Beautiful Motion Graphics Created With Programming: Showcase, Tools and Tutorials

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When you hear the word “creative”, what type of profession comes to mind? Maybe a graphic designer, painter, sculptor, illustrator, or writer? It’s unlikely that you would consider a “programmer” when thinking of creative fields of work. But programmers have the potential to be creative and come up with ideas or concepts that will impact others in positive ways.

We often turn to programmers to solve mathematical-related problems, but the concept of mathematics in programming is what powers programmers to innovate. When you think of mathematics you imagine numbers, expressions, and equations. But what about art, music, or even beautiful visuals? Those numbers and equations that we often view as mundane and overly-formulaic can generate beautiful visuals and music. This article will present dozens of examples of motion graphics and interactive visuals created with computational code, along with some useful references and resources.

Beautiful Motion Graphics Created with Programming

First we’ll look at some examples of beautiful and inspiring motion graphics created by programmers. Some of these are audio-reactive whereas others are data visualization.

Metamorphosis by Glenn Marshall

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Swan Lake – Zeno Music Visualiser by Glenn Marshall

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Black Hole by 360angles

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Flightpattern by Gwen Vanhee
These beautiful motion graphics were created using ActionScript.

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Disco Maths 1 by Stefan Goodchild

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Magnetic Sphere by flight404

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Air Doom by Rui Madeira

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Audio Reactive Bubbles by Matthias Dörfelt.

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Visualization in 7/4 by Eamae Mirkin

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Music Is Math by Glenn Marshall

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Audio-generated landscape by flight404

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okdeluxe XMAS card 2008 by okdeluxe

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Solar, with lyrics. by flight404

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Bubbletrouble_2 by Leander Herzog

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House of Cards by Radiohead
In Radiohead’s video for “House of Cards”, no cameras or lights were used. Instead, 3D plotting technologies collected information about the shapes and relative distances of objects. The video (directed by James Frost) was created entirely with visualizations of that data.

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Magnetic Ink by flight404

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Shifty by Pedro Mari

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Advanced Beauty 13 of 18 by Universal Everything

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I Am David Sparkle – Jaded Afghan by Eduardo Omine

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Relentless, The REV by flight404

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Aphex Twin – Rhubarb by Simon Geilfus

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Magnetosphere Revisited by flight404

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Vortex by Rui Madeira

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The Nest That Sailed The Sky by Glenn Marshall

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GoodMorning! by Jer Thorp

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Sunflower by VS*

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Interpol – Rest My Chemistry Video by Aaron Koblin

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Free Applications for Creating Visuals with Computational Code

Processing

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Processing is a popular and powerful application for generating visuals using programming. It’s free and open source and uses Java as its coding language. It’s been used in professional, educational, and scientific environments and is available for GNU/Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. It can also be used for web by embedding as Java applets or through the use of Processing.js, which uses JavaScript to draw shapes and manipulate images using the HTML5 Canvas element. Processing is also available for Java-based mobiles (Mobile Processing).

  • Open Processing
    Share your sketches online.
  • Useful Processing Applet Source Codes
    A collection of free Java applet source codes.
  • Processing with Eclipse
    If you are an avid Java programmer and have been using Eclipse for your daily routine this would be best way to use Processing, making your workspace comfortable and familiar. Another benefit that Eclipse adds is that you can harness the power of the latest Java IDE.

Quartz Composer

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Popular among Mac developers and VJs, Quartz Composer is the simplest application for creating still as well interactive motion graphics. It uses a node-based sequencing visual programming language that takes advantage of the Open GL, JavaScript, Core Image and Core Video devices and other technologies built into Mac OS X. It’s intended for non-programmers and is used by developers to construct user interfaces in conjunction with Cocao and other developer tools bundled in Xcode. It’s also used to create iTunes Music Visualizers.

Using third-party tools like Effect Builder AE and QC Integration FX you can turn your Quartz compositions into plug-ins for professional video editing / motion graphics applications such as Apple Final Cut, Adobe After Effects, Apple Motion, etc., without writing a single line of code. Many professional applications like Pixelmator use Quartz Composer on Mac to generate graphics and this is one of the reasons why some graphics processing application are available only for Mac OS X. As you probably guessed, Quartz Composer is only available for Mac OS X. Users of Mac OS X 10.6 or later can utilize OpenCL in Quartz Composers.

OpenFrameworks

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OpenFrameworks is a tool for creating interactive visuals, and is widely used among creative programmers. The user interface is simple and similar to that of Processing. Similar to Processing, it uses libraries, but it’s difficult to find third-party libraries and requires knowledge of C++ programming.

NodeBox

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NodeBox is similar to Processing and OpenFrameworks with the only major difference being the programming language used, which is Python. Although NodeBox has a small number of libraries in comparison with Processing, they are of good quality. NodeBox supports PDF, QuickTime movies, fonts and uses the Mac OS X Core Image library for image manipulations (blend modes, color changes, filters etc). NodeBox is available only for Mac OS X.

VVVV

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VVVV is usually used in large media environments like concerts and art installations for real-time motion graphics, video and audio processing and interactive motion graphics. Unlike Quartz Composer, VVVV comes with audio synthesis, 3D Mesh manipulation, and real-time video synthesis built in. It is a powerful application for generating visuals in real-time, even at very high resolution and high frame-rates.

Another important feature of VVVV is that it can make use of multiple computers behaving in sync. All programming and editing can be done on one server computer, while all client computers execute their respective tasks. You can easily use the CPU and GPU power of each computer to do some amazing effects at a cheaper cost. Since VVVV uses DirectX, it’s only available for Windows.

eMotion

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eMotion is a new free application which can generate real-time as well as offset graphics. It has an awesome text and particle engine which is driven by real-world physics. It is available only for Mac OS X.

Creating Interactive Visuals with Computational Code

Here are some examples demonstrating adding interactivity into visuals.

Sonic Camera by Dmtr.org

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Graffiti Analysis 2.0 by Evan Roth

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Amoeba Dance is built using Quartz Composer. Its not a pre-rendered visual but works totally in real-time mode, controlled using VDMX and is reactive to the audio input.

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The Beauty of Fluid Dynamics by Jens Heinen
Beautiful live interactive visual performances. Also watch Lichtfaktor vs Optix and Reincarnation.

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Interactive Projection at GAGA Gallery | Laser tag
This project uses powerful lasers to virtually in-script graffiti on tall buildings. The laser is tracked and the graphics are projected in real time. Also check out the Eyewriter project which uses the same technology for helping physically disabled graffiti artists to once again bring their talent back to life. You can take a look at how-to and source code, too.

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Digital Graffiti Wall + Stencils by Alex Beim
Another similar version, also built with OpenFrameworks.

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Digital Wallpaper by Gregor Hofbauer
Uses VVVV to generate graphics which are then projected and mapped to the wall.

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Body Navigation by Ole Kristensen
Amazing example where interactive visuals are projected on to a wall. To add interactivity, everything is tracked using infrared light and cameras.

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Hand from Above by Chris O’Shea
An amazing installation built with openFrameworks and openCV. Pedestrians are tickled, stretched, flicked or removed virtually in real-time.

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Quadrature by Griduo
The walls of the building are virtually stretched, broken and reconstructed. A similar installation:

555 KUBIK

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Castel Dell’Ovo by Quy & N1ente
A stunning audio-visual performance created by mapping an entire building in a virtual world.

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Body Paint by Memo Akten
Beautiful interactive installation which allows performers to paint on a virtual canvas with their body, interpreting gestures and dance into evolving compositions.

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Lights on by thesystemis
Created for the Ars Electronica museum, which has a facade that contains 1085 LED controllable windows. The window colors are changed in real time with music that is broadcast on speakers surrounding the building. Visuals are created using openFrameworks.

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Vinyl Workout by Theo Watson
A giant record is projected on the floor and it can be played by running around its surface in the direction you want it to go. The speed of playing music is in sync with the speed of the moving person.

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Funky Forest – Interactive Ecosystem by Theo Watson
Funky Forest is an interactive installation for children. They can play with the water on floor, grow trees and water it and interact with various creatures. Built using openFrameworks. Also see these other amazing installations: Interactive Mural, Interactive Projection at GAGA Gallery, Guten Touch, Jellyfishes and Interactive Dancers System.

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Reverse Shadow Theatre by Gabor Papp
Amazing example in which the code powers the real-time puppet animation. Uses multiple software – Processing, Eyesweb and Animata. Both Eyesweb and Animata are open source, as is Processing. Here Eyesweb handles the motion tracking while Animata takes in the input data from Eyesweb and does the real-time animation. Also watch Jazz Pub.

Tutorials

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DIY 3D Scanner by Kyle McDonald
Another great application of computational code.

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DaVinci by Razorfish – Emerging Experiences
Apart from producing amazing visual and real-time animations, computational code can give new meaning to human-computer interaction. If you like Microsoft Touch Screen Table then you are sure to like DaVinci. You can interact with a virtual world through a user interface that uses object recognition, real-world physics simulation, and gestural interface design.

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London Digital Week by seeper
Multi-touch music sequencer.

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Books for Reference

Programming Interactivity: A Designer’s Guide to Processing, Arduino, and Openframeworks by Joshua Noble and Noble Joshua

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Learning Processing: A Beginner’s Guide to Programming Images, Animation, and Interaction by Daniel Shiffman

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Processing: Creative Coding and Computational Art by Ira Greenberg

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Real-Time Motion Graphics with Quartz Composer: A Hands-On Guide to Learning Quartz Composer by Graham Robinson and Surya Buchwald

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Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists by Casey Reas and Ben Fry

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Algorithms for Visual Design Using the Processing Language by Kostas Terzidis

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Visualizing Data by Ben Fry

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Resources

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Vailancio Rodrigues is a web ninja who bakes semantic muffins. Apart from that he is also interested in Motion Graphics, Visual Effects, Photography and knows little bit of Physics due to his college education . He is from Goa - a beautiful tropical paradise in India.

  1. 1

    What a beautiful article!! Simply amazing!!

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  2. 2

    Thank you Vailancio Rodrigues!
    I have not heard much about this art.
    by the way I love it

    1
  3. 3

    Very Useful Collection Guys :)
    Do check out some powerful motion graphics plugins for some hollywood effects.
    http://www.appsheriff.com/software/motion-graphic-plugins-to-create-hollywood-special-effects/

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  4. 4

    Wow. Some of those examples just blew me away… I’m a 3D Arist (well, student) but I’ve done programming before (C++, Java, and Actionscript though none extensively). Can’t wait to give this a try!

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  5. 6

    Very cool, I quite enjoyed this in depth look to many areas of motion from programming.

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  6. 7

    As already said above: Wow! Thanks for collecting all these in one place

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  7. 8

    Hi guys I more into Web than any other thing my brother is really into processing, he told me some cool things can be done for the web with this tool, like interactive an animation stuff you a check out his site is full of information about it an also about programing for architecture and 3d modeling http://designplaygrounds.com

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  8. 9

    Very very nice work.

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  9. 10

    I am kind of surprised that ActionScript 3 with Flash Player 10 did not make it into this article. There are many programming artists out there that are using this platform to create some amazing interactive art pieces. The nice thing about AS3 is you do not need Adobe Flash IDE to program it. Flash Develop is an open source IDE that has better functionality than the Flash IDE but it is free!

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    • 11

      Vailancio Rodrigues

      February 6, 2010 10:46 am

      Yes ActionScripts should have been here. But we thought of excluding it because it is very common. Everybody knows about it and lot of info is already available on it. We want to give our readers something new. But we did include one example of actionscript which was really interesting and hardly anybody had seen it before.

      If you like to have something on ActionScripts in future then you can leave a reply here.

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      • 12

        Yes I think it could be a great article. Most people think of Flash as interactive websites but there so much more there with the power of AS3 and Flash Player 10. People like http://blog.stroep.nl/category/generative-art/ are taking Flash to a new medium. I think Flash has a better home in these areas of motion art than on the web because of lack of SEO in Flash sites, though that is improving but not any where near what good semantic HTML/CSS can do.

        Thanks

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  10. 13

    looks really nice………

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  11. 14

    Wow, these are awesome!

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  12. 15

    This is such an amazing medium as it brings the experience of art to a new level. I was just in Seoul where there were many motion graphic pieces located in public spaces around the city and it made me wonder why other cities do not engage the public like this! Thanks for the article!

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  13. 16

    This is amazing ………….

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  14. 17

    Oh wow. I’d heard about this programming language, a friend of mine is doing his Honours study on it, but I hadn’t seen any examples. Fantastic.

    1
  15. 18

    Wow, very very inspiring artical. I know wat i’m going to do today…

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  16. 19

    Davide Della Casa

    February 7, 2010 6:38 am

    Hi,

    with a group of friends we have been working on a pretty cool site that allows people to collaboratively create generative art like the examples above using the Processing language – but in a very immediate way and without requiring any downloads: users can browse/copy/edit/share sketches with unprecedented immediacy – all within their browser without downloading a thing.

    Some of the works in the gallery are very nice!

    The site it’s here, make sure to check it out!

    http://www.sketchpatch.net

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  17. 20

    “It’s unlikely that you would consider a “programmer” when thinking of creative fields of work. But programmers have the potential to be creative and come up with ideas or concepts that will impact others in positive ways.”

    Programming is actually a highly creative activity. It’s a design activity (as opposed to building activity).

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  18. 21

    Also a nice projection with architecture integration
    http://vimeo.com/2669170

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  19. 22

    Now get us some amazing source code written by designers ; ]

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  20. 23

    This is an absolutely invaluable article. Thank you so much!!

    1
  21. 24

    Very nice posting…….keep posting more

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  22. 25

    Wow, this is one of the best posts ever!

    Really enjoyed it :)

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  23. 26

    I love processing. I used it for my senior project… so not as cool but I thought I’d share:

    http://www.karinlindstrom.com/animagic

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  24. 27

    Stunning info. I was searching for something like this for a long time.

    Thank you, you saved my life :)

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  25. 28

    Long time ago i read about processing, but in that time i wasn’t programmer,
    now I’ll give it a chance

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  26. 29

    If anyone wants to play with the onedotzero identity then you can download the app and the source from -> http://code.google.com/p/onedotzero-ident/

    thanks

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  27. 30

    Those looking to create high performance iTunes visualizers might want to check out VizKit. It works on both Windows and Mac. Here’s the homepage:
    http://www.imagomat.de/vizkit/

    The sample viz that comes with it isn’t all that impressive but you can build some crazy stuff. I used to make a visualizer I call Manifesto. It lives at:
    http://blog.insightvr.com/?page_id=57

    and examples of its 3D mode is at:
    http://www.vimeo.com/4033579

    and one of the 2D modes is at:
    http://www.vimeo.com/4033579

    Of course running it on your own machine always looks better than the screen captures.

    My goal for the system was to make it as “reactive” as possible to the music. So if nothing is happening audio wise the visualizer shouldn’t be don’t anything new, and all the changes in color, spin, etc should be determined by the music.

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  28. 32

    Great collection. Thanks very much. My Vimeo likes collection just expanded considerably.

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  29. 33

    Truly amazing visuals from code and math! Makes a programmer like me happy!

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  30. 34

    Frederik De Bleser

    February 9, 2010 2:18 am

    I’d like to point out that we’re actively working on NodeBox 2 which has a node-based interface, like Quartz Composer and vvvv. You can create work using existing nodes or adapt built-in nodes using Python.

    http://beta.nodebox.net/

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  31. 35

    I would mention shoebot as well, it’s python, it’s cross-platform, it has both gui and command-line interface, it’s syntax-compatible with Nodebox and almost all of nodebox libraries have been ported to shoebot as well.

    http://tinkerhouse.net/shoebot/

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  32. 36

    A nice collection. Programmed motion graphics isn’t new though, and a whole subculture emerged back in the days of C64 etc.: The demoscene. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demoscene )

    Most scene productions (ranging from c++ to javascript etc.) can be found from the community archive at http://www.pouet.net . Beware the discussions though, most of them aren’t for the faint of heart :D

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  33. 37

    Nodebox v2 will be available for windows too – take a look in the beta area at the nodebox website …

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  34. 38

    Very nice collection of projects and tools. Thanks so much for compiling.

    I was of the thinking that processing had a steep learning curve. I finally spent some time with it after browsing through this article and picked it up quicker than I expected. The syntax is similar to ActionScript so it was pretty easy to get familiarized with it.

    I’m a web developer by day who’s lost time to focus on VJ projects in the last couple years. This article has definitely re-energized me. Thanks for sharing.

    Here’s an tutorial I wrote last year on the ArKaos blog explaining how to create some simple audio-reactive animations for use with the VJ app, GrandVJ:
    http://www.arkaos.net/blog/2009/09/tips/create-audio-reactive-flash-for-grandvj/

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  35. 39

    My god . It’s so cool , so beautiful !!

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  36. 40

    Very nice interactive installation done with vvvv.

    http://vimeo.com/9183019

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  37. 41

    Missed one MAJOR entry in the Tools section:
    TouchDesigner : http://www.derivative.ca/

    0
  38. 42

    Also promising is the opensource JavaFX tool “Project Mai Tai”:
    http://www.projectmaitai.org/

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  39. 43

    Wow! Awesome article!! You’ve definitely put a lot of time and research into this. Makes learning java very tempting haha.

    Great work!!

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  40. 44

    awesome article. amazing

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  41. 45

    my firts time nice

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  42. 46

    Oh, man! I was getting frustrating with Google searches trying to find an easy way to write computer programs that output visual art. Spectacular, thank you very much for your fascinating post. In particular, I am enthralled by the book “Programming Interactivity.” I will definitely check that shit out, thank you so much. I was getting down on myself, thinking that software was boring. 8-)

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  43. 47

    hi, i am new to processing and a bit confuse about processing and openframeworks. Are they perform the same function at the end? and opencv is a must tool used to integrated with?

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