The advantages of Jitter MAX MSP for the production of live audio-visual works

There are several tools available to create real-time audio-reactive visuals. Among them are: Processing, Touch Designer, VVVVV, etc. However, among all of them, from my experience and in my opinion,  Jitter in Max MSP has unique advantages.  So what are the advantages of working in Jitter and why?

1. Three types of functions in the same programming platform

Jitter in Max MSP is one of the most powerful tools for creating interactions between audio and visuals. In fact, MAX brings together, in the same programming platform:

  • MSP objects contain functions to perform fine-grained audio analysis, synthesis and modification processes.

  • At the same time, in Jitter we find functions that allow to perform image synthesis, analysis and modification.

  • Finally, in MAX, we find functions that allow us to build algorithms, perform data analysis, or control different processes.  

In this way, very original interactions can be created, as original as the author can imagine, as well as very close relationships between the world of data, audio and visuals.

Examples of work that can be done using Max 8.

  • The visualization of data extracted from FFT analysis, RMS average amplitude, detection of the fundamental frequency, amplitude peaks or transients, among others.

  • The synthesis of sounds from image analysis, such as: color detection, motion direction, resolution, among others.

  • Generative visuals and music from algorithms.

  • Visualization and sonification of mathematical functions, or vistually, any kind of data. 

  • Fine Treatment of extracted data flow.  

2. Direct audio-visual translation functions

Max contains functions that allow the "direct translation" from the visual to the audio world and vice versa, as in the case of :


  • jit.catch~ : transforms an audio signal into a Jitter data matrix, which can be used for different purposes such as : synthesis of an image, color values, values for the position of vertices of a 3D graph, etc.

  • jit.release~ : transforms a Jitter data matrix into an audio signal. It is a kind of "synthesizer".

  • jit.poke~ allows to give the amplitude values of an audio signal to the different planes of a Jitter matrix. With this we can visualize waveforms, like an oscilloscope, for example.

Fig: This video shows the visualisation of a sine function

3.  Original results

In my experience, by building the programs practically from scratch, it is possible to get very original results. Indeed, although in Max there are objects whose functions or objects are already made and can not be edited, these little bricks do not work by themselves, and therefore, Max allows the user to build almost anything you can imagine.

Among these results we can mention :

  •  Very precise synchronization between visuals and very specific sound aspects.  For example : you can visualise spectral qualities of a sound by mapping a FFT analysis results to visuals.

  • Musical visual compositions  for example : Construction of visual rhythmic sequences,
    visual crescendos and diminuendos : this can be transposed to the size of a shape, to the intensity of color, to the density of objects on the screen, among others; construction of "visual polyphony" : overlapping rhythmic sequences of visual elements can be realised, among others.


  • Original visual  synthesis results made using your own visual synthesiser. Indeed, it is possible to carry out the  transposition of sound synthesis principles and techniques to the field of visual synthesis :  you can build a visual synthesizer within Max. This is the case of the Vsynthmodular visual synth, created by Kevin Kripper.

Fig. Example of audio-generative visuals. The audio-visual synchronisation is quite precise. 

4.  Easy to use for non-programmers

Max is a visual programming environment and this allows this tool to be easily adopted by people who do not necessarily know how to program. Max was originally conceived to be used by musicians. Today this tool is used by visual artists as well.  Although the first steps can be frustrating for people who do not work with a computer, with a good teacher and motivation, the use of Max can be easily adopted by professional or amateur artists.  Among my students I have seen audio engineers, visual artists, graphic designers, musicians, among others.

5. Connecting to external technology made easy

Jitter in Max MSP makes it possible to perform audiovisual works where external technology is involved. Max allows the control of many types of technology, for example :

  • We can control lights from sound or image data through the DMX protocol.

  • We can control the parameters of a hardware synthesizer from the visuals generated in Jitter by translating the matrices into MIDI or OSC data.

  • It is possible to interact with other systems through a network connection, using the UDP protocol.

  • It is also possible to acquire or send data from the internet.

Fig. In this example a math function is transposed to the visual domain, then, the same function controls a hardware synthesiser . This video shows a work in progress. 

6. Robust tool for live presentations

Max MSP Jitter is a tool designed for live presentations.  Let's not forget that the program that the user builds must also be robust.
Ideal for live audio-visual concerts, interactive audio-visual art installations, and connectable to musical instruments and other software tools, from external libraries that allow to broadcast the sound in multi-channel formats, or other programs, such as Ableton Live (Jitter can be used within Ableton as part of Max for Live); Mad Mapper, which allows video-mapping, to project videos on surfaces other than a screen: such as building facades.

Fig. This video shows Jitter in action during an audio-visual concert. The visuals are generated by a math function and also by the sound signal from the musicians playing live.   Also, Sabina C. performs using a MIDI controller to musically modify the visuals while the musicians are playing . Credits : Hara Alonso, piano and electronics,  Sergio Castrillón, cello; Núria Andorrà, percussion, Postman, electronics Sabina Covarrubias, visuals.