White Glove Tracking

This falls under the realm of crazy nerdy, and has equal parts “why in god’s name would you do this” mixed with “holy crap that’s awesome.” Ladies and gentlemen I present to you: the White Glove Tracking Project.

A few months ago in May, two guys posted up the video of Michael Jackson’s Motown 25 performance of Billie Jean. They then asked folks on the Internet to help isolate Michael’s famous white glove in each of the 10,060 frames. 72 hours and numerous geeks later, they were done.

After all the data was collected, they then turned around and posted everything for people to grab: source files of the video, the frames, the audio, and a text file containing all the data (frame number, x pos, y pos, height, width).

And then, in a move that baffles and amazes me… people took this data, and ran with it. As I was reading about this project, I kept asking myself “Why? Why would you do this?” I wasn’t able to comprehend why someone would want to spend THAT much time to recover what seemed to be superfluous information.

But then, when I saw a few of the videos (and the really good ones in particular), it made me rethink the project. For some weird reason, I started thinking of formal poetry, of forms. If you look at something like a sonnet or a vilanelle… it’s a set form, with its own set of rules and requirements. Both have limits as far as how many lines are to be used, a particular rhyme scheme that needs to be employed.

In formal poetry, you’re working inside a predetermined set of parameters. When I was younger, I thought of formal poems as too limiting, too restrictive. As I got older, I started to see them more as challenges.

While the videos made for this project are by no means poems, I’m taken by how similar the process seems. Everyone’s working within the same set of rules, and yet each video offers up something a little different. I keep saying it, but I’m a sucker for repetition and variation… and this project feeds right into those themes.

Check out the gallery of videos, created by other people using the Whte Glove Tracking data. The few on there are kind of meh, but there’s one by Zach Lieberman entitled Paul Pfeiffer Tribute that is my favorite.

I found out about this project through a MetaFilter Projects post by James Seo. His variation, entitled Slinky is also one of the cooler results of using the White Glove data.

I don’t know if anyone else will find this as interesting as I did. My guess is you’re looking at all this, and saying out loud: “Why?” Hopefully, you’ll end up also saying “Awesome.”

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. It reminds me of a piece of video art that I saw at PS 1 in NYC around 2000. It was a video of a basketball game cut and edited so that the basketball always appeared in the center of the frame and the same size. The effect was really cool.

    Alex Reply

  2. Glad to hear you enjoyed Slinky.Alex – the piece you saw is Paul Pfeiffer’s John 3-16, which is referenced by Zach Lieberman’s visualization linked above. I have a clip of it here:http://www.lossless.net/movies/art/pfeiffer-john-3-16.movIt’s around 9MB. Always fascinating to watch it.

    James Reply

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