Easy/cheap/cool visualizations?
March 9, 2015 1:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm a member of a psychedelic rock band, and none of us are so good-looking or stage-charismatic that we'd want to be the primary thing people stare at. So we'd like to do the video-projection thing. But... we're not so into the classic hippie-melting-colors look, or the collage-of-spaceships-and-mushroom-clouds-and-wise-indians thing. What we'd really like, I think, is some simple geometric shapes, slowly morphing and transforming in hypnotic ways. Like a screensaver, only not lame. Any suggestions for the best way to do this?

I've done some googling and all I've found are super-expensive VJ software, and super-technical looking "write your own mathematical code" kinds of things. But it seems like there must be some more accessible/approachable ways to do this sort of thing. I don't need to get super-advanced here; rotating squares and brightly colored spirals would make me happy. I don't think it needs to sync to music or anything-- simple movements tend to look like they do even if they don't, anyhow. Mac or iOS preferred, but if needed I could drag out my croaky old windows laptop.

If I'm totally off-track, or should be looking for something completely different, that's useful too. Low-fi, non-software solutions are always cool. Or whatever.

What I think I'm looking for, in summary: software to make very simple visual animations that are creative and cool, that is affordable and at least somewhat easy to use. But I'm open to just about any suggestions.

posted by Erroneous to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Fractal generators!!!
posted by goggie at 1:39 PM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Try searching for "demoscene"
posted by Sophont at 1:53 PM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

I love Milkdrop for this and use it to project awesome music reactive stuff on the wall during parties. I've always used the plugin included by default with Winamp but if you like compiling things from source code...

It reacts to music and is seriously one of the top two best visualizers I've seen. It'd be sweet if you could pipe the master audio through it and have it react to your music!
posted by dozo at 2:01 PM on March 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

If you want to go lower tech, I bet you could rig up something with an overhead projector and a slowly-rotating kaleidoscope.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:45 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Milkdrop is amazing. the hardest part of it is wading through all the options to find the few that really resonate with you. And it's not hard to do that because the others are lame, it's the opposite problem: they are all so amazing that you can spend hours enjoying them and realize that you've only seen half of what's there.
posted by Four Flavors at 2:53 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

You could also play public domain film clips. Something like Masquerade. or a public domain sci-fi movie.
posted by vacapinta at 3:38 PM on March 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Overhead projector is great if you can get someone to stir/shake a dish full of water + glycerin with food dye. I think mineral oil is also used? Cool video howto!

Whoops, just saw that you aren't into the melty thing. Still, might be helpful.
posted by destructive cactus at 4:32 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

How about using something that projects animated GIFs?

If you wanted to exert a bit of control, you could project a web browser, and have it display pages of animated GIFs that are controlled via javascript.

Yeah, it's something of a hack. But I sense that you're looking for something that allows you a reasonable amount of control without being overly complicated. This might be a comfortable scheme for you.
posted by doctor tough love at 6:36 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

The question right before you was asking for something similar. That DiscoBrick looks pretty interesting, especially because it reacts to incoming audio which is probably what you're looking for.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:44 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

seconding animated gifs...get thee to tumblr...it might just be easier to film them off the screen, plus you could play around with in-camera effects on top.
posted by sexyrobot at 1:00 AM on March 10, 2015

You can make your own visualizations with Pd/GEM, which is free & open-source. There are many tutorials online, and a global user community that is very helpful.
posted by univac at 2:16 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Another vote for milkdrop. And yes, it's possible to route audio through it.

I have done so. It's awesome. Headphone jack from the mix board in to a junky laptop, then in to a projector. More fun than a barrel of monkeys.
posted by emptythought at 3:09 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oscilloscope + projector = badass. May be out of your price range, unless you can find one for cheap locally (we managed to get one at a garage sale for $40), but here are some starting ideas on how to get it set up. Just pop in a microphone to the 'scope and woah dude.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:29 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Lots of good answers here, thanks folks! I've been playing with Milkdrop a bit, and am considering learning to use Pd/GEM. Seems like a bit of a learning curve but I like the idea of rolling my own.
posted by Erroneous at 1:22 PM on March 10, 2015

I also found the (Windows-only) tools Whorld (http://whorld.org/) and VisualJockey (http://www.visualjockey.com/) which both seem potentially useable.
posted by Erroneous at 1:23 PM on March 10, 2015

So... is there a thing that will take a page of Google images on a laptop and then twist the separate images one by one into a sort of tapestry? Or just from a slideshow?
posted by ovvl at 7:08 PM on March 10, 2015

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