Creative coding is rapidly moving from the domain of a handful of gurus to a broader audience, powered by lightweight, flexible frameworks that quickly translate code to visuals. Now, that said, the thought of another framework to learn could be overwhelming, what with the superb Cinder (C++, Mac, Windows, iOS), OpenFrameworks (C++, Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, iOS), Processing (Java and JavaScript, Mac, Windows, Linux, Web, iOS)…

Fortunately, PolyCode, the creation of Ivan Safrin, has plenty to recommend it. It has out-of-the-box support for 2D and 3D physics libraries, and a Lua API for scripting via that elegant, compact language. It’s on Mac and Windows for now, but looking at the dependencies, Linux and mobile should be possible, too.

And whether you (or I, cough) have time to sit down and learn to use it, the first signs of new eye candy invigorated by its tools are already appearing. At top, my favorite. I can’t find any information on it (Ivan, you’re going to be hearing from me, as I want to know more), but it uses 3D graphics with pixellated characters, and looks terrific. It’s entirely developed in Polycode Lua.

Timothy Saccenti also offers up a video for MNDR’s “Cut me,” working with Polycode’s Kinect connectivity. I like the overall spirit of the video, though I worry that some of this effect is going to get old fast without some fresh takes on how to work with the data.

But I can sum this all up fairly quickly: Polycode’s worth a look for easy use of physics and fast-and-breezy Lua coding. (Lua fans may also want to check out LuaAV for Mac and Linux, a very awesomely-powerful environment with some especially-nice visual and 3D tools.)

Here’s what I propose: if you’re playing with Polycode, let us know how it goes! And show us what you make – even rough sketches welcome. We may even have to start doing co-coding sessions on IRC or some such thing.

Polycode on Creative Applications Network

  • Andy

    The problem with tools like that is that you need plenty of time before you are able to create something interesting. The same is true for Processing, although it's not _very_ difficult. It may be more or less easy to create some bouncing balls or swirling lines or similar stuff, but this is quite boring stuff. I'm still looking for tools to make some graphical eye candies (animations!) to support my ambient tracks, but I haven't found anything which doesn't involve programming. I spent some years doing 3D stuff, but even this (3D modelling + rendering) takes lots of time, let alone to connect those animations to sound in a way that it reacts to music. There are FFT libraries available, but hell … I'm a musician, not a software dev.

  • xor

    @Andy There's always WinAmp!  There's no such thing as a free lunch.

  • Andy

    Yes, you could use winamp. But those kind of visualizations have this typical kind of music player aesthetics introduced somewhere around 2000 and earlier. IMHO a bit outdated, since this actually hasn't changed so far.

  • Smithers

    Processing runs on iOS?

  • Mike

    @Andy It doesn't seem entirely fair to fault a programming framework like Polycode (which makes no claims to being a visualizer) for not catering to your specific needs, especially since the lua integration does seem bring it into the faster-workflow world of what you're asking for.  That said, have you ever looked at TouchDesigner?  It sounds a little more up your alley, a node-based effect-building environment, no programming necessary, with a full 3d modelling / animation capabilities & GPU acceleration everywhere.  It allows importing models & animations from other 3d applications via FBX.  To me, its workflow is a bizarro hybrid of Jitter & SideFX Houdini.  It was apparently used quite a bit on those new Amon Tobin visuals.

  • Andy

    Hey Mike, I don't fault any programming framework. Of course I'm absolutely aware that it's ME who don't have the skills to use those frameworks properly. I have some (not so decent) programming skills in different languages, but I just haven't enough time to dive into that stuff. And, as I said, you really need time when you want to come up with something interesting.

    Thanks for mentioning TouchDesigner, I'll check that out.

  • Typo

    @Andy To be honest it seems like you might be on the wrong site for your needs. It is called *create* digital motion after all. You can't expect to get anything decent (or certainly anything decent and customised to your requirements) without putting some work in. There's no all singing, all dancing out-the-box software for that unfortunately (not yet anyway). It sounds like your best bet may actually be to try and collaborate with a VJ or other visual artist so you can concentrate on your side of things and still have bespoke eye candy.

  • Andy

    Hi Typo, maybe you misunderstood me a bit here. I don't expect something cool "out of the box". I spent years in creating 3D content so I know how many hard work is needed to achieve a certain level. But I don't want to use a programming language and I also want to minimize the time needed to create visuals (at least as far as possible) so Mikes recommendation above point me in the right direction. However, to team up with a VJ is not a bad idea as well.