An interactive visual programming tool with patching right in the browser, Cables was already appealing. This month’s release adds shiny new features like – well, a feature for making things shiny and new.

New in the February release – photorealism clearly being the banner feature:

  • A new Ops for Physically Based Rendering via user amajesticseaflapflap. It’s an easy way to get lighting and surface texture working quickly and realistically.
  • Dark Mode is the new default theme, and it’s lovely
  • Point clouds and mesh instances now use textures instead of only arrays (think powerful, optimized control – there’s a good interactive demo there)
  • Expanded GLTF scene support
  • Infobar at the bottom adds extra hints
  • Updated Flow visualization (hit the F key)
  • Automatic backups
  • Collaboration with teams support (maybe the biggest sleeper hit of this release, actually)
  • Offset textures for noise
  • MediaRecorder fix
  • and more… changelog

I love these browser-based tools for a few reasons, apart from their free cost. That easy access makes them ideal for teaching and collaboration. Running in the browser also means they’re likely your best choice if you have Web delivery in mind. But even if you focus on serious desktop tools for production, these browser-based options are often great sketchpads and playgrounds to hone your chops (or your Ops, in this case).

I just say that because it’s frequent to run into the “which tool should I choose” dilemma. The truth is, something like Cables is a great place to start because you can begin playing around before you worry about that. But in the long run, it can make tools like Notch and TouchDesigner and Isadora and vvvv and Unreal more accessible, too – this is not a zero sum game. (Careful, though, music people, you know, we’ll have like five dozen distortion plug-ins…)

Let’s dive in – they’ve been busy with tutorials, but here are some likely essentials:

Everybody needs MIDI in.

Mesh Instance geometry clouds in action here in a powerful way:

Pixel diffusion which is a nice follow-up to the stuff I mentioned in December:

You can actually make your own Ops (like the PBR example at the top):

MediaRecorder is one I’ll bet you need:

And to catch you up: