Music visualizations are a great source of inspiration for an infographic designer because both essentially aim to integrate content with design. Infographic animators can benefit particularly, the interplay between the auditory and the visual is often neglected when, as these visualizations show, it can add a real wow factor.
What could be called the first music visualization was invented by German physicist Heinrich Rubens in 1905. His ‘flame tube’ uses sound waves to alter the pressure of gas, generating a sort of primitive spectrum analyser.
The first electronic music visualizer was developed by Atari in 1976. Named the Atari Video Music, legend has it that when Atari were asked what they were smoking when they came up with the idea a technician came forth with a lit joint. Unfortunately, it didn’t sell well, and was only in production for a year.
The iTunes visualizer is perhaps the most well-known of its kind, and is great considering when you consider it doesn’t cost you a penny.
Here’s a tip to make it even better: you can uses these key commands to control various aspects of the visualization.
· ? – Shows/hides the help screen
· M – Changes the mode
· P – Changes the colour palette
· I – Displays the track information for the currently playing song
· C – Toggles “auto-cycle” (which is turned on by default)
· F – Toggles the “freeze mode”
· N – Shows/hides the “smoke” in the background
· L – Toggles camera lock
There are plenty of other options for visualization, but a lot of them will cost you. Morphyre offers a free and paid version and is unusual since it renders 3D graphics in real time to accompany your music. Users can design their own ‘scenes’ meaning that there’s an endless supply of surreal landscapes to lose yourself in.
AudioSurf is a little bit special because it’s not just a visualizer but a game too. The visualizations themselves remind me of riding a rollercoaster with the gameplay essentially being a fast paced version of Bejeweled.
Mobile Music Visualizers
There’s a plethora of visualizers for Andoid and iOS, and there are new ones coming out all the time. I’ve picked out a few of the best:
4. Project M- Probably the market leader for Android (also available for iOS) is Sperl Heavy Industries projectM Music Visualizer, with average rating of 4.7 from 759 reviews at the time of writing. Featuring interactive visuals and a live wallpaper mode, along with some very pretty, very trippy designs, it’s certainly good-value for the £1.89 pricetag.
5. Audio Glow Music – Android users who have only a fleeting desire for visualized music may want to check out Cypher Cove’s free Audio Glow Music Visualizer. The visualization takes the form of a fully customisable 8-band equalizer and is probably the best looking of its kind I’ve seen on the market.
6. Wonderful Rabbit Hole – iPhone and iPad users can enjoy Feldspar’s wonderful Rabbit Hole for a couple of quid. Described by the developer ‘an endless journey through a corridor of colour and sound’, it’s an engaging visualizer which reminds me a little of old tunnel shooter arcade games. Worth a look.
Electronic duo Matta’s video for ‘Release the Freq’ is an excellent example of the potential music visualization has for an open-minded designer. It was recently featured in Gestlaten’s Informotion and is essentially a dubstep record visualised by antelopes – yes, it is as strange as it sounds.
This is my personal favourite, very silly and very fun, Professor Soap’s laid back video brilliantly synchronises the musical layers of his ‘Spirit Quest Journey’ to a variety of colourful alien characters. You can’t help but smile.
Koyaanisqatsi (which translates from the Hopi as ‘unbalanced life’) is a 1982 film which was scored by minimalist composer Philip Glass. Not technically music visualization, it is nevertheless, a very good example of what can conveyed by sound and image alone, as the film features no dialogue or voice-overs.