Posts Tagged ‘Quartz Composer’

QC + Animata: Mr. Cool

Monday, July 13th, 2009

In my previous post, I promised to do something more exciting with the QC and Animata communication. You can’t get much cooler than Mr. Cool!

This is a modified rig of the Mr. Cool character I used for my Product Placement animation. I used Max/MSP when I did the animation, but QC is just much more fun.

Mouth and body movement controlled by the sound. Arms have a small LFO on them and you can trigger some other movements with the arrow keys.

Download the example files. Requires the Animata OSC plugin for QC. You also need a recent build of Animata from the svn. Compile it yourself or download this one that I compiled. Should work on intel machines running Leopard.

Quartz Composer Audio Spectrum + Animata

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

I started messing with my Animata OSC plugin for Quartz Composer and trying out different kinds of data I could feed from QC to Animata. The Audio Input patch is the obvious choice, so might as well get that over with first.

The first test. Just playing various samples and seeing how the communication works. Not very exciting, since I’m not using any images in Animata.

Click here to download the Quartz composition and the Animata file I used in the video above. The only special thing worth noting in the .qtz is that I’m normalizing the bands a little bit and scaling the values. Otherwise the 0-band would always peak out and the others wouldn’t really output anything useful. Requires the Animata OSC plugin for Quartz Composer.

I will probably post something more interesting tomorrow. The point with this test was more to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. That is to figure out exactly what is the frequency range of the different spectrum bands of the Audio Input patch.

Please note, I think the information below is not valid anymore. Maybe it never was. (Edited 26/5/2014)

My testing method was not the most accurate, but should be fine for this purpose. I just want to have a rough idea of what is going on. They way I measured this was by generating different frequencies with the Max/MSP cycle~ object and then seeing at what frequency the maximum value jumped from one band to the next one. Here are my results. The frequency is in Hz:

  • Band 0: 0 – 580
  • Band 1: 580 – 1000
  • Band 2: 1000 – 1500
  • Band 3: 1500 – 2000
  • Band 4: 2000 – 3200
  • Band 5: 3200 – 4800
  • Band 6: 4800 – 6140
  • Band 7: 6140 – 8230
  • Band 8: 8230 – 10300
  • Band 9: 10300 – 12380
  • Band 10: 12380 – 15110
  • Band 11: 15110 – 17880
  • Band 12: 17880 – 20000

There was no point trying to measure Bands 13-15 since they go over 20kHz and my sound card can’t handle that. Actually, in normal use – normal use for me meaning music visualizations – there’s not much point using the bands above 8, since the amplitude at those frequencies is barely noticeable.

Let me know if you are doing something cool with Quartz Composer and Animata.

Quartz Composer to Animata OSC Plugin

Friday, July 10th, 2009

I stumbled on the VVOSC framework yesterday and started messing around with it. It seemed really simple and I had a Cocoa application that sent OSC to Animata running in no time. So I decided to try to create a plugin for Quartz Composer that would allow me to send Animata compatible OSC messages. This wasn’t previously possible, because the default OSC sender in QC didn’t allow to send messages with mixed data types. The peeps over at vidvox forum have been trying to find a solution for some time now.

After a couple of hours and with some tips on compiling from vade, I had the plugin working!

I was really happy about that, because I really thought that writing plugins for Quartz Composer would be out of my skill range. It turned out to be pretty simple actually.

Download the plugin and the source code.

The available patches are:

  • Animata Layer OSC – Sends messages controlling visibility, opacity, absolute position and relative position of Animata layers.
  • Animata Joint OSC – Sends messages controlling the absolute position of Animata joints
  • Animata Bone OSC – Sends messages controlling the length of Animata bones.

Hopefully with this plugin Animata and QC can go from “not working together at all” to “the easiest way to communicate with Animata”.

  • Obviously Mac only, as it is a Quartz Composer plugin.
  • Requires a recent build of Animata from the source to have all the messages working.

Click here to download Animata revision 47 that I just compiled today. Should work at least on Intel Macs running Leopard

Let me know if something isn’t working or if you have suggestions on how to improve the code.

How to Control Animata With OSC from Max/MSP and Pure Data

Monday, December 15th, 2008

If you haven´t heard of Animata yet, you should head over to and educate yourself. Download the software and go through the tutorials. I also recommend reading through the mailing list, it has tons of useful information.

Controlling Animata with a mouse and doing real-time animations is pretty cool by itself, but Animata really shows its true potential when you control it with OSC. Then you can start doing something like this:

There is a Processing example available from the Animata site that controls Animata with sound input.


Unfortunately, the Kitchen Budapest guys are busy improving the software and there isn´t really good documentation available about the OSC messages needed to control Animata. I´ll try to go through all of the available messages and give you some examples in Pure Data and Max/MSP

I assume that you know something about OSC, Pure Data and Max/MSP, because I don´t want to write a huge post explaining everything from the beginning. I´m also assuming that you have spent some time learning the basics of Animata.

One more important thing. I´m using revision 35 of Animata compiled from the svn repository. NOTE! YOU WILL NEED TO COMPILE ANIMATA FROM THE SOURCE CODE TO MAKE THE /LAYERPOS MESSAGES WORK. IT IS NOT AVAILABLE IN THE BINARY VERSION ON THE ANIMATA WEBSITE. All the other messages I´m showing here do work with Animata 003 that is available from the site. OK, let’s start.

DOWNLOAD MY EXAMPLES. Contains the Animata Scene + Max and PD patches.


All incoming messages to Animata must be sent through port 7110. The “name” in the message refers to the name of the joint, bone or layer.

Moving a joint, x and y are float values:
/joint name x y

Control the length of a bone, value is a float between 0 and 1:
/anibone name value

Switch on and off a layer, on_off is 0 or 1:
/layervis name on_off

Set the transparency of the layer, value is a float between 0 and 1:
/layeralpha name value

The next two messages require the svn version:

Moving a layer in absolute mode, x and y are the position coordinates as float values:
/layerpos name x y

Moving a layer in relative mode, x and y is the amount of pixels you want the layer to move from it’s current position:
/layerdeltapos name x y


I´m not really comfortable with Pure Data, but I was able to get all of the messages working except /layervis. I believe this is because Animata is very picky and is looking for real boolean values and Pure Data is sending integers when sending 0 or 1. This was just fixed by the Kitchen Budabest guys. The /layervis message works now. I have updated the code so please download the .zip again. You need to compile Animata again from the svn for this to work.

Pure Data to Animata

Pure Data to Animata with OSC from Matti Niinimäki on Vimeo.

There is a little problem, because Animata needs float values in the messages and Pure Data doesn’t have a separate number box for floats, so have to make sure the number you are sending is never an even number. I did this by multiplying the values by 0.999. If someone knows a better way, let me know.


It´s pretty much the same deal with Max/MSP. The /layervis doesn’t work here either. This was fixed in the svn version (>36). My Max-patch has been updated so please download again.

Max to Animata

Max/MSP to Animata With OSC from Matti Niinimäki on Vimeo.

I didn´t add the /layerdeltapos to the example patches, because it´s really easy to lose your layers somewhere outside the window.


There is also an option to send OSC messages from Animata. For this you need the SVN version. It simply works by clicking on the small OSC tick box on the Skeleton tab. The messages are sent through port 7111. The message format is: /joint name x y

Send OSC


I’ve made a plugin for Quartz Composer that makes it really easy to control Animata from Quartz Composer. Check it out over here.


Basically, any software or programming environment that is able to send OSC messages should be able to communicate with Animata.

Processing works perfectly and you can download the Sound Input example from the Animata website that will get you started. I´ll see if I can find the time to do a similar sample file for Processing also.

I’ve also had luck testing OpenFrameworks. Download the FAT version of OpenFrameworks and modify the oscSenderExample.


Whatever you want! Hook up audio input, MIDI controllers, sensors or computer vision to control real-time animations.

Check out my Mickey Mann project for an example on how to control Animata with an Arduino.

Here is the source code download link one more time.


Saturday, December 13th, 2008

Not many people know this, but Concordia University in Montréal also has a toon department deep inside the maze that is known as the EV building. The university officials would prefer to keep this knowledge as a secret, since the brutal self torture that goes on inside the faculty would shock many people. In the same way that the Average Joe or Jane does not want to know where the meat inside his/her burger comes from, no-one really wants to know the shocking truth about the stories behind your Saturday morning dose of laughter.

Tooniversity from Matti Niinimäki on Vimeo.

When watching cartoons, people rarely think about the amount of time and dedication the cartoon characters spend on perfecting their sketches and routines. Unfortunately, consumers love to see toons getting hurt. There is just something special about dropping heavy anvils on the heads of unsuspecting cartoon characters that appeals to the majority of viewers.

Like in all fields of entertainment, the competition in the cartoon business is also very harsh. You are only as good as your last fall from a huge cliff. That´s why all the aspiring cartoon students at tooniversities across the world practice new and inventive ways of getting themselves hurt.

A group of activists from PETT (People for the Ethical Treatment of Toons) have been able to sneak a spy camera inside the Tooniversity facilities at Concordia University. Because of their brave action, all the dirty secrets inside the Tooniversity will be exposed. Please go to
to find more information and sign a petition to stop this madness.

This project was made at Concordia University for Vincent Leclerc´s Tangible Media and Physical Computing class. You can find technical details from my class website

Arduino & Quartz Composer

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Here is a quick solution on how to get the analog inputs from an Arduino into Quartz Composer. For now, this only supports the analog values. Reading the digital input pins is not hard to implement, but I still haven´t decided what is the best way to do that.

Sending serial data from QC to Arduino is a little bit trickier, but I will definitely try to work on that also.

What do you need for this to work?

SMS and Quartz Composer Revisited

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

Some people have probably tried to use my tutorial on how to use SMS text messages with Quartz Composer. There were actually some errors in the php code in my tutorial as the wordpress WYSIWYG editor is actually a IWFUYBPWC (I will f*ck up your blog post with code) editor so it might not have worked for you. It’s fixed now. Thanks to Amon Robe for pointing this out.

SMS continued…

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Here is what I did during the Mobil/and workshop

You can find more information about the workshop here:

Using SMS Text Messages with Quartz Composer

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

Next week, I will be taking part in the Mobil/And workshop in ESADSE in Saint-Etienne, France. I was planning content for my speak during the workshop and came up with a rather cheap and robust way of using SMS text messages in Quartz Composer.

Previously, I had been able to come up with a hack that involved BluePhoneElite, AppleScript and iTunes to send SMS to Quartz Composer. I used this for example in the FF>> Media Festival last fall, but it was really awkward solution and you could only have the information of the latest message. So, I had to think of some better way.

This time around, I’m using the excellent Cocoa UltraSMS to send my SMS messages to a MySQL database. Then I’m using a small php-script to convert the database into an XML file which can be easily read and manipulated in Quartz Composer. Here’s how you do it:


  • Computer running Mac OSX (I’m on an early 2008 Macbook Pro)
  • Mobile phone with bluetooth (I’m using Nokia 6103)
  • Cocoa UltraSMS -software (it’s free)
  • Quartz Composer
  • Empty MySQL database
  • Some PHP skills

1st STEP – Create the Database

Ok, let’s start. First of all, you need to create an empty MySQL database. For the purpose of this tutorial, I’m going to call my database sms_database.

2nd STEP – Cocoa UltraSMS

Then you need to download and install Cocoa UltraSMS. Setup your phone to connect with it and also insert the information of your database to the fields. Your settings will be different, of course.

After you click OK Cocoa UltraSMS will ask you if you want to create tables for your database. Click OK and and after that hit Start to connect to your phone. Now you can test the connection by sending yourself an SMS. The SMS In counter should increase and if you have Growl enabled you should also see the message in the Growl window.

3rd STEP – PHP lovin’

Now we need to somehow convert the information in the database to an XML file. I’m really far from being a PHP expert, but even I was able to do this, so if you have even a little bit of experience in PHP this shouldn’t be too hard. I used this tutorial to help me.

Here is the PHP code that you will need to upload to your server in order to make this work.

EDIT: As it seems to be almost impossible to paste any working code on WordPress as the WYSIWYG editor f*#%s it all up, I’ve decided to upload the code as a separate file. Download the .txt file here, modify the database settings and rename it to whatevernameyoulike.php. (Can anyone point me to a WordPress plugin that disables all the “intelligent” modifications the editor makes? I’ve tried a few and none of them work perfectly.)

Just upload the .php file to your server and point our browser to the url. It will look something like this

You might have noticed the strange lines in the php code like this one

$row['message'] = str_replace("|", "ö", $row['message']);

I’m using those just to display the Scandinavian letters properly. This really can’t be the best solution to do that, but it works for now, unless you want to use smilies that is. I’ll have to see how and where I should change the encoding settings to get this display properly without this hack.

4th STEP – Quartz Composer

Now for the easy part. In QC you need to just connect the XML Downloader to a couple of Structure Index Member -patches, modify the XML location to be the URL of your .php file and you are all set. Download here a simple .qtz file that just displays the latest message.

5th STEP – What next?

Now it’s just a matter of what to do with the data you receive from the messages. I have a bunch of different applications in mind. You will probably hear from them pretty soon. I just got this thing working today, so I haven’t had the time to test all the possibilities.

Of course, this same technique can be used to access SMS data from various other applications that can read XML files like Flash, Processing etc. I just used Quartz Composer as an example because it’s the environment I’m most comfortable with.

That’s it. Hopefully this is helpful to someone. I’ve seen many interactive installations where SMS messages are used, but I haven’t seen good documentation on how to do it anywhere. Feel free to comment here or email me if you have any improvements or questions.

Interactive Propaganda Generator

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Here’s some documentation of a project we finished this spring at the university. It’s a project for a course in interface design.

Our group (Aku Meriläinen, Danilo Mascarenhas, Marjukka Parkkinen and Matti Niinimäki) decided to create a multi-user interface that would allow a group of people to work together or compete in creating some sort of a moving collage. At some point in the planning process the idea of communism and propaganda came to surface, so we decided to go with that idea. We experimented with different input devices and visual styles, but eventually this is what came out of it.

I’d like you to meet The Interactive Propaganda Generator. It’s designed to have two different sides or “teams” – the communists and the capitalists – that you can control with different input devices to produce a collage of the two sides shooting different items and symbols at each other. The scene consists of three layers: a changeable background, two characters (one for each side) and the propaganda-tubes. Here are the controls explained:

Control 1 – ReacTIVision fiducial tracking

  • The characters are selected and moved around on the screen by using paper dolls on a glass table
  • You can change the bodies and heads of the characters.
  • Included are all your favourite capitalist and communist icons from Ronald McDonald to Che Guevara
  • The paper dolls have fiducial symbols attached to their backside and the camera under the table tracks the ID and the position of the symbol
  • Tracking is done with ReacTIVision software

Control 2 – PlayStation2 Dance Pad

  • You can move the capitalist propaganda-tube around the screen with the dance pad
  • One button turns the tube on/off
  • Two buttons for changing the ammunition of the tube (missiles, bibles, money)
  • Two buttons for changing the background image
  • One button for activating the speech option for the capitalist character

Control 3 – PlayStation2 Dual Shock Controller

  • Some controls as the dance pad, but for the communist side

Control 4 – Audio Input

  • A microphone picks up the voices of the users and when the speech option is activated (from the dance pad or dual shock controller) the characters on screen will open and close their mouths based on the sound input

Here’s the hardware setup. Click the image for details.
All programming done with Quartz Composer. I could release the .qtz file but it’s not really useful to anyone because it depends on a very specific setup. Email me if you’re interested in details.

And finally some video. Unfortunately, we don’t have any better footage of the system in action but hopefully you’ll get some idea.