Mike The Monkey HalfRez 2015: Deconstructing Sound

October 30, 2015


Mike Senften joined us at HalfRez this year to blow everybody’s mind once again. Animators, musicians, engineers, doctors, stock traders and countless other professions rely on waveforms to describe the behavior of data over time. In this presentation Mike shares a visual approach to understanding the construction and deconstruction of waveforms. It’s a short and sweet introduction to basic trigonometry as well as Fourier Synthesis and Fourier Analysis (which were first developed over 200 years ago by French mathematician Joseph Fourier). It requires little to no prior experience in mathematics, but a passion for nerdery and a glass of bourbon are always helpful.

Deconstructing Sound

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  • Oh man, this must be the first time in five years we’ve seen Mike the Monkey on here!

  • That was most enjoyable. Audio engineering and 3D work has gone hand in hand in my life. Very cool to see someone so enthusiastic about such a cool subject.

  • Amazing presentation, but please, with all those lines, set ANTIALIASING ON in the viewport, it makes more pleasing.
    Preferences -> OpenGL -> Antialiasing 4 or 8

    • Yo, yo, Sandro…

      *Awkward Gorilla High Five*!

      Alright… now lets be honest… it is *slightly* irresponsible of you to suggest that everyone change their OpenGL AA settings without noting the included disclaimer (from MAXON themselves) that is printed only inches below. I’m including it here because many noobs are quick to hit buttons without reading paragraphs. I’m looking at you (Scott). 😉


      Changing any OpenGL options may dramatically impact the stability of your system! If you experience crashes hold down CTRL + SHIFT during the next application start until the splash screen disappears. This will reset shading to Software Mode.

      A lot of OpenGL crashes only happen after a longer time of use. Therefore, be extremely careful and consult the context-sensitive help system for which options to use.

      The most critical option is ‘Anti-Aliasing’. Be extremely careful when enabling this option.

      There are few places where MAXON tells you to be “extremely careful” (twice). If you don’t believe me I encourage you to stop right now and type “extremely careful” into C4D’s help dialog. I’ve actually never searched that phrase before today, but it’s kind of an interesting way to use the help, isn’t it?

      So now that we’ve read everything… do what you will my fellow heros.

      But just to offer a vintage perspective, I’ve never turned AA on in the viewport in 15 years. One of the few advantages of being an old guy is that after playing hundreds of hours of Pitfall on the Atarii 2600 you can do the anti-aliasing in your head… and leave your GPU to calculate more important things.

      Much Love,


      • Very useful information from your answer, I didn’t know about the CTRL + SHIFT and I was not sure about the antialiasing performance on the viewport, maybe some crash I had is for that reason. LoL I loved pitfall and that aliased rope.

      • Listen to the man, its the truth. And Atari ruled!

      • You’re absolutely right… And yes, it’s actually amazing what you see in your head, and what is actually on screen… It’s a bit like the matrix BUT real!

        I’ll often get people looking over my shoulder and just looking with nothing but befuddlement, then shaking their heads and walking away… makes me smile!

  • Like Mike, I too think this is the way Trig should be taught in school. I often think that if I had C4D back when I was in HS, I would have taken a much greater interest in Physics and Geometry.

    Also like Mike, I’m rediscovering this topic later in life and I have a passion for it and use C4D to help visualize & grasp some of the concepts.

    Just wondering if Mike could post that EverythingSin file he was working with?

    • The EverythingSin file is pretty straight forward… just a bunch of tracers as I remember. I have no problem with GSG including it here (they have the file), but I would encourage you to just give it a shot first. You might be surprised just how simple it it, and you’ll never forget it after you build it yourself.

      Cheers. 🙂

      • Hey Mike. You’re right. Shortly after posting my comment a month ago, I built my own version. Thanks again for the cool presentation!

  • Thank god for this – There is so little information on how to use sound creatively in C4D (besides the “let’s build some kind of equaliser using the sound effector”)

    Mike’s stuff is always at another level.

  • Absolutely Inspiring !!!
    Thank You.

  • Just astonishing! I’ve watched you talk about data visualisation before, and was inspired. To see you visualising theories, to see how simply you present complex ideas, puts many a lecturer to shame.
    As an optometrist who’s had the privilege to teach uni students, I’m acutely aware of how difficult it can be for some minds to absorb this kind of stuff (mine included). Understanding why, for example, M-wave gratings start looking like square-wave gratings when they get small enough is entirely counter intuitive, until you realise that some of the harmonic waves are now simply too small to be resolved by the eye and consequently don’t influence what you perceive (makes you wonder what else you don’t see due to the ‘missing’ harmonics).
    I now have a go-to resource to help visually explain the maths.
    I’m a C4D hobbyist, so we don’t play the same game, let alone in the same league, but stuff like this fires my inner geek.
    All a bit gushy perhaps, but damnit, sometimes it’s deserved.

  • What an awesome presentation! Mike the Monkey is king! In case anyone out there is really interested in sound and visuals, there is a program called Ableton LIVE that is taking over the world. They have a hardware component called PUSH that has to be seen to be believed. And here is a link for an $8 app that adds really cool animated gif visuals from inside LIVE.

  • this guy…I wish he was my professor when I was studying. His work and presentations are always an inspiration. I wish the Monkey was a plugin 😉

  • Jak Andrukowicz-Kearns November 22, 2015 at 1:26 am

    Hey Monkey, I’m a Physics student and fourier analysis (not so much synthesis, but it’s the exact same principle reverse engineered) pops up a lot in pretty much every discipline, because deconstructing anything into layers of sinusoidal behaviour is apparent at all orders of magnitude.

    I’ve done stuff in cinema regarding the trig demo file before, basic stuff with tracers and such. But I’d love if the synthesis and analysis .c4d files were available to download, as I’d love to be able to tinker with the maths and have this incredible visual output. It would also be a great tool for demonstrating experimental results in presentations, and I would be more than happy to credit this great work of yours.

    I imagine it’s a case of ‘do we still have/can we find the files to upload’, but if you or GSG does, then I would greatly appreciate that.

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