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.