Brian Heywood rounds up the month's juiciest PC news and delves deeper into the world of multimedia authoring...
TURTLE BEACH products such as Sample Vision, Wave For Windows, Multisound and Maui sound cards are now being handled in the UK by the nice people at Digital Music down in Chandlers Ford. I've also heard rumours that there may be a new version of Sample Vision on the cards, as well as a cut-down version of the Multisound MPC sound card. To find out latest prices and for more information contact Paul Wilkinson on (Contact Details).
CODA score specialists New Notations have announced a new support service for users of Coda's Finale music processing program. The service includes telephone and fax support plus workshops and tutorials; a year's subscription costs £175, or £116 to certified academic version users. You can even make arrangements for 'after hours' support if you're working to a deadline. For more details contact Andrew Aird or Stephen Ferre at New Notations on (Contact Details).
VOYETRA have just released a new set of Windows 3.1 MIDI drivers, allowing you to install multiple Voyetra interfaces. They have also announced a £99 external MIDI interface — called the VP11 — that attaches to the PC's printer port, giving users of portable PCs who don't have a spare serial port the chance to use MIDI. For more details about these and other Voyetra products, contact Julian at CMS on (Contact Details).
ADVANCED GRAVIS have now released the 16-bit input module and the MIDI expansion kit for their UltraSound soundcard. Costing £139, the input module is a daughter card that fits onto connectors present on the UltraSound and allows you to record 16-bit audio with sample rates from 5 to 48kHz. The new module also supports audio data compression, filtering, and is bundled with a 16-bit sound editor application. The MIDI adaptor — which costs £49 — connects to the D-type connector on the back plate of the UltraSound card and gives access to the built-in MIDI interface. As well as providing In, Out and Thru, the unit has activity LEDs and two 15-pin D-type connectors for attaching joysticks or games controllers. At under £450 for the fully expanded system, the UltraSound is still the best value for money for a 16-bit MPC soundcard with a decent synthesizer section. For more information on these add-ons, and on the UltraSound card itself contact Optech on (Contact Details).
Korg were showing their new GM module at the British Music Fair at the end of July. Like Yamaha's Hello Music! package and Roland's SC7 module, Korg's Audio Gallery can be connected to the PC's serial port to give you an extra MIDI port using the supplied cable. As well as having 4MB of waveform data in ROM, the module has 32-note polyphony, which beats both the Roland and Yamaha equivalents. The module comes bundled with Passport's Trax and MIDI Player as well as PG Music's popular Band-in-a-Box software and a number of General MIDI song files. The Audio Gallery will set you back £399; for more information contact Korg (UK) on (Contact Details).
While I'm on the subject, Yamaha have now increased the price of their Hello Music! package to £399. Just to remind you, Hello Music consists of a CBX-T3 GM sound module, all the cables needed to connect it to the PC and amplifier, Cubase Lite, the Steinberg MIDI file Juke box, an MPC tutorial disk and the Windows MIDI device driver. If you want more information contact Peter Peck at Yamaha-Kemble on (Contact Details).
I keep rabbiting on in this column about multimedia applications, but you may be wondering how you might put one of these curious beasts together. Producing a multimedia application actually consists of two distinct processes: producing the components (ie. graphics, music, voice-over) and then combining these into a finished production. Each of the components — for instance, MIDI files, digital audio files, graphics and even live video — must be created (or 'authored', in multimedia parlance). You then combine these bits into a single module that can be replayed to your audience using a multimedia authoring package. There seem to be two approaches to creating the final product — or multimedia 'title': the first is very graphically oriented, while the second type lets you define the overall structure using an icon based programming language.
An example of a graphically based system is MM-Box2 (snappy name, guys!) from the British company U/C/M based in Sussex. MM-Box2 lets you place graphical objects on a page and then associate a set of actions with them — for instance, causing a MIDI file or a sound file to be replayed when you 'click' on a particular graphic object. The presentation is laid out as a set of pages or slides and — since you can associate a number of events including delays and jumps between pages — you can combine both interactive and preprogrammed sequences. This way of working provides a means of producing multimedia applications very quickly and simply. Furthermore, you can use MM-Box2 as a 'front end' to the Asymetrix Toolbook package, using the supplied converter program, allowing you to add further refinements to your application. I must admit I liked MM-Box2 a lot and shall probably buy it. There are two versions of the package — one on floppy, which costs £146.88 (inc VAT), and a CD-ROM for £581.63. The CD-ROM version contains a large amount of clip-art and other useful multimedia data. For more details about MM-Box2, contact Bill Faust at U/C/M on (Contact Details).
An example of an icon based system is HSC Interactive from Westpoint Creative (the Sound Blaster people). With this type of authoring environment you specify your multimedia application as a series of icons, each one representing an element of the final production — displaying a graphic or playing a MIDI file or animation. An icon can be compiled from a number of other icons, allowing you to hide complexity, and you can copy icons between different 'publications', which may speed up development after you've been authoring for a bit. HSC Interactive has a more integrated approach to multi-media production than MM-Box2, supplying tools to create simple animations. The package is fairly pricey at £351.33; for more details contact Westpoint Creative on (Contact Details).
Feature by Brian Heywood
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