Swish to Unity, my journey in creative software.

I was thinking about how long I’ve had any interest in using technology for creative work, and the answer surprised me. I grew up with games, starting with dos games , the first PlayStation, and beyond (whether I should have been playing GTA, Doom, Duke Nukem or Wolfenstein is irrelevant).

From that probably came my interest in how far things can be pushed, and I have always loved little details in games, and finding out how things work. At a pretty young age (around the time of the photo), I was frequenting forums to find out exactly what was going to be different in each installment in the WWE series each year, and also using the creation suite to recreate people who were missing from the roster.

Around this time, a bit of software called ejay was put on the computers at our primary school, and in lunch breaks I used to sit and make music from the samples. It was ultra-basic, but it is the first time I can remember any interest in music software in that way. I still have a CD with a few of my tracks on it.

I also started using a program called swishmax to try and make animated cartoons, and this was right around the time that my friends introduced me to Weebl and Bob, and Burnt Face Man. This got me thinking towards getting my beano-style comic moving and online. It never really amounted to much beyond a few “blammed” submissions on Newgrounds, but hey, I was 12 and way too ambitious!

I eventually found a way to get access to Macromedia Flash and Dreamweaver, back when Flash Player was on everyone’s PC. This was great, and I digested a few books on flash to try and get good enough to make something to show people. I also made a disgusting website with a blue background, tables, and comic sans everywhere. My parents were great, and gave me a domain name to use.

It was a big deal for me, but when I realised my page wasn’t pretty enough, and the cartoons needed something extra I planned out the next step which was making games and the whole site in flash. For a 14 year old with homework and friends, it proved to be a tall order. The site was eventually thrown into purgatory around year 11 when an aborted redesign left me without content.

Around that time I also gained an interest in sound and music like never before, playing guitar, bass and experimenting a lot. This mostly involved audacity, tuxguitar, lmms, and a few other things being fed through my 8-track. This cut into my time with the old site, but I learned a lot, and it set me up to get somewhere near good enough to apply for college and then Uni.

Whilst I was at college, I mostly stuck to playing bass in a band setup, which was amazing fun. The only trouble was that I’ve yet to find a group of musicians I gelled with as much as the band I came from, so uni was a shock starting from scratch with new people each week playing covers. The work was also a lot more serious, and the stress made me quite ill, so I dropped performance in favour of electronic music.

Using Ableton Live, I found pretty much what I wanted back with ejay, as I was able to make, do and alter anything, mix it, and had total freedom without any technical constraints I had before. This has been fruitful, and my most successful project currently is the city of culture project “Bowhead“.

In second year, I took a module in interactive technologies, with introduced me to the world of max msp. This was a leap for me, as it combined the stuff I love in Ableton, but also extended it with programming and the quirky ways you can control it. I made things like a theremin with a Leap Motion controller, a way to control a drum machine using a tablet wirelessly, and other things like that.

This year, I took the theremin even further, adding a tonne more features to it, but the main development was the assignment where we were given complete freedom to work on an interactive installation for the Hull Maritime Museum. We wanted to make a game, and quickly found that the curve to doing that in opengl within max was too high. I now had an excuse to make a game in unity! And I also established a link between Unity and Max, so the sounds could be triggered in Max. I plan to integrate the two more extensively with my dissertation project, taking metadata from Unity to shape an interactive soundtrack within Max.

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