What is... Hzwatches?

...or to phrase it more accurately what ARE Hzwatches? Towards the end of last year, I'd mentioned how the first project I had planned using my recently finished Making Sense® cards had led to the design of a new audiovisual production strand - one that was established specifically to focus my regular casual motion graphics and sound design tinkerings into a process of purpose.

So... to answer that opening question - Hzwatches are... swatches! Not only pronounced exactly the same but also intended to serve a very similar purpose. In the same way that Pantone colour squares or textiles cuttings serve as a tangible style/design reference, Hzwatches are my contribution to the world of sample and reference library building - just in this case - for the purpose of audiovisual production; they are swatches that are made up of both motion graphics and sound.

Each Hzwatch (each video loop study) takes a proto-notion, theme, or phenomenon and seeks to explore the execution of audiovisual formulas of which reinforce or highlight elements or aspects of that theme. This entire process began with the creation of Hzwatch #001. This first video focused on a very simple theme - the notion of 'white' as both a sonic and visual ingredient.

Here we see a white rotating ring, emitting consistent white noise audio. As the ring splits into its constituent parts, we can see the red, green, and blue colour channels that form the original white ring. As these rings split and seperate we can also hear this phenomenon within the audio, as the original white noise is notch filtered and split into 3 distinct separate tones.

Nothing groundbreaking here. The notion of white noise and white light being intermodal cousins isn't alien at all - but this initial Hzwatch serves as a solid top-level statement on the kinds of conceptual processes that sit behind these Hzwatch experiments. It's this way of thinking that drives many of the creative decisions within my own creative practice, and it's a process that I personally refer to as Hybrid Fundamentalism - a methodology I had previously explained in last month's post on The Modes of Modern Creativity.

Hzwatch #002 explores a slightly more interpretive approach for the theme of XY directionality in both sound and visuals.

Through the visuals, this ingredient of XY motion could be applied in a literal sense - with X directionality demonstrated by animating the cross-section of the sphere left to right, and right to left, and Y directionality demonstrated by animating the cross-section from top to bottom, and bottom to top. The aural mode is where a higher degree of interpretation was required for this notion. Although both modes are temporal (i.e. they require the passage of time to be perceived) sound isn't really presented on a spatial 2-dimensional plane in the same way that standard motion graphics are. Therefore, in this study, the sense of XY directionality through sound is delivered via analogous degrees of modulation and manipulation. In this case, X directionality is denoted through the use of panning, with the sound moving left to right or right to left in traditional stereo audio setups. The Y directionality, however, is achieved through low-pass and high-pass filtering, with high frequencies reserved for the top half of the sphere, and low frequencies reserved for the bottom half of the sphere.

The audiovisual relationship demonstrated through this Hzwatch is one that actually forms a key piece of UI functionality within pyka_loop. One of the first interactive audio tools we ever build over at the creative tech wonder house that is pyka.

[SEE ABOVE: pyka_loop V3.0. The app features a spatialised XY panning and filtering system, whereby placing sounds left and right, manipulates the stereo position of the sound, and placing them top/bottom manipulates the pass filtering of the sound.]

Hzwatch #002 represents an effort to archive and acknowledge a multimodal formula that was established as part of an audiovisual UI design process that I worked on nearly a decade ago. ...and with that lies the core rationale for Hzwatches overall; a rationale that came rushing in to focus through the Making Sense® planning process I mentioned here earlier. Hzwatches is an acknowledgement that this process of Hybrid Fundamentalism can, and has, had a dramatic and rewarding impact on design choices within my public-facing projects, artefacts, and experiences throughout my working history. Historically, many of these kinds of AV design choices emerged from roulette spins of creative inspiration and flashes of insight. Now, however, Hzwatches serves as a repository for a farmable audiovisual reference library so that, when the need arises, an executable formula can be pulled from the book of Hzwatches as it were! It is now something I can turn to whenever I find myself thinking about intermodal relationships - while designing idents and stings, AV user interfaces, expressive animation pieces, and even live physical interactive experiences. ...and this is a resource that will remain accessible online, here, for any other designers and producers out there who are seeking solutions for AV relationship curation across the modes they manipulate within their own practice.

An ongoing log of these studies, complete with their formulaic descriptions, can be found over in the gallery on the Hzwatches project page. But these will also be regularly shared as they emerge through Twitter and Instagram - oh but of course!