Book Image

Mastering openFrameworks: Creative Coding Demystified

By : Denis Perevalov
Book Image

Mastering openFrameworks: Creative Coding Demystified

By: Denis Perevalov

Overview of this book

openFrameworks is a powerful programming toolkit and library designed to assist the creative process through simplicity and intuitiveness. It's a very handy software library written in C++ to reduce the software development process, helping you to kick-start creative coding. With the help of C++ and shaders support, openFrameworks allows for the processing of all kinds of media information with your custom-developed algorithms at the lowest possible level, with the fastest speed. "Mastering openFrameworks: Creative Coding Demystified" will introduce you to a world of creative coding projects, including interactive installations, audio-visual, and sound art projects. You will learn how to make your own projects using openFrameworks. This book focuses on low-level data processing, which allows you to create really unique and cutting-edge installations and projects. "Mastering openFrameworks: Creative Coding Demystified" provides a complete introduction to openFrameworks, including installation, core capabilities, and addons. Advanced topics like shaders, computer vision, and depth cameras are also covered. We start off by discussing the basic topics such as image and video loading, rendering and processing, playing sound samples, and synthesizing new sounds. We then move on to cover 3D graphics, computer vision, and depth cameras. You will also learn a number of advanced topics such as video mapping, interactive floors and walls, video morphing, networking, and using geometry shaders. You will learn everything you need to know in order to create your own projects; create projects of all levels, ranging from simple creative-code experiments, to big interactive systems consisting of a number of computers, depth cameras, and projectors.
Table of Contents (22 chapters)
Mastering openFrameworks: Creative Coding Demystified
About the Author
About the Reviewers

About openFrameworks

openFrameworks is an open source C++ toolkit for creative coding. It was initially released by Zachary Lieberman in 2005. Today openFrameworks is one of the main creative coding platforms, which is actively developed by Zachary Lieberman, Theodore Watson, and Arturo Castro with help from the openFrameworks community.


The current openFrameworks' version is 0.8.0.

The toolkit is indebted to two significant precursors: the Processing development environment, created by Casey Reas, Ben Fry, and the Processing community; and the ACU Toolkit, a privately distributed C++ library developed by Ben Fry and others in the MIT Media Lab's Aesthetics and Computation Group.

openFrameworks' website is It contains latest downloads, documentation, tutorials, and forums.

The main purpose of openFrameworks is to provide users with an easy access to multimedia, computer vision, networking, and other capabilities in C++ by gluing many open libraries into one package. Namely, it acts as a wrapper for libraries such as OpenGL, FreeImage, and OpenCV. The term wrapper means that openFrameworks provides you with new functions and classes, and gives hints on a project structure, but does not limit you. Namely, you can still use all of the C++ capabilities, and directly call functions from all of the linked libraries without using the wrapper's classes.

openFrameworks is cross-platform compatible with Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS, and Android as the supported platforms. It means that if you develop a project for one of the platforms, you can copy the source files and compile the project for any other platform from the list. In the book we will cover developing a project for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux only. Though many of the examples considered will work on mobile platforms too.

There are many great projects made with openFrameworks. Here are a few "classical" ones:

  • Funky Forest by Emily Gobeille and Theodore Watson, 2007 – the interactive forest installation

  • Body Paint by Mehmet Akten, 2009 – drawing on the wall by moving the user's body

  • Hand from Above by Chris O'Shea, 2009 – outdoor installation working on a big billboard and interacting with pedestrians

Use cases

openFrameworks has the following architectural specifics:

  • Its core is based around multimedia, including 2D and 3D graphics, images, video, and sound. So openFrameworks is especially appropriate for developing multimedia projects working in real-time environments.

  • It works using C++ language, which implies that the code is compiled into native machine instructions and hence works very fast. So it lets you create computing-intensive, ground-breaking projects, using the top capabilities of modern computing technologies.

Such specifics determine cases when you should and should not use openFrameworks for a project development.

You definitely can employ openFrameworks when:

  • You need to make a creative coding project, such as an interactive audio-visual installation or performance, which works with multimedia in a nontrivial and custom way. Namely, such a project would render a custom particle system, apply effects such as video morphing and slit-scan, or even perform data transcoding.

  • You need to create a project, which performs intensive data analysis, for example, analyzing data from depth cameras.

Maybe you should not use openFrameworks when:

  • The project is centered on working with visual controls such as buttons, checkboxes, lists, and sliders. In this case the better option is in using developing platforms like QT, Cocoa, or .Net.


    openFrameworks contains a number of classes implementing visual controls like buttons and sliders, which are great for creating simple graphical user interfaces. But currently visual interface is not the main focus of the openFrameworks' evolution.

  • The project does not use multimedia or intensive computations a lot. For example, if you just want to send simple commands to a robot, it is definitely simpler to use Processing.


Though openFrameworks is an open source project, currently you can use it for developing commercial projects (see details in the openFrameworks license at To protect the project's content, to add licensing, and to create an installer, you should use special additional software. Note that all of this software is included in iOS and Android development kits, so commercial developing for mobile platforms is quite easy.