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Pure Data is an open source patch programming language, similar to Max/MSP, written by Miller Puckette. It’s a high-level visual programming environment, where you add input and data manipulation objects to a stage and drag connections between them to define how messages are passed through the system when it is running. With a minor amount of effort, it’s possible to create applications that perform complex real-time manipulation of audio and video data.

I was introduced to Pure Data (Pd) this afternoon by my friend Vince Veneziani. He’s working on creating a tutorial for Pd and sent over an introduction to the programming environment, including a sample application patch that plays video on the faces of a bunch of spinning cubes, which can be controlled in real time as the application runs.

About six months ago, I was reading up on music creation and the program Max/MSP, a graphical workflow environment for creating and manipulating audio and video. Very complex, but powerful stuff. The author of Max/MSP, Miller S. Puckette, later created a piece of similar, open-source software called Pure Data (pd). Pure Data is similar to Max/MSP except that it’s free for anyone to use and make stuff with.

In this post, we’ll go over what exactly I managed to do with PD. It involved using an M-Audio MIDI controller to manipulate videos in a real-time graphical environment. Sound too complicated or scary for you? It’s really not. C’mon, I’ll show you how it works.

I mentioned that Pd is a graphical programming environment, but like any language, there’s a steep initial learning curve, and you’ll need to figure out a lot about the types of objects that are available and how they function. I’ve only started playing with this, myself, but thankfully there are a number of helpful tutorials in the Pd documentation.

Have you used Pd before? If you have any tips, tricks, tutorials, or a cool patch you’d like to share, add it to the comments!

Pure Data
Vince’s Pd Introduction – Video MIDI Mixer
Pd Tutorials


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