Animusic: a Pipe Dream

My Musician Brother, Curt, turned me on last week to something very cool. I ordered a copy of this disk and WOW! What a neat concept!

Wayne Lytle, a New York musician, did postgrad work in computer graphics at Cornell. His Animusic concept is a way to visualize the music he creates. He does this with incredibly sophisticated graphics software (each frame takes about 5 minutes of computer time to render; there are about 30 frames per second of visualizations), and essentially you see the instruments playing themselves — with some wild twists.

Many of the instruments are based in reality, but others aren’t (most notably lasers which do background chords). My favorite is called “Pipe Dream”, which really appeals to the nerd in me; the whole instrumental setup is just so plausible (on one level) that you think that maybe it just might work in real life:

One Thing that appeals to me (since it’s so similar to my own business model) is Wayne’s distribution style — he’s pretty much doing it himself, selling off his web site.

“We send both U.S. and international orders out every day,” he tells me. “We have been overwhelmed by the enthusiastic responses we’ve been getting on a daily basis. The audience is so wide (brainy engineers, head-bangin’ musicians, 3-year-olds, grandparents…) this was a little unexpected, and of course quite welcome. Even so, getting the DVD physically in stores is something being seriously contemplated.”
Still, it’s the music — and its very compelling visualization — that make this worth mentioning. The attention to detail is incredible: the computer-rendered drum heads even have marks where the sticks have been hitting them for “so long”! It’s no wonder that, once they really got started working on this album, it took three years to complete it.

If you order this get the Special Edition DVD, not only because you’ll get the best quality, but it’ll satisfy the nerd in you to be able to hear Wayne describe what’s going on and what it took to get some of the effects on the audio commentary track. The DVD also has multiple “camera angles” and other features. Be sure to tell him This is True sent you. (No, I’m not getting a cut of sales — this is just one do-it-yourself content guy promoting another.)

September 15 Update

“WOW!” — That was the response of Wayne Lytle, the guy behind the “Animusic” video I told you about last week.

Last Tuesday you guys broke his one-day sales record! But it only lasted until Saturday, when the folks on the free distribution broke it again. And that only lasted until today, when the free edition people who read their issues at work weighed in.

Wayne and wife, blown away.

Wayne told me that “The order processing department (who I happen to be married to) came down to my office and said ‘OK, I’m officially freaked out now’.”

I’m pretty proud of the response, since each of the three days brought significantly bigger audiences than when Animusic was featured by CNN, TechTV, or animation industry magazines like 3D World.

May 12, 2005 Update

Three Years Ago I plugged another creative type working on a project on his own that just couldn’t be done by an individual: Wayne Lytle, a musician and Cornell-trained computer graphics artist. His project: “Animusic”.

Wayne writes fun music, then imagines what sort of instruments would play it (and the instruments do play themselves). He then computer-animates the instruments playing his music and sells the result on DVDs. It’s a major “wow” thing that had already appeared on TV and in magazines, yet when I plugged it in True’s Premium edition, the next day his sales hit a one-day record.

“Just wait,” I told him: “It hasn’t gone out to too many people yet” — the free edition crowd. The next Saturday he wrote to say the sales record was broken again. “Actually,” I said, “just wait: most don’t read it until Monday.” On Monday, sure enough, he wrote to say his one-day sales record was broken yet again. I’m not sure if True’s readers still hold his first, second, and third one-day sales record or not.

So why bring this up now? After three long years Wayne’s Animusic sequel is finally done. I recently got a preview copy, and it’s great.

This one has some excerpts from Mussorgsky’s “Pictures from an Exhibition” played by his imaginary instruments, and I find it the best of the disk. The first volume is a very, very hard act to follow, and frankly I like it better, but if you have that already, Volume 2 is a worthy follow-on. If you only get one, get Volume 1 (and be sure to get the “Special Edition” — it has more stuff than the original).

Note this is simply a recommendation: I like Wayne’s work, and I like to support other solo producers out there. He certainly didn’t pay me to plug him, and I make nothing from this (unless you buy it via my link to Amazon, in which case Amazon pays me a small percentage without it costing you a cent more).

November 2021 Update

Oh well. Would have been fun to see it.

You haven’t heard me talk about Animusic for some time because it appears to me that Wayne burned out. He set up a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the third DVD …and never completed it despite 3,284 backers (including me) throwing $223,136 his way.

That was in 2012.

He did at least send out the music to us, so it wasn’t a total loss, but it would have been cool to see it.

Still, I get it: it’s tough to keep going, and going, and going essentially by yourself, responsible for everything. We solo entrepreneurs have to maintain a passion for our work, and I’m grateful that I still do after 28 years working on True.

I have lost my passion for some of the projects I started, such as the True Stella Awards — once I said everything I wanted to about crazy lawsuits, I was done, even if it took me awhile to realize it. True isn’t so limited in its subject matter: it can talk about anything humans do, and believe me we are ever inventive!

I did poke around on the Animusic web site today, but as far as I found you can’t even buy the DVDs from him: they are on Amazon, however (DVD 1, and DVD 2 — again, if you only get one, get #1).

I don’t know what Wayne is doing these days, but I hope he’s still making music, and his Order Processing Department is content.

Related Post: Online Video: Simply Cool

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4 Comments on “Animusic: a Pipe Dream

  1. I doubt Wayne needs to do any order processing at this point. Circa 2000, I had 52 instructional DVDs being sold by Amazon. They took care of everything. When an order was placed, they printed a single DVD of it, printed the cover art, shrink-wrapped it, and sent it to the buyer.

    Amazon’s approach was that they charged me $8.95 per DVD sold. I could place any price I wanted on the product, and the balance was then sent to me monthly.

    As it happens, Amazon sent a notice to DVD sellers such as myself a couple months ago saying that Amazon was stopping that service, since most customers wanted to stream their product. My last DVD sale was about a year ago, so I expect they are correct.

  2. Oh, SO enjoyable! I actually saw a (real) project once that had a series of tubes leading to a xylophone. Marbles were dropped down the tubes to hit the xylophone and play a tune. The main part of the project was the programming that controlled the marble-drop mechanism, and the web site that allowed anyone to input notes that would then be played via the mechanism. It was a lot of fun, and fascinating to watch.

    I’m so sad that Animusic 3 never came out. That would be awesome.

  3. I bought both discs after reading your item about them. Wow… I love them both, but agree that disc 1 is the better of the two. Sad that a third album won’t emerge.


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