Flora Digital Greenhouse

In Spring/Summer 2015, Amelia Scott and I were granted an art commission for the inaugural Nuit Blanche Edmonton event, in September 2015.

The project, Flora: Digital Greenhouse, was created as a whimsical interactive experience. Originally envisioned as a “pop-up” installation, the greenhouse would be a place of calm, where the audience could explore and discover the electronically created flora or digital plants.

All flowers were designed, constructed and programmed by Joel Adria and Amelia Scott.

Planning & DesignPlanning-Comp

We started out with plans for more than eight flowers, but whittled it down to six core plants and the associated decor and infrastructure. Sketches and component testing led to more prototyping. Most of the plants that were presented never quite left the prototype stage. While they were ready for public interaction, most of the electronics were left on prototype boards in the interest of time and scale.


Production of the Digital Greenhouse has several components, including the actual plant development, creation of the Arduino and Raspberry Pi code, decor of the structure, and manufacturing of all the accessories including the custom wooden “planter boxes” the flowers live in.

All programming for the flowers was done by Joel Adria, taking advantage of the large communities of makers in the Raspberry Pi and Arduino communities.


Flora Species

Bluebells (Clocca caeruleus)


Ring my blossoms to play a tune.


  • Capacitive touch breakout
  • Arduino Uno
  • Copper foil
  • Wire
  • WS2812 RGB LEDs
  • Raspberry Pi B+, running Pure Data for audio playback
  • Powered speaker


RGB Watering (Irrigua pigmentum)

IMG_3069Touch a watering can spout to my roots to water me any colour you want!



  • RFID Breakout board
  • Arduino Uno
  • WS2812 RGB LEDs
  • Special custom RFID watering cans


Chameleon (Floris chameleonis)

IMG_3068I transform into your favourite flower!  Text the name of a flower to me and watch me change!


  • Raspberry Pi 3
  • GSM Modem breakout
  • 300+ flower database of flowers transforming, with autocorrect algorithm
  • aaxa Pico Projector
  • Mirror, Tissue Paper

Face Following Sunflower (Solis frontis)
Take a step back so I can get a good look at you. I follow friendly faces, not the sun.


  • Raspberry Pi 2
  • OpenCV Face TrackingPython bindings
  • Arduino Uno
  • Adafruit Stepper motor driver
  • Stepper Motor
  • WS2812 RGB LEDs

Listening flower (Transmitto Rumoris)

IMG_3070Press my leaf and tell me your favourite memory of being in a garden.


  • Raspberry Pi Model B
  • USB Audio Device
  • WS2801 LED Strip
  • WS2812 LEDs
  • Microphone
  • Network connectivity

Gossip flower (Admitto Rumoris)

IMG_3073Press my leaf to hear a story from around the garden.


  • Raspberry Pi Model B
  • USB Audio Device
  • WS2801 LED Strip
  • WS2812 LEDs
  • Speaker with Mini amp kit
  • Network connectivity

Decor & Misc


Visitors lined up eager to see inside the glowing greenhouse at Nuit Blanche Edmonton 2015.


  • Hanging Baskets (Construction plastic, tubing)
  • Harnois greenhouse structure
  • Worbla Themoplastic custom shaped flower blossoms
  • 7 Philips Hue bulbs
  • Raspberry Pi B+
    • Ambient sound playback
    • Hue bulb control (via Python)
    • DMX LED Strip pulsing

Visitors explore the Flora. Hanging baskets shown.



Flora was displayed at Beakerhead Calgary’s Beakernight 2015, then again a week later at the first Nuit Blanche Edmonton in September 2015. It was remounted for UCalgaryStrong in Spring 2016, before being retired.

In August 2016, select plants were on display at the Calgary Mini Maker Faire at TELUS Spark, exhibiting the technology used in the plants to the Maker community.


The Digital Greenhouse could not have been possible without the support of Nuit Blanche Edmonton, Edmonton Arts Council, and Alberta Culture Days.

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Looking back from the road

Fountain Tire Victoria mapping (Invert 720)

Fountain Tire Victoria mapping (Invert 720)

It has been more than a year since I’ve shared a few projects online. I can’t complain that I’ve been to busy to keep up-to-date!

It has been a truly exciting season for ShowStages collective, as we are preparing to open our third show of the year here in Regina very shortly. Category E and Bears opened in Edmonton this April & February respectively.

In partnership with Invert 720 Productions, I’ve had the chance to get involved in some great projection mapping projects in the last few months, as well as gain further experience with the Christie/Vista Spyder X20 video processor.

Some projects illustrated in the photos below include training on the Christie/Vista Spyder in Phoenix, projection mapping Fountain Tire/Invert 720, setup for the Convergence summit in Banff, and eTextile construction.

I’m looking forward to another year of diverse and exciting projects. Stay tuned to ShowStages.com and JoelAdria.com for photos and media.



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New Year, New Look

PengrowthSaddledomeDayIt has been a busy fall as I wrapped up the Helen Lawrence tour, got things hooked up at Convergence (Banff Centre), and taught my first university course in Projection & Video Technology at MacEwan University! 2015 is shaping up to be another busy year, and there’s a few big changes in preparation.

Starting January 1, 2015, I am now operating out of Calgary, AB. While many of my clients are offered services “virtually”, this will be a change for some of my Edmonton customers. Rest assured that I’ll continue to be providing service in the Edmonton area for a long time into the future with regular visits.

logoYou may have also noticed that we’ve rebranded a little. The jole.ca logo and URL have been around for many years, but it is now being phased out in favour of a more professional JA logo. The joeladria.com URL will also be adopted as the default domain for my website.

The projects I’ve been involved it have been very diverse, and I’m looking forward to getting involved in the Calgary theatre and arts scene while still delivering the friendly tech support services many have come to rely on.

I’ll be updating my resume pages shortly, but in the meantime, be sure to check out my Portfolio 2015 featurette [PDF]! Be sure to get in touch if you have an idea or concept you want to explore this year!

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Navigating Helen Lawrence

Gerard Plunkett and Nicholas Lea. Photo by David Cooper. Courtesy ArtsClub.com

Gerard Plunkett and Nicholas Lea. Photo by David Cooper. Courtesy ArtsClub.com

In the past few months I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of the crew of Helen Lawrence, a unique production imagined by Stan Douglas. A cast of twelve perform a film-noire story conceived by Chris Haddock in front of a blue-screen set. A semi-transparent scrim separates the audience from the performers, onto which the action is projected live, combined with graphics to create an augmented movie-like experience.

I joined the project while at the Banff Centre in January, learning the ins and outs of the video system, designed by Peter Courtemanche.

Four cameras (three on moving dollies, one fixed near the ground at centre stage) are operated by the actors on-stage. Each camera (Canon XF305) has a custom-built encoder unit, which tracks the pan and tilt orientation of the tripod head. This information is relayed back to a set of Mac Mini servers, which orient the virtual world to be aligned precisely with the real world. The zoom lens on the cameras are calibrated with marks to pre-determined fields of view that correspond to cues in the video software.

My control station backstage while on tour in Munich, Germany.

My control station backstage while on tour in Munich, Germany.

On the control end, an ATEM Blackmagic M/E video swticher accepts signal from the four cameras & four Mac Minis. Thanks to some expert engineering on Peter’s end, the switcher can be controlled precisely using custom software. PGM & PVW buses, which feed the Ultimatte HD chromakey unit, are changed simultaneously, to ensure the backgrounds and camera images are switched at the same time.

Originally developed as a gallery installation, Peter’s software had a number of additional capabilities, and was developed to be operated out of a web interface. Control commands to each Mac Mini and the switcher were relayed through a central server. After observing this setup in action, I could tell that a more theatre-friendly method of cueing and programming the show would benefit Helen Lawrence significantly.

Peter made some minor adjustments to the control server that would allow OSC control in addition to the usual UDP strings it expects. I turned to QLab to create a cue stack that would seamlessly control the entire system. Developing a script that would quickly interpret a plain-text file into a full cue stack, director Stan Douglas was able to make adjustments to edits and camera angles quickly and see them in performance in short order.

Helen Lawrence has played at the Stanley Theatre in Vancouver (Arts Club) and continued to the Münchner Kammerspiele in Munich, Germany last June. I will be continuing with the show on tour for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and again as it plays in Toronto with Canadian Stage in October.


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Mavericks, App Nap, and Theatre Software

It’s been six months since the first public release of OS X 10.9 Mavericks, and if you’ve been a dutiful theatre technician, projection designer, or other multimedia professional, you’ve likely avoided upgrading out of fear of broken applications. Good on you!

os x sea lion

Here’s a tip that will hopefully save you some grief as you plan your upgrade to Mavericks. Disable App Nap for all your show or live applications. Isadora, Quartz Composer, MadMapper, QLab, Air Beam, Ableton and more can all be affected by how App Nap puts your application “to bed” when they’re not “in use”.

Problems may develop in weird ways, such as QLab (v2) not fading video cues properly (likely QLab talks to a child process that is “napping”) or Syphon streams from other programs randomly freezing when they’re not the foremost application running on your Mac.

App Nap is built-in to OS X Mavericks, but you can disable it on a app-by-app basis by going into your Applications folder, clicking on the offending application and selecting File > Get Info… and checking the “Prevent App Nap” checkbox. Restart the Application.

Hopefully you get the chance to upgrade to Mavericks on your show machines as the theatre season wraps up for the summer!

Screenshot 2014-04-20 at 9.14.06 PM




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Techsplosion 2013

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Techsplosion September 2013, a set on Flickr.

Via Flickr:

Erik Martin (TD, l’Unithéâtre/La cité francophone) rounded up a group of technicians for the first annual (or multi-annual?) Techsplosion event. Workshop West was gracious enough to donate their unused theatre time to allow us technicians to just play!

The goal was to bring ideas we wanted to try in a theatre space, and start playing.

By the end of the 3-day experimental time, we had built an inflatable cube, some light painting software, audio-to-light software, camera control software, played with different projection materials and control (including an iCue!), and overall just had too much fun. On Friday evening we invited some theatre friends to come by and take a look at what we were up to, and hopefully inspired a few more ideas. Thanks to everyone who helped out, looking forward to next year!

Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0wV073ekqo&feature=youtu.be

Photos: www.flickr.com/photos/jole/sets/72157636164499096/

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Micro PCs in the theatre

The Raspberry Pi board itself.

The Raspberry Pi board itself.

This year as my final project towards my degree in Technical Theatre, I chose to examine how Micro PCs and other embedded technologies can be used in the theatre.

The final report ended up being a general survey of these compact technologies, rather than a specific case study. It summarizes many different experiments I’ve played with in the past year, and hypothesizes how technologies might be used in a proposed production of R.U.R at the U of A. (Stay tuned, this production may come to life this fall!)

Be sure to check out the PDF Download of my report. You may find some ideas of your own to experiment with! I look forward to trying out some of these techniques on productions in the future.

Download 577 Research Paper

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Vintage TV Wall Raspberry Pi Edition


Vintage TV Wall v3 – Raspberry Pi, a set on Flickr.

The Vintage TV Wall sure seems to have a life of its own. Having moved from the Art Gallery of Alberta to the Edmonton International airport, it is now exhibited in the Marshall McLuhan House in Highlands (Edmonton). To adapt it for long-term installation, I used Raspberry Pi computers to playback the three different video loops. They startup automatically when powered on, and playback continuously, with audio. A great use of the Raspberry Pi, at $25 each, much more reliable than DVD players!

I bought the materials for the project from Newark/Element 14 (Canada), and the service was actually remarkable! The three Pis, cases, cables and power supplies arrived at my door within about 2 days. Awesome!

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Banff Centre 2013

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Banff 2013

Banff 2013, a set on Flickr.

This summer I was very fortunate to be able to serve as Faculty Projection Technologist at the Banff Centre for the Summer Arts Festival. I worked on the Dance Masters ballet program, as well as the Opera as Theatre program’s production of Owen Wingrave.

The Ballet ended up being run off QLab 3, which worked great for the small amount of mapping needed. There were still a few bugs to work out in the new version, but most of them were resolved by the time we opened!

Owen Wingrave arrived on hard drive in Catalyst Media Server, which it was produced in London on. As Catalyst licenses are fairly elusive to obtain in Canada, I opted to transfer it to Watchout 5.5 and play it back on a system courtesy the Vancouver Opera. Also involved in the system was a Vista/Christie Spyder X20, and five Christie Mirage HD20K-J’s, plus a QLab-operated prop MacBook Pro. (Oh and an operating prop television too!). Design by James Adkins.

It was great working at the centre with beautiful surroundings, awesome people, and some really cool gear to play with. Looking forward to going back soon!

Via Flickr:

Adventures at the Banff Centre as Faculty Projection Technologist.

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In Defence of BFA Technical Theatre

UPDATE: Thanks for all the tremendous support for the program, I have received plenty of great response. The decision to suspend the program has been officially reversed:

Cormack said she received letters and e-mails from students, alumni, staff and program chairs concerned about their programs, and she ultimately decided to remove four programs from the chopping block.

“It turned out that the way we were counting the students gave a false sense of how few students there were in the program. In fact there were many students in the technical theatre program so it is no longer under threat of suspension.”

Cormack said there are actually 31 students in the technical theatre major.

Courtesy MetroNews.ca

An image from one of many moments of my University experience.

* * *

You may have heard of the recent plans to suspend the BFA Technical Theatre program at the University of Alberta, from which I graduated.

The Journal has an article describing the cuts, and there’s some great discourse on ArtsSquared, including the memo from Lesley Cormack. I believe there is some confusion as to what the BFA Tech program offers and represents, and for this reason I wrote a letter.

* * *

Re: Suspension of small enrolment programs

Dr. Lesley Cormack
Dean of Arts
6-33 Humanities Center
University of Alberta

Dear Dr. Cormack:

I am writing to defend the proposed suspension of the BFA Technical Theatre – Maj program as outlined in your memo dated August 16, 2013. As a graduate of this program, I would like to emphasize the program’s significance in Canada’s theatre training offerings, its extraordinary success at creating well-rounded sector leaders, and its essential role in the operation of the Department of Drama.

The BFA Technical Theatre program has streams in both Stage Management and Technical Production. As a rigorous conservatory program, its key advantage is its small program size. Students are trained in lighting, sound, projection, construction, costuming, and stage mechanics, along with theatrical design and a suite of other dramatic arts courses. This comprehensive approach creates individuals who are well versed in every aspect of theatrical and event production, and who possess extraordinary creativity, ingenuity, and problem-solving skills that are in high demand in our technology-driven society. Each stream’s intake has been limited to 6 per program in the past, and is currently 8 as of this writing. Unlike training programs across the country whose enrolment often exceed 20 students per year, the BFA in Technical Theatre provides unprecedented and unmatched leadership opportunities in every area of production.

Graduates from the Production stream are today’s technical directors and production managers. As leaders and managers of cultural hubs across the province, these students have entrepreneurial spirits, creating their own companies and realizing the visions of creative professionals in all kinds of venues. BFA Tech grads are Technical Directors at Theatre Calgary, Workshop West, and The Edmonton Fringe Festival, to name a few. Other graduates step into lead positions as department heads on cruise ships or travel to their home provinces to bring high quality production skills to their community. These students achieve high honours in their studies, and have been recognized with Green & Gold Professional Development Grants and Roger S. Smith awards. These are highly skilled interdisciplinary workers who are tackling industrial and cultural challenges across our country.

Graduates from the Stage Management stream join the Canadian Actor’s Equity to become certified for work on stages across the world. They are equipped with outstanding skills to become Production Managers, Event Planners, Arts Administrators, and many other essential cultural service workers across all art forms. These are the individuals who work to plan, present, and honour the work of artists of all kinds. Notable graduates have gone on to become founders of local production companies, and planners for cultural institutions.

While outcomes are important, it is critical to note the work being done by students who are still studying. The benefit BFA Tech students provide in direct economic value to our institution is astounding. In their fourth year, BFA Technicians carry out 200 practicum hours, or about $25,000 of labour in DRAMA 495 alone. Accounting for all practicums in their fourth year, BFA ’13 students exceeded $50,000 worth of labour in their practicum courses[1]. Construction, lighting, and sound practicums of second and third year students are responsible for realizing the visions of our world-renowned MFA Directing program. This is in addition to the countless volunteer hours logged by tech students involved in Abbedam, New Works, and community events. In fact, it does not even consider the fact that BFA Technicians regularly exceed or even double their hourly requirements in their practicum courses. In suspending the BFA Tech program, the Faculty of Arts will be at a loss to support all other BA, BFA and MFA programs without significant financial investment in additional production labour.

I trust the Faculty and staff of the Department of Drama are preparing the case for maintaining this essential pillar of the Drama department, and I would be very glad to discuss and defend this world-class program with you. Most importantly, I want to emphasize that students in this major did not stumble into this program, but are a group of dedicated and passionate leaders who are the future operators of every cultural venue in Alberta.


Joel Adria

BFA Technical Theatre (Production) ’13

[1] Based on standard University wages for casual labor, six students working 400 hours at $20.00 per hour.

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