It’s funny, some things you really didn’t imagine looking back on with nostalgia. And yet, there you are – reminiscing about the days of staring at your Winamp MP3 visualizer.

Well, I totally missed it, but there are some free projects that let you bring back those visualizers. Better still, you can pipe them into VJ apps on both Mac and Windows.

First off, MilkDrop itself is a fascinating story. I won’t dive all the way down that rabbit hole at the moment, but here’s a short version of the story. Creator Ryan Geiss was (and is) a talented electronic creator, who first used assembly code to coax late 90s CPUs into producing hallucinogenic, music-reactive animations in real-time. First as a plug-in for the legendary Winamp, then as a default visualizer, “geiss” and then “MilkDrop” made history with their ability to produce ever-changing generative imagery for music. (Side note: Justin Frankel, co-creator of Winamp, has gone on to found the Reaper DAW – and is also the inventor of peer-to-peer tech gnutella. That’s… yet another rabbit hole. I digress.)

The story might have ended there, but Milkdrop made itself future-proof in other ways. The format for making custom visualizers was open to end users. The 2001 iteration was built around GPUs, in a way that would lend itself to future platforms and mobile devices. And then, in 2005, the code was open sourced. That has spawned various developments, including even video synth hardware.

milkdroppy

So, if you find yourself nostalgic for the days of staring at your screen whilst your gnutella-downloaded MP3s play, here you go.

The open source implementation of MilkDrop lives on as projectM – a bit dusty, but you’ll find some kind of builds for Mac, Windows, and Linux, iTunes and Winamp plug-ins, and now mobile versions for Android and iOS:

http://projectm.sourceforge.net/

So, what if you wanted to use one of these visualizers in a VJ set? Well, that actually turns out to be very possible.

syphon

On Mac, you can use the nicely-developed ProjectMilkSyphon, which outputs all these animations as a texture you can use in Syphon-compatible VJ/live visual apps like VDMX, Resolume, and others. (Syphon routes textures between apps, like inter-app audio or MIDI, but for visuals.)

http://vdmx.vidvox.net/blog/projectmilksyphon

On Windows, there’s a version that outputs Spout, the equivalent on that OS (Syphon predates Spout, but the Spout MilkDrop came first):

Winamp Milkdrop plugin with Spout output [Spout forum]

It’s actually part of the Spout distribution, which includes loads of other goodies (Processing, for instance):
https://github.com/leadedge/Spout2/releases

Plus, find lots of digital art and projects from Mr. Geiss at his site:
http://www.geisswerks.com/

Now you can add these visualizations with a dose of nostalgia to a VJ set, or find a creative way of using these textures in a new context.

(Thanks to David Lublin of Vidvox/VDMX for pointing me to this. I actually love that I found a Windows version within a few seconds of running a DuckDuckGo search, not so much because I particularly care whether or not I can do this on a different OS, but because I love the fact that the open source community just solves this stuff for the hell of it.)

  • Fun, trippy stuff!

  • Polite Society

    Milkdrop still has some of the best visualisations out there. I picked up a pack of insanely good presets on an old forum a while ago and lost days watching them. I’ll see if I can find the link or my zip of it. Knowing there is spout support for it makes me want to try working it into my vvvv visuals patch. Thank you!! <3

    • Polite Society

      Here’s my zip of it if anyone is interested. only contains *.milk files.

      shiniku.net/z/milkdrop.zip

      • farin

        would be very cool – I wonder how they look, but your link doesn’t work or is it something with my connection? Thanks!

        • Polite Society

          Should work, i just double checked it.

    • leolodreamland

      where IS rovastar these days?

  • Now if I could only find a stable os x sonique plugin loader.. My dj visuals life would be complete.. I need Milkdrop AND Rabbit Hole.

  • Teetons Friar

    am 2 going on 3 milky drops. these nips are delivering!

    could i pls get a free milky plug to help milk my milky duds? milky

  • r4dian

    AVS > Milkdrop

    • Polite Society

      ??

    • Maybe.. I’ve heard people say that.. I’ve even heard that AVS can be a loader for other preset types.. I’ve yet to see anything in AVS that matched milkdrop presets though.. But that’s.. a personal opinion…

  • brianmoore

    Preeeeeeeeeeeetty 🙂

  • i have actually been playing around with projectM preset code and have been making my own visuals for an upcoming music video. once you get a handle on it, it’s fairly slick. even on my dinosaur computer.
    here’s the last snippet i made – short and soundless, but soon it will be more than that.
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BQTXgpVA-C6/

  • leolodreamland

    you should also check out ModV from the chiptune artist 2xAA it’s a browser (chrome) based visualiser with a massive nod to winamp, created by someone who missed it. https://github.com/2xAA/modV

  • JussSomeBloke

    Is there any non-convoluted way to record the output of ProjectM on android ? I only discovered the app today but would love to use it either for an end-to-end video, or, record chunks I like and fling ’em into a video editor like Fusion to tweak ’em and lay them out on a timeline.
    There has to be a way of getting them from a mobile to a windows desktop ??