Syphon VDMX 5 Beta 8 integration Demo from vade on Vimeo.

Once upon a time, we imagined a future in which computer applications shared content, media, and data effortlessly, where different tools all coexisted. The reality we got was, in almost every category, far more monolithic. By exploiting a little-known feature of the Mac’s graphics implementation, Syphon, an open source development tool, seeks to create an ecosystem in which creative Mac graphics apps can share graphics, video, and textures. It’s real-time, GPU-accelerated, obscenely fast, and it already supports a variety of software, with more coming quickly – thank simple, straightforward developer tools.

We’ve already said it was coming:
Inter-App Visuals on Mac: Syphon API Opens Up Visual Collaboration

But now it’s here, in a public beta – and we have a variety of projects to show off just what it’s for. It’s really better to see than talk about. Once you see it, though, you see new possibilities for workflows in live visuals on the Mac.

What do I mean, exactly? Check out the demo with VDMX 5 at the top. And VDMX is only the beginning.

Co-creators Anton Marini and Tom Butterworth share the latest on their creation, alongside some of the developers first starting to use it in live visual/VJ applications. Tom writes:

Already, we are seeing and hearing about Syphon support in fun projects. Within 24 hours of our first private beta at the end of August, we were sent development builds of applications with Syphon support. We’re looking forward to some of those appearing over the coming weeks.

Vidvox have added Syphon into the next major update to VDMX 5. (see video, top) We’ve been playing with development builds and the integration is really neat – you can use video coming in via Syphon to be triggered or routed through effects just like you currently use clips, and you can send video out via Syphon not just for the final output, but from any layer, group or plugin.

One of the most exciting things we’ve seen is MadMapper, which is a real-time projection mapping tool currently being developed by the garagecube team [artists, makers of Modul8] and 1024 architecture [“visual label”]. It takes its input from Syphon, so you will be able to do really complex projection mapping from any Syphon-supporting application. That sort of highly-specialised app, and its ability to tie into your VJ or content creation tool of choice, is one of the most interesting directions I see Syphon going.

We’ve aimed for a super-easy API, and while we are releasing a bunch of plugins today (for Max/MSP and Jitter, Quartz Composer, FreeFrame GL and Unity3D), the real opportunity is in what other developers are going to do with the Syphon framework.

We think we’re on our way to having a really robust framework that will slot into any environment with minimal coding. Not only do we hope people will step up to make plugins and extensions to the popular environments we’ve missed (OpenFrameworks and Processing are two of the big ones), but if there’s any part of real-time video creation, manipulation or display that someone wants to customize, they can use Syphon to get frames in or out and concentrate on a custom application that needn’t fit in to any existing environment at all.

People have been asking what’s required to use Syphon: beyond an application that supports it, the only requirement is MacOS 10.6. I have an old Macbook with an Intel GMA 950 and I can push frames around that at 60 FPS.

The two biggest requests we’ve heard are for support for other platforms, and for networked video-sharing. We’re both Mac programmers, and we know that the core technology behind Syphon (the ability to share GPU resources between applications) is specific to Mac OS X. It would be great if someone came to us with a solution for other platforms, but it’s not something either of us are in a position to do ourselves. Ed.: Hint, hint – if you DO know how to do this, do get in touch, even if just to say what’s required. -PK As for networked video sharing – there are already ways to get video between machines, so it’s not a priority – but hey, it’s open source, so if anyone has strong feelings on these they can come along and work on them.

We had really useful feedback (and a couple of donations, those help too) from our private beta testers. Since our private betas we’ve got rid of some bugs, improved performance and changed the license to BSD.

The question we’ve been asked most of all is “when?” Finally, the answer is now.

More on MadMapper:
MadMapper presentation/workshop [Modul8 blog]

Syphon official site:

Discuss visual performance and cutting-edge tech like this on our forum at groups like:

Syphon Teaser from vade on Vimeo.

  • b

    i wish there was syphon support in Animata…

  • vade

    You should talk to the Animata devs. If they support plugins or want to add Mac specific features they can now with the SDK. That looks like it would be a wonderful environment to be able to leverage.

  • Tim

    Nice work on the coding crew. Video plumbing has a lot of potential for many applications. Much appreciation for sharing this… Best, Tim

  • deb

    wow. wowwowwow. guess i'll have to upgrade to 10.6 for real now. thank you vade and crew for rocking the video performance world!

  • Can't wait for people to go nuts about this…even though they have been since the first announcement. Now we just need that VDMX 5/beta 8 release that I've been hearing about forever and ever

  • victor

    hey, great work, its exiting!

    how hard would to add valve games into the syphon plumbing?

  • @victor – ha, that would be amazing – afaik Valve's games are all closed systems, so you'd have to talk to them about that…

  • vade

    I want to be clear that right now, with the downloads available, you can use Syphon with VDMX 5 B7 that publicly available via VDMX's Quartz Composer support. The video above simply showcases the native support of Syphon a natural part of VDMX 5 B8.

    The FFGL plugins with in Resolume, with some caveats (read the readme), so you can use Syphon right now in those two "VJ" environments, and bring in things from Max/MSP/Jitter and Unity. Stay tuned for more implementations as they become available.

  • vade

    Also, .lov. made a video regarding CoGe implementation:

  • amazing!…Thanks for the hard work gentlemen.

  • CNek

    Much much respect for all this work done !!
    Just learning unity, Perfect timing guys. I cant wait to inject it in my vdmx performance.

    Cheers .

  • Lau

    Looks so promising and cool. Thumbs up vade and tom! One nice feature i could want, is a simple recorder that takes its input from syphon, this way i could get around screencapture and save the screen space by recording directly to disk. Any such applications available, or anyone know who might make it?



  • vade

    We have a very high performance quicktime capture app in the works.Its not quite polished enough to release yet.

  • Great, we are waiting for it, thanks Vade, i guess its some like Vnc protocol.

  • CNek

    Got troubles with unity > vdmx. Working fine when running the game in the editor but output goes black and white with a builded version of the game. Test with simple client and vdmx as a client.
    Also unity game seems to suspend when its window lost focus. Not handy 🙂

    Whatever, I go on and still dig into siphon. Bye. !

  • CNek – as stated all over it, the Unity stuff is still a work in progress. See this thread for some fixes

  • vade

    Unity suspending when not in focus is a Unity preference you disable from within Unity.

  • vade

    We now have a working ofxSyphon addon for Open Frameworks, complete with working Server and Client, its in the SVN, feel free to check it out.

  • Buffer

    Thats awesome news about ofxSyphon. Thanks so much for that Vade, mini life saver!!

  • Why are people trying to hype Mad Mapper so much? you can do this just as easy with photoshop or After effects. It makes me laugh how people are trying to act like object mapping is an elitist secret….