Tech by VICE

Watch an Algorithm Make a Music Video In Your Web Browser

It pulsates with different, trippy computer-generated polygons each time.

by Adam Owen
Sep 4 2015, 8:15pm

Programmer Petit Sapin made a music video for the song Tides by Austin musicians Bronze Whale. But you won't find it on Vimeo or YouTube. Instead, Sapin's interactive experience runs in your browser—and it pulsates with different, trippy computer-generated polygons each time.

The demo was made with WebGL, an emerging web technology used for modelling graphics in a browser without the use of plugins, such as Flash. 3D and 2D computer models track your mouse and respond to the rhythm of the music, showcasing the capabilities of of the API and the limits of your computer's processing power (I had to switch from my Chromebook to load the site, bringing the number of things it can't do to a new high).

The video also uses procedural generation, a method of creating data algorithmically instead of manually (basically, Minecraft). While time-saving for the artist, in certain applications it actually reduces load times for the end user, since assets are generated on-the-fly, and the end result is never the same.

One notable use of this form of random procedural generation is No Man's Sky, an upcoming Playstation 4 game which developer Hello Games claims will have 18 quintillion algorithmically-generated planets, an impossible task for any studio's art department on its own.

Although Sapin's project is fun, it's just the latest instalment in a long tradition of music videos being used to showcase new digital advances. In 1995, for example, Weezer's Buddy Holly was included in every copy of Windows 95, And in 2010, a website called The Wilderness Downtown used The Arcade Fire's We Used to Wait to demonstrate the capabilities of the then nascent HTML5.