Multimedia/MIDI SIG Spotlight

by Steve Kennedy
The Multimedia & MIDI SIG gets involved in a wide range of applications, including imaging, video, music, 3D animation, and related topics.
“MIDI” is an acronym for “Musical Instrument Digital Interface”, a way of connecting suitable equipped devices together to create music. Typically a computer and a music keyboard are connected so that with MIDI software, songs can be recorded and played back using the MIDI set of commands: “Note on”, “Note Off”, how loud, etc. No sound is recorded, only instructions, but that makes it easy to change instruments ‑ piano, organ, sax, whatever. There is also software available that creates entire songs given only a few inputs such as style (rock, country, classical, etc.). An example is PG Music's “Band-in-a-Box”.
Another way of creating music is by using digital “loops”, short recordings of instruments that can be blended together (“mixed”) to create very “real” sounding music. A very popular program is Ableton Live, which the group has been investigating recently. It allows real-time music creation using digital loops, so it can be used for live acts, DJ's, etc. Sony offers a free version of its “Acid Express” for download, and collections of many thousands of loops are available at consumer level pricing, so you can be making music immediately.
Imaging applications include Adobe Photoshop and its many add-ons: filters, actions, brushes, etc. On the video side is Adobe's Premiere for video editing, and Adobe After Effects for professional effects, also called “motion graphics". We also look at more affordable products from Magix and others, whose power has grown dramatically in recent years.
3D animation involves creating videos with the computer only, along the lines of “Toy Story”. Traditional favorites include “Poser" for human figure animation, “Bryce" for creating environments (terrains, skies, water), and Lightwave, a pro level program for doing it all, including creating very detailed models of cars, buildings, etc. More recently, some of the SIG members have purchased E-on Software's “Vue 5 Infinite", similar to Bryce but with many advanced features such as the ability to generate hundreds of trees and still allow reasonable render times.
A short animation (say 5 minutes) may use almost all the above programs, and can be a real challenge to plan and execute. But its fun stuff, and the final product can be jaw dropping ‑ some of the better ones show up on magazine CD's (e.g. 3D World) and serve as an inspiration to us.3d
The Multimedia & MIDI SIG meets the first Saturday of each month at 10:00 a.m. at HAL-PC. Contact Steve Kennedy at 281/479-7615 email him at