Electronic music is a gateway drug to electronic visuals for many the computer artist. Sound or pixel, everything is a number to the computer. So it stands to reason that Ableton Live, the ubiquitous live laptop music performance tool, would inspire interest in similar techniques for triggering visuals. Our friend Rucyl of the wonderful Saturn Never Sleeps, performance collective cum label and home to general goodness, shares some of her notes as she ponders the question of fusing Ableton music sets with live visuals:

Using Ableton as a VJ Application / Modul8 + Live Video Sequencer [Saturn Never Sleeps blog]

In doing so, she shines light on a promising new tool, seen in the video at top.

We saw Vizzie back in November. It’s a collection of free modular tools designed to make rigging up live visual performances in Max/MSP/Jitter’s patching environment faster an easier – nothing we haven’t seen before, but a nice-looking set of “macros” nonetheless.

Now, developer Robert Jarvis has taken those modules and adapted them to Max for Live, the environment by which Max patches can be operated within Ableton Live. Robert interestingly hopes that you’ll make his work better:

i’ve been wanting to run video plugins since before Max for Live came into existence and Max/MSPs VIZZIE VJ modules seemed perfect as Ableton plugins. so i swapped out all the non-MIDI automatable parts and shoehorned some plugins together. There’s still a lot of scope for improvement but i’m releasing this in the hope that some prophesied person, a great max ninja, will download these plugins and make them amazinger.


The other approach, of course, and the one I think we see most often, is simply to run MIDI messages (or OSC, if you like, via Max for Live) directly into the visual app. Rucyl points at an example of that in Marcelo Vidal’s setup, by way of inter-app MIDI on the Mac and Modul8 [Motion tag | site]:

Using only 1 footage (made with cinema 4D).
I write, modify and then store ableton live curves and send via IAC Driver to Modul8.
In this case i only modify FX parameters (velocity, blur, matrix /deep space, trace, etc)

There are many, many ways to skin this cat, I think… I’ve done a number of sets where I just set out two laptops and operated visuals on one, music on another, finding synchronicity between the two by hand. (Whatever people may have thought of the results, I had a good time, at least.)

It’s likewise nice to see Rucyl add this footnote:

I’m still a proponent for collaborating with *professional* VJs, visualists and video artists. Two hands are better than one. The addition of another artist’s creativity (and their undivided attention) always brings more to a performance.

I agree – but, at the same time, I’m stimulated by crossover; perhaps I’m just an optimist, but I think musicians doing this kind of work can create a deeper understanding and demand for visuals live, too.

Ableton Live coverage on Motion | Music.

Let us know how you work, solo or otherwise.

More Vizzie visualism: