Archive for April, 2009

The Cloud Mirror – Uncomfortably Augmented Reality

April 30, 2009

The Cloud Mirror from eric gradman on Vimeo.

The CLOUD MIRROR is an interactive augmented reality art installation by Eric Gradman of Monkeys & Robots. Live video captured by a camera and is re-projected on the wall behind the camera, functioning like a “magic mirror.” But the CLOUD MIRROR software alters the images on the way to the screen. It runs an algorithm that tracks faces from frame to frame and also examines each frame for 2D barcodes printed on attendee badges. By pairing each face with a badge, and each badge id with a database row, the CLOUD MIRROR can identify by name whoever is standing in front of the installation.

The CLOUD MIRROR then augments each frame, adding a thought bubble to each face in the image. The contents of that thought bubble are selected from a set of “tags” associated with that person. Tags come from various sources, including Facebook, Twitter, and SMS data.

When registering for the event, attendees were asked to optionally provide their Twitter name, Facebook profile ID, and to answer the question “Where is your favorite place in LA?” In the weeks leading up to the event, the CLOUD MIRROR software sent a friend request to any attendee that provided that information. The poor trusting souls who accepted this request had their personal profile gently data-mined. Specifically, the information captured was “Facebook updates,” “Twitter updates,” and “Facebook relationship status.”

CLOUD MIRROR also capitalized on peoples’ innate desire to embarrass their friends by allowing anyone to anonymously “graffiti” in a thought bubble by sending an SMS message to a special number containing the target’s unique badge ID.

Behind the scenes, CLOUD MIRROR is divided into two parts. The computer vision component is written in C++ using OpenCV’s Viola-Jones face detector; ARToolkitPlus for fiducial glyph identification; and Pango+Cairo for text and graphics rendering. The camera is a Point Grey Flea2 with a wide-angle fixed focus lens and a big LED ring light.

Once the vision component has identified a face and correlated it with a badge ID, it consults an SQLite database for the content of the thought bubble. The SQLite database is kept up to date by a background Python process which is using the Twitter API and Facebook API to periodically grab new statuses.

Both components ran on a Shuttle PC running Ubuntu Linux.

The SMS component was written by Chris Nelson and ran on a separate machine. It fires decoded SMS messages via UDP at yet another Python process, which also updated the database.

The CLOUD MIRROR was unveiled at the April 16 Mindshare event in Los Angeles. Each month, Mindshare features new interactive installations from the members of Mindshare Labs, a collective of artists, scientists, and engineers.

More pictures available here.


Everyone Needs a Vocoder: Live 8 Video Tutorial, Plus Live Live and Dummy Clips

April 30, 2009

Vocoding Voices in Live 8 from Bjorn Vayner on Vimeo.

Continuing our growing collection of Live 8 video tutorials, our friend Bjorn of Covert Operators sends over a terrific tutorial on making use of the vocoder. Now, unlike the “misuse” tutorials we’ve been running, this is actually how this effect is designed to be used. On the other hand, if you’re still interested in misuse – and you’re not terribly interested in conventional effects – this can be a great way to wrap your head around the tool’s proper function, before you start warping it in another direction.

I think it’ll be fantastic having a vocoder ready to use, and if you haven’t played with a software vocoder, Live 8 should be a nice place to start. If any of you take this in another direction, do let us know.

Covert Operators has a whole bunch of downloads, tips, and tricks some available cheap, some free.

Encounters for Live 8 looks especially interesting. It’s a Live Pack intended specifically for performance and DJing, with some interesting bits and pieces:

  • 25 Arpeggiator racks
  • 40 effect racks geared for live playing – with some specifically designed for Live 8
  • 50 Groove presets, taking advantage of Live 8’s new groove extraction
  • 100 Dummy Clips for triggering automation

That’s the first time I’ve seen a download of Dummy Clips. Trigger these, and you can control other instruments, audio, and effects using dynamic envelopes. If that starts to piqué your interest, the Covert Operators have done a tutorial on how to use these clips:

MOTU Volta, Mac Software Plug-in for Your Analog Gear, Now Shipping

April 30, 2009

Control hardware complexity like this with the elegance of a single software plug-in. Photo: Matthew Davidson.

MOTU is now shipping Volta, the software plug-in seen exclusively here on CDM at the beginning of the year. The Mac-only plug-in finally brings together two distant technologies: virtual software instruments and control voltage are together at last. (You can just forget all about that MIDI and digital business in the middle.) With it, everything from Moog guitar pedals to the Rolls of modern synths, the mind-bogglingly pricey Buchla 200e, can be easily controlled with a computer rig.

You know that cheezy Disney movie, with the astronaut in King Arthur’s Court? It’s sort of like that, as the 21st Century meets the 1960s.

Volta isn’t just about having more flexible control, either: calibration, routing, and automation all become possible.

For more details, it’s best to look back at our January interview with Matthew Davidson of MOTU, as he revealed this creation to the world:

Analog, Meet Digital: MOTU Volta Connects the Mac to CV Synths, Effects Graphically

Pricing is now final, as well, at US$249.

More tutorials and details at MOTU:

The key requirement: “An audio interface with DC-coupled outputs, such as any MOTU FireWire, USB2, or PCI audio interface with quarter-inch TRS outputs.” I believe that also includes the RME interfaces. Correction: at this point, I’m unsure which non-MOTU interfaces may work. But if you don’t own one of those interfaces, now’s an excellent excuse to buy a fantastic piece of gear.

Sadly, Volta require an iLok for authorization. Okay, whoever is out there who would buy something like a 200e or a rack of Doepfers, then pirate this software, you and I need to have a little talk. (I’ve seen stranger things, however.)

I can look on at all of this with a sense of awe and mystery, because I’m staying in the digital realm these days. But you can check out extensive discussion on our previous story of how useful this is, and other ways of creating the effect (albeit less-elegant ones). Apparently Trash Audio already grabbed the domain out of spite, though that means I’m safe from getting sucked into your addiction, analog lovers.

Twitter Everywhere: More Tweet a Sound, SuperCollider Code, Richie Hawtin + Traktor

April 30, 2009

Sadly, Richie Hawtin’s copy of Traktor doesn’t talk to you directly. “We’re about to go on. I’ve got my files cued up.” “Oh, Richie’s hands are sweaty today. Ugh.” “Hey, who’s that hottie who just got onstage?” “I hope he uses all four of my decks.” “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that. lolz” Photo (CC) Caesar Sebastian.

For everyone who thought Twitter was just about “i m eating a ham sandwich lolz,” the desire to use connectivity to actually be connected continues to win out in unexpected ways. So far this month, we already saw the use of Max/MSP. Now, Twitter is showing up in the geeky, open source sound tool SuperCollider and in DJ sets in Traktor by Richie Hawtin.

Tweet a Sound, to the Max

twitter_subpatch First, some updates on Tweet a Sound, the sound design tool in Max that lets you share synth presets.

Creator Andrew Spitz has an updated story on adding a cleaned-up subpatch to Max/MSP. It uses the Ruby programming language to access the Twitter API. (You should be able to port to Pd, too – I have to look closer at this.) Correction: Ruby is implemented as JRuby, so it runs on the Java virtual machine – and there is a Java implementation for both Max (mxj) and Pd (pdj)

This means, if you’ve got a Mac or Windows copy of Max/MSP, you can now send Tweets from your patches. And that should open up still more possibilities when Max for Live becomes available, for Ableton fans.

How To Send A Tweet From Max/MSP { sound + tutorial }

Even if you’re skeptical about Twitter per se, if you’re interested in using Ruby and Max, this should be a good starting place for other APIs, too.

Friends of mine like Francis Preve have gone utterly nuts for this.


supercollider_twitter SuperCollider is an elegant, free, cross-platform synthesis language that expresses sound and sequencers as code. Since, unlike Max, its language is text, no conversion is necessary: savvy SuperCollider sonic programmers are simply copying and pasting code directly into Twitter.

You can get a feel for something of what’s happening here:

It’s an interesting exercise. As people have done with Processing for Twitter-coded graphics, the tiny 140-character limit means the challenge of trying to do more with less.

Unsatisfied with picking these up manually, SuperCollider Charles Céleste Hutchins has built his own bash script, connected to Yahoo Pipes, for fetching the resulting SC sound creations:

Twitter Supercollider App [les said, the better]

You’ll also see in the search, in addition to code there are lots of casual exchanges of tips and advice.

I’m not sure anything can cure me of my own sprawling code, but there’s something soothing about everyone else’s little code snippets appear.

Richie Hawtin + Traktor

Here’s the biggest twist yet: Native Instruments’ Traktor Pro is now Twitter-enabled. Richie Hawtin’s label Minus has developed a custom Twitter application that uploads song metadata, using the Internet broadcasting functions built into Traktor Pro. (I’d love to see this using OpenSoundControl, though I think in this case it doesn’t.)

What this doesn’t mean: no, Richie Hawtin is not tapping away on a cell phone while he plays, and if we see any of you Twittering onstage, we will call in the Dead Acts police.

What it does mean: you can keep track of track listings by tuning in on Richie’s Twitter feed. Updates happen every 30 seconds.

Now, generally, the mention of the words “Richie” and “Hawtin” seem to trigger some sort of irrational torrent of Internet hate in comments, so I’m hoping that doesn’t happen here. Personally, I think there’s some interesting potential to all of this – imagine if people who heard your live set could then go check out album versions of your songs the next day, and discover that some of you really are doing live PA stuff and not just straight DJing, too.

Also, Minus promises they’ll release the software to other Traktor users in the near future.

It’s something of a contrast with the Max users who may actually broadcast the patches and presets they’re using while playing, but that’s what makes all of this so intriguing.


Via Twitter, Giles notes that Beatportal responds to the announcement:

How Twitter tracklist app will change everything [Beatportal]

I agree with many of the points here on some level, but author Christen Reutens at Beatportal seems to be getting a little carried away. Online radio playlists were also supposed to change “everything” – and then didn’t. For one thing, the ability to purchase played tracks, while something that still has potential, hasn’t yet taken off in a big way. For another, legal questions have come into play. In the case of radio stations, publishing playlists in the US can make a radio station into a “jukebox” and become subject to greater licensing fees. I’m not sure what licensing considerations the DJ playlist could prompt – in the best case scenario, it could mean payments for artists; in the worst case, it might turn venues off from allowing DJs to publish playlists.

Also, as far as mystique, this is an entirely opt-in service. And many of the changes Christen describes have already happened because of digital files and Internet communication – with or without Twitter playlists.

Of course, feel free to disagree.

I have a simpler view, I guess. Publishing playlists is a cool idea for those who want to do it. It’s likely to be used primarily by really big fans of certain DJs. The problem with Twitter is, that information could get stuck on Twitter. Smart DJs will use RSS to pull the information into their blog and give some of that context back. And as for DJs who have hidden behind producers’ tracks while creating a false sense of mystique – well, uh, some of us who are greater fans of live PA won’t be shedding any tears. Those who are intelligently warping tracks so they’re barely recognizable, requiring a Twitter feed to follow what’s going on, we salute you.

I’m not sure I’d want to be glued to a Twitter feed while in a club, with all the other Tweets happening, but it’s interesting. Perhaps more interesting than the features for fans is that Hawtin and company propose to get producers paid some royalties when their tracks get played, by using this feature for more accurate tracking – see James Holden on comments here.

And there’s nothing stopping the smart-a** music enthusiasts from going to sets without this feature, tapping away on their cell phone to prove they actually know what they’re hearing. We might even follow you.

But is There Another Way?

This is all very interesting, but I have to wonder if we should all take the next step and start thinking about open ways of connecting software. Of course, it makes sense to use Twitter for quick snippets and Twitter-style communication, because people are there. (Not to mention, I like the idea of freaking out your Twitter followers with unreadable code gibberish.) Likewise, it makes sense for software makers to do some of their own online integration, as Ableton has done with Share – a feature we’ll be examining in more depth.

But Twitter itself, while an interesting novelty, is not ideal, because of its data limits and the proprietary, crash-prone system behind it. Here are a couple of alternatives. XMPP is a standards-based protocol, built on XML, for bi-directional communication. For chat-style, real-time communication, XMPP – the basis of Jabber and Google Talk – makes much more sense. And there are existing, open source libraries out there with XMPP support, meaning it’s not tough to build upon. It’d be great to use XMPP to allow artists to communicate about what they’re doing in real-time.

For collaborating on shared projects, version control is a great way to go. Previously the domain of programmers, version control is catching on with all sorts of people, because it makes collaboration easier by tracking changes. Subversion remains the most popular way of doing this, even as Git gains some traction. And Sourceforge has beefed up its own functionality lately, while Sun’s Project Kenai is developing nicely, too.

See, previously:

Version Control and Sharing for Patching: Keep Those Max, Pd Patches in Order with Git

In other words, I hope this is all the tip of the iceberg. Ideas?

How to build a Basic Midi Controller

April 30, 2009

New Fisher Price Dj Controller – Exclusive Review

April 30, 2009

Very high-tech Dj Controller! Haha.


April 30, 2009
Although Ableton Live 7's MIDI effects collection does not include a
step sequencer, it has all the ingredients for building one in a MIDI
Effect Rack. I'll start with a basic 8-step sequencer and then go on to
describe several useful enhancements. You'll find all the tools
mentioned here in Web Clip 1. For an alternative approach, check out the free Fib 02 step sequencer from TrackTeam Audio (

I'll use notes C2 through G2 (MIDI Note
Numbers 48 through 55) to trigger individual sequence steps. Trigger
notes can come from MIDI clips, live playing, or an arpeggiator, and
each has its advantages. Separate racks for Velocity, length, and pitch
will have their eight Macro knobs mapped to individual steps. If you
have a MIDI control surface with continuous rotary knobs that is
supported by Live (such as the Novation Remote SL series), you can
quickly shift its focus between the three racks to update step values
in real time.

Eight Is Enough

Insert a MIDI Effect Rack on an empty MIDI
track, reveal its Chain List, create eight chains, and rename them Step
1 through Step 8. Use the Key Zone editor to limit each chain to one
note: Step 1 to C2, Step 2 to C#2, and so on. Create two copies of this
rack so that you have three racks in series, and rename them Velocity,
Length, and Pitch.

Insert a Velocity effect in each chain of the
Velocity rack, map its Out Hi knob to the corresponding Macro knob, set
its Operation to Velocity, and set its Mode to Fixed. Insert a Note
Length effect in each chain of the Length rack, set its Mode to Time,
and map its Length knob to the corresponding Macro knob with range 25.0
ms to 4.25 s. (Controlling the length in milliseconds rather than beat
divisions gives you greater flexibility.)

In the Pitch rack, insert two Pitch effects in
each chain and map the Pitch knob of the second one to the
corresponding Macro knob with range -48 to 48. Delete the first Pitch
effect in the first chain, and set the Pitch knob of the first Pitch
effect in successive chains to -1, -2, -3, and so on. The first Pitch
effect ensures that each Macro knob has the same range: C-2 through C6.

FIG. 1: In this 8-step sequencer, the Scale effect at the left displays the active step in green, and the Macro controls of the three MIDI Effect Racks control the step Velocities, lengths, and pitches.
FIG. 1: In this 8-step
sequencer, the Scale effect at the left displays the active step in
green, and the Macro controls of the three MIDI Effect Racks control
the step Velocities, lengths, and pitches.

Insert a Scale effect before the Velocity rack
and rename it Trigger Display. That lets you see when each step is
triggered, and you can also use it to turn off or remap steps. Group
everything into a new MIDI Effect Rack and save it. You now have an
8-step sequencer that you can route to any instrument plug-in (see Fig. 1).
When you create sequences you like, save the whole sequencer rack or
save the individual Velocity, Length, and Pitch racks to swap into
other sequencer racks.

To create a sequencer with 16 steps, duplicate
the chain in the 8-step sequencer and precede it with a Pitch effect
having a fixed offset of -8. Notes Ab2 through Eb3 will trigger the
second chain (Steps 9 through 16). You can create larger sequencers in
the same way.


You can trigger steps in real time by playing
the trigger notes on your MIDI keyboard, or you can create a looping
MIDI clip for more-complex step sequences. The MIDI clip determines the
rhythm, quantization, and order of the steps but has no effect on their
Velocity, length, or pitch. Try adapting a percussion MIDI clip to
trigger sequencer steps while using the original clip to play
percussion (see Web Clip 2).

Inserting an Arpeggiator effect before the step sequencer is a more traditional solution (see Web Clip 3).
Hold mode lets you set up sequences adding one step at a time. Use the
Style setting to change the step order or to make it random. Also
explore the Retrigger and Repeats controls.

You can insert Chord and Arpeggiator effects after the sequencer to create chord sequences and then arpeggiate the chords (see Web Clip 4).
Use a Scale effect to filter or correct the sequence to any scale as
well as to transpose the whole sequence. Web Clip 1 contains step
sequencers of each of these types with their Macro knobs mapped to the
important parameters.

Augmented Reality DJ: Scratch it with a Camera, Plus AR Resources

April 28, 2009
AR scratching from vanderlin on Vimeo.
“Augmented Reality” is a fancy term for describing ways of using computer vision to overlay digital intelligence on images. In other words, you can, for instance, scratch a vinyl record using a camera – plus a tag for identifying the object’s position in 3D space.
Cambridge-based designer Todd Vanderlin put together an elegant demonstration of the possibilities here, and his video has accordingly been making the rounds. (See: Synthtopia – and I actually heard about it this morning from a high school friend. The power of the Internet.)
Todd has more details on his site, which includes all kind of wonderful projects, like laser sound fountains and, always favorite around here, creepy circuit-bent baby dolls.
AR Scratching [Todd Vanderlin]
There’s actually some work to this: you need to figure out how the album is spinning. And of course, because this is augmented reality and not reality, there’s real potential here to imagine a new kind of vinyl DJing in which normal physics don’t apply.
From the video description:
I was playing around with some AR markers the other day and came up with this idea. taking just a plain old vinyl record and attaching an AR marker to the label you can track the record in 3D space. The next question was, can you scratch the record?
So by figuring out the velocity of the records rotation and applying it to the payback of the audio you can scratch. There is some digital noise that needs to bee worked out, but sounds pretty good. Its still really hard to scratch, it takes some practice but is super fun. The next step is to figure out some nice triggers for different modes. I like the idea of not needing a turntable but the actual spinning of the record helps with the scratching and playback. I made a couple modes, one where the record is paused and you can just scratch through the song. The other looks for zero velocity for x time and then continues on with the song. If there is velocity you then are scratching and the audio is affected. I think that this project has some legs can’t wait to play more.
I Want My Augmented Reality TV
So, this has sufficiently inspired you and you want more augmented reality? We’ve got more for you.
Digital artist and magician Marco Tempest has just demonstrated what happens when you do card tricks with augmented reality – and he shares some details of his rig:
Virtual Magic: Augmented Reality Card Tricks with Marco, OpenFrameWorks [Create Digital Motion]
We’ve even seen augmented reality climbing walls.
If you’re ready to do this yourself, we have a number of resources:
CDMotion has Andy Best’s tutorial on OpenCV with Processing (not an AR-specific library, but relevant): Getting Started, Popping Bubbles
We’ve also got an in-progress library for use with mapping projections in space for “spatial augmented reality”
A New Year’s video with a library for Flash, Java
A tutorial on getting started with augmented reality using Flash
openFrameworks, a library for C++ coding (which in turn supports multitouch, augmented reality – you’ll see some projects on that page)
Bryan Chung is working on a library for Processing


April 28, 2009
It doesn’t matter if you produce at a homestudio or a Pro one, the bottom line is that we’re talking about YOUR ohm studio, the place where your imagination just flows and your sonic creations see the daylight/moonlight for the first time. But how do you use the Ohm Force plugins? How do they help you to give your personal touch to your audio tracks? What Ohm tricks & threats have you already learnt and/or created, from the most known and used to the secret techniques you keep for the *right* moments? In this contest you’ll be able to share your ohm studio techniques with all the ohmfriends around the world. And maybe get ahuge prize kit in reward (see full prize list below).rules-blog1

There is not an approach requirement : it could be the traditional ‘video tutorial’ format, a ‘hands on’ overview, or even just you (or you and your band, partners, friends) showing how do you use the Ohm Force plugins in your music, in real life (an example). The more real, useful and interesting, the better; so the more will be your chances to put your hands in one of those cool prize kits. We want to see you working on your ohm studio, show it for us !

Want a good reason to already start thinking on a scenery for your nice video? There is a instant-prize : all accepted submissions already win 1 Ohm Force plugin of choice, for free, no strings attached. So you see it’s not about winners and losers, it’s about having some fun with what we all love: make music !


You already know that the Ohm Force plug-ins are the best favor you could do to your music creation, but what are the other prizes? They have been kind offered by some great software and press editors:


Puremagnetik is a pioneering subscription service for downloading sound content in Ableton Live, Kontakt and Logic formats. Developed by experienced industry sound designers, Puremagnetik publishes compact and powerful Micropaks® on a monthly basis. With an ever-increasing catalog of innovative products, Puremagnetik offers a unique and affordable way for music producers to expand their collection of sounds over time.


FXpansion Guru takes the best features of hardware beatboxes, drum samplers and loop manglers, and combines them into a unique, inspirational software instrument. Based in the UK, FXpansion has established a growing range of innovative and original products which have consistently won awards from leading industry press. FXpansion’s mission is to push the boundaries of audio software technology and open new doors in the music production process – at the same time, presenting accessible, creative yet logical user interfaces.


MusicTech Focus is a series of high-quality, 132-page bookazines concentrating on a single software platform or technique. Each issue is full of walkthroughs, features, user interviews and relevant reviews. Plus, there’s a DVD with sounds, video tutorials, demos and workshop resources.  The Ohm Force cohmpetition prize ‘collection’ comprises 6 Music Tech Focus editions covering: Ableton Live, Reason, Logic Pro, Cubase, Mastering and Pro Tools.


Since 2003 Mutekki Media is reliably providing the market with sample libraries for various scopes of audio production. If it’s state-of-the-art Loops, Drums, FX, Bass or Synth Sounds you’re looking for, we’re specialized in offering the sample material you need for nearly all aspects of electronic music such as House, Techno, Electro and Trance, with a constant eye on current movements such as Minimal or Deep House. Each library is brought to life with the demand on highest quality, passion and more than a decade of knowledge in professional studio production and mastering.

Eliane Elias Trio – Waters of March / Agua de Beber

April 27, 2009
Great feelings & Beauty playing. What a scene.

Yutaka Yokokura – Dreamland

April 27, 2009
One of the favorite artists. Great as always.
Unofficial video likes audio only.

Eliane Elias (feat. George Benson) – Just For You

April 27, 2009
Sorry, audio only.

Ableton Live 8 Misuse: Ping Pong Psuedo Scratching Effect Video Tutorial

April 27, 2009
For all the emphasis on learning how to use creative tools the proper way, it’s often when youmisuse a feature that it really becomes a powerful tool. So, in the spirit of some of the “mistutorials” from Ableton’s own Dennis DeSantis, here’s our friend Michael Hatsis of New York’s Track Team Audio / Warper Party / Dubspot with a really unusual way to achieve scratching effects.
You know the Ping Pong effect for its clichéd, stereo-panning echo effects. But here, it goes an entirely different direction: now that Live 8 has added new delay modes, you can create some special effects that don’t sound like the typical effect. Mike manages to warp and bend Ping Pong into something that sounds a lot like scratching. He warns that “this is not meant to replace vinyl nor will it produce a totally authentic sounding scratch sound.” On the other hand, you start to get some sounds that are reminiscent of scratching but sound unique, which I think is a Very Good Thing.
Live 8 users, download the template:
There’s also some nice discussion happening over on the Ableton blog. (Main request: automation / dummy clips for more sound-warping power.)
Video: Total misuse of a ping pong delay – scratch effects
(And those of you Pd/Max/SuperCollider/Chuck/Reaktor users out there, maybe this will inspire some DIY effects along similar lines.)
Ableton Live 8 Creative Tutorial Videos: Using and Misusing Groove Extraction
Ableton Live 8 Creative Tutorial Videos: Misusing Frequency Shifter
(and, yes, much as I love Live 8, I welcome other tools, too – anyone interested in tutorials to request / tutorials you want to make?)