Green Screen Studio Glitches

A few weeks ago I was involved in a shoot at a green screen studio and I ended up 3D scanning the green screen studio itself for the fun of it. I like the speediness with which I can clobber something together and the glitchiness it brings, like a digital version of an abstraction or a ‘painterly stroke’.

I bought a Logitech C920 recently so I could seperate my webcam from my mac’s casing and make funnier shots like these. Feels like what’s been missing in a lot of the images I make are people. Inserting myself into the image is what makes me sit up.

OBS Live-streaming, Unity+Tensorflow Experiments, & “Y-Lab presents: Extended Reality”

Recently I have discovered the many uses of OBS (Open Broadcaster Software), a free open source software for all your live video needs!

When I first thought of doing some livestream recordings as a way to present new digital works – I didn’t realise it meant I actually needed to up my studio game with lights and proper mics, and now it seems I might potentially need to get a better web camera further down the line. The first thing I shot involved a webcam image of myself that was way too dark. On  the 3rd occasion when I did the livestream, the dingparents invited me to come over to shoot my things at theirs when the hacking noises in my block were too much to bear, so I lugged over my rickety portable setup… which looks like this behind the scenes:

“AMATEUR HOUR” Streaming Setup

I must confess it is still a bit like amateur hour here. Somehow the live event recording I made was still not at its best – there were a few bitrate issues I haven’t quite sorted out, and I don’t know why I felt that when things are more chaotic my “performance” seems… better? Since I don’t have a fixed workspace at home (in the daytime I work from the living room, in the night whilst Beano sleeps I work in the bedroom watching over her), so my setup has to remain quite mobile and portable. It feels like if I’m serious about doing livestreams as a format then I actually have to set up a more dedicated space in the house for all my ‘streaming’ shenanigans…

The Bread & Butter Stream

This week I also participated in my first professionally managed livestream and actually yes until this point I thought that everyone just had to live through the awfulness of juggling countless screens – it hadn’t occured to me to outsource it to someone else. I do not have multiple monitors so when I attempt to stream it means managing a halfdozen tiny windows on screen and constant switching between fullscreen modes (and having a niggling feeling that when windows are not maximised or arbitrarily resized, I must be totally messing up all the screen proportions / resolutions / bitrates / framerates – and yes all those are very specific important things which can indeed screw up the livestream output).The Extended Reality Panel on 16 July 2021

Oh, so did you think you would watch a few videos on how to become a twitch streamer and how to use OBS and would WING IT ALL? Did you ever consider setting aside budget for your livestreamed productions? Well then, get thee a stream manager to juggle all your windows! (* ok unless you have no budget in which case… you have no choice but to shuffle on back and handle all your window management duties by yourself…)

Chroma Key in OBS with a green ikea blanket and table lamp pointed at my face? Either my teeth disappear or my blouse goes…

So…. I have been slowly figuring out how to use OBS. For example, don’t want to take over everyone’s screens with a screenshare during a Zoom call? Why not screenshare within your camera feed like I do here, except that my chroma key filter setting was slightly borked (lighting? greenscreen issue?) and everyone asks me why I am looking “a little transparent” today. -_-

Another fun thing I realised about OBS is that now anything at all on my screen can be my camera. Yes, so I can just put a youtube video on and feed it in whatever nonsensical build I am experimenting with at the moment.

In this case, this week I was playing around with Unity Barracuda + Tensorflow, which resulted in these test images where I ended up with the classic ridiculous “let’s do a tour of all the random things on my table/floor”:

Image Classification with Tensorflow in Unity

But actually, nobody really wants to have to continuously hold stupid objects up to a camera to test whether their image classification app is working… when you could just videos in the background to do the virtual equivalent of holding things up to the camera! And I simply connected Unity to my OBS virtual camera output. Basically now I can just grab a window capture from any web browser (or even youtube) and feed it into any app that takes webcam/camera inputs!

Tensorflow Image Classification Experiment x Music Video to “Sigrid’s Mirror”:

Tensorflow Image Classification Experiment x Music Video to “The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights”:

I am having fun reading the (mis-)classifications but in any case this is just using some ONNX computer vision models right out of the box and… IF YOU FEED IN PEANUT PICS, YOU GET PEANUTS!

Other Interesting Things to do with OBS

Easy Scrolling Text Marquee: Add New Text (Freetype 2) > Right-click and select Filters > Add Scroll > Set Horizontal Scroll to about 10-30.

Fast Colour Grading: Search for free cinematic LUTs online. Right-click the video capture device > select Filters > Add LUT.

Lookup Tables or LUTs are just a set of numbers that provide a shortcut for how your your colour input will be transformed into the final colour output. The LUT file is either in the form of an image like the one below or in a .CUBE file (a human-readable file with a set of numbers for colour conversion use, so its basically saving you from having to endlessly tweak some curves here).

(Tip: if you want to export a specific effect from some other app, you can take this original default png and apply any filter to this image – whether from instagram or vsco or photoshop – and use the new image as your LUT)

Virtual Classroom Panopticon: A (former) colleague of mine once shared that he got all his students to use OBS to stream themselves working on their computers as their camera feed, so he could see all their work at once without having to get everyone to share screen, easily creating a Zoom-panopticon in the virtual classroom…


A replay of Y-Lab Presents: Extended Reality is online here:

Y-Lab Presents: Extended Reality
@ Y-Lab Online | 16 July 2021 2pm-5pm
AR. VR. MR. XR. These technologies are everywhere, as what used to be physical is now going virtual or phygital. What are the opportunities and limitations when it comes to working with these technologies as individuals and institutions? Whether you are an artist, a curator, or simply curious – join our diverse panel of speakers to explore the state and the future of XR together. Come find out about the role that you can play in this space. :wink:

Agenda
  • Intro to Y-Lab by Kevin, National Gallery of Singapore
  • An Insider’s Look at XR by Lionel, iMMERSiVELY
  • The Evolution and State of XR (Technology Landscape Scan) by Yi Ren, Unity Technologies
  • Reimagining Arts and Culture with XR (Use Cases) by Jervais, National Heritage Board
  • init Virtual Worlds by Debbie, Visual Artist & Technologist
  • Intersections Between Art, Tech and Start-ups by Eugene, Dude Studios
  • Storyliving with Embodied Performances by Toph, Tinker Studio
  • Volumetric Captures and the Afterlife by Shengen, Cult Tech
  • Q&A with Panel

Bread and Butter in a Field of Dreams (Coming July 2021)

This July, I’ll be releasing a Free-to-play interactive experience titled “Bread & Butter In a Field of Dreams” for Mac/Win Desktop. But actually, you could say that this project originated as a project under a different name – “The Legend of Debbie“…


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The Legend of Debbie” was originally made as a commission for Asian Film Archive’s State of Motion in January 2021 and it was my way of trying to use the archive of my own artwork as the source material for a sprawling game, exploring the different works as strange portals transporting you to weird spatialised versions of the works, and splicing my works with a partially fictionalised narrative (approximately 25% fiction, 75% reality).

The titular “legend” for the work was this directory which categorised my works into many different categories. A map legend. When I had time I was going to put more symbols all over the place, maybe have a little radar map overhead as well. I also had a lot of fun designing different rooms to represent different works.

I originally wanted to design a LIVE VR experience for the “The Legend of Debbie” and rather than to release the game (because this would take so much more testing for the development side of the project rather than running it as a moderated tour), I would run it as a live event (workshop) where participants could come down in different timeslots to experience this VR game (facilitated by myself)….

Imagine how fun it would be rolling through these odd spaces…

But then the Phase 2 Heightened Measures kicked in again, so we couldn’t have live events like this anymore. So… I did not make a VR version for “The Legend of Debbie”. And in any case, there was something that disturbed me about the final presentation of Legend.

IT JUST WASN’T FICTIONAL ENOUGH!!!

I have come to the conclusion that there is no room for nuance. Or maybe I am not very good at nuance (it is something I am working on, but I suspect that nuance does not come easily to me mainly because my real life personality is too excitable and shouty and maybe a bit childlike and overly earnest at heart).

Instead of developing The Legend further, I somehow ended up making a completely new game from scratch. One in which very deliberately NONE of the works were shown in the game world in their original form, besides the first room which replicates the Wikicliki exhibition by the Singapore Art Museum, currently in the Ngee Ann Kongsi Concourse Gallery (Basement) of National Gallery Singapore. The show runs until 11 July 2021.

Since we couldn’t be in the gallery itself for the talk, I had re-created the gallery for a talk on 29th May (A conversation between myself and curator Mustafa, whom I have worked closely with during the last few months.) Instead of boring slides, based on the items that Mustafa was interested in discussing about, I brought them into the gallery space through the various 3D modelled props on a table, including a few laptops handily scrolling through my actual Wikicliki and a spreadsheet of the Here the River Lies cards (many credits to George for painstakingly digitizing them).

From this totally realistic representation of a real exhibition you eventually get teleported to another world where there are lots of objects which are directly representative of the projects I’ve worked on over the last 10 years, but nothing is represented in the original form that it was made.

In the world of the Field of Dreams, every single artwork I have made in the last 10 years is turned into a transmogrified version of itself – a pop translation of the work which could comfortably exist within a commercially lucrative museum retail shop (a la MOMA shop or NAIISE or any one of those shiny design shops)… or in a dusty basement reading room within an alternative community-based establishment for which there is no lack of heart but financial viability is always a question (such as The Substation’s Random Room).

Somehow making art is an act of translation for me. I don’t really seem to start by drawing or sketch, but by writing, and then I have to translate that into sketches, and from sketches into whatever digital medium I am doing. And this act of translation seems so arbitrary at times. Many ideas could have turned out differently had I chosen to make them in a different medium. Perhaps this expresses the tension I feel between making work as an artist and work as a designer/design educator (which earns me my living). The art can be poetic and ruminative and open-ended whereas the design has to fulfill the brief requirements and ultimately has to be functional (and most likely measurable).

So I thought that instead of a Space Geode rendered all in white, I would have a mildly tacky Space Geode Citrus Squeezer; instead of The Library of Pulau Saigon, its various components would be turned into functional items such as a Tic-tac-toe-set featuring the Chinese Spoon as the naughts and the Political Party Badge as the zeroes (something with the potential to be a slightly tacky coffee table centerpiece). My pulsed laser holography work, “War Fronts” would be rendered instead as a Jigsaw set. And instead of my print of 100 of my dreams from my Dream Syntax book, I turned it into a Scratch-off-chart of the 100 dreams. Because scratch off maps are all the rage now on everyone’s internet shopping list, aren’t they?

Along the way I er…. got a bit too excited because who needs to write a book when you can just make the cover for the book? I was churning out dozens and dozens of pdf book cover textures to populate the DBBD SHOP.

So, perhaps we can’t quite call this work “The Legend of Debbie 2.0” anymore. Maybe this should be called by the name that seems more appropriate for it now: Bread & Butter in The Field of Dreams.

The work takes its name from a 2013 ACES study by the NAC – apparently the first survey of its kind done on arts and cultural workers to examine how on earth do they make their living. I do not know which unnamed arts/cultural worker would give the survey such an evocative name, but here I have made the breads and butters literal, to be collected up before you can gain entry to the next scene.

Special mention also goes to another big survey I participated in not too long ago, which asked artists some very sobering questions about what we thought had advanced our artistic careers or had inhibited our careers, with a dropdown list of items that could potentially limit our careers being twice as long as the advancing list. (In an earlier iteration of the study, it suggested that we dig up our past 10 years of tax returns to examine the difference between our art-income and non-art income. Me, I almost thought this was like some cruel form of “formative assessment” – “Alright, you got me, I’ve NOT been solely living off my earnings as an artist, and in fact, at times this whole “art” thing is frequently a complete loss leader operation!”) I have many ambivalent feels about this. One one hand, my desire to make art isn’t about the money, but on the other hand I also do want to fix the current state of affairs…

There’s a maze and some other weird shizz coming up…

The world is still very much a work-in-progress and I look forward to fleshing it over for July’s “workshop” and to be able to release it as a free game for download! My goal is a release by July 2021! Me thinks I might even do it as a gameplay video – I quite enjoyed this live stream (ticketed as a workshop, but really more like a twitch stream with me having set up OBS and all the ridiculous animated overlays and chats)

I also did another detailed breakdown of the time I spent on this last week using Rescuetime. Rescuetime tracks the time I spend in each app and it is handy in that it breaks down the time I spend into working hours (defined as 9am-6am) and non-working hours (6am-9am) so I can sift out the time I spend on personal projects versus time on my day job. My secret to ekeing out the time is usually to work for 1-2 hrs after Beano sleeps at night and wake at about 4-5am to work.

It goes to show that despite working full time and having a time-consuming baby bean (with help of dingparents dutifully caring for her whilst I work), it is still possible to eke out the time to maintain an active artistic practice if one has the will to do so (and the disclipline to wake up early).

It does feel like a culmination of 3D skills I have taken years to acquire:
2014: when I realised how non-existent my 3D design skills were
2016: when I made myself try to make one blender render a day
2017: intentionally producing new works using 3D
2019: intentionally producing new works in Unity (very basic at that stage)
2020: taking the Unity Developer cert at my workplace, supervising more Unity-based projects
2021: being able to build things like this in a week (on top of a seperate full-time job)

I’ve seen several GDC talks and devlog videos on youtube detailing how every successful game dev probably has dozens of “failed games” before they finally make the one game they are happy with, that one breakthrough game. Likewise I don’t expect Field of Dreams to be perfect on its July 2021 release but I hope to collect lots and lots of feedback after releasing it so I can improve the experience!


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or to hear first about
Debbie’s upcoming projects?
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Wikicliki Gallery: The Prototype

Me and Mustafa had wanted to do a talk for the Wikicliki exhibition inside the gallery itself, but we couldn’t do it due to the heightened phase 2 Covid-19 restrictions in Singapore at the moment. So, I decided to challenge myself to create a replica of the gallery so that we could wander about whilst speaking and look at the artwork.

The simple base model was made in Blender.

I imported the model I made in Blender into Unity and then added the materials there. I also downloaded a free Mars Skybox and threw that in the background because WHY NOT. Finally, instead of having slides, I brought in 3 tables and put all the bits and pieces on the table, including a copy of my Dream Syntax book, a hard drive that looks like a hard drive currently on my table, and some laptops which play back videos that make it look like someone is browsing my websites – so we could do a live show and tell.

How much time does it take to make a small interactive thing like this? I usually don’t have an exact number for this, as with many things that involve programming. Sometimes I get stuck on problems for ridiculously long, and sometimes I simply have a nap and BOOM I wake up and have been gifted the solution in a dream. So… for once, I have made a breakdown of the actual time I spend making these “things”.

According to Rescuetime which I use to track all of my personal devices (personal laptop, tablets, mobile phone), it took me a total of 45 minutes to make the entire model in Blender on Friday 7 May 2021 (after working hours).

Rescuetime calculates my working time to be 9-6pm, and shows two graphs for what I do during my working hours and what I do outside of working hours.

The report for that particular day also incidentally shows you where I sometimes fritter my time away when I am not working – er…. randomly scrolling on Tiktok, youtube, contemplating whether I should order a foodpanda, opening late night DM student messages on Slack, accidentally typing “FACE-” into my browser and then immediately stopping myself and closing the browser window)…

Here’s another full screenshot of my Rescuetime dashboard for the day before the talk: Friday May 28.

As it is to be expected, my teaching day job involves a lot of Zoom meetings, looking at Google Slides/Docs/Sheets, and Whatsapp communications. And to this list, I realised that the no less than 4 solid hours I spent on Zoom attending student presentations on Friday using my Work PC are not reflected!! (I guess I am a two-computer person when I am at work, mainly typing on my personal laptop as I watch the Zoom on Work laptop. I suppose if they totted up the numbers from TWO computers at once it would show me using too many hours in my 24 hour day?)

Week of 24-29 May 2021 – Time spent working in Unity
Monday – [Did not spend any time working in Unity, instead wrote and published my first newsletter on Mailerlite, declaring my intention to make a thing for the Saturday talk]
Tuesday – 1 hour 18 minutes
Wednesday – 30 minutes
Thursday – 2 hours 13 minutes
Friday – 2 hours 15 minutes
Saturday – 2 hours 17 minutes
Total time spent in Unity: 8 hours 33 minutes (8.55 hrs)

What do these numbers mean?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I don’t know. I just know its important to understand how long each task takes me so I can gauge what is feasible for me to complete, or use the numbers to improve on my so-called ‘velocity’ for a project of this type, so I guess I’ll continue collecting data until I find a way to analyse this data.

Here’s an itch.io for all half-bakery items: https://dbbd.itch.io/


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A Presentation of Ethnographic Fragments (Aliwal Street, 25 August 2012)

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Lee Wen addressing the crowd
The Collection and Exchange of Ethnographic Fragments travelled to Aliwal Street the other day, under the invitation of the Independent Archive & Resource Centre. This is an independent archive of materials and documentations of visual arts, performance arts, and other events, and some may also remember this archive previously being at the Singapore Art Museum. It has found its new (temporary) home at Lee Wen’s new place, where we had a kind of “soft launch” or private event to introduce it to people.

About the Independent Archive: “The independent Archive and Resource Centre (working name), is intended to be developed as a professional archive of visual art practices and other cultural manifestations in Singapore. The focus of the archive, especially at its initial stage, is art practices that benefit from archival support — such as visual art practices that are ephemeral, time-based, event and/or specific or that may not be conserved in conventional institutional environments or practices.

A project proposed by Lee Wen, June Yap, Kai Lam, Jason Lee, Hafiz Nasir, Koh Nguang How with the assistance and collaborations of various artists, cultural workers and friends. Many serious minded colleagues of repute and note, younger ones of intense enthusiasm and courageous energies, famed and unknown spirits of inspired momentary wisdom, even dissenting doubters of authentic integrity have contributed to our destined desire in setting up the independent archive and resource centre.

We who prefer to appreciate art in the essences of meaning, values, ethics, aesthetics, whether unilaterally or multilaterally propagated beyond our subscription to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, calls for an independent archive for reflection, review and research what we have done, what we do today.”

We aim to serve: The maintenance of an archive and resource centre open to the public an access to these materials.

The project is research-driven, to facilitate access to significant art materials (documentation, objects, images, correspondence, etc) and the production of critical discourse that interprets and creates forms of mediation of the archived materials.

The archive is to be open to the public. However its key audience are students, institutions, researchers, curators, artists and academics for further academic, artistic and historical production, that in turn will also be archived, thus expanding the knowledge-base on performance practice and history in Singapore and the region.

The development of the archive and resource centre requires the building of a sound foundation in archival practice. The infrastructure of such an archive and resource centre — and in this, its key value — lies in building an environment and set of practices where these artworks can be reliably and securely archived. Such an infrastructure includes: archival venue with climate-controlled storage, technical facilities for the transfer, backup and editing, indexing, cataloguing and referencing, as well as the development of public access frameworks and channels.

Under the backdrop of this great archive (of which I have found great use for, to watch video documentations of ephemera and performances), the fragments were here for a show and tell.

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I gave a talk on the Singapore Psychogeographical Society and its various independent archives.

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This was followed by a conversation with the rocks (ie: Lee Wen investigating the sounds the rocks would make with a guitar). And following that, it was an evening of improvisations and jams with Jordan Rais, Reef, Kai Lam, Rahman, Dennis, and many others who had come down that night.

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Many thanks to Lee Wen for his amazing archive and for hosting this, and Mike for helping to organise all this and helping with the logistics of all the rock moving! If anyone is interested in getting involved with the Independent Archive & Resource Centre, they are always looking for people, so please get in touch with them.

For more images, see the [Flickr Set]

Moodboard – Demons and their Sigils of Summoning, Occult Geometry, and Neon Spirits

As Arthur C Clarke says: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” These beautiful symbols have been making the internet rounds lately. In this form, they appear almost like circuit diagrams. I approve of this graphical style! Internet indicates that some of these resemble sigils in the Lesser Key of Solomon.

I put together some moodboards with similar artwork that I like.

moodboard001
In Walter Miller’s “A Canticle for Leibowitz”, Civilisation is described as having been once destroyed by a nuclear war, and subsequently a backlash occurs against technology (which had led to the development of nuclear weapons), resulting in “Simplification” and the killing of intelligent people and burning of books.

Centuries after this event, there was an monastic order that somehow survived (a little bit like how monk’s would have lived in the dark ages) and the abbey was focused on preserving and copying these religious texts. Over the course of the book, we soon realise that these religious text they had hoarded and preserved were similar to mundane things we see in the present century – shopping lists, receipts, science notes, circuit diagrams. They had copied and memorised it as if it were knowledge from God although they did not always know what it meant, but this information had actually been the detailed knowledge and diagrams of the science and technology that man once had, but had chosen to forget because of the terrors of nuclear war…

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Neon lights and the occult are something that seem perfectly matched as we move into an LED-lit era. Chinese funerals, temple festivals, and certain other taoist religious ceremonies in Singapore are also commonly festooned with intense, running neon light displays.

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Yama, God of Hell, at Newton Circus Food Centre last year.

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Here is more detail from Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void, which was a somewhat indulgent and long-winded film with long tracking shots, but also lovely drugged out visuals with soft focus and mainly neon colours. Appropriately, the film is also modelled after The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which piques the interest of the main character just before he is unexpectedly and suddenly killed, and his soul seems to float through the feverish, neon-lit nights of Tokyo…

From SFgate: “Noé says, “The longest astral trip you can find is the one described in the ‘Tibetan Book of the Dead,’ so I thought that book would be a great way to structure a hallucinatory vision for two hours.” To research psychedelic experience firsthand, Noé journeyed to Latin America.

“In the Peruvian jungle, I drank some extremely hallucinogenic ayahuasca,” he recalls. “Everything seems like it’s made out of neon lights. It would have been a lot easier if the designers had tried it themselves because it is difficult to explain these visions to people who never had those experiences.””

Mediawiki Lockdown – How to make your wiki private

 

For some years now I have been using a couple of private wikis for storing and sorting short notes on topics and interests.

Wikicliki – general wiki
Design Patterns – design and scripting wiki (for my students)
Disukowiki – language wiki

Lately there have been some issues with spam bots which seem to be getting smarter but even more bizarre, creating generic account names of the same type, and generating or writing over my pages with what looks a lot like actual paragraphs of useful information about random irrelevant topics (examples being: homopathy, ugg boots, weather, self-confidence mastery, etc) sometimes with no outbound links. Why do the spambots do this, it is still a complete mystery to me. It serves no purpose (not even SEO-wise for them) except to be a real pain in the ass to the wikisysop.

What makes me sad is the abuse of the system that actually has the potential of providing open space for some really interesting things, so I almost find it a pity to close it up. Some years back, once there was someone who posted on my wiki saying they were doing an experiment in which they stored chunks of (gibberish/encoded) data over a number of open wikis.

They set up anonymous accounts on people’s open wikis (like mine), and posted these encrypted chunks of data in text form. In posting these fragments of the file online, their experiment/goal was to create a system in which people could transmit a really large and encrypted file to someone else. The recipient would have to locate and visit all these wikis to find the numerous segments of encrypted data, and then recompile it together with their prearranged encryption key to get the original huge file. A brilliant idea, although perhaps it would be a bit tedious in practice.

On that bittersweet note:
If you haven’t edited your wiki’s settings yet, do this now. Add this to LocalSettings.php:

# Disable anonymous editing
$wgGroupPermissions['*']['edit'] = false;

# Disable editing by ALL users
$wgGroupPermissions[‘user’][‘edit’] = false;

# Enable editing by ONLY sysops
$wgGroupPermissions[‘sysop’][‘edit’] = true;

# Prevent new user registrations except by sysops
$wgGroupPermissions[‘*’][‘createaccount’] = false;

After doing this, make sure you open up your FTP browser and chmod LocalSettings.php to 600. Duplicate a copy of LocalSettings.php and rename it to LocalSettings_date.php so that in case something unexpected happens you still have a backup of LocalSettings.php from when it was still alright…

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You can look at the Mediawiki guide to Preventing Access to see more options on how you can tailor the privacy settings (for example, you could set it so that only users with accounts of a certain age, like say a few weeks, can create new pages).