Exquisite Motion Corpse (Aka. bodies and Beats)
Exquisite Motion Corpse (later renamed to Bodies and Beats) is an interactive video installation based on an old surrealist parlor game. The user combines body parts that stack together, all set to rhythmic timing, to create unique beats and stories via a touch-screen iPad controller. This 21st-century update of an exquisite corpse combines loop-based music with figure assembly. Very much like the traditional surrealist images, the bodies created in Exquisite Motion Corpse have elements of both humor and horror.
Ann Arobor Film Festival - 50 Screens Project
The installation made its debut in the Michigan Theater Lobby from March 28th to April 1st, 2012.
How it Works
Exquisite Motion Corpse is a 4-channel video installation that uses an iPad as a controller.
Behind the scenes, a Mac Pro runs real-time video mixing software Resolume 4 Avenue. This software, originally designed for VJs to mix video on fly, is the backbone of the the installation. It controls the timing and playback speed of the video clips and does all the heavy lifting through its rapid GPU video processing.
Since the software is too complex for direct user interaction, an iPad acts as a touch interface to control the desired elements. The iPad is running TouchOSC, a customizable application designed to send wireless OSC messages to a computer on the same network. These OSC messages trigger clips and tempo functions in Resolume. This seamless communication renders the user unaware of the complexities of Resolume and displays only the functions and features needed to control the installation.
The video clips triggered on the Mac Pro are split into 4 different VGA output connected to one of the four vertically-stacked monitors. Although Resolume was not designed for use in this way, the stability and engineering of the software is perfect for this type of setup. Instead of having to program a unique video application using Max/MSP and jitter, we were able to use audio/video playback functions in Resolume to do everything we needed. During the Ann Arbor Film Festival this installation ran 10-13 hours a day without crashing. We clocked over 21,000 measures at about 108bpm on average.
How it got started
It all started SPUR Studios when Chris Sandon and Martin Thoburn were pondering some old 27" industrial video monitors Chris had acquired from an old A/V studio. These old things were heavy, stackable and at one time where top of the line multimedia monitors for trade-shows. Although most people would consider them worthless today, yet the NEC XM2950 once retailed for over $3,000 in the mid 90's. Today these old Multi-Sync displays are still coveted by a handful of arcade game enthusiast who like the high XGA resolutions and horizontal sync rate that supports 15KHz and of course the analog video tube that is essential for an authentic look. Its basically a TV that will take any video signal you throw at it.
Chris had the idea to use the monitors for video version of the surrealist game exquisite corpse. So when we decided to test it out see if we could make it happen. Soon we discovered one of the monitors was not working due to water damage. Every local TV repair place refused to work on the TV saying it was too complicated or expensive to fix. Even locating a repair manual was difficult to acquire and NEC had long given up servicing that model.
These TVs were too cool to let go to wast, and our concept had to be realized. So the search was on. Where could we find a replacement? The task was no so easy, but after weeks of searching the internet we finally discovered that a AV Rental house in Minneapolis had a four of these monitors in stock. They were more then happy to sell them to us for a reasonable price well below their original retail value. We discovered quickly however it would cost more to ship these 120lb giants then the monitors were worth, so we decided there was only one thing to do. Road Trip!
The 1300 mile rod trip was set. The folks at the AV rentals house where a bit confused why we would go out of our way to get these old things, but were more then happy to unload them for their inventory, they probably had not been used in many years. When we arrived we could barley fit these things in a large hatchback station wagon, and had to abandon their original shipping containers due to lack of space.
Although the exquisite corpse concept was untested and vague at the time, the challenge of using these monitors inspired us. We used the idle time on the road to discuses the project idea and developed a strong vision by the time we returned home. Ideas for content and logistic of the video shoot were started to come together, thus a new collaboration was born.
Since then, the project has come to be known as Exquisite Motion Corpse and has been awarded a Motion Capture grant by the Drematrix Studio in Dresden Germany in addition to being featured at the 50th Ann Arbor Film Festival in Ann Arbor Michigan.