Music visualization

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Screenshot of preset included in MilkDrop version 1.04d

Music visualization or music visualisation, a feature found in electronic music visualizers and media player software, generates animated imagery based on a piece of music. The imagery is usually generated and rendered in real time and in a way synchronized with the music as it is played.

Visualization techniques range from simple ones (e.g., a simulation of an oscilloscope display) to elaborate ones, which often include a plurality of composited effects. The changes in the music's loudness and frequency spectrum are among the properties used as input to the visualization.


The Atari Video Music. The unit never gained enough popularity and was in production for only a year.

The first electronic music visualizer was the Atari Video Music introduced by Atari Inc. in 1976, and designed by the initiator of the home version of Pong, Robert Brown. The idea was to create a visual exploration that could be implemented into a Hi-Fi stereo system. It is described in US 4081829 . Music visualisation was first pioneered in Great Britain by Fred Judd.

Music and audio players were available on early home computers, Sound to Light Generator (1985, Infinite Software) used the ZX Spectrum's cassette player for example.[1] The 1984 movie Electric Dreams prominently made use of one, although as a pre-generated effect, rather than calculated in real-time. One of the first modern music visualization programs was the open-source, multi-platform Cthugha (1994). Subsequently, computer music visualisation became widespread in the mid to late 1990s as applications such as Winamp (1997), Audion (1999), and SoundJam (2000). By 1999, there were several dozen freeware non-trivial music visualizers in distribution.

In particular, MilkDrop by Ryan Geiss, G-Force by Andy O'Meara, and Advanced Visualization Studio (AVS) by Nullsoft became popular music visualizations. AVS is part of Winamp and has been recently open-sourced, and G-Force was licensed for use in iTunes[2] and Windows Media Center[citation needed] and is presently the flagship product for Andy O'Meara's software startup company, SoundSpectrum. The real distinction between music visualization programs (such as Geiss' MilkDrop) and other forms of music visualization (such as music videos or a laser lighting display) is a visualization program's ability to create different visualizations for each song every time the program is run.

List of electronic music visualizers[edit]

  • Atari Video Music, designed by the initiator of the home version of Pong, Robert Brown, and introduced by Atari Inc. in 1976.
  • Pixelmusic 3000,[3] open source music visualizer on a microcontroller, made by Uncommon Projects in 2008.[4]

List of music visualization software[edit]

OpenCubic Player, DOS Module file player with realtime STFT based music visualization from 1994

List of media players supporting visualization[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sound to Light Generator". World of Spectrum. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  2. ^ "About iTunes" - iTunes credits
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Center for Computer Assisted Research in the Humanities (1992). Computing in musicology, Volume 8. ISBN 978-0-936943-06-0. 
  6. ^ SIGART (2000). "Intelligence, new visions of artificial intelligence in practice" 11. Association for Computing Machinery. 
  7. ^ "Audacious - Features". Retrieved 2010-08-28. 
  8. ^ "VLC playback Features". Retrieved 2010-08-28. 

External links[edit]