vvvv/framed*

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I’ve always felt like there’s a key difference between live software and video that I could never quite put my finger on. With video, there’s always compression involved, unless you go full uncompressed. But with software, the image is never compressed – it’s a fine grain of sharp – a kind of communion directly between the graphics processing of the GPU and the screen on which you watch it.

Rarely however, is one watching an uncompressed video. We live in an age of compression, from YouTube, to DVD, to Blu-Ray – all video displays artefacts of its downsizing to smaller file sizes and more economical formats.

But the thing that blows my mind is how uncompressed video is in the magnitude of 10’s of 100’s of Gigabyte’s of data, whereas software, for the same experience of clarity, is but a few kilobyte’s.

There’s this kind of efficiency in that process, a kind of conservative aspect to software, computationally. Rather than being a massive chunk of data, its an incredibly efficient and lightweight process. Of course, software brings with it countless other unique qualities, but this one in particular has always intrigued me.

So it kinda hit me today, this thing I love about software: its the aesthetics that I love. Not in any kind of stylistic way – like fashionable trends or particular forms – but in the sense of its pure form – direct, pixel for pixel representation and its computationally inexpensive nature.

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Recently I’d been playing with Touch Designer, a real-time production tool for all sorts of media. And lately I’ve begun working with vvvv, another real-time tool.

On the top of this fascination with the aesthetic qualities of software, I’m also drawn toward another one of its prime qualities: that of runtime.

Both vvvv and Touch seem to offer excellent ways of exploring both of these core elements, with each offering their own advantages.

And strangely, as much as I enjoyed the text-based process of Processing, somehow my progress with both Touch and vvvv seems to be an order of magnitude greater, even though I never really took to patching programs.

So to that end, I’ve backed a Kickstarter project called Framed*, which I have been following for some years, and which seems to be a first step in bringing the runtime art of software to a screen native to it, for use in the home, galleries, and all manner of interior spaces.

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Framed* is a lovely, minimal screen design with wooden edges, smartphone connectivity, motion sensors, and an app store for digital art.

Whether it runs Touch or vvvv remains to be seen, but it will run a range of apps and software out of the box via an internet browser.

Still, one can’t help feeling that it’s still a bit of a way to go for this kind thing, as a few players emerge within this field (Sedition, Electric Objects, for example) the vibe is somewhat proprietary. And some creators will, if their software tool of choice is not supported, potentially remain rendering real-time software to uncompressed/compressed video for upload to linear playback.

Fingers crossed the Framed* team (or even Electric Objects) get it right, and runtime, digital art can finally take its place among the traditional artforms in its display in interior spaces.

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