Wind Dance Going Open Source


Over the last several months I’ve been working on a series of art prints with my friend Jane Marsching. She had the idea to take wind readings from weather stations and translate them into drawings that resemble, and serve as, diagrams for dances. I’ve been writing a program called Wind Dance to help make that happen.

Here’s how it works: given a day’s worth of weather data, the program selects a representative reading for each hour and uses that to to determine the size and direction of the barb it plots. These barbs are spaced according to wind speed and direction as well.

Wind Dance accepts data in a comma-separated file, such as generated by Weather Underground (e.g., the “Comma Delimited File” link at the bottom of a typical page).


Wind Dance is currently written in Ruby-Processing. I’ve been using Processing in my artwork for years, and I’m also a Ruby fan, so combining them seemed like a splendid idea. The Ruby language combined with the simplicity of Processing has definitely made the writing process smooth and elegant. That said, along the way we’ve run into some challenges due to Processing’s pixel-based nature. As we tried to shoehorn diagrams of wildly differing shapes and expanses into a standard size, and then as we worked to generate prints using various techniques, the image format seemed to make our lives more difficult.

So at this point I’m looking to convert Wind Dance to use a language and framework that can easily output vector-based images. I’m thinking this will probably be Flash/ActionScript, bundled as an AIR application to facilitate file imports and exports. I have to run some tests to make sure this will serve all my needs, but if you have and suggestions I’d love to hear them.

Matthew Shanley

Matthew Shanley

Sound / video / computer artist and software developer.
Boston, MA