Pulse Mode

Pulse Mode is a commissioned artwork developed for the Code Control Festival, exhibited in Phoenix / Leicester Arts Centre during 22-24 March 2013 (Leicester UK). A fundamental requirement for this award was to use MaxMSP/Jitter for the development of an original piece that exhibits unique properties and suggests new possibilities for computational interaction and control.

Pulse Mode allows participants to interact in real time with the audiovisual mix and trigger events that represent social engagement and mirror aesthetic preferences of the collaborative interaction. The installation space consists of a fragmented 3D screen of 7 irregular rectangular shapes, an info screen (tablet), a Mindwave sensor, and a second tablet for the Mindwave settings. Mobile devices of the participants can be used to select preferences and adjust properties of the system in real time using a web interface and a server that communicates with the processing units. An Ableton Live set includes all the audio tracks that are controlled by Max For Live devices according to the incoming information. The MaxMSP/Jitter visual processing unit controls the composition and the projection mapping, and a Processing sketch reads and controls the Mindwave interface. 

An important consideration for the system interaction was to allow every participant to control aspects of the performance. For that reason an HTML5 webpage was created so that everyone with a mobile device and a web browser to be able to select according to their personal taste and preferences various audiovisual properties. Node.js was used as the main server to communicate with the system using OpenSoundControl
A QR-code sticker on the installation space immediately directs participants to the web address, where they may find an interface that allows them to select music genre, audio and visual effects, as well as write and send text messages. All the genre selections are received and collectively analyzed giving a ranking of preferences. Just before the current track finishes, the system looks for the genre with the most votes and randomly selects a music track (from that genre) for the next selection. When the new track has been selected, the previous votes are erased, and the voting starts again. This feature provides a method of arranging the macro-montage of the music tracks according to the user preferences. Therefore, the users directly set the style of music in real-time, and following that define the visual imagery that is composed to match the audio quality (speed, noise, texture).
For this installation 300 music tracks have been imported, looped, and wrapped/syncopated in Ableton Live. The tracks have been organized and categorized according to their music style. Each channel in Ableton includes all the tracks from a specific genre. Tempo values vary from 70 BPM to 170 BPM (Beats Per Minute), so when a style changes the main Tempo is set to the average genre speed automatically.

The control of the Live set is defined according to the Max For Live devices that were developed in MaxMSP. The first device collects the genre selections and sets the new track based on the voting system. Moreover, it saves the overall votes (from the start of the session) in to a text file that can be further analyzed using data visualization techniques, providing a useful insight to the participants' taste and preferences. The device also sets the On/Off state of the audio effects (selections are instantly triggered by the users from the web interface). Finally, the device collects track information (genre, name, duration, remaining time), and streams it over the network to the main info screen (tablet), so that users have a visual feedback. A second device in M4L includes the audio effects that are triggered from the users (Shuffler, Modulation Delay, Flanger, Filter, Panning, and Reverb). The effects closely resemble those found in professional DJ mixers and DVD/CD players (i.e. Pioneer CDJ series).

Following that, the M4L devices trigger events in the visual composition that uses a MaxMSP/Jitter patch (loosely based on VJ Mode application developed by SoniconLab) to create a complex visual landscape based on various properties of the music mix. One thousand (1,000) visual clips are included in the system, and each one is selected based on various musical properties, creating a unique composition at every instance. The visual effects are also triggered by the users in real time (with the use of the web interface), and the final result is projected and mapped on the 7 planes in the installation space. The projection mapping is configured within the same max patch. Finally the visual mix uses scrolling text (of various size and speed) based on the messages that are sent from the participants, creating an unexpected real time graffiti.

Pulse Mode raises issues of authority and control, providing tools that open-source the control of an audiovisual performance, allowing the participants to define the environment and gain direct access to its functions. However, authority may return with the use of a Mindwave sensor that is able to by-pass user selections according to the brain activity of the participant (and more accurately the attention level). Thus, the brain activity of the participant competes with the other users and if the activity reaches higher levels, it becomes easier to dictate preferences over the rest of the public.

Therefore, Pulse Mode presents a complex audiovisual system that creates multiple automations and interactions with the use of diverse protocols, programs, and platforms. Nevertheless, it is compatible and fully accessible from a large number of participants allowing to properly define and adjust the overall outcome easily, playfully, and efficiently.


Hardware Support: iDAT, Plymouth University
Interior Design: Kallia Platirrahou
Web/Server Design: Florian Bruckner
Graphic Design: Andrew Leeke
Special Thanks: Sean CarrollChris Tyrer

Tags: maxmsp, processing, m4l, ableton, nodejs, mindwave, projectionmapping, interactive, award, audiovisual

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