Boom_fx went live on fxhash on Thursday July 21, 2022 at 11:18 EST.

As with my previous two releases, I had no idea how Boom_fx would be received and tried not to have too many expectations.

I am grateful to be able to say that it went incredibly well. And I appreciate everyone who collected one (or more) of the tokens.

This newsletter is going to cover the development process for Boom_fx. It has a lot of images from the development process.

I also cover the overarching concept and how the data was acquired and used.

Please let me know what you think. I can be found on Twitter, Instagram and Discord @ sspboyd#6011

Thank you for reading!

The Concept

The idea for Boom_fx was always to use a natural phenomena as the driving force behind a generative work. I had worked with United States Geological Survey (USGS) Earthquake data before while following a Dan Shiffman Coding Train video and that immediately came to mind as a possibility here.

Once I knew this was a direction I wanted to head towards, I needed to decide on how to choose the range and dates of earthquake data to include. The easiest solution would have been to pick random dates or maybe the most recent week or month before the project was published. But this is not how I like to work. So I decided that I would choose dates significant to the growth and evolution of fxhash and Tezos more broadly.

From the project description.

During the short history of fxhash, there have been several important dates marking the growth and evolution of the platform. Boom_fx is a visual interpretation of ten of these days through the lens of real world earthquake data and the colour palettes of Mark Rothko.

Each iteration of Boom_fx represents a window of time on one of these days and expresses the seismic activity that occurred.

The ten dates selected are listed below in order. I came up with six dates on my own and the fantastic fxhash discord community helped me fill in the rest. In particular, I’d like to recognize Will from the Waiting to be Signed podcast, Liam Egan and Ozzie who are part of the fxhash team.

Ten Significant Dates for fxhash and Tezos

To come up with ten significant dates I looked at some of the obvious ones first such as the platform’s launch date, the big burn, the 1.0 release and then to major tezos. The additional dates came from asking some of the original Tezos contributors on the discord for their input. By the end, the following list made up the ten dates (listed in chronological order).

  1. September 2, 2014 – Tezos White paper released
  2. June 30, 2018 – Tezos Initial Release
  3. November 6, 2021- Genesis drop on fxhash
  4. November 7, 2021 – ciphrd’s and punevyr’s first drops
  5. November 11, 2021 – markknol drops ‘SMOLSKULL’
  6. December 9, 2021 – zancan drops ‘Garden, Monoliths’
  7. January 2, 2022 – E0 “The Genesis Drop” of Waiting to be Signed podcast’
  8. March 31, 2022 – The Big Burn
  9. April 16, 2022 – fxhash 1.0 release
  10. March 27, 2022 – Opening day of Art Basel Hong Kong, 2022

Early Renders and Development Process

This black and white image below was the first test render using real data. I posted it to Twitter with the caption.

“First test render from #Boom_2022. I will no doubt look back on this in a couple of weeks after a hundred or so hours of coding and wonder why I didn’t just stick with this as the prototypical output.”

From there, I started playing with different colours and highlighting any earthquakes that were ‘large’. Large in this case meant they were over 6M.

This is typically a rapid process of iterating through a lot of ideas for layouts and sizes and colours. Nothing is very complicated since there isn’t much to the code but you can try out a lot of things quickly to see if anything ‘clicks’.

The next step was to add some colour palettes and see what happened.

It becomes clear when looking at these renders above that I was still just working with one day’s worth of data.

There were a few alleys I went down looking at using different shape primitives.

At a certain point I started playing with the idea of keeping the vertical alignment and ordering by magnitude on the horizontal axis

There was a phase of looking at solid colours and outlines. This had an effect of creating snowman like characters from the data.

And a brief look at using P5’s Blend modes.

These next few outputs show the first tests at using different render modes to display each quake. The cross and concentric circle motifs here remained throughout the piece and into the final release.

And now with the addition of the star burst shaped patterns the image is starting to look like something like the final output!

The next significant addition was to add different aspect ratios.

One of the last significant additions was changing the background colour and showing the colour palette at the bottom left of the image. This addition was originally added to help with debugging. It would eventually morph into showing just two large rectangles of the colours and the placement would move to indicate the equator and the prime meridian.

The Data

Gathering and preparing data for these kinds of projects can be time consuming and finicky. Fortunately the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has a very simple and ‘clean’ (no errors that affected me) Earthquake API.

The data from their API is provided in the GeoJSON format from the following endpoint: https://earthquake.usgs.gov/fdsnws/event/1/

I was not initially familiar with the seismic specific terminology used to describe earthquakes. Again, the API documentation was very helpful in decrypting what everything meant

Here’s a quick example of how I gathered data from their API.

For markknol’s SMOLSKULL drop on November 11, 2021, the following cURL request was used to collect the data:

curl -X GET -o 20211111_0M.geojson 'https://earthquake.usgs.gov/fdsnws/event/1/query.geojson?starttime=2021-11-11%2000:00:00&endtime=2021-11-11%2023:59:59&minmagnitude=0&eventtype=earthquake&orderby=time-asc'

That’s it. That one line downloaded the earthquake data for that one day. I could have specified any range of time and probably spanned several days.

Physical Prints

With the project successfully published (and sold out! 🎉) on fxhash I created several prints from the code base. The physical prints look fantastic. A lot of credit goes to my local print shop Heliographics, in Toronto.

Thank you!

This was just a few of the outputs created for this project. I think the full number is close to 1000, not including animation frames.
Please let me know if you have any questions or are interested in ordering a custom print. The best way to reach me is by DM on Twitter @sspboyd or alternatively by email at stephen@sspboyd.ca.