Tag Archive: Multimedia

Online Tonal Toys


A random link led me to a series of fantastic tonal toys. Some of these are simply diversions, and some are elaborate programs that can be used to create amazing compositions. Here’s a quick run-down of what I found…


aM laboratory.png by RndConnections on Aviary

Think wind chimes. This little Flash app by Andre Michelle is hypnotic and addictive. Clicking on the black work area will create a circle that expands from the click-point. The circle will continue to expand until it touches another circle, so you need to create at least two for this thing to work. When two circles touch a bell-like tone is generated, and the circles reverse direction. If they had been expanding they now contract. A contracting circle will contract until it reaches a single point, then start expanding again.

The pitch of the tone is determined by the size of circles. A larger circle will create a deeper tone, and a smaller one a higher pitch. An interval is created, but sometimes the larger circle’s pitch is so low that it’s hardly audible. It sounds like the app is tuned to a pentatonic scale to minimize dissonance, much like a set of wind chimes would be be tuned.

Rhythm is determined by the expansion rates of the various circles. You can create very complex patterns by positioning circles closer to or farther away from each other. Circles within circles also create neat patterns. I find it fascinating to start with a simple pattern of three circles, and gradually make the pattern more complex by adding more circles.

Here’s a short video of one of my creations. However, I suggest that you follow the link and create your own to get the full sensation. (more…)

South Carolina Digital Library


Today I discovered an excellent new online resource.  The South Carolina Digital Library is a collaborative project between several agencies, organizations, and colleges which brings together several digital libraries.  The collections include historical images, documents, audio, and other ephemera.  These items are still housed in their previous locations, but the SC Digital Library brings all of these together in a simple, searchable user interface.  The project is based on the same concept as the American Memory Project from the Library of Congress.

One of my favorite collections is the Historic Images of Greenville.  There’s also a collection of postcards, and the Sanborn Insurance Collection, which includes images of lots of historic schools.

I really like browsing the state map.  Users can select a county, then view all of the items available for that county.  I could easily lose hours looking through the collections.  Very cool, indeed.

Multitrack Madness


Sgt Sony

A CappellaBack in 1985 my brother Houston introduced me to Todd Rundgren’s innovative album, A Cappella [sic]. Rundgren used digital sampling to create an album made up only of the human voice. He added distortion and manipulated the sounds to emulate drums and other instruments. Back then this was really impressive, and I was amazed that one human voice could create such music.

Of course, now this is common place. Beat-boxing came in with rap music about the time Rundgren’s album came out. TV shows like Glee have renewed interest in a capella singing, specifically with Do Wop and other popular music that wasn’t originally arranged for voices only. Combine that with technology that can turn just about any computer into a multi-track recording studio, and you have many people turning out their own a capella renditions. (more…)

Exploring an Aviary


UPDATE: Sadly, Aviary has discontinued this wonderful series of products. The links below are no longer available.

Today I got word that Aviary.com has released a new online audio editing tool called Myna. This joins Aviary’s growing collection of online tools with bird names, including Phoenix, the image editing program, and Raven, a vector graphics program. Myna is a loop-based editor, and has many of the same functions as Garage Band or Acid Music.

I’ve only had a few minutes to play with the program, but so far I’m impressed. There is an extensive library of existing audio files. These are categorized not only by style by also by keyword. The samples are further broken down into files that would make good intros, files for loops, and ending files. You can also record samples directly into the program with your computer’s microphone, or upload your own files. (more…)

Discovery Education MediaShare


The citizens of South Carolina really have some wonderful online resources available to them. For ten years now the State Library has made available a wealth of research and reference materials through the DISCUS project. This is available in all schools, libraries, and colleges, and available at home if you obtain a free password from one of those sources. Then there’s KnowItAll.org and all of the other amazing resources from SCETV. One of the best of these is the Discovery Education video clips available from StreamlineSC. Like DISCUS, this is available free to all schools in the state through a special licensing arrangement with Discovery. At the SCETV conference this week I learned about a new feature that Discovery is promoting called MediaShare. This new service looks really cool, and looks like it will be another great resource for teachers.

As the name suggests, MediaShare allows users to share files of various types – PowerPoint slide shows, Smart and Promethean files, podcasts, and video clips. The idea is that these types of files often take up more space on servers than some districts allow, so Discovery has created this place to host the files. MediaShare is monitored for appropriateness of content, and districts can also set approval levels for files uploaded by their users.



Document Sharing with Scribd.com


Keeping up with other education blogs often leads me to some cool new tools. Such was the case with Scribd.com. Scribd is a document sharing site that allows you to upload documents from multiple formats, then converts them into iPaper documents so that they can be viewable on the web. These documents are similar to PDF files, but done in Flash so that they are a bit more versatile.

The iPaper documents can be shared online, embedded into websites, or downloaded as PDF files. Below is a list of documents supported (per their website):
  • Adobe PDF (.pdf)
  • Adobe PostScript (.ps)
  • Microsoft Word (.doc/ .docx)
  • Microsoft PowerPoint (.ppt/.pps/.pptx)
  • Microsoft Excel (.xls/.xlsx)
  • OpenOffice Text Document (.odt, .sxw)
  • OpenOffice Presentation Document (.odp, .sxi)
  • OpenOffice Spreadsheet (.ods, .sxc)
  • All OpenDocument formats
  • Plain text (.txt)
  • Rich text format (.rtf)
You have to sign up for a free account in order to upload documents. As far as I can see, there is no limit on the number of documents you can upload, and they even provide a bulk uploader for documents. I didn’t see any obvious advertising on the site, or anything that might cause problems for classroom use.
The website’s format is similar to YouTube or other social networking sites. There are special interest communities for education, travel, sports, etc., and you can browse and leave comments on other users’ documents. You can also make your documents private, and can turn commenting on or off.
One of the most powerful tools is the ability to embed documents into websites and other applications. This function works well with blogs as well as with plain HTML websites. But you can do more than just embed into websites. Here is a document I found about the Tall Ships in Charleston, embeded using customized HTML code for my site.
Embedding was as easy as cut and paste. However, I did tweak the width a bit so it would fit my formatting here.
I was also able to create a Google Earth placemark for the Charleston Harbor, then embed the Tall Ships document into that placemark.
I also tried this with Google Maps, but the Flash embed didn’t work. It did, however, create the link back to the document.
There are a couple of drawbacks to using Scribd. Since Scribd converts the documents to iPaper format, they cannot be edited once they are uploaded. This works well for sharing, but not so well for collaboration. (Google Documents works better for that.) Also, if you upload PowerPoint presentations that have audio or video in them, those components won’t convert. It will only handle text and static images. The folks at Scribd are also very strict about copyright (as they should be.)
I’ve signed up for an account and plan to explore it some more when I get a chance.

A Wishlist for Online Audio


Back in May I wrote about Houndbite.com as a sort of “YouTube for audio.” Since that time I’ve had tons of problems with the service. Half the time the webpage won’t load. However, my embedded links still seem to work. The same thing happened this weekend – yesterday I couldn’t get Houndbite to load for anything, and this morning it comes up fine and I can get logged in.

These ongoing problems with the service have led me to try a couple of alternatives. I had loaded a few audio clips up to BooMP3. While the page loads fine and I can get logged in, all of the playback and embedding code on the site itself seem to be disabled. Uploading any new files would be useless at this point. What’s worse, my embedded files on this site no longer work. Not good.

One blogger suggested using the Internet Archive as a host. I’ve uploaded one file, but really haven’t played with it much. While it looks like it has many more options than other services, it still falls short in a couple of regards. I’m still impressed with the service, and may devote a blog post to all of the other offerings on the site, but for now I’m focusing on just audio.

Some of the other file sharing sites I examined looked like nothing more than file dumping grounds. Once you upload your files you have no more control over them. These sites seem more suited for porn and illegal MP3s than for what I would like to do.

So, if I were to create my wish list for the perfect audio hosting service, here is what it would have…

  • Free
  • Reliable with little or no downtime
  • Unlimited storage and bandwidth
  • Family friendly and closely policed for copyright and community standards violations.
  • Ability to create individual user accounts
  • Direct URL to a user’s account with all publicly viewable files available
  • Ability to upload multiple files at once
  • Ability to support multiple audio file formats (MP3, WAV, OGG, WMA)
  • Ability to embed files into websites and blogs with a Flash player
  • Ability to link directly to individual file pages
  • Ability to control the accessibility of individual files (eg, non-public, download only, embed only, etc.)
  • Ability to edit description, title, and keywords for files
  • Tagging
  • Support for podcasting
  • Multiple RSS feeds available

Those are the basics that would work for my needs. However, in order to turn it into a true social network, the following would also be nice to have…

  • Ability to comment on other user’s audio files
  • Ability to add bookmarks or favorites from other users
  • Ability to add ratings and to get statistics on file downloads, views, etc.
  • Mapping, or at least geotagging capabilities

This may seem like quite a list, but it’s not impossible. If they can do this with video files on YouTube and photographs on Flickr and similar sharing sites, then I don’t see why it can’t be done for audio. I guess there just isn’t the demand for audio.

I’ll keep looking. If anyone knows of an audio host that comes close to meeting my wish list, I’d love to know about it.

[tags]Multimedia, podcasting, audio, audio sharing[/tags]

That’s LIFE


Google has partnered with Time/LIFE to make a massive collection of images available online through the Google Image Search funtcion. The announcement was made on the Official Google Blog today.

This collection includes film, negatives, and even glass plates dating back as far as 1750, which have been digitized and are now hosted by Google. Also included are famous photos such as the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square, and photos by famous photographers such as Alfred Eisenstaedt and Dorothea Lange.

Each image page contains a link to the largest resolution available for the image. There is also metadata available on the right, including photographer, date taken, location, and related keywords with links to those searches.

There are two ways to find these images . The first is to browse from the collection’s starting point, or enter a search phrase from that point. You can also include the phrase “source:life” (without quotes) in any Google Image Search to narrow your results to only those within this collection.

Time/LIFE has retained copyright on these images, so there are limitations on their use. The full resolution images have the LIFE logo stamped in the lower right corner. Even so, the possibilities for using this collection with students are tremendous. Or, if you’re an interested browser, it’s a delightful way to cruise through our nation’s history.

[tags]Google, Life, Google Image Search[/tags]

Embeddable Google Books


From Lifehacker.com I stumbled across this post on the Google Operating System Blog about a method of embedding Google Books into blogs and web pages…

Google made it easy to embed in a site any book available at Google Book Search. You can add a fully-functional widget using this code:

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://books.google.com/books/previewlib.js”></script>
<script type=”text/javascript”>

where you should replace GkCpLIk7aisC with the corresponding book ID, which can be obtained from the URL.

I can see this as a great way to site sources in blog posts, or to highlight reviews, etc. For example, there have been several posts about John Boyanoski’s books on ghosts in upper South Carolina. While I couldn’t find John’s books in Google Books, I was able to find Tally Johnson’s “Ghosts of the South Carolina Upcountry”, which is very similar to Boyanoski’s book.

The comments on the blog posts go into greater depth about how to link to specific pages and problems that might be encountered using this script on various sites. Most of those methods involve additional code that don’t work very well as embeds.

The other drawback is that you can really only embed one book per blog post. Correction – you can do more than one, but it puts them altogether in your post. You can’t have a book, then a bit of text, then another book. Something about the script joins the embeds.

Regardless, this looks pretty cool, and I may start adding more of them here.

Flowgram and BeFunky


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I came across a couple of interesting web discoveries this week. One looks very useful (Flowgram), the other is just for fun (BeFunky). (more…)

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