Channel Light is a project that sits at the intersections of cellular automata, crystallography, animation, and music. In order to explore the common patterns of the visual arts, science, and music we built a program (Visual-Synth) that utilizes the spatial relationships as expressed in crystallography, the pattern and growth language of cellular automata, and the interactive strengths of music composition. The primary focus of this project is not to create a mathematics visualization program or yet another music sequencer, but to create a process that logically and artistically bridges these disciplines. The Channel Light project maps the common language of patterns inside an interactive and creative environment.
Visual-Synth is a software program developed by Channel Light for exploring patterns of growth. In Visual-Synth a “universe” is constructed by configuring the dimensions and packing mode of a three-dimensional lattice. The packing structure of the lattice is flexible and may accommodate complex combinations of cubic, hexagonal, and face-centered packing modes.
Inside of the lattice, multiple combinations of plane-sets can subdivide the real estate of the universe. A plane-set attaches a rule to each of the shapes that grows in the lattice. These rules control how objects (shapes) grow and populate the lattice. A sequencer conducts the growth cycle of the rules. The sequencer also controls the capturing of growth patterns in graphics and animation footage.
The artist working with Visual-Synth controls sets of “generators” that send patterns of impulses into the lattice. These patterns of impulses trigger the rules to start their growth sequence. The system’s generators may interact with external interface devices (controllers) by taking the external inputs and mapping these events to the generator’s control language.
Rules are designed in a rules engine by selecting how the rule interacts with impulses from the generator and its neighbor’s state. A rule gathers and summarizes the state of the surrounding lattice. Then it makes a decision as to how to change itself and whether it should propagate this decision to its neighbors.
Visual-Synth retains the complete configuration of every detail of the universe. The designer of a universe may provide these templates to other nondesigners as a prebuilt interactive environment.