One of the rewards interactive and immersive designers have at their advantage is having at their disposal access to a constant stream of new and innovative tools. Weekly, we are bombarded with incoming releases from studios and companies announcing the arrival of a new tool for us to consider and make part of our arsenal. Amidst this flurry of new releases, it’s always exciting to see what new tools and platforms will emerge to shape the future of interactive design. And in keeping with this trend, we want to highlight the arrival of a new platform developed by Cycling ‘74, the same company that develops Max/MaxMSP/Jitter.
What is Max/MaxMSP/Jitter?
Max is a visual programming language for the creation and design of interactive and multimedia applications. It was developed by Miller Puckette as his doctoral thesis at IRCAM in the 1980s, where it was originally designed as a tool for real-time computer music performance.
With Max, users can create software programs by assembling pre-built modules, or objects, that can be connected to create complex processing chains. This allows for the creation of interactive experiences that can respond to user input in real-time.
MaxMSP is a version of Max that includes a set of audio processing objects, allowing users to create music and sound-related applications. Jitter is another version of Max that includes a set of video processing objects, making it possible to create video and visual effects.
Promising on providing a familiar workflow to many, especially those with a Max background, RNBO is a platform designed to serve as an extension of Max. It enables users to take their creative work outside of the software and develop/install interactive software with ease. This allows for the deploying of our creations to other software and hardware targets, including Raspberry Pi, VSTs, AU plugins, and Web Audio. This means you can easily export the code of the patches you’ve created in Max and target a vast array of marks.
Here is a simple example of what an artist could do with RNBO:
They could create an interactive installation that responds to the movements of visitors using a webcam or other external sensor to track the visitors’ displacement, and use RNBO’s real-time audio processing capabilities to create a dynamic sonic environment that responds to those movements in real-time.
This has been done for years and by the conjunction of different softwares running at the same time, but what’s fascinating about this is that all these possibilities are now simplified due to its deployment capabilities and ability to just fully embed the RNBO patch into another software like TouchDesigner or running . Think: less laptops, more targeted hardware and cheaper alternatives to our installation development and process.
Another possibility for developers is to have native sound sources for their web creations. This means that interactive sound in websites is closer than ever to artists, companies, and studios. Who wouldn’t want to personalize their persona or brand as much as possible? Well, this platform opens this potential to a new horizon.
Here is an incredible example by RNBO being deployed by the Ableton team in order to build a website with interactive audio called Learning Synths. So fascinating!
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
As you can imagine already, it’s a wonder-filled software. And, because it’s so capable, the team at Cycling ’74 has provided us with numerous resources in order to familiarize yourself with the platform. Here it goes:
Link to the Platform Introduction
Link to Learning Platform
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These templates shed light into the most useful and sometimes obtuse features of TouchDesigner.
They’re designed to be immediately applicable for the complete TouchDesigner beginner, while also providing inspiration for the advanced user.
TouchDesigner and RNBO
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been an official release that allows direct bridging of the software. However, since TouchDesigner now supports VSTs there is plenty to explore here! The main idea here is that you can somewhat merge the two software by developing VST plug-ins in Max and exporting these to TouchDesigner for use. Think of it similar to how TouchEngine allows us to embed TouchDesigner within Engine COMPs or within Unreal Engine. This VST path allows us to do the same with Max patches into TouchDesigner, Unreal, Ableton, etc.
Keep in mind that RNBO supports OSC and MIDI as well!
If you are not familiar with the use of VSTs in TouchDesigner here is the link to some of our previous blogs related to this topic:
How to install VSTs in TouchDesigner:
Best Free VSTs for TouchDesigner:
Best Practices for VSTs in TouchDesigner:
And lastly, a very important video by Ned Rush on how to make your own VST plug-in!
Building a VST Plug-in in RNBO~ from Cycling ‘74
We are certainly at a new dawn for audiovisual creators and, further possibilities seem to be each time closer at reach. Sound is a media that has been, at times, neglected, but I firmly believe that releases like RNBO begin to provide redemption to this important part of our senses. It’s exciting to think about the places, events, experiences where we’ll be seeing this application deployed. I’m sure it won’t disappoint!
I strongly encourage you to explore this incredible tool. Learning both Max and RNBO is not as difficult as one may tend to think. And, fortunately, the amount of resources available to support your process is plentiful!
Best of luck!