Squarely in the “things Ableton Live was not necessarily built to do”: animating visuals, one frame at a time.

Cousin Throckmorton whipped up a retro visual feast of Space Invaders, Pong, and other games classics, using MIDI to step through frames individually.

You can MIDI sequence Live’s locators to jump between frames, thereby giving the effect of animation. Sprites/frames are drawn using blank MIDI clips; unfortunately, the resolution is limited by the Y-axis size, as Live doesn’t allow you to resize that. Live’s skins are somewhat tied to MIDI already, so you can “ride” the skins field to change background colors (it updates on midi notes on(?) Audio track is made of samples of video games, trails effect at end achieved via hacked Live skin. Sets/skins available for you to toy with at my myspace: myspace.com/cousinthrockmorton

Mind you, this is unlikely to shake the visualists on Create Digital Motion from specialized tools for visuals — and you could just as easily (uh, scratch that for far more easily) use MIDI to trigger a visual app. But the work is really incredible, and I think as Live grows in ubiquity, users will increasingly show their Live chops by hacking harder than ever before.

And for the record, this is the same Throckmorton who gave us a ribbon controller made from a drivers’ license, a drum made from a laser, and pennies as drum pads, among others. More MIDI-as-visual-control tips, too:

db3ll Channel

Prescient spam comment: “i am so lonely, i just broke up with my ex” says cutechick90201. Worry not, uh, imaginary cutechick. You’ll be surrounded by boys as you seduce them with the siren song of your drivers’ license.

Thanks, Cousin!

  • Greg

    That's kind of cute – it's good to see that people are still hacking live to make it do new things (even if their methods are a bit awkward).

    Speaking of hacking live, whatever happened to LiveAPI? There's still no sign of a mac version, and liveapi.org has vaporized. I really wanted to develop sysex messages so that I can use my Korg Kontrol49 in native mode 🙁

  • Hm… awkward? I'm hurt! Just kidding. But for doing simple picture triggering via MIDI (not the blank clip animation above) I find it to be pretty elegant. If I need effects, I add them in quartz composer, and, if it's a movie, live warps it for me. Much easier (though less feature-filled) than, for example, Modul8, but I'm not a VJ, so I don't need all the things Modul8 offers (nor do I want to buy it, cool as it is). Still, if Ableton implemented w/r/t video some features that are already present for audio (slicing, crossfade, filters, for example) I think live could be very useful for creating MIDI synced video performances.

  • John Sweet

    They could at least make video function the same in Session View as in Arrange–leftmost track with video playing is displayed. There are a million uses for that alone, and it doesn't seem any more complicated to implement than how they already have things.

  • Art Gillespie


    LiveAPI is on Google Code now:


  • nobbystylus

    i'm still baffled by how you did all this… its using blank clips as pixels i'm thinking?

  • nobbystylus

    i agree that if live offered slicing, filters arps etc for video within the app it would be ace..

  • Damon

    The music was kind of cool, too.

  • Just in case anyone didn't spot my own hacky hack for Ableton

    a Vocoder

    using only the Ableton components

  • Strummer

    checko out this animation done in Renoise pattern editor:


  • I live and die by Ableton. Best software for producing any genre of music. Hands Down.


    -Sound Beast Digital Music


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  • I'm not sure I understand what I'm looking at here. It sure doesn't look like MY Ableton Live. Whatcha mean "Blank Midi Clip?" Is this something to do with the grid on the Session view? And the pixels/clips change positions?

    I'm befuddled.

  • Pingback: Create Digital Music » Ableton for the DVJ: Users Hack in Scratching, Live Video, and Visual Remixing()

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  • @ Brian.

    It doesn't look like Live most likely because I've edited the skins to remove almost all indicators of it BEING live. The midi clips have an arbitrary note in them, but the name is blanked out. It is done in the arrangement view. There are many, many frames, and the illusion of movement is given by changing frames using midi-assigned locators. this picture should clear everything up.

  • Oh my freaking god.

    Dude. You're insane. And we need more like you.

    Going back to my normal life now…