Worms made Flesh (tubes)


Organisms are tubes that eat and excrete, inhale and exhale, thinking using neuron paths, absorbing nutrients through gut tunnels. Toothpaste comes in tubes, as does astronaut food. Electricity and water travel through tubes. Languages and digital info travel through fiber-optic tubes between people.

Tubes made of language can therefore be playfully considered as organisms. Worms made flesh.


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Inside the 360 cinema tunnels effectively induce engagement as in Jean Michel Bruyère’s La Dispersion du Fils (2010)  — on vimeo. Tubes in stereoscopic animations are like mandelas tugged into time.

An e-lit example: Ben Fry’s Tendril (2000) suctioned up websites and converted them into tubes. In another context, I wrote about it:

 “Tendril‘s morphology can be read as extruded paths, tunnels of words through which we seek each other. Perhaps these are the vibrant paths of preening literary culture, the excess verbiage of reporters, the infinite roots of a forest of bloggers, the frying dendrites of epiphany-prone poets. Or perhaps these tubes are spaces of latent intent, topologies where words seek each other.”

 Prototype process: Maya using Mental Ray

Steps taken so far:

  • create text (set bevels and extrude — text dialog in Maya 2015 will only accept a short string but once its created it accepts long strings in the attributes dialog box with no problems)
  • duplicate special 35 times at 10 degrees (with first text as parent)
  • group (as needed)
  • add bend deformer (key as desired)
  • key the camera position (and camera focal length)
  • batch render (using ambient occlusion)


  • fix lighting (perhaps using Maya 2016 new GI engine) so that white (or pale grey) text is on black background, and output a very brief HD 1080 test image-sequence of this source file (using scm render farm?)
    • experiment with flipping the parent text vertically so as camera travels through tube it can always read text easily (see test image, sometimes words are seen from behind, they need to face in to tunnel centre, or camera needs to be outside tunnel?)
    • try: Chinese and English in same tunnel (alternate strips, 20 degree separation, use google translate of test text)
  • convert image-sequence to video, test in Unity using media plugin
  • investigate: openEXR for HDR images
  • do NOT attempt to get an impeccable long render until we finalise the source text and get a good poetic translation in Chinese (in other words concentrate on short segments of video for testing until we know what words will be used).

Future problems

  • Synching videos  for 360 Gallery so that we appear to move through tunnel might require having 4 virtual cameras (with angle set to 90 each) grouped at same place. Render out 4 separate videos to create one 360 video experience in Unity.

Author: Jhave

Digital poet at http://www.glia.ca & prof at http://www.scm.cityu.edu.hk/people/faculty/assistant-professor/dr-johnston-david-jhave/

3 thoughts on “Worms made Flesh (tubes)”

  1. New test render at 960×540: Default ambient occlusion settings on layer 1. Frame 40. Motion blur full.

    Potentials suggested: import sequence into AFX and add text in the rings (on top of the blurred out circular sections) and make eye in centre blink once, etc…

  2. Jhave, Do you think we can make a tubes with the CHinese word 人 or 傘.
    It forms an umbrella shape and we can put words to it too. ANy word we relate to umbrella.
    Under an umbrella, we can have:

  3. Yes! MK, we can try it as part of the tunnel. But we’ll have to see if we want to let the content of each piece flow into the others, but yes, i think so… it might prove an interesting transition from tunnels to Umbrella work. Thanks for thought.

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