Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Animated GIFs. Focus harder:

I love animated GIFs, been having a play recently with focus pull and out of focus Photoshop tricks etc, results of initial experiments below:

rgproduct_animated_gif_hangar_ribbed    rgproduct_animated_GIF_deckchairs_soft_in_out

…and a cheeky one for Fight Club fans, not sure if the subliminal cut is quick enough:


Monday, 6 August 2012

Statue of Liberty & ArcelorMittal Orbit Form déjà vu.



Am I the only person to see this? Every time I catch an angle of the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower on the television I cannot help but see the inspiring from of the Liberty Torch in the base forms of the hoops and masses in the Orbit structure. It is strikingly simple and effective way to bridge the two cultures historically and emblematically. 

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Film Place (TFP) Audio & Projector upgrade:




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After months of application and hard work by the BCA and TFP steering committee we finally got word the new screen fund could be applied to areas other than the screen This is great news as I had written a report outlining improvements across the board for this erstwhile and appreciated Cinema venue at Buckingham University (In my role as technical consultant for the charity).

Audio Hardware/Booth racking:

The original Audio surround system had been running based on a high end Yamaha AV amp; providing all amplification except for an active FBT Jolly LF speaker unit.  This high value and good performance system had served well but the time had come for a very real upgrade in performance.

The actual processing performance of this excellent machine would still be utilised, however it was time to relieve it of amplification duty and beef up that side of TFP.

An 8 channel power amplifier was sourced and the signal outputs from the Yamaha were fed into specific stereo and bridged channels of our new Amplifier.

To cope with the new equipment and its installation a new shelf/rack system was required to hold the amps and our terrific new NEC projector.
Untitled-1The original amps and players were simply stacked allowing for air flow (left below);  the new shelving gives simpler adjustment, wiring and more secure placement and use – shown during install (right below).

 resized_IMG-20120702-00480  resized_IMG-20120704-00507

The NEC projector is a very capable HD machine and outperforms the original University lecture machine by a wide margin. Further after the new end wall screen is reworked during the Christmas break we will be able to open up the image size to some 6 to 7 meters wide (diagonal being much greater) pending ratio height tests. For now the machine is nestled in a bespoke mount I made to hold it centrally and securely within the booth:


The following image shows the leaps and bounds in presentation scale currently and soon to come at the TFP:

RED: Original image on drop screen
BLUE: Current image on wall/white paint
GREEN: Final image size approximation following Christmas break


Surround speakers/LF/Centre:

The additional Amplification meant it was time to enhance the surround speaker set – up. Currently a classic 5:1 system as illustrated by the simple diagram below:

Centre Channel upgrade:

The Centre speakers consisted of two JBL control 1s, however it had become clear that much more SPL (sound pressure level) would be required here.  The excellent University maintenance team had lent and constructed for me their tower therefore adding two more of the JBL to the existing wall bolted bracket was fairly straight forward.  With a simple dual parallel/Series wiring circuit I was able to run the one centre channel feed at approx 8 Ohms to suit the bridged amplifier stereo pair channels 1+ 2 approx 350 w RMS shared between 4 speakers. The additional performance here cannot be understated and really adds to the dynamic new presentation.


Surround speakers:

Again the trusty JBL control speakers had served us well. Fortunately TFP had purchased a job lot of used professional quality speakers to be re-tasked at TFP.  Primarily I had 7 Bose THX rated Surround speakers to choose from.  I selected and tested the best condition 4 for use as our new Front L+R, rear L+R. Due to the Gypsum board dry lined walls in the Auditorium I was asked to make a spreader board to take the load of the main front L+R speakers (below left); Rears can be seen in very top corners (below right):

resized_IMG-20120704-00521  resized_IMG-20120704-00531

LF (Low Frequency):

The crux of any sound system, in relation to Movie Sound tracks is the depth and extent of the Bass, known as the LF. I am very happy to report that TFP now has Awesome LF and it will indeed rattle your bones should it need to.

Here is how it was achieved:

Currently we have one 12” FBT Jolly active bass speaker at front of the auditorium, this has been very effective but also just on the limit of the minimum in terms of LF SPL (sound pressure level) required in our venue size.

As part of re-tasking the pro speakers I looked at the 3 JBL 15” speaker based LF cabinets. These are simply monsters and needed putting to good use.  I chose to use only Two of them at top and rear of the Auditorium and keep the FBT LF unit at the front. I removed the HF drive horns and tidied them up. Two, was more than enough…secured together and mounted just in front of the projection booth they will be moved to front of the Auditorium and discretely hidden in the new projection wall structure over the Christmas break.

The LF performance is now nothing short of mind blowing and the whole audio package working hand in hand with the recently improved projection size and quality have resulted in an authentic and professional TFP presentation.  Lacking neither scale nor clarity.  All that is left to be done now is the final stage, the huge screen wall creation and subsequent opening up of the NEC projector lens to its full potential. 

The final job was to set the power amplifier channel levels relative to a movie presentation; This allows a dynamic audio performance with any type of film soundtrack without excessive strain on the amplifier, speakers or, crucially, the audience. Followed by a little double checking to ensure all the new optical audio and HDMI Video cables were correctly connected and then some high SPL testing…


A further recent addition and improvement to TFP Auditorium is the installation and use of some very atmospheric side down lights. These make for enough light to seat and remove that feeling of a learning room, brightly lit. These will fade to black (soon) to allow the eye to settle to new lower light levels and fully appreciate the new movie watching experience.



In short, TFP is now a fully fledged Cinema and can slug it out with the best of them; I challenge you to go and see a film there and not be hugely impressed. 

So please use and re-use your local brilliant cinema as it is truly reborn Phoenix like as a better, bigger and even more enjoyable event with family or friends.  Bear in mind also that TFP was one of the earliest large public digital cinemas in the UK. Something I am very proud to be part of.

Support The Film Place/Social media:

If you have any thoughts or comments to make regarding the new presentations or anything to do with TFP please do not hesitate to get in touch:

email TFP: info@thefilmplace.org.uk

Website: http://www.thefilmplace.org.uk/



See you there soon!

Richard Grant:  twitter-logo-small
email: rgproduct@hotmail.com 
IMDB:  http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1219844/

Friday, 1 June 2012

Eco Greenhouse & Chicken Coop construction:


With a few spare days in the blazing sunshine (May 22nd – 25th inclusive and May 29th & 30th 2012) I helped RBWM and St.Mary’s School Maidenhead to build their Eco Greenhouse and new Chicken run with coop. The following is a shot by shot of the processes we used and there is a lot of cross over between the two structures so I will illustrate both builds in tandem. For further information or to request amendments or corrections please email me. This blog entry is intended as a public resource for people to refer to and to inspire, please ensure all people are supervised and competent if using tools and any necessary permissions and insurance is in place if required. Seek professional advice if unsure of any process. Regarding images used they are taken by me and if there are any objections or sensible reasons for amendment please email me, this is an educational resource.

Eco Greenhouse outline and Manual/Instructions:

This consists of a timber frame structure that uses recycled and salvaged fizzy drink bottles with bamboo cane support to create the glazing instead of glass. It is a great way to have the entire school or organisation help create a viable useful greenhouse for teaching purposes. I am an experienced carpenter & designer (www.rgproduct.com) and having reviewed the original documents provided by RBWM (from an existing project) we amended the process to suit our needs (please note I do not claim ownership or authorship of these documents, if there are any rights issues please contact me). 

The Moray Council/REAP original instructions are very good and obviously have lots of useful info and should be read before commencement. I have combined it with some simple Chicken Run plans/elevations also supplied by RBWM and converted to PDF. If there are any download issues relating to the manual please email me.

REAP/CSV manual+Chicken_plans


In choosing site, consider exposure to sun, shade and wind throughout the year as well as any windfall from large trees (leaf/sap and bud toxicity for example). The above manual suggests concreting in your posts and this is a perfectly good option, however for various reasons I selected to create a slab base and bolt the main verticals down via foot mounts.  Chiefly for ease of repair and to prevent rotting of ground timbers etc. There was much discussion on this in relation to Chickens scratching for food etc but we felt having a solid base to clean back to, with a good layer of soil and grit would allow our birds to scratch yet keep the site cleanable and usable in diverse conditions.

For slab bases we did the following: Mark out your base extent with wooden pegs and remove turf to the compacted soil level, giving a good level base. Scrape and rake level to suit your personal tolerances.  (Michelle and Stewart doing a grand job via RBWM) - Eco Greenhouse base:

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120522-00246 
Chicken run base:

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120523-00253

The same method will be used for both the greenhouse and Chicken run.  Once the soil is ready, lay some water permeable plant stop membrane on the soil and sprinkle a good measure of sharp sand across this area and level.  The best way to do this is to set up some levelled timber guides and run a long strong timber across these to give a smooth sand finish. 

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120523-00269 
Do this once then stamp it down (we cheated/deviated a bit here and laid a slab set then used the wood beam process but either works).

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120523-00277

Add more sand and re-level Thanks Jo and Chris. Eco club parents:

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120523-00276
Start to lay slabs from a chosen edge or point, we used 600mm square slabs at 50mm thick. Mind those fingers and your back! Once your base is complete at some point you will add cement powder and water to it, brushed/broomed in and across the slab joins creating a cohesive base.  There is the option to add cement powder to your sand to make a really tough base. Depends on your time and budget issues, ground work can be as simple or comprehensive as you like and is not fully explored here. Google is your friend.

Greenhouse frame construction:

Having chosen to mount our posts on the slab surface and not into cement there is a fundamental structural issue to contend with; rigidity. As the posts are not held rigid, ready to rot in concrete we have to do this with the carpentry. It is assumed an experienced maker knows the basics to achieve the build as follows. Basic process list below, expanded thereafter:

Bottle prep

Create mitre cornered wooden frames to accept the bottle walls (Free ranging frames allow children to assist with bottle wall install and creation).

Make main structure that is rigid and allows the wooden frames to be inserted later, once the bottles are attached.

Bolt down main frame to site via post foot mounts (we literally lifted it from the build area to the install site)

Install doors, internal shelving etc

Install completed bottle walls and start growing and seeding stuff!

1/ Bottle prep

Allow for a month or two bottle collection and store them safely, once enough have been collected you will need to have your troops carefully cut the bottoms from the bottles (under supervision, an adult will need to pierce the plastic to allow children to use safety scissors and cut of the base of each bottle), clean, rinse and dry them for cane mounting. I think these are standard 2 litre bottles but choose your preference:

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120523-00255

Arrange your helpers and set up bottle cut, clean and dry stations and an area to cane them up.

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120523-00254 
As shown, everybody is involved!

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120523-00256 
Once you have your dry clean stock they can be mounted by sliding and wedging onto the support canes, the final one is reversed and wedged into the previous bottle. creating a neck at each end:

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120525-00294 
These are now ready to be placed into the mitre frames using U nails to affix the canes:

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120529-00356 
Tim Morton did a great job selecting and rejecting bottles that did or did not mate up well and produced great canes for install:

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120525-00298 
The final wall panels are impressive and neat, note the spare timber to keep them off the floor:

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120529-00355

2/ Mitred wall frames:

Decide your dimensions for the overall structure and allow for the corner posts, bottle dimensions and quantities, mitre frame sizes and sketch up a basic plan.  I suggest using a proper chop saw with RCD for 240v use or 110v site protection to accurately cut your 90 and 45 degree cuts. I chose 2m clear vertical height in the frames below and allowed for a multiple of 95mm width for each bottle cane and a rough vertical multiple based on a test bottle cane. An few cm’s here or there on the width across the frame is no issue. It is not an air tight thing.

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120522-00244
Mitre frames cut from tanalised (rot proof) 2 by 2 timber, mitre joined and screwed together with 80 or 100mm long pozidrive pro wood screws.  Do not buy cheap screws, the heads are rubbish and will not drive in. Suggest a decent drill driver to drive screws etc. Good value screw selection.

3/ Main structure

Timber used either 2 by 2 inch, 2 by 4 or 4 by 4 tanalised rot proof, 3 m lengths ideal generally.

To simplify things I used my bottle mitre frames to dimension my actual structure.  Literally clamping/screwing my vertical corner posts to them to give final dimensions (NOTE: use a thin spacer between your frames and the corner posts so they do not seize in there once you stiffen your corner posts, lolly sticks are perfect):

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120523-00261
From here you may add your roof structure, to any given height. NOTE: use long thin timbers to add triangulation to this frame to keep it accurate and stiff for moving if required. Below a very useful image shows the structure having been lifted into position by 4 strapping guys/gals. Notice triangulated timbers, these can be temporary until final fit is done or left in position. When finished it does NOT want to wobble, mine doesn’t.

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120524-00289 
This image show roof structure and build, NOTE, the roof is in situ with no removable frames in this instance. Roof Canes were nailed in situ.  Frames could be made to be mounted later if required:

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120529-00325

4/ Bolt down frame:

(further images to follow, an apparent glitch with my BB)

Regarding post foot mounts and overall height I chose to keep all timber 50mm off the floor and away from any rain splash/pools. This was achieved by simply having 50mm of slate layers carefully shaped and placed in each of the 4 foot mounts to lift the posts and therefore whole structure 50mm from the slab base, Jamie from RBWM “knapping” slate to suit:

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120525-00291

Layers of slate are simply built up to the required 50mm:

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120525-00293

With your happy helpers, lift each corner and drop each post into the foot mount and onto the 50mm of slate, this should leave 100mm of post inside the foot mount.  you will probably need to loosen the bottle frames a little to allow for this. Retighten frames before bolting down foot mount. Using a SDS drill to make the holes, bolt down your posts in situ; measure across the ends and sides to ensure they are the same (within a few mm) and check your diagonals too. Coerce the posts to suit before final bolt positions. I chose the very useful threaded bolts for concrete, image links to Screw fix:

Multi-Monti-Flanged-Hex-Head-Shield-Anchors-6-x-50mmThese are simply bolted into the correct size hole created by your SDS drill and are very tough and reusable.

5/ Install doors, internal shelving etc

This is where the real carpentry starts, I reused the fence panels to create shelving and other elements across both projects, note the triangulation timbers still in place, some temporary and some in final position:

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120529-00324 
The potting shelves allow for ages 5 to 11 and are at heights approx 600mm and 900mm from floor (650mm and 400mm deep respectively). The top shelf is shallower to prevent the younger kids bumping their heads!

Door uses solid brass hinges with a wooden latch, part of a bottle cap used as latch bearing washer for ease of use:

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120529-00334

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120529-00341 
Shot shows internal structure and how bottle walls are fitted and relate to the scheme of things:

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120530-00377 
Finished shots to follow:

Chicken Run/Coop

As mentioned this ran in tandem with the above and the following is a selection of images showing the team at work (under my supervision). Chicken run basic frame with triangulation timbers in place to allow accurate construction, this was built in situ. 6m long 2 by 4 inch tanalised timbers ordered to strap full length of run, top frame corner mitred onto vertical corner posts I Eco Greenhouse frame in being built in background prior to lift move):

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120524-00282 
Wide shot showing start of elevated coop (12mm far eastern WPB weatherproof plywood) and also base edge, the sand layer now has a rough wood gravel board edge to gold in some dry cement/sand mix, this will harden over time and contain the sand and allow for roots/natural consolidation of the sand over next 12 months. It can crumble away after that having done its job:

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120524-00288 
The very game Michelle from RBWM doing her bit!…and yes the weather was stunning, Jamie acting as prop.

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120525-00307

The very helpful Jo learning to mesh staple, doing a terrific job too!

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120530-00374 
Detail shot of coop and slung ramp for Chicken access, ramp planks are the gravel boards from the base surround cement. The steps are to help the smaller children access the coop and are made mostly from recycled fencing and built to highest “Tonka” standard!:

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120530-00372 
optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120530-00366 
Inside coop, a Hen shelf and perch stand:

optimised_Windsor and Maidenhead-20120529-00345 
A big thanks to our sponsors, RBWM, Mrs. Laycock, helpers and teachers. Not forgetting all the brilliant pupils. This blog will be updated with final shots and insert images as appropriate.

Richard Grant