StarSound

A standalone software tool for the sonification of multidimensional datasets

About

StarSound is a standalone application currently built for Macintosh computers. As an early release candidate you should expect bugs. If you come across a bug, or wish to discuss the development of the tool, feel free to contact me using the contact below;

email: jeff dot hannam at rmit dot edu dot au

psst.. A 64-bit windows version is still in-development.

 
Quick Start Guide
Installation

To install, simply extract the application from the compressed container onto your desktop, or, manually place it into the applications folder. No other dependencies are required. Prior to installing an updated version, it is preferred older versions are uninstalled.

Uninstalling

To remove the application simply move the application to the Trash folder. If you wish to retain a previous version, you can safely re-zip and file it away.

Steps

When you run StarSound for the first time it will open using default settings. The following steps will help to get things up and running quickly;

  1. Run StarSound. Once StarSound opens, you will notice that it defaults to the visualisation page. This page is for displaying plot data. For now, remain on this page.

  2. From the main menu select 'File', then 'New'. This will open a dialog box.

  3. From the dialog box select the button to create a 'New Folder'. You can place this on your desktop. Name the folder 'My Project' , then select 'Open'. You should now find a folder called 'My Project' on your desktop. Inside this folder StarSound has created four sub-folders; configs, database, datasets and recording.

  4. We will now test our audio output, and for this we will use the template data that ships with the software. From the main menu bar go to 'Template', then select 'Load Template All'. You do not need to do this for every project.

  5.  Just to the right of the visualisation window you will see two drop-down menus. The top most drop-down menu contains all configuration files currently stored within the application. Click on the menu and select Config_shape.

  6. The drop-down menu directly below contains all data files currently stored within the application. Click on that menu and select Data_Template. You should see that data plotted within the plot region. 

  7. Now we need to set our audio output driver. For Macintosh this will be Core Audio. From the playback control section, click on the white bar and select Core Audio.

  8. Turn the Audio on by either clicking on the large speaker icon, or, by going to the main menu bar, selecting Play and then Audio. If the speaker icon is blue, then audio is on.

  9. Press the spacebar to play through the data. You should hear different tones. Press the spacebar again to stop playback.

  10. Finally we will save our project. Go to File and select Save. If you now navigate to the desktop and open the My Project folder, you should see a copy of the config file and data file used for this quick-start example.

 
KeyStrokes

Space - start or stop playback.

comma or period - scroll left or right through the graph.

forward slash - reports data.

Shift+1 - selects a config file

Shift+2 - selects a data file

Shift+3 - selects a math transform.

 
Menubar
Project

A StarSound project consists of a folder that contains all configuration settings and sonifiable data within one place. When starting a new project it is recommended to first create a folder on your computers hard disk. You can do this manually, or from within StarSound. Once created then direct StarSound to that folder for saving your work. Once a project is saved, any data introduced into StarSound will be stored within the database subfolder as a JSON file. To load an existing project, simply select 'Open Project' , from within the Project menu, then select the Project root folder and finish by clicking the Open button. All data for that project will then be loaded into the system.

Template

StarSound comes bundled with data for quickly testing the performance of the application. To load the test data simply go to the main menu bar, select Template, then select Load Template All. The template consists of multidimensional data, Data-Template, and a configuration file, Config_shape. You can access these files by creating a project and saving it. Once saved, a copy of the data is stored within the sub-folders. 

Play

Record initiates an audio recording for exporting the current session as a stereo wav file. All recordings are stored in the recordings subfolder.

Audio turns the audio system on or off.

Play will start or stop playback. Pressing the spacebar works in the same way. 

Voice When using StarSound for the first time, you may notice a voice-over feature during normal operation. This feature typically defaults to an ON state, however, if you find this distracting it can be turned OFF, or ON again, at any time by accessing the Play Menu and selecting Voice.

Loop If set to on, the session will continually loop.

MIDI Tester is used to test connectivity between external MIDI hardware and StarSound. External MIDI mixing devices are recommended for external control.

Reset Audio works much like a panic feature for MIDI. Use this to immediately reset the audio if any distortion is heard. 

Settings

Visualiser simply hides the plot from view.

Watch Config will force StarSound to watch a configuration file that is stored within the config sub-folder. If any changes occur to that file, then the new configuration is automatically loaded into the software.   

Mouse Scrubbing will turn your mouse pointer into a virtual playback bar by mapping the dimensions of the graph to the size of the computer screen. If you use a trackpad, then the trackpad is also mapped to the size of the screen. Moving the mouse pointer will scrub through plotted data, and touching anywhere within trackpad will jump to that location within the graph.

Performance Modes modify how StarSound manages real-time audio. The audio rendering performance can be done via the Settings menu. Options are; low performance, mid performance and high performance. StarSound typically defaults to low performance mode. Low performance mode places less demand on the CPU for rendering real-time audio. This mode is best used for laptops, such as the MacBook Air.

Otherwise, for more advanced tuning, the Audio configuration menu is accessed via the main menu. First, select File, then Preferences to open the preferences window. Then select the Audio tab. From the Audio tab you can choose your output device. For Macintosh, this will be Core Audio. With the preferences window open, you can adjust your CPU Limit, turn the Audio on and monitor your CPU usage. If CPU usage exceeds 80%, switch the performance mode to low. Ideally the CPU usage should be below 80%. Typical CPU usage is around 25%. You can experiment by directly changing the Signal and IO vector values. For now, all other settings are best left as they are. 

MIDI Settings opens a pop-up window for activating, or deactivating, MIDI input and output channels for connected hardware. 

 
Data Files

 

Configuration files

The configuration file is an editable text-based file, primarily designed for BVI users, and provides access to features and parameters during runtime. Furthermore, it is possible to incorporate more than one configuration file during a sonification run. This enables users to compare sonification results against different parameter settings, and, the system will recognise and store different configurations based on the naming convention used for the file name. For sighted users, modifying the configuration file is not necessary as changing the way the application behaves is best performed through the menu system and user interface. For users wishing to use the configuration file, an example format is shown right with descriptions below;

Each line within the configuration file begins with a parameter-Name and ends with an associated value(s). The type of value can be int, float or symbol.

 
 

© 2014 by JEFFREY HANNAM SOUND DESIGNER.