I've been interviewing people who did interesting things with the Radiohead LIDAR data over the past two weeks and I've spoken to people who used a variety of technologies and tools to remix this Radiohead content. Over the next two weeks I'll be publishing four profiles of individuals who used different technologies to remix this data.
We begin this series by profiling Tim Sinnott. Tim Sinnott works with GIS systems for GreenInfo Network in San Francisco. He loaded the first few frames of the Radiohead LIDAR video into a tool called ArcMap and then exported a map of Thom Yorke's face to Google Earth to record a fly-by. Scroll down to see Tim Sinnott's YouTube video.
Radiohead's "Open-Source" LIDAR Video
A few weeks ago, Radiohead released the first "open-source" music video shot entirely with Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) equipment. For more information about the original video, go to: http://code.google.com/creative/radiohead/. Here's a quote from that site which explains how the data was generated:
"No cameras or lights were used. Instead two technologies were used to capture 3D images: Geometric Informatics and Velodyne LIDAR. Geometric Informatics scanning systems produce structured light to capture 3D images at close proximity, while a Velodyne Lidar system that uses multiple lasers is used to capture large environments such as landscapes. In this video, 64 lasers rotating and shooting in a 360 degree radius 900 times per minute produced all the exterior scenes."
While the LIDAR format is new, Radiohead is no stranger to the idea of releasing component parts of a recording and letting the community remix. Earlier this year, they released component tracks or "stems" to a song called Nude and encouraged listeners to use these components to create remixes. You can see the results of the previous experiment here.
Tim Sinnott's Video
It isn't surprising that Sinnott's video is relatively static compared to the other videos based on Radiohead's LIDAR video. GIS software is designed to capture static representation of geography. Sinnott took one of the initial frames and imported the data to ArcMAP. Ocne imported to ArcMAP he exported the data to Google Earth and then created a fly-by animation. Here are the results.
Interview with Tim Sinnott
Tim O'Brien: This is Tim O'Brien with O'Reilly Media.
Tim Sinnott is a GIS hobbyist, and he also works for a company called GreenInfo Network, which he describes as a non-profit that does work for environmental groups and community groups.
He took the Radiohead data, imported it into a program called Arc Map and then exported it into Google Earth, then he made a movie of it doing a Flyby.
Tim Sinnott: I work for GreenInfo Network, which is a non-profit for GIS and public interest groups. On the side, I also do GIS as a hobby. And through that, I have a blog called "The Swordpress."
In terms of GIS and what we do here professionally at GreenInfo Network its mostly cartographic based. We're mostly taking GIS data that is readily and publicly available and using it to make maps that are both static and interactive.
TO: You do open source mapping?
TS: Sometimes we do. We do a lot of work with CSV product and are also extending beyond that doing open source online mapping.
TO: You saw the Radiohead video on YouTube?
TS: I did hear about the video maybe a week ago. I think it was posted at Pitchfork media, the music review website. But I had no idea about the data being released as well. That was something I discovered when I went to the Google site where the video was released.
TO: What is the format of the data?
TS: The data is in CSV format; its something I just downloaded and was able to open up in Microsoft Excel.
TO: What did you do to the data after you downloaded it?
TS: There were descriptions of the data, although I didn't pay attention to them. I just noticed that it was a CSV format, and I said "ya, I might be able to use that in GIS format." So, I just downloaded and opened it in Excel, and then saw what basically looked like and X coordinate, and what basically looked like a Y coordinate, and what looked like a Z coordinate in elevation; and so I just immediately popped that into Arc Map and saw what came up.
TO: Your particular video shows a floating face on top of what looks like Kansas.
TO: Talk about the intermediate steps between the CSV to the final thing that you posted on YouTube.
TS: Sure. I brought the CSV into Arc Map and then displayed the XY data; so I was able to bring up a point event file. I saved that event file out to a shape file. Whats interesting is that, because its not actually GIS data, there was a little bit of massaging of the data that I had to do. For example, I had negate to get the face to be upright. When I first brought in the data, the face was upside down. So little things like that to just get the data to show up accurately in Arc Map.
When I exported to Google Earth, I set it up so that the projection of the final shape file before exporting was a United States projection, so it was working off of a projection that was centered in Kansas.
TO: If you look at your video, there are two parts. There's Yorke's face over Kansas, which is a somewhat ominous place to choose to put his face over. I think that the second half is just sort of a 3D rendering of the data; is that right?
TS: Yeah, the second half is a nod to -- actually, I didn't want to just to exclusively do some Google products. Years ago, I used Art Scene for practical purposes. So this second part was done in Art Scene.
Actually one of the comments on my blog had suggested, after my first post, that I do a hill shade of the data points. That's what I did. I took the original data points, interpolated them into a rafter which then basically gave me a digital elevation model. And then from the digital elevation model, I created a hill shade. So that really is where you get the look of Tom Yorke's face and all the shading.
But, I used both of those files and brought them into Art Scene. I used the elevation model basically as the base elevation. And then I draped the hill shade on top of that. So using those two files, I was able to get a 3D version in Art Scene and then recorded a flyby from there.
TO: Why did you do it?
TS: That's a good question. That's something my girlfriend asked me as well. I did it because this stuff fascinates me. I am totally intrigued by GIS and its capabilities. Geography, generally, is just this very intriguing field. I love to be able to play around with data and visualize because it allows us to see the world in different, compelling ways.
And I love music. So, here is a combination of a musician pushing the boundaries of video and data and something that I can incorporate directly into GIS. It was really exciting for me to be able to have this combination of popular music and culture and GIS visualization, two of my passions in life.