Jack Phelan - Blog

Processes and technology in video design, performance arts and film-making.

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Overlay visuals for live-streamed events using Unity Engine


This project benefited from research and development I conducted as part of a bursary from The Arts Council of Ireland.

The following is a brief write-up on the creative-tech side of a recent project I produced with Crash Ensemble, Ireland’s leading new music ensemble.

The project: Crash Ensemble were premiering a new piece - Wingform - by composer and musician Barry O'Halpin as part of New Music Dublin festival, and asked if I’d do some live visuals for it.

The catch: the show was to be live-streamed only, no live audience so no nice on-stage visuals.

Constraint: I’m generally not a fan of inter-cutting film / video art with live-performance, I like to see the musicians all the time, so I wanted to try to add some visual element that looked like it was in the space with the musicians.

Idea: my idea was to make a 3D Calder-esque mobile that would appear to be hanging above the...

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Guide: Live-Streaming for Performance-Makers


This detailed guide shows you a tried and trusted way to live-stream theatre, dance opera etc. performances that is low-cost and high-quality. Some of what is covered here is Mac specific - namely the use of QLab for playback and queuing; and Syphon - an app that we’ll use to share video between applications. We’ll use OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) for streaming which is a brilliant option for budget constrained productions.

While this guide is technical in nature, it is aimed at the not-very-technical (we’re all at least a bit technical these days) and aims to cover everything you need to know to live-stream a basic production.

You’ll be able to follow along with the video parts of this guide using just the webcam of your Mac. You will also need a QLab video license once we get there, although you can rent one for 24hrs for $4 (see below).

📺 We’ll be testing your live-stream...

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Making Pandemic-proof Theatre


This post is about the video processing and distribution side of a recent live-streamed stage production To Be A Machine, and its new German-language Austrian version Die Maschine in Mir. In a future post, I’ll go into more detail about the cameras, video capture and live-streaming.

If a live-streamed theatre production about Transhumanism that uses 100+ iPads with custom app and media distribution server, an automated video processing pipeline hacked together with Python, FFmpeg and some off-the-shelf web apps, all developed in a couple of months during a pandemic sounds interesting to you, then read on!

This was my only live theatre project that wasn’t cancelled in 2020. It went ahead because of clever, reactive writing, careful planning and liberal use of tools and technology.

2020 was not the year to expect work in theatre, yet somehow along came To Be A Machine (version 1.0) in...

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Pop! OS on Intel NUC - Dream Combo for Creative Work


Who is this post for?
This blog post is aimed at artist / designer types that use a reasonably powerful workstation most days but aren’t necessarily super tech-savvy, .e.g. film-makers, game-makers, 2D / 3D artists, composers, creative coders etc.; are likely Mac users that are starting to feel a little disillusioned with the Mac platform for such uses - and / or priced out - and are starting to wonder what the options are. However, they absolutely do not want to dedicate a large chunk of their time managing, maintaining and fixing their computer. They want something that looks and feels as close to MacOS as possible, and just works.

I’m a long-time Mac user working with video, 3D, gaming, creative coding etc. Every so often I try to move away from being completely reliant on Mac and closed-software subscriptions, but each time I run back to Mac - either horrified by Windows or...

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Joplin - Fantastic Note-taking App for Diverse Creative Work.


Who isn’t obsessed with finding the perfect note-taking app? There must be a few people that aren’t but we’ll ignore them.

I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t such thing, but I’ve found the closest thing for me in Joplin.


This post should be interesting to you if the following ring any bells:

  • you take a shitload of notes
  • you do lots of different things, from making bread, to writing screenplays and computer code
  • you have multiple computing / mobile devices but they aren’t all on the same platform, e.g. iPhone + Chromebook, or Android phone + MacBook etc.

Why Joplin
I’m trying to be very brief with these posts as life is too short for us all so, deep breath, here goes.

The pros

  • has apps for iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS and Linux 👩🏽‍💻
  • supports multiple cloud storage services for syncing your notes across your devices. (Dropbox, OneDrive, NextCloud, and the WebDav...

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Syphon for Linux - A Missing Link

Image by macrovector - www.freepik.com

Often, it’s only when something stops working that you are reminded how much you use it and how important it is. Syphon - the open-source frame-sharing system for MacOS* is one of those things for me.

*There is a similar frame sharing framework available on Windows called Spout / Spout2.

In my case, Syphon has never not worked - it’s so solid - but as I slowly work towards trying to use Linux more and more, I’m realising that not having a Syphon alternative for Linux is not only holding me back, but also likely hampering the adoption of Linux by creative coders and video artists.

Syphon’s website states that:

Syphon provides an ecosystem for sharing imagery between applications and new media development environments.

In so many cases the word ‘ecosystem’ is misused but in the case of Syphon, it feels right. By incorporating support for Syphon (using Syphon’s SDK), an application...

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ATEM Mini, QLab and OSC


This is a 🤓 post about equipment in theatre.

Being a fan of Blackmagic Design equipment*, I had very high expectations for their new ATEM Mini switcher. Looking at the marketing material they’ve put together for this thing makes it clear how Blackmagic have done their homework in terms of how they’re pitching themselves and their products. Gone is the idea of the prosumer, replaced with a new type of professional - operating out of their home studio or office, producing excellent content and streaming it on the web to their audience, investors and fans.

The ATEM Mini is a live production switcher with 4 HDMI inputs. It has a HDMI main output but can also appear as a standard HD webcam to a desktop OS making it perfect for streaming productions. Between it and the desktop ATEM application, it is essentially a fully featured vision mixer with upstream and downstream keying...

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iPad Pro as Primary Display for Mac Mini with Flic button.

I’ve finally found a great use for my Flic Smart Button!


I’ll show you how to make this happen in this post.

First, why?

I recently acquired a 2018 Mac Mini to use primarily as a Qlab machine for myself and for hire - more on this soon.

When it’s not out for hire, I’m using it for software development as my Hackintosh is stuck on High Sierra (so I can continue to run Blender 2.8) and my laptop is getting a bit sluggish.

I’ve become a big fan of running video server Macs headless (without monitor, keyboard, mouse) and remoting in via screen share. This works really well in a stage environment where the show computer can be kept near the stage and then remotely operated via a single network cable from out in the auditorium - this is very common in show biz these days.

A nice clean way to do this is to use a ‘ghost’ HDMI emulator - a small HDMI dongle that tricks the computer...

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