1-bit bitmaps and monotimbral MIDI music
by Travis Hallenbeck
Tiny Icon Factory, an example of a simple program to create a bitmap file
Sequencer, an example of a simple program to create a MIDI file
II. motivating influences
- Make A World, Ed Emberly
- Apple II low resolution BASIC graphics
- Apple II 1-bit music, toggle circuit that could only emit a click through a built-in speaker, looped
- Susan Kare, creator of original Mac icons
- Kid Pix, using icons as stamps
- Hypercard, black and white icons in the style of Susan Kare
- rubber stamps
- SNES Mario Paint, looped sequenced music to bitmaps
- the typical default PC setup & freeware
- MS Paintbrush/Paint, saving bitmaps
- General MIDI, saving sequenced music, all standard note durations and pitches, standard conceptual set of instruments
- icon collections online, styles galore
- no books in library on bitmap art
- CAD wireframes
III. concept development
I wanted to make art that was...
- an easy masterpiece (maximum satisfaction from minimal effort),
- as small as possible and not necessarily physical - elusive,
- infinite yet ordered (never ends but always feels complete/like a world you could explore),
- bold but numbing,
- ambient but in your face,
- personal but anonymous/cryptic,
- fast and cheap to distribute/copy.
1-bit bitmap and monotimbral MIDIs are perfect!
- At each step of making a 1-bit bitmap or monotimbral MIDI, all you do is plot a pixel or note or not.
- super small file size
- Neither are final forms - control graphic (a map of plots) and control music (a score).
- so small that they force you to emphasize the main features of an object/mood
- you can put so many in a small space - they can be overwhelming to look at or listen to all at once
- you can enlarge or repeat a bitmap or repeat a phrase in a MIDI to intensify it
- convey so much style but yet, in a way, none at all
- webpages, print outs, CDs, ...
IV. problems encountered
What dimension to bitmap in?
Too small - not enough possibilities
Too large - too many possibilities - more of a finished picture/scene than a stamp
Almost infinite possibilities?
8 x 8 = 64 pixels, 264 or 1.84467441 × 1019 possible 1-bit bitmaps
16 x 16 = 256 pixels, 2256 or 1.15792089 × 1077 possible 1-bit bitmaps
32 x 32 = 1,025 pixels, 21,025 possible 1-bit bitmaps
64 x 64 = 4,096 pixels, 24,096 possible 1-bit bitmaps
How many are unique, recognizable objects?
- you can kinda eliminate half of those totals as inverses.
- 75% of the remaining are mostly 90°, 180°, or 270° rotations.
- You can subtract 2 for total black and total white... heh heh
- ...and so on???
Scrawling/freehand drawing vs. plotting
copy and paste or rearrange previous sections to develop features
lack of depth/dynamics
dither/shading – making drums by running notes together
how to organize thousands and thousands of bitmaps?
put them all in one big file?
V. problem solving procedures
How many bitmaps have already been created?
We'll never know.
How can the ones online be found?
How can I encourage people to make more?
VI. work in progress
a record of short, monotimbral MIDIs written for each of the 128 General MIDI instruments with a sleeve depicting all 128 in 1-bit bitmaps
...figure out a way to generate original bitmaps from pre-existing (or categories of) bitmaps
continue to collect and study styles in the wild
bitmaps expressed physically
my Flickr favorites