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How musicians and coders worked together for Buzzjam

A few weeks ago, Dimitra and Matt made their way to Bournemouth for a catch up with Brandon and David from Redweb. Brandon and David came to our attention when we heard about their collaboration with Tom Walker, while attending Buzzjam, where they made an Electric Paint and Touch Board enabled MIDI controller shirt. We wanted to find out more about Redweb, where the project came from and how they got started working with Electric Paint.

Redweb is a digital agency based in Bournemouth, working with a number of major brands. The lab, where David and Brandon are based has a mix of physical and digital projects that made us feel perfectly at home. The lab’s role is to power the thinking clients and other creatives, highlighting new technologies and potential opportunities for future campaigns. In between playing with a Raspberry Pi powered camera (that prints a haiku to describe the image!) and a lego calendar that keeps track of code updates, we were able to talk about how they came to use Electric Paint and the Touch Board.

Buzzjam is a three-day music and coding hackathon. After being invited, Brandon and David started to brainstorm with musician Tom Walker, coming up with the idea of creating a wearable instrument that could replace the common 64 button Novation Launchpad MIDI controller. A big ask!

Electric Paint gave them a chance to make an interface that was thin and flexible and capacitive sensing made it possible to turn the pads of electric paint into a MIDI controller. Brandon started with the CapSense library for the Arduino, check out our CapSense tutorial and quickly moved to the Touch Board for ease of use and reliability.

A little bit of Bare Conductive history – our CapSense tutorial was one of our first tutorials and it spawned a ton of amazing projects, but most importantly it showed us that a reliable and easy to use capacitive touch device would be popular. In response, we designed the Touch Board.

Brandon used Datastream (automatically downloaded as an example when you use our installer) to stream serial data from the Touch Board to his laptop via Bluetooth. He used an HC06 Bluetooth module to take the serial data from the board to his computer. Node.js turned this raw data into MIDI events. Once he had MIDI he was able to trigger samples, MIDI instruments and more. For more on using the Touch Board as a USB MIDI interface, check out our tutorial.

Brandon and David had some interesting insights into the physical creation of the shirt as well. They used conductive thread to connect between pads of Electric Paint and the Touch Board, creating robust connections and not requiring the Electric Paint to flex. They also watered down the paint to help it soak into the fabric better and used a hair dryer to help speed up the making process. Basically, Brandon and David gave us a masterclass in making with Electric Paint and the Touch Board.

The final outcome was fantastic. After a hurried three days, David, Brandon and Tom were able to demo the shirt live on stage.

The BBC made a short film about Brandon and Tom’s collaboration, for their Make It Digital website.

The official video hasn’t been released yet, so stay tuned for more updates.

If you’d like to see your project on our blog, share it with us: info@bareconductive.com or on Twitter!