An autonomous, tempo-synced, MIDI-controlled video mixer

For Ableton Live & macOS
Version 1.0
52.1 MB

Quick start

  1. Download Unarchive the folder and move its contents to some place easy to get to. Launch Live and drag BRAINCTRL.amxd onto a new MIDI track.
  2. Launch the Video Brain app. When it opens it presents a dialog asking for the location of the clips folder. Point it to the Clips folder you just downloaded and click Open.
  3. Back in Live, select the BRAINCTRL.amxd track and set it to send MIDI Out to the IAC Driver on Channel 16. Make sure MIDI ports Track and Sync are turned On for the IAC Driver Output in Live's MIDI Sync Preferences. Hit play in Live and twist some of BRAINCTRL's knobs. Video Brain should come to life.

What the?

Clip mixing

Once Video Brain launches, it scans the clips folder you specified and groups the videos into sets of 8. Selecting between these sets is controlled by the A and B knobs. The Auto knob changes the behavior of the clip mixer.

Knobs A and B select the clip group for each mixing channel. When set to 0, the clip mixer for that channel is turned off. When set to 1, no group is selected and all clips are available for auto-mixing.

The Auto knob selects between mixing behaviors and color palettes for each channel. See the table below for details.

Auto Knob Presets

Off Off Off Off
Random Iterate CMYK CMYK
Iterate Iterate Hot Damn Aqua
Random Iterate Digerati Digerati
Iterate Iterate Swampy Swampy
Random Random Off Off
Random Random SDZE SDZE
Iterate Iterate CMYK CMYK
Random Random Random Random

Color Palettes

FX options

Each of the 4 video clips are sent through their own effects chain. Clips 1 and 2 are then blended to make channel A and clips 3 and 4 are blended to make channel B. Channel A is then blended with channel B. Two more effects are applied to make the final video. The specific effects and blending operations used at each stage are determined by the presets selected by the FX knob.

The FX knob selects between 8 presets that determine the FX types and blending operations used during each stage of the image processing pipeline.

FX Knob Presets

Off Off Off Off Off Off Off Off Off
Off Off Off Off Kaleidoscope Off Off Off Off
Slide Slide Slide Slide Mirror Halftone Off Off Difference
Halftone Op Tile Thermal Neon Kaleidoscope Off Off Off Off
Mirror Slide Mirror Slide Halftone Zoom Off Off Off
Circular Op tile Circular Op tile Halftone Off Off Off Off
Kaleidoscope Mirror Glow Mirror Feedback Off Color blend Color blend Color blend
Mirror Kaleidoscope Mirror Kaleidoscope Thermal Glow Color dodge Color dodge Soft light
Random Random Random Random Hole distort Bulge Addition Addition Addition


Here are a few examples of Video Brain in action. The color palettes and source clips were put together specifically for the band NOJESUS. Depending on the source clips you provide, the look and feel of Video Brain's output could be completely different from these examples.

The first iteration of the Video Brain Quartz Composer patch was created for this MIDI-driven music video.
Stress-testing effects combinations. Frame rate is directly related to the number of clips and effects in use.
An iteration of Video Brain that composites a live feed of the performers into the bottom third of the screen.
Video Brain's great at creating an ever-changing, seamlessly morphing video ambience.

Source files

Video Brain is a collection of Quartz Composer patches wrapped in a macOS application. It’s operated via MIDI sent by BRAINCTRL, a Max for Live device. Feel free to poke around the source files to see how it all works. Be sure to follow the instructions in the README file if you want to tweak something and rebuild the app or Max for Live device.


Video Brain was made by Justin Rhoades in 2012 for the band NOJESUS. The initial version was a Quartz Composer composition that used MIDI input to trigger time-stretched video clips of early 90s Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Over the next three years Video Brain evolved into a standalone app with a companion Max for Live patch called BRAINCTRL. This combo enables tempo-synced video mixing and generative art creation from within the context of Ableton Live.