Project 3: “Dandelion”

by aburridg @ 6:12 pm 2 March 2010

Download a zip containing an executable of my project. To run it, unzip the downloaded file and click on the executable file named “proj3”:
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Here is a video of my art project. I placed it running in the Wean 5207 Linux Cluster for about 5 minutes. The video is sped up (so it’s like a little time lapse):

I knew I wanted to do something with audio at some point–since I have never worked with audio before at a code level. The idea to use a dandelion came from a dream, and because as a kid I was addicted to exploding dandelions. Another aspect I took into account was where I would ideally place this piece (if I ever continued with it and decided to prim it up). I would most likely put this in a generally quiet location–a museum, a library, a park. And, hopefully it would encourage people to interact with it by being loud (since this piece is more interesting the more sound you make).

How the Project Works with the User
You start out with an intact dandelion. I included noise waves in the background because I thought it was cool and would hopefully, if I ever did exhibit this place someplace quiet, would give my audience a clue as to how to interact with the piece. When you make a loud enough noise the petals will come off and float based on how loud you continue to be. If it is dead quiet the petals will stay at the bottom, otherwise they will ride on a simulated “wind” that is determined by the sound levels.

Project’s Short Comings
I also realize that this project is not very visually pleasing…and runs a little slowly if all the petals come off at once. I know this is because of Processing and probably because I’m keeping track of too many variables at a time. Also, I know visually it is a little dull…if I had more time I would probably have the dandelions tilt more due to forces and make the stem move as well.

If I had a lot more time, I would make the dandelions more complicated and probably try in 3D. I would also probably try to port it to Open Frameworks. But, for a small project…Processing seemed like a good choice.

ESS Library
For this project I used the ESS library (found here) to interpret real-time audio input from my laptop’s built in microphone.

I also borrowed the basis of the code from Shiffman’s Flow.

Coding Logistics
Instead of having a 2D array of vectors (so that the canvas was split up into a grid) like Shiffman, I only used a 1D array of vectors (and split up the canvas into columns). If a dandelion petal was within a column, it followed the flow vector of that column. To determine the flow vector of a column, I used the audio input. The angle and magnitude of the vector is determined by how loud the channel sound is of the column’s corresponding audio input channel. The dandelions also follow some basic real time forces (separation and gravity).

1 Comment

  1. Hi Amanda – here are the group comments from the crit.

    Real-time audio input: good for you, that’s a nice starting point.
    Why is your frame rate so poor, though?
    See the related Dandelion project by the YOKE collective:,
    Consider removing the flocking “separation” force (is it really appropriate for this metaphor?), and consider adding a small amount of noise (or better, using the noisy variation in your audio signal) to keep things from clumping.

    I like the bars in the background. I think it’s subtle enough to not be a big distraction.

    If you used GLSL you could increase the number of particles dramatically. A reference for game developers:

    I think this could be really beautiful if you applied a 3d transformation to it as the particles bounced. What if the seeds slowly moved away from the stem and the image of the stem got smaller and smaller?

    i’m not sure what it would look like, but it might be worth seeing what the bars looked like smoothed and curvey

    It’s hard for me to see how the sound relates to the dandelion pods

    Have you thought of any other interaction instead of music and the dandelion?
    Maybe wind from mini fan or mouth have better connection to it and make it more interesting.

    It looks very calm and beautiful, although I wonder if that is appropriate for all sound environments. Maybe if there is a lot of sound (a cacophony) the background color changes to something less peaceful?

    What decides the size of the seeds?

    It might look nice if you made each seed look a little different

    My favorite part is when the particles first come off the the stem, but this happens only once. maybe if it got absolutely quiet for a bit, the particles come back and land on the stem again.
    Or another stems sprouts? Yeah!
    -If you hit the spacebar, it resets. If it’s dead quiet for a while, it resets as well. 😉 – Amanda
    That would be really nice.
    I wonder how you could use the sound of the natural environment to create a virtual ecosystem of dandies.

    Comment by golan — 6 March 2010 @ 6:53 pm

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