The Startling Truth: Engineering Makes Impressive Music With Marbles

This week’s Midweek Mumbles is a little different from my usual mumbling.

If the headline seems a little confusing, that’s okay. It took me several attempts to try and find a way to express how impressed I was by a recent YouTube video that’s been going around the internet. Seeing this machine in action reminded me a little of an older video that went around a few years ago.

Music, Marbles & 3D Animation

For years, I’ve had an interest in music, and tried several times to learn how to play an instrument. As a result, I can play several instruments, but I’d never consider myself more than a dabbler at best, because I’ve never focused enough to build my skill levels beyond the basics.

The same goes for my skills with 3D design and animation. I dabble a little with Daz 3D, which is a free 3D program, which has some animation components built in. It’s far from a professional level program, and buying character models, body & facial morphs, clothing, scenery, and other items can quickly wreck any limited budgets. However, that’s not to say that I’ve been unable to knock out a few character design concepts for my fiction work.

So, when someone comes along and combines all of these interests, I have to pay attention.

Enter AniMusic & “Pipe Dream”

AniMusic is one of those animation teams that has become famous online, in part because of their love of music, but largely because of their team-up with ATI on the Radeon 9700 graphics card demo “Pipe Dream”.

For those of you, who are unfamiliar with the video, it came out around 2008 and despite the email hoxes that went around at the time claiming it was a real machine, but filmed in low resolution, it was all animated.

There are a lot of things happening in the video, with a huge range of instruments being played by marbles flying through the air. I love the variety of the piece, and the animation is amazing for it’s time… But it does ignore some very basic physics about ballistic trajectories, and that takes away from the realism for me.

So without further comment, here is “Pipe Dream” in it’s full glory:

And Welcome The Contender “Wintergatan”

The Wintergatan Marble Machine is possibly one of the most amazing feats of musical engineering. It takes a lot of the concepts from “Pipe Dreams” and makes them real.

Martin Molin spent 14 months turning three thousand parts, two thousand marbles, and a collection of musical instruments into what is possibly one of the most impressive music machines ever.

Almost every sound created is produced by the movement of marbles through the machine, from marbles falling on guitar strings, metal plates, cymbals, or against wooden plates.

With a hand-crank running the majority of the machine’s moving parts, several levers, and a guitar fret board to control, it’s amazing the amount of coordination that is required to run this beast of a machine. However, with the aid of some microphones, amplifiers, and sheer dexterity, Molin makes the entire process look easy.

So without further comment from me, here’s the Wintergatan Marble Machine:

Picking A Winner

As much as I was impressed with the animation of “Pipe Dreams”, as someone who plays instruments, and knows a little about physics, I have to say it looked artificial. I enjoyed the results of this project, but I have to say that for me, both musically, and aesthetically the Wintergatan Marble Machine has to be the hands down winner.


Do You Agree With My Conclusion?

Please, feel free to comment below (or by email).

Let me know if you agree, or disagree with my conclusion, or if you have any similar videos you’d like to share.

And, if you know any other music lovers, or animation or engineering enthusiasts, feel free to share this post.


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