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Digital Audio Essentials by Bruce Fries, Marty Fries

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Customize Your Jukebox

Once you have organized your music and are comfortable working with playlists, you may want to experiment with some of the customization options of your jukebox program. Most jukebox programs can be customized with skins and plug-ins. All of them include visualization effects that pulse and move to the beat of the music.

Skins

Skins are options that change the look of a program’s interface. The default skins included with many player programs can be pretty dull. Fortunately, most jukebox programs support skins that can liven them up and personalize them. Figure 4-8 shows screenshots of the standard skin for Media Jukebox (top) and a custom skin called Amped3 (bottom).

Media Jukebox skins

Figure 4-8. Media Jukebox skins

Crossfading

Crossfading is what DJs do to create smooth transitions between songs. This normally requires a mixer and two sources of music (CD players, turntables, or tape decks). The DJ also has to be there to cue up each successive song. With the right software, your computer can do this automatically, and you can go mingle with the crowd for extended periods while your computer does all the work.

Both iTunes and Media Jukebox have built-in automatic crossfading features that work very nicely. Musicmatch currently does not support crossfading, but hopefully they’ll add this feature to a future version. Following are instructions for enabling crossfading in iTunes and Media Jukebox.

iTunes

To enable crossfading in iTunes, choose Edit (iTunes on the Mac version) Preferences Effects and check “Crossfade playback.” Adjust the slider to control the length of the overlap between songs.

Media Jukebox

To enable crossfading in Media Jukebox, select Settings Options Playback. In the Between Tracks menu, select “Cross-fade (smooth)” or “Cross-fade (aggressive).” Move the slider to change the duration of the crossfade.

Automatic volume adjustment

Another nice feature shared by most jukebox programs is automatic volume adjustment, which makes all songs play at roughly the same loudness. If you’ve ever recorded cassette tapes and had to set different levels for certain songs, you’ll really appreciate this capability.

In iTunes, this feature is called "Sound Check”; Media Jukebox calls it “Replay Gain,” and Musicmatch uses the term “Volume Leveling.” In all three programs, the tracks must first be analyzed to determine the optimum level. The setting for each song is then stored and recalled whenever the song is played. Following are instructions for each jukebox program.

iTunes

To enable Sound Check in iTunes, choose Edit Preferences Effects, and check “Sound Check.” Sound Check will now process all the songs in your music library. The Sound Check settings also transfer to your iPod player when it’s synchronized with the iTunes music library. New tracks are automatically processed when they are imported into iTunes.

Media Jukebox

To use Replay Gain in Media Jukebox, highlight the tracks to be processed, then right-click and choose Properties. Next select Tools Analyze Replay Gain. Make sure “Skip analyzed files” is checked. The first time you run Replay Gain it can take a long time to process your entire library because each track is fully analyzed, rather than just a sample. To enable Reply Gain during playback, select Player DSP Studio and check Replay Gain.

Musicmatch

To use Volume Leveling in Musicmatch, choose Options Player Volume Leveling. Next, choose “Prepare all tracks in Music Library for Volume Leveling.” Musicmatch will then process each track and store a volume setting for it. To prepare additional tracks, select them and use the same procedure, but instead choose the “Prepare selected tracks …” option.

Visualization

Visualization effects, included with most jukebox programs, generate geometric forms and objects that change colors and move and morph to the music. Visualization is a built-in feature of most jukebox programs. You can use menus or shortcut keys to toggle between visualization modes, styles, and color schemes. Additional visualization styles and effects can be added through third-party plug-ins. Figure 4-9 shows examples of visualization effects (from left to right) in iTunes, Media Jukebox, and Musicmatch.

Visualization effects

Figure 4-9. Visualization effects

iTunes

To enable visualization in iTunes, press Control-T (or Command-T on a Mac), or select the Visualizer pull-down menu and check “Turn Visualizer On.” To turn off visualization, press Control-T or Command-T, or use the Visualizer pull-down menu. Table 4-2 lists some secret keystrokes for controlling visualization. Plug-ins for additional visualization effects can be downloaded from http://www.pluginsworld.com.

Table 4-2. Secret keys for controlling visualization effects in iTunes

Key

Function

?

Displays a list of options

I

Shows or hides information about the current song

C

Shows or hides information about the current visualization style

B

Shows or hides the Apple logo

M

Toggles between slideshow modes and freezing the current visualization style

R

Chooses a new visualization style/color at random

Q or W

Cycles through available visualization styles

A or S

Cycles through variations of the currently selected style

Z or X

Cycles through different color schemes

D

Restores the default settings

Media Jukebox

To enable visualization in Media Jukebox, click “Playing Now” and make sure the main window is split into two panes. If only a single pane is displayed, click the splitter bar and drag it down to show the upper pane. (The splitter bar is a narrow horizontal bar with a row of indented dots in the middle, located just above the column labels.) To toggle between visualization modes (On/Off and Track Info), click one of the arrows above the left end of the splitter bar. Use the set of arrows to the right to toggle between different visualization styles. If the menu bar at the bottom of the pane disappears, click anywhere within the visualization window to bring it back.

Musicmatch

To enable Musicmatch’s visualization feature, click View Visualizations from the pull-down menu and check “Show.” The visualization window should appear in place of the Musicmatch logo (this is also where album artwork is displayed). You can also right-click over the Musicmatch logo (or album artwork) and select Visualization Show. To configure the effects, select View Visualizations Configure. To display the visualization in a separate window, double-click anywhere within the window.

Musicmatch has a nice slideshow feature that can display JPEG images, which can be any combination of graphic images or digital photos. To enable the slideshow, select View Visualizations Musicmatch Slideshow Visualization. By default, the slideshow will cycle through JPEG images in your “My Pictures” folder. To change the folder, select View Visualizations Chooser. Click the “Configure” button, then enter the path to the new folder, or use the button to the right of the “Picture Folder” box to browse to a new folder. You can specify the interval between pictures and the type of transition (fade, dissolve, etc.)

Remote controls

One last thing required to make your computer jukebox as convenient as your TV and VCR is a remote control—you don’t want to have to get up and go to the computer every time you want to skip a song or adjust the volume, do you?

There are many types of remote-control interfaces for personal computers. These range from Bluetooth-enabled cell phones, to remotes that work with infrared receivers plugged into USB or serial ports, to remotes that work over wireless networks to control multiple computers and digital audio receivers.

The best remote controls are bundled with digital audio receivers (see Chapter 3). A digital audio receiver can transmit high-quality audio from your computer to any stereo or home theater system in your house. An infrared receiver transmits the commands from the remote control to your jukebox program and your stereo receiver.

Figure 4-10 shows some different types of remote controls. The Entertainment Anywhere (top), by X10 (http://www.x-10.com), is a general-purpose remote control that works through an infrared receiver that plugs into a serial port. The PowerMate (bottom left), by Griffin Technologies (http://www.griffintechnologies.com), connects to a Mac or PC via a USB port and works as a volume control, or a programmable control for any type of program. The IRman (bottom right), by Evation (http://www.evation.com), is an infrared receiver that allows any infrared remote to communicate with a PC through a serial port.

The Entertainment Anywhere (top), PowerMate (bottom left) and IRman (bottom right)

Figure 4-10. The Entertainment Anywhere (top), PowerMate (bottom left) and IRman (bottom right)

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