I experience music in a very visual manner. In my minds eye sounds have fairly clear cut and consistent visual qualities like size, shape, colour, texture and movement. Boards of canada's music is some of the most visually aesthetic music I've ever heard, full of exquisitely detailed juxtapositions of scale, shape, texture and colour.
During 2001 I had been growing increasingly tired of the then prevalent ultra-clean computer-pixel-aesthetic and had been experimenting with a softer look and feel that was well suited to the organic warmth of the music of Boards of Canada (BoC).
A strong influence on the aesthetic I was reaching for was George Greenough's 1974 cult classic Crystal Voyager.
The First half of the movie follows George and his friends' search for uncrowded waves to surf. The second half of the movie, using then revolutionary filming techniques, is shot entirely from within breaking waves and the resulting abstract sequence (completely devoid of any footage of surfers and so free from the negative 'cheesey' connotations such footage carries) is cut to a pink floyd soundtrack. The saturated colours of the 70's film stock and the amorphous, turbulent abstraction of the second half of the movie were both key influences on the design of the boc site (coincidentally, Crystal Voyager turned out to also be one of BoC's` favourite films, even inspiring some of their music).
Just as Moore's Law describes and predicts the rise of processing speeds it seems as if a similar but inverse law could describe the ever shrinking attention span of the average web user.
As connection speeds increase so do the expectations and demand for instant gratification. With the Boards of Canada site, rather than attempt to create something that caters for this "fast food" mentality, I wanted to create something that functions as a breathing space away from the hectic pace of modern living, something that like boards of canada's music takes you to a place that moves at a more relaxing pace.
The site consists of eighteen scenes, Each of these scenes is an attempt to marry samples from a particular boards of canada song with a suitable interactive 3d environment.
The scenes come in three basic variations. Kaleidcopes, island worlds, and reflected panoramas.
On first viewing the site must be experienced in a linear fashion as each scene streams the following scene. Once a scene has been visited the user can navigate to it at any point by clicking the corresponding hexagon in the menu.
The user controls are consistent throughout. Moving the mouse from left to right, up and down within the frame pans the camera in the direction of the mouse.
In the landscape (island) scenes, clicking the left mouse button propels the camera forward, pressing p increases altitude and pressing a causes the camera to maintain it's current altitude, if neither key is pressed the camera falls with gravity and while in contact with the surface of the landscape momentum is subject to friction.
The clouds and the topology of the islands are generated at runtime using a custom made Perlin Noise function. The dynamic creation of
the image assets keeps the file size of even the most complex scenes under 170k (sound files included).
Upon entering an island scene a new, unique island is created, further islands can be reached by flying out to sea in any direction.
Sound loops from a particular BoC song are positioned at various point sources on each island. The volume and pan of each sample is relative to the proximity and orientation of the camera.
As in the real world the further the user is away from the point source of the sound sample, either laterally or vertically, the lower the volume of the sound. Likewise the stereo pan is dependant upon the position of the sound source relative to the camera. On some of the islands the user can even fly up through the clouds where the sounds of the islands are but a distant rumble.
The unique topology of each island means that the sound sources always occupy slightly different elevations relative to each other, this in turn provides slightly different possible song mixes.
The site gained an Award of Distinction (2nd Prize) at Prix Ars Electronica 2003 in the category of Net Excellence.
macromedia shockwave 8.5+ plugin,
directX or openGL 3d graphics-acceleration,
32bit colour display,
headphones or speakers.