A New Direction
We're making a new multimedia visual programming environment called Vuo. Check out the new website, and read on to learn how we decided to take this path.
It's a little-known fact, but "Kineme" hasn't always been synonymous with "Quartz Composer Stuff."
The late 1990s
Way back when I was in high school in the late 1990s, I went with a few friends to an ambient electronic music concert — a rare event for Columbus, Ohio at that time. There were 2 people sitting on stage, curled up among a pile of synthesizers. Nearby, they ran a slide projector that auto-advanced through a deck of blurry macro photographs. I enjoyed the music, but was confused by the slide projector — what purpose did that serve? To distract us, the audience, from the fact that we weren't able to discern what the performers were doing on-stage, since they were making minute adjustments to their synthesizers, without any dramatic rock star gestures, or even any kind of obvious connection between movements and sounds?
Inspired by Winamp's visualizations and the European demo scene, I decided I wanted to try to bring the same to the live performances of the band I played in. To establish a connection between the aural and the visual.
I worked with Chris Wright (saxophonist and fellow synthesizer-player in our band) to write software to take live audio input, analyze it, and draw graphics that looked kinda like Winamp. Linux, framebuffer, C and assembly. We used it in a few performances, like the picture on the right. We gave it the name "SPURTG" since I was a fan of impenetrable acronyms at the time, and published the source code a few years later.
The early 2000s
Fast-forward to 2003 — SPURTG was showing its age, since it only did Winamp-style flying oscilloscope spaghetti in fog, so development began on a second-generation realtime graphics performance environment. It focused on realtime control and video blending, and debuted for the dance/image/sound collaborative performance.
Chris Wright eventually stepped in again, and together we expanded it for use on my senior thesis project and a performance the following year, with a nascent GUI for patching together controls and graphics components.
We put together a website for the software — the original kineme.net — and were just about ready to publish it, when...
2005: Quartz Composer
Another Chris, who had acted as a mentor for my senior thesis project, said, "Hey, have you checked out Quartz Composer?" I hadn't, seeing as I had been in full-on hermit mode for the last few months to get ready for that last show.
Quartz Composer was really exciting to me, as it seemed that a lot of the ideas we'd been working on had finally gone mainstream — Quartz Composer was built into the operating system and used by a bunch of applications. So I decided to start hacking on Quartz Composer to see if I could coax it into doing what the software I developed with Chris Wright could do. This resulted in, among other things, the first Kineme Plugin, published over here (not on kineme.net!).
This generated a ton of feedback and feature requests — and I was enamored with Quartz Composer — so Chris Wright, Matt Radcliffe, and I decided to start building a Quartz Composer community on kineme.net.
Over the next couple years Chris and I worked hard to produce a ton of Quartz Composer add-ons — Kineme3D, QuartzCrystal, QuartzBuilder, GLTools, and AudioTools.
And a bunch of awesome Kineme users commissioned work and/or donated to support our efforts: franz, stuart, coremelt, chriskeath, achim and florian, pbourke, niclas, gtoledo3, muqeem, sare, magnetmus, tempest, sebastian, nilsporrmann, chwaege, brettm, peterknu, benoitlahoz, itsthejayj, benjaminryle, usefuldesign.au, pantakk, volkerk, sheridanis, m1, cbn, gabemott, shaun, and balaban. Thanks, also, to everyone else who purchased our Kineme plugins and apps!
2010: Quartz Composer begins to wane
Chris Wright was then hired by Apple in February 2010, initially to work on Quartz Composer, but soon after was stolen away to work on Core Graphics. Kineme continued to produce Quartz Composer add-ons — releasing Kineme2D, ChartTools, VideoTools, and NetworkTools over the following year, and providing support and improvements to the existing software.
But it soon became clear that Quartz Composer was not a priority for Apple. The release of Mac OS 10.6 in mid-2009 introduced several minor new features, but also introduced a ton of bugs, many of which to this day remain unfixed. And the Quartz Composer platform still has several fundamental flaws that bug us: not supporting any OS besides Mac OS X, not supporting modern OpenGL graphics, and slow performance.
So in 2010, after dusting off my notes from 5 years earlier, we began research and discussion, and eventually development, of a new visual programming environment. We're moving on.
...but we're not abandoning Kineme. We do not plan to add major new features to Kineme products, but we are planning to continue fixing bugs and providing support though at least mid-2013. And the kineme.net website isn't going anywhere, since it houses a ton of valuable knowledge you, the Kineme community, have contributed.
You've been working on this for 2 years and you're just now telling me!?
I hate vaporware. And I don't like making empty promises. Our ambitious design has presented a lot of technical challenges — we're making a new environment, not just a clone of Quartz Composer — which I wasn't sure if we'd be able to solve. In the last year, Kosada has hired 3 new employees to help get this project off the ground. So far, Kosada has been funding this project with money saved up from other consulting projects.
And I think we're finally close enough now that it's safe to announce it — we've built numerous working prototypes, and now have the solid beginning of an actual functioning language.
We're calling it "Vuo" — the Finnish language word for "flow," as in data flowing through cables. We just launched the website:
Sign up for our mailing list if you're interested in keeping up-to-date on our progress. And feel free to ask us questions. We're planning to publish the first beta in early 2013.
We hope that, as a Kineme user, you'll see the potential in Vuo — and that you'll consider signing up for a subscription to help kickstart future development once we begin accepting subscriptions in January 2013.
Thanks for reading all this, and I look forward to embarking on this new era with you.
and Team Vuo:
Jean Marie Cackowski-Campbell
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