Touch Designer



It’s easy to get stuck between creating things and learning new tools. Somehow you have to strike a balance between technique and results.

But maybe software is kind’ve different. With paint, it’s a direct 1:1 relationship. Same for almost all other mediums. But with software there’s a level of displacement between what you know about the software, and how you can achieve your ideas.

Maybe it’s more like weaving, or knitting. You at least need to understand the technique before you can achieve it. Or you could just create knots. Improvising with mistakes. Its never black and white I guess.

Lately I’ve been looking into the tool Touch Designer by Derivative. It seems to provide a nice middle ground where I can get stuff done and realize technically complex ideas, but still keep some of the benefits that would come with writing your own software – such as real-time, iterative, generative, reactive, adaptive, interactive etc.

Plus, you can easily work with static media such as rendered audio or video. But it always seems to be this game of chasing down the right software, Max, Processing, VDMX, etc. Ultimately they all do their own thing. I think Processing remains a fantastic tool for learning programming. But coming at it already with a fairly strong digital media background, it’s always disappointing when you don’t achieve the same finish and polish as you could with traditional software like Apple or Adobe suites.

Even Max is a headfuck, requiring a lot of abstract and esoteric objects to chain things together in a desired way. I made a commitment and bought Max recently, but after some initial frustration had the thought to start experimenting in Touch, and quickly started achieving real-time 3d results. This is a real leap forward.

And VDMX which I’ve used in live shows is incredibly extensive and I love, but the idea of jumping into Quartz Composer to extend it became a kind of barrier for me, maybe in part due to its haphazard documentation and its questionable support from Apple.

Somehow I think Touch is going to become the mother program. Where other apps and software environments can feed into it, as well as any other media created elsewhere. In this way it becomes a useful bed for organising media, but also for presentation and performance.

Time will tell tho, it’s currently a Windows only app, and requires a fairly formidable system to run well. This provided a barrier of entry for me for some time until I recently got a new machine that supported it, but it also turned out surprising more easy and intuitive to use than I had previously thought.

I think after some initial surveying of the field (Unity, Processing, three.js), Touch Designer will serve as the main tool through my Masters degree for achieving work in real-time 3d.

More on this soon.

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