An audiovisual narrative

Look up and surrender to the glow!

Final version

Unity project zip files, Production build

Aurora is an audio visual experience inspired by the northern lights, also known as ”aurora borealis” (or more accurately, inspired by my perception of the northern lights and what I hope to experience when I cross seeing them off my bucket list!) They can be seen at night in some regions within the Arctic circle during certain times of the year. The spectrum history is represented by the fantastical dancing waves of a blue-green glow, and the waveform is represented by the glow reflections on the water. Look up and surrender to the glow!


Listed in order of audiovisual narrative


Looking back, it’s hard to believe how far this idea has come! Even just scrolling down to the bottom of this webpage, I realize how much work into creating this audiovisual narrative. As I outlined below, I knew I wanted to create a calming scene — the type that could exist in the background, sort of like a screensaver.

I was a bit hesitant to pursue this northern lights idea at first because I didn’t want to go for a super natural, photorealistic setting for my first time using Unity, only to fall short with something trying to mimic what it’s not. However, I tried to approach Aurora not just trying to recreate the northern lights in a hyper-realistic way, but rather embrace some of the digital medium I was using and feature some of the harsher lines or rigid textures.

Overall, I really enjoyed experimenting with different textures, glows, and formations in Unity. However, getting used to ChucK was a bit more of a learning curve than I’d accounted for. I definitely appreciated Julia’s advice to accept that the sound is probably going to turn out different than what I envisioned in my head, but learning to see that not necessarily as a bad thing was helpful in this process!


Julia Mills, Path Creator, Night Skybox, Free Snow Mountain, Simple Water Shader URP

Visualizing the spectrum history

Unity project zip files

After reflecting on some ideas of function vs. form and on what I might be capable of doing given my still growing knowledge of Unity, I decided to go with the the second idea that I proposed in the last milestone but with a bit of a twist — an audio visualizer of a night sky featuring aurora borealis (the northern lights)! Working on this milestone was pretty challenging to be honest, and I definitely left class feeling inspired yet intimidated by what past students were able to achieve for this project. However, looking back and seeing what things I’ve been able to accomplish in the past week has been fulfilling in knowing that I can create something cool too!

My greatest difficulty with this milestone was without a doubt just getting the spectrum history to appear at all. I think I was still a bit unclear just how we were rendering a single spectrum after the tutorials, so it took some extra time playing with the starter files and hitting refresh to understand which lines of code were affecting which aspects of the visualization. More specifically, I was a bit confused on how to achieve a 2D array for this history, but I settled on using two 2D arrays: one for the spectral data and the other for the GameObject cubes themselves. For the longest time, however, I had a version that successfully depicted the most recent spectrum moving across the screen, but only depicted a single spectrum. This part was probably the most frustrating, as the logic in my head made sense, but I wasn’t sure what about it was wrong. I think to add to this frustration, working in a new environment and in a new language, I was especially unsure of how to go about debugging these errors and had to do a lot of guessing and checking to see if the changes were having the intended effect.

Progress report and reflections

My overall takeaway from doing these tutorials is “Wow! There's so much you can do with Chunity!” Down the line, with more experience, this will maybe seem trivial, but actually creating an interactive game and basic sound visualizer that my friends and I could actually play was really fulfilling. I'd always wondered how programming games and real-time visualizations is actually possible — it's sort of always felt like an abstract idea rather than a reality — so getting to make my own step-by-step was pretty cool.

This was my first time doing anything in Unity, and I was surprised how much of it felt vaguely familiar from having taken CS148 and made our final project in Blender. Things like navigating the scene view vs. game view, hierarchies, properties, and perspectives felt a little more doable although I imagine I'll probably have to refer back to these tutorial materials pretty often to remember how to access certain properties or create new scripts, etc. I still feel as though I need to brush up on more of my ChucK to get more comfortable in Chunity, but I plan on spending some time this weekend making little projects like Ge suggested to get a better handle on shreds, events, and sporks.

This was also my first time coding in C#, and it definitely felt familiar although there are some conventions that'll probably take some time getting used to. I'd also like to find out how to get some of the Unity autofills and type checks when I'm typing because they didn't seem to come up for me. I had some difficulty with the ChuGin steps, but I think I'll try playing around with it more and familiarizing myself more with unit generators in general.

Playing with my Rollaball and visualizers was also admittedly a lot of fun, even if they were entirely based off of tutorials. I was working on my visualizer in the middle of Tresidder though, and testing my cubes took me talking to myself in the middle of a busy seating area.

Eight remaining yellow cubes rotating with a blue sphere rolling around the middle.
A green waveform and a blue spectrum representing sound.

Visualizer ideas


One idea I have for visualizing the spectrum history is to emulate a waterfall, with each wave representing a different spectrum as it falls vertically down the screen. I’m drawn to the calming sense that this vision creates in my head, watching these soft waves of whitewater slowly and gently flow down in an almost meditative way. I like the idea of someone being able to pull up this visualizer fullscreen as they work or do some other task and see the constant waves flowing by in the background, sort of like a screensaver.

I just realized it is literally called a waterfall plot haha, but I’m hoping to make the audio-visual narrative feel very real and natural, maybe with sounds mimicking falling water or people splashing. I think this will not only enhance the meditative aspect of a waterfall, but also appeal to something human — people laughing and playing in the water. The sound of water hitting the waves below could come in huge crashes or in a slight trickle depending on the type of sounds nearby. For instance, loud and sudden noises could mimic a bucket of water falling vs. soft and minimal noises mimicking a leaky faucet.

Aerial view of Iguazu Falls waterfalls.
Aerial view of Iguazu Falls waterfalls.


Another idea I have for this project plays on the idea of shapes, creating circles that radiate the spectrums and waveforms. I envision a dark background, maybe with a silhouette of sharp mountains or rolling hills toward the bottom of the screen. Then, dotting the sky, there would be white little stars which radiate circular waves from the center depending on the sounds detected. Additionally, there could be a soft glow arising from the landscape, maybe like light pollution from a nearby city of sorts or rainbow waves from aurora borealis, to visualize more properties of the sound.

Similar to the waterfalls idea, I like this idea for its appeal to nature. I also really like the feeling of feeling small and sort of getting out of your head — realizing how everyone else’s life is just as complex as yours. I think getting a “zoomed out” perspective when going camping or stargazing always gives me that sense. I recently went to the Adler Planetarium in Chicago just before week 1 and saw one of the nighttime shows in a dome-shaped theater, and I immediately felt so small underneath the ceiling of stars.

For the audio-visual narrative, I'm imagining lots of silence occasionally interrupted by humming crickets or the buzz of the nearby city.

Nighttime sky dotted with millions of stars with the silhouette of a small city below.
Flowing green waves of light criss-crossing the night sky from aurora borealis.