Squint closely at that interface: you’ll be seeing more of it soon. 3L demands a MacBook Pro, and scoffs at your softcore MacBook AIR. And it’s likely to make a big splash in the visualist software world.

2008 is looking like an extraordinary year for visualists: there’s an explosion of new software tools for live visuals. One of the most eagerly-anticipated is 3L (pronounced “Thrill”), a multi-purpose live visual application for Mac, from the massively-talented artificialeyes trio of Pascal Lesport, Michael Parenti and Todd Thille. (Todd, FYI, you may have to change that last name to 3iL.) We’ll be showing and explaining where 3L fits in, but let me jump into my unedited geeky take on it first.

3L is unique in that it takes a lot of the cool generative effects people are doing in individual patches for Max or Processing, loads them into one massively modular interface, and mixes in the prerequisite amount of pixel processing, audio, and MIDI. It’s like the monster Jitter patch you’ll never have time to finish, all on one screen — one very big screen; the software actually requires 1440×900 resolution to operate. If they had just done that, Thrill might fade into the blur of other modular environments created in recent years, but the software has also been packed with features tested by the Artificial Eyes crew in their gigs — meaning a whole lot of what you’d want to be able to do in a club is there already, including countless features you may not have even thought of yet. Pascal also apparently coded his way around limitations in Jitter.

We got an inside peek at the software in Perth. In fact, we peeked at a little too much — so much, we’re still, erm, editing all the footage we shot. And we might have gotten into that editing in Perth were we not out until the wee hours of the morning VJing with Thrill. Jack and Coke, Western Australian nightclub filled with ridiculously young-looking clubgoers, plus a completely unfamiliar interface that looks like the love child of Max/MSP, a 747, and a spaceship? Hell, yeah. With everything wired for MIDI and sound reactivity, Jaymis and I immediately found ourselves zoning into pulsing abstract patterns, even when we weren’t entirely sure what we were doing.

Who needs hotel Pay Per View? Projecting out of your window is more fun. Todd from artificialeyes looks on as 3L projects out of our lodging in Perth, Australia at the Byte Me Festival.

3L just hit beta, and beta testers don’t have to sign NDA, so expect to hear more soon. And a full release is apparently less than a month away.

Personally, I think the fact that 3L has some company makes it more interesting, not less. The 3D/video patching package Salvation is chugging along in beta on Windows and now Mac (more on that very soon), VDMX5 continues its gradual Never-Ending Beta romp into being the Most Feature-Laden Video Compositing VJ App Ever, modular programming tool Quartz Composer just arrived on Leopard beefed up with much-needed fleshing out, coding-for-artists environment Processing still rocks for 3D and generative visuals and is growing its audience, Max 5 is due this quarter, and its open-source evil twin Pure Data continues to hit new milestones every few weeks. That’s to say nothing of the continued maturation of more conventional VJ tools like Resolume and Modul8.

What? Haven’t heard of any of this? Might want to watch this space, because you’ll be hearing more.

3L won’t get lost in that crowd, either, just because in virtually every way, it’s different. Some people will probably hate it. Some will be confused by it. Some will love it. But people will have strong feelings about it, and it’s about time that happened more often.

Electronic music had a renaissance of software in the era of Amiga, Atari, Mac, and DOS, with strange and wonderful tools like the early “trackers.” That era was so beloved that you’ll find people still emulating those tools today — or booting an ancient computer just to run them. My sense is not only that we’re seeing the beginning of a similar era for VJ apps, but that the lack of a dominant market as in music could actually mean this diversity will stick around.

Thrill’s a private beta at the moment, but that should change soon. Stay tuned, and you’ll see why 2008 won’t be like 2007.

  • MoRpH

    Having been @ the evening that photo was taken and being walked through 3L by the guys themselves I can say I was VERY impressed with what the software can do, looking forward one day to being able to afford a mac to run it on :P

  • http://resolume.com bart

    Yes we can also confirm that 2008 is going to be a great year for vj software ;-)

  • andreas

    and in 2008 there will come a c# implementation for vvvv. yeah – write own modules for v4 – a long awaited feature :)

  • http://web.mac.com/vjanomolee VJ Anomolee

    P.K.- Any word from the Artificial eyes guys if they are going to offer 3L for free? just like there i3L iPhone software? (please oh please oh please)

    andreas- Is that c# implementation for vvvv mean that its going to have an OSX version?

    p.s. p.k.- salvation is available for OSX now.

  • http://createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Bart, glad to hear it! (for anyone who didn't read the URL on his comment, that means Resolume) Didn't mention a few other things, as well, because I'm not sure I can talk about them yet.

    I was, pardon the pun, projecting — Salvation is chugging along for me on Windows. ;) But yeah, it'll be cross-platform.

    vvvv (uh, V4 makes me think Edirol video mixer) is tied to DirectX, so I suspect it'd be pretty hard to get it to run natively under OS X, right, Andreas?

    Artificial Eyes hasn't announced pricing, but 3L will not be free. Jaymis: The have indeed announced pricing, but it was easy to miss in their 3L beta mailout amongst all of the other exciting information. It's going to be EURO200, 150 for students. I think that's reasonable given the amount of time Pascal put into it. We've got good free options in the form of Pd, vvvv, and Processing, among others, so if you're interested in contributing to an open source project, that's a great way to go.

  • andreas

    yeah, i don't think that vvvv will be available for mac anytime – it's all based on direct-x (all the meso guys are more on the pc side). the new c# implementation will bring the possibility to code own modules like you can do in max/msp – a long wished feature :)

  • http://createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Andreas: I'd say that the Mac users are hardly lacking for tools, so that sounds fine for me. Windows users ought to get to have *some* fun, too. ;)

  • http://createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Oh, yeah, and sorry about pricing.

    I think EUR150 for students / EUR200 for everyone else is an absolutely reasonable price. What would that buy in hardware, like one and a half switcher/distributors? ;)

  • http://web.mac.com/vjanomolee VJ Anomolee

    Ya 150 is definetly reasonable for how powerful the software is. Ive been waiting for a real live 3D manipulation tool forever. (I already bought VDMX and usually i dont buy software at all- so thats why i was hoping it was free)
    And just so people dont have to break out their conversion tools.
    150 euros = $222.97

    *counts the seconds before 3L is released*

  • http://createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, and I'm not blaming anybody but the US Fed for the fact that the Euro is so much stronger than the dollar. ;)

  • http://www.sparkav.co.uk toby*spark

    hahaha, and just when you're saying the software outlook is great, there was i and robotkid lamenting software past… ebn's video sampler on an apple ][ (ok i exaggerate); prophet running 640×480 on a G3; the original, scrapped, grid pro that was actually a beautiful polyphonic sampler; anyway, enough!

    yes, the software future is bright (and did i mention *spark cinema…?)

    toby

  • http://artificiaelyes.tv exiledsurfer

    yeah toby, … so bright that you havent responded yet to the private beta invite we sent you… did the email land in your spam box?

    or has robotkid got you so blinded with his rocking-ness that you plain dont like us anymore?

  • http://artificiaelyes.tv exiledsurfer

    oh, and by the way, to the rest of the readers out there: *spark cinema so totally rocks:

    pics and description: http://artificialeyes.tv/node/339

    and a nice little qt of the right honarable sparky in istanbul:
    http://www.artificialeyes.tv/loopcast/2007/02/pos

  • http://www.sparkav.co.uk toby*spark

    [strange, comment was swallowed by the cdmedia redirect wobble.]

    mr parenti – your software wins the prize as the first thing to humble the specs of my laptop: at 2.16 w/128 card, it didn't make the grade. sent a joke mail back to that effect: t'was you who didn't reply mwhaa.

    …and *spark cinema is not that live cinema performance, but something i'm developing to perform that kind of material. not quite a vj app, but yep its an interesting time for software.

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  • http://www.quasecinema.org Alexandre Rangel

    Sure bright! And there's a new version of my VJ app Quase-Cinema coming up this year.

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