VHS.mp3

Audio Reactive Visualizer Prototypes, created in Unity.

 

Nostalgia is a powerful force in our world, defining major political movements and entire genres of entertainment, and informing how we ourselves develop as we age. But nostalgia has become harder and harder to understand--looking back to a particular golden age, one is confronted with much more information than anyone in that age would’ve had access to. Even as recently the late 20th-century, rulers of nations were blind compared to the perspective the smartphone has made accessible to everyone. To compound this difficulty, new technologies and cultural movements have become quicker to form and dissolve, and, unmoored from geography, means, and time, far more niche than ever before.

Music visualizers, ubiquitous in the early Winamp and Napster era of digital music, are source of one such nostalgia for me. I’ve been investigating this nostalgia through the creation of my own visualizers in part as design and technical exercises, and in part to explore what shadow that sliver of that time casts 20 years later. My four favorites of the dozen-plus prototypes are presented here as “VHS.mp3”

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Classic Wormhole

This prototype leans into the timeless quality of wormhole visualizers through its color palette, but complicates the form by off-balancing the radial symmetry and avoiding hard lines and edges.

Features
8-band spectrum analyzer visualized through particle system emission rates
Color affected by additive particle shader, particle amount, and lifetime
Speed and direction of tunnel, and particle system distances, affected by amplitude of audio

 
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Corporate Rave Cube

This visualizer takes a contemporary form and retrofits it into an early-90’s IBM-ish aesthetic.

Features
64-band spectrum analyzer visualized through object transforms
Objects placed by script, and configurable into different shapes and sizes

 
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Procedural PBS Fan

Another contemporary-style visualizer; aesthetically a mash-up of Boards of Canada’s take on public broadcasting and early geometric forms of computer generated graphics.

Features
64-band spectrum analyzer visualized through a procedurally generated mesh
Each main set of spectrum of points is configurable by transform, shape, direction, and offset

 
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Hiragana Spectrum

An homage to 90’s-era bootleg anime trading. Anime clubs around the country would pass around VHS copies for reproduction, fan-subbing, and free showings. Basically the nerd analogue to rave culture.

Features
8-band spectrum analyzer visualized through a pool of text objects
Option to have certain text appear at certain amplitudes and frequency ranges