Solar Modulator is an app which translates changes in light intensity into MIDI messages (using the camera), allowing musicians and producers to shape sounds in real time using light and motion. It can be used to create fun new ways to interact with sound, as well as granting users a full range of musical expression without needing additional hardware.
Solar Modulator reacts to any light change, so an infinite number of interactions can be created, using gestures and/or electronics (as seen in the demonstration video above). It can be something as simple as changing a sound by moving one's hand towards the camera (blocking light), or something as complex as glitch effects using a remote control's infrared pulses or creating a homemade controller that selectively blocks light using neutral density filters.
The animated dock icon (right) allows for usage while the app itself is not visible, eliminating the need to switch windows while working on your music. For battery-conscious users, energy impact is low when the app is active off-screen*.
Solar Modulator should work with any Mac app that takes MIDI input, (including Logic Pro, Ableton Live, GarageBand, MainStage, Bitwig Studio, and many more) since it simply acts like a standalone external midi device (rather than a plugin, which runs inside your DAW). Unlike a plugin, it doesn't need to be installed on other computers when you share your projects.
Solar Modulator supports the following MIDI parameters over all channels in low or high resolution**:
• Modulation/Mod Wheel
• Pitch Bend
• Pressure/Mono Aftertouch
• Sustain/Soft Pedal
• General purpose MIDI CC controls for mapping to DAW controls.
As of version 1.1 (released January 2016) Solar Modulator supports external cameras for all users. Any USB webcam that is recognized by OS X should work, however not all webcams support the exposure control required by Solar Modulator to perform optimally. These cameras can still be used, but the results may be less stable and/or less responsive. There isn't currently a specific webcam that can be recommended (the ones used for testing all had issues), but generally cheap models from generic brands will not work optimally, since they often lack any features beyond what is required for basic video capture.
Solar Modulator requires a camera and MIDI input-compatible software to be useful, as it does not generate sound by itself.
*According to developer tool analysis on a 2015 MacBook Pro, using a low resolution video preset.
**Only modulation in low resolution available before In-App Purchase.