Friday, August 18, 2006

AudioPint status update

The AudioPint underwent massive development for SIGGRAPH 2006! In the few weeks leading up to the performance, I mounted the motherboard, power supply unit and hard drive in the aluminum briefcase, and cut ventilation holes. On the software side, I tinkered with Ubuntu and ALSA enough to get the 8-channel in/out audio card working. A nice resource for turning an Ubuntu linux computer into a recording tool can be found here. Although the AudioPint is built for live performance much of the studio recording audio related how-to is useful. For a multi-person performance (more on this in a minute), multi-channel in and out is important, since not only does everyone need their own microphone, but the sound guy needs to be able to mix everyone separately sometimes, in case someone is too loud or needs to be turned up to be heard.

At SIGGRAPH, we had 6 performers on stage, each using a PureJoy connected to a single AudioPint (that is, 6 PureJoy's, 1 AudioPint total). So a single VIA motherboard with 512MB of RAM was supporting recording/sampling, looping, effects and scrubbing for 6 performers simultaneously! That was impressive. (thanks to VIA for providing us with motherboards - they rock!) We moved up to an EPIA SP13000 from an SP8000 (the 8000 is a lower-power, fanless motherboard whereas the 13000 is faster and has a CPU fan) after finding that we would max out the 8000's processing capabilities when multiple people started using effects at the same time. Reverb, though nice, is a particularly costly operation since it requires a running convolution, hence the need for the faster board.

What's next? Then plan is to build a set of more powerful AudioPints with wireless, both WiFi for communication with other AudioPints, and wireless input (perhaps Bluetooth) for control and audio. Wireless input will free up a performer on stage to run around and entertain the crowd during a show. The InventMusic crew will continue to perform with the AudioPints, and we'd also like to get them into the hands of some professional musicians, to get more feedback about their design.

Here's a picture of AudioPint under heavy development, and the intense cableage that results!

-Dave

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