Screencast: Creating an iTunes Music Visualizer in Quartz Composer

Posted by on Dec 5, 2007 in Animation, Design, Graphics, Mac, Screencast, tutorial | One Comment

QuartzVisualiser.jpgI’ve put together a basic screencast tutorial which introduces you to Apple’s Quartz Composer, the graphical programming environment which ships with OS X. Quartz Composer is a graphics generator, capable of drawing 3D graphics, animations, and all sorts of Good Stuff. And you make it work just by dragging little boxes about and connecting them up with little lines, mostly.

This introduction assumes that you tend towards the geeky (although you don’t have to write any code to get cool results with Quartz Composer, it would help if you understood at least the basics of programming in some form.) You’ll also need to install Quartz Composer from your OS X install disc, by installing the Xcode tools. This is an optional install on the DVD, but it’s quite straightforward. For Leopard, head for Optional Installs/Xcode tools, then install the Xcode package.

To demonstrate Quartz Composer, first I do some really simple stuff, like creating a cube and colouring in its faces, then rotating it.

Then I dive in and create a Music Visualizer. The Quartz Composer that ships with Leopard has a template for iTunes Music Visualizers that makes it easy to create your own visualizer, so I do just that, creating a simple animation that moves my mouth up and down in time with certain frequencies of the music.

I think this is the best way to get an idea of what Quartz Composer is, really — it helps to see it, and see how easy it is to get things happening. That’s why I did this as a screencast.

Nothing comes without a price, though, and this is a fairly big download — 146Mb. It’s a good quality video so you can see what’s going on, and it lasts nearly half an hour. If you want to get started with Quartz Composer, or get an idea of how easy it is to create an iTunes Music Visualizer that you can save as a small file and give to your friends as a standalone install, then I think it’s worth it :)

Here it is:


Snippets of music for the demo provided by the Podsafe Music Network:


Post-release observations:

  • If you want to give your finished Visualizer to your friends to try out, save the Composition, and then put it in their user’s Library/Compositions folder (you may need to create it if it doesn’t exist.) Then restart iTunes and it should appear in the Visualizations list.
  • Some of the animations look a lot jerkier in the screencast than they do in real life. This is a side-effect of compressing the video down to a sensible size.
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1 Comment

  1. Gadfly Mind » Blog Archive » Big Fat Tweets
    July 2, 2008

    […] I’m breaking radio silence because something Russell Davies said the other day prompted another of my occasional bouts of playing with Quartz Composer. […]