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I N D I V I D U A L  S T U D E N T  P R O J E C T



Flocking With Hydrocarbon is an installation experience that allows users to engage and understand the effect of chemical pollutants on wildlife through motion capture. My aim was to create a piece that allows users to empathize with animals (gulls, sea otters, etc.) affected by hydrocarbon poisoning – a component of crude oil that when ingested, causes hallucinations, neurologic issues, lung irritation, coughing, choking, and shortness of breath [1].

W E I G H T  &  D R A G

Two words came to mind when studying the images and effects of crude oil on wildlife: weight and drag. “How can weight and drag be simulated in this context?” Thus, presented the opportunity to use motion data as a method of visualizing and understanding their experience. Through motion capture, the intent was to simulate an illusory experience that “dragged the weight" of the user on screen and serve as a metaphor for heaviness & delusion regarding the animals’ plight.

T E S T I N G  M O T I O N  C A P T U R E

Since motion capture was the primary method of visualizing my metaphor, I began testing with mocap equipment to explore its opportunities. I traveled to NYU’s motion capture studio and its director, Todd Bryant, let me play around in the mocap suit. Although the experience was exhilarating, I believed that traditional approaches of motion capture would make the interaction of the experience inaccessible. I wanted to explore mocap without its suit and technical necessities and create a sensor–based interaction that would immediately engage users with the installation. 

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I tested my initial sketches in Blender and Touchdesigner to get a visual of what the experience could look like. I then storyboarded the interaction points of the installation. 

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Original 3D models made in Blender

C O M P U T E R  M O C A P

My final idea was to use a computer camera as a sensor to simulate “weight and drag” in Touchdesigner. I used images of oil spills as a reference, specifically, the discoloration of water when interacting with crude oil. As seen in the image below, as the user moves across the camera, a discolored trail follows.

Inspiration from PPPANIK

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I M A G E  T R A C I N G

I then added a glow outline effect in Touchdesigner to a video file to play in tandem with the mocap experience and contextualize the installation. I adjusted the filter node to match the water discoloration referenced before. With this piece, I wanted to tell a narrative of discovering “ugly happenings in beautiful things.” Although the piece is visually alluring, the truth of its beauty is in its devastation. The video begins with gulls flocking midair and into the ocean. The multiple colors represent the chemical pollutants amongst their environment. It soon transitions to a darker tone with the final shot of a dwindling oil tanker in the top right hand corner.

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G A L L E R Y  I N S T A L L A T I O N


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