Friday, 30 April 2010

Tech tips

Feedback from our technical wizard, blindfish, on his role within the Soundlines project:

"My work on Strata Collective's Soundlines project involved producing an application to parse text logs from an mscape in order to convert the times recorded for audio events into an audio format to be played back online. I chose Processing for the development work, simply because it's what I've been working with most recently, and Jokosher as an intermediary tool to export MP3 audio files, mainly because, once unzipped, it has a fairly comprehensible XML format, and it's free!
The Processing based application can process multiple logs simultaneously and export these to Jokosher project files, which can then be loaded and used to export the MP3s. It also exports a number of files to facilitate the online playback. This second part of the project was an extension of my work on e-merge walks. The mscape log files are now parsed by Flash to present the trace of the walk and to give an impression of the original outdoor experience online. Soundlines extended the e-merge application so that the the trace updates in real-time - i.e. as the audio plays back the trace shows the location at which it was heard - and the user has the option to pan through the audio.

Needless to say there are things that could have been improved - for instance the Flash playback relies on ID3 tags being added to the MP3s to indicate the length of the track which adds to the work involved in processing the files before being able to put them online..."

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Soundlines premiere event at Worle School

A warm and balmy evening for people to try out the mediascape, watch the documentary film, look at the school displays and slideshows, chat to the team and students, check out the website, and interact with the web walks ......

Thanks to everyone who came, and to those who took time to give us feedback - lots of positive comments.

' This has been an amazing opportunity for XX, she has really enjoyed being a part of it. It was great to be invited this evening having heard so much about it and not really understanding! A truly creative use of technology – well done to all of you!'

' Very enjoyable thank you. The students all worked together with all the staff to make it great. Thanks.'

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

www = Watching Web Walks

Today Jane and Jackie were in Weston to show the website walks gallery to the Sand Point walkers from the three different schools, to encourage reflection on this different way of experiencing the walk, and to gather feedback which will be added to the web gallery.

Here's a quick preview from one of the Locking walkers..

"When I got on the hilltop there was very long grass, I was excited. It was very wet, muddy and cold but still was fun. My walk was amazing, fantastic and I felt free. I felt the music was elegant, scary and calm. The place and music made me feel excited, amazed and freedom. My favourite thing was not being at school!!!"

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Behind the scenes

A quick peep behind the scenes, at what happens away from the hilltop to turn walks and traces into single audio tracks for web playback.
As well as the 'public' face of Soundlines it has also been a pioneering project to develop and pilot a system of capture, playback and reflection as part of the Strata learning tool-suite. Ben's been doing an amazing job of turning our wish list into reality.
Now I'm going through all the logs, and using the processes he's created for us, to turn the 58 walks into 58 unique mp3 audio tracks.

We asked everyone to come up with a code name for their walk - some reflect the animations and stories about Sand Point, others are more of a personal memo!

Each ipaq (pda hand-held computer) was set up to record a 'log', a text list of things about each walk, including the codename of the walk, time, the position of the walker every 10 seconds (using gps - satellite tracking), the audios that they triggered by their movements, and the end time of their walk.

There are 50 different audios, most made by the participants and recorded in the music improvisation workshop back in November.
Those 50 audios were mapped, sometimes several times, onto the Sand Point hilltop, spread over about 75 different 'regions' (active trigger areas) for walkers to find as they explored. Some chose to stay in a 'region' listening to the sounds in that place, others ran around, or moved backwards and forwards to catch the sounds they wanted to hear - or to avoid! 

So the first job was copying all the logs from the 21 ipaqs used, onto one computer.
Then checking through and changing any codenames that had been used more than once so that it's easy for their authors to locate them later.

Next job is to use the system that's been especially written for the project, to turn the 58 walk 'logs' into 58 music scores - but not the traditional score with manuscript and notes. Instead we want them as instructions to audio software that can then re-compile the audios as they were triggered on the walk, and make a digital 'score' with the correct audio coming in and out at the correct time!

The picture below shows what just one part of the digital 'score' of one walk looks like. The walk codename is '1998' and you can see that it was made on the 30th March '10, starting at 10:00am. Each block is an audio that was triggered.
This screenshot shows 9 or 10 audio tracks - music made with Sand Point themes including geese, fanfares, submarines, hilltop ambience.
The whole walk (and so the whole digital 'score' also) uses 37 of the 50 available audios, and lasts 30 minutes.
The 'score' then gets 'mixed down' and exported as an mp3, ready for use in the web playback system. - That's another story!

Fingers crossed, the walk, with it's full mp3, and extra surprises, will be up on our website in the Soundlines gallery later this month! 

A folder with some of the 58 walk 'logs' to be processed.
Screenshot showing a tiny part of the log for this walk codename '1998'

Screenshot of part of the 'digital score' for one of the walks.