How to add animated visuals to your Spotify tracks with Vuo

Spotify has a nifty feature called Canvas that allows you to add a short visual loop to your music. When someone listens to your song on mobile, they’ll see your animated video full screen in the mobile app.

It’s a good idea to use things like this in Spotify. Your songs are more interesting and engaging, and who knows, you might get more plays or included on more playlists with a canvas. Maybe you can tell more of a story with audio and video.

This website started as way to release electronic music made by me and my friends. My hobby music label was named Cartoon Beats Reality. This is a nod to my love of abstraction (over realism) inspired in part by Scott McCloud‘s Understanding Comics. I was inspired by the idea that iconic, abstract representations are intrinsically cute and relatable. For me, this is part of the appeal of music, and electronic music in particular – it’s completely abstract.

All that to say: I should use Canvas to add a cartoon element to my music on Spotify!

Enter Vuo

Vuo is an open source dataflow system for developing animations. This means you can build dynamic visuals by connecting different nodes together. It’s quick to get started, and you don’t need to know what you’re doing.

I heard about Vuo on Create Digital Music and wanted to give it a try. I used to have a lot of fun with macOS Quartz Composer (discontinued), Vuo is an open source tool that works in a similar way.

So my challenge was to build a short video loop with Vuo and upload it to Spotify.

Make the animation

There’s a nice getting started tutorial in the manual for Vuo. You get pixels on screen immediately, and the animation is simple and effective – I was inspired!

Using that as a base, I made a few tweaks to customise it a little.

I changed the colours to match the title of the song – yellow yolk.

Then I tweaked the “stained glass” settings so it looks like cells. Thicken walls, adjust the scale so the cells are a good size.

To make it more alive, I animated some aspects:

  • Randomly change the thickness of the walls.
  • Slowly zoom the image in and out so it feels like it’s pulsating.

Export a video file

Canvas expects a video in vertical 9:16 aspect ratio – for example, 720×1280 pixels. It must be short (less than 8 seconds) and an mp4 file.

The best way to export a video file in Vuo is to use the Image Generator protocol and then Export > Movie. This gives you full control over resolution, aspect ratio and other settings.

A quick way to export a file is to record the render window. I used this technique because I’m experimenting (and it’s supported in the free community edition). You can control the animation aspect ratio with the width and height properties of a “make image” generator.

You’ll need a Render Image to Window node in your composition. When you play the animation it runs in the Vuo Composition Loader app. Then you can start and stop record with File > Start Recording (or command-option-E).

This should produce a .mov file on the desktop.

Convert video in Handbrake

I used Handbrake to convert the video to mp4.

The video dimensions weren’t exactly correct, so I used Handbrake’s Dimensions settings panel to force 720×1280 and subtly bend the aspect ratio to match.

Upload to Spotify

You’ll need to be signed up to Spotify for Artists. Log in, click through to the Music tab, and click the song you want to add a canvas to.

Click the Add canvas button in the top right, and upload your video.

This will tell you if there are any issues with your video – for example: too long, too short, wrong format.

Once you’ve uploaded your video, you’re good to go! The animated canvas will play for your listeners soon – it may take a little while (mine took a few minutes).

Next steps

I’m pretty chuffed with how easy this is. Like any great bit of technology, this opens up more possibilities!

  • Set the video length to suit the song tempo. For example, set the length to an exact number of beats.
  • Similarly, drive animation changes in time with the tempo.
  • Use Vuo animations in a live stream. You can send the output of Vuo to OBS using the Send Syphon Video node.
  • Add Vuo videos to your songs on YouTube or Vimeo.
  • Create engaging Instagram or TikTok ads for your music.

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