Recreating Vintage Computer Art

Since I missed last Wednesday’s class because of another class’ field trip (which I will eventually blog about), I relied on this Youtube tutorial that helped me further my understanding of Processing. I was pleasantly surprised that the video reintroduced John Whitney (aka one of the fathers of computer animation). I was first introduced to his work at the Hippie Modernism Exhibit @ UC Berkeley and pretty much sat in front of the video exhibition for 20 minutes — I was absolutely entranced by the his animations. What made his animations so much more interesting? I think it was because there was this analog quality to it that I’m not really sure how to explain. Perhaps watching animation captured 35mm lends it the grainy quality that I wouldn’t get from rendering in Processing. What I learned from the Youtube tutorial was that Whitney used polar coordinates to create iterations of patterns. I’m not all to clear what the difference is between polar coordinates vs. parametric equations but I ended getting really fascinated by the inputting of sin and cosine equations and playing with the numbers to see how the lines’ frequency and amplitude changed. I do want to explore more pattern possibilities, but that might require me to brush up on calculus haha …

Here’s what rendering the two equations with points instead of lines looked like:

Animated GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

End result –
Animated GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

*I also tried inputting an extra equation but Processing gave me a note that said I needed to use a 3-D software for Z-plane … which sounds cool! Would love to explore the idea of creating 3-D generative patterns.

Edit: I spoke with my brother and explained the difference between polar coordinates and parametric equations. From my understanding, polar coordinates allow you to easily create cylindrical shapes whereas parametric coordinates are better suited for quadratic shapes, but it’s totally possible to create round shapes using parametric equations as I’ve done with by using cos and sin in the equations in Processing. Also, I found a snippet (go to 00:47) of John Whitney showing his analogue process of creating his animations in this documentary.

Larry Cuba, who was John Whitney’s assistant, later on developed a program that created the 1970 Death Star sequence. I found it really interesting that he manipulated the movement of the animation with dials (see 5:11)!

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