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kottke.org posts about video

The HD Video Feedback Kinetic Sculpture

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 30, 2021

Here’s a description of what the machine featured in this video does: “The HD Video Feedback Kinetic Sculpture creates fractals and organic-looking images in real-time, without a computer: this is old-school video feedback.” But just watch the video for the full effect — this thing produces some amazing imagery.

This is part sculpture, part performance art, and may make the most complex video feedback ever created, using three cameras, two video switchers, a sheet of beam-splitter glass, and an HDMI input from a phone or live video feed.

Much like a musical instrument, the operator at the helm of this device plays it, but instead of making sounds, makes entire worlds, spirals within spirals, loops within loops, galaxies, classical fractal imagery and primordial organisms, leaves, trees, and insects. It really is the God machine.

How Taiwan Held Off Covid-19 (Until It Didn’t)

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 29, 2021

This video from Vox takes a look at how Taiwan avoided a Covid-19 outbreak for more than a year (and kept total deaths to just 7 in 2020 in a country of 23.6 million) while residents were mostly able to go about their normal lives. The video features photojournalist Ed Ou, who underwent a mandatory 14-day quarantine when he traveled to Taiwan last year. Ou had this to say after spending time in Taiwan, doing normal things without lockdowns or restrictions:

This was an alternate universe of what America, and the rest of the world, had seen all year. The Taiwanese people had been able to just live their lives, as if nothing had happened. Like, to me, that’s freedom.

After more than a year of almost no cases, Taiwan experienced its first Covid-19 outbreak in May (after relaxing their quarantine rules and, presumably, the rise of the delta variant) but has since gotten it under control. Other countries that had been successful in controlling the virus until recently — like Vietnam, Thailand, and Mongolia — are also seeing outbreaks now. When the rest of the world is teeming with the virus, it becomes more likely over time that even the most organized and protected systems are going to be vulnerable.

How TikTok’s Algorithm Figures You Out

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 28, 2021

Using dozens of bot accounts, The Wall Street Journal did an investigation and determined that TikTok’s algorithm needs only one piece of information to determine what you want to watch: the amount of time you spend watching individual videos. Observing your watch time and rewatching is enough for them to fill your “For You” page with recommended videos that are right in your wheelhouse after just an hour or two. That this happens so quickly and completely — 90-95% of what users see on TikTok is algorithmically determined — leads to users going down narrow-interest rabbit holes that can be dangerous, e.g. if someone’s Covid interest turns into anti-vax QAnon crap or sadness turns into video after video about depression or harming yourself.

As someone who built an entire web app that collected people’s social media likes/faves, this focus on a single signal is fascinating. API limitations and rate limits on the number of requests would keep you from building a service with a TikTok-like algorithm for Twitter or Instagram that used likes as the only signal for whether to show someone a piece of content or not, but if you could, I bet it would be amazing.

Nissan Taps Video Game Company for New In-Car Warning Sounds

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 27, 2021

Car warning sounds urging drivers to buckle up or turn off the headlights can be quite unpleasant to listen to. So Nissan teamed up with sound designers at Bandai Namco, the gaming company known for Pac-Man and Tekken, to replace those warning noises with something more musical.

I had a car once that beeped really sharply and loudly whenever the temperature dropped to 37°F as a warning for potential slippery roads and it scared the shit out of me every time. As someone who is sensitive to sound, I applaud efforts like these to make non-emergency sounds less jarring. (via rob walker (again))

Stand Here for Dance Party

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 27, 2021

Since 2001, performance art group Improv Everywhere have been staging events in public, aiming to “surprise and delight random strangers through positive pranks”. Their latest endeavor takes place in NYC, perhaps the best place on Earth for exposing random strangers to positive pranks. A man in an orange vest places a “Stand Here for Dance Party” sign on the ground and then walks away. A brave soul steps onto the sign and, well, you might guess what happens next.

I found this via Rob Walker’s newsletter about his book, The Art of Noticing. I love what he wrote about it:

Now that you’ve seen it, you know that once someone did stand on the decal, a squad of Improv Everywhere operatives, with boom boxes and impressive dance moves, converted the public space into (as promised) an open-air dance party. Very fun.

But here’s what makes this work: Not just the planning and the expert performers and the slick choreography and the clever subversion of social-distance design. None of that matters unless somebody stands on the decal. What activates this entire operation is curiosity.

He continues, describing the woman who gets the party started:

This woman is my hero! I love everything about her, her body language, her openness, the thrilling sense she radiates that anything could happen and she’s up for it. And if you’ve watched the video, you know that she in fact unleashed an experience that she (and many strangers nearby) will never forget.

What’s not in the video, but we know is true, is some huge majority of people not even noticing, or actively ignoring, the invitation to an impromptu, on-the-spot dance party. As always, attention is the first step.

Curiosity. Attention. There are those words again, the universe trying to tell me something.

What Does Space Sound Like?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2021

In this collaboration between musician and filmmaker John Boswell (aka melodysheep) and the sound podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz, we get to listen to some of the actual and theoretical sounds of space, from what the Sun would sound like if space weren’t a vacuum (we’d hear it as loud as a jackhammer on Earth) to the sound of the Universe just after the Big Bang to thunder in the thick atmosphere of Venus to dreamlike piano music on Mars.

Floating in the silent void of space are trillions of islands of sound, each with their own sonic flavor — some eerily familiar, some wildly different than Earth’s. And even space itself was once brimming with sound.

This short film takes you on a journey back in time and to the edge of our solar system and beyond, to discover what other worlds of sound are lurking beyond Earth’s atmosphere. You won’t believe your ears :)

This is really well done, which isn’t surprising considering Boswell did the excellent Timelapse of the Future video a few years back. The soundtrack to The Sounds of Space video is available on Bandcamp. (via aeon)

How to Draw Yourself as a Peanuts Character

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 22, 2021

In this video, The Snoopy Show storyboard artist Krista Porter and Apple’s Anthony Jackson show us how to draw yourself as a Peanuts character. Once you get past all of the Apple synergy stuff (Pages! Pencil! Apple TV+!), this is actually pretty neat and you can obviously do it with any device/app or even pencil & paper. They’ve even included a PDF of drawing references to make it easier.

different faces drawn for Peanuts comic strip characters

See also Watch Charles Schulz Draw Charlie Brown — it takes him about 35 seconds. (via print)

Nuclear Powered Game Boy

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 20, 2021

Using a small quantity of tritium (a radioactive isotope of hydrogen) and a pair of solar panels, Ian Charnas built a nuclear powered portable game system (a knock-off Game Boy) that is capable of playing Tetris. The tritium puts out an incredibly small amount of energy, so the system uses tiny but incredibly efficient batteries that were able to power the game for an hour after charging for two months.

If you’re interested, Charnas is raffling the nuclear game system to benefit Chernobyl Children International. (via @pomeranian99)

Gil Scott-Heron: Whitey on the Moon

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 20, 2021

Inspired by the Apollo 11 moon landing, musician & poet Gil Scott-Heron wrote a spoken word poem called Whitey on the Moon. You can hear him recite it in the video above; here are the first few lines:

A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face and arms began to swell.
(and Whitey’s on the moon)
I can’t pay no doctor bill.
(but Whitey’s on the moon)
Ten years from now I’ll be paying still.
(while Whitey’s on the moon)

Back in 2011, shortly after Scott-Heron’s death, Alexis Madrigal wrote a short appreciation of the poem:

Let me just say that his track, “Whitey on the Moon,” changed the way I thought about the space race forever. It anchored the flight into the heavens, tethering it to the persistence of racial inequality, and pulling it out of the abstract, universal realm in which we like to place our technical achievements. Though I still think the hunger for the technological sublime crosses racial boundaries, it destabilized the ease with which people could use “our” in that kind of sentence. To which America went the glory of the moon landing? And what did it cost our nation to put whitey on the moon?

Swimming Tentacled Droplets

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 19, 2021

Well, this is really quite odd. A group of scientists discovered that if they cool ordinary oily droplets floating in water down to around 2-8°C, they change shape, grow tentacles, and propel themselves around like tiny little sci-fi creatures.

Some of the particles’ facets grow while other shrink, producing a variety of geometrical forms such as kites, isosceles triangles and spiked tetrahedra. Then, from some of the sharp corners emerge tentacle-like strands, as if being extruded from a nozzle. As they grow, the strands bend into undulating shapes — and the droplets start to swim, propelled through the fluid by the tentacles’ extension.

The Handshake of Generations

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 19, 2021

This reading of an excerpt of Andri Snær Magnason’s On Time and Water is a beautiful illustration of the idea of the Great Span.

Imagine that, 262 years. That’s the length of time you connect across. You’ll know the people who span this time. Your time is the time of the people you know and love, the time that molds you, and your time is the time of the people you will know and love, the time that you will shape. You can touch 262 years with your bare hands. Your great grandma taught you, you will teach your great granddaughter, you can have a direct impact on the future right up to the year 2186. Imagine that.

(via @robertsharp59)

Hilma af Klint, the Life of an Artist

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 19, 2021

On his Art History School YouTube channel, Paul Priestley gives a short but thorough overview of the life and work of pioneering abstract artist Hilma af Klint.

Hilma af Klint shared an interest in the spiritual with the other pioneers of abstract art including Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, and Piet Mondrian. And like Hilma af Klint many were drawn to Theosophy, which opened a route towards a new world of spiritual reality, rather than merely depicting visual impressions of the world around them.

Had she not kept her abstract work secret she would surely have held the accolade of producing the world’s first abstract paintings. Instead, Kandinsky’s paintings of 1911 would, until recently, come to be recognised as the first abstract works of art.

(via open culture)

Carl Sagan in 1978: Star Wars Is Too White

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2021

During a Tonight Show appearance in 1978, Johnny Carson asked Carl Sagan about the scientific accuracy of Star Wars. Sagan replied:

The 11-year-old in me loved them but they could have made a better effort to to do things right. A lot of different aspects of things — Star Wars starts out saying it’s on some other galaxy and then you see there’s people. Starting in scene one there’s a problem, because human beings are the result of a unique evolutionary sequence based upon so many individually unlikely random events on the Earth.

In fact, I think most evolutionary biologists would agree that if you started the Earth out again and just let those random factors operate you might wind up with beings that are as smart as us and as ethical and artistic and all the rest, but they would not be human beings. That’s for the Earth. So in another planet, different environment, very unlikely to have a human being. It’s extremely unlikely that there would be creatures as similar to us as as the dominant ones in Star Wars.

And a whole bunch of other things: they’re all white. The skin of all the humans in Star Wars, oddly enough, is like this. And not even the other colors represented on the Earth at present, much less greens and blues and purples and oranges.

Carson pushes back slightly at this point: “They did have the scene of Star Wars with a lot of strange characters.” But Sagan persists:

Yeah, but none of them seem to be in charge of the galaxy. Everybody in charge of the galaxy seemed to look like us. And I thought it was a large amount of human chauvinism.

Sagan also complained about Han Solo’s boast of doing the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. According to the script, this was an “obvious” lie on Han’s part to make his ship sound impressive, so Sagan missed that. But then, post-Lucas, the Kessel Run was explained in Solo: A Star Wars Story as a distance shortcut and not an elapsed completion time, so…. (via digg)

The Perfect Head Stabilization of a Hunting Red-Tailed Hawk

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2021

I posted about the 2021 Audubon Photography Awards earlier today, but I wanted to highlight Bill Bryant’s award-winning clip of a red-tailed hawk. The hawk is hunting, floating on the wind searching for small prey, its head perfectly still while its body stabilizes around it. I could watch this clip on repeat for the rest of the day…so cool!

This is not just a thing that hawks do — see also This Owl Will Not Move His Head and The Eerie Stillness of Chicken Heads. Birds: nature’s steadycams.

PJ Harvey & Bjork Cover (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2021

This cover of the Rolling Stones’ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by PJ Harvey and Bjork at the 1994 Brit Awards is kind of amazing — I’d never seen this before. The duet is a slow burn, but it really gets there in the end. BTW, this was the same night that Elton John and RuPaul performed Don’t Go Breaking My Heart together. (via @brianmcc)

“I Want You To Look Me In the Eye”

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2021

Filmmaker James Robinson has an eye condition he calls “whale eyes” that causes him to see differently than (and look differently to) most people. In this short film, he makes a plea to “normal” people for acceptance of his and others’ differences.

But his video is also an essay on seeing, in the deeper sense of the word — seeing and being seen, recognition and understanding, sensitivity and compassion, the stuff of meaningful human connection.

In a society that does a lousy job of accommodating the disabled, Mr. Robinson appeals for more acceptance of people who are commonly perceived as different or not normal.

“I don’t have a problem with the way that I see,” he says. “My only problem is with the way that I’m seen.”

Visualization of How Fast a Ball Drops on Various Solar System Bodies

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2021

This is an animation of how quickly an object falls 1 km to the surfaces of solar system objects like the Earth, Sun, Ceres, Jupiter, the Moon, and Pluto. For instance, it takes 14.3 seconds to cover that distance on Earth and 13.8 seconds on Saturn.

It might be surprising to see large planets have a pull comparable to smaller ones at the surface, for example Uranus pulls the ball down slower than at Earth! Why? Because the low average density of Uranus puts the surface far away from the majority of the mass. Similarly, Mars is nearly twice the mass of Mercury, but you can see the surface gravity is actually the same… this indicates that Mercury is much denser than Mars.

(via @thekidshouldsee)

John Oliver Loves Octopuses

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2021

John Oliver’s HBO show is on hiatus for the summer, but he really wanted you to know some facts about the many species of amazing octopuses out there (and why it is “octopuses” and not “octopi”).

See also My Octopus Teacher and A Dreaming Octopus Changes Color.

Succession Season 3 Teaser Trailer

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2021

Ok I know you’ve probably seen the teaser trailer for season 3 of Succession by now but I was away and missed it so we’re all going to watch it together mmm’kay? New season starts “this fall”, whatever that means. I guess that’s enough time for a rewatch of the first two seasons?

Half a Life in 2 Minutes

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2021

For more than 21 years, Noah Kalina has taken a photograph of himself. Periodically, he makes video compilations of the photos — you’ve probably seen them here or elsewhere. For his latest video, he’s collaborated with Michael Notter (visuals) and Paul O’Mara (sound) on a video called 7777 Days.

In a first step, Michael used the machine learning library dlib (http://dlib.net/) and some custom Python code to detected in each of Noah’s photos 5 face landmarks (i.e. both eyes, the nose and the two corners of the mouth). These landmarks were then used to align the faces in all photos, so that the eyes and corner of the mouth were horizontally oriented and always an equal distance apart. After that, some small image intensity correction were applied to make very dark images a bit brighter and very bright ones a bit darker. This was followed by an upscaling of all images (where needed) to a 4K resolution.

The result is a 2-minute video (reminiscent of Jason Salavon’s work) that spans half of Kalina’s life — in the video he ages 2 months every second and 10 years a minute.

Update: Kalina and Notter explain how this video came about and how it was made.

Thom Yorke’s 2021 Remix of Creep

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2021

In collaboration with Jun Takahashi, Thom Yorke has released a “Very 2021” remix of his band’s iconic Creep. Slow and reverby, the singer’s perhaps-least-favorite Radiohead song takes on new life for this (second?) oddest of years. On first listen, I like but maybe don’t love this version, but some of the YT comments are worth reading:

Can’t believe Thom Yorke finally collaborated with Radiohead. Two of my favorite artists making a song together

Thom has went so far into artistic discovery he looped back on himself. It’s like post-post-irony, but musically

I can’t believe Thom made a doomer wave version of his own fucking song

Thom nailed this one, he sounds just like the originals singer!

You can find the song on a variety of platforms.

Pig

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 02, 2021

Hermit Nicolas Cage goes on a crusade to find the person who kidnapped his truffle-hunting pig? Yes, please. (This is going to be terrible, right? Or fantastic? No in-between I’m guessing. Would make an interesting triple feature with The Truffle Hunters .)

Great Art Explained: van Gogh’s Starry Night

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2021

Bear with me, I am on a bit of an art kick lately. As I said earlier this week, I’ve been slowly working my way through James Payne’s Great Art Explained video series. But then — bang! — he came out with a new episode on Vincent van Gogh and his masterpiece, Starry Night. Having seen this painting in person for the first time in a few years just days ago at MoMA, I abandoned the back catalog and dug in to this new one immediately.

Van Gogh is one of my favorites — I spent several happy hours at his museum in Amsterdam in 2017 — and Payne does a good job of contextualizing his life and work around the time he painted Starry Night, particularly the emphasis on the influence of Japanese art on his work and his probable incorporation of spiral galaxy imagery into Starry Night. Highly recommended, especially if you’ve seen the painting in person.

Some Amazing Shots from the Last Decade of Movies

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2021

ILM visual effects artist Todd Vaziri asked his Twitter followers to share their favorite shots from a movie made in the last decade. The replies are a visual feast (and heavy on blockbusters) — here are a few of my favorites.

character walking away from the camera in Blade Runner 2049

a man plays a flaming guitar, urging on a caravan of cars

a lone figure falls up into a cityscape

an alien ship hovers in a foggy valley

superhero Thor descends with his hammer raised onto a crowd of bad guys

From top to bottom: Blade Runner 2049, Mad Max: Fury Road, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Widows, Arrival, and Thor: Ragnarok. There are probably several deserving scenes omitted from the thread (no Wes Anderson fans…the sushi scene from Isle of Dogs?), but that Blade Runner shot is probably my favorite from the decade. I would also have included a shot from Dunkirk (one of the expansive plane chase vistas that looked incredible in IMAX) , Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and the final scene in Carol — that look gives me chills just writing about it.

Update: A video compilation of some of the best shots of the decade.

(via @nielsmann)

Frida Gets Personal

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2021

Evan Puschak looks at how the personal nature, intimacy, and stylistic approachability have given Frida Kahlo’s work enduring and increasing popularity.

Inside the Insurrection on Congress

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2021

This is an incredible video investigation by the NY Times of the January 6th attack on Congress by terrorists, rioters, and supporters of Donald Trump. They analyzed hundreds of videos, police bodycam footage, and police communications to reconstruct a minute-by-minute account of the Capital breach.

From the accompanying article of six takeaways from the investigation:

Most of the videos we analyzed were filmed by the rioters. By carefully listening to the unfiltered chatter within the crowd, we found a clear feedback loop between President Trump and his supporters.

As Mr. Trump spoke near the White House, supporters who had already gathered at the Capitol building hoping to disrupt the certification responded. Hearing his message to “walk down to the Capitol,” they interpreted it as the president sending reinforcements. “There’s about a million people on their way now,” we heard a man in the crowd say, as Mr. Trump’s speech played from a loudspeaker.

The call and response didn’t stop there. We found evidence of his influence once the violence was well underway. In one moment, a woman with a megaphone urged rioters to climb through a broken window by asking them to “stand up for our country and Constitution” — echoing the language in an earlier tweet from Mr. Trump. In another, as the police were pushing to clear the mob off the building, a rioter screamed at officers: “I was invited here by the president.”

It is astonishing to me how close we came to having a hostage or assassination situation with members of Congress and the Vice-President — like literal seconds and minutes away — and how is this not the only topic of conversation over the past 6 months in our country? And not only that, it’s clear that we’re not really going to do anything about it, aside from beefing up Capitol security and imprisoning some of the insurrectionists. This isn’t over — as the video’s narration states near the end: “The forces that brought them there have not gone away.”

Update: From Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources newsletter:

But Rangappa could have also been talking about CNN’s efforts in court to obtain riot footage; or ProPublica’s recent investigation that indicated “Senior Trump Aides Knew Jan. 6 Rally Could Get Chaotic;” or Just Security’s new “clearinghouse” for riot research. Her broader point is spot on: Newsrooms have been putting the January 6 puzzle pieces together, creating a detailed rough draft of history, in spite of partisan efforts to bury that history.

The Alt Tour, a Self-Supported Tour de France

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 30, 2021

Professional road racing cyclist Lachlan Morton is attempting to complete the Tour de France this year. Except: He’s doing it entirely on his own, without teammates, support vehicles, and transportation from the previous day’s finish to the next day’s start (which might be dozens or even hundreds of miles apart). That means he’ll be riding an extra 1500 miles, climbing an additional 50,000 feet in elevation, shopping for his own meals, and still trying to beat the peloton to Paris. Here’s a quick explanatory trailer:

You can follow his progress on Rapha’s site and check out updates in this Instagram Story. He’s currently ahead of the peloton, even riding day four in Birkenstocks:

Ah, but — the day three press release had an ominous note in it. Right after telling us that Morton had “picked up a tub of couscous and a couple of bags of nuts for dinner” came the real kicker: our protagonist had a bad knee, and had bought new pedals to allow a switch to flat shoes.

So on day four, Morton set off with his new pedals and covered both stage four and stage five of the actual Tour de France — in a pair of Birkenstocks. Despite his sensible sandals, Morton managed to average the same speeds as the day prior, getting through the time trial in 1:17.

Lachlan Morton Sandals

(via matt)

Great Art Explained: Michelangelo’s David

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 30, 2021

Great Art Explained is one of my favorite newish YouTube channels and I’ve been slowly working my way through their back catalogue. Today’s watch was a 15-minute explanation of one of the signature masterpieces of the Renaissance, Michelangelo’s David. The details related to the carving of the swollen jugular vein and the variable visibility of the veins in the hands is fantastic. (via open culture)

Sheep Herding Patterns from Above

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 29, 2021

Drone photographer Lior Patel has spent the last several months capturing the movements of a flock of sheep in Israel as they move from their winter to summer pastures. (via colossal)

Developing 120-Year-Old Photos Found in a Time Capsule

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 28, 2021

In a family house, Mathieu Stern found a box of treasures hidden away by a little girl some 120 years ago. Inside was a pair of glass plate negative images of some pets, which Stern developed using the cyanotype technique. Film development is just straight-up magic.

See also I Found a Mystery Film in a 60-Year-Old Camera.