Two clear frontrunner apps, among a number of superb, popular choices, are pictured here. At top, Resolume Avenue in action, in a photo (CC-BY-SA) Colombia-based artist Otto Nassar. At bottom, Deborah Johnson looks on as Modul8 glows onscreen, in a photo by Jaymis Loveday for CDM. (See that interview on her work with Sufjan Stevens – and watch for a new chapter soon.)

Live visuals and VJing are growing and maturing faster than ever, but even as projectors beam stunning visuals into performances and installations, there’s surprisingly little light shed on the community behind the work. Earlier this summer, CDM asked readers what visual apps you used. Some 1,152 of you responded from around the world – a dramatic sample of this vivid network of visual practitioners. And at last, we get to share the results. It’s not a contest – we’re as interested in what people are doing on the fringes as what’s popular – but the results are fascinating.


Amidst some serious variety, some clear favorites emerged. (To be fair, the leading visual apps did mobilize their readership to go and vote, but that in itself to me is meaningful. And these results were consistent with what we’ve seen from readers and the scene.)

Modul8, Resolume Avenue, Quartz Composer, and VDMX clearly led the pack. In fact, if you combine Resolume Avenue 3 users (25% of respondents) with Resolume 2.x die-hards (8%), it’s the most popular tool on the site. The results, ranked:

1. Modul8 (28.5%)
2. Resolume Avenue 3 (25.6%)
3. Vidvox VDMX (19.4%)
4. Apple Quartz Composer (19.3%)
5. Max/MSP/Jitter (16%) *
6. Processing (15.4%)

7. vvvv (10.2%)
8. ArKaos GrandVJ (8.4%)
9. Resolume 2.x (8.1%)
10. Isadora (6.9%)
11. OpenFrameworks (5.8%)
12. Pd/GEM (4.3%)

The biggest surprise: there’s some seriously geeky stuff on there. I’m surprised Quartz Composer cracks the top three, even if it is free, and Processing and OpenFrameworks also make strong showings for coders. So do Jitter and vvvv for patchers.

A handful of you also use other, lesser-known tools we included — Touch Designer nearly climbed above Pd, and we saw significant numbers running mobile apps and game engines.

There’s a strong plurality for everything else, too – 16% of you said you used tools we didn’t list.

The big loser: hardware. Only 16 readers out of all the respondents said they use hardware exclusively. Viva la computer.

Interesting entrants for that “other” category, meanwhile: lots of CoGe users, NuVJ, Cinder, AVmixer pro, Fluxus, and some unusual choices, like GamePad Companion for Guitar Hero,VLC, Winamp AVS, and, yes, someone says they use PowerPoint.

CoGe is technically built in Quartz Composer, so score that as another win for Apple’s platform.

* Jitter was briefly excluded from the survey answers because of an error; those results were tabulated and clearly put Jitter ahead of Processing but behind VDMX. Definitely a strong showing for Cycling ’74.

Operating systems

No surprise here. The Mac was the big winner – which goes hand-in-hand with seeing that a lot of your favorite tools (Quartz Composer, VDMX, Modul8) only run on Mac OS. Given ongoing readership by Linux advocates, I thought the Linux showing was downright abysmal. Given the lack of interest in Linux relative even to the music world, I think the free OS has a long way to go in the visual department. Again, it’s not a popularity contest – if someone wants to work on that, we’d love to hear about it.

1. Mac OS X (71.8%)
2. Windows (25.7%)
3. Linux (1.9%)

Don’t despair, Windows users – that still means 1 in 4 of you runs Windows, so we’re not ignoring you. And even if 1 in 50 runs Linux, we also know that coverage of Linux for visuals is often lacking. So expect tri-OS coverage (and beyond), as always.


SurveyGizmo automatically collects geographic data. The top countries:

1. United States (23.8%)
2. Germany (9.7%)
3. United Kingdom (9.6%)
4. Canada (5.5%)
5. Netherlands (5.0%)
6. France (3.9%)

And other popular countries: Italy, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Denmark, Austria, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico, Portugal, Switzerland, and the Russian Federation.

Top cities included, by a pretty wide margin:
New York City
Buenos Aires
San Francisco
Sao Paolo

Berlin, London, and NYC led by far, but down the curve, you all come from basically everywhere. And that, to me, is the most interesting information of all.

More comments? Let us know.

  • nice to see Processing and oFx there, showing the capabilities of programming environment software 😀 looking forward to see more in-depth article about how the VJs use those kind of software 🙂

  • I was going to say the exact same thing as didit. It's exciting seeing the new things people are coding in processing…and while it didn't make the top 5 I'm glad it still got bolded 🙂

  • I think its pretty balanced overview. In my personal overview mac/PC have about 50/50 between vjs in Australia. Im basing it on vjs across the whole country..

  • "CoGe is technically Quartz Composer" – this line is a bit wrong. It uses QC heavily, but there are a banch of other stuff too. Lots of users use it for video mixing without any QC knowledge 😉

  • VJ Air

    im quite surprised at the high percentage split between mac and win – i knew there would be one, but wasnt expecting it to be as big. i genuinely cant remember the last time i saw someone using a mac live.

  • neb

    I'm curios as to how many QC votes represent QC-only performers, verses those using it to build plugins for other packages. With QC itself being both extensible, embeddable, and baked into the OS, it has a great degree of utility. I wonder how many folks find that it is the 'only' fit for the work that they do?

  • Peter Kirn

    @neb / @.lov. — good points. Quartz Composer works well as a tool that integrates with these others. And, actually, there's no reason OpenFrameworks and Processing couldn't even go in similar directions.

    And yes, I can see the argument on CoGe — I should have said "built in" — this gets back to neb's point.

    Anyway, only so much you can tell in a survey; we keep it simple to improve response rate. These are the kind of questions we can ask as we highlight more of the microcosms of people's actual work.

  • bilderbuchi

    Peter, I'm not surprised about the low Linux turnout, seeing that from your list of 12, only 3 (pd, openframeworks, processing) even run on linux (afaik), collectively getting 15% of the votes. Neither of those is a "turnkey" visual software, and all of those are cross-platform, further diminishing the number of linux users.
    It's just that the tools are not there (if you don't code them yourself), so it's really hard to root for linux vjing… 🙁
    (I still dual-boot from ubuntu, mainly for vvvv)

  • QBE

    Very Interesting!
    Maybe we should organise VJ Meetings ins the top cities named above, would be pretty cool i think

  • Sam

    Any chance you could give the percentages for the cities listed? Just out of curiosity.

  • @QBE
    There is a regular event for VJs you might be interested in. It called Live performers Meeting, here is the link-&nbsp ;

  • J0hnny

    Hi Peter, it would be great to see a discussion based on a round up & comparison of the top software.

  • Wrote my own VJ software Chaoslab! 🙂