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Author Topic: is my art project feasible?  (Read 7898 times)
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i've just stumbled upon your forum in search of advice on how to achieve an art project i have in mind.

it would involve a number (30-50) of small video screens, such as cellphone screens, each with a speaker, all wired into a computer (perhaps all powered by the computer), with the computer running short, continuous video clips of people talking about their lives.  

these screen/speakers would be stitched or woven into a length of cloth that would then either be hung flat on a wall, or draped around a form like clothing, but it would not be designed to move, as if it were actual clothing.

i would if possible use old cellphones, for green repurposing, as well as being cheap.

how can i do this?  does anybody know?
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Probably feasible if you instead go for cheap LCD keychain type photo frames, if you can find ones that would play video at all. This is probably what you'll end up using: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.47508
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thanks for the referral to the small mp3/4 players.  i hadn't thought of them.

am i right in inferring that it wouldn't be very doable in arduino?
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Yes, Arduino alone would probably not be a good choice for implementing your project.

But you could use Arduino(s) to be "middlemen" in between a PC and the MP4 players. The PC could send instructions to the Arduinos who in turn could switch the MP4 players on / off or whatever.

This would require hacking into the MP4 players to allow Arduino to control the switches in them.
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how would something like this work?  it seems to be already arduino adapted.

http://www.adafruit.com/blog/2011/01/06/new-product-monochrome-128x64-oled-graphic-display/

i apologize in advance if this kind of commercial link is forbidden.  i'm referring to a monochrome 128x64 oled graphic display that's just come on the market.
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i'm referring to a monochrome 128x64 oled graphic display that's just come on the market.

While it's set up to allow you to use it with an Arduino (once you use the level shifter), you won't be able to show video (at least not at a good frame rate!). Imagine you had one of these connected to an Arduino (specifically one with the ATMega328 or better - because it needs 1K of RAM for the frame buffer), and you had software written on the Arduino to read the serial data stream from a PC; the PC would have to take the video, convert each frame into 1K chunks, dump that down the serial port, where the Arduino would read it, build the frame buffer, then dump that out the SPI to the OLED screen. With all of those steps, and the big limitation being the serial port, you would be lucky if you got a few frames per second (at best); you still wouldn't have addressed the audio portion of it. That's just for a single screen.

I don't think you can conceivably do a project like this with one or more Arduinos. More likely, anything you did do would have to be made as custom standalone units piggybacked onto the screens. I don't think the ATMega328 is a good fit for this project.

Likely, what you will need to first decide is how many screens you plan to control, and how many pixels per screen (and number of colors per pixel) to know how much data per screen (ie, for each frame of video) is needed, and what your frame-rate will be. Then you can decide on what to use as an embedded processor for the system. You will probably need something that can decode both the video and audio at the same time, and likely each of these units (the piggybacked controller and video screen) would need to be controlled by yet another separate larger controller, and each of those could be connected to the PC (or via a network, or some other communications bus).

You'll also need to figure out what kind/size of power supply will be needed to power all of these devices.

But first, you need to figure out what your needs are exactly, so you know how to size your microcontrollers and everything else. This isn't an easy or simple project; not by a long shot, unfortunately.
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well, would it be possible to wire cellphones up and send video over them?  

perhaps i should just ask how to do the general idea instead f looking for specific solutions so soon.
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The OLED you linked costs more than the complete MP4 players I linked you earlier. Cell phones will be even more expensive. You're going in the wrong direction....
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The OLED you linked costs more than the complete MP4 players I linked you earlier. Cell phones will be even more expensive. You're going in the wrong direction....

Do you think the chances are high that you could easily hack one of those MP4 players to allow (in some manner) a PC to easily load at will a random video file for it to play?

In other words, I think the OP wants a set of small video screens/playback devices to play random videos, that can be easily changed by a PC or other system (and not by changing the contents of an SD card thru manual removal/insertion)...

Perhaps it might be possible to emulate an SD card using a microcontroller (not the Arduino, but something with more memory), which could then have the video sent to it from a PC (or, maybe the PC could emulate the SD card - have a bunch virtual SD images on the PC, and the video files could be altered in the images)...?

Like I said before - this project doesn't seem trivial, however its to be implemented...
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She never actually said that each screen would ever have to play more than one looping video.

If that's the case, then 2GB is probably enough to hold all the videos, and hack the button controls to select different ones. Or even write a shell script to load each player with a long video that has a randomized selection of all the clips.

The project is almost trivial, implemented in this way.
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oh, i love hearing 'almost trivial.'  

the idea is for each screen to play a stream of videos sent by the computer.  there would be a finite number of videos, and they would play randomly.  audio too, of course.

but i wouldn't mind loading each player individually, because it would have the same effect.

my concern is to build it as cheap as possible, balanced against as easy as possible, so that idiots like me (unless i get a surprise tech geek assigned to me on the ground) can build it in a foreign country with parts i carry in with me or find just lying around on the market.
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You are going to need quite a budget for this project.  I don't see any way you will be using cellphone screens.

I agree that using an arduino is not feasible for this project - for sure not stand alone.  If you really must implement such a project (as artists often do) then you may have to scale it down and/or look to PC or networked PCs for your final solution.

The most feasible way I have heard to use arduino this project would be to have each mp3 player wired up to the arduino, allowing the "next video" button to be pressed.  If all you want is just the same video playing, then you for sure don't need arduino .. just load the videos and hang them up.

While hooking to a single mp3 player is not too hard - hooking to 30 to 50 of them is at least "quite a build".  You may need a mega / multiple arduinos or some external components to get 30/50 individual button presses.

If you want this to be "green" then using old computers may be a route to look at as well.  Easy to find laying around in local markets .. not so easy to "lug around".

I would stand back and review the project and your budget.  If your budget does not allow for 30/50 small video players or a good amount of computer equipment then it may not be feasible.  

« Last Edit: January 14, 2011, 09:18:19 am by marklar » Logged

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if the project gets approved, i will have an adequate materials budget.  i'll even be able to throw some change at a few programmers...

it won't do to have to press a button.  the videos will run continuously.

i don't mind doing computers, and would presumably be able to get hold of old computers.  

instead of wiring directly to the video players, it's been suggested that i bluetooth them.  but that sounds like even more work.

i seem to be going in the wrong direction, and it's because i'm entirely ignorant of how to do things.  as an artist, i'm trying to do what's commonly considered impossible, because i'm working entirely outside the box.

what's the easiest, lowest-tech method for showing a bunch of movie clips from the surface of a quilt?  that's as bared down as i can get my thinking.  

and thanks for all the responses, because something like this takes so much expertise and brainstorming.
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How large / small should the screens be (i.e. over 2 inches but smaller than 7").

Do they all need to look the same and/or be the same size.

Do you need central control over the videos or can they be loaded one time and just let run in a loop?  If there is no need for central control, you may not need arduinos or computers .. just something like portable DVD players / portable digital video players.

I was thinking multiple monitors would not work so well because you mention sound on each screen.  My question here is .. how does the sound work?  Wouldn't all the sound just jumble together like being in a crowded place?  If that is the effect you want, then you may be able to use multiple monitors and play all the videos to each screen.  The sound from each one would all play over each other on the PC .. hook that to the output and you get the same results kinda.  It would be intersting to see how all those little "tinky sounding" speakers would sound all running at once.

Just thinking out loud, good luck getting your fun sounding project approved and accomplished.
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ah no, man - thinking out loud is what this stage is all about for me.  and you have it pretty much exactly right.

no, it doesn't matter if the screens are different sizes (and i hadn't thought of that, it would make a cool visual variation and would also imply relative importance (which is a joke because they're all running the same videos).)  

the need is for small because it's going to be in fabric that will be hung or draped, and will be best seen at a distance of 15-20 feet.  a 2" screen isn't too small, because the movement will be seen, and i hesitate to say 7" isn't too large, because the fabric will be draped and that kind of weight will be awkward.

i hadn't thought about programming the players themselves.  that sounds downright easy, just sew players into the fabric and change the batteries now and again.

except i was looking for a more state of the art solution.  the idea was to sew the screens and speakers into the cloth, the way little mirrors are sewn into some indian clothing.  but using what's there is equally as important as being cutting edge.

i want sound on each screen rather than from a central source, tho that would do at a distance.  but it needs to be clearly heard when you're standing right in front of it, so you can follow what the people are talking about.  at a distance i want it to all blend together into a soft cricket or wind kind of sound.

thanks for the good wishes.  if i get my project approved it's because of the help of about a million people, and you're some of the first ones on the list.  
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