Make glitch art by data bending an image as audio using Adobe Audition - A Simple Guide

Databending (or data bending) is the process of manipulating information from within a media file of a certain format, using software designed to edit files of another format. Distortions in the medium typically occur as a result, and the process either falls under a broader category of, or is frequently employed in glitch art. - via Wikipedia

This tutorial will teach you how to data bend an image as audio data using Adobe Audition. The will allow you to add effects that are normally used for audio, such as echo and chorus etc, to an image. It will also allow you to "listen" to the raw data from the image. 

The process basically goes image data -> audio data -> back to image data

Note: These steps should also work with Audacity, a great free alternative. 

Step 00 - Make a duplicate of the target image

Make a copy of the image.

This is very important as the process of data bending will destroy the image. So unless you want to make some kind of statement about the temporary nature of digital art or something fancy like that I'd highly recommend making a duplicate. 

Step 01 - Convert to a format that is data bending friendly

Convert the image to TIFF using photoshop. Alternatively you can convert it to a BMP. A JPEG will not work!

  • Open the image in Photoshop 

  • Go to File -> Save As
  • Select TIFF from the available formats and click save. I am not sure about the importance of the other settings, but make sure to leave the image compression as "None". 
  • Alternatively if you don't have Photoshop, you can use a built in program such as MSpaint to save the image to a BMP. The TIFF option will not work that well as it is not lossless. Give it a try anyways to see for yourself, this is all about experimentation after all. 

Step 02 - Import the image into Audition as Raw Data

Make another copy of the image and Import the file into Audition as Raw Data

  • Go to File -> Import -> Raw Data 

  • You can experiment with these settings, but for the sake of the tutorial let's set the sample rate to 48000, the channel to 1, the encoding to μ-law and leave the byte order on default. 
  • Great job! Now you can see the image as wav form. Have a listen to it! Spooky huh! You could use the noises for all sorts of samples for music and other projects. 

Step 03 - Manipulate the Image as AUDIO

Now to have some fun and manipulate the audio using different effects. It's important to not mess with the audio in the very first seconds as this contains the header data that. If this bit is corrupted the image may not display properly at all. 

  • Let's see what an echo effect looks like. To begin, I have highlighted the section of the image that I want to manipulate.

  • Go to Effects - Delay and Echo -> Echo. You can then set up the effect or use a preset. For this tutorial I've selected the "Spooky" preset. You can combine effects, delete bits, reverse audio, the possibilities are endless. Do your adjustments and click apply. 

Step 04 - Save the IMage

Save the image by going to File -> Save or hitting ctrl+s. Alternatively you can use Save As, but there is no need as this is a copy of the image. It's easier to just use Save and make another copy in explorer of the original rather than using Save As every single time. 

You're pretty much done! Have a look at the image you just created. The one I used now looks like this: 

Some more examples of different preset effects: 

Chorus (Waverly Sing-along preset)

Analog Delay (Dub Delay preset)

Flanger (Too Many Pills preset)

Hope this tutorial has been helpful! Don't be afraid to experiment and do show me what you come up with.