Audiovisual Parameter Mapping in Music Visualizations

3 The Development of Pictorial Language in Live Visuals

In 1997, Image/ine, the first software for commercially available personal computers — in contrast to high-performance machines in professional video and television environments — appeared on the market, which enabled live sampling and the continuous processing of previously recorded image sequences in real time.[3]

The means of composition at that time corresponded with the technological possibilities. Short, recorded image sequences were digitally manipulated and overlapped. The reuse and recombination of media elements (remixing) as an esthetic method was dominant in the 1990s. Because of the low processing power (compared to today), videos could only be processed in real time at a very low resolution (320 x 240 pixels). The enlargement on the actual projection surface resulted in highly pixelated images. This typical ‘pixel look’ of the time did not necessarily reflect the express desire of the artists; in actual fact, they were working and experimenting within the scope of the possibilities and limitations of the available software and hardware.

Soon after, the applications Nato.0+55+3d[6]

The motto generate, don’t make collages (Jan Rohlf) aptly describes the moment at which the issue of pictorial language became wide open for debate again.[8] In the design of a digital composition, the technology of computation also contained an element of chance: artists lay down certain rules, the computer performs these processes and supplies results within the predefined conditions, and the outcome is an infinite number of visual options. Although visual artists maintain control over the process and the process conditions, the chance factor also produces results that are scarcely predictable at the beginning of the process.[9] The artists’ group Ubermorgen[10] consciously incorporates an element of chance in its work The Sound of eBay (2008), in which sound and image are automatically generated by the same external data source, namely by eBay user data.

An updated version of Image/ine can currently be downloaded from This allowed the transposition of techniques from the area of video into the digital environment of the personal computer. Image/ine was developed by Steina Vasulka and Thomas Demeyer at the Dutch Studio for Electro Instrumental Music (STEIM). It was also in 1997 that Matthew Cohn (aka Matt Black), one half of the music duo Coldcut, wrote the application VJamm. More information about Coldcut is available at This program corresponded to a digital video mixer with the options of manipulation and overlapping and was thus a precursor to a long series of applications that enabled the rapid combination and playback of film clips. Both of the programs mentioned above were specifically developed for use in a live context so that performers could play with images in the same flexible way that was previously only possible for musicians playing with sounds.  
More information about Coldcut is available at and Jitter appeared, which were notable because they offered the option of combining and programming different objects for the manipulation and generation of images. Unlike applications such as VJamm for the playback of clips, the more flexible, object-oriented applications allowed the direct manipulation and generation of image sequences on the basis of sounds. Skot vs. Hecker and End of Skot (both 2000, music by Florian Hecker and Mathias Gmachl, visuals by Skot) and 242.Pilots — Live In Bruxelles (2002) by the artists’ group 242.pilots (USA) are early testimonies to these developments. (accessed July 23, 2009).