If you ever want to stimulate the visual centers of your brain as you work with your graphics tools of choice, there’s endless inspiration from the visualist blogosphere.
In case you missed it in comments, our friend vade has done some terrific work using Max/MSP/Jitter and “glitchy” texture mapping. I just now noticed he was using audio input to do it, which can be a terrific way of modulating visuals for organic results. (Without knowing he had done that, I tried some similar experiments this weekend using the audio peak input in Quartz Composer.) The effect is simple but incredibly effective: play with texture coordinates so that the textures come alive. Don’t miss the first video.
This would be equally applicable to Processing, Quartz Composer, or anything else that does even basic texture mapping and audio input.
Meanwhile, in Processing Land, generative virtuoso Flight 404 (Robert Hodgin) has done amazing things with a particle system, magnets, and circles:
Magnetism + Spheres = Fun!! [Flight 404 blog]
See also this (earlier?) magnetosphere video (thanks, Jaymis, who was impressed enough he said something PG-13 about its awesomeness.)
Utterly stunning, and better yet, he’s included Processing code and walked through the whole process of building it. Check comments for more insight. But Robert didn’t stop there. He’s gone and bought himself a multi-touch Lemur controller, with still more cool videos:
Pretty lights! [Flight 404 blog]
I’ve been critical of some aspects of the Lemur in the past (see my Keyboard Magazine review), but it has been improving, in terms of the flexibility of the interface and how it assigns MIDI and OSC messages. One key advantage for visuals that can be less of an issue with music is stutter-free control of on-screen elements (which requires a higher resolution), and generally having an interface that lends itself to controlling 2D and 3D visual elements.
And, of course, in Robert’s hands it does some wonderful things.
Why am I putting these in the same post, other than sheer laziness? What strikes me about the effectiveness of each of these examples is that the quality of motion animates them in a way that is organic and alive. In each, the core technique and visual elements themselves are relatively simple, but the rhythm of the gesture of the visuals motion makes them more engaging. That, and just focusing on these two ideas, there are countless possibilities in whatever environment you prefer (Jitter, Processing, or something else).