Creative Coding for Live Visuals in Helsinki was a project initiated by Irina Spicaka and was organized in cooperation with the Pixelache platform and the AAVE festival (http://www.aavefestival.org/). An exhibition, 3 different workshops and an audiovisual event were taking place from April 10 to 13, 2013 in Helsinki – Aalto Node Gallery (exhibition – http://nodegalleryproject.wordpress.com/), Aalto FabLab (workshops – http://fablab.aalto.fi/site/) and bar Sandro (final event).
The concept of the event was built around the concept of creative coding that involves the creation of high-tech interactive digital artworks by using open-source as well as affordable commercial tools and hardware. A lot of creative coding is used in live audiovisual performance nowadays and this event was meant to introduce it’s participants with useful creative coding tools and techniques for the live visuals field.
In this article we will try to give a brief insight into the different parts of the event from the perspective of people who were involved in the event’s organizing process.
The event began with a brief intro discussion about the creative coding subject. Workshop holders said a few words about themselves and their workshops as well as their thoughts about creative coding and their personal experience regarding the same. For the most part they started to do creative coding because there were no tools available that suited their needs. Creative coding is about creating personalized tools for your individual digital expression – that was mostly the general opinion.
There were few things extra. If you know the Finnish electronic music band Phantom, you may have noticed the video for their composition “Scars” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFpou6izBQg) that features visuals that are made by using the Microsoft Kinect depth sensor. Julius Tuomisto, who is responsible about VJing within the band, was presenting a new live visualization software called Z Vector (http://z-vector.com/). The new application is based on the Kinect depth camera input and it is possible to write custom GLSL filters in real-time to manipulate the resulting image. Julius also is a part of a company Delicode (http://www.delicode.com/) where the quite popular NI Mate software is developed (http://www.ni-mate.com/). So if you appear to be a fan of Kinect stuff – keep an eye on things Delicode is and will be doing in the future.
Forrest Oliphant was giving a presentation about his project Meemoo (http://meemoo.org/) – a visual programming tool that works in the browser. If you know Quartz Composer, Pure Data, MaxMSP or VVVV and you want to bring your skills to the web – it is possible that Meemoo is the right tool to get you going. Forest is a New Media MA student in the Helsinki Media Lab and Meemoo is Forest’s MA thesis project.
An interesting addition to the set of events was the Metasphere exhibition in the Aalto Node Gallery. It was possible to see it a bit before the Creative Coding for Live Visuals event actually started and also a week after it’s end.
Metasphere is an audiovisual installation project by Irina Spicaka, Krisjanis Rijnieks and Platons Buravickis. It consists of a 3D base structure, projection-mapped animation and sound. The 3D structure was initially created with the Blender open-source 3D software and then made real with the help of a Laser Cutter in the Aalto FabLab. The same 3D data were used to create the animation by using creative coding tools and generative approach.
The project has two modes: installation and performance mode. During the exhibition in the Aalto Node gallery, it was possible to see only the installation mode of it. It was a 7 minute audiovisual projection mapping loop and visitors of the exhibition had to use headphones to get the full effect.
All of the workshops were taking place in the Aalto FabLab (http://fablab.aalto.fi/). It is Finland’s first FabLab and it is a nice place for digital fabrication as well as different kinds of lectures and workshops.
AVVX – Visual Music with Vector Graphics
A 2-day workshop by Nuno Correia, where participants could get a basic insight into the practice of creating live visuals. Nuno was giving an interesting lecture about the history of live visuals and then introduced participants with his own software called AVVX. Currently it is built with Flash and SVG vector graphics are used as it’s main source. You can add different effects and behaviours to the graphics that are loaded. All functionality is controlled by using keyboard and mouse. The project is open-source and if you want to get additional functionality, you can add it by yourself. Visit the project website (http://www.nunocorreia.com/projects/avvx) to get more info.
During the workshop every participant had to create his own set of graphics by using a vector graphics software of her or his preference and export them as SVG files. They also had to edit AVVX’s XML files to get it working. So a little bit of raw configuration file editing to make the participants to understand more about general live-visuals workflow.
Generative Graphics Using Cinder and Syphon
Cinder (http://libcinder.org/) is one of the most advanced open-source C++ creative coding frameworks that is available on the web. Krisjanis Rijnieks was running a workshop that introduced participants with the basics of generative visual application creation with Cinder. Krisjanis is a New Media MA student at the Helsinki Media Lab and also is the author of an introductory book about “Cinder: Cinder – Begin Creative Coding”. Available here (http://www.packtpub.com/begin-creative-coding-with-cinder/book).
Participants of the workshop were introduced with the basic functionality of Cinder. Sometimes it can be tricky to set Cinder up as the user-friendly ways of the framework are not fully adjusted for seamless usage on every single operating system. Unless you are a C++ guru and configuring a C++ project is a breeze for you no matter what IDE you use. Some of the participants had previous C++ knowledge, but no one was a C++ wizard.
Most of the participants followed the basic hands-on exercises, but there was also a group of people who found common language and united in a group called the Epic Monster Team in order to create the Epic Monster Cinder Application. It featured a 3D model of the monster and GLSL shader tricks that made it epic. The team actually succeeded and it was possible to see the result at the final event.
At the end of the workshop most of the people got a custom, animating particle system running. Also the Syphon framework was introduced – it is a great way to connect your visual application made with Cinder to any kind of visual software that has Syphon support. In the live-visuals context that could be a VJ software like Modul8 or VDMX. Also the projection mapping software MadMapper has Syphon support.
Visual Programming using Quartz Composer and Syphon
This workshop was run by Matti Niinimaki who is a student and a part time lecturer at the Helsinki Media Lab. Workshops and the exhibition were taking place in the same building complex where the Helsinki Media Lab resides.
The workshop featured a very interesting overview about the Mac OS X Quartz Composer software. It is a relatively easy to use visual programming tool that can be used for creating interactive real-time graphics. Currently it is very popular among visual artists and VJ’s and it is compatible with different VJ software like Modul8, VDMX and CoGe. Matti is VJing himself and during his workshop he was also teaching through using his own examples – that created a nice friendly and personal atmosphere in the room.
Also the Syphon framework was introduced and Matti showed how to use it in combination with Quartz Composer. As many applications do support Quartz Composer patches and are able to use them as sources – probably Syphon support is not so important. If you are trying to combine some other creative coding framework output with Quartz Composer – you can use Syphon to get the image of that other application inside Quartz and then continue to build it there.
Final event was taking place in bar Sandro – a small bar not far from Hakaniemi metro station. It was an event that combined live electronic music performers and VJ’s as well as the visuals that were made during the workshop. The participants of all the workshops had a possibility to meet, chat and have a couple of drinks together.
The event started with a minimalistic set by the Baltic Diving Co. Joel Tammik an Nuno Correia were creating sounds and the participants of the AVVX workshop had the possibility to play with their visual creations on two screens within the bar. The evening continued with a nice set by Axel Thesleff and Visuals by Video Jack. DKSTR and MANSTERI were trying to establish a 8bit skwee swag atmosphere in the bar afterwards. Sander Molder did a nice new-beat audio performance that was supplemented with visuals done by the participants of the Cinder workshop.
To sum up the Creative Coding for Live Visuals Helsinki event was a great first step towards better future events. The next Creative Coding for Live Visuals event will happen in Riga, Latvia from September 29 to October 5. More information will be announced later. If you prefer moving image over text, here is a brief video summary about the Creative Coding for Live Visuals in Helsinki event (https://vimeo.com/65770912).