You might have heard of Vuo, a new visual programming environment made by Kosada, the same people who are behind all the excellent Kineme plugins for Quartz Composer. The first public beta version of Vuo was just released (you need to pay for a subscription to access it) and I wanted to talk a little about what I think about it.
Why do I care?
For the past 5+ years, I’ve made my living mainly by making art, interaction design, installations, animations, real-time graphics, performances, custom tools and other various things using Quartz Composer. I use openFrameworks, Pure Data, Max, Processing and other tools also, but I will pretty much always choose to work in QC if it’s possible to create the project at hand using it. For me, it’s the environment where I work the fastest.
Sadly, QC is made by Apple and it has been quite obvious for a few years that Apple doesn’t really give a shit about the people working with Quartz Composer. It’s not aimed for the corporate executives creating their slideshows, funny posters and generic GarageBand songs on their MacBook Airs at the airport while waiting for their connecting flight.
I’m still hoping that a QC 5.0 update magically appears from somewhere and fixes all the bugs that have been there for a long time, but still it’s good to have a plan B. That’s why I’m happy to see Vuo actually getting released.
Is Vuo any good?
I’ve been using the 0.4.9 alpha release for a little while now and I’m going to say that it’s very promising. A lot of features are still missing, but the overall feeling is positive.
What you can do with it right now (Vuo 0.5.0):
- Load and display images (local files or from the internet)
- Blend and fade images together using different blending modes
- Load and display 3d objects (uses the Open Asset import library)
- Create simple 3D Objects (sphere, square, cube, triangle, parametric objects)
- Basic logic and math operations
- Control how events are triggered
- There are lots of nodes for general data flow control
- Multiple output windows in one composition (I love this!)
- Print out text to a console
- Midi in/out (notes, CC)
- Get mouse input
- Get keyboard input (only through the console window for now)
- Get input data from the Leap Motion
- Export your compositions into applications. (I haven’t tried this, but it should be possible with the command line. Maybe?)
- Create custom nodes using C programming language. There are example Qt creator projects that make this process pretty easy.
- Create GLSL image filters by making custom nodes
- + some things I probably forgot to mention
So what is missing? (Mainly a list of the things I care about the most):
- Audio input/output
- Video input/output
- General math expressions
- Something like the iterator in QC
- Currently no way of collapsing multiple nodes into sub-compositions/macro patches
- + things in this list
So many key features are still not there, but the basic infrastructure is pretty solid and the feeling of working in Vuo is pretty similar for me as working in QC. There are of course bugs and I think a couple of confusing things in the event triggering need to be clarified, but overall I’m quite happy with it. Looking forward to seeing what kind of custom nodes people develop when they get their hands on this.
What have I done with Vuo so far?
Nothing super exciting, but go check out my GitHub repository for Vuo related things:
The compositions folder has a bunch of experiments I’ve been messing with.
I also made a bunch of custom nodes, mainly just to get to know the process of doing that, but people might find them useful. They are more like abstractions rather than really complex new nodes.
I made a few basic math nodes and bpm/fps to event timing converters:
Input Splitters. Vuo didn’t have these so I decided to make them. I use them a lot for routing values to multiple nodes or input ports more easily. I got bored and didn’t make splitters for all data types, but these should get you started. Integer and Real are the most used for me anyway.
What does it cost? Why isn’t it free?
See the website for pricing details. I personally really don’t mind paying the subscription price. The Kineme plugins (free and paid) have been a real lifesaver for me and without them I would have had to spend countless of hours more on many projects or some projects might have not been finished at all. So every single euro I’ve sent their way has paid itself back multiple times. If Vuo becomes what I hope it will, I’m sure I will be quite glad to support the development.