Webcam music and effect controllers. Do you see?

Most new laptops have webcams (or as Apple calls them iSights) built in. So it’s great to see music applications starting to use these cameras. The above tech demo from the Deep Listening Institute is designed for people with disabilities but there’s no reason anyone can’t benefit from this technology. I can imagine some guitar samples hooked into the interface and a long haired metal guy moshing away!

Metal Fan - cartoon

A commercial ready music webcam application is Cycling 74’s VTheremin:Vtheremin

Another example of our unique approach to instruments is the VTheremin plugin. Using your webcam, you can control a pair of oscillators by moving colored balls in the air. –

Vtheremin is part of Cycling 74’s Hipno plug-in package. Audio Unit, RTAS, and VST. $199. Available as download or CD-Rom package.

There is also an open source webcam controller called Peripheral MIDI Controller from Ben Tan (Windows only so far):

Peripheral MIDI Controller (pmidic) is a software program that intends to act as a MIDI controller by using various peripheral devices. The initial release(s) will be focused on using a webcam as a MIDI controller with 3 dimensions (XYZ). –


When I perform live I have a video that plays in sync with my music dual screening from Ableton Live (remember this post?) to a video wall behind me. I just realized that I can open iChat, click the video preview window and drag that over to the video window too. This way the audience can see my face as I control Ableton. More reasons to go to the gym everyday!


Want to see a futuristic use of webcams? Check out On this site people have public video conversations using recorded video messages. Anyone can read the conversations then post a video and jump in. There are already several music threads with people playing live music to each other. It’s sort of a video version of Twitter. You have to sign up for a beta invite but they send it to you within a day. If you sign up send me a video message, my screen name is: thingstocome

Lastly, on the webcam video note I have been considering doing some video posts to Wire to the Ear. I’m not sure if it’s something I want to do yet. What do you think?

p.s. “Metal Fan” T-shirt: available here

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Oliver Chesler

"Hello my name is Oliver and I'm going to tell you a story." I have been recording music since 1989 under the name The Horrorist. I have released over 60 singles and 4 full length albums. To hear my music please go to:

6 thoughts on “Webcam music and effect controllers. Do you see?”

  1. Hi Oliver,
    You use your own projector don’t you? Could you give anymore details on this (model/brand)? Do you travel with a white-screen or is that in your rider?
    We’re hiring a projector for our next gig, and otherwise rely on venues having them, which they don’t always. Also – where do you hang your projector from? Or do you just sit it on the table in front of you and try not to get in the way? We don’t use Live for video playback but my wife/VJ uses a friend’s custom software to mix live.
    btw – video posts would be great!

  2. Hi Pete. I have a Casio XJ-360. You can see it here: Kit List. It’s ultra bright and tiny. I believe it was $2000 when I bought it a few years ago. 90% of the time it’s brighter than the LCD projectors at the venues I play for. I bring a “scrim” which is fabrik that’s a bit see thru. I can project from the front or back onto it. If the club doesnt have a screen behind me I ask them to help me hang the scrim. Scrim Link If I were in London Id come to your gig… let me know when you play Berlin!

  3. Thanks very much for the info Oliver! The scrim info+link is very useful, thanks.
    I was afraid the projector might be that expensive, but we just spent almost that much on a Little Phatty and if it’s brighter than what most venues have it would be worth it. Often if venues have projectors installed they are pointed at a side wall and rarely behind the band, so it would always be a good idea to bring your own. Also – I guess it could be hired out to bring in some supplemental income.
    One more question – about your mic. For this gig I’m going to go from my SM58 into my Kaoss Pad 3 then into my audio interface (tascam us-122). Given that it doesn’t go straight into the PA, it’s impossible for an engineer to “tune” it – have you ever had any problems with feedback or do you have an EQ somewhere along the line?
    I’ll let you know if ever I do, thanks, and I’ll send you a youtube link when it’s over :)

  4. Hi Pete. A new Little Phatty?! Nice!! They are really sweet.

    Yes, one of the reasons I bring my own projector is well I like the video behind me and not on the side wall, etc… I bet you could get one cheaper than 2k thats still good… remember I bought mine 3-4 years ago so the must keep getting better/cheaper. Did you see this article in the NYTimes about micro projectors: click here I doubt they will be bright enough but it’s still amazing tech coming to mobile phone and I bet even laptops soon!

    About the mic. I use a Shure PGX wireless. When I moved to Berlin I bought a new cordless so it would be 220V… it was an AKG. I returned it after the first gig and got a Shure again… why? Feedback. The Shure is amazing, I never get any feedback with it. I do use eq… I cut a lot of bass out and put a mid/high bump. On a few of the songs I have some effects (plug-ins). But usually just pitch changer. During soundcheck I was talking with Eric from Hocico about his distortion pedal for vocals… it does sound pretty sick. Im going to interview him about it for this blog soon.

  5. Cool – the potential of those little projectors is quite amazing!
    The one we’re hiring costs over £1000 to buy so they probably hold their value, but you’re probably right that there would be good ones for less money these days.

    Okay – so you use software for your EQ? Within Ableton Live? I’m using Ableton Live (6) as well so I will look into this. I’m using a PC and I’ve never tried to use real-time soft FX so I hope it’s still possible. At the least I’d like to roll off some bass. Now I’m a bit nervous about feedback!

    Wow, please do interview Erk! I’m supporting Hocico with my other band on 16+17 August in Estonia and Latvia. Would love to know about their vocal processing, because they seem to get no feedback.

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