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Research Material

“This section of the site contains some of the research work I completed whilst studying at University surrounding 3D visuals, programming and audio visual output.”

3D Software Interactively used to create artwork

This page contains content created whilst working on my MA exploring the GUI (General User Interface) & HUD (Heads Up Display) within 3D software. The idea behind this was to look at animating content in realtime and then from this animation, outputting a range of abstract artwork. (At the time of working on my thesis, the technology was very limited compared with the content that can be created today using software such as Houdini and Unreal Engine for realtime manipulation.)

Breakdown videos

Editor View

Example screengrab of Cinema 4D with a range of onscreen icons set up to adjust this particular object.


Cinema 4D Icons that can be used for onscreen manipulation – The GUI within the software was created for workflow enhancements and speed improvements to a user when working. However these icons can also be looked at for use within an interactive space to create content with. Any Cinema 4d command can be dragged into the editor view to be used as a HUD element to manipulate a shape live. This is fantastic for VJ work, animated manipulation and abstract artwork.


With everything working as a realtime animation, in terms of display and the viewport running smoothly on my computer, the amount of geometry and how they are being manipulated will also change the speed and the way the interaction appears. Gouraud shading for instance will allow me to add lights into the scene which will be visible on the objects, however constant shading wont. The frame rate can alter the speed of the interaction too, generally most interactions, depending on the geometry in the scence is running at 25fps. (The polygon count of the model/object and subdivision levels will be low yet smooth so as to keep the interaction running smoothly.)

The viewport can be maximised to full screen as a means of output and with the Enhanced OpenGL in the editor viewport, this graphically enhances the content for the user.

When the editor view is setup, it is then a case of adjusting values to change the content on the screen. When the user presses a button/slider this will alter the shape and with more deformations and alterations added, this changes the original shape into something totally different and interesting.
The animation toolbar in Cinema 4D is set to ‘play’ and this then allows the 3D models to run in realtime within the editor view of the software which can then be manipulated using onscreen icons.
Another interesting feature is that you can record your mouse movement on the screen and playback the resulting animation.
This animation can then be adjusted using the same icons onscreen to create even more complex imagery. After creating abstract shapes onscreen, the animation can be paused and this frame can be rendered and saved out as artwork.

“Software must become truly soft, capable of being molded and recast into new tools by the will of the artist.”

John Maeda, “Maeda @ Maeda”

The renders I created above from this interaction with line and shape seems somewhat influenced by the genius of John Maeda. His book “Maeda @ Maeda”is fantastic, a real inspriational source and wealth of information. The above words out of the book are very inspirational to the ideas explored with my work and my interpretation of the quote with the use of software as a tool of interaction.



Sound Reactive Artwork

Whilst working on the MA Design course, I started to learn how programming was being used within the visual programming language Processing. The video below shows a selection of audio visual tests using an electric guitar. With the program running in realtime, the hardware setup was to connect the guitar to an audio input of the laptop where the visuals on screen respond to frequencies from the guitar. (The louder the note is played, the bigger the circle will appear to the player.)

When creating visuals using this method a lot of the realtime elements were developed using a sound library by Amit Pitaru in Processing using a Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) to trigger off images in realtime.

When the notes were played on the guitar it started to simulate an interpretation of ‘creative code’ and really showed the potential of a programmed environment and what it could do visually.

Testing this idea on my computer and also with a professional guitarist (at a local shop!) was good to see how this work could develop and take shape allowing me to observe how the visuals reacted to the audio signals.

Applying an art and design intent towards the visual output made the work feel natural and disassociated with programming, feeling more ‘human’ with vibrant colours/shapes to express the notes played.
R.Murray Schafer to me defining visual art and design, especially when working with digital sound and visualising graphics through audio and with programming.
“The sense of hearing cannot be turned off at will. There are no earlids.” (Schafer, 2007)

Alongside the programming methods, the animation below is an audio visual test created in Cinema 4D.

Artwork with programming

When finalising the Masters qualification at University, I printed out a range of the artwork created using 3D software and programming and compiled them into a small soft leather case that were presented alongside my work. There are also a couple of images taken at the MA Design show added below:

A range of imagery created using the Processing programming language and a brief breakdown towards the bottom of the page.

Interactive Sound Design

This section was exploring user interaction through an input device such as a computer keyboard, taking it apart and repurposing the elements to be used as a musical instrument such as a flute that could trigger sounds within a piece of software.

The software used in this instance is Ableton, and any of the keyboard keys can be assigned to notes which can be setup to play elements through speakers.

Taking this a little further, I created an animation test in Cinema 4D which were linked to Ableton and triggered by the keyboard keys. Through this exploration of sound design, it helped to develop and explore further areas of sound design including the software VVVV.

‘On Screen in Street’ Event Sunderland

In 2008 there was an event being held in association with BaseNorth who were part of a studio residency with Rednile projects in the Sunniside area of Sunderland. Whilst a part of the studio, they worked on the idea of regeneration in direct response to the area.

This area of Sunniside is where the event was held and a number of different artists from Sunderland University exhibited work here. Myself and one of the tutors within the design course created an idea to use live visuals through a VJ setup and projecting onto a building whilst simultaneously projecting realtime artwork via Photoshop. The title of the work we exhibited was called ‘Concrete Canvas.’ The footage shown was captured around the city to highlight the areas nearby.

There was an article in the BBC for Tyne and Wear at the time covering the event. [View here]

VJ Work

Alongside the work for the concrete canvas project, I had created a couple of random/abstract animations at University and became involved in a little VJ work for an inner city bar. The visuals were used for an event called ‘Hellenic Grooves’ and projected from a laptop onto the back window of the bar alongside the DJ – It was a great evening and nice to see the work played within the space.

Interactive Type

The content shown here is exploring kinetic typography and using Cinema 4D with type modifiers. The 2nd video is an extract from a talk I gave at AVPhd showing a couple of animation tests using this method.