Friday, February 15, 2013

Audio and VST Development

We have done audio development of one type or another for 20 years. Invented and coded a version of the Karplus-Strong synthesiser algorithm on a 2650 micro in about 1979 and could play it in real-time from a connected scanned music keyboard.
Did some rather cool things with a DSP56k chip, and developed a visual programming system for it like a modular synthesiser in Smalltalk/V. Other systems too.
VTrainer C, C++ MFC
But PCs/Macs have more than enough power now for most things, and VSTs rule.

We use a DAW based on Reaper with a few bits of mostly DIY gear and we use several VSTs.  Reaper has a built in system, JS Script, to actually develop your own "VSTs". I would call it a rapid prototyping system, where you focus on the core of a VST.  SynthEDIT could also be used, in a similar way to my Smalltalk/V system all those years ago.

The really interesting part of commercial development always seems so small compared with all the house keeping that has to be done. And on going support may not be simple either.

JUCE is the framework for cross platform C++ VST development for a commercial release. It seems to be a decent platform.

Juce C++ VST Project
But when you want to have a look at an older project, that isn't compatible with the latest version of the library, and backwards compatibility isn't a priority for the developers, your in for some long term support issues. The younger the developer, the shorter the definition of "Legacy code" is.  The Juce guys consider 2010 an OLD version of the compiler.

I was involved with getting the Australian QuickBooks Accounting products product to work on VISTA when that came out.  An incredibly tedious task.
Compared to that, VST development is rather simple.....

Contact as at Art & Technology.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Computer Music Journal, ICMC & Assisted Composition.

Computer Music Journal
The International Computer Music Conference (ICMC) was something I attended from 1989 till 1998.  The Computer Music Journal is something that I read from many years earlier.   It is this interesting blend of Art & Technology , but with a very academic bend, as the labs are in universities and the papers are thesis, or other academic research papers.

Always something technically interesting. Having said that, I rarely found any of the music interesting. I usually avoided the concerts at the ICMC. I'd go in thinking it might be better this time, but , no they never were.

At the time I was going to the ICMCs I also very involved with Smalltalk and the Lisp systems that were in vogue. These were music construction workbenches.  I developed my own research system in Smalktalk /V that talked with MIDI and DSP hardware.

I haven't done much along those lines recently, and basically find Reaper ,VST based instruments and effects mixed with real guitar and bass to be effective and productive.

But musical inspiration is a very strange thing. The things I have done just come from somewhere. A mash of what I've heard over a life time mixed with what I have the ability to play, and the instrumentation I do,  I expect.  And some times inspiration just doesn't happen.  I have quite a few tracks that are works in progress (WIP) that I just stopped working on as they were just rubbish, and didn't say anything to me.

Now, Computer assisted composition is still an interest. Riff-ology and my own AIMusicBook looked very much like GarageBand does today, decades later. I didn't use sampled phrases though, but midi phrases, either entered into a database or algorithmically generated. It was amazing how 1/f noise (actually random numbers) filtered and constrained to a scale makes interesting melodies.


This shot of AIMusicBook shows a scale on the keyboard, the central phrase selection and area (very much like in EZDrummer today) and a sequencer section top right.  This was all Smalltalk/V so executing code in the Workspace window was all part of the fun as much as the graphical controls.

Jan Hammer used algorithmic tools to help with doing the Miami Vice soundtrack stuff.  He used the far from sexy Dr. T Software on a Commodore 64. Or rather just the Algorithmic Composer, Phrase Generator that he recorded into another sequencer (Magnetic Music's Texture on a IBM PC).   See Keyboard magazine June 1987, page 51.
{ an interesting aside: Keyboard magazine June 1985, page 48 has another interview on the Miami Vice music, and it is more about that he did his own mixing and mastering for it to sound good on a mono 3" speaker. It was also broadcast in mono..  }

Now the thing about Jan Hammers, music is that it is something I do listen to, still listen to, unlike the ICMC stuff.  Shall we say it is an issue of taste and style.

At that time there was also algorithmic composition software M and Jam Factory on the Mac.  None of those software tools are available now. David Cope has also done classical composition, but again in an academic environment.

Maybe the option of computer assisted composition  targeted at rock, metal, dance, techno etc is an option again in the current VST DAW world?  The KARMA system was licensed by Korg and put in some of their workstations, but is not available in any DAW compatible form. There are enough sampled phrase based music construction kits around to show there is a market.

I just don't know if it is big enough to be a business. I do know that selling it from our own website that is possible now, removes the huge barrier of distribution and "available shelf space" that were a problem in 1987.

Contact us at Art & Technology.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Project Management Triangle - and some history

The Compromise - Good, Fast, Cheap

The Project Management Triangle - Good, Fast, Cheap. The compromise you have to develop and deliver something combining cost, quality and delivery time.

This is a vector design so it is a size independent pdf, download from the Art & Technology website.

What goes without saying, is that if you also are not paying for Project Management on a non trivial project, you have NO control over which 2, and it most likely changes randomly on a daily basis till the time or money runs out.

I have had a "customer" do exactly that in development of a Device. She did not want to pay for the Project Management time required.  So in effect she was not a customer of mine, as I was not on the project, as they were not paying for me to be on it.

I now get worried when an accountant takes over control of a technology development project.  On the two different projects it has occurred, they did exactly the opposite of what they should have, and hurt the project delivery in time and quality. AND it cost them more than it should!

Should mention at this point that 95+% of the world economies  are controlled by banks and financial institutions. 

Which brings us to the Dunning- Kruger Effect. This also has a huge impact in Project Management, and just getting things done.  You could also call it the "How hard could it be?" effect.  On Topgear (a BBC TV car show) they have a running gag where they completely underestimate making/modifying something so the results are rubbish, and can be very funny.

Another example that is almost funny too:
    Years ago I talked with a research company that was all about patents and had no real experience in producing and delivering real products. (I had to design a video graphics card to replace one of these failures previously by the founder, and knew all the big talk and poor or no delivery.. corresponds to the red peak in the diagram...)
I was stunned in the second meeting to be told all the normal management processes were not required in their organization.  I said straight back that is BS, and they wouldn't get anything finished. They didn't give me the job, which was probably a very good thing, even though the money was above standard.

Years later in early 2012 the story and history of events was in the papers and I could see why they didn't want someone who wasn't possibly so "flexible with reality" in management.  On the documented timeline in the press, I had talked with them shortly after their second investor had demanded they improve their processes, after an obvious lack of progress for the money used. The press shows investor insistence on proper management grew over the years. After something like 14 years, and this second investor, and 610 million dollars, their funding was cut off and they were being sued for alleged fraud and "feathering their own nest".

It is just amazing how fundamentals can just be ignored.... Good, Fast or Cheap AND you need real relevant management doing the right thing. The Dunning- Kruger Effect is so very real too, and that can mean the voice of experience can get ignored.

Really, how hard could it be?

Contact us at Art & Technology.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Nitromethane is for racing - T-shirt Design

Nitromethane is for racing
New t-shirt design,  Nitromethane is for racing  - T-shirt Design  is now in our online store.

Features distressed text in white on a dark shirt.

This is from the saying:

"Gasoline is for washing parts. Alcohol is for drinking. Nitromethane is for racing. Nothing else is exciting"

Contact us at our website Art & Technology

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Project Studio Technology - The Auratone Clone.

The plans for this can be downloaded from Boutique Guitar Pedals, Effects and Project Studio .

A 3 minute music video slide show of the images and test results. The VISTON driver is great for making an Auratone clone.

Measuring real world response
Not a lot of gear that can be home constructed now, but an Auratone is one of them.  Simple hand tools is all you need. And you only need one of these speakers.  Our monitor controller has a Mono/Stereo Switch and we also have made our own speaker selector switch box to make using this with 4 sets of speakers and a set of headphones simple.  Our project studio uses a Hi-Fi stereo amplifier  and all our speakers are passive, as they used to be in all studios.

More details at Art & Technology.