The Art of Creative Coding | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios

The Art of Creative Coding | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios

November 2, 2019 92 By Bernardo Ryan


Creative coding translates the world of
computers and code to everyday experience. They’re not setting out to solve a
problem. They’re setting out to express themselves. And there is this really active, energetic
community of people who make libraries, who write tutorials, who teach with it. You can write
words, you can do photography, you can dance. Why not also write code? If you’re gonna program in C++ or
you’re doing stuff for the web in javascript, you’ve gotta kind of piece together a lot
of different elements and processing will just let you get started on day one immediately. There isn’t this need for formal computer science rigor where
you have to understand how every little bit of code line works. It’s fine to
just try to learn about how things work through doing. I think for the most part it’s used for
computational design. For a lot of visual artists and designers
who want to create something visual but don’t want to make it manually, which
could mean they don’t want to draw it, it’s something that needs to be generated by an algorithm or
a process; that’s something you can do with processing. People do so much stuff with it. They use
processing to put content on a hundred-twenty foot wide video wall. People use it to make prints,
physical things. It’s used to make clothing. You can make data visualizations
with it. This is a starting point and it is a conversation and it is a way of
introducing this realization that the computer isn’t just a tool that has a set of possibilities that you have been given.
As systems and systems get more and more closed, the more that we can actually understand how
to write our own software. That is really a way one can express themselves and sort of break the bounds and limitations of what larger institutions and corporations have made available to us to do on our computers. And so it can really open one’s eyes to things that you weren’t aware of. We started developing a couple projects way
back in the mid two-thousands. One turned into the iTunes visualizer for Apple. We took
all the code that was created, refactored it and started the base layer of what later grew into Cinder. Cinder is a library of code written in C++ that allows
creative people to not have to do the boring stuff and focus actually on creativity and
making the art side of things. We really focus on high-level
professional people who are doing this for their job. Cinder’s been used in a lot of big scale and
small scale projects. For example, the Nike fuel band wall was done in Cinder. That was at South by
Southwest. Mill produced something called Mill Touch where
you could navigate through their portfolio. You could
scrub video with your hands. Cinder is open source for a few
reasons. One of which is that my company, Barbarian Group, benefits greatly from
other open source projects. And so there’s this desire and need to give back.
Another reason for it to be open source is that we benefit greatly from other
users who help write the library and grow the library to where it needs to be. You know, some
people write, some people paint. There are some people who can basically think in
visual code and do some of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen. openFrameworks is a really powerful
environment for creative coding. it’s borrowing from libraries developed by a community. We
decided to use openFrameworks because it enables us to kind of explore these new possibilities. Both of us coming from a video background, we’re really interested in
using the kinect as a camera and exploring its potential for new forms of cinema. So
that was the birth of the RGBD toolkit. We’re working with traditional
DSLR video cameras and combining that with the kinect that perceives the world in three
dimensions. What is the aesthetic of right now? I think a lot of people are sort of seeing themselves as avatars, being represented by digital systems, kind of living in digital worlds. And, for me, it’s really interesting
conceptually for us to kind of create a way for people to look at
themselves through these lenses. Now we’re really interested in bringing this into
a different domain, letting people experience that footage real time so that you’re
engaging with the content. It’s not necessarily the future of cinema but it’s a
future. We didn’t feel that we were capable of exploring that ourselves
and so we decided use openFrameworks because it’s based on the philosophy of
sharing. They create their artwork and then also
give back the things that they learned and the new tools they created so that
other artists can use that. Creative coding is really distinct from previous
art movements in the sense that they are all sharing the bits and pieces that underlie these
artworks that they produce. Extending from that philosophy the toolkit then,
we release that software open-source to present it as something that
filmmakers could explore and try new things with it. I think that we’re seeing the
emergence of a new kind of creativity, one that’s highly interconnected and necessarily
so. What the future is is kind of up to the community. It’s up to the people who choose to
volunteer, who make libraries. Now we actually have companies coming to the openFrameworks community before they release a product saying “Surprise us with this. Let us know what you think we want to do with this.” It shows how artists using technology
in new ways can actually influence future commercial products. And I think the community is really
supportive but also competitive at the same time so it’s pushing everything forward.