Quartz Composer in Leopard


If you’ve previously installed the Developer Tools from the OS X installation discs, (be-it, Tiger, or now Leopard) you’ve had available to you a pretty powerful tool by the name of Quartz Composer. It’s all too possible you’ve seen the application, but have no real idea what it does. Well basically it’s an environment that lets you patch different visual elements together and apply different animations and effects to them. The screensavers you see on OS X are generated (at least most of them, if not all) using QC, as are some of the iTunes ads, and even the funky new Photo Booth/iChat effects in Leopard are Quartz based.

So Quartz Composer can do some pretty wild stuff, and it’s not even that difficult to figure out. I’ve had an item on my list for a while to do a post – possibly even a series – on using Quartz Composer. Clearly that hasn’t happened yet. But we’re all in luck, because over at CreateDigitalMotion.com, they’ve put up a fantastic run-down by Keith (of Plasq fame) of Quartz Composer and all the cool newness that results from the Leopard upgrade. Keith is the one responsible for that fantastic Skitch screencast, and you can see some very nice Quartz effects used within the screencast itself!

Keith’s write-up is worth a read – it’ll take a few minutes, but if you’re interested in understanding Quartz Composer a bit more, this is probably worth your time, and will give you a good idea of where to get started.

Some other resources I’ve found to be useful are as follows:

  • Apple’s Quartz Programming Guide – What better place to get the down and dirty?
  • Quartz Composer Community Forums – Some very cool discussions on using QC and examples of it in action from other users.
  • Sam Kass – Sam’s done some really neat things with Quartz Composer, and Leopard’s new features have re-lit his fire. He’s also mentioned in Keith’s post (linked above)
  • ZUGAKOUSAKU – This was on Digg earlier this year, and I’m just blown-away by some of the things this guy has done with the application. Definitely check out this work for inspiration!

Hopefully this piques your interest in a very cool (and free – with the OS disc) application that can do some very powerful things. If you’ve got other resources for Quartz Composer, or great examples of what it can produce, please post them in the comments and I’ll update the thread accordingly.

Thanks to Cris for the tip!



hmmm. . a question. . the new visualizers usable in itunes (such as jelly) are stored in the quartz compozers system files, not in the itunes plugins correct? so installing the newest version of itunes on my macbook alu, i wont lose these visualizers?

chris holland

Cool Nick, thanks a ton for this post, i’ve been meaning to get into QC, but i can’t seem to find time. You just may have removed a barrier :)

Stephanie Guertin

You can now make iTunes Vizualizers in Quartz Composer. It can pull from the equalizer data to make truly interactive ones.

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