vt100 vs the modulation control unit

Boy howdy, what a ride it’s been. Algorithm is here and we’re all totally doomed. Well, maybe not totally doomed, but just likely doomed. We’re going to have to rise up, elevating the music into they hyper-sphere if we’re to have any hope of rejecting Algorithm’s awesome awfulness. And to rise up, well, we’re gonna need to make a few adjustments to the spaceship.

We’ve been talking about these adjustments for a while, it just turns out spaceships are complicated (who knew?). Remember when we went on and on about sequencer-chains? These are like hyperspace shock absorbers, they ensure a much smoother ride when you’re traveling from fringe to fringe. And well, we’ve sorta got them to work… sorta.

But there’s been a bug.

Okay, a few bugs. Though we got most of the bugs fixed (they were in SpaceShipOS). However this last bug is in a very special spaceship component – the control modulator. The control modulation system does exactly what it sounds like, it converts my controls into… other controls.

But this is the key to making the sequencer-chain work for us. If we want a smooth ride we need a reliable control modulation system, sadly this has just been difficult. Anyways, now we’re gonna tell you alllllllllll about SpaceShip control modulators. You excited?

Realtime Midi-Conversion

This is going full tech – but here’s the gist of things:

  • Sequencers start sequencing when they are told to play
  • Sequencers stop sequencing when they are told to stop
  • We need to have one sequencer tell other sequencers when to play and when to stop
  • But the main sequencer can’t do this – it always says start/stop everything all at once
  • So we take something the main sequencer does have control over, and then we convert it to play/stop and route that to a specific midi output (thus starting the correct sequencer)

That’s it – that’s why we’re doing this and what goal is. We’ll say it again, We just want a way to program when a sequencer starts or stops, but reality has made that complicated. Once we have that, our mission will be accomplished, and we’re at the final stage of making that reality well, real.

How complicated? Not too complicated, we just need to identify something we can program within our song, and then a way to convert it to play/stop.

Okay, a little complicated. Converting midi requires, well, stuff. Usually a little hardware box that you can program, a midi event (or message) processor. These boxes usually require electricity, and input and an output port, and some way to program them. Not the kind of thing you take lightly, as now you’re getting into custom midi data pipelines. Yea, some buzzwords in there – but that’s what they are.

What is a custom midi data pipeline? A pipeline is a series of stages, front to back, where operations are performed on some data in sequence (one at a time). Data goes into one side of the pipeline, stuff happens to it, and data pipes out on the other side. In this case it’s just MIDI data and well, our pipeline is customized (no two SpaceShip owners will yield the same pipeline… err pipelines, cause you usually don’t have just one).

Midi Event Processors

If you want to bend midi to your will, you’ll need a piece of hardware that processes midi events. They’re all customizable and there aren’t really that many of them. They take midi in, do stuff, and midi comes out. Here are a couple we know about and why we’re not usihng them.

Midi-Solutions Event Processor

This is a single in single out event processor that’s been around a long time. What’s both good and bad about this particular one, is that it powers itself off of powered midi. It’s good because if you have powered midi, you don’t need to find yet another outlet to plug this thing into. Unforunately for our spaceship, we do not have this kind of power. The other thing is that this only does one cable — it doesn’t meet the needs of our spaceship (we need at least two din outputs)

Blokas Midihub

Our first real attempt as control modulation was this device, the midihub – and we still have it.. we’re just having some issues.

Oooo isn’t that sleek looking? It’s got 8 din ports (DIN is the circular connector we use in midi). It also talks to things over USB which is nice – as that’s how you program it.

This device is extremely powerful, and also kinda difficult to program. Ever wanna know what control modulating software looks like? Here’s our fancy-pants custom midi data pipeline that solves the problem we told you about above.

What it does it is takes Control Signal 42 value 0 and converts it to a stop and Control Signal 42 value 1 and converts it to play. That’s it. (in midi terms, control signals are referred to as CC’s, we’re just writing this for the audience that hasn’t read the manual.)

Phew – that’s a lot of stuff. You program it by dragging these little blocks around. Then, within each block you can configure a bunch of stuff. It’s extremely low level – like you have to know a lot about MIDI as well as how this device works in order to make your programs. Once you get it its not so bad but we found it hard to get started. And we will say, this box is sort of infinitely complex – you can really go to town with what you want it to do. Is that complexity worth it? Maaaaybe not to us, to us it makes the simple things hard (and we don’t really care if the hard things are possible 😉 )

As tough as it was, we even got our stuff to work with it – so why aren’t we using it?

There’s a bug we can’t figure out. The nice folks at the control modulation factory are trying to help me, it’s just a really hard bug. It does things bad enough we just, well, can’t use it to fly around in hyperspace.

And some bugs are so hard you’ve got to work with a plan B and well.. here’s plan B for BomeBox.

We should add, we think this bug is quite specific to our spaceship and our pipeline needs. You may never encounter this bug – so the midihub is worth trying if you want the midi universe at your finger tips.

BomeBox

First off, we should say that the only reason we’re not using this is that we don’t have it yet LOL (it still fits in with the theme – GO WITH IT). This little box doesn’t quite have what we want – it only has one DIN out but it’s expandable.

Because of the necessary expansion, because the programming software costs extra, and because it’s also the most expensive of the options – this is by far the most expensive way we’ve found to control modulate in a spaceship. That said, the software is extremely straight forward and with any luck… it won’t have our bug.

This particular box does way more than we need it to lol, but sometimes that’s how it goes. We are running out of options here and if we’re going to take on Algorithm we’re going to need this spaceship upgrade to work.

So hopefully the BomeBox doesn’t have the bug that made it so the Midihub won’t work for us. And hopefully… it’s a lot easier to program (lordy lord lord).

Until next time…

And that’s our update – the wonderful world of SpaceShip control modulators. These things are very time consuming to wire up and test drive out in hyperspace. Who knew 4 months later we’d still be trying to make this work. Well, we will make it work, but maybe with a different unit installed.

Now you know a little bit about units and nuggets of why they may or may not be used in a particular SpaceShip, and now you know what we’re up to

Told you this would be a tech article, but you followed along didn’t you??