NDSU Minard Hall Collapse Animation.

NDSU posted some official information about the collapse, though of course the back-channel email communication is far more interesting. I made an animation from their webcam images.

Note particularly the steam in the stairwell — the steam heat in the building might have flooded the building with a wet, hot cloud.

Posted in Oversight | 1 Comment

REMINDER: Upcoming Talks at World Fair Use Day, Harvard’s Berkman Center.

The first is January 12th, 2010 at the First Annual World Fair Use Day in Washington, DC. I will be going over our community’s work and our projects that fall under, and enhance, fair use principles. I couldn’t be more excited about this one, because after the event, we will have a DIY Book Scanner meetup, which is as far as I know the first meeting of our forum members in real life. I hope to see you there! And perhaps share a cold, fermented beverage or ten…

The second place I’ll be spreading the good DIY word is Harvard’s Berkman Center, on March 23rd. I’m not yet sure of the exact time, but I will update as I know more. The Berkman Center, founded by Charles Nesson (whom I had the pleasure meeting at D is for Digitize) is a real force for freedom and legal sensibility when it comes to the Internet. I couldn’t imagine a better place to talk about our work as a community.

Comment here or in the forums if you can make it to either of these events!

Posted in Oversight | 1 Comment

Update: Graf Paper, A Coloring Book For Graf Artists.

In 2007 I released a coloring book for graffiti artists.

Since that time, many, many graf artists have printed it, extended and enhanced the drawings, and dropped the results in their sketchbooks. Some have shared the results online in a private forum. You’ll have to find out where yourself. All works copyright their original owners:

Some have chosen to share their work publicly. Today, I saw this link in my referrer logs:

Copyright Tize One.

Which was drawn on this image from the coloring book:

It’s pretty gratifying to see what people are doing with this project.

Posted in Fake Art, Fake Design, Oversight | Leave a comment

Photosynth of NDSU’s Minard Hall Collapse.

Photosynth is a “Photo Tourism” application that lets you seamlessly navigate all 728 high resolution images I took of the Minard Hall collapse.

Requires Microsoft Silverlight, sorry.

Don’t miss the “Collapse of Minard Hall” post below, featuring enormous high-res panoramas of the scene.

Posted in Oversight | Leave a comment

Videos of NDSU’s Minard Hall Excavation And Collapse.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

DIY Book Scanner Graces Instructables Top Ten Most Viewed.

Instructables.com has announced their “Best of 2009” winners and the DIY Book Scanner Instructable was in the top ten in the category “Most Viewed”.

Posted in Oversight | 1 Comment

The Collapse of Minard Hall at NDSU.

Recent construction-related excavation work on Minard Hall caused the North face of the building to collapse, exposing faculty offices and engineering incompetence in one fell swoop.

Minard Hall (formerly Science Hall) has a concrete foundation which rests on a bed of smectite clay. This clay, the main ingredient in clumping kitty litter, is the “bedrock” of Fargo, North Dakota and much of the Red River Valley. You might think of Fargo as a bit of frozen cat crap shifting around an enormous bed of saturated litter. To prevent catastrophic collapse, heavy buildings in the area are usually placed on 150 foot caissons (stilts), which rest on bedrock. Because Minard rests on the clay alone, removing the surrounding dirt probably caused the clay to ooze from underneath the building. More about smectite clays from Dr. Donald Schwert, who has precisely nothing to do with this post.

Larger still (86.9 megapixels, 11mb).

Unfortunately, this building houses my department, experiment, and student office.

In this image, the third window from the bottom right is my office.

Larger still.

Larger still (82 megapixels, 10mb).

Larger still (19.5 megapixels).

This collapse represents a major setback for the institution as a whole, not to mention my progress as a graduate student. Tough times.

Posted in Oversight | 18 Comments

A Future Picture Tutorial, Parts 1 and 2.

Matti and I just published two tutorials on Instructables.


The first introduces the field of Computational Photography, and motivates the project.

The second shows you how to simulate our Large Light Field Camera Array with a single camera


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Wired Article on DIY Book Scanner Project.

Priya Ganapati wrote an article about the DIY Book Scanner project on Wired Gadget Lab, a column dedicated to emerging technologies.

I’m particularly pleased to see this quote from Pam Samuelson, who I had the pleasure of meeting at D is for Digitize.

“There have to be things that you get with an e-book that you don’t get by making your own copies,” says Samuelson. “It’s not such as stark challenge for copyright owners, because not many people are going to take the trouble to make their own scanner system. Most of us want the convenience of buying digital books for the Kindle, Nook or Sony Reader.”

Good article, though the quotes from me are… a bit paraphrased…

Posted in Oversight | 5 Comments

FuturePicture: The Large Light Field Camera Array, Part 1.

I’m posting this both to danreetz.com and futurepicture.org — future posts will not be double-posted in this manner. Be sure to subscribe to the RSS feed over at Futurepicture, there’s much more in store. This is, in fact, just a teaser…

FuturePicture is about the future of photography. It is about cameras with capabilities that sound like science fiction, and look like a million bucks.

So you want to influence the future of photography? Well, you gotta build a camera.

And that’s exactly what Matti and I did. Twice.

First Large Light Field Camera Array:

Second Large Light Field Camera Array:

Computational cameras have only come into being over the last two decades. Why just now? Well, cheap computation, plentiful sensors, and a hundred-fifty years of relative design stagnation explain some of it. Computational photography is a young field, still deciding what it is and what it is doing, exactly, but the undeniable common factor is that a powerful camera is involved. This “camera” could look perfectly ordinary or be completely unrecognizable, understandable only by analogy, from a fly’s eye to the photosensitive spots on nematodes. Computational photography seeks inspiration from disparate sources: biology, computer vision, optics, and statistics. The price of admission is math prowess, some computer programming power, and a camera. Or twelve.

Well, together we (Daniel Reetz and Matti Kariluoma), have that covered. We aim to take computational photography out of the lab, and into practical use. We want to make the hardware affordable and accessible, because outside the ivory towers of academia, there are creative people of all stripes who could use amd abuse this kind of photographic power.

So, what does this thing do? The primary function of this array is to capture the Light Field, a four-dimensional function that is capable of describing all rays in a scene. Surrounding you, now, and always, is a reverberating volume of light. Just as sound echoes around a room in complex ways, bouncing from every surface, so does light, creating a structured volume. Traditional, single-lens cameras project this three dimensional world of reflected light onto a two dimensional sensor, tossing out the 3D information in the process, and capturing only a faint, sheared sliver of the actual light field. By taking many captures at slightly shifted locations, it is possible to capture a crude representation of the light field. The number of slices determines the resolution of capture; our 12 captures at 7cm separation is a bare minimum. What can you do with a light field? The lowest hanging fruit is computational refocusing. By computational refocusing, we mean focusing the image AFTER it is captured.

The particular method of computational refocusing that we employ creates an enormous virtual aperture. The size of the virtual aperture determines a few things. One, the aize of the object you can “see through”. Two, the depth of the focal plane, which is currently extremely shallow, on the order of a few centimeters at most. In this image, we can see right through Poodus as he flies through the air.

Camera array construction and software will be the topic of another post; this post is just to introduce our work on the array and make public some of its output. A brief summary: we employ the latest modern rapid prototyping equipment — laser cutters, flatbed scanners, digital micrometers, and open source hardware and software — Arduino and StereoDataMaker. All the technology we develop will be released under open-source licenses to encourage, as much as possible, the development of similar camera arrays and to speed the hobbyist adoption of computational photography techniques.

A brief introduction: Daniel Reetz is an artist, camera hacker, and graduate student in the visual neurosciences. Matti Kariluoma is a CS/Math major with a focus on artificial intelligence. Together, we’re working on computational photography, and we’re going to bring our respective backgrounds to bear on it. Want to get in touch? Leave a comment here.

Posted in Oversight | 3 Comments

On Willpower And The Will To Power.

mdn has made hundreds of very insightful comments on Metafilter, often in unexpected places. This comment, in particular, caught my attention:

You cannot will cancer to be cured. Willpower is basically the word we use for the ability to control the movements of our bodies. You do have control over the movements of your body, and everything you do in this world is expressed through bodily movement. [emphasis mine]. You can have any passing thoughts you like, but it is up to you whether you act on them.

If you’re not sure you can control your body, practice every morning – I will pick this cup up, and now I will put it down; I will move it left, I will move it right – and I bet you can do it. Deciding what to do in the flow of your life is the exact same thing. Will I pick this phone up and dial a number? Will I turn right at that corner or keep walking straight? Will I move my mouth and aspirate so as to pronounce the word yes or no? These are simply bodily actions.

You have control if you want it. You just have to be self-aware and make choices on purpose rather than getting lost in the flood of experience and doing whatever you feel randomly inclined to do. There are certain cases where you lose control of your body (seizures, sleepwalking) or certain parts of your body you don’t control (inner organs etc) but in general what you do is your decision if you consciously wish it be, and it is merely your unconscious inclination if you give it no thought, not some sort of necessity the chemicals of your body or karma or fate or devils or mechanics dictates.

The undeniable truth is that the mind/body division laid out for so many years, by so many religions, philosophers, and stoned hippies is strictly manmade. The mind, a complex electrochemical/biological physical process, is inextricable from, dependent on, and ultimately in control of “the body”, which contains it, nourishes it, and comprises it. This complex interdependence exposes the absurd lemma we so often hear. Even the basest communication requires action; no thought leaves the mind without eye movements, tapping fingers, or unbearably complex learned vocalizations. What I find so startling is not just the sheer barnacle tenaciousness of this idea, but that people have such a difficult time accepting it in the face of our personal and cultural familiarity with chemical self-modification through alcohol, caffeine, and various illicit and prescription drugs.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Large divides, small fixes.

I was quite pleased to see this wonderful article from Los futuros del libro, a Spanish-language blog dedicated to the future of the book, which puts the DIY Book Scanner effort into a global context. I wonder if the real site for the book scanner might be developing nations, particularly those with different, non-Western ideas about copyright. In fact, those same non-Western, possibly non-capitalist ideological and legal situations present in some developing nations might be the ideal proving ground for the idea that the scope of copyright should be sharply delimited.

This is the big problem of book scanning as we know it — the big problem is actually the big players. Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc — they are so huge, and so powerful, and so cunning. And they have the capability to offer services good enough to keep the bulk of us from ever thinking about looking elsewhere. But in the continuum between the excruciatingly slow and painful flatbed scanner and the Elphel-based All-Seeing-Google-Eyes consuming all of Harvard, there are whole historical societies, volunteer organizations, youth groups, small towns, underfunded libraries and indeed, whole developing nations that need not only access to the information but an effective hardware platform to effectively maximize what little labor they have. And it’s my firm belief that this middle, which is, statistically speaking, the bulk of… everyone, the largest area under the curve, this middle is where the DIY, low-cost book scanning effort fits, makes sense, and needs legal headroom.

I am so thankful that we have such a fantastic community of brilliant, dedicated people working on this book scanning problem. True future-builders, champions of openness, problem solvers from all over the world.

For those of us that only speak English, let the machine read it to you.

Any suggestions on a country with a vast supply of 5mm birch plywood, stable electricity, and lax copyright laws?

Posted in Oversight | Leave a comment


So, Engadget held a contest to win a Kindle 2. The idea was to make artwork for the back that was totally amazing. I won the contest.

I also decided to make my design public domain. So if you want this design on your Kindle, or on anything you own, you may use it. In fact, you can do anything you want with it ever. That’s the beauty of PD.

Files here.

Now, Engadget has a page up with the winners, and it shows my Kindle being engraved in NYC at Adafruit! Hilariously, this was probably around the time I was in NYC for the D is for Digitize conference.

I received the thing a week or two ago.

And now they’ve done an episode of the Engadget show that features my Kindle! So go check out this short video, all the laser-related stuff is at the end.

It’s here on Engadget. It’s pretty awesome, and there’s a gallery of the other winners as well.

Posted in Oversight | 3 Comments


Cameras and photographic image-making thread through just about everything I do, and at this point it’s safe to say it’s grown into an all-consuming obsession. An obsession with great aesthetic surplus, and one that has led to some great things, like the DIY Book Scanner community, a camera-hacking project gone global.

FuturePicture.org is where I’ll be detailing research and development of computational cameras. I’ve just published an article there about the history of light field imaging and computational cameras. It is the result of a year-long collaboration with my dear friend Ekaterina Avramova of the Obninsk State University for Nuclear Power Engineering. Together, we unearthed, translated, and made available a missing, historically important paper by P.P. Sokolov which describes one of the very first light field capture systems.

FuturePicture.org will serve as a site where I review the field and report on new innovations, but none of this work happens alone. Matti Kariluoma, co-founder of FuturePicture, and I have been working hard on a computational camera array, which will be the subject of the next post. This array, which effectively implements the principles of synthetic aperture radar, but for cameras, is the beginning of what is already an intense investigation into the future of photography.

Posted in Oversight | Leave a comment

One-Hundred Twenty Volts at 60HZ, Three Capacitors, and One Rotron.

Ben has a beautiful mind, finely focused on electromechanical devices that move air. His fascination borders on obsession, but never fails to charm.

We disassembled, wired, and tested a Rotron high-output fan assembly for exhausting the fumes of my laser cutter. This is Ben in a hallway wind tunnel. Have never seen the guy so happy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tis the Sleazin’

As Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, so Christmas has officially begun with Black Friday.
I have been looking for a nice Advent Calendar with a manufacturer coupon on each date. But all I can find are ones with Bible verses or German chocolates.

-Shannon Tomac

To what extent does the fundamental knowledge acquisition mechanism of religious faith — which is to say, to uncritically and unconditionally accept fantastic stories and bizarre language — groom groups into uncritical consumers? Could it be that the purchasing habits of Christians are, on the whole, more consistent than their beliefs?

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Canon Copier, Condition: Poor

If there is one thing I love in life, it is to disassemble electronics to understand how they work and to repurpose their precious innards.

Noah, Poodus and I had a hack at a Canon copier this holiday weekend. I was surprised to learn just how many opto-interruptors and solenoids were in this thing.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

D is for Digitize Talks Are Now Online.

My talk at D is for Digitize is now online, along with all the others. I was on the panel “C is for Culture” — my talk begins around 45 minutes into the video stream.

I’m sorry, but you have to install Microsoft Silverlight to view the talk. No one is more sorry about that than I am.

If you take the time to check it out, let me know what you think in the comments.

Posted in Oversight | 2 Comments


Fakeproject on Twitter.

Posted in Oversight | Leave a comment


My brother, his choir:

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments