20,000 Processing Particles

I’ve played with Processing a fair bit over the years, but never really got stuck into anything solid – most of my time has been spent fixing up my students’ projects!

Over the break I’ve been playing with some other ideas, working through the very good book by Casey Reas and Ben Fry, Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists. It’s probably one of the best books I’ve ever read in terms of introducing and explaining how to code for people without a computer science background.

Inspired by Robert Hodgin’s wonderful Processing work I thought I’d have another crack at particles as they seem to be all the rage at the moment. The particle creation part is easy, but getting them to interact with decent physics was getting too much for my mathematically challenged brain. Thankfully I came across the Traer Physics Engine by Jeffrey Traer Bernstein, which handles a lot of that maths for you.

My “Hello World!” code for any platform tends to be a bouncing ball (or an array of them) because it covers most of the structures – if…then, variables, arrays, etc.

So I started building and engine that has a bunch of particles that are all attracted to each other, but more attracted to a single one which is following a target invisible bouncing ball around the screen. (It would make more sense to collapse the particles into the ball code, but at the moment I’m just plugging stuff together.)

It’s very simple at the moment – just an ellipse as the graphic with some trails going on. The above is a version that rendered out in non-realtime with 20,000 particles. I like the way they seem to rope together and struggle to break free. Sometimes there’s a kind of breakaway flare.

There’s also a bit of gravity going on, which drags everything down. Any particles that go off the bottom of the screen are simply recycled up the top (you’ll see this in the initial explosion). A interesting upshot of this is that sometimes the tail of the flare/rope falls off the bottom and those particles make a break for it from the top.

You can play with a 2,000 particle version of it here (and view the source code)..

There are also a couple of other versions on Vimeo.

[tags]processing, particles, generative, video, vimeo[/tags]

NetX Digital Cardboard Christmas


It’s nice to see digital agencies do non-digital (sort of).

My German pal, Tim Buesing, who now lives and works in Sydney at NetX just sent me the NetXmas card. Nice little interactive video engine, but the appalling karaoke performances are the real brandy butter on the christmas pudding.

Tim is doing the camp German spoken-not-singing version in window two.

[tags]netx, christmas, interactive, funny, ecard[/tags]

The Whale Hunt by Jonathan Harris


Whatever your opinion on commercial whaling, substance whaling is a totally different affair. It’s been part of aboriginal Eskimo life for thousands of years and has deep roots in their cultural life, beliefs and survival.

Jonathan Harris, whose work I find consistently beautiful, has created a mesmerising project called The Whale Hunt documenting the ten days he spent with a family of Inupiat Eskimos in Barrow, Alaska, during their annual spring whale hunt.

Taking 3,214 photos, each at five-minute intervals he has created what he calls a “photographic heartbeat” of the experience. During moments of heightened activity, the “heartbeat” would quicken to a maximum of 37 pictures per minute.


The mass of information and images (almost all of which are, amazingly, beautiful photographs) can be viewed in different ways through different interfaces and constraints, something that characterises Harris’s work.

Be warned, some of the shots are pretty grisly, but you will also see the beauty of the landscape and a sense of the ritual. Visit The Whale Hunt site for the background or dive right in and play.

[tags]jonathanharris, interactivity, interface, visualisation[/tags]

Dear Rockers and Get a First Life


Iain posted posted a link to Dear Rockers, a website that encourages you to repent your music-stealing sins and send $5 direct to the musicians who have made an impact on your life but for whose music you haven’t paid. It’s interesting that record companies have got themselves into a position to be so hated.

But it then sent me off looking for the chap behind the site, Darren Barefoot, who, it turns out, is the same guy behind Get A First Life, which lampoons that other life. For all my rants on Second Life I had seen and forgotten about Get A First Life. It’s quite an amusing one-page gag, but actually Darren’s more detailed breakdown of his critique of SL is worth reading.

[tags]SecondLife, FirstLife, crackunit, dearrockers[/tags]