TV Telescope

IMG_0156

Alternative titles: "You seem so distant lately", The World's Largest VR Headset. "You tele'n me", On a TV Far, Far, away

  • The Idea
    • This would be a semi-permanent installation that utilizes a telescope and a TV. Considering the title, I know that sounds surprising.
    • Ideally, this would be set up in a very spacious and open location, like a field, forest, desert, or small town.
    • In the primary installation location, there would be a telescope set in a fixed position and locked in place. Visitors would be encouraged to view through the eyepiece, one at a time. 
    • A long distance away, even a mile, (exact distance TBD, see discussion below) there would be a TV showing either live news TV or a looped piece of content.
    • The telescope would be pointed at the TV and the screen would fill the eyepiece for the viewer.
    • Audio would be remotely piped in to the viewing station
    • Ideally, the TV would only be viewable from the telescope - people couldn't just walk up to the space where it is.
  • Why do I like this idea? Is this a tech demo to explore a novel application, or something more significant?
    • There are a few answers to why I like this one. I watch a lot of TV and use a lot of screen based devices for over half of my day. The TV is always in front of my face, just a few feet away. VR headsets and mobile devices are getting even closer to my face, and AR glasses are becoming more and more likely for mainstream use. I like this idea of using optics to create an unnecessarily long distance from a screen that is normally so close.
    • The concept is also in the name - the Greek prefix tele- means "far off, at a distance", and television means you're watching something broadcast from far away anyway, so why not lean into that and demonstrate it with some physical distance.
    • There is also something to this being a solo activity for people to almost voyeuristically watch TV from hundreds or thousands of feet away on their own. Millions of us watch TV alone - the added physical distance gets at the feeling of being so far away from the action and life of the world around you and shows how unimportant screens are sometimes.
    • The fact that this would be all optics based is important. A similar execution could be done with a remote camera and live video feed, but it wouldn't have the same feeling as something that relies on just real world optics.
  • What do I have so far?
    • Mostly the idea and some high level research...
  • Next Steps/Where I'm stuck
    • I have done some research and initial calculations. Telescope optics are a bit complicated and I haven't yet fully understood the relationship between telescope type, aperture, eyepiece magnification, and overall magnification as it relates to the eyepiece. If you can help me out here, please send me a note.
    • I know I can do some basic math with the distance and size of the TV to get a field of view, but the FOV feels like its too small. The eyepiece of the telescope is supposed to let you zoom in even further, but if you overdo it then the image gets a little screwed up.
    • I have asked around on Reddit, but still haven't gotten an appropriate answer, so I'll have to continue to do more research.
    • A telescope might be the wrong option too. There is the Nikon P1000 camera with a crazy zoom lens, and there are also Spotting Scopes used for hunting and birdwatching.
    • For example, a 55" TV is 49" W by 28" H. If we do a simple calculation with the Pythagorean theorum for a distance of 100m (on the low end of the distance I would like) from telescope to TV, that gives us:
      • a=3937 inches (converted from 100m)  
      • b= (the height of the TV screen/2)= 14 inches
      • Plugging those in, and then doubling the result for the height of the screen, we get an angle of approximately 0.4 degrees - a very, very small FOV, even at that low end distance of 100m. There are also limits on how closely telescopes can sharply focus since they are designed to be pointed millions of miles away, but I won't be able to figure out the limits on that until I get something in my hand or talk to some experts...
Screen-Shot-2020-12-07-at-2.05.04-PM
  • Next steps (continued)
    • I would need to secure the telescope very tightly once it is positioned and pointed. Even a millimeter of movement could point it totally off target since the remote target is so small.
    • Content on the screen is a big question. It could just be a video loop with phrases like "you seem so distant lately" or a channel surf loop with live broadcast TV cut with other clips.
  • Technologies Involved
    • Viewing station:
      • Telescope and a way to completely lock it into position
      • Possibly speakers and a computer
    • Remote location:
      • TV - flatscreen LCD or CRT TV plus an antenna for live broadcast, or a simple playback device
      • Speakers for viewing station
  • Logistical thoughts
    • Getting land and permission for this in two locations would be a production challenge
    • I would need power for the remote TV which would be an extra thing to figure out if it is in a rural location
    • Cost of materials:
      • Remote location:
      • Viewing station:
        • Telescope - TBD, but likely $1000-2000
        • Fabricated elements for creating a viewing station and locking the telescope into position and keeping it secure from people trying to move it - $5000
        • Signage - $1000 (design and print)
        • Speakers (optional) - $500
        • Additional computer for viewing station audio and additional elements - $1500
      • Total: $15-20k
    • Time to develop:
      • Pretty minimal. Most of the work would be in securing the location and specing out the plans for the viewing station. I would guess I would be spending 40-60 hours on logistics and planning, not including the actual installation and monitoring.
  • Are there other elements that could make this better?
    • Multiple telescope locations would be amazing.
    • Location would be the biggest part of this. An empty spacious field would be ideal, but I also like the idea of this being in a window in a cityscape, or somewhere out in the desert. If the TV is in a field, I would love for it to be elevated on a pole about 10-30ft high so people can't view the screen directly from nearby.
  • Diagrams, Images, Photos
    • [WIP]

Selected Works

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IBM | Outthink Hidden ARCommercial Work

Samsung | Liquid CanvasCommercial Work

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Music VideosCollaborative video art

Older WorkPersonal Projects

Older Live Visuals WorkAudiovisual explorations 2006-2016