The ZenO

August 7, 2008

A ‘ZenO’ is the name I gave to these snake-like growing entities in my animation ‘Music is Math’.

A zeno comprises of a ‘snake’ – the thick curved snaking line, which then randomly creates semi-circle ‘shoots’, which have lots of little stems, and on the end of each stem is either a white or black ‘dot’.

I can the make each ‘dot’ release itself at the height of growth of the shoot it belongs to, and it will swim off according to noise/oscillator values added to its velocity every frame.

Nearly everything is controlled by multiple oscillators which when offset and multiplied by each other create an organic, continually changing pathway for the snake body to follow.  The camera z depth is also hooked onto an oscillator, and also tracks a fixed point close to the head of the snake.

 There is also an oscillator which controls the general direction of everything, this oscillator takes all the zenos around in a circle very slowly, like taking the dog for walk.  I called this variable zeno – as I wanted the ability to turn down all other oscillators and leave this one on, making everything follow a perfect circle looking like the classic Japanese zen ‘O’ symbol, and this is where the name zeno came originally. 

The shading was achieved through lots of transparent ellipses layered by the hundreds onto top of each other, using noise to create positions.  There is also a white shader to create a slight glow/fog around each snake body.

The underlying idea was to create something that had its own life and mind and created its own world and imagery.  I tried to connect all the elements and variables into a holistic unity, so that by changing one thing, everything else is affected, giving unexpected but natural results.

For the video, I set up a few cue points so that the zenos gradually build with the pace of the music, for example, the black dots are only first released at the peak of the music kicking in.

I also built an interface to help me design each zeno (see below), as there where many variables to play around with.  In the end I designed two simple zenos for the video.  It took me a day to do this animation, but 5 weeks to build the system behind it!  There’s a lot more unexplored potential with this program I haven’t had the time yet to discover.  But at least the hard work is done.  Now I can have fun exploring new animations using my new toy. 

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21 Responses to “The ZenO”

  1. Thiago said

    fantastic! nice to see a bit of your process workflow, like you hand sketched the forms before coding, the notes… i’ve been meaning to learn programming with processing for some time and your work encourages me to take this endeavour forward. i wonder how much programming experience do you have to reach such an achievement! congrats.

  2. glennmarshall said

    i’ve always done a bit of programming and scripting here and there over the years, and fondly remember the drawing programs on my zx spectrum. later in life i got into POV ray and ‘writing’ 3d scenes in script which i loved. you definately need a logical/techy part in your character, even playing chess counts, otherwise youre not going to have the patience to succeed in processing, as most of your time is spent debugging and figuring out whats wrong. but if you’ve really got the determination to acheive something, this will make up for lack of programming experience, as you learn a lot on the way.

  3. Amazing work, sir. I love it when artists reveal their process. Too many are afraid of destroying the “magic,” but I think they’re just full of themselves. Thank you for making such an excellent cultural contribution. I authentically enjoyed this.

  4. I saw your video on Vimeo and decided to give this a glance, absolutely amazing. My knowledge is far to conserved for me to understand exactly what programming etc. efforts you put into this. But from what I read, you’re hard work truly paid off.

    Cheers.

  5. eric said

    beautiful job!
    what else could i say ,i wish myself done something like that.
    best.

  6. icecalibre said

    Brilliant work, I would amuse myself for hours if I could plug in all sorts of my own music.

    It’s like a moving, animated floral grunge (a style I’m recently wanting to learn)

    Keep it up, there is a lot more potential behind this (colours, perhaps? (although the b&w is very fitting))

  7. Hey Glenn,

    Great job on your animations! Thanks for giving us a peak behind your process. Would you care to share how you are having a separate window for your controlP5 widgets? Do you have two PApplets running out of a master app? How does one set something like this up? Cheers.

    -Aaron

  8. Thanks.
    It’s quite easy to to run the controlp5 interface in a seperate window – check the documentation! but it all runs from 1 app.

  9. fophillips said

    Any chance of releasing the code under a free license?

  10. [...] Musica per Boards Of Canada, video per Glenn Marshall [...]

  11. [...] is my first attempt at music visualisation, based on the Zeno animation system I’ve been developing for my first two videos Music is Math and [...]

  12. [...] video I’ve done using my animation system programmed in the Processing [...]

  13. [...] is the first of a couple of commercial projects I’ve been working which has employed my ‘zeno’ animation system programmed in [...]

  14. [...] also improved the code in my animation system (programmed in Processing) to smooth out the jarring motion of the stems as they grow out/in – it [...]

  15. [...] had been considering hard which platform with which to push my animation and code art (Zeno and G-synth) onto, i.e. Xbox arcade, PC,MAC etc.  The first influential factor in favour of [...]

  16. [...] his works with some detail on his blog. (More videos inside) The tree-like visuals employ his ZenO process, as seen in following [...]

  17. [...] en algoritmos matemáticos. Este sistema o software de animación, bautizado con el nombre de “ZenO”, fue desarrollado por Marshall a partir de un proyecto en donde el propósito principal era [...]

  18. [...] come up with another algorithmic engine which will spawn as many ideas and projects as my Zio/Zeno animations and iPhone apps. Posted by Glenn Marshall Filed in Processing ·Tags: animation, [...]

  19. [...] is made using Processing more information here. Posted in Math, Music | Leave a Comment »Tags: Computer art, Glenn [...]

  20. [...] The ZenO (via Butterfly) Publicado el marzo 10, 2011 por Carlos de Landa A 'ZenO' is the name I gave to these snake-like growing entities in my animation 'Music is Math'. A zeno comprises of a 'snake' – the thick curved snaking line, which then randomly creates semi-circle 'shoots', which have lots of little stems, and on the end of each stem is either a white or black 'dot'. I can the make each 'dot' release itself at the height of growth of the shoot it belongs to, and it will swim off according to noise/oscillator … Read More [...]

  21. [...] My ultimate aim was to have the computer generate spontaneous, random animation, which looked as natural and interesting as any other form of human created art. glennmarshall.wordpress.com/2008/08/07/the-zeno/ [...]

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