Bodysnatchers – Zeno Music Visualiser

October 18, 2008


This 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 Metamorphosis. This time it’s Radiohead with their Bodysnatchers track from In Rainbows.

Technically not to much of a challenge, it was more about finding the right frequencies of the audio to work with, and what to apply where in the graphics and motion of the animation to make it look interesting.

What has helped this particular form of music visualisation is that it’s already based on a pre-existing generative animation system, so the audio reaction just adds another dimension.  It’s a 50/50 generative + audio reactive piece. The Zeno system has done a lot of the hard work, even in a neutral state with no audio it would hold up pretty well (which is basically what is happening with Music is Math and Metamorphosis). I always try to create a sense of a seamless visual journey, through different spaces, I don’t like cuts and edits or static points of view.

The generative visuals have 4 layers:-

1. Background layer of stars.
2. Bluish cloud.
2. Reddish Zeno (the vine like things)
3. Greenish Zeno.

Incidentally, the green and red sprites were created with fractal flames.  But this a topic for another day.

Here’s a breakdown of how the audio is interacting with the generative:-

1. Bass guitar – makes the red shading on the red zeno pulsate.
2. Lead guitar – affects intensity of inner glows of both zenos.
3. Treble – affects size of sprites.
4. Vocal – additional affector to red sprite size, affects speed and directions of all sprites, affects size of stars in background.
5. X Factor – this is the name I gave to the overall amplitude – an ‘excitement’ factor. This controls the camera Z depth (near/far) – loudness brings us closer in, quieter breaks bring us out again. This was important to get that sense of a non-static journey and spatial interest that married with the music. The X Factor also increases the speed of the zenos growing, and the intensity of the blue cloud.

Audio analysis is an art in itself, finding whats interesting, isolating cleanly from everything else, and hooking it up with the visuals somehow.  You can see there are endless variables and permutations to play with, which makes it a fascinating form of audio visual art, especially when mixed in with generative animation.

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8 Responses to “Bodysnatchers – Zeno Music Visualiser”

  1. Imran Ali said

    Beautiful work Glenn – now why don’t the music visualisers in iTunes look like this? With the GPUs in the new MacBooks and the upcoming Snow Leopard, this sorta thing shouldn’t tax a Mac too much right?

  2. Andres said

    This is great stuff! Definitely the best music visualization I’ve ever seen. (although if I understood well, some things are manual, right?)

    Ever thought of releasing your code? Maybe in an open source licence? :D I’d love to play around with this.

  3. Thanks,
    I work with PCs, it’s more the windows media player visualiser that could do with some serious cosmetic surgery.

    there’s nothing manually animated at all – i’m not a good enough animator! it’s 50% computer generative, 50% audio reactive.

    and before anyone else asks, i’m keeping the code under my mattress for the minute. im in talks with some people about licensing it, will write more about this soon once things are concrete.

  4. [...] Farina Fröde & Veronika Lidzba – Body Snatchers [...]

  5. Adriana said

    Hi Glenn! My name is Adriana I am from colombia, i´m studying industrial design, right now i´m doing my thesis based on digital theater. I am developing in Processing something verymuch alike to your method, I find myself in a rocky part of my project. I have the sound, and I alredy built the analyzer using the FFT library, but dont know to generate the particles animation based on the sound, without manually animating it. Can you please please give some advice on how to do it?? A little bit of help please!!! Thank you, looking forward to hearing from you!! :) bulsaradri@gmail.com

  6. [...] was made using the Zeno Music Visualizer and it’s amazing.  You should check out some of it! http://glennmarshall.wordpress.com/2008/10/18/bodysnatchers-zeno-music-visualiser/ Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Blog moved to [...]

  7. [...] (4:11) song from In Rainbows. Marshall’s first attempt at music visualization (blog post) Waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake suite (5:45) entirely generative/audio reactive [...]

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