Sunday, September 28, 2008

Painting With Pickover Chaotic Attractors

I've been doing some experiments recently building paint presets that paint with actual chaotic attractors, as seen in the image above. This example showcases how you can use different Studio Artist features working together to build an overall artistic process.

I started out by building a MSG preset that renders a pickover chaotic attractor, as seen in the 2 example images below.

Chaotic attractors are a kind of fractal image, and i really liked the frenetic quality of the attractor and thought it would make a good paint brush due to its splattery appearance.

All of the different chaotic attractor images were created using the same MSG preset shown below.

By adjusting the different editable parameters associated with the MSG preset you can create an infinite number of different attractor images. I used directed evolution via parameter mutation in the Evolution editor in Studio Artist 4 to create a series of different attractor images.

The first MSG processor creates the actual pickover chaotic attractor as shown below. Note that the attractor itself is a black and white image.

The second and third MSG processors are working to create an alpha mask for the attractor as shown below. The black part of the preview image is the mask.

Each attractor image was saved as an individual frame in a movie file. The alpha mask for each attractor was used to create an embedded alpha channel in my movie brush. What the embedded alpha channel and associated alpha mask does is create a matte for each attractor. So when i build a movie brush in the paint synthesizer from my attractor movie i can get individual matted shapes based on the shape of the attractor, as shown below.

The last 2 processors in this MSG preset blur the original black and white attractor and then map that blurred image through a color gradient.

These last 2 steps work to provide the color and give the attractor more dimensionality.

Once i had my attractor movie i then loaded it into the paint synthesizer as a movie source brush. I used a source alpha brush type so that the alpha masks associated with each attractor movie frame were used to generate the brush shape. I used a image processing brush load to create the paint nib, as shown below.

This takes the individual movie source brush frames as the source for the brush load and colorizes then via the paint color mean algorithm.

I used a path shape length of 1 for this movie brush paint preset so 1 paint nib is drawn for each paint stroke. Each paint nib consists of a single chaotic attractor stored as a frame in my movie source brush. The alpha mask associated with each attractor movie frame defines the shape of the paint nib. The individual brush nibs defined by the attractor movie frames and their associated alpha masks can be seen below.

This image below is another example created with this chaotic attractor paint preset.

I ran the preset in 2 different passes. The first roughs in the image. For the second pass i turned on local image range nib masking in the paint fill apply control panel to get tight edge rendition.

I think this example showcases the extreme power of Studio Artist as a creative environment to create digital art. Each operation mode of Studio Artist is very powerful, but when you start to combine them together you can really unleash your imagination to create unique and custom art processes. By using different source image and different msg presets i could revisit the 'process' described above to create an infinite variety of different artistic imagery.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

FEAR in New Orleans

Studio Artist user Ben Balser will be giving a Studio Artist presentation at FEAR in New Orleans, the Film, Effects and Animation Revival on Sunday, October 5, from 4-5 pm. Ben will show the basic tools available in Studio Artist. Ben has this to say about his presentation. 'Designed for fine arts work, Studio Artist can give you an edge with it's own specific animation effects and unique stylized looks.' Here's a link for more information on FEAR.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

No Man's Land

Studio Artist user Zennor Alexander has recently posted some awesome music animations on his web site Zennor focuses on the animations while collaborating with Fiona Soe Paing who does the music. Check out the movie 'Tamin Sah Pade' for some examples of his Studio Artist work. Zennor and Fiona plan a DVD release for early 2009 of their work.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Creating and Breaking Symmetry

Symmetry can often be used as a powerful component of a given artistic image. This is true because there is a hard-wired component of the visual system that recognizes and perceives symmetry in an image before we even become consciously aware of that fact. Christopher Tyler at the Smith Kettlewell Eye Institute in San Francisco has done some experiments with FMRI imaging of viewers brains to research the neuroscience behind this perceptual phenomena.

So, there's a reason rooted in how people perceive images in their brain's visual system that explains why the use of symmetry in a piece of art can be so compelling to an observer. This is perhaps not surprising given the fact that many animals have some form of bilateral symmetry in their bodies. Other psychological studies have shown that facial symmetry has a big influence on the perception of beauty in a face.

Of course there's another way to approach this powerful perceptual tool, which is to create symmetry and then break it in some way. The brain is also hard-wired to perceive change in an image, and seeing something unexpected can cause other parts of the brain to light up in FMRI experiments.

Breaking symmetry can be an on-off kind of thing like in the example shown above. Or it can be more subtle. This next image was created using MSG, and the broken symmetry in the abstract image gives it a much more organic quality.

There are a number of different techniques you can use in Studio Artist to create and break symmetry. Interactive warping is one easy way to quickly create various symmetry and kaleidoscopic effects. Try using the Translate warp twice on an image in the Studio Artist canvas and you will see what i mean. There are many different Interactive Warp effects, and experimenting with them is the best way to learn what is there and how to use it effectively in your work.

There are also a number of different MSG processors that create various symmetry effects. By combining different processors with different parameter settings together in a MSG preset you can create an extreme variety of different symmetry effects.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Casa Obscura Live Visual Performance

Studio Artist user Jean Detheux will be performing live with Studio Artist at the Case Obscura in Montreal on September 17th at 8pm. Jean will be working with three video streams projected live in conjunction with live musicians as a part of the performance. For more information go to And you can check out more of Jean's work at

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Zen of Creation

Studio Artist user Karen Hochman Brown had an interesting project going called 'An Apple a Day' that really got me thinking about different approaches to creating art. The idea was to create a unique art rendition of a particular object, in this case an apple, every day. Each apple was rendered in a different artistic style, as seen in the example shown above.

I think the notion of using some kind of daily structured activity like this as a motivation for creative work is actually a really powerful one. And the advent of modern blogging tools provide an easy way to take a structured process like this and turn it into a constantly changing online art exhibit. So it's a great way to share your current work with others.

I think it also sets up a feedback loop that can influence your overall creative process. So the very act of doing something like this forces you to grow as an artist in new and different directions. Like any creative activity, there's nothing like experimentation and regular daily practice to help you develop further.

There are a lot of different approaches to this kind of zen of creation i'm talking about. It could be as simple as forcing yourself to create a new painting or abstract art rendition each day. Or you could impose certain restraints or limitations on what you are doing and use that challenge as a way to stimulate your creativity.

A great example of this kind of approach is Studio Artist user Max's 'One Minute Paintings', where he creates an entire finished art piece in less than a minute using Studio Artist.

There's a vibrancy to the images created with this kind of approach that i find really stimulating.

I've been trying to take this lesson to heart in my own work, so i've started to carry around a small Flip video camera in my pocket all the time to capture mundane images from daily life that i can then use as source material for Studio Artist manipulations.

In addition to being something fun to do, it's also forced me to rethink different patterns i tend to fall into when building up a final image. And it's caused me to add some new features to Studio Artist that would not have even occurred to me until i was lead down those new paths by this particular approach to expanding creativity.

Monday, September 8, 2008

MSG Source Image Abstraction

MSG (modular synthesized graphics) is Studio Artist's modular image processing architecture. Almost 500 different image processing modules (called processors) are available within MSG and can be combined together to create an infinite variety of different image synthesis or processing effects. MSG can be used to create abstract procedural imagery or animations from scratch. MSG can also be used to create custom image processing or video special effects.

The particular MSG processing example shown above straddles the boundary between image processing and image synthesis. It was created with a single MSG preset processing a very representational source image, shown below.

So this particular image processing effect creates an extreme abstraction based off of the representational image it uses as it's source for processing. Different source images used as input to the effect will generate different abstractions in a similar style at the effect's output, so the effect is actually being derived by processing the source image.

The processor chain used to create this particular MSG preset is shown below.

Each element in the processor chain list is a different MSG processor. MSG processors work by processing different IO (input-output) streams. So each processor may have one or more input streams and will always have 1 or more output streams. Streams can be image buffer, color gradients, color palettes, etc. The Bus is the list of active streams used in a particular preset. The Bus for this particular preset is shown below.

Note the RGB source and output image buffer streams as well as an additional temporary image buffer and some color palette streams. This particular effect works by generating a procedural abstraction in the temporary image buffer stream and then using that as a spatial modulator for additional color image processing effects that process the source image.

The various processors in the processor chain synergistically work together to create the final abstraction effect seen in the preset output. The use of a temporary image buffer stream that is later used as a spatial modulator for a particular processor is a common practice when building a MSG based effect.

The 4 examples below show off output from 4 different MSG presets that all use the same source image as the example discussed above. All of these new abstraction presets were created via directed evolution and mutation of the original preset in the Studio Artist Evolution Editor. Evolving new MSG presets is a great way to create new stylistic effects that requires no real technical knowledge of the underpinnings of MSG. All you need is the ability to push buttons, and make aesthetic decisions by clicking on presets you like in the evolution grid and watching new ones evolve from your choice.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Photo Mosaic Art

Studio Artist user Charis Tsevis recently created several photo mosaic portraits for publication in the LA Times based on imagery from the 2008 Olympics. By photo mosaic i mean a picture generated from a collection of smaller photos arranged to represent the larger image. Studio Artist provides many tools that enable you to take traditional rectangular grid photo mosaics to a whole new visual level as can be seen in the adaptive sizing and positioning of the individual sub images in Charis's photo mosaic image shown above.

There are a lot of different approaches an artist can take to creating photo mosaic imagery. In this particular case Charis was working with the theme of creating a portrait from other pictures of the person in the portrait. But there are many different approaches that can be used for building various conceptual themes for your photo mosaic works, depending on the particular image you choose to work with as your main rendered image as well as the collection of sub images that are being used to represent the main image. Imagery can be similar or divergent to a theme, chosen for satirical or ironical reasons, for the quality of texture or color, etc.

There are also several different ways you can go about creating photo mosaic imagery in Studio Artist. The MSG Evolver application that ships with Studio Artist 3.5 has a whole Art Mapper section that allows you to work with databases of images or movies as well as collections of MSG presets. The Art Mapper is an intelligent module that has a wide variety of different editable parameters that can be used to specify how it spatially applies a database of images or movies or MSG presets to build up a larger canvas.

The Studio Artist Paint Synthesizer can also be used to create photo mosaic style imagery. This can be done by using movie brushes. A movie brush is a Quicktime movie that has been loaded into the paint synthesizer as a movie source brush or movie background texture. You can think of this as a paint brush that allows you to paint with the individual frames of the movie. It's easy to use Studio Artist to take a folder of custom images and convert them into a movie file that can then be loaded into Studio Artist as a movie source brush.

Upcoming version 4 of Studio Artist includes a number of new paint synthesizer features that allow most of the MSG Evolver Art Mapper spatial mapping effects to be created directly in the Paint Synthesizer. If the individual images in your movie brush have alpha masks associated with them as an embedded alpha channel in the movie brush then you can build a paint preset that uses the individual alpha masks to specify the shape of the paint brush. So the brush shape could uniquely change based on which movie frame was being painted, as seen in the example image below.

There are a wide variety of different 1D and 2D movie frame indexing parameters that allow you to specify how your individual movie frames are used by the paint synthesizer when creating a mosaic effect. Frames could be indexed so that the best image that represents a given spatial location in the source image is displayed based on color or texture or angular orientation. Or sequential or random frames images could be auto-colorized by the paint synthesizer instead of using intelligent color index mapping.

A 2D indexing can be specified that will allow for multiple movies pasted sequentially in a larger movie file to play back within a paint animation. So you could build a movie mosaic where an image or movie file is rendered using a collection of smaller movies that playback over time in an animation. These individual movies could also be associated with time particle effects in the paint synthesizer. So each moving time particle could have up to 2 different animating movies associated with it.

Recently i've been using photo mosaic effects created with the paint synthesizer as a way to add additional texturing to digital photos. After creating a panorama image from multiple frames of a video pan using the new Temporal Ip Op Scan Tracker, i then make that the source image and then use the paint synthesizer with a graffiti movie brush to render the panorama source image as a graffiti photo mosaic into a second layer. I can then use layer compositing options to subtly or not so subtly add the graffiti texturing into the final image. An example of this kind of effect is shown above.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Dylan Harris's Electronic Literature

Studio Artist user Dylan Harris is a poet who has been expanding the notion of electronic literature from traditional oral poetry recital to a full multimedia experience. Dylan will be presenting his 'Poetry Accompanied by Processed Photography' presentation at the Electronic Literature in Europe conference, which takes place in Bergen Norway from September 11-13. Dylan processes photos in Studio Artist to create a visual backdrop during a recital, as well as a conceptual pivot for further development of evolutionary oral and visual derivatives.

You can see and hear more of Dylan's work at