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SAT : Open Territories
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Territoires Ouverts - Open Territories
The SAT makes the broadband network available to artists
by Sylvie Parent, translated by Timothy Barnard

Last April, the Society for Arts and Technology (SAT) announced that its research initiative Territoires Ouverts - Open Territories : The SAT New Media Networks Project (TOT for short) had been chosen to receive funds from the New Media Research Networks Fund of the Ministry of Canadian Heritage's "Canadian Culture On Line" program. With these funds, the SAT intends to use a special "very broad" broadband network (CAnet4 - to which it is one of the rare groups in the cultural sphere to have access) to promote the creation and broadcast of new artistic projects.

In conjunction with its teams of specialized technicians, skilled artists of renown, and an impressive group of partners, the SAT is currently developing tools which will be made available to artists who wish to explore the artistic possibilities inherent in these networks. Research is principally aimed at developing open source software, networked applications, and digital production tools.

Under the direction of project leader Martin Chartrand, research is being carried out along four principal "axes": high throughput and optimal quality streaming in audio, and in video; telepresence projects; and the transmission of immersive environments. This photoessay documents the inaugural event held by the SAT in Montreal on September 26, 2003, to demonstrate research progress made to date by project participants in each axis.

Audio Axis
Zack Settel, in collaboration with the research team linked to TOT's "audio axis", is developing an application suite which will permit the encoding, broadband transmission, and decoding of multi-channel sound performances. On TOT's demo day, SAT used its space to broadcast a performance by ZON, a group of African percussionists playing off-site in a recording studio at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). The music produced by each of the five musicians was recorded separately, and then transmitted synchronously with the other four signals to the SAT location. At the SAT, loudspeakers were arranged to recreate the position of each musician within the original UQAM studio, with each speaker broadcasting sound from the corresponding instrument. The result was the creation of a startling sound-space for the duration of the performance.

Video Axis
The video axis team, under the leadership of Franz Hildgen, has been developing a digital video mixer which can handle analogue or digital video streams in real time. The mixer will be able to decode different kinds of streams from different sources and re-encode them digitally - for example, in order to rebroadcast them on the Internet. One of the goals is to organize long-distance VJ nights which would bring artists from different parts of the world together and have them participate in collective artistic creation.

Impossible Sky
Tim Jackson of the Synth/ops collective at Ryerson University presented the work Impossible Sky on demo day. This is an installation which combines video streams in real time from two sources. As cameras simultaneously filmed the skies of Toronto and Montreal, a device mixed the two images using the broadband network. The resulting composite image was projected onto a circular disc attached to the ceiling. Visitors to the installation were able to contemplate a hybrid sky, and thus to witness an unusual spatio-temporal reality.

Telepresence Axis
The SAT presented four telepresence stations during the TOT's demo day. These were prototypes developed by the telepresence axis team, led by Luc Courchesne. The goal of the telepresence stations is to make long-distance communication as efficient as possible (in terms of quality of sound and images, ease of equipment transport, etc.). Some stations (like one in the shape of a column) have been conceived to capture very large spaces in 360 degrees, making it possible to transmit whole installations and, in the future, performances. As with other TOT axes and projects, the principal objective here is to maximize the artistic potential of these tools.

AID (Art Interface Device)
Ben Bogart of Ryerson's Synth/ops, and Mike Stevenson of the Interaccess new media centre in Toronto, presented an interactive installation entitled Step and Repeat, based on the AID technology. Visitors stepped in front of a screen onto which a video sequence was projected. The ordering of this sequence was determined by the viewers' movements, which were captured by sensors. While this installation functioned "locally", it sought to suggest the possibility of visitors interacting with a remote space in the near future, through the use of this technology and broadband networks.

Immersion Axis
Sébastien Roy, leader of the immersion axis team, demonstrated a tool for correcting perspective that he has developed to compensate for the distortion of images projected onto irregular surfaces. For demo day, the SAT installed a prototype of the SAT[o_Sphere] - a scale model one third the size of the final version presently in development - in its space. Multiple sources of "corrected" images projected onto the dome revealed new possibilities in terms of immersive content that might potentially be employed in such a setting. The larger SAT[o_Sphere] - a portable dome which will accommodate SAT activities of many kinds in various venues (see the interview with Monique Savoie in this issue for more information) - is scheduled to be ready in June 2004.

Another participant on TOT demo day was Pierre Tremblay of the Synth/ops collective at Ryerson University, who projected images in an immersive environment in a project called Collage. Inside an inverted dome, viewers could position themselves amid a space in which a diverse range of images (representational and abstract, natural and urban) were projected in 360 degrees.

The Future of SAT
The TOT research project demonstrates the great consistency of SAT's past and present activities - the organization's great creative strengths being communication, performance, and installation. Territoires ouverts - Open Territories was carried out in the spirit of continuing this work, and facilitated by the broadcast tools it now possesses.

The tools developed through TOT are aimed at enhancing and extending the means of communication available to artists and individuals in different milieux. The real-time audio and video broadcast projects will make it possible to organize collective events separated in space, in the tradition of SAT's mix-sessions, which have been greatly appreciated by the community. TOT's telepresence projects also clearly continue the work of the past SAT installation Rendez-vous sur les bancs publics. Finally, immersive works like the SAT[o_Sphere] will (among other things) make it possible for the SAT to "transport" the creativity of its collaborators to diverse corners of the planet, and also allow artists to use this potential for individual projects.

The TOT project was born of a spirit of collaboration and the intersection of disciplines, interests, and desires. In this spirit, it will contribute to defining the SAT's future.

Sylvie Parent is French Editor of HorizonZero.

Links :
Territoires ouverts - Open Territories (TOT)

New Media Research Networks Fund



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