Jason Fletcher
Motion Designer
PACK ⬕ Cellular Auto
- This pack contains 189 VJ loops (177 GB)

I have always been fascinated by cellular automata and the complex structures that emerge from very simple rules. I will often just play and tinker with the initial state to see how it affects the whole simulation. I have this wild idea that nanotech will someday utilize this stuff since things like the ‘OTCA metapixel’ have been engineered.

So I fired up Golly and explored the many categories of simulations. I had originally planned on downloading a bunch of presets from forums and then building my own, but there were so many amazing ones already included with Golly. Props to the Golly community, what an amazing resource. I stand on the shoulders of giants.

I had been dreading the process of recording the simulations since I really didn’t want to rely on an OBS screen capture and possibly introduce encoding artifacts. But luckily someone has shared a LUA script which renders out the raw pixels into a BMP frame sequence. It took some time to render out some of the more complex simulations since it only writes after the CPU has completed each frame, but it was ideal since I needed a perfectly smooth frame rate.

After that I needed to uprez each of the renders since each pixel was a single cell and yet I wanted to visualize them as larger squares. This turned out to be a strange challenge since I wanted to translate the footage, scale it up, prep the colors to be a displacement map, and yet not introduce any aliasing. So I ended up uprezzing the footage into a 1920x1080 canvas and then rendered out using the ‘draft quality’ settings of After Effects and apparently that uses the 'nearest neighbor' algorithm.

That allowed me to finally do some 3D experiments using Maya and Redshift. So I linked the animated displacement map onto a poly plane and also created a separate poly plane with a black hole shader so as to hide any of the boring aspects at rendertime and generate an alpha channel. I have grown frustrated with the lack of abstract IBL maps, so I used colorful flat photos instead of the typical equirectangular map and that resulted in some unique reflections when I animated the rotation. Also an interesting surprise happened when I applied a wave deformer to the poly plane and I think it affected the normals, so the displacement map was affected in surprising ways. Lastly, included in this pack are all of the original displacement map renders, so you can jam with them however you want.

I prepared way too many render layers using different cameras and shaders. So I had a large backlog of renders running for a solid month. Ironically many of the renders didn’t turn out very interesting and I only kept the delicious ones. Even still, I then created even more versions while compositing in After Effects and so this pack ended up enormous. I rendered out “glow” versions for many of the videos since adding a glow effect in Resolume has a heavy processing overhead.

Released August 2021