What is Technical Implementation and Design?
In the overarching analogy, Technical Implementation and Design function as the delivery methods and mediums of our essay. It seeks to integrate the paragraphs, phrases, and stories created with Immersive Design, into a beautiful piece, installation, or moment. In the introduction, we referenced the idea that Technical Design and Implementation would consist of the elements such as font styles (font face, color, size, etc), the paper quality, the front cover design, page layout, and more.
As creative professionals, you have probably seen incredibly well designed books and magazines that are a pleasure to hold, touch, read, and explore. Regardless of the content, it is still a pleasurable experience. You have probably also seen the opposite, poorly created documents, magazines, and websites, where despite your best efforts, you can’t seem to stay interested enough to finish getting through the content.
In the real world, Technical Implementation and Design can take on many forms. Some of these forms are simple, such as having creative ways of hiding cabling or keeping equipment safe from pedestrian traffic. Some of these forms are more intricate, such as fabricating interesting and appropriate housings for sensors, or weight-bearing structures for LED installations. Anyone with some lumber, drywall, and some tools can create a wall, but we all know creating a beautiful space with walls takes experience and creativity.
This is an important idea to internalize:
Our tasks are almost always to integrate artistic pieces into spaces. These pieces aren’t the whole space, even if they are the focal points of the space, so being able to work within the existing confines and designs of a space is a critical component of Technical Implementation and Design.
There aren’t any standard style guides you can follow, or any rules that will apply to every sitatuon. Every context will be different and every space will require a specific solution.
Technical Implementation and Design can simply be thought of as the ability to effectively integrate interactive technologies and immersive designs into spaces.
Technical Implementation and Design can be defined in a variety of ways based on the context and field of expertise. For our purposes, we will define it as such:
The design, layout, deployment, fabrication, and integration of interactive technologies and immersive designs into both new and pre-existing spaces.
There are quite a few different components to this definition.
The first element is that Technical Implementation and Design wraps many different elements. Design, layout, deployment, fabrication, and integration are the main skills involved with Technical Implementation and Design. This doesn’t mean that a single person needs to single handedly perform all these actions, but it does imply that single person should have enough general knowledge of these elements so that they may co-ordinate the appropriate professionals involved.
A good example of this is that you may not need to know every fabrication technique involved with plastic-based materials, but you should have enough knowledge to know that they warp under changes in temperature and might not be the best material for permanent installations exposed to the elements or rapid changes in temperature. Another good example is that you may not need to know the intricacies of integration and electrical requirements, but you should have a general understanding that if you’re deploying an outdoor installation that requires a lot of power, that you might need a portable generator, which can be large and loud and might detract from your experience if you aren’t able to place it at a distance.
The second element is that Technical Implementation and Design needs to work with both interactive technoogies and immersive designs. This means that you’ll often times need to have both an understanding of the interactive technologies (their limitations such as range, power consumption, cabling, etc) to integrate them into a space functionally, and an understanding of the higher-level design to integrate the solutions into the space artistically (with an appropriate fabricated housing, audio-visual output intensities, heat dissipation, etc).
The third element implicates both new and pre-existing spaces. Both have their separate challenges. New spaces will be more like approaching a blank canvas and will have their own challenges, where you might need to consult on construction, floor plans, electrical wirings, and even the overall design of the space. Pre-existing spaces will have slightly different considerations such as whether weight-bearing structures exist, how your installation will feel as a part of a larger design, and if there is even enough power available to meet your installations requirements.
With a concrete definition, let us examine some examples of Technical Design and Implementation.
Unlike the Interactive Technology and Immersive Design components, Technical Design and Implementation has a bit less of a “gray area”. The best solutions end up being practical in nature, cost-effective, and attempt to solve tangible, real-world issues.
The implementation of sensors and computer systems, respectively, are great examples of where Technical Design and Implementation knowledge is extremely valueable. There are a number of aspects to their integration and implementation that are often times ignored during the design phases. These include elements like cabling, power requirements, and enclosures/housings.
Many sensors that are used in interactive pieces don’t have any form of enclosure or casing to speak of. They are often raw circuit boards with their electronics exposed. If they were installed into a space as is, they would not last very long, and in genereal, they would detract immensely from the overall piece’s appearance. Creating attractive and functional enclosures becomes a necessity for higher-end installations. Knowledge of their basic capacities and limitations ensures that your implementation, whether embedded directly into the space, or built into a small enclosure, is both functional and attractive.
The same thought process applies to computer systems. More often than not, interactive installations are driven by computers, but their installation, power requirements, and cabling aren’t taken into consideration during the design phases. High performance computers are often desktop or rack sized units, which aren’t completely inconsequential in size and power requirements, and designs often need to be changed or ammended to account for the space a computer system needs. The same applies for cabling. Nothing is worse than creating a beautiful piece of art, and then having a few stray power and data cables crawling across the floor (these are also a safety hazard!).
This leads us to examine what kind of things fall under the banner of Technical Implementation and Design.
There are six areas of Technical Implementation and Design that will be investigated in this series. They are:
- Video Hardware
- Lighting Hardware
- Audio Hardware
- Virtual & Augmented Reality
- Kinetic Elements and Physical Interfaces
- Computers, Sensors, and other elements
Within each area, we will discuss use cases, implementation examples, common implementation mistakes, general requirements, and more.
Video hardware entails all hardware that deals with video. Any time video content is being played or generated for public viewing, you will require some form of video hardware. This category includes everything from video walls, LED walls, creative LED displays, and projectors. Generally, each is a field of study in and of itself, but we will examine the basic use cases of each, their implementation in spaces, and some creative uses.
Lighting hardware will include all non-video hardware that is stil visual in nature. This generally extends into the field of lighting design and includes the myriad of lighting fixtures and pieces. We will cover creative ways of utilising them to augment environments in interactive ways and why they are important but often overlooked.
Audio hardware will examine the various new technologies available in the audio realm, as well as some interesting techniques used to implement audio in immersive ways.
Virtual & Augmented Reality are both commercially new tecnologies that are becoming more and more mainstream. The release of technologies like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, the iPhone, and Google Glass, present a new avenue for telling stories. We will examine the difference between virual reality and augmented reality that, while similar, are very different technologies with very different uses.
Kinetic Elements and Physical Interfaces might be a new concept for many creative professionals but they’re straight forward and can elevate an experience to new heights. Kinetic elements refer to different elements of an installation that move. This could be through the use of simple motors or more advanced robotics. The notion of movement has been lost in interactive installations for many years, but the recent insurgance of incredible pieces incorporating these elements has rejuvinated their use and demand. Physical interfaces, on the other hand, are elements of a piece that you can physically touch and interact with. In our digital age, these elements are often ignored, but even simple elements like handles on a rotating screen bring a very human energy to a piece that might otherwise be very cold and dry. Although these two elements are quite different, they have been grouped together because of their physical and kinetic nature.
Computers, Sensors, and other elements include the brains of the operation. They may be computers, sensors, cameras, microcontrollers, media servers, racks full of gear, home automation controllers, and anything else that you may need to integrate into a space that may not be covered by the previous sections.
With all that said, because Technical Implementation and Design is the least “grey” of the overall chapters, we will begin by examing all the above elements in the next post.