Neon is among the best of a breed of obscure, indie VJ software gems around the world. The creation of mac/xplsv.com and later shine/xplsv.com, it’s made a mark not only as a VJ performance app but as a creator of real-time motion demos. It can event manipulate 3D Studio Max 7 scenes in real-time. All of this goodness could simply die as the developer moves on, but instead shine has decided to open source the code. That gives this Windows-only software a shot at a port to Mac and/or Linux, and turns it into a playground for would-be visual programmers, even if they just want to dabble in filter creation. And it gives the rest of us a lovely tool to add to our toolbox, free.

The feature set is pretty tasty:

  • Layered effects: 10 effects layers (called FX instead of layers, oddly), with various blend modes, and a master effects channel – a really nice, practical architecture
  • Real-time 3D with 3DS Max support, pixel shaders, vertex shaders (all apparently on DirectX, so some work would be needed for Linux, Mac, and OpenGL)
  • Flexible formats: DirectShow, ffmpeg codec support, image support, SWF, live video capture
  • Endless filters: Included filters, custom filters using pixel shaders, and a filter SDK with Virtual C++ examples. FreeFrame support, too, though not FFGL (yet) – Resolume has the win for FFGL support so far
  • Live control, beat sync: The “beat manager” is the most insane part of this — and why this might find its way into your toolset. You have elaborate control of how things are synced to the beat, with even DJ-style pitch bend controls and per-element sync of parameters in your project. There’s also FFT (sound-reactive input) control, and MIDI.

Programmers can have at the SVN repository right away. Non-programmers get something special for free. I doubt this will shake your loyalty for your existing performance tool of choice, as a visual creation tool you’ll want to check out some of the cool 3D demos done, like this award-winning xplsv.com video, “Sound Pressure.”
(Edit: Auto-playing video moved after the jump – Jaymis)

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xpslv’s Neon v2
Neon v2 goes open source [soledad penadés]

Thanks, Sole, for the tip!

My sense is, it’s easier than ever to collect an unusual set of software for production before gigs, even if you stick to one tool as your main performance tool. That’s what we’ve done on the music side for years, of course, but it’s nice to see the “studio” concept happening in visuals, too.

It also seems that the VJ scene could use one multi-purpose VJ app that is a benchmark for open source, live visuals. (Pd/GEM has that well covered on the patching side, but an all-in-one VJ app would make a strong complement.) The only issue I see is that this is pretty friendly to Windows developers, less so to everyone else. (Windows developers should have a field day, in fact!)

There really isn’t a killer development environment at the moment. I have been closely watching JavaFX, but that’s a story for another post. This does, though, illustrate the kind of things you want in an open tool — you really need extensive shader and 3D support, and for an open source project, you probably want to ignore DirectX and build on OpenGL for simpler cross-platform support. (You could support both — this project would be an ideal candidate for that — but otherwise, supporting one or the other seems simpler to me.)

I’m working now on a round-up of the best free Windows VJ/visual tools, to be followed up with a bigger list for other platforms; holler if you’ve got some tips.

  • http://beatfix.com beatfix

    Yay, more toys!

    Seems like there are a lot of fun, free apps on Windoze these days. I keep wanting to play with the Mac side of my BootCamped MBP more, but I can find few free visualist proggies outside of Quartz Composer (that's a request for suggestions, btw ;-)

    To all the developers – on any platform – who are making their labors of love available to the entire visualist community (the professionals, the hobbyists, and the starving artists), THANK YOU. Your contributions will live on both in the projects we create, and in the spirit of your generosity.

    OpenTZT, VisualJockey, Flxer, Mute, Onyx, Neon, Whorld/FFrend **shameless plug** – and that's without even talking about the patching environments. What else am I forgetting?

    For me personally, having all these options at my fingertips, to dabble with or dig deep, adds a sense of adventure and play when searching for new visual projects and ideas.

  • http://www.synthtopia.com/ synthhead

    Very interesting – it looks like the free VJ scene is going to explode.

    Hopefully this will lead to more integration between DJ apps and generative visual software.

  • MoRpH

    Awesome, with OpenTZT wrapping up I'm going to have to look @ this to see if its something I would like to support, I am very keen though as I have been looking for something with generative as well as clip playing features for sometime, although the UI looks like it needs work to get performance focused