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Processing Workshop Post-Mortem

About a month ago I filled a seat at Vancouver local Jer Thorp‘s monthly workshops. The topic of the day was Processing, the open source graphic and interaction programming language.

Coming from a web background, I’ve long been meaning dip my toes into more advanced coding + design environments, and Processing sounded like it perfectly fit that bill. Though it was also geared at non-programmers, Jer teaches his workshop at a comfortable pace for someone with my background too. I ended up spending less time than others fighting my way through the syntax and demos and more time going off on my own tangential experimentations.

Here are a few of the results from that day. At some point Jer mentioned the save() function that would spit out PNG images, so I made liberal use.

Structure Sketch

Probably the second example of the day, we built a fairly basic demo to get comfortable with the integral setup / draw functions. The loop drew a rectangle at the mouse coordinates; I took it a bit further and applied some alpha and size variation based on mouse position. Nothing terribly complicated; the image below is the result of manually “drawing” a bit during the loop.


Scribble Sketch

Again using the basic setup / draw functions, we worked through some of the basic stroke and fill properties as well as the random function by drawing more interesting line shapes on mouse press. I saved out a bunch, here are three of my favourites:


Again, this was mostly manual mouse drawing, with a bit of randomness thrown in.

Random Numbers

Things started getting interesting when we incorporated a bit of Perlin noise in our randomization. With the noise function and a bit of radian-based math at my disposal, I tried a few different variations on a theme.


The last jellyfish/loofah-like shape was one of my favourite outcomes of the day, so it’s the current masthead for this site.

Ants Sketch

After a Les Amis du Fromage-catered lunch we spent some time learning about basic objects and methods, something that admittedly isn’t a concept I’ve found easy to grasp in the past. Maybe not so much grasp, as figure out how to put into practical application. I’m dangerous with arrays, but classes and methods never really struck a chord with me.

The demo involved creating an Ant class and propagating the canvas with a few hundred ant instances. It doesn’t make for a very interesting visual result so I’m not posting a capture here, but I’m hoping that Processing is finally going to be what gets OOP to make sense to me, and that I’ll be able to use the principles in future work. We’ll see how that goes.

Images & Pixels, Simple 3D, and WFF Sketches

We finished the day with a bit of a breakneck tour of the “where you can go from here” concepts that were probably more inspirational than instructional. Using a photo (and then webcam input) we coded a basic eyedropper tool to select the colour value of a specific pixel; we played around in OpenGL and 3D space with a few spheres (I went a bit further and tied in some of the mouse interaction and animation routines we’d learned earlier in the day); and we ended with a brief overview of using data off a public API to do interesting things with the We Feel Fine project.


I left with a pretty good overview of what Processing can potentially do for me; the trick is to now take the basic principles we learned last month and start putting them into practice. The next few posts will likely be me working through some simple visual and interaction concepts as I get up to speed with the syntax. I’m already a bit daunted by the shift into 3D space, as I’ve spent the better part of ten years thinking in only the two dimensions the web allows. That will take some readjustment.

Hopefully, as the quote Jer used to start the day went, “this is going to be awesome!”

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009 | Experimentation | RSS 2.0

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