A short foreword The title of this message probably should have been, from a purely informational viewpoint, more like annotating and organizing sound resources from all over the net, but hey, who cares anyhow. Be surprised and enjoy the read.
This is not about a music software player that allows you easy listening to e.g. “all tracks of an artist” or “all songs of an album”. Not yet. If you feel good and would like to help me to make it such, i would be very thankful. This is yet an application for people with special needs regarding sound resources. I want to mention that realizing this user interface up to this stage would not have been possible for me without the support of two people but definitely not without the support and inspiration Andrea gave me over the last few months. Now, the state of the application is, there are tracks, notes and relations between such and all the sounds come either from your local file system, from the curated freemusicarchive.org or out of the public soundcloud. You’ll also find some web radio streams to listen to, i’ve placed some of them directly in the view which shows up after you started the application. I don’t really know if it’s worth to mention because maybe you’re reading this blog often or know us deepamehta-folks but if you don’t know us, into most of the stuff we do we put a lot of passion and free time in it.
The background of this application is, we want to collect first hand user experience and we try this through giving you access to a digital canvas with which we would like to work with. My personal motivation came from, i wanted to produce at least one radio show in 2010 and i thought of a tool to get through this huge amount of voice recordings in a re-usable way. In doing the show i totally failed cause 2010 is over cause endless procrastination was holding me back from the more the important things on my list map. Regarding the tool (for the case which didn’t happen yet) it was a bit easier for me cause on my file system there were still some code fragments out of my university time lying around, unused! As then the incredible jri pushed the deepamehta3 v0.4.1 out in October this year, i couldn’t resist to dive into all this and make it happen. So, thanks to you jri as well! That is how, now – !dada! – everything came together and the best is, i enjoy using it every day. It was way before 2008 that this idea was spelled out and to see it in action today makes me smile.
Introducing Audi-0-Canvas. It is a digital canvas crafted to be useful for working with a virtual music library. To get you started as easy as possible for you, i located a (yet) kind of anarchic virtual music library at deepamehta.de/rpc/soundsets/, it is automatically used when you start the application. This online virtual music library not only frees you of another (though very easy) software installation procedure, it also enables all of us collaborative associating, annotating and listening of sound resources. And when we work with sounds in collaboration, it may be important to note that just for the moment the web address (a.k.a. location or url) of the sound resource serves as the sounds identity which enables us to really link stuff together. What follows, is a short description of the applications basic usage cause its handling is still, let’s say “experimental”. For each of the mentioned features (linking, annotating and listening) there is a dedicated paragraph below, describing exactly what happens under the hood, i warmly recommend you to dive into the area of your interest. Let me tell you how to get started once you see the user interface.
Play / Pause just doubleclick a circle or press spacebar when the sound has focus
Play next a right click puts/removes sound into/from this queue
Start Linking a rightclick + drag displays a dashed line which you release over other items
Release Linking a click into background or on another item
Continuous Linking just hold shift while clicking on another item
Seeking keyboard control press r=rewind 10s, f=forward 10s, shift+tab to switch focus between available controls and the space-bar to play/pause a sound
To start the program you need to have some Java Runtime Environment installed on your pc and additionally an installation of the open source multimedia framework gstreamer. You’ll also need a bit of trust in my capabilities that i won’t use this tool to exploit or corrupt any data on your computer. And yeah, I am a really nice chap and this warning is all just because the application needs to talk with the sound device on your computer and loads some graphics from the web, this application does not touch any personal data on your computer. The application may have some hiccups after immediate startup and your first clicks but it is known to run stable and fine. Now, let me very shortly describe to you what happens when you take a note while listening to various sound streams and what linking really means for the application.
Taking notes while listening
Once started the player, you can take notes at any time through the input field in the upper right corner. But the functionality of note taking depends on the players states, which means it matters if you are currently listening a sound resource or not. If you are listening then your notes are directly related to the sound resource and if you’re not listening they are just placed as red notes somewhere on the map. Notes have at first the title and when you hit Enter they are taken. The following information is stored as a part of the note varying from if you’re listening to a radio stream or just a single song. If you are listening to a radio stream “2010/12/12 – 15:38:56″ the date and time when you listened to it plus, if available, the web media stream meta information are stored as part of the note (e.g. artist, title, etc.). If you are listening to a sound with a predefined time length, then the elapsed time like e.g. “2:34 of 3:24″ is stored as part of the relation, linking the note to the sound resource, plus: some other meta information are stored as part of the note. I hope this feature works for everyone as expected cause when starting to think of taking notes on sound resources, i just made it how i would like to have it. If you are now curious how a playlist looks like on a canvas, check the following description.
Linking sound files into sets, collectively
Linking by now means to draw an unlabeled connection between two or more sounds. When thinking about a link, currently it’s just important for us if it’s existent or not, later it may be of more importance for us, how many links are there. A link represents by now “nothing more” than a thought connecting sounds which is directly visible, shareable and navigable for your and others. Cool, isn’t it? In general, related items are called sets and currently any link has still a direction in it, which means that it is different if you draw it from A to B or from B to A, which is on the one hand nice for kind of pro users but makes playing along a set for ordinary users not as easy as we possibly would like to have it. Each link you create is currently always drawn orange and a bit opaque. If one track is linked into many set relations you can select the links through simply clicking on them, therewith you tell the player which “way” is the preferred one to go. Selected sets are highlighted, like you can see it in the animation above in picture 4.
I know that this might be a bit much already. By now you should be at least able to have fun with trying things out, listening to streams and find new sounds from the above mentioned hosts, plus you’ll be able to make us happy through giving first user feedback on the most basic functionality. Before we learn more about the queue feature now, let’s just dream on a bit because you might worry, whoo, i can’t put a name on links, how should i ever be able to organize my library without words? No worry, if you really think you can’t, let me tell you so much that, to deal with all the unforeseeable ideas people might have, we use deepamehta3 as the technological foundation, it’s evolutionary data concept will always be open for your kind of ideas and needs.
For now, i am still thinking of that linking, when being able to see a relation between sounds, what could be intuitively expressed with it? For example, has anyone been ever able to create and share a certain transitions between to sounds in that way that the player was blending in and out for you like i would do it if i were deejaying? When i start to think about producers of audio-plays, being able to let multiple sounds be played simultaneously by the player would lift this application probably into a really interesting tool for pro’s. Anyway, we don’t really worry by now which way it goes, it just hopefully triggers some nice thoughts for you and let us come together to talk about your scenario. At this stage, I would be very unhappy if you could not relate anything to the stuff i am talking about cause that is actually the reason why i chat here so ***** redundant. Let’s go on with another tiny feature.
The high priority queue
Whenever there is a green circle around an item on the canvas and an item visible in a list dialog at the lower right edge of your application screen, it means there is at least one queued item which will be played as the next track, no matter what kind of set relation is currently selected. With a right-click you can just queue and dequeue sound resources, which should be enough by now so that you can organize the sequence of your queue. I use this feature to create a temporary sequence of new sound resources through which i now just want to work through. When you start linking items together you sometimes may accidentally queue an item, an unwanted green circle around the just touched item is an indicator for this, we know that this is not really optimal by now cause you need to dequeue the sound manually, but it’s part of the experiment, we’ll see if this still happens to you later and if there is a way we can make both features more easier to control.
About maps, there is just so much left to say, a map is for now just a stable view of items, meaning that the position of items are stored persistently over the times you come and go (log in/log out). Currently you can also create your own personal map right from within the “Extras”-Menu but you have to tell us possibly through a right comment here, which is your desired name of the map.
Before i say cheers, i just want to give you this promise, justin case, i will write a small procedure for you which will allow you to export any set you created with this tool into a one-dimensional, simply labeled and exchangeable play-listing, most likely into one of the type .xspf.
If you would ask me now what is every deepamehta tool-set all about, i would say, its about getting the foundations right, later then we can jam. Cheers!
Technical Notes: If you’re using a Macintosh computer, checkout this page for hints on how to install the oss multimedia framework gstreamer on your system, it is currently a requirement for using the application. If you’re using a windows computer install the software package from the following site but you probably have to restart your computer to make everything work….
For any in depth discussion of the usability we would be happy if you start using our deepamehta3-googlegroup. (more…)