I used this project to explore the use of sound to drive an object. I am trying to keep the scope of my projects small so I don’t burn out. Tom wanted an oscilloscope effect for the video and I have been playing with cloth and watching Ian Hubert. His banner tutorial helped put the idea in my head.

Procedural animation like this can be a great return on time investment as I don’t have to babysit a bunch of keyframes for the whole clip. However, getting it set up can be time consuming in itself.

I used Eevee for this, because it was 1/3 of the render time, even with Freestyle turned on. I just did not have the patience for a 40 hour render. It did look a lot better in Cycles, because Cycles does a better job of making a normal map look interesting. The ground plane here is mostly flat and I put in only the barest effort to sculpt some features on it.

I turned on freestyle just to give it some more visual interest, since I wasn’t really happy about how flat it looked with Eevee. A quick test shows it added about 30% to the render time.

The poles are just cylinders and cubes. I tried making a distressed wood material but it is not visible with the shadows. I’d like to refine it to something passable even in full light.

I used a picture for the background just because I couldn’t be bothered to make a procedural sunset sky. I like the grainy look on it and it would have matched nicely with the render noise from Cycles. I would like to create something similar in Blender.

The lighting is a single sun lamp which caused a problem when I turned on rendered view. Everything was completely dark. Turned out the giant plane I used for the image was casting a shadow on my scene. I found out that every object has setting for shadow casting, among other things.

The power line is a cloth sim with the ends of it hooked to empty objects. The animated line has a third empty hooked to it to control the wiggle. I had a difficult time wrangling the cloth. The sim results are cached after it has run once. This means that if you move the cloth, it often does not update the position of the vertices until you re-run the sim. This causes it to stretch all over and makes it difficult to get an idea of how things will look. I ended up doing a lot of baking and deleting bakes just to make it behave.

Speaking of baking, every piece of cloth has its own simulation settings. I had to go and bake every line individually. I think if I did this again, I would place the poles, then create a line that stretches between them to reduce the number of tricky objects. Of course, that would fall apart when you want to do something like reposition the poles but it fell apart using the current method, so no loss there.

The wiggle object for the line uses the “Bake Sound to F-Curve” option in the graph editor. It is good, but limited in how you can modify its effect. I used an envelope modifier in the graph editor to control the scale of the wiggle and the zero position. You can also use it to invert the effect of the sound on the object. I used a keyframe on the hook modifier of the cloth in order to turn the effect on after a certain frame.

If I were to make it again, I would like to plan it out a little more. It’s a tough balance to strike between careful planning and just getting in there. If you plan too much, you will never finish anything but if you don’t plan at all, you might get stuck somewhere and not finish either. I started this with only the idea of making something wiggle in time with the sound. Part of the problem is that I don’t know if the things I envision are even possible at my skill level.