John Coles

Back to the Blog. Back to reality.

When the year counter ticked over to 2014 I wrote in my list of goals that I wanted to write 50 blog posts this year. Considering the fact that I have only written 2 and it is December 3rd I think I may have left it a little too late. So as not to spam this blog full of content I am going to hopefully writing a blog post every day or two through December in to January. If I can do that I might have the momentum to keep going through next year!

Since the last post on here a lot has changed (well it was in February so duhh). The iPhone 6 and 6+ is now a thing (and yes I am loving mine, and no it’s not bent…. yet). Other things have changed, we’ve had the summer, I’ve written a couple of hundred thousand lines of code for work (I’m still loving my job at Kloodle btw) and probably the biggest news which happened on the 29th November is that I moved out! Indeed I have left my parents house (although according to the internet I am still in my mum’s basement which is bizarre as I didn’t think my parents house has a basement). So far so good I have survived 4 days, but not having an internet connection is starting to bug me.

I know, I know. This is an update blog however I should say that when moving to a new place I didn’t think that I was going to miss the internet as much as I do. Those close to me will know that I burn through bandwidth like a plasma cutter through butter. Literally. My average data usage on my iPhone is between 4 to 7 GB of cellular data usage, per day (though not having a hardwired internet connection means this has gone up even more!). What some people use in a month I use in a matter of hours. Moving out I thought I might be able to get away with just my tethering allowance from Three (which is 2GB per month) and some data on a MiFi (4G is available with 100% signal on EE and O2 and about 40% on Three), how wrong I was. Considering I moved in at about 12 on the 29th and received a text from Three at 23:37 saying I had used my tethering allowance I knew I needed to sort broadband out.

Luckily as it was Black Friday (more on that in future post) BT had some special offers on, meaning I managed to get BT Infinity (their consumer friendly name for their residential FTTC service) with 39-40Mb/s down and 9-10Mb/s up for £10 a month (plus line rental which I hate). So now I just have to wait for a charming man from BT (an “Engineer” – they have actually been quite nice in the past) to come and set up my connection.

Well that is about everything interesting going on. Apart from the new design on the blog (it’s pretty isn’t it).

See you all soon, hopefully.
JC

“iPhone 6″ Pictures Leaked. Is this what it looks like?

Is this what Apple’s next version of the ever successful iPhone line will look like? Rumor site Mac Rumors posted these images yesterday after they were submitted by an Anonymous Source on Twitter “mornray886“. I’m thinking that these images are maybe not the real deal and so are a fair few readers of Mac Rumors in their comments. I do however feel this is what the iPhone 6 will probably look like given the strength of rumors that the iPhone 6 will have a lager screen than it’s predecessors (iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5).

What will we see in the next iPhone, well I think that the bigger screen is a likely thing to happen due to the large number of large screen smartphones on the market. Improvements to the camera, processor, RAM and new motion processor are all also 100% to happen. Will we see some new features such as NFC built in especially as Apple is rumored to be investigating mobile payments? Remember that they already have millions of consumer credit/debit cards on file due to the iTunes store so they would be best placed to make frictionless biometric secured payments.

Well we’ll most likely see the release of the iPhone 6 in September this year and I certainly will be picking one up if it is anything close to the images above.

Sound of Music – Surround sound

Let me begin by stating that this is not a how to on doing surround sound in theatre. In fact I do not know of any professional theatre that has done a surround sound set up for any show and having designed, built and used the system I can understand why. If you would like to learn how it was done, read on!

Why did you do surround sound?

Paul Campbell our director and head of performing arts at Holy Cross had originally thrown the idea out at a conceptual stage. This was also where the idea for a tree on stage came from. Rather naively I agreed that we would produce the show in surround sound leading to 5 months of fun trying to create and mix all the sound into a useable system. There were points during the project where I had doubts that it was possible and questions why the hell we were doing it. I also doubt that few (if any) of the audience will have realised that the show was in surround sound. However from an education and learning point of view it was well worth it. Due to the fact that no one has done what we were doing it allowed for a lot of freedom. This is what drove me to keep going, the fact that we were writing the book, something that I am used to doing in the live internet video world with Digital Tree UK and LTK TV.

 

So how was it done?

Magic. Pure and simple. Here is a diagram of the connections made to allow us to do the surround sound set up. Keep an eye on the colours and the key. Click on the image to view the full PDF version – which is 15MB so will take some time to load (it is a PDF so that you can zoom right in).

Sound Diagram SoM

So that about explains the hardware side of the set up, the software side for the sound effects was about as complex as we could have made it. Should I ever have to do this sort of set up again (clue: I won’t be) then I would have mixed the sound effects in a programme that was capable of working in 6.0 natively. This would have saved a fair few headaches. The solution that we used for the shows relied upon Ableton Live 8 and Cubase 6.5 with ReWire running to link the two together. With the benefit of hindsight what was done could have been done totally in Ableton (even if it had been more fidly) and saved us some of the issues that we found.

Ableton Live was used because of it’s ability to play back multiple sounds with a single cue and the grid layout makes it perfect for loading sound cues in to. There was also a plan at one point to use some sort of midi control for live adjustments to panning etc but when everything was set up it never got used.

Cubase was used because of the in built support of 6.0 surround sound panning. That was all cubase did during the live shows, it was open and playing with a blank(isn) document that had all the locations of the sounds. These we sent through using channels from Ableton to Cubase. This is where you can begin to realise that there is a lot of hacking together of systems and software.

Due to the fact that the Behring X32 only (I use the word “only” in a very rough form here) has 40 live sound inputs (2 of these are from the USB through) the AUX bus had to be used for the computer inputs. “But John, you had 2 computers with 6.0 from each of them how did you get that in to the X32’s 6 AUX ‘o’ magical sound person?” Well reader, a second sound desk is the simple answer. Fortunately college owns an analogue Allen & Heath sound desk they the two computers were fed in to (along with an iPod for the music before the show, during the interval and at the end). This meant that there were 6 inputs from each computer being mixed down to 6 AUX outs from the A&H desk in to the X32.

 

Any final words?

So, I hope that all makes some sort of sense and has put you off doing surround sound in your next production. If however you must do it and would like to speak to me about this more then please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear about anyone else who has done this but from what my research (Googling “surround sound in theatre production” counts right?) indicates no-one else has ever done this, which makes me pretty proud. Sure, it wasn’t perfect nor was it pretty but it did work (for the most part). Even if one of the computers did lock up about 3 minutes before a show.

Thanks for reading and have fun!

Why writing standards compliant code really doesn’t matter any more.

ValidMug

We have all visited a website that shows the “Valid HTML” and “Valid CSS” image badges in the footer. But how many times have you clicked on them to see if the code was actually valid? Well I have made a habit of doing this, clicking on the links. The most annoying websites are those that have the icons but don’t link to the testing pages.

So why do I click on the links? Well mostly because I find that all the websites that have the links on them are straight from the 1990’s (indeed a few of them also have the “Designed for Netscape” or “Designed for Internet Explorer” badges in the same footer) but mostly because there is something quite hilarious about the links, of all the times I have run a W3 Validation check, I can only remember 1 time when the code has come back completely valid. So why is this? Well you can write as much compliant code as you like but sooner or later there will be one mistake.

“But all the code on the internet should be valid, otherwise the browsers will not render it correctly!!!” this is simply not true. Run a W3 Validation check on any major page you want, Google, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, JohnCol.es, none of them validate. Modern Browsers (read as “anything other than IE”) have very high tolerances for errors. A <style> tag shouldn’t be in the <body> tag but many sites do it.

Before I go any further I must say that the standards behind the validation is important, the actual validation is not.

Valid code was something that stemmed from the beginning of the internet, when web browsers were very new and websites were formatted in tables with “new” GIFs everywhere. 56k was the time. Browsers weren’t that good at parsing incorrect code, infact there were so few tags it was extremely hard to write “bad” code. However over the past 15 years the Internet has grown up, so have the developers, so have the browsers. I would say that 99% of the pages you visit will have an error in there somewhere, from HTML, CSS or JavaScript. But because the web browsers we use these days are designed for these failures they keep going and do their best to display a page (apart from IE).

So is valid code needed? Yes and no. When learning a language it is very important to get to know exactly how it is meant to be written, as cleanly as possible. Some would argue that error correction is a bad thing as it allows you to write sloppy code. I am the worst for this when developing quickly. There are many times when writing server side applications I use variables when I should use an array for global storage leading to more RAM use but because of modern computing we can get away with it. Valid code is not the be all and end all. There are occasions when you can validate some code as working but a browser will not display the expected outcome.

My advice to anyone who is programming, testing > validation. Try validating your code, if there are any major warnings then solve them other than that try and test on every platform you can do. We do this at Kloodle, we have PCs running multiple versions of Windows with various different versions of browsers, Linux distributions then a selection of mobile devices, from the iPhone 5 to a Pink BlackBerry Curve 8520. If the code runs as you expect it to then you have no issues, if not the validation results may give you a hand in tracking down the issues.

Why I love the TriCaster.

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You may know that I work at Digital Tree UK (a video production company based in Manchester, UK) and that we recently upgraded our workflow. Completely. We have gone from using standard definition cameras and a standard definition video switcher to a full HD workflow. At the heart of our new workflow is the NewTek TriCaster 40. To realise why I love it so much let me explain.

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