Thursday, 20 October 2011

Hardware Hacking at Karaj

I am participating in this workshop next Saturday.

Are you interested in hardware, interactive environments and electronic instruments but don't know where to begin? Have you ever wanted to create your own mixed-media installation with lights,sounds, images and motion? Do you wish you could design your own interactive Daft Punk set?

Well, all your wishes are coming true! Come to Karaj to gain new super powers like:

  • Controlling a force of nature to light lights, run motors, and make music (AKA basic electronics)
  • How to make a tiny computer do anything you want! (AKA Microcontroller programming)
  • Have a vibrating disk create beats to dance to (music synthesis)

We will be running a day long workshop with our very own hardware maker Guru, Bilal Ghalib, coming straight from the Michigan for your workshopping pleasure.

The workshop will cover fundamentals of electronics and programming micro-controllers with Arduinos, the easiest, fastest and baddest microcontroller platform in the world. Using entirely free and open source technology we will begin to experiment with developing your own mixed media project.

As a final project we'll split into teams and compete to create the best miniature Daft Punk music video! (Check this video for inspiration :

The winning project will be judged on:

  • aesthetics
  • use of skills learned
  • creativity.
  • AND danceability!


Saturday October 22nd, 12pm - 5pm

Karaj media lab, Mar Mikhayel, Beirut. Address here

For info call Sima at: 03-871955 or email


  • No prior knowledge of hardware needed.
  • Knowledge of programming a plus, but not required.
  • Only requirements are: a desire to learn and uncurbed enthusiasm!

Fees and Notes:

  • Space is very limited (16 lucky participants only)
  • Workshop fee is $25 (including hardware needed to build the project). Your spot is only reserved when you make the payment.
  • Snacks will be provided
  • Please bring your laptop. If you do not have access to one, we may be able to lend you one. Please email us at
  • IMPORTANT: if you are unable to pay via paypal, please contact Sima at and arrange cash payment with her

About Bilal Ghalib

Bilal Ghalib is an entrepreneur, robotics engineer and educator. He

has been tinkering with electronics his whole life and started playing

with Arduino in 2008. He loves sharing his passion for meaningful work

by promoting entrepreneurship. His interest in DIY technology drives

him to share the knowledge that people can do anything they want,

including starting businesses and building robots. He is currently

working in the middle east teaching electronics and promoting

hackerspaces through The Global Entrepreneurship and Maker Space

Initiative ( He is the co-founder of the hackerspace All

Hands Active ( and the design and print studio

Modati Studios (

About Karaj

Karaj is Beirut’s first non-profit media lab for experimental arts, architecture and technology.

As a unique transdisciplinary platform in the Middle East, Karaj will forge a community of DIY

and opensource creators who will channel local frustrations into productive and creative

experiences. Karaj will become an active node on an international network of labs, with a

larger goal of advancing Lebanon and the Arab World as a region at the forefront of creativity,

technological innovation, and democratic change.

The Value of Data Visualization

The Value of Data Visualization from Column Five on Vimeo.

Implementing data visualization in our daily life could inform us better about the world we live in.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Unit 2 Assessment

1. Present, in the final exhibition, a resolved body of creative practice that has evidenced the systematic enhancement of your knowledge and understanding

Initially, my proposal arose to verify the breakdown of narrative in the VJing playground. At the end of unit 1 assessment, and after narrowing down the spectrum of interest into a clearer pathway, I realized that my main involvement with this project would revolve around autobiographical compositing through transitional digital objects in live cinema. Transitional digital objects would play the role of the moderator in the narrative, the elements that would drive the process, setting it in motion.

At the beginning of unit 2, I started working on two different levels, the first that is creativity related and the other mainly related to the technique. I started searching for VJing and live cinema platforms that could meet transitions that I am aiming to use within the project. I realized that during a live show, there are only few functions of the software that I will be using.

On another note I was roaming around in Beirut, location hunting and I started finalizing the places which I was sure about wanting to include in the project, personal landmarks that I started photographing once I got my digital camera in February. On the theoretical note, I was reading (and posting on my blog) about artworks that are objects related to get a wider view about my next step or what comes after setting up the background layers of the project, that is the Beirut photographs or the outdoors context.

At this point, I realized that my project is going to be based on the idea of topping up layers to compose a universe and create a mood; that was a solution that I found reflective of how I started perceiving autobiography in the digital realm and that was also the result of the readings in Tarkovsky’s “Sculpting in time” where he suggests that “reproduction of real-life sensations is not an end in itself, but it can be given meaning aesthetically, and so become a medium for deep and serious thought”, and then later on he insists on the importance of building up a mood similar to our own (the person creating) to compose a genuine scene.

So here started the actual execution of the project, I collected all my “leftover” objects from childhood years, my photographs with some of my family members when I was five years old (my first memories) that I started rotoscoping. To rotoscope my family photographs was honestly an instinctive solution, the photographs were old, small sized and the negative did not exist, so I decided to digitize these photographs and I took refuge in this rotoscoping technique that, even though it was going to take me some extra time to achieve, but it was going to be quite practical for future use.

Multitasking was very useful, especially in moments when I found myself procrastinating, so instead of wasting time, I would start researching other aspects of the project, like for instance the technical details for delivery or I would explore further the technique that I already started applying and try to relate it to autobiography and to methods of retrieving memories.

At certain points, I was losing confidence in what I have started working on, research in similar moments was a saviour, I would start watching different kinds of animations which helped me realize that there is no right or wrong way to do things.

The feeling that something was missing was later on resolved when I decided to include again, one more layer, that is the interior of my grandmother’s house, where I spent a fair period of my childhood years, which also affected the compositions settings in After Effects, since I decided to, sort of, project my clips that were already created, into this new interior.

Finally, after studying the space dedicated to the show in London and after considerations of creating the live in the context where it belongs, that is Beirut, I presented a live show in an outdoor café with a capacity of approximately 80 people seated outdoors. Later on, another live was presented in an alley in Beirut, this time, I did not invite people, and it was more of a surprise projection for passersby.

Both lives were documented and later on edited using Final Cut Pro. For the final show in London, I will be presenting a split screen between the documentation of the Beirut live shows and an edited version of the clips with sound (created for this project). I have written the text for the soundtrack earlier and throughout the past two years, and for the final execution of the sound piece, I asked a tenor friend to read some of the long sentences and sing the less lengthy ones, as an improvisation exercise.

2. Analyse and reflect coherently upon your own practice and its context in both written and verbal forms

Again, I will have to insist on the importance of the research paper that informed me much about my practice, and how the question itself, when it was finally formulated, made the development of my project clearer. Foucault’s statement on the “wholistic fictionalization of the past” and how “we ought to be paying greater attention to ‘discontinuities’, ‘ruptures’, ‘fissures’…” paved the way to start constructing scenes from a cluster of materials. So at the time when we had to present the 20x20 presentation, I was already foreseeing what was going to happen visually and what was going to be presented.

Showing people some of the clips and taking their advices was also a good exercise, a filmmaker from Beirut remarked that the characters in the clips are mainly playing with the tools (or objects) that I am giving them, rather than playing around architecture, which he found more interesting. He concluded that these clips are not revolving about childhood but it is mainly childhood playing in the world of the adult/designer, which I found quite amusing and inspiring, even though I haven't thought of it that way earlier. So this started making sense and in a way I continued building up the rest of the clips with this idea in the back of my mind. Evocation became an element I use while building up my clips, like the elements that travel from one scene to another.

I also needed to ask for technical advices about the software that I chose to use for the live and the equipments that might be needed, it was at this point that people seeing the clips started insisting on the importance of having music and how it will be setting up the clips’ rhythm.

And I did have to refer to many online tutorials to resolve technical matters or sometimes just to understand how to achieve a specific animation movement.

My last tutorial with Jonathan set me up once and for all, I was confident about what was needed to be done to wrap up the whole project and get prepared for the show.

The rest of the project was technical details that I was resolving one by one.

3. Summarise your overall progress and formulate a constructive plan for continuing Personal and Professional Development.

I see this MA as an extension of my previous skills in graphic design. Yet, I have never been more convinced about the idea that theory leads to practice. I have always thought that I do have some sort of “baggage” that could rescue me when I need to create. Nevertheless, this baggage now looks floating on a surface, I have gained confidence in exploring deeper and further, in details, even randomly, following a question, be it in books, in traveling and observing, or just getting exposed to other people’s ideas and debates. Now, a good project for me requires research, collaboration, intuition and technique.

I do not wish to finish this course, yet, I am eager to start putting my work out there, in the digital arts scene, where I can start remixing further my material, present live shows in different contexts, and try to connect through my narrative, with future collaborators.

Lately I applied to the “Cascade” workshop, and I am really hoping to get the chance to take part in it, an initiative which offers a creative collaboration across many disciplines to foster personal and professional development for fresh graduates “those who are about to embark in the creative and cultural industries”.

I also applied to the UAMO festival before course ends, and I got an approval on showing my clips in Munich, this alone encouraged me to start pushing further this project and helped me realize that I want to embrace this field and do what it takes to focus on digital arts in my coming years.

Last summer, when I was doing an internship at D-fuse’s studio, I got curious on how in practical life things happen, so I asked about how one can make a living from creating clips. The response was that 60 percent of your time should be spent on doing independent projects and the 40 percent left should be dedicated to work on commissioned projects. I liked this formula, and I will be doing my best to make it work for my future plans.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Umbrella's article

Matt shared this link yesterday, it is an article about the show.

Anyone looking for some artistic inspiration in the capital should head over to the annual graduate show of the MA Digital Arts course at University of the Arts, which takes place between September 2-8 and includes – amongst others – the work of Umbrella contributor Matt Lee.
You might remember Matt for his terrific Indian matchbox collectionwe featured in Issue One, but since then he’s turned his hand to the moving image. His new project is called The Presence of Absencewhich, he says, “facilitates a dialogue between inside/outside and a tension between what is known, assumed and thought”. This, Matt assures us, is less puzzling than it sounds.
UAL graduate shows feature the work of students from across the globe who come together for two weeks each year to showcase the very best of the visual arts.

As well as Matt’s videos, other highlights include David Tatnell’s spooky time-lapse films of power plants, Maya Chami’s psychedelic animations and Melanie Menard’s excellent Ghost House project, which takes the form of something that always gets the thumbs up from us at Umbrella – a study of abandoned buildings.

Find out more here

to London and setting up the show

My plane was delayed, we hovered over London for 7 times before we get the OK to land. Already, to start with, we left Beirut a bit late, the reason being "the European skies are congested"... After 2 hours commuting to reach the apartment, I was too tired to commute again to university. I first entered the exhibition space on Wednesday morning. I was freaking out about where will I find a screen to rent, and how will I build the plinth and the shelf, eventually, all happened so smoothly, thanks to Jonathan, and all my colleagues who had already created an atmosphere of DIY collaboration.
I was told to start with sanding my walls and then paint them, this is what happened, then we had to wait for the drying process, and since I didn't have my material on me, I just started removing some of the paint stains off the floor, I managed to place the shelve on the wall. Second day was mainly about hooking up the TV, checking the media player, which was later on replaced with a USB to diminish the number of requested plugs. Later it was setting up the image, figuring out the looping mode on this TV, writing instructions on how to turn on and off the project and finally placing the postcards and the business cards on the shelve. The last day was mainly checking on who needed help and giving a hand here and there.
Still need to unify all of the show's labels and we will be set for the final show!
Unit 2 Assessment starts on Tuesday morning, so I should be finalizing the write up for that now and post it in here.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

live performance and edited clips final

Below is the final edited version of the live documentation at bread and danny's as well as an edited version of the clips. It is this version that is going to be showing in the exhibit MADA 2011.

Maya Chami - live performance and edited clips final from maya chami on Vimeo.

Friday, 19 August 2011

tests on the tv screen

I finalized the performance and the clips editing today and I will probably post them on the blog really soon, (when I get to a good internet connection). Today I tested the video on the TV screen at my friend's house, it worked well, I am satisfied with the final outcome. I hope this feeling doesn't leave me soon! I am still worried about a couple of matters to include building the plinth, renting the screen, but first and foremost, dragging my bags on arrival from the airport to the room. One thing I noticed today is that if I am using a screen, I probably won't need the speakers, so less kilos to go in the bag! also, the .mov from Apple Pro Res 422 didn't work on my media player, I had to re-render the final outcome as h.264.
That's it for now, I should start working on Unit 2 Assessment so that I don't panic on last minute.

On/Off Instructions for my project


1- Turn the screen on.

2-Turn the speakers on.

3-Turn the media player on, and from the remote control go to the video folder and press play on the only file in this folder on the media player entitled: "Transitional Digital Objects".

4-Using the media player remote control, go to home > settings > slide show interval time > set to 3 seconds.

5-Set the TV's screen mode to 14:9 (or check depending on the screen i am renting).


1- Stop the playing clip by clicking stop on the remote control

2- Turn off both speakers and media player.

3- Turn the screen off.

4- Unplug all equipments

Thursday, 18 August 2011

another live.

I went on Monday to do a "surprise" live at the Saroulla building, ground floor, in the space facing the building, this time no invitees! After vain trials to find an outdoor plug for the projector, I took off and decided to try another location. I finally went to the pub down the street, and I managed to convince the manager to do a show on the spot. It was early evening, around 8, so the place wasn't really packed, (people here start going out for there evenings around 9:30 - 10:00 pm). I managed to document some nice footage, I also edited this live and added it to the other live that took place at bread. Now I am waiting for the file to render!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Requested Items from Ina's list

"List from ina's blog

Needed from everybody:

-On/Off instructions

-Artist statements

- Price of work / no. of editions (if for sale)

-Phone numbers in case of exhibition related emergencies

-Please put all the above in one .doc file

-Fill in the label details / prices even though they wont go on the labels:

(I am not sure if I understood this bit clearly).

-Contacts you want to invite to the private view: it will be sent out which day?

(This list has already been fixed, I will not include the emails here for privacy purposes)

-For cleaning: Mon 22 August - you all should come in between 10 and 11, not at 12 or 13 etc etc…

(I arrive on the 23rd of August at 11:30 in the morning, I should be able to place my bag in the room and head to university, I could make up the lost day with either invigilation rota or other tasks, like clearing stuff on show down)

-Bring some cleaning supplies, maybe some floor cleaners, or a mop or a scrub, bucket etc.

-We need to clean all of the floors, in both spaces

-Even if your work is not finished or installed, or if your space is clean already

-Everyone will help clean the floors in both spaces

-This is one show in two spaces, not two separate shows in two spaces.

-Once your space is ready you will help out anyone who is not finished yet.

-Once the floors are clean you can get back to work"

unit 2 assessment - brief from Jonathan

UNIT 2 Assessment

Please note, we wish to assess all work carried out after the unit 1 assessment. Any work prior to that date may not be included.

Learning Outcomes

1. Present, in the final exhibition, a resolved body of creative practice that has evidenced the systematic enhancement of your knowledge and understanding

2. Analyse and reflect coherently upon your own practice and its context in both written and verbal forms

3. Summarise your overall progress and formulate a constructive plan for continuing Personal and Professional Development.

Assessment Evidence

1. Participation in the symposium (this is the 5 minute presentations you all did in early April)

2. Reflective journal and written paper evaluating your practice and future development (1000 words overall)

3. Practical work resolved according to your proposal and presented professionally as part of a the final exhibition

Curate your blog

You are required to curate your assessment. A separate page / section of your blog is required, with a title such as UNIT 2 ASSESSMENT. The idea of this is to indicate to the staff and your peers your understanding of the knowledge that you have developed over the unit. This is contextual knowledge, professional skills that you have developed. Knowledge that has been obtained though systematic rigour such as 'action research'.

The 'curation' requires the following:

• Create a new page / section within your blog called UNIT 2 Assessment.

• List the Learning outcomes.

• Under each learning outcome, you will need to evidence how you have achieved it. Remember learning outcomes require a minimum of 2 pieces of evidence - we expect to see 3 / 4 pieces of evidence. Use the 'Assessment Evidence' [listed above] as a guide to what you can submit. Remember much of your ideas / developments and contextual information will be contained in the blog, so use what you have already written

• Write some short notes about each piece of evidence, discussing how it relates to the outcome, and why it is included above other evidence – why you feel its important.

Remember that things that did not work are as important as the things that did.

Please make sure all liabilities are cleared – library books + fines, Halls of residence fees etc. Failure to do so will stop the release of your grade + result.


22 August – Show build start

25 August – meal at Jonathan's house in the evening

30 August – Assessment starts - all evidence including the written paper must be on your blog by 09.00

1 September – final cleaning and preparing the exhibition space

2 September – show opens to the public

4 September – show closed for Sunday

6 September – private view 18.00-21.00

8 September – External Examiner visit - (he will want to meet some of you) & final day of the show

12 September – show comes down - you must come in a help to clear stuff away

13 September – final marks given out

Two important things about the show

You all need to agree an invigilation rota, to ensure all spaces are occupied by a minimum of two people. Any spaces unoccupied will be shut.

If your work involves a complicated set up to switch it on each morning, you will have to provide detailed instructions for whoever is invigilating that day, or come in each morning to set up.

Monday, 15 August 2011

iMovie Total Video Converter

Before the live that happened in July 30th, I had a problem rendering my clips in After Effects to .mov format. There was a problem in my software and the only format that I was able to reach was .mp4, which doesn't work in Modul8. So the only solution I had was to convert my .mp4 clips into .mov, I used this software "iMovie total video converter", which turned out to be quite practical, very good speed as well. The thing is, you have to be using a Mac.
This is what the platform look like:

About iMoviesoft Total Video Converter Pro for Mac

"iMoviesoft Total Video Converter Professional for Mac can support almost all popular multimedia devices. It works as: iPod Video Converter, PSP Video Converter, iPhone Video Converter, etc. After easy and wonderful conversion, you can fully enjoy videos on your portable players.

Besides the main converting functions, iMoviesoft Total Video Converter Professional for Mac also owns powerful edit functions like Croping, Triming and Effect, etc. To some extent, it is a professional video editor.

Input File Format Supported

Video Formats: AVI, MP4, 3GP/3GPP, WMV, FLV, QuickTime(MOV,QT), MKV(Matroska), MPEG(MPEG-1/2), AVC, 3G2/3GP2, DivX, MPEG-4 DVR-MS, H.263, H.264, X.264, Xvid, MJPEG, MPG, DAT, M4V, ASF

Output File Format Supported

Video Formats: MKV, AVI, M4V, MP4, MOV, ASF, 3GP, 3G2, FLV

Audio Formats: MP3, M4A, AC3, OGG, APE, MKA

Output Device Supported: iPhone, Zune, Apple iPod nano/video/classic/touch/TV Out, Sony PSP, PDAs, Apple TV, Smartphones, Other Portable Media Players"


I asked my friend, he's an editor, about the different codes and what works for what:
For people working with an HD format:
They could use the Apple pro res 422 if they file was worked on a mac, but this format is not supported on PCs, so if they someone with a PC wants to open the file, it wouldn't be simple, they will have to convert it, therefore, maybe loss of quality.
So another best solution would be a more universal codec, that would be the H.264, which he recommends for less worries.
Now in my case, originally, I wasn't working on an HD format. My video's specs are 1024 x 576, which is not HD.
But after deciding with Jonathan to have a split screen (on the same monitor, the edited clips and the looping edited version of the live), I will have to place both clips in an HD format: 1920x1080 since this format fits better 2 clips than the format I am using.
I will have to render my files in Final Cut Pro, then take both rendered clips to After Effects which, unlike Final Cut Pro, doesn't resize the clip once I change the file size, and do the split screen operation from After Effects, and again render to H.264.
The file's extension will be .mov (which the WD Media player accepts in my case).
We should have the work backed up on a DVD as well for the show, just in case.

WD Elements play for the show

This is the media player that I ended up buying, most of the electronics shop in Beirut do not sell the Western Digital brand, instead they would offer the iOmega. My friend told me that the iOmega she got was not working well and it caused several problems to include blacks when not needed and sudden stops in the middle of a video showing.
I finally managed to get one, this is it:
WD Elements Play, it is not heavy, supports most popular formats to include RMVB, H264, and MKV, works for full HD.
It takes the HDMI cable, but the cable will have to be bought separately.
File Formats Supported
Video - AVI (Xvid, AVC, MPEG1/2/4), MPG/MPEG, VOB/ISO, MP4/MOV (MPEG4, h.264), MKV (h.264, x.264, AVC, MPEG1/2/4), TS/TP/M2TS (MPEG 1/2/4, AVC), FLV (D1 resolution only), RM or RMVB 8/9/10
Audio - MP3, WAV/PCM/LPCM, WMA, AAC, FLAC, MKA, OGG, APE, Dolby Digital (inside video file only)
Playlist - PLS, M3U, WPL
Subtitle - SRT, SSA, SUB, SMI, MKS, TXT

Media Formats
AAC, MP3, JPEG, USB 2.0, Energy Star, Real Media, HDMI, SimplayHD, H.264, MKV, Dolby Digital

Package Contents

Multimedia drive
Compact remote with batteries
USB cable
AC adapter
Quick Install Guide

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Transitional Digital Objects - the first edited version

transitional digital objects - the first edited version from maya chami on Vimeo.

Transitional Digital Objects will be shown on the UAMO Festival 2011 in Munich

I received an email from the UAMO festival stating that "Transitional Digital Objects (my MA project) has been selected to be shown on the UAMO Festival 2011 in Munich within the festival screenings.

The UAMO festival takes place from 27.10.2011 - 30.10.2011 in Munich.

For more information about UAMO [Urban Art and Media Organisation], please check the following link:

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Saroulla Building and Projection on Monday

I will go tomorrow to this location (Saroulla building, where my father's office used to be located and that is facing my school) to take a better view and search for a good spot in the building where I could do the projection. Meanwhile here's a photo that I found on the net, shot by "Bluescape" and posted on "Panoramio". Originally this building embeds two cinemas, one still functioning and turned into a theater "Al Madina Theater" and the other cinema has stopped functioning in the early 90s (according to my father), and is being used as a storage space.
According to Al Madina Theater website, the Saroulla cinema was built in the late sixties and was abandoned during the entire period of the Lebanese civil war.
The projection I am planning on Monday does not take place inside the cinema, rather outside it, on the walls of the actual building.