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Blog Video Art

My Touchdesigner Journey

Some Touchdesigner samples on my YouTube channel. These really just scratch the surface of what I’ve been doing.

TouchDesigner is a node based visual programming language for real time interactive multimedia content, developed by the Toronto-based company Derivative. It’s been used by artists, programmers, creative coders, software designers, and performers to create performances, installations, and fixed media works (from Derivative web site).

Why Touchdesigner?

After a few years working with Magic Music Visualizer (also a great video animation and processing application) I wanted something a bit more robust. The COVID lockdown, followed by the drab winter of 2020-21 left me with time to focus on learning a new skill.

Most of my learning came throughout November 2020 to February 2021 via YouTube tutorials by the very supportive Touchdesigner community. I treated this like a college course, with daily lessons, building along with the instructors (not just watching passively). I estimate that at 30 hrs/week for four months, I logged at least 480 hrs of focused education, probably more. And of course, I am still always learning and exploring.

Using Touchdesigner for live performance

One of my primary motivations to learn about Touchdesigner (TD) was for creative live audio-reactive visuals, both for my own performances and others. I soon found TD was much more than just a visualizer. I also found that I could build things that would not otherwise be possible in other tools.

So far I’ve used TD in a live context several times, feeding signals into OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) via NDI and Syphon for live broadcast.

This performance uses a video mixer that I built within Touchdesigner, taking the place of the scene switcher in OBS. All of the video generation and broadcasting is running on one machine.
Proof of concept for some ideas that combine TD and the Elektron Digitakt.

To further explore TD, I made some videos for my wife’s 4th grade class.

To get more practice, and to take a break from my own creative work, I offered to make some videos for other artists. This also served as a helpful use case while developing my JDRenderEngine, a pet project that leverages TD to overcome some of my frustrations with traditional video editing platforms.

“Yellowcake” is an album by musician Breakfast that features 10 videos I made in Touchdesigner.

What’s next?

There’s a lot more that I’d like to share on this. I’ve created a lot of experiments – with and without music – that I think people would enjoy. Just as my music has been exploring chaos, noise, and probability, TD has allowed me to explore those concepts visually. However, the work is time consuming. With COVID lockdown lifting, and with some other higher priority projects picking up, I’ve had to step back from TD a bit. The weather is also much nicer now, so I’ve been trying to get outside more – away from screens. I still create something new weekly, so perhaps I’ll post more of that content soon.

At the moment, the big weakness in my setup here is the GPU on my mid-2015 Macbook Pro. Things run pretty hot, and some functions in TD (like Line MAT) don’t even work properly on the MacOS. I am now trying to decide how to justify the purchase of a more powerful machine to continue development and learning. For now, Touchdesigner remains a fascinating tool in my toolbox for creating things I never would have thought possible even a few years ago.

Categories
Blog Terrariums

Terrariums: Distracting hobby, or mental health exercise? Both?

During the Spring of 2021 as COVID still raged, I wasn’t getting out much. Between significant computer screen time and evening Netflix couch time, I knew that I had to force myself off of the machines and back into something more natural.

Many years ago, during a trip to Chicago, Audra got me a very nice terrarium container made in Poland. My green thumb was focused for years on growing hot peppers outdoors. I didn’t spend as much time on indoor plants, except for my many clippings of Pothos (aka Devil’s Ivy). The terrarium container was never properly used, and found its way into storage. Thankfully, it survived several moves, waiting for the day when it would have a proper place to display.

A few Google and YouTube searches turned up plentiful resources on terrarium builds. The most helpful resource by far has been the YouTube channel SerpaDesign, run by a guy named Tanner in the Pittsburgh area. Aside from bringing an artistic sensibility to everything he does, I found Tanner’s site most helpful because he’s in a similar climate and uses the same type of resources I can access near Philly. And yes, there’s some irony here in the desire to get away from screens, only to turn to YouTube to get up to speed on a new hobby.

Later I’ll note a few other resources, but for now I want to get into showing some things I’ve done.

First up is the “Chicago Terrarium”. This actually went through two iterations so far, the first of which didn’t look very good and only lasted a couple weeks before I wanted to redo it using things I learned online.

The current iteration of the “Chicago Terrarium” uses a combination of local moss, store-bought plants, and locally sourced rocks. I decided to remove the jade buddha because he didn’t look natural in this setting. The springtails came from an Ebay vendor, and the isopods came from local parks.

Following Tanner’s advice, I made a very good false bottom with store-bought aquarium rocks from Lowe’s. I kind of have a problem buying rocks when I can get them from nature, but for this first build I wanted it to be as clean as possible.

The false bottom also uses carbon fiber screen (Lowe’s) and activated charcoal (Ebay). I’m using Serpa’s typical substrate mix of sphagnum moss, sand, orchid bark and sometimes coconut fiber. For this first build, I used some indoor potting soil I already had on hand.

If a terrarium is made correctly, it should not need a lot of maintenance. But one of the highlights of my day right now is looking in on these little worlds and seeing what’s happening with them. Not only does this get me away from the computer, it gets me outside a bit more as I search for moss or other elements to incorporate.

I suppose like anything else you enjoy, terrariums can become addictive. The “Chicago Terrarium” was successful enough that I started looking for other containers to try.

The one thing I’ve noticed about the terrarium enthusiasts is that they seem to fall into three categories. Tanner, who seems to fall in the middle, is very thoughtful about what he does and approaches things with a bit more of a plan and an eye for aesthetics.

Others – particularly some of the terrarium builders from Japan who incorporate bonsai techniques – are even more detailed and show an amazing level of artistry and complexity. The other end of the spectrum are those that just grab whatever is in their backyard, toss it in a jar, and hope for the best with little thought! All of these approaches have their charm.

In future posts, we will take a look at my other creations, and I’ll share some other things I’ve learned along the way.

Coming soon…

Home Goods Tree Scene
IKEA Cookie Jar
IKEA Mason Jar
Joanne’s Terrarium Scene
Reconditioned snake tank!

And maybe a few other experiments!

Categories
Blog

Site overhaul in progress…

After two relocations in as many years, and after passing through the COVID wormhole, I am finally getting back to my web sites. They need a complete overhaul!

So things may look rough around here for a while.

For now, the most current electronic music material is on my SquareSpace site at JEREMYDEPRISCO.NET and my visual explorations with Magic Music Visualizer and Touchdesigner are on Youtube.

I have a lot of new project builds to share. Until then, the archive of older electronics gadgets is still available via the Making menu option above or right here.

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Blog

What I’m Doing Now

May 2021

  1. Joining the first ever cohort of artists in the Nomadic Soundsters virtual residency.
  2. Providing technical assistance for the Philly Maker Faire Podcast.
  3. Editing the Audio Chimera podcast series “Kid Again” by Stephen Schrum. The pilot episode it out now where all podcasts can be found. We are hoping to get funding to continue the series.
  4. Working on a custom component for Touchdesigner. TouchDesigner is a node based visual programming language for real time interactive multimedia content, developed by the Toronto-based company Derivative. It’s been used by artists, programmers, creative coders, software designers, and performers to create performances, installations, and fixed media works
  5. Building a few terrariums for fun.
  6. Providing additional audio services via Fiverr.com
  7. Diving further into the Elektron Digitakt to develop some audio to go with my Touchdesigner visuals.
  8. Offering Open Broadcaster Software assistance. Contact me for details, or go here to buy me a coffee if I’ve already helped you.
  9. Occasionally broadcasting on Twitch.
  10. Expanding electronic music site jeremydeprisco.net. Includes brand new content, thoughts about creative process, etc.

Reading:

Myths and Legends of China – by E.T.C. Warner

  • Continuing to examine my career trajectory closely through a Napoleon Hill lens. I’ve met only two people who get that reference.
Categories
Blog Video Art

Collaboration with Breakfast

A new collaboration with my friend Tom Dennehy (AKA Breakfast) can be found here:

https://www.jeremydeprisco.net/blog/yellow-cake-collaboration-with-breakfast

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Blog

LA QUARENTENA LOCA

Read all about the making of this track.

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Blog

Humming With The Gods (2020)

Humming With The Gods is a 4-song Limited Edition EP born as a result of some different approaches I was taking to recording/writing in late 2017. I was working with some very evocative instruments, and suddenly found myself creating a lot of material in a particular universe of sound. Originally, I envisioned 10-12 songs in this universe, with a loose story line running through and lots of space references. Unconsciously, I was returning to the universe of “Children of Light” (from Chaos Rise Up in 2010) which always stood out for its electronic elements, and offered a positive outlook on the future.

Stylistically the music and lyrics have elements of what I was doing pre-2010, before joining the electro-music.com community. It’s also been informed by the experiences I’ve had performing and interacting with electronic musicians for the last 10 years.

This material has sustained me in unexpected ways during a very trying time in our lives. Friends and family know the gory details, and its not appropriate to rehash them here. Let’s just say – and I know this is cheesy – that looking to the stars and imagining other worlds really can help you deal with reality. Working on Humming With The Gods was perhaps the best expression of what I’ve been feeling over these last few years, and I think in some small way it expresses some important themes of our time (among them, moving forward after trauma, and on a larger scale, life in times of accelerating scientific discoveries amidst accelerated social concerns).

There’s yet more recorded material waiting in the wings, but before I can put that stuff out, I really felt that Humming With The Gods had to be finalized.

Categories
Blog

Philly General Update

Yeah, my sites are looking a bit dated right now because I am just getting back on my feet after a very time consuming and logistically difficult move to Philadelphia.

The studio has closed. We’ve downsized to an apartment, so two-thirds of my studio are in storage right now while the other third is with me in a much smaller configuration. Running a studio was a good experiment (2013-2018), but I can’t say I miss it, or the drama.

I am now focusing almost completely on my electronic/experimental work, in a variety of electronic sub-genres. Since joining the electro-music.com community in 2010, I’ve come to really enjoy this sonic journey. The move to Philly – complete with much more time in transit on buses and in traffic -has forced me to focus even more on my craft, and on my passion. The city has also been inspiring, in ways I may not have expected.

A new site – with brand new audio, graphics and video – is under construction and should be finalized this summer. In fact the site itself is done, but I am carefully selecting how I want to promote the music and sonic explorations.

You may still occasionally find me at open mics in the Philly area, either solo acoustic, as a bass player, or with Fricknadorable. For now, our Americana duo is on hiatus, though Audra continues to write and we hope to one day put out an EP. Unfortunately, being a theatre person, she doesn’t enjoy recording half as much as I do. Ironically, much of my electronic stuff of late has been improvised! But I still can’t get her to go electro… perhaps one day.

For now, enjoy this peak at the Chinese Lantern Festival we recently attended…

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Blog

Gravedigger’s Local 16 Reviews Soundscape Release

“Haunted 2016 is a dead-on perfect tribute to the scary sound effects albums of the past.”

Back in 2016, Audra and I recorded a long-form Halloween soundscape, purely for the joy and experimentation of it all. Titled “Haunted 2016”, we released it on Bandcamp, just for kicks. The album cover is a cheesy picture of our creeper character that hugs our maple tree each Halloween season. Aside from being a labor of love, it also showed the breadth of work I was doing at Pepperhead Studios besides blues bands and singer-songwriters.

Later, I was contacted by Gravedigger’s Local 16, a haunt blog put out by a mysterious figure who goes by Six Foot Plus. “Haunted 2016” was included in their list of recommended sources for haunt soundtracks. Earlier this year, I was told that my soundscape collection would receive a full review, with an excerpt included in a podcast that Six Foot Plus also puts out.

This is a perfect example of how something you do for pure joy and with enthusiasm, can take on a life of its own, even when there is little to no expectation of recognition. While this is a small thing, and the soundscape is pretty dark – this recognition was a welcome ray of light. Given the turmoil in my life, the lives of some close friends, and the world in general, this one simple, small, even silly success brightened my day more than anything in recent memory.

The Review:
https://www.gravediggerslocal.com/2018/10/sounds-to-scare-by-pepperhead-studios/

The Podcast:
http://6ftplus.gravediggerslocal.com/2018/10/ambience-atmostfear-2018/

Bandcamp:
Read more about the recording itself here…
https://fricknadorable.bandcamp.com/album/haunted-2016

 

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Blog

NEEMFest 2018 – Homer, NY

* The program and other elements had the wrong anniversary number – so this is actually 14, not 15! :-) Graphics by Robert Dorschel 

This year’s NEEMFest (NorthEastern Electro-Music Festival) was held September 7-9, 2018 in Homer, NY. Now in its 14th* year, the performance-centric gathering features three full days of innovative electronic music concerts, workshops, seminars, demonstrations, video artists, industry-name interviews, and a mini-swap meet.

I’ve been performing at some form of this event since 2010, with additional appearances at related events in Asheville, NC and Kutztown, PA.

Though I had some great video collaborators and improvised visuals in the past, I challenged myself to create my own visuals this year. This resulted in two new audio/video pieces (“Shampoo” and “Truth”) that were premiered during my solo set.

I’ll also had the opportunity once again for a collaboration with Mario-enrique Paoli and Karl Fury called “Signal to Noise” (with visuals by Steve Mokris). An impromptu appearance in the Elecro-music Chamber Orchestra, led by Andrew Koenig was also great fun.

NEEMFest included a live Skype Q&A with Michelle Moog-Koussa (yes, THAT Moog!), as well as a raffle for a Behringer Model D Synthesizer (which I sadly did not win).

 

Other highlights included:

  • a hands-on “Synthesizer Petting Zoo,” with various rare and odd synthesizers, drum machines, and other pieces of electronic music gear you simply do not see very often.
  • a Skype interview with developer Geert Bevin, who has made significant contributions to music software, including work at Moog.
  • a presentation by Trevor Pinch, coauthor of Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer.

Flickr photos:

NEEMFest 2018