Continuation of previous experiments with getting BCI data into Touchdesigner.
This is a rudimentary demo of an OpenBCI signal (in this case, FFT of channel 5) mapped to an audio generator (Sine wave generator).
As I move my arm the frequency tends to go up, though there is not any fine control at this point. But there is a clear difference between the at rest tones and more excited tones with arm movement.
The base frequency of 420 Hz is manipulated +/- the re-ranged values coming from the BCI input. A similar normalized value is used for the circle radius (which is hard to see here since it ranges outside the viewer most of the time). This continues what I demonstrated here: https://youtu.be/6Ik8mKGXNR0
This video shows OpenBCI Cyton live data input to Touchdesigner via OSC protocol.
The good thing here is that data is finally coming in live, rather than from a saved CSV file. On the downside, this method is still reliant on the OpenBCI GUI and I also had an index issue (later fixed by adjusting the OSC rows to 8 instead of 10). The data is also not very clean yet, so much more work is needed.
Stress testing a new laptop.
Audio-visual piece inspired by Ivan on Tech on YouTube. Visuals are a combination of Critter & Guitari Eyesy and Touchdesigner. Music is a VCV Rack patch I was building at the time.
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).
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.
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.
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.
One fateful night in the early 90s, at an open mic in Bloomsburg, PA, I met Tom Dennehy. His mix of Dr. Demento-style originals and Weird Al Yankovic covers immediately endeared him to both me and, my future wife, Audra.
Life was never the same after meeting Tom. His combination of humor, musical smarts, and global vision have been a pleasure to observe throughout our friendship. Every interaction has been an education (as well as a lot of fun).
Careers always took us in completely different physical directions. But whether Tom was writing to me from India while taking khayal singing lessons, or (more recently) chatting on Zoom, we’ve always tried to stay in touch. Our last major collaboration was in 2003-04 with tabla player Bulu Rahman in a short-lived fusion experiment called Moonlight Masala. Somewhere in WVIA’s archives is a Homegrown Music performance of that group.
For many years, Tom has lived on the West Coast, adopting the moniker Breakfast. He also plays with improv groups The Wyatt Act and Mission Delirium. He’s a thoughtful multi-lingual wordsmith, multi-instrumentalist, and also teaches music and English.
During lockdown, Tom wrote 10 new instrumentals in his living room on his laptop (in Garageband no less, though you wouldn’t know it). At the same time, I was studying Touchdesigner and various visual techniques. I was starting to build what eventually became my JDRenderEngine, and I really wanted to put it through its paces. While I also do music, I wanted to collaborate with someone else on this experiment. So we decided to join forces – his music, my visuals. The result is Yellowcake, now available on Bandcamp and YouTube.
The brilliant, complex music centered around saxophone, electronics and odd time signatures, stands on its own. The visuals add another later of strangeness that we both had fun creating. Check out the playlist below and enjoy!
YELLOWCAKE YOUTUBE PLAYLIST
Music by Breakfast, Visuals by Jeremy dePrisco