Orpheus

interactive video software, 1987-1993

Orpheus is an interactive video sequencing software that provides real time control and synchronization of digital video with any form of live or sequenced music. The music listener portion of the software permits interactive control of video using a real time musical categorization according to pitch, loudness, note duration, rest length and tempo.

Using Orpheus, a particular digital video sequence is presented in response to a particular musical category, accompanied with a cinematic effect. For example, Orpheus could present a sequence of a face laughing in response to a particular category of music, while another category of music could present the same face crying. The music could alternate between these two music categories--up to 30 times per second--and the face would respond with laughing or crying in synchronization with the music. Specific associations between music categories and video frames are specified by a user according to aesthetic and temporal criteria, with the potential to create hundreds of different musical categories and associated video responses. The number of possible music-video associations and the maximum duration of controllable video imagery are determined by the amount of available memory.

Orpheus is similar to a non-linear video editing system because it can present video frames and sequences in any order. In contrast to nonlinear systems, editing within Orpheus is controlled by musical information in real time, allowing image and sound to be perceived simultaneously. This characteristic allows Orpheus to be used as a performance tool with video imagery controlled by voice, acoustic instruments or electronic instruments. Orpheus has been used in the creation of interactive video performances, within video installations, and in the creation of video tapes. During actual performances using Orpheus, video imagery has been controlled by voice, trombone, trumpet, saxophone, electric guitar, electric bass, acoustic bass, percussion, and keyboards. For use within interactive video installations, the output of sensing devices are converted into MIDI. The imagery used within Orpheus can be created using any 2D/3D animation software, non-linear video software, or special effects and compositing software. Orpheus can support images of various resolutions and color depths, up to full screen video resolution(736x482) with 16.7 million colors.

Orpheus was designed and written by Don Ritter between 1988 and 1993, and it was first used in a public performance at the MIT Media Lab during a collaborative performance in 1988 with musician George Lewis. During this event, Lewis’s improvisational trombone playing controlled interactive video presented as a 10 meter video projection. Between 1988 and 1990, Ritter and Lewis presented over 30 interactive video-music performances using Orpheus at various festivals and museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Festival International Music Actuelle Victoriaville, Verona Jazz Festival, and The Kitchen (NYC). Using Orpheus, Ritter collaborated with various musicians, including John Oswald, Trevor Tureski, Nick Didkovski, David Rokeby, Genevieve Letarte, Tom Walsh, Tom Dimuzio, Richard Teitelbaum,and Ben Neill. Orpheus received an Honourary mention from Prix Ars Electronica in 1991, and it is presented in the Channel 4(UK) documentary "On The Edge: Improvisation in Music," (1990).
 
 
Video demonstrating Orpheus software, recorded in 1993:
 
Orpheus has been used in the creation of over 60 interactive video installations and performances since 1988. Works created by Ritter using Orpheus include Stithy (1988), Nose Against Glass (1988), Media Play (1990), Static Boy (1991), Fit (1993), Performance Télématique (1993), TV Guides (1995), Oh toi qui vis là-bas (1994), Excity (1995), and in conjunction with o8 software, Digestion (2003) and Badlands (2003). Mulitple copies of Orpheus running on four computers are used within the video installation Border Patrol (1995) by Paul Garrin and David Rokeby.


o8
interactive video-music software, 2003


o8 is an interactive video-music software which provides switching and mixing of 8 full screen video channels and 9 stereo audio channels. The software provides a musical analysis which can control the video. The o8 software is based on Orpheus, Ritter’s interactive software developed in 1988. Orpheus provides synchronized video in response to music or midi input, and permits highly synchronized interactive audio and video for use in interactive installations and performances.

The image above presents the control panel within the o8 software. The top center of the interface permits selection and control of 8 different video clips, each up to one hour in length. Control is available for switching, video and audio mixing, playback control, and frame rate control. The bottom center area provides selection of interactive methods which provide audio control over switching, mixing and playback rate. Music analysis is provided according to volume level, tempo and note density. All controls can be controlled interactively or manually during performances or installations.

Multiple systems can be synchronized through a tcp/ip connection. Network control permits centralized interactive control over all audio and video channels of every system on the network.
o8 uses video clips in the DV video format, 720x480 resolution.

Works created with o8 include Digestion, Badlands and Vox Populi.