Steven: Insanity is probably the biggest reason. About six years ago, a friend and I were sitting around, coming up with crazy ideas. We decided we wanted to make a sound sculpture on a fairly large scale. So, multi-person, interactive, lights, switches, knobs, all that kind of stuff. And for a couple of years we were playing with ideas and like, how can we make this work? There wasn’t good technology at that time to do it. And it kind of floundered for a bit.
And then, two or three years ago, my friend Andrea and I were watching Doctor Who, and she said, “You know, why don’t we make a Tardis console?” and I was like, “Yeah? That is a good idea.” So from that, around the same time I had taken a class in building MIDI controllers from our friends at Livid Instruments. And from there, that kind of snowballed into gathering parts, we started designing, and making something that turned into that.
Tim: So this has been several years in the making?
Steven: Well, I mean the idea was a long time ago; the actual building we want to say, took about a year altogether, starting let’s say a year from August, I guess, so a year from before now and the time is very wibbly-wobbly even at this point.
Tim: Now inside you’ve got various ____1:30 that trade colors, are those LED lit?
Steven: So the center time rotor section is LED strips driven from an AVR microcontroller TNC and actually we’ve got about six or seven TNCs running different things inside the console. Just doing independent things. Some are moving gauges, some are doing LEDs, some servos to turn some gears, and then there is also a Mac Minicomputer that’s handling all the sound processing via a ____2:00.
Tim: You’ve got a lot of control surfaces that are distributed around the surface of the Tardis.
Tim: Do they all actually do something?
Steven: Most of them do. Some of them more obvious than others. There are a number of samples that are very obvious, like ‘oh you press that and you get a sound right away’; there’s others that are you press it and like about 4 or 5 seconds later, something happens. There are others where you need to have certain things switched on, and then you can turn knobs to effect what’s going on there. Small children want immediate gratifications. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. If you’ve got 5 minutes to spend and really play with it, and then you can be like ‘Oh if I do this, and this, and this,’ that gets to be a little more interesting. So there are some depths to it that may be inappropriate for this event.
Tim: Now for the kids, now can you see the light if they
Steven: Yeah, it is shiny, those buttons, those things to mash on.
Tim: Now for the sound, that you got a mix ____2:58 sample
Steven: Yeah. A couple of them are just synthesizer plug-ins with the MIDI controller stuff just modifying wave forms or LFO or all that kind of stuff. Others are one-shot samples that are just triggered by the buttons or volume turned up on things or not. There are a few that are a combination of those things as well.
Tim: I saw a small part of the construction here. The framework, and that is all wood, right?
Steven: What’s that again?
Tim: It is all wood?
Steven: The main structure is wood. CNC cut mostly three-quarter and half-inch plywood, then glued together and kind of mangled in some ways. We discovered that CNC cutting doesn’t make square holes to put square pegs in. So we had to do a lot of filing which I think is where you met us before. The exterior stuff, there is some acrylic that was laser cut, and etched, and then the metal structure in the middle is some recycled parts from a projector stand.
Tim: It makes a pretty substantial shape but you could not put it into the back of a Volkswagen, it will ____4:14?
Steven: Not a regular Volkswagen, no.
Tim: Maybe a Vanagon?
Steven: Maybe a Vanagon yeah. No a chopped Vanagon, yes. It is 54 inches wide which makes it a little difficult to move, fully assembled. We originally designed it to be modular, so you could take it apart and put it back together. We discovered that is a bad idea, because it takes about three days to really put it back together with the wiring and everything else.
So the last couple of times we moved it fully assembled the time rotor comes off and we can sort of separate that and it is not actually screwed in. So, the base we put on a trailer to bring out here today. So for the Art event at the end of the month, we are going to put it in a box truck and bring everything out for that.
Tim: How often have you actually put it on display?
Steven: This is the fourth or fifth time. Burning Flipside last year was the first time. Art Outside in the fall, East Austin Studio Tour and then this event Mini Maker Faire.
Tim: Now did you document the process of making it, if people want to make their own Tardis?
Steven: Not really. I do look back, I was commenting on the awesomeness of the Internet that there are walkthroughs and like ‘Yes, I’ve built this thing’, and I love that. But I didn’t do a good job of documenting this process at all. There is a big blog-post that I have been meaning to post for months about the process of it, but the individual bits and pieces, I couldn’t tell you what to do.
Tim: Do you have any other projects that are coming, that are going to be based on this same kind of building
Steven: No. I don’t recommend it. No. Mostly what I am working on now is small scale stuff, small electronics projects or laser cut enclosures that sort of thing.
Tim: This looks like a lifetime event, something to celebrate?
Steven: Sure. If you say so.