Quartz Composer

After having read through the high-level guides on Core Animation yesterday, I was inspired to go dive into Quartz Composer. There are a lot of things you can plug into the Core Animation frame – everything from still images, videos, to OpenGL views. And one of those things is a composition from quartz composer.

So the first thing I learned is that a visual “programming language” (which Quartz Composer uses), requires a hell of a lot more screen real-estate than even a 15″ MacBook Pro easily provides. I just started digging into some of the read-made samples to get a sense of how other compositions were put together, and found myself scrolling and scrolling around to try and find everything. The creators of this setup have done a nice job with making “macros” for the visual language too – the visual complexity of all the various components on one screen would require at least four 30″ monitors side by side and be just tremendously overwhelming. It’d be cool – I’m all for doing it – but I’m not sure we can drive four 30″ monitors with a single computer quite as yet.I’d had an idea of displaying an RSS feed out in a visual timeline view – thought that would be interesting. I’m pretty sure I can do it with it QC… but for me it may well be faster just coding it all by hand with a text-based language. At least working from my laptop. 

I think what may be most fascinating about Quartz Composer is that someone can make a complete application with Quartz Composer on Leopard. With the additions that have been tucked in, you can create an interface in Interface Builder that hooks up to Quartz Composer and basically never have to write a line of code to get an incredible graphic display application. If you’re willing to write a little code, you can write your patches into Quartz Composer – and the possibilities of visual display start going overwhelming again.

I’ve been flipping through Visualizing Data recently – it’s mostly focused on using Processing to do it’s stuff, but I can easily see roaming into the realm of using Quartz Composer for the same kinds of effects. I’m not the only one that had that thought, and some folks have even hacked the two to work together. There’s also been some updates that allow Quartz Composer to communicate over the network (with more than an RSS feed reader) – so you can have multiple quartz composer applications “talking” with each other.

Published by heckj

Developer, author, and life-long student. Writes online at https://rhonabwy.com/.

3 thoughts on “Quartz Composer

  1. Joe,

    Nice work. I have a development question. I am not a programmer so I do not know how to implement. What I need is an application UI for the RSS QC. I need the UI to allow me to set all of the variables but more importantly I need the interface to allow me to type in text for viewing in the QC. In other words, I need to have RSS QC point to a user interface rather than a RSS url.

    Any thoughts?




  2. I’m not familiar enough with QC to know how to arrange that bit. I know that a program (Cocoa, etc) can provide inputs into a Quartz Composer composition, so you could generate a user interface through that – but that involves someone writing the program to do the inputs. From straight within QC, I’m not sure how to do this.


  3. np…thanks for the response. My thoughts were to create a front end in IB/XCode but I was not sure how to create the RSS link portion where RSS QC would link to. I’ll keep looking around though.

    Thanks again.


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