Category Archives: Development

Doing Stupid Things with Google Spreadsheets

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I use Google Spreadsheets pretty often at work, but for more mundane  typical scenarios such as budgets, time and scope estimates, and so on. However, as I played with formulas and some of the built-in features, I was curious to what other non-productive things I could create. This lead me to a project I recently completed that uses the spreadsheet grid to recreate images. This was recently featured in the 2nd annual Firstborn Art Show (All These Things 2016) under the title Pixcell Images.

You can check out the entry here: Pixcell Images by Eric Decker.  There are about 20 images that rotate every 15 seconds.
There’s also a version that accepts and shows user-submitted images via MMS, which you can text to at 585-672-6394  (try it out while it’s still active!)

The concept is pretty simple — I display small images (up to 32 x 32) in a spreadsheet by coloring three cells for each pixel’s red, green, and blue value. Basically, more or less how a typical monitor or screen works. A separate external script processes the images and sends the data to the Google Spreadsheet, but the spreadsheet processes and displays the “image” all on it’s own without any additional scripting.

Pixcell: Mario Kart Toad
Toad sprite from the original Mario Kart displayed in a Google Spreadsheet.

It was a fun process, so here are some of the interesting steps it took to achieve the final results.

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Gravity Wells

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Dug up a project I had been working on a while ago that I want to revisit – a game prototype called Gravity Wells. The idea of the game is that’s it’s a somewhat typical 2.5D space shooter, except that objects you encounter have weight that deforms the 2D plane that the ship and obstacles sit on. The gravity wells that objects – enemy ships, asteroids, space debris, etc – create affect other objects and even the projectiles that the ship shoots. I had another thought that maybe the ship doesn’t even shoot, but instead has some sort of gravity manipulation device that requires you to fling objects into each other. Extremely heavy objects, a la black holes, could present some interesting options as well. This started as a quick Flash prototype for proof of concept but would be executed with webGL.

Gravity Well Objects

Twitter Content for Testing

We recently launched a new site at Firstborn (which we can’t publicly share yet) but wanted to share a resource I created to aid in testing. A part of the site pulls in twitter content via the API (nothing new there) and in order to test what that content could be we used an account that is a collection of, let’s say, inconvenient tweets. Basically, posts that contain emojis (💩),  html markup, and lots of new lines. You can use the account – and suggest your own – by following @developerjerk.

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Video Sync Issues with Flash AS3

It’s been almost a year exactly since my last update. I guess I’ve been pretty preoccupied. I wanted to do a post about an age old problem very often encountered in Flash – compositing video so that overlaying elements sync perfectly with a video. In essence, getting the true current frame of an FLV or F4V. Specifically the problem I want to talk about tackling is having an image be composited as if it were in the video. I think a great example of this is a site we (as in Firstborn, not me) did for 5 React a year or so ago. There are a couple of solutions to solve this problem that work almost perfectly 99% of the time. In general, they usually involve an XML file that contains corner points for each frame of how an image should be transformed to match the video. For live video (no CG) tracking is set up in After Effects and then the cue points are exported. While After Effects doesn’t have a native export cue points as XML option, the keyframe data can be copied & pasted out as plain text, and then you can just run a simple RegEx to convert it to XML. This is all pretty simple and isn’t the problem, the issue lies with not being able to get the exact frame that a video is displaying.

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Doritos.com

Just a quick update here, we recently relaunched the new Doritos.com [edit: no longer online], my latest project. I was lead developer on this project with much help from Lucas Motta and Michael Roushey on the flash forefront, and as always Francis Turmel as our technical Sensei. The project was done with the world renowned ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. We put a lot of hours into this site, but I think it was worth it. My job as lead developer was doing the overall structure and framework of the site. I also developed some helpful debugging utils along the way, which I hope to post on here rather soon.

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NanoTween

Recently I was working on preloader for a project and needed to use a tweening engine. (We have an internally developed one at Firstborn that is based off of the syntax of Tweener). I wanted to see if I could write my own that would be super small. I wasn’t as concerned with performance – meaning being able to tween thousands of objects at once, a highly unlikely scenario anyways. I wanted to keep compiled file size down, as well as number of classes. So I created a NanoTween class that is a super simple tweening utility. When compiled on it’s own, it only consist of about 1.3 Kb.

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Speaking at FITC Toronto 2010

So I realize this is pretty last minute, but I’ll be speaking at FITC Toronto this Monday with Mathieu Badimon. We’ll be speaking on Firstborn’s behalf. Our presentation is titled “Tools & Prototypes: Crafting a Unique Digital Experience.” It’s basically focusing on how for each project we make, we usually need to make demos to test techniques or make tools to aid in development. It’s more of a creative presentation than a technical one, as we really won’t be talking about code directly. So if you’re up at FITC this weekend, we’ll be presenting Monday at 12:10.

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Time Displacement Experiment (part II)

I made some updates to my time displacement experiments. I lumped them all into one nice little app, as well as give some options to toggle the effect. I also added the option to choose video source, so it doesn’t have to be with a webcam anymore. I added the option to tint what area is being effected, as well as experimented with frame blending to try to lessen hard edges. Like the previous post, I’m still using Pixel Bender to apply the displacement.

experiments.eric-decker.com/time_displacement

time-painting-app-example-1

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More Time Displacement Experiments: Now with Pixel Bender

I decided to try using Pixel Bender to do the time displacement in the recent experiments I’ve been doing, as I was hoping it would perform better. It actually seems to, but there still is a significant lag. However, I’m pretty sure this is because of having to make a huge sprite sheet first.

I basically make a huge sprite sheet of all the frames I have saved. Since Flash 10 lets you have bigger bitmaps (16,777,215 pixels total, max dimension at 8,191 src) I can create a large image that tiles all the frames I currently have saved. I can have a max of 12 frames across (at 640) and 4 frames down (at 480). So after I create/update this giant bitmap, I send it to a pixel bender filter that is currently applied to a gray scale image. The Pixel Bender filter then looks at each pixel, evaluates the brightness and interpolates it to what frame it needs to update from, then replaces the current pixel with the appropriate one from the selected frame.

These experiments are still a little rough, but I’ll post ’em anyways. No videos yet, I need to find some time to do screen recordings. The ticker is obviously by Mr. Doob. You’ll need a webcam for all of these, sorry.

  • brightness: Displacement based off of brightness of current frame.
  • movement: Displacement based off of movement (difference between frames)
  • painting: Displacement based off area pained by user, as in previous post (inspired by Smudge City).
  • noise: Displacement based off of perlin noise.
  • filmstrip: Displacement based off of titled blocks.

In any of these experiments, you can right-click to show the source that is controlling the displacement.