Artists and Hackers

Art Tools: Live coding with Hydra

February 10, 2022

Art Tools is our new segment on experimental digital tools of creation. We speak with Olivia Jack on her browser-based visual live coding synthesizer called hydra.

Episode notes

Today we’re kicking off a new segment called Art Tools, a series of mini episodes with the creators of innovative and experimental software for making art, music and other creative expression.

In our very first episode Critical Code we spoke with the artist Sarah Groff Hennigh-Palermo, who created her own library and language La Habra for making live visual artwork with code. Today we’re speaking with the artist and programmer Olivia Jack on her browser-based visual livecoding software Hydra.

Hydra is a web-based video synthesizer. Olivia describes live coding as writing code in real time to make visuals and/or music as part of a performance. Originally begun as a series of explorations in the browser, Hydra is now used by a large community of live coding performers who perform in clubs and other venues, as well as in online streamed performances throughout the pandemic. There are many resources for getting started with Hydra, and a number of spin-off projects including PIXELJAM, also by Olivia, which allows multiple performers to do live coding together. There are also periodic online meetups where live coders worldwide meet up to talk and show off their works created with Hydra.

In this episode Olivia speaks on her background, the experiments that led to the creation of Hydra, and the choices she’s made in its design that has led to adoption by a large community of live coders creating visual works in the browser with Hydra.

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