Mentoring with Devlin Amory

Playtronica and Methocell IMG_8686.JPG

Through ‘DYCP’ I have been able to pay for mentoring from Devlin Amory - an Audio Visual Technician at PYTCH, specialising in interactive and immersive technologies. He does incredible work at Westonbirt Arboretum and created coding that turns logs into lit-up musical instruments!

Initially, I proposed to be taught about lasers to gain a better perspective of Holography. However, as amazing as the Holography course with Inaki would have been, after a frank and open discussion about what the course entails, I realised it would not be a sustainable practice to learn and continue. It also would not produce what I had hoped to be an accessible and large quantity of ‘Slugtopia’ hologram stickers or glasses (think ‘Love Specs’ but with slugs) as a way of ‘being there’ in our current socially-distant pandemic isolation environment.

During our initial meeting back in June, Devlin introduced me to Playtronica’s TOUCH ME MIDI device with which you can turn your body into an instrument! Wouldn’t it be great if we could do this with the slime… we could then increase interactivity with Covid-safe slime touching rather than bodies!

I prepared my OG slime (this is malleable, able to be picked up and stretched) and also two variations of ‘Methocel’ gunge - one having more viscosity than the other.

Here is some footage of us playing with this:

Using online synths provided by the Playtronica website we could create sound via the slime! TOUCH ME works by creating a circuit, so with each of our thumbs on either side of the device, our free hands could touch the slime (a crocodile clip submerged in the slime connects back to the TOUCH ME device) and thus trigger the notes! We found the gunge more pleasing to run fingers through and create slimy sounding notes whereas the OG slime was fun stretching between and bouncing on the person with comic side effects.


Now, what we really wanted to do after our initial brain storm was translate the information to then be readable with DMX (DMX is an acronym for Digital Multiplex. It is the standard digital communication protocol that is used to remotely control intelligent lighting fixtures) so by touching the slime via the TOUCH ME me, we could control the lighting. The info from the device needed to be read by a program called MAX, (a visual programming language for music and multimedia developed and maintained by San Francisco-based software company Cycling '74) and then converted to DMX. This was no mean feat as the information pulled from the device into MAX threw up some complications.


Devlin is very good at explaining all this tech, most of which instantly bamboozles me so it’s been so valuable starting to understand what these programs do, why they work in certain ways and how to set-up kit. In the past I’ve been able to assemble bits of tech  (like a projector, UV lighting, media player) in the right order so it works but not understood the inner workings or why something isn’t working. My brain goes into ‘white noise’ mode and everything is usually on such a deadline it just has to come together like it does. With undertaking this incredible opportunity, I’m able to support myself whilst learning and having the time to do so, it's invaluable.


So, this translating of information from one platform to another has been tricky for various reasons: the way the language was processed on MAX was proving difficult to translate to DMX but Devlin solved it by organising it in a certain way; the DMX node that connects USB to xlr to send data from the computer to the lights wasn’t working, laptops were slow, buggy or getting too hot, mine doesn’t have an ethernet cable...and to add other complications to the works, Covid isolation happened and is still happening a month later, myself having to isolate as well and not being able to work in my studio.

However, progress is slugging on and Devlin has cracked it and got the Playtronica device to communicate with the lights. We just need a new node (currently borrowing one) and a chance we can meet in person again soon to play with the slime.