Reader Feedback: iTunes Visualization as Desktop?


I got an iChat message from Paul yesterday, asking about a way to use music visualizations as a desktop ‘wallpaper’. My initial suggestion was to play with Quartz Composer and see about coming up with something there. I’ve come up with a couple more suggestions – which I’ll write about in a moment – but would love to hear from you. Do you have your iTunes Visuals embedded in your desktop? Or anything else cool along those lines? If you’ve got anything different from the things I’ve come up with, please share!

I began playing with Quartz Composer, but didn’t get very far on my initial session. Then it dawned on me – SoundStream is a killer screensaver for OS X that was built with Quartz Composer. (Soundstream responds to audible input by the internal mic.)

So now I’ve got two options:
1 – I can play with Sound Stream and see exactly how that stuff works on a complex level.
2 – I can find that Terminal hack I read about forever ago, to set your screensaver as your desktop background. (And then play iTunes and Sound Stream on the Desktop will react to the iTunes. Voila!)

But before I started with this, I went back to the Soundstream site to see what was there. Wouldn’t you know, he’s beaten me to it! There’s a bunch of links for alternate uses of Sound Stream. Among them are 2 items that save me from having to locate that Terminal hack. QCDesktop and Quartz Desktop both do essentially the same thing, which is to display your screensaver as a Desktop Background.

While another use for Sound Stream is to use it as an iTunes Visualization through the help of iVisualize, That’s still not quite the solution that Paul asked for. (But check out the iVisualize page anyway, because there’s lots of cool information there.) Although, by coupling Sound Stream and either QCDesktop or Quartz Desktop, and playing itunes through your speakers, you could get almost the desired affect…

My Internet travels continued when I got to the Quartz Desktop page. You see, they’ve linked to Quartz Compositions. Basically it’s a repository for peoples’ well, Quartz Compositions. And there’s a lot of cool stuff thereincluding help with getting up and running with your own Quartz projects.

So now I’ve got plenty of reading and playing ahead of me. Great, because I had the time for that! Should be a fun diversion though. If you’ve got some great Quartz projects, post them in the comments, I’d sure love to see ’em.

And as I said before – if you’ve got a solution to Paul’s question, and know just how he can put his iTunes visualizations on the desktop, please share! (Or anything cool like that, I like the pretty colors and shiny things.)



Thanks Gerald for the SoundFlower tip! Using SoundFlower to route the iTunes output to the G-Force Screen Saver (part of G-Force Platinum) and OnyX to display the screen saver on the desktop, I have the much-sought-after desktop visualizer! And I must say, it is _awesome_!

It would be easiest to use Backlight to put the screen saver on the desktop, but (AFAIK) Backlight is PowerPC-only and I wanted a native solution. By naming the G-Force screensaver “Flurry.saver” and putting it in /System/Library/Screen Savers/ I was able to pick Flurry under OnyX’s Parameters->General and start that going as the desktop. I also needed a little trick to make the screen saver respond to audio input, mainly setting the audio input for G-Force Standalone (press Shift-A until the Soundflower input is chosen) and then copying the A_in parameter from the Standalone preferences into the screen saver preferences.

Sorry for being so long-winded, I hope that wasn’t all too confusing, but the results are just insanely great. The only problem is that using Exposé for all windows shows the desktop picture underneath, but hey, I can’t complain!


What if you were to pipe the iTunes output into the aggregated input, then use that to run SoundStream (or whatever you decide to use). You’d have to write a component for SoundStream (either inside if you can, or around it if you can’t get in there) that pipes the music back to the regular speakers.

Gerald Buckley

Could you use something like SoundFlower Bed to pipe the output? Just a thought… Haven’t tried it myself. Have a plane ride coming Friday night. Might be a good diversion for me (a bad one for my seat mate tho).

Yasser Dahab

This doesn’t help at all, but Backlight can also throw your screen saver into the background. Just not a QC screen saver. Doesn’t help the mic thing either, so I guess this is kind of a worthless comment.


I am not a big fan of music visualization, but I think it could be very cool on the desktop.


Oh, now that would just be mean. I wouldn’t submit any one to the torture of my singing voice. The visualizer would have to be a Simpsons sing-along or something to entice me to do that. “When I was seventeen I had a very good beeeer”

Nick Santilli

Well you see, if you have earphones on, you just sing outloud at ridiculously high volume so that Sound Stream or your own QC ‘app’ can respond! :) The people around you should understand.


I love Quartz Composer. But it IS irritating that there is no way to plug the sound output from iTunes directly into QC without going through the mic. What if you have earphones on? Though I’m sure some enterprising person could code a solution.

Nick Santilli

Oh man. It’s lucky for me that I can blame that on the end of a long week… I typed it three times thinking, “this doesn’t look right!

thanks, editing now.


I believe you mean “Voila!” instead of “Walah!” I knew that college French course would come in handy some day.

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