New Series: Creating Operating System Start-up Animation Sequences

During this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, I have had a bit more time to devote to personal creative projects. I love working on something that can be completed in a short time frame (like a half-day). The burst of creative energy is invigorating and finishing something small in its entirety is a nice change-up.

I had recently learned that Brian Eno created the Windows 95 start-up sound (how did I miss that?!). Depending on where you were in life in the 1990s, that sound will conjure up feelings somewhere between ‘utter delight’ and ‘total dread.’ I caught myself deep in a rabbit hole of watching various operating system boot animations on YouTube. Ethereal tones, championing chimes, whimsical pixelated goodness: so much to love.

I then had a crazy idea: why not create my own start-up animation sequences for an operating system? I can just make up an operating system that might have existed ages ago and create a whole world around it to inspire a start-up sequence that I’ll code up. Asking questions like: “What might this fictional operating system been known for?” “Who might have been a user of this fictional operating system?” to imagine the system font, sounds, and aesthetic style. Creating this start-up animation for a hypothetical OS is kind of like a character sketch exercise!

Even crazier idea: I’ll create a start-up sequence for a fictional, hypothetical operating system once a week (or try to). Each time taking on a different “persona” angle and aesthetic. It’s part creative exercise, part coding exercise.

I have been wanting to get more adept at Processing anyway and this seemed like a great avenue to mix a lot of different areas of the language: 2-D animation, sounds, potentially some 3-D effects.

Enter: MotionOS. My first entry in this series. It could have been an operating system used by dedicated scientists and researchers. They expected cutting-edge tools because they were doing cutting-edge work. MotionOS was possibly introduced in the late 1980s and keeps it’s aesthetic rather mono. It presents a bookish, serious, but open-minded and worldly point-of-view. “Motion” because research does not stop because the world does not stop; “Motion” as in Newton’s First Law; “Motion” because everything is in motion and even the smallest particles must be in motion in order for life to exist.

The 3-D flying wireframe shapes attempt to convey motion with various angles, speeds and oscillating movements. The sound I composed (in GarageBand on an iPhone) is a few keys on a classical piano and some strokes on an erhu. I thought it conveyed a sound of curiosity and exploration I would expect it’s users to possess.

Without further ado: the MotionOS start-up animation, this week’s creation:

Look out for more upcoming OS Boot Sequences and Processing! I will be adding all Processing sketches to my Github as well.

Enjoy and stay safe everyone!

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