I’ve recently being playing with Processing. It’s described as “an open source programming language and environment for people who want to program images, animation, and interactions“, and it aims “..to serve as a software sketchbook and professional production tool.”
So what does this mean to me? In short it means that I can quickly write some cool looking music visualisers and, because Processing is rather friendly, I can easily export them so that they run in your web browser! Below are three sketches that I’ve written in the past week or so of my Processing experiments. Click on the images to (fingers crossed!) run them. I say “fingers crossed” because the browser implmentation of Processing seems a bit flaky – sometimes I get errors, sometimes I get nothing and sometimes, if I’m lucky, the things even run perfectly. If you do get problems, please just keep trying!
Why all the interest in Processing then? Well, I’ve heard about it a lot over the past year or two. It seems that quite a few digital artists have picked it up and are running with it, and I keep thinking that I too should take a look sooner or later. It turned out to be sooner, when the Windows partitiion on my Macbook Pro stopped working. I do most of my coding in Windows, so this brought an abrupt end to all of that. Luckily, not only was my OSX partition was still fine but the Processing IDE is Mac friendly.
Processing has proven incredibly easy to get into. It’s Java based and comes with not only a simple IDE but also a huge number of libraries, examples and tutorials. The online support forums and reference guides are also pretty impressive.The language itself is definitely geared more towards experimentation and learning than development of full-blown applications. The fact that Processing programs are called “Sketches” makes that obvious from the start. I’ve certainly found it liberating to work in such an experimental fashion, though, and I’ll probably be incorporating some of things I’ve learned back into my main codebase when I finally find the time to reinstall Windows. Will I continue to play with Processing when that’s done? Yeah, I probably will. The speed with which I can code these sketches can be very impressive. The second and third sketches above only took about half a day’s work each, and they are the perfect antidote to working on large-scale projects.