Last weekend Orbital Mechanics played at Deepfield, and used a simulator/visualizer I developed for them as part of the visuals for the show. I call it the Orbiter. Here it is in action for the first time:

The simulation models the gravitational (Newtonian) forces between bodies in space, with time accelerated so the motions are visible. The camera shows one comet’s point of view through its orbit within the system. The planets and comets also react to audio, each one sensitive to a particular frequency range, increasing as you move away from the sun. All the numerical values and data on screen are actual figures used for the simulation, such as orbital radius, mass, velocity, etc.

What took the whole thing to the next level was the brilliant idea (thanks to Diagraf) to project this onto a special fabric so it looks like a holographic display floating both in front and behind the DJs. It had an amazing effect and seeing the crowd’s reaction when it came on made me ecstatic. A big thanks to Orbital Mechanics for the inspiration to make this thing, and the opportunity to showcase it with their music in such an awesome way. Also thanks to Noerg Productions for putting on that killer event.

As for the programming, everything was done in C++ using the open-source Cinder creative coding framework. I’m learning a lot as I go and I’ll write more posts about the development process soon. When I started hobby programming a few weeks ago I had no idea this is where it would lead, but now I’m more motivated than ever! I have a lot of ideas to evolve the engine and I’m really looking forward to continuing the close collaboration with Orbital Mechanics. Stay tuned!