My video ‘Music is Math’ gets its second showing in New York next week. Always better to see such things in a gallery space rather than the internet.

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Sketching a Sketch

August 28, 2008

A ‘Sketch’ in Processing (the programming language I use) is an electronic sketch of a visual idea using code, but I still always like to use pen and paper – doodling visuals, diagrams, scraps of pseudo-code, random thoughts and words, a crucible of brainstorming and problem solving all on the same page.

I noticed that there were a lot of views on the photo from my sketch book from when I was making the Music is Math video, so I thought I’d post the lot here. There are 15 A4 sheets covering the 5 weeks it took me make it. Apologies for the poor quality of my camera phone pics, maybe that’s a good thing, wouldn’t want to give away too many secrets.

This is the HD and finished version of my video ‘Music Is Math’. I just let the program run till the end of the music, I felt reluctant to interfere too much by trying to sculpt an ending, and just let the code run its own natural course.

NOTE: you need to visit the Vimeo site directly to view in HD mode – it will guide you there when you try to switch on HD in the screen above, or you can go direct by using this link.

The ‘Mandela’ Variation

August 11, 2008


This is simply my original ‘Music is Math’ animation with one very small but significant difference, I changed the random seed number.  This number is basically the starting point for all random numbers throughout the code used to create the branches, particle motion etc.

I thought it would be interesting to see and compare the difference between the first and second videos, with only changing one number.  The original seed value was 1973, the year I was born, and I was thinking of what other numbers I could use for a second video, and Nelson Mandela’s prison number came to mind – 46664, which is what is used here.

It’s the exact same video and code, except the new seed number (I also let it run a little longer), and although pretty much the same material, there are nice moments not seen in the first, which makes it a worth while (and very cheap) experiment.  Promise to do something a bit more creative next time..

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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