Multimedia artist Andy Thomas translated the soundscapes of the Amazon rainforest into a mesmerizing 3D animation titled the Visual Sounds of the Amazon. He and Reynier Omena Junior made their field recordings in 2016 around Presidente Figueiredo in the Brazilian state of Amazonas. The result, he says, is "a symbolic representation of nature’s collision with technology.”
"What I've realized is that people have compassion fatigue these days," Thomas says. "They hear about the destruction of rainforests and decimation of species across the world, and they become numb to it."
Thomas uses the animation software Houdini to bring sounds into sight. Unlike Adobe Photoshop, which is a layer-based program (effects are applied to a background like a stack of pages), Houdini is a node-based software. This means that the final image is a product of the interaction of a network or web of effects.
Using this program, Thomas creates an abstract form for each creature and layers it with a series of effects—selected as he thinks about the birds' coloring, nests, habitat and even diet. Many of the animations focus on the male birds' coloring, since they are often the ones to sport the most outlandish tones and patterns. Then he feeds in the animal recording, which activates particular parts of this complicated framework, converting the sequence of sounds into a pulsing, writhing burst of color. Though the bird calls are clearly the featured sound, every tick and trill in the background of the recording influences the final shape...
"There's no magic button that creates this stuff. I'm actually sitting there and sculpting these things bit by bit," Thomas says.
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