Thursday, January 24, 2008

capturing WinAmp visuals

Like a lot of us who are into film and video editing, I am also a part-time musician. For Christmas, I received a very exciting present: a digital model of an old analog synthesizer, the Creamware Prodyssey:
Sound on Sound review of Prodyssey

Oh, how lovely it is to create sounds with this box of sliders and switches! The music part will come later, but right now I am enjoying creating rythymic bleeps and bloops the old fashioned way using oscillators, filters and envelopes. Attack, decay, sustain, release, LFO and all that lot. As I was creating this cacaphony, I thought that it would be cool to have some visualizations to go along with the audio.

Years ago using Windows XP, I streamed music visualizations from WinAmp out through S-Video to a second computer that would capture the pretty pictures. The quality wasn't that great. Of course, if WinAmp had an export feature, that would be the best. But working with what I had today, I figured now that I've purchased a mighty dual quad core, I should be able to capture the screens within the machine itself. Of course, my primary OS is now Linux. And WinAmp is not made for Linux. And I didn't know of a Linux based visualizer that looked quite as good as WinAmp. What to do? I remember using Wine, the Windows emulator for Linux, back in 2001, but it wasn't very stable. I wonder if it's more stable these days?

With thoughts of sugar-plum visualizations in my head, I installed Wine the other day. Given my past experiences, I wasn't very hopeful. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the latest version of Wine was easy to setup on my Fedora 7 x86-64 system. Once Wine was setup, I installed WinAmp through a short series of steps. Excellent! I opened an MP3 file and was again, glad to hear the MP3 playing. Wow! Two in a row! Can we go for a trifecta? With the audio coming out of WinAmp through Wine, I decided to go for broke and started up the Advanced Visualization Studio visualizer. I could hardly believe my eyes when AVS played in gorgeous colors in a window on one of my monitors!

So now I have WinAmp working under Wine. But how to capture the beautiful screens? Here, Cinelerra came to the rescue. Using my BFG Geforce 8500 GT PCI Express 256MB card and a dual-head configuration, I opened Cinelerra in my right monitor, started WinAmp under Wine and kicked off the visualization in the left monitor. I expanded the window to roughly DVD resolution (720x480) and tweaked my Cinelerra screencapture recording settings to match the visualization window. Lo and behold, Cinelerra was capturing the resolutions at DVD quality! I looked carefully for frame drops. This is listed in the Cinelerra Recording window as "Frames Behind". I did not see one frame drop! Awesome!

I synchronized the results of the screen capture with the music on the Cinelerra timeline and output the audio and video to DVD-compatible formats. I then burnt a menuless DVD and was off to the races! I had created some "music", added a visualization track and burned a DVD! Sweet!

Next up:
How cool would it be to capture the visualizations in HD and play them on my HDTV at 720P resolution? Ooooh. Aaaah.

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