Yellowtail by Golan Levin
YELLOWTAIL is an interactive software system for the gestural creation and performance of real-time abstract animation. Yellowtail repeats a user's strokes end-over-end, enabling simultaneous specification of a line's shape and quality of movement. Each line repeats according to its own period, producing an ever-changing and responsive display of lively, worm-like textures.
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Featured by Casey Reas.

In September 2000, the Audiovisual Environment Suite (AVES) made its debut at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria. These excellent performances by Golan Levin, Scott Gibbons, and Greg Shakar, produced an innovative synthesis of image and sound. The AVES software translates the hand gestures of the performer into a simultaneous visual and aural amplifications. Each of the five pieces of software in the suite maps gestures to different visual configurations and sonic textures. The abstract animations and synthetic sound are entirely interactive as they are produced dynamically without any reference to stored imagery or sound.

Yellowtail was the first piece produced for the AVES. Like Levin's silent precedent, Curly (1998), it continually repeats each of the performer's hand gestures. A lethargic, curved gesture results in a lethargic, curved mark that will slowly move itself across the screen. A quick, jagged gesture
results in a quick, jagged mark with zips across the screen, making sharp turns. The gestures produce sound when they intersect with a scan-line moving from the bottom to the top of a rectangular patch embedded within the screen. Gestures intersecting the left of the line create
a low tone and gesture intersecting the right of the line create a high tone. As many gestures intersect the line simultaneously, the separate tones combine to create complex and often dissonant chords. Moving the patch around the screen allow the performer to listen to different parts of the kinetic visual composition.

The great accomplishment of Yellowtail is the infusion of hand gesture into a highly constrained software system. The energy and subtle nuance of the hand infuses a sense of life into the often sterile domain of computer generated sound and image. It's innovative in its real-time creation of spectographic image patterns and its use of animated imagery as the basis for these patterns. Levin feels Yellowtail is an important piece in the evolution of his ideas, but realizes it falls short of his goals to create a "wholly painterly interface" due to its diagrammatic nature. The other four software pieces in the AVES were built in contrast to Yellowtail's rigid Cartesian mapping of image to sound.

Over the years, Yellowtail has been written for Silicon Graphics and Intel hardware and has been executed in C++, Java, and Processing. It's fascinating to see the core idea remain consistent while the details change according to the constraints of implementation.

by admin, posted 14 Nov 2004

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