Andrew Nixon

Ramblings in Digital Media

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Ableton Live to Modul8

January 7th, 2010 · Comments Off on Ableton Live to Modul8 · Uncategorized

So, I’ve been experimenting with ways to connect Ableton Live to visual programs, to get tight integration of audio and visual.  Live is great because of the flexibility it offers, and the way it can take all samples / tracks and timestretch etc so they are in beat matched.  We wanted to use the power of this but you can’t use it for movie tracks, its audio only.  So, ideal world is to use Ableton for Audio and something else for the visual side of things.  In this example I have hooked it up to Modul8.

My first thoughts were to take the playhead position information from Ableton and pass this across to whichever software was controlling the visual clips, and have waited for Max for Live to be released to realise this.  Unfortunately I just haven’t found a way of doing this – I’m still convinced there is something deep in the APi of Max 4 Live that will allow this, but I haven’t found it yet.  This would also require a fairly complicated playback method within the visual program, and I think would be much more applicable to when I move across into something like openFrameworks for this.

What I ended up with works really well, and you can see it in this video I recorded of the process.  Its really simple (which is generally the best way it seems) and triggers clips when needed.  It can’t keep each individual movie clip in time with the audio, but this isn’t necessarily a problem as long as clips are triggered at the right time, ie on a breakdown or a certain bar.

It can also be expanded vastly, and I’ll be looking to produce a small Max patch which will change the midi note into OSC, as i’ll be able to add more to OSC to pass to the visual program.  Combining this with the generative visual power of oF, and using audio reactivity, I think I have the basis for a strong AV performance.

Link to Vimeo Video

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Major Project thoughts

December 30th, 2009 · Comments Off on Major Project thoughts · Uncategorized

Been ages since I’ve posted anything, here’s a last 2009 effort.

Have been thinking about the final project quite a bit, mainly just thinking though, struggling to dedicate the time to develop the oF side of things and audio hasn’t moved on at all, but I have realised I desperately needed to work on the theoretical side of my work.  Now the project hasn’t in all honestly got strong artistic reasoning behind it, I basically decided that my aim for this degree was self development and produce stronger audio visual works, and thats what I’m heading towards.  I guess my thoughts were down the lines of what does ‘live performance’ mean in the realm of digital/laptop performance and what did my practise involve?

Jamie has suggested a really good book which I’m currently reading (and enjoying) by Richard Sennett called ‘The Craftsman’.  It delves deeply into what makes a craftsman, and how a lot of the ethos is lost in a fast paced developing world (actually, it goes massively deeper than that, but I haven’t finished it yet and will do a review once done!) and it has made me think a great deal about what I do (in AV shows) and what I want to achieve.  If I’m brutally honest with myself I’m not particularly creative, but my strengths lie in the production and realisation of ideas – hence why I work well in collaboration and partnerships – but this text has made me think more about how far I can go with the realisation side of things.  The modern world, especially the working environment, is generally governed by efficiency, profitability and competition, environments which don’t help the idea of craftsmanship, the ideal of taking the time and instilling the effort into making something as good as it can be.  I guess I have been guilty in the past of having a ‘that’ll do’ attitude towards some of my work – not necessarily a bad thing when trying to earn enough money to get by in life – and through doing this degree I have an opportunity to both learn and develop new skills, but also really develop the craftsman in me in terms of live AV work.

So I guess the conclusion to this little ramble is that I think my head is pointing towards the right direction – this isn’t about becoming the best programmer / designer / artist etc, or dedicating 100% effort into learning new skills, but to take the time not always afforded me to push my work onto another level, go well beyond the ‘that’ll do’ and become a craftsman.

Happy New Year y’all…

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Project Proposal

September 18th, 2009 · Comments Off on Project Proposal · Uncategorized

If you fancy a read, here’s my proposal documents…

zip file

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Project post 003

September 6th, 2009 · Comments Off on Project post 003 · Major project

Ok, so slowly progressing with OF, but realistically with the workload I have on at the minute its going to be October before I can really get stuck in.  Have to earn the pennies to pay for the course – gulp…

The more I look into OF the more I realise that this is where I want to concentrate my efforts for my major project – 2 reasons – it will give me the flexibility and (very importantly) the performance that I’m looking for in the works that I envisage and secondly it fulfills my personal aims from the course.

In terms of content I’ve got a few things to read but have been thinking a bit more about AV content, and the most obvious relationship there is is waves – light and sound both consist of waves (well, light can be a particle as well but lets not look into this here) – how can looking at the fundamentals become building blocks for the type of performance I’m aiming for.  If anyone has any reading materials to recommend for this that would be appreciated…

I’ve also been thinking about the performance / installation side of things.  For me the ideal is to create a bespoke installation using multi projection and interesting surfaces, and this is what I plan to do for exhibition time, but I am also conscious of future use.  The more complicated the set up the less likely the logistics can be covered at events/festivals.  I’m very interested in site specific installations, mapping visuals to what is available as surfaces, and how sound can be influenced by the acoustics within a space, and as I see it there are a few ways to go with what I work towards:

1/ Stick to my guns and produce a set piece which has a bespoke spec – more like an installation
2/ Create works that are flexible enough to be adaptable for different situations
3/ Create different works for different installs
4/ Just keep it simple

Plenty to keep me going, working on the proposal right now – more to come…

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oF – baby steps

August 30th, 2009 · Comments Off on oF – baby steps · Uncategorized

Finally have found some time to get started with openFrameworks.  First impressions – errr, wtf!  def trickier to get into than Processing, but once past the initial set up and where files have to be so they compile correctly the similarities become obvious in the actual coding – just stick an ‘of’ in front of everything…

As I said, baby steps, here’s my first bit of graphics…next up animation…

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project catch up….

August 14th, 2009 · Comments Off on project catch up…. · Major project

Far far too long since I posted anything – summer, which traditionally is when we’d have a bit of time, has been bloody manic.  All good though, lots of 3D Discos and other projects in full flow.

Which all means that my work towards my project has been put to the sideline, not ideal but how things pan out.

Had a really good chat with Jamie about my project, getting down to nitty gritty of what my aims are for the project as well as the course over all – I have always focussed on my masters being a pragmatic choice that contributes to my work in the ‘real world’.  I guess my main passion is creating audio visual works which really are AV – I get sick of seeing work where the the visual element is a bolt of afterthought.  I also have a ‘thing’ about the term ‘vjing’ – its a horrible word for starters – but never liked the automatic ‘art’ labeling. Most live visuals, especially in club situations, are not much more than moving wallpaper, and that’s how it should be for a lot of these situations – the context and environment is not conducive for displaying ‘artistic’ content.  Many vj’s seem to want to introduce narrative or statements into this situation where is just does not belong.

If it is an artistic piece that is created this needs to be displayed or performed within the correct context and environment, if there is a narrative involved surely the audience needs to be able to absorb the piece and give it attention.  I would say the majority of the work I do is design opposed to art, it serves a purpose, and it is important that work I produce that is artistic in nature is placed / performed in a situation that compliments it.

Apologies for this ranting post – but it does set the scene for what I aim to attempt in my project.  There are two main strands:

1/ Audiovisual production of work.  Working through my thoughts and talking to Jamie has made me focus on what I really want to gain from the course – the production of audiovisual works!  Through his project I want to explore, through producing one or several pieces, how instead of audio + visual, where there is a hierarchical divide (usually audio comes first), a fully cohesive audiovisual work can be made.  Golan Levin has talked about ‘audiovisual material’ and this interests me – could there be specific elements of the audio and visual make up that are very close in make up, could rules be created to work from?

2/ Instrumentation – This is what I have talked about in discussions, where there is a general frustration and almost backlash to the ‘laptop performer’ – what is demonstrably ‘live’ with modern electronic performance when the artist is behind a laptop?  Working with Jon Hook has allowed me to explore creating hardware and software that could bring a gap and give the audience a stronger understanding and association with what the artist is doing and how this is effecting parts of the performance.  Here’s a screen shot of an example that Jon has coded up – its a software that runs on a ‘heads up’ multi touch surface:

How it works is that the graphics in the background (at present the teapot) are coded up in OpenGL (fingers crossed OF soon) with parameters being coded in.  each of the coloured ‘rings’ have nodes which assign a level to a parameter (so for example scale, position, rotation) and as the ‘radar pointer’ passes the node the value is assigned to the parameter.  Quite simple but we think this will be effective in being able to work in an AV sense – it works almost like a step sequencer but rotational – bpm of audio can be set as the rpm of the ‘radar’.

A long way to go with this, at present I’m starting to develop graphics for it, so have to jump into OpenGL at the deep end.  More updates to come…

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Module Final Documentation

May 27th, 2009 · Comments Off on Module Final Documentation · Basic techniques

3D Disco Real Time
Basic Techniques of Interactive Media – DMS8002 – module documentation
Andrew Nixon


Brief: Create a graphic engine which will display anaglyphic visuals which can be generated / controlled in real time.

What are anaglyph stereoscopic graphics?
Two versions of the same 3D scene are rendered, representing what each eye would see, a colour filter is then added to each render. Special glasses are worn which filter out the content so that they are specific to each eye – the cyan side only allows the right eye view through and vice versa. As the eyes receive two versions of the same ‘scene’ the brain is tricked into thinking that the flat screen is actually 3D.

3D Disco is a project that I have been working on for a few years, its a club night AV performance, pretty populist and fun, where all the visuals are in Anaglyphic 3D. We’re expanding what we do and hope to move more into full festival installations, so having elements where people can interact with the visuals is a really important element – this project is the first step towards this.

Technical concept

Initially I aimed to sketch this project in Processing and then port across to Open FrameWorks, but ended up keeping it within Processing, for reasons I will discuss later, whilst using MaxMSP as a control interface. My basic principle was to have 2 separate cameras within the environment which would render the scene for each eye, and then tint the output of each so that the colour filter of the glasses would produce the 3D effect. I then wanted to be able to have different ‘scenes’ accessible so that the basic idea of a live tool was created.


It was invaluable for me in my personal development working through the problems that I had with Processing, and I would go down this route again, but I do definitely want to move it to OpenFrameWorks for the power that it offers. Processing seems to deal with OpenGL quite strangely, and most of the problems stemmed from this. I used OpenGL as I wanted the speed and quality of visual which is provided from this opposed to P3D, and the glColourMask was a really good way of tinting the colour of each camera view.

Using MaxMSP was good for 2 areas – it provided a control interface as I couldn’t get the controlP5 library working within my patch and it also meant I could explore OSC (open sound control) as a system for externally controlling the graphics. This worked really well and I was able to have sound reactive and midi controls routed straight into Processing. This also gives a lot of possibilities for the expansion of the project, when many other interfaces could be used and parameters passed using OSC.


Looking at what I set myself as a brief I have not progressed as far as I had initially hoped, but am happy overall with what has been achieved. For it to be a useable tool much more refining has to be done but most of the principles are in place – I can control parameters in real time, which means that this can become part of an interactive installation or have other things effect it, such as the audio reactive part. I am happy with the skills I have developed in Processing (starting with zero knowledge) although there are many areas which I haven’t touched on yet which I want to.

Future development

Importing images – this is something which proved a huge hurdle in using Processing, it basically didn’t work. I need to sort this so that flat graphics can be brought in and manipulated in 3D space – most of 3D Disco is based on this principle.

Further work on the import of objects and drawing 3D shapes, perhaps look at more ways to animate and create scenes which can be manipulated.

And the main one – Port everything across to OpenFrameworks. I will be able to use real OpenGL in a framework which is designed to use it and move away from the problems of running it in Processing. A lot of work, OpenGL is vastly more complicated to work with compared to the simplicity of Processing. OF is a major part of my personal development whilst studying the Masters and this project will be both a great learning tool and a really useful exercise in reaching its potential.

Below is a zip file of the final Processing and Max files – the above text is also in .doc and .pages formats. Please also click ‘basic techniques’ tag for all previous posts which have examples of the development.

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anglyph attempt 1 – errrr…..

May 27th, 2009 · Comments Off on anglyph attempt 1 – errrr….. · Uncategorized

ok, getting somewhere, hacking bits of code about and trying combinations of different sketches….

My thinking is if I can get something working I can learn how it works to be able to tweak it – bit arse about face but seems to work for me.

Playing with OpenGL calls – finding documentation from a Processing point of view is a bit hard, might go back to P3D and play a bit more there first.

Attempt numbers one and two – ok, am getting 2 cameras working together, showing 2 versions of the 3D object, but then trying to integrate the OpenGL colourmask sends things into meltdown. Bit more playing should have something basic working I hope…

Anaglyph 1
Anaglyph 2

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May 5th, 2009 · Comments Off on recognition…. · Works

so, 3D Disco has been a hell of a lot of work over the last few years, but being confirmed at Glastonbury this year has finally caught the eye of the press – almost full page article, page 8, Independent 4/5/09…–to-the-glastonbury-experience-1678534.html

rock on 🙂

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May 4th, 2009 · Comments Off on Oops… · Basic techniques


so, dunno what I did, but I lost the changes anyway – Processing + Max + other shit + making code changes = OSX death…

***update – it did it again – hmmm, fresh install of OSX needed sooner rather than later…***

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