It’s easy to forget that all video is illusion, a matter of perspective. In 2013′s Simulacra, Germany-based artist Karina Smigla-Bobinski, images seem to merge directly from light in the eyes of the viewer, pulled from space into being by magnifying glasses suspended from the ceiling. Even an element as basic as focus, then, is game for artistic manipulation.

Her materials are basic – think monitors and a splitter. But in this as in her other works, physical materiality is a common theme, playing with mapping and light, but also toying with space and objects. It’s interesting in this case that she leaves the jumble of cords intentionally exposed (which is not necessarily the case with all her work). That can look a bit raw, but at least here it reveals what people are seeing.

The project premiered at Sonica Festival, in Ljubjana, Slovenia. (The tagline for that event is, suggestively, a “Festival of Transitory Art.”)

Artist statement: Continue reading »


Robotkid, aka Josh Randall, is the veteran former Creative Director at Harmonix who regularly infused VJ and real-time visual aesthetics into the company’s games (Beatles Rock Band, VibRibbon, etc.). Now, he’s gone to LA, where his passion for the most fantastically colorful trips of the past is feeding new visual fancies.

And they’re too good not to share.

Where better to start than with a full-on freak-out on Disneyland’s Space Mountain, here seeming more futuristic than ever:

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They’re a recent addition to popular OS X live visual app VDMX. But now is the perfect time to talk about the magic of shaders, generally.

Standard “fragment shaders” are capable of performing feats of visual wonder as both generators and effects, using geometry and pixels. Written in GLSL, they are portable to any OpenGL-compliant graphics card, which now includes a range of modern hardware on both mobile and desktop devices. And since they run on the GPU, they do all of this magic on optimized hardware – without straining your CPU.

Despite Apple’s reputation for being proprietary, they’ve been consistent in making standard OpenGL the basis of both iOS and OS X, and the success of that has added a lot to the momentum of OpenGL, generally, including on other platforms like Linux, Android, and even Windows (despite having DirectX as an alternative). So, this makes sense in a Mac-only app like VDMX. But you can test this out on those platforms, too, right in your browser.

For a glimpse of what you can do, have a gander at:

There, you can try out lots of hypnotic examples, with or without any actual knowledge of code – though this is the perfect way to start learning. Continue reading »


Apple’s Quartz Composer has long enabled beautiful, intricate generative and responsive visuals, often even with simple patches. But assembling its compositions into something with which you can perform is more of a chore.

2 V-P isn’t the first attempt to wrap Quartz’s interactive visualizations into a performance tool. But it might be the most practical. The work of Ali Demirel, with developer Pascal Lesport, it embodies a lot of Ali’s approach to thoughtfully-morphing imagery. It’s been torture-tested in the real world of performance, particularly in Ali’s ongoing collaboration with Richie Hawtin.

What’s promising about 2 V-P is that it centersentirely on a VJ-style two-channel mix structure. It’s focused without being overly limiting. You add video processing on the master bus, just as you would with a hardware mixer. And you can store all your patches on a grid.

That may not sound very interesting yet, until you get to one very powerful notion. You can interpolate between any stored parameters on each channel – any of them. So, by carefully parameterizing your patches in QC, you can build beautiful compositional processes that gradually shift from one element to another. Ali does that really nicely, slowly sculpting mesmerizing visuals over long periods of time – essential if you’re keeping up with extended live sets by Richie Hawtin / Plastikman. But I can imagine that this could adapt well to other artists’ own aesthetic ideas, too.

This is my kind of tool, in other words: simple, but in such a way that can yield a lot of variation. Continue reading »

Holiday Card from Shilo on Vimeo.

If hearing the tune from the vintage HBO intro/bump doesn’t send a little nostalgic chill down your spine, you probably didn’t grow up in the US in the 1980s.

Looking back at this old animation earlier this year, I was struck by the old way of making motion graphics. As dramatic music swells in the background, the camera pulls back, sweeping theatrically over an intricate set of the American landscape as the sun casts its final light. It’s all shot real-for-real, real models, real, physical details, all with the kind of physicality that digital animation can tend to lack.

But is there a way to get that sense of discipline in something made entirely in the virtual realm?

Emmy Award-winning creative production company Shilo (California/New York) did a charming holiday spot for the it’s-not-TV-it’s-HBO network. They didn’t just create an homage to the earlier rendition. They sought to imbue the work with the same substance, the same attention to craft, but using the computer as tool.

Directed by Anthony Furlong, the spot is accompanied by a behind-the-scenes featurette. And Mr. Furlong talks to CDM to tell us more about his approach to the work. Continue reading »


All of Apple’s pro apps get updates this week. Compressor adds GPU optimizations; Motion does hardware H.264 encoding and adds 4K export.

But Final Cut Pro X 10.1 is the big news. It’s finally the payoff of the painful transition to the X generation. At the same time, combined with a steady parade of updates Apple has delivered since FCP X’s launch, 10.1 relieves a lot of the pain of migrating to X.

Because the news of 10.1 coincides with the Mac Pro, you’ve probably already heard about 4K video monitoring with Thunderbolt 2, or the playback and rendering optimizations that take advantage of the dual GPUs in the higher-end (US$3999) Mac Pro.

And indeed, this is the release of Final Cut Pro X that makes 4K video a reality. (Next: an Apple 4K display?)

But I think it’ll be the smaller enhancements that actually mean something to Final Cut Pro X users. In fact, if I had to say just two words about 10.1, it’d be project snapshots. FCP 7 ensured you didn’t do harm to your project by allowing you to easily roll back to a previous version. FCP X inexplicably eliminated that feature. (It’s inexplicable partly because versioning has been an emphasis of OS X save changes.)

Now, it’s back. And generally, the “I didn’t just ruin my project” feeling is essential to editors, probably more so than 4K.

Other must-have enhancements: better file management with Libraries, finally the ability to import your camera media where you want, audio fade handles by channel, logical replace and retime edits, and native AVCHD file support – just the kind of features that confused users trying FCP X.

It’s worth reading through the whole list here, I think. I’ve loved Final Cut Pro X for its blazing performance, but cursed its usability or missing features, and heard similar things from a whole lot of users – even some of them fairly robust FCP X fans. Now, I think the early adopters will have an easier time recommending the upgrade to FCP 7 hold-outs.

Note that you will need 10.9 in order to upgrade to these new release of Motion, Compressor, and Final Cut Pro X. What’s new: Continue reading »


In a tree-like cluster of wooden branches, 60 electronically-fired lightbulbs glow in tightly-choreographed pulses along with music. The light sculpture becomes the setting for a kind of AV dance theater, forming an otherworldly environment for narrative movement.

“A Man Named Zero” is the work of Nocte and a team in the UK of performers, pairing DJ with lightbulb accompaniment. Nocte realized the project in the creative coding tool Cinder (C++), which provides both the lightbulb control and slick-looking wireframe visual interface. Interestingly, the audio analysis isn’t just a straight FFT. Instead, using the open LibXtract library, the software “extracts” audio “features” – that is, it does some fancy math on the sound to perform a smarter analysis.

Watch the performers as they weave their way round the lightbulb-bestrewn set:

A Man Named Zero from Nocte on Vimeo.

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