Ben Fry and Casey Reas – Processing

The first Eyeo session was given by Ben Fry and Casey Reas.  They are working on developing Processing 2.0, should release shortly… Jer Thorp has apparently been helping Processing as a lobbyist… how cool.  Ben shows a little “classic from Golan Levin” from 1998, and then displays a couple of projects from different Processing artists, both speaking here and not… including LISA alums Mary Huang and Marius Watz.  Ben explains that Processing has moved from displaying on a screen to getting sculptural or, as with Mary’s work, into making dresses.

Ben talks about the Processing libraries and, as an example, tells of ITP extending processing through a new library that they used to show at the IAC building big screens.  He mentions ToxicLives (sp?).  He says the spirit of open source is what’s helped Processing move forward… and there are 15 books now published about Processing.

There are now close to 70,000 people using processing monthly, and they’ve had over 300,000 downloads of their last release and over 50,000 downloads of their May release.

What’s coming in 2.0? Better ways to deal with data… new speed of OpenGL… Video is running extremely fast now in Processing…I couldn’t catch everything Ben said, but you can now switch between Javascript and Android mode, with support from Mozilla.  Android runs a bit slower than Javascript.  Google provided some funding to move Android along.  Both guys spent a lot of time crediting the different programmers who are helping improve Processing.

Quickly Ben dashes through screens of Chronograph, Jer Thorp’s NYT project, the World in a Day movie project out of Google Creative Lab with keywords to search through the clips…. I’ll try to get some links in here later… and then goes back to 2002 when they were doing their first Processing workshop.

They learned about how to do this through playing…making a triangle in Logo.  Then a standard OpenGL demo… a professional framework that allows you to do elaborate, extraordinarily optimized graphics… but you lose the ability to sketch stuff quickly without understanding the larger infrastructure.  Ben and Casey played with Director, but hey have their origins in animation and other models, you’re applying code to elements, it’s not as direct.  And Design By Numbers by John Maeda (sp?) gave some constraints that made it easy.. using the metaphor of paper and pen, drawing lines, made it easy for artists to learn the basics.  But people started wanting more.

So Ben and Casey started to develop a plan to make something as simple as Design By Numbers that could still scale to a professional development environment.  Exporting to Illustrator, being able to work in 3D… but still be built for teaching.  Technology is not an inhibitor.  Lower the bar on what’s difficult to do technically.  A computer is a media for doing work.  These were the core ideas that Casey believes are still the most important aspects of the software.

Processing has now broken off into a couple of different directions.  Education communities, like people who are hacking around with a Python version which is a nice way to get students up and running with Python.  The Javascript library is really great for the web side of things.  It’s a dynamic, vibrant community that they are thrilled to be a part of, they find it extraordinary.