that Arvid promised to build if there was enough time left.