Monday, April 23, 2012

Live-Coding Strobe Light: Work In Progress

Aeons ago, at the dawn of time, a teenage Giles saw a band called Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine play in Chicago. It mostly looked like this.

But the video doesn't really convey how intense it is to mosh in a strobe-light environment. It's an adrenaline rush, not just because of the loud music and the flashing lights, but also the obvious, senseless physical danger.

Even when you're not flailing your limbs wildly in a crowd full of others doing the same, in near-total darkness punctuated by intermittent snapshots of the spasmodic crowd, great lighting still makes a difference for live music.

So, like any good hacker musician, I'm looking into controlling lights with open source software.

Pro lighting uses a protocol called DMX; it's kind of like MIDI, except that it's text-based. Open source libraries for it exist in CoffeeScript, Ruby, and a few other languages. I've picked up a DMX-controllable strobe light, with a range of 1 to 15 flashes per second, and if I get that working, extending the same or similar functionality to DMX lasers should be more or less trivial. When it comes to connecting the lights to your computer, this box looks like it's winning the popularity contest, so I've got one on the way.

More news as events warrant.