1:40 of code art: 2014 in Bitbucket seen through Gource

Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s been an incredibly busy year here at Bitbucket! We’ve served more active users, made more improvements, rolled out more features, and fixed more bugs than ever before. To commemorate the year that was, I’ve visualized our Git log using the Gource log visualization system to give you something to look at while your code is compiling. You can read about how I made the magic happen below the video.

Making code art

As a weekend project, I kicked around the Gource source-code visualization system, which walks through your log and generates a video display showing the results of your commit activity. After mapping each commit to a video frame and each file to a node, user avatars float around and zap each commit into its destination file, color-coded for creates, changes, and removes. With the help of my household’s Artist-in-Residence (aka my dear wife), we found a pattern that makes a very visually appealing show of a year of commits in a large software project. I then set this to an appropriate piece of music from YouTube’s royalty-free music library, and voila, code-art is made.

Checkout repo

For starters, I brewed gource and cloned out a copy of the repo. Since I want to build this from the main development branch (Staging), simply running over to Bitbucket and cloning the repository sufficed; otherwise, I’d want to checkout a specific branch:

$ brew install gource

$ cd ~/source

$ git clone <link>

Grab and set avatars

Next, we get the user avatars into the repository for use in composing the video. This is done through a Perl script found at the [Gource Gravatar Example] which is run from the root folder of the repo:

$ cd <repo>

$ nano ./getavatars.pl #Paste script into this file and save

$ sudo chmod +x ./getavatars.pl

$ ./getavatars.pl

If you want, you can then enter <repo>/.git/avatar and clean up the images. Alternately, you can add in Identicons for users with no avatar by using modifications to the script found in the comments. I elected to use Charlie, our corporate mascot. The avatars are set using the following, including a user-scale argument that will ensure they’re visible once we have built a huge tree:

$ gource --default-user-image charlie_cmyk_cyan.png --user-image-dir .git/avatar/ --user-scale 4

Frame size, titles, logos, and visual effects

We’re going to set framesize, hide some distracting elements, and add titles and logos. This makes for a more appealing, less cluttered presentation, with graphics that break up the flat black background as well as helping the viewer gain context:

$ gource -1280x720 --hide progress,filenames,usernames,mouse --date-format "%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S" 

--title "Bitbucket Commit Activity 2014"

$ gource --background-image bitbucket_rgb_blue_small.png --logo atlassian_cmyk_white_stacked.png 

--font-colour 3b73af

Bloom describes the etherial glow that the folder-nodes have, with intensity describing its brightness and multiplier describing its radius. I decided to go with a gentle, diffuse glow; multi-sampling describes a computationally expensive but very effective smoothing technique. Since we’re rendering this offline, we’ll throw that in, too:

$ gource --bloom-multiplier 1.1 --bloom-intensity 0.4 --multi-sampling

Speed and timing effects

Bitbucket, like most large projects, has an astronomical number of objects. First and foremost, we need to speed this thing up. Let’s set the seconds per day and the number of seconds we’ll dwell at the end of a day’s commits to really small values:

$ gource -s 0.0001 --auto-skip-seconds 0.25

Next, we want to manage the animation properties to fit these timings. We’ll make sure the files appear appropriately quickly and slow down the ‘jumpy’ user avatars by decreasing their max speed and the time they’re allowed to coast (friction):

$ gource --max-file-lag 0.1 --max-user-speed 150 --user-friction 1

Since Bitbucket has been around for a very long time, we’re going to limit this exercise to the last calendar year. This will keep our movie under two minutes, and also provide us with a finished product that commemorates a milestone. Also, as this is just one year of commit activity, we’ll allow the nodes to be permanent by turning off their idle-time expiration:

$ gource --start-date '2014-01-01' --stop-date '2015-01-01' --file-idle-time 0

Making it into a movie

Any Linux or Mac die-hard will tell you that a primary reason for being a Linux or Mac die-hard is this little thing called a pipe, which allows you to pipe the standard output (or stdout) of one program into another. We’ll send this into ffmpeg, which will encode it directly into an mp4 file (your codecs may vary). By using the gource -o - option to direct the output to stdout, we can supply the pipe with a stream of bitmaps. I won’t get into the magical incantations required to make ffmpeg go – there be dragons. That said, this little bit of copy-pasta I got from the [Gource Videos] page worked great for me. You can adjust the -threads option for more processing speed:

$ gource -o - | ffmpeg -y -r 60 -f image2pipe -vcodec ppm -i - -vcodec libx264 

-preset ultrafast -pix_fmt yuv420p -crf 1 -threads 0 -bf 0 gource.mp4

Putting it all together

Naturally, all of this put together is a huge command line, but it makes for a nice, minute and thirty-five seconds of modern art:

$ gource -1280x720 -s 0.000001 --user-image-dir .git/avatar/ --title 

"Bitbucket Commit Activity 2014" --background-image bitbucket_rgb_blue_small.png 

--max-file-lag 0.1 --auto-skip-seconds 0.25 

--hide progress,filenames,dirnames,usernames,mouse --date-format 

"%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S" --multi-sampling --bloom-multiplier 1.1 --bloom-intensity 0.4 

--user-scale 4 --logo atlassian_cmyk_white_stacked.png  --file-idle-time 0 

--start-date '2014-01-01' --stop-date '2015-01-01' 

--default-user-image charlie_cmyk_cyan.png --font-colour 3b73af --git-branch staging 

--max-user-speed 150 --user-friction 1 -o - | ffmpeg -y -r 60 -f image2pipe 

-vcodec ppm -i - -vcodec libx264 -preset ultrafast -pix_fmt yuv420p -crf 1 -threads 8 

-bf 0 gource.mp4

Digital art to delight your customers

This was a bunch of fun to make, and I highly recommend that you try it out on your own repo. Because the process abstracts so much of the information in the log prior to two layers of visual transcoding, there’s no risk of any trade secrets being released through the process. As many commercial software packages are closed source, this offers an attractive way to expose your fans and evangelists to your development process and generate excitement in the developer community. Go try it yourself! Get started at the GSource Homepage at Google Code.

Follow me on Twitter for updates about Atlassian software, robotics, Maker art, and software philosophy at @bitbucketeer.