/55\an open letter to imag/ine and nato users and developers

marko kosnik 55 at bek.no
Sat, 02 Feb 2002 15:08:35 +0100

and others interested in the future of live video art.

(the ones on the list who get a headache when seeing more then 10 lines per
message might consider to skip to the last three paragraphs)


i am using imag/ine since it's early beginning and i was following nato
since it's appearance, last year i am composing my own solutions in nato

i want once loudly and publicly to congratulate and say thanks to tom
demeyer, who developed imag/ine out of his own fingers and to steina vasulka
(no matter what wrong reply button she is pressing on her machine in the
last days) to inspire development of the program and stand for it at steim
during her artistic directorship.

i am welcoming the fact netoscka is seating at steim in the same seat that
steina had left not such a long time ago.

and, i want to thank to netoscka and nato developers for an incredible
environment in which i can test more relations and combinations of whatever
moving image, processed in relation to sound, meta - calculations or
interfaces i could "imag/ine" before.

when imag/ine beta version was presented at steim in december 1996 being
controlled by steina playing her midi violin, i was seating two meters from
her with a task to change between different presets. it was a necessary
help, since the program was not yet incorporating what is called "display
states" nowadays. and guess what, i had developed simple patches in max,
just to switch on the fly some settings which steina wanted to pass through
during her performance. no matter what wishes i had at that time, tom's
answer was straight: i want imag/ine to fully occupy the processor of the
machine on which it is running. i want to squeeze out the most for video
processing and what is needed for live control. if you want more, use
another computer or whatever other device you prefer.

at that time the fastest mac you could find was running 120 mghz 604e
processor, 150 and 180 were just coming out. and one of the most over -
hyped words that you can hear today - "veejee" was yet to be invented.

five years later, with nato modular, theoretically you could run a universe
of tasks: draw vector graphic, travel some 3d spaces, analyse and interpret
video and audio input, buffer video and sound on the fly and process it back
under midi commands, remixing media files streamed from internet and serve
them back at the same time... but in reality, on one machine, when only
processing video in three layers, you will not get much more then 320x240 at
12,5 frames per second on your g4 in 2002. not true? we were doing the same
in 1997 in imag/ine, but in 16 bit resolution. today it can run in millions
of colours, but think before twice what "offscreen.grafport.(re)size" means
in nato, and better switch it to half for all the objects that listen to
this command (160x120 pixels in this case). you COULD run so much more of
the rest. still, you better connect more machines to get it in reality, or
in what we call by a wrong and miss - interpreted word "real time".

i can't state there would be no nato without imag/ine. but i can state i
would not use nato today to sample a dancer live to display her back
processed on the same stage where she is dancing, doing so from one machine
which i control as an instrument. i will choose imag/ine in this case, cause
it is optimised for doing right this.

let us make one thing clear once forever on this list. imag/ine and nato are
in no way concurrent pieces of code. the first is an application specialised
to perform as an instrument very analogue to what lisa is doing on the sound
level (live sampling and on the fly interpretation captured material), the
second is a multipurpose environment which is opening alternative access,
modulations and variations to all the layers of quicktime, embedded in max
environment. true, you can come very close when you would try to build a
copy of what imag/ine does in nato, even though it does not make such a
sense - but still - can you get several simultaneous outputs from the same
242.buffer? the answer is no at the present. and indeed, such a question
should never bother someone who is not interested in keying two images with
the third one all of them being just six frames apart of what had just been
captured trough the video camera. (and please, don't suggest me to do the
same in the 242.buffer2 ...

all this writing i am willing to compose for one reason. neue generat!e
needs to know the history of alternative moving images as much as the old
generation of pioneers has to brake the fears and start exchanging their
knowledge louder and with the broader access to their materials. and, when
always too small community of people in this world, interested in creating
music and moving images for something more then just entertainment
show-business or political propaganda, will not grasp with each other in
more open way - then forget max/msp/nato/supercolider/lisa/imag/ine running
your double g5 2ghz on osx 11 - but right there, right at that time indeed
it could be running in parallel on one machine (or on an network streaming
media files via firewire). if i was talking for six years into the past,
don't think i am foreseeing more then three years in the future with this
trivial announcement.

it makes me sad when i guess it will take more years to get steina and
netoscka seating at the same table laughing to their past misunderstandings
then it will take apple and motorola (well, this one could sink in the
meanwhile, probably it will be ibm then) to put on a table the machine and
system mentioned above.

it is a too small world of artistic vision nowadays and too limited human
resources to produce some more sensitive reality but the brutal consumerism
we are sinking in.

"we" can not afford to play art generation games (like some writers in 19
century or composers in 18 century to push on the "progress") without paying
the price with the darker future then the one which is about to come anyway.

"we" want it all optimised and all running on system "five minutes past
twelve". and then, once on unix, "we" know what letter it is only missing in
the rebus made out of this word.

also sprach zarafrustra.

marko kosnik