OSC: What it is, and why you should care about it
OSC is a way for programs, computers, and things that contain programs or computers to communicate. Itâs useful to artists because it can connect any number of different things to one another.
âThingsâ could be almost anything electronic, from your computerâs mouse and keyboard to MIDI keyboards, your smart phone, and game controllers. This category also includes computer programs for making music, doing animation, controlling stage lighting, or manipulating puppets, and so on.
This type of connection is not merely boring geek stuff. Think about what you do as an artist, as a musician, or asâwell, whatever you do to make life a more interesting experience. If youâre drawing a picture, you might be using a pencil or charcoal to leave some marks on paper. Or perhaps you have a brush and paints to work on a canvas. Or maybe youâre sitting in front of a Steinway playing Mozart or Jerry Lee Lewis. You are in some way manipulating something out there based on whatâs in your head
If youâre using a tool such as traditional pencils or paintbrushes, the idea that what youâre doing is âout thereâ or in some way remote may sound odd. Suppose youâre using a tablet or a mouse to create images on your computer, or you have a MIDI keyboard wired up to a computer or synthesizer. Youâre doing the same thing you would with more traditional tools, but itâs less direct. You may be seeing or hearing things pretty much immediately, but you have some intermediary technology in there.
There are two important things happening here.
One is that how odd or artificial this seems to you is a matter of familiarity and adaptation. If you are using an electronic keyboard to play what sounds like piano music, you are aware ofâbut not terribly disturbed byâthe fact that you are not playing an actual piano and there are no piano strings or other mechanical systems involved. Indeed, the absence of these elements is actually preferred by some musicians.
Many people even take this concept a step further and use devices that look nothing like conventional music keyboards; theyâre more akin to the blinking controls of secret laboratories in 1960s science fiction movies.
Likewise, if you are using a tablet to create drawings in Adobe Photoshopâ¢, you might use a charcoal pencil effect to create a certain look. Thereâs no charcoal or paper here, and if youâre using the mouse or trackpad, thereâs nothing even like a pencil. Still, you probably donât think of this approach as peculiar.