Owen Roberts

The Scrub

The Scrub is a video installation controlled by the viewer, who manipulates the movement and soundtrack of a short movie called "Relationships Are Really Hard to Avoid" in real time.


Introduction to Physical Computing

The Scrub: Relationships Are Really Hard to Avoid is a video installation piece that uses a three foot scrub bar (like the scrolling bar in Quicktime) to manually advance a short film. The user controls the scene and the rate at which the film plays, as well as having control over the soundrack with three audio dials, the voice over narration and two of pieces accompanying music. The film is the story of a breakup told through a fragmented narrative in which each character is played by the same four actors, simultaneously giving four readings of each line and movement. The piece explores narrative convention in film and the way relationships fragment and reshape identity.

I've been writing and making films since I was a kid, and the story in this is an extension of film ideas I was working on last year that use unconventional character/actor relationships, such as one actor playing every character in a story in different costumes. Most of the new research went into the fabrication, building a large touch potentiometer and the casings for the screen and electronics and then using Processing to control the video and audio with input from the Arduino.

My audience is anyone who is interested in movies, moving images, sound or narrative.

User Scenario
A user would approach the installation and see that a still frame was on a small screen and there were several controls, a few dials, a slider and a large pink ribbon stretched across a bar. The user will play with the dials and discover the audio track and choose to mix them in the way they like. They will then discover that the small slider controls the scene. Then they will realize that the pink ribbon is a controller, and that they can play the movie by sliding their finger across it.

There are two boxes, one with a monitor and the other with the electronics, which can both be mounted with small z-clamps. The scrubber is a three foot long board which also can be mounted with small z-clamps. Finally a Mac Mini or other computer must be placed nearby to send video to the monitor and get serial information from the Arduino and controls.

I learned way more about electricity and circuits than I ever expected to. I had a basic understanding of how a potentiometer worked but when I tried to create my own I learned way more about how resistance and conductivity really work. <br /><br /> I also learned that building your own boxes and other fabrication is not always the best route. I was having a hard time building everything I wanted until I just went to the container store and bought a couple of nice boxes. After that I could focus on the filming and coding.<br /><br /> I also learned more about working with actors. For this shoot I had four actors playing the same character at the same time. Sounds simple, but directing each actor individually was a real challenge, because the concept was so foreign.<br />