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Tom 7 Entertainment System Hero (show and demo reel) (16 Apr 2009 at 20:14)
Hey, okay. Finally I have the videos ready to reveal secret project 7H, which is called Tom 7 Entertainment System Hero.

This is part video game and part performance art piece. The video game is essentially an implementation of Guitar Hero, where the songs are Tom 7 Entertainment System tunes. Some of these are ridiculously intricate and most have weird time signatures, which makes for advanced play. It supports keyboard on Mac, Windows, and linux or real USB guitar controllers (like the XBox 360 ones) on Mac and Windows. That includes accelerometers and whammy bar. The best introduction is to watch the demo reel:



As usual, for best results click through to the HD version, or download the 1080p AVI from that page.

This video has a bunch of clips in it, mostly from the Show at Belvedere's. You'll see a bunch of things. One is that I actually mess up a lot when playing. I'm better than this but two things contributed to my mistakes: (1) I was kinda drunk since the show started like 3.5 hours late and I got free beer for being a "musician" and (2) in the last week before the show I was sprinting to get all the software and hardware working, so I actually didn't practice hardly any of these songs more than the one time it took me to decide to put them in the setlist. Once it's available publicly I will challenge you to high-score battle to prove it. Hardware you ask? I didn't build the guitar or drums of course, but I did build the Laser Suspension Womb, which to be more pithy I sometimes call my "USB laser hat." It's a hardhat with a bunch of very bright LEDs and actual laser diodes embedded in it, powered by 1.5A, worn on the head, and connected to the computer via USB implemented on a custom circuit board with a PIC microcontroller. The in-game music and events ("drums were kidnapped!") trigger the lights and lasers to play along. I have a clever hack so that it doesn't need special drivers on any platform, though that's not helping penetration much because there's only one of them. This was my first real hardware project in my adult life, but now that I know how to do it I hope to do more (especially input devices, i.e., "instruments"). It's much better in 2009 than I recall from sticking paperclips and resistors in the parallel port in 1993.

Rock Band drums are supported too. Unlike the guitar, which has a goal pattern for you to match, these are totally freeform. Commodore 64 samples are played in response to drumhits. I wish the controller supported some kind of velocity sensitivity, because that is kind of important for drum expressiveness, but too bad so sad.

Tom 7 Entertainment System Hero Enterprise Schematic


Techno details: The implementation is almost all in Standard ML using SDL, except for the low-level sound synthesis thread and the interface to the USB laser hat. That stuff's in C. It's easy to mix them. The code has some shortcuts in it for sure and deserves to be cleaned up (lots of them introduced in that last week sprint) but it also has some really nice parts, like the algorithm that matches your input to the score. The matching is ambiguous, so there's an on-line dynamic programming algorithm to be maximally generous to your playing. (I don't think Guitar Hero II had this maximally generous algorithm, which was one of the reasons I started working it out like a year and a half ago, but I do think that GH III and on do it right.) The finger patterns you're supposed to match with the guitar, which I call the "score", is generated automatically from MIDI files. To turn a T7ES MIDI file into a T7ES Hero game file, I have to assign instruments to each of the tracks, and then pick which tracks or track parts are supposed to be played on the guitar. The rest is automatic, save some tuning parameters. "genscore" has a model for how closely a candidate score matches the original MIDI (for example, if consecutive MIDI notes are rising in pitch, then it's better for the fingers to also be rising on the fretboard) and then it solves for the optimal assignment, measure-by-measure. I thought that I would need to modify the score after this to get good quality, but it actually works amazingly well. Some of the stuff it comes up with is super fun, like I would assume was created by a human with a good sense of fun. No. Only cyber-brain.

Here's the last two songs of the regular set in full. In this you see that you can actually play drums and guitar at the same time if you're good enough (I am not). 2 player mode? Maybe soon:



I don't know if I'll ever get the opportunity to perform this again (befriend T7ES Band Page on Facebook for guaranteed notification), but maybe. Either way, I'm looking forward to sharing the software with you guys, which I will do as soon as I finish the auto-update and high score table, so that we can compete with each other and I can release song packs.
Categories:  favorites  drawings  hacks  video  t7es  video games (31 comments — almost 9 years ago)   [ comment ]
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Airborne Toxic Event (09 Mar 2009 at 08:58)
Hooray, my internet finally worked continuously long enough to upload this file. It's another video from us playing last weekend in Abe's basement:



We found out after writing this song last year that there's also a band called Airborne Toxic Event; don't be confused! The phrase of course comes from DeLillo's fine specimen White Noise. I like this song a lot but we haven't recorded it yet, so live or live video or live mp3 is the only way.
Categories:  video  sick ridiculous (7 comments — almost 8 years ago)   [ comment ]
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openho~1.mid (01 Mar 2009 at 13:46)
This weekend was Open House for visiting prospective graduate students for Computer Science at CMU. I graduated like a year ago but I am still interested in perpetuating the program and helping young people make positive life decisions, so Nels and I played a Rock & Roll Techno show at the unofficial open house weekend house party. As is our contractual obligation, we wrote a new tune for the occasion. It is openho~1.mid. Because it is apropos many of the cleverness in the lyrics might not be apparent, but how could you not like the 7/4 beats and my sweaty freeform dance paroxysm?



There is also an mp3 of the whole show which is very overdrive in the techno songs but sounds pretty good in the guitar parts.
Categories:  sick ridiculous  video  mp3 (7 comments — almost 9 years ago)   [ comment ]
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Swedish Boy video (15 Feb 2009 at 16:55)
Ah! It feels right. Another project actually completed, this time with the benefit of deadline. It's my entry in a music video contest for the band Obi Best.

I heard this band on a podcast, which is my new most effective way of learning about new music. I liked the song in that 'cast ("Who Loves You Now") so much that I ordered the album from the label, although allegedly this album is not technically "released" yet, so I don't really understand that, and it came with a little hand-written message Enjooy! with the oo made into a googly-eyed smiley face, which was endearing. And I think it's a pretty good album. More sparkling clean than I'm used to but musically it is very clever. So then I got this new camera, as I've mentioned before, and I was in Connecticut over Christmas break in that leisurely time browsing web sites of bands I like, and saw that this band had a video contest going on. I had that project itch (unsagely ignoring all those 70–99% complete projects still) so I decided I'd throw something together as a way of experimenting and learning my camera and some animation techniques. But then five vacation days later it had grown out of hand in ambition and sunk cost, so here we have:



Even more so than usual I insist that you click through to the video page to watch in glorious HD or download the 450mb original (bottom right). There are a lot of details and motion you just can't get in this little box.

At first it was an accident, but as I was CMOS-ing a recent Pittsburgh snow storm to provide a Sweden-like backdrop, I decided to capitalize on my handheld camera shakiness for stylistic reasons—the various illustrations and animations are motion-tracked to the video to make them seem more present in the scene. I did this all by hand and also the animation by hand obviously, and the foolhardy rotoscoping of my hand by hand, which I will never do again, and fought a lot with software that just barely falls short of my expectations, so I think it took me a total of about 50 hours (!). But really it was mostly fun and I am quite happy with the result, especially some special parts.

Here's what I'm not happy with: Quality of video on Youtube. We're supposed to upload our videos into their contest group, but the regular Youtube quality on this high-motion video is absolutely unbearable. The "HD" version looks reasonably sharp but the framerate is ridiculously low and unstable. And it starts with some VHS malfunction kind of vibe. I don't know what the deal is. I am trying again, this time ignoring Youtube's advice to upload the highest fidelity I've got. Vimeo's doing a great job as usual so I simply point you to that version for your potential enjoyment/dismissal, but it'd be a real boner to not have the contest people be able to properly enjoy/dismiss it on account of Youtube encoding problems. Boo hoo.

So in post 1002 I told you about six projects and now 3 of those are totally done. I've been training for the Pgh marathon so that's in progress and obviously can't be done until May. Beatles visualizations are almost done. I got the Laser Suspension Womb parts so I can work on it soon. Boo yah!
Categories:  contests  video (14 comments — 9 years ago)   [ comment ]
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Is it live... or is it Maxwell House? (18 Jan 2009 at 22:44)
#1: Steelers win, Superbowl here we come.

#2: Nels and I finished off a new song yesterday and recorded a music video with my new camera (secret project LOMH). It took me longer to put it together than it should have because of unreliable software, and this was frustrating to the max, but now it is ready:



As always, but moreso than usual, I recommend that you click through and watch in high resolution, or even download the original 1920x1080 file. I'm really excited about the quality of the video that this camera shoots, and once I get familiar with using it it's going to be even better.

This is a song about coffee delirium. It is a leading aggravating factor in accidental deaths among young professionals. I'm curious to know whether you understand the joke in the title—it's one of those ones that I think most people from my era and area should know, but I also suspect maybe not like when I dressed as Mikhail Gorbachev and nobody knew who that was.
Categories:  sick ridiculous  video (24 comments — 9 years ago)   [ comment ]
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Sick Day (13 Oct 2008 at 08:17)
Nels and I played a rock concert as Sick Ridiculous and The Sick Ridiculous at Brianne's birthday party. We were all jazzed up for this one and then beset by a series of runtime failures. Like, in the first song there was feedback (normal, tolerable) and then I got a text message while the song's backing track was playing through the PA off my phone (blunder, but funny) then I broke a string on my guitar, and though I had a spare set of strings I only had the other 5 because I had just replaced that one two days prior. I learned that when a string breaks the whole guitar goes uniformly out of tune (makes sense, since the tension on the neck is reduced); we thought it was Nels so he disappeared to tune and then the next song we were totally not calibrated to one another. But we couldn't give up during that song because that song is about not giving up. We forgot words but that is pretty normal. It was really hot in there too. These are not complaints or excuses, but humorous anecdotes. It seems like it'd be impossible to disappoint these party crowds filled with our friends. In invisible failures: I wasn't recording directly off the PA for the first few songs, and then my guitar mic was off(!) for the rest, so there aren't a lot of usable videos soundwise. This one is just us singin' on the phone:



(Like before, I recommend clicking through to view the HD version or download the original AVI, for maximum quality.) When we are permitted to play a party it is our now publicly proffered deal to write and a perform a new song for the occasion. Usually we just finished writing it so we don't know it and totally blow it in the first performance; this video is our second performance of Unfairbanks. We wrote this for our departing friend George Fairbanks's friend-departing party. It's about the credit crisis. You should know that Sick Ridiculous and The Sick Ridiculous has a good track record of forecasting financial events. This song was written in May. At the end you hear my advice to "sell the shit out of" your stocks, even if it's after hours. Following that advice could have saved you from the worst week of market losses in history. However, past performance does not indicate future gains. (In truth, our only forecasting strategy is whimsical pessimism.)

The song we actually wrote for this event is called Birthday Control, since it's a birthday party. When I'm linking these up, they are links to recorded versions, sure as hell not our live ones. And then there's our new song Sick Day, which actually is a "live" recording of my favorite of our new songs. Live just means one take in my bedroom in this case.
Categories:  video  mp3  sick ridiculous (6 comments — almost 10 years ago)   [ comment ]
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Tom 7 live @ Open Mic Night, 5 Sep 2008 (09 Sep 2008 at 19:14)
OK, here is the other music post, as foretold by the bards. I played "open mic night," one of the first times I've played by myself in front of an audience of more than 2 or 3 people. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm trying to get better at this. It's strange because I don't think of myself as being nervous in front of others (like for example when giving talks), but I definitely make more mistakes when I'm playing guitar for an audience. Maybe it is the distractions. Anyway, I got a mini camcorder a few weeks ago to play around with, and so there are videos of this performance:







I highly recommend clicking through to view the "HD" versions, or even downloading the 1080p AVIs linked on the bottom right of those pages. I was limited to 10 minutes so I was playing fast. The middle one, Post-Glacial Identity, I think is the best performance of the three (contains fewest screw-ups). I also have a fourth video of the remainder of my 10 minutes, which I want to show you, but I'm hesitant because it gives away one of my best secret projects, which I want to arrive in the most best way possible. I'll let you know.
Categories:  video  tom 7 music (15 comments — almost 6 years ago)   [ comment ]
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SIGBOVIK'd (02 Apr 2007 at 14:43)
Well, the faux/real SIGBOVIK conference on April 1 was a staggering success. Basically, Harry Q. Bovik is a fake graduate student that the Computer Science Department uses for various purposes and in-jokes. His 64th birthday was this Sunday so we had a conference filled with joke papers and presentations in his honor.

The website has a full draft proceedings, and I think soon you'll be able to get a bound printed copy to enhance your office's gravitas or to place with randomly generated call numbers into your university's engineering and science library.

My papers were the utterly nonsensical "Generalized Super Mario Bros. is NP-Complete" (by Vargomax V. Vargomax), the one-joke "Level-of-Detail Typesetting of Academic Publications" and the entirely too much effort "Wikiplia: The Free Programming Language that Anyone Can Edit") (winner of the "Freedom to Receive Awards" award at SIGBOVIK).

If you hate reading you can watch the totally pre-recorded version of "Generalized Super Mario Bros. is NP-Complete" (make sure your sound is on, and wait for the whole thing to load before starting it) (warning: this is very immature) or look at the talk for Wikiplia (but this mostly consists of words). Both need the newest Flash player. Since I really implemented the latter (I think the only SIGBOVIK paper that comes even close to being real) you could also just use it, at least until I eventually shut it down for taking up too much of my office machine's resources.
Categories:  hacks  favorites  video  talks  sigbovik (29 comments — almost 6 years ago)   [ comment ]
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High speed finale and page (06 Nov 2006 at 15:34)
Here's the last video Mike and I recorded a few months ago when we had access to the high speed camera. Synchronizing the camera (which can only record for about a second) with the destruction is always tricky, but we did really well on this one and also the video is not quite what you think it is.

I also created a page with all of the videos in one place: Tom and Mike's High Speed Movies.
Category:  video (10 comments — almost 5 years ago)   [ comment ]
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ICFP trip, contest report, race, etc. (23 Sep 2006 at 16:22)
The thing that chewed up all my time was my trip to ICFP 2006. For it I prepared and delivered three talks. The first two were in ML Workshop and they were called ML Grid Programming with ConCert [paper] and A Separate Compilation Extension to Standard ML [paper]. You need the Flash 8 player or later to view these, so you might need to upgrade. These are kinda straight-up research stuff, and also perhaps less exciting than usual because I was saving all my vim for my third talk. These talks went well but nothing particularly special.

All through the conference I had the odd but cool experience of being recognized by people who know my name from research or fonts or music or games or whatever. I guess these people probably see my blog so thanks! I'm sorry for not having much time to hang out more...

The third talk was the ICFP Programming Contest, which I spent weeks preparing for. The ICFP Programming Contest is a yearly open programming contest that the academic conference organizes; we organized this 9th incarnation. The contest itself, which ran July 21–24, was a huge success and the most ambitious ever in terms of its organization. You can check out the slides from the talk (again, with Flash 8 or later) but much better would be to watch the presentation video (130Mb Quicktime) that Malcolm Wallace shot. If you don't want to download 130Mb (for some reason it refuses to stream) you can check out the almost unwatchably low quality google video version. But really, go with the Quicktime. Also it's like an hour long so if you wanna fast forward to the end, my feelings won't be hurt. Isn't it a little eerie how, if you are wearing matching "Cult of the Bound Variable" logo polo shirts and conference badge and the same glasses and haircut, one can look so similar to his advisor?

That's why I usually prefer to wear brighter orange shirts in group photos because like nobody has one of those.

The conference itself was really fun. I had a good time at the talks that I was able to make it to, and a much better time talking with all the smart people—some old friends—that attended over beers and hippie west coast food. There are a lot of great breweries in Portland, my favorite of which was probably Bridgeport. I can't believe that I somehow forgot that one of my favorite American breweries, Rogue, is in Portland. I also missed out on Powell's outrageously enormous book store, so I will have to go back some day with more free time.

I did get a chance to wake up bright and early and run in the Portland Race for the Cure, which they claim to be the largest West Coast race "event" (that means that when they say 46,000 participants they are talking about the Run and Walk for the Cure and Row for the Cure and Sleep In for the Cure), but it was quite fun and a nice way to see a new city. Also, as respects my last post, I felt a little bit good about the fact that I witnessed the very front of the pack (5–10 guys) go the wrong way and have to be turned around. Hah! Those were like, pros. The only other thing to say about the race is that I think my Pittsburgh training has been helping on hills, because when we came to the one like 3.5% grade hill in the whole race I started to be a lot faster than the local like permanent press runners and that was a pretty nice feeling. There were no chip timers and I have no idea how I did really except for my own inaccurate stopwatching, so I guess I have to wait patiently for the hand-tabulated chads like in the old days.

What else? On the flight home I saw a major lightning storm from above, which was perhaps the coolest thing I've ever seen while flying. The whole sky was lighting up all over, and every once in a while a huge bolt would shoot down to the planet or occasionally upward. Highly recommended.

So now I am back in town and ready to spend some time on projects and relaxing and friends. My birthday is in four days, in fact, when I turn 27. I'm going to try to finish my entry to the KVR VST Plugin contest (prodding will help, Destroy FX fans), catch up on some reading and video games and sleep, and then ease into my thesis. Talk to you again soon!
Categories:  momentous  video  talks  favorites  contests (28 comments — almost 12 years ago)   [ comment ]
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