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Jeffers Egan has been working with TouchDesigner for several years now, having had the good fortune, he says, to be introduced to Jarrett Smith by mutual friends in Los Angeles just as Derivative was starting up. With a background in visual arts Jeffers was immediately intrigued by the product and its visual programming aspects and starting exploring the software right away.
video credits Mind In Rewind - Derivative Touch Plastikman Contest from jeffers e on Vimeo

Derivative: Jeffers, please tell us about your initial experience with TouchDesigner - what made you want to use it?

Jeffers: When I first discovered TouchDesigner I saw it as a way to address two issues I had encountered. First, I wanted to eliminate the timeline in the Motion Paintings I was making, so instead of seamless loops, I could build paintings that were infinitely variable, literally never the same twice - like live ecosystems instead of rendered ideas. Second, I wanted to build a live visual performance tool to play out live with my colleague Jake Mandell - we wanted to use some the rendered material from our Slither DVD in conjunction with 3D elements, and then connect all this to his patch built in Native Instrument's Reaktor.

D: And what has your overall experience been?

JE: TouchDesigner is very challenging yet ultimately very rewarding. The more I work with Touch the more hooked I get. Coming from more of an art background, I appreciate the visual programming aspects of the node-based design. At the same time, if I want to get more technical, I find that Touch provides intuitive methods to do that, say drive animations via expressions, or incorporate GLSL shaders in the the compositing pipeline. I also appreciate that Touch is constantly being updated and improved with new features added all the time.

D: What does TouchDesigner facilitate for you?

JE: Touch, by its nature as a node-based and real-time tool, facilitates much more experimentation - the ability to be more playful, in comparison to traditional render-based animation. The big change for me is simply that Touch eliminates rendering, so that's a huge time saving step.

D: Can you tell us a bit about the work that you do and what you're doing with TD - how you're using it?

JE: I'm using Touch basically in two areas, as an engine to create infinitely variable Motion Paintings, and as a performance tool for Live AV explorations. Right now I am working with musicians Burnt Friedman and Jaki Leibezeit (nonplace records).

Stills from Jeffers' MUTEK 2009 performance with Burnt Friedman and Jaki Leibezeit [More coverage here].

D: What was your experience building the PM piece?

JE: I was really excited about the interface, I found it very intuitive and quite simple to use the Animation Editor to tempo-sync what I was building to the musical track. Everything was fast, smooth and it was really cool to be able to start creating from the first moment I opened the file. With Touch being real-time and so interactive, it was rewarding to start connecting animations and objects to the tempo-synced music track and see an instant result.

D: What would you tell new TouchDesigner users, or people who've never used Touch but are intrigued?

JE: In my mind Touch is the most powerful and also the most intuitive visual programming software available today - the prefect tool for everyone involved in creating new forms of visual culture.

If you think Touch might appear a bit intimidating, I would encourage you to dive in and start exploring. If you get stuck, check out the Derivative Forum and Wiki for the example files, videos and documentation. The community is really tight, so if you have a question, other users and/or Derivative staff are sure to give advice and help you out.

D: What else can you do with it?

JE: Last fall I was in Tokyo, and had a chance to finally see the Prada Epicenter Hypersurface Project (Derivative + Herzog and de Meuron) in person, and I hope with the proliferation of Media Facades, more of these will be built using TouchDesigner. I'm also looking forward to exploring the new multi-touch capabilities inside Touch to drive interactive installations and also as a component of new live performance interfaces.