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Two turntables and a microphone (microphone sold separately)
July 13, 2011 9:23 PM   Subscribe

The Wheels Of Steel: Turntables in your browser (a web-based DJ prototype) Scott Schiller has created turntables in your browser, and has written an extensive blog post about how it works.

There are even a couple of videos in case you can't get it working: Cute Points (Sampling) Demo and Cueing, Pitch and Beat Matching / Mixing Demo.
posted by narwhal bacon (32 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Shoulda checked the [more inside] before I put bits of masking tape all over my monitor
posted by Hoopo at 9:32 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is a great example of what can be done with html5+js.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:38 PM on July 13, 2011


Wow. I'm finding his blog post about it as interesting as the finished project.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:55 PM on July 13, 2011


It's a fascinating demo, but experienced software DJs will find it highly limited and frustrating.

From the log/blog about the application: However, desktop and mobile DJ programs remain somewhat of a specialty/niche interest -

This is entirely not true anymore. Serato, Final Scratch, Traktor, Virtual DJ and other apps are absolutely huge now. I rarely see anyone spinning real vinyl (or even CDs) at pro DJ gigs these days unless they're battle/hip hop DJs, and even the hip hop guys are going digital or hybrid. Almost every club rig has a laptop stand now, many with integrated DJ controllers and audio interfaces - plus 1200s or CD DJ units for people who want to use encoded platters or regular discs.

People are still buying vinyl, and some may mix it in with a software set, but by and large it seems most working DJs will just rip it and/or also buy a digital copy. Software based DJing is a natural fit for programming dance music live or in pre-recorded playlists and cuepoints for mashups and fancy footwork.

However, being able to bring all that into the social media sphere would be insanely great. I'd love to be able to tag team or mix and jam with people in like 2x4 sets or something, all while pulling from music in various formats online.
posted by loquacious at 11:01 PM on July 13, 2011


Such a good idea, and well programmed, but it's obvious that the guy that programmed it has never dj'd before.

1) The sample songs don't have dj friendly intros
2) Almost none of the songs are the same genre
3) Most of the songs aren't even close to the same bpm.
4) You can't drag the platter or twist the spindle, only scratch forward and backwards.
5) No cueing (obv not possible without 2 soundcards).
6) If you want to try and cue, dragging back and forth makes a god awful noise and makes it impossible to find the one beat.

This is an example of trying to fix a problem on a computer by simulating a physical solution, instead of using the strengths of the computer.

Mixing on a computer is a solved problem. Just do track warping like ableton, or if you must have scratching, copy traktor.
posted by empath at 11:06 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


However, being able to bring all that into the social media sphere would be insanely great. I'd love to be able to tag team or mix and jam with people in like 2x4 sets or something, all while pulling from music in various formats online.

Yes, make ableton multiplayer and i will never, ever get anything done at work again.
posted by empath at 11:07 PM on July 13, 2011


Okay so i decided to actually RTFM and it seems like they hid a lot of functionality.. let me take another look.
posted by empath at 11:12 PM on July 13, 2011


1) The sample songs don't have dj friendly intros

welcome to the world of the hip hop DJ. You pretty much need vinyl because the B-sides have the instrumentals on them to help you beatmatch and blend--instrumentals are harder to come by in the average mp3 library. I suppose you could rip the instrumentals if you have the vinyl already, but then if you already have the decks and the records...
posted by Hoopo at 11:18 PM on July 13, 2011


I found out you can actually grab any song from soundcloud if you find the id.

try sc-8338772 on one turntable and sc-11987183

As a bonus, due to deadmau5's laziness, all his records are basically the same bpm so you don't even need to adjust the pitch for them to match, just set a cue point at the 1 beat and start it at the right time.

How do you get the waveform view from the second video?
posted by empath at 11:23 PM on July 13, 2011


Okay, so my initial thoughts are pretty much entirely wrong, aside from lack of queuing/monitoring. This actually isn't too bad. Though probably better for quick juggling and quick cuts and scratching than trying to mix house music.
posted by empath at 11:28 PM on July 13, 2011


(i am so sick of laptop djs setting up around me while I play. just play cds on the goddamn 2000s i brought)
posted by flaterik at 12:02 AM on July 14, 2011


What an amazing work. One day, we'll have an open source replacement for djay on some future version of an iPad...
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:26 AM on July 14, 2011


Such a good idea, and well programmed, but it's obvious that the guy that programmed it has never dj'd before.

Sounds like you've already started realizing how far from the mark your initial comments are, empath, but this one, too, is quite incorrect. Scott's been the DJ at several of our bigger parties at Flickr. He's good.
posted by pkingdesign at 1:31 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The interesting bits are still done in Flash.
posted by eeeeeez at 2:00 AM on July 14, 2011


Saw a job posting recently for ableton... from the skillset I rather got the impression they're working on something internet-enabled.
posted by Leon at 2:51 AM on July 14, 2011


The other day, I watched Scott's YUI Theater chat about html5 audio... pretty good stuff...
posted by ph00dz at 4:56 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder how Traktor, Ableton and Serrato feel about this. A decent level web-app that allows casual users to mix songs would cut into their markets, I'd imagine. Could a web-app ever do midi support? I have a Traktor Stealth that was (probably) an ill advised purchase gathering dust and I've been looking for a reason to get it out again.
posted by codacorolla at 6:48 AM on July 14, 2011


Nah, this is a toy. It's really well done. But couldn't be used for pro djing without support for external audio interfaces, etc.. Nobody who had been willing to drop $300 on ableton is going to DJ off of a laptop headphone jack.
posted by empath at 7:16 AM on July 14, 2011


Scott is also the author of SoundManager 2, a Javascript sound library that Listening Room (previously) and at least a couple of MeFi projects use. The guy knows his stuff.
posted by narwhal bacon at 7:55 AM on July 14, 2011


Nah, this is a toy. It's really well done. But couldn't be used for pro djing without support for external audio interfaces, etc.. Nobody who had been willing to drop $300 on ableton is going to DJ off of a laptop headphone jack.

Yes. Obviously. That's why I explicitly said A decent level web-app that allows casual users . But thanks for your insight.
posted by codacorolla at 8:09 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but casual users don't spend hundreds of dollars on audio applications, they pirate them, if they use them at all.
posted by empath at 8:19 AM on July 14, 2011


I know a lot of bedroom DJs that bought hardware (probably pirated the software), but this sort of app also negates the need for the hardware. That's what I was talking about. You know what, forget it, you obviously know everything there is to know about this, so a conversation is impossible.
posted by codacorolla at 8:37 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know a lot of bedroom DJs that bought hardware (probably pirated the software), but this sort of app also negates the need for the hardware

But it doesn't. There's a few pieces of hardware that laptop DJs buy:

An audio interface -- this gives you multiple inputs and outputs -- the main purpose of this is so you can monitor audio without playing it on the floor. If he adds in split cueing, this slightly negates this, but you'd lose stereo in the process. You can mix with ableton without monitoring because you do the beatmatching in advance, so you don't need to preview and pitch adjust and recue, etc..

A midi controller -- This lets you control multiple eqs, sliders, etc, at once. Putting yourself into contortions trying to do everything on a keyboard and trackpad isn't going to work.

An interface so you can use time coded vinyl -- this lets you use turntables to control something like traktor. If using a mouse on a screen gave you the amount of control that you need to beatmatch, no one would have bought time code systems in the first place, because you've been able to control songs with the mouse and keyboard in Traktor, and other apps for years. It's just slightly less bad than trying to control the records in this app. I would literally rather just put on an itunes playlist than try to do a beatmatched set with this app.

Effects boards for beat repeat, flanger, etc -- again, none of these features in the app, but there's no reason fx couldn't be added pretty easily, so these could easily be replaced by something like that app.

So basically, yeah, the hardware isn't going to go away. If you want to mix on a laptop without using turntables, you're going to use traktor or ableton because it's so much easier than trying to figure out a hacked together turntable interface.

This would be better immediately if he just dumped the (basically useless) turntable gui and let you scratch, cue etc from looking at the wave forms. One of the demo videos shows something like that that, but I couldn't figure out how to turn it on.

That said, I can see someone with a LOT of practice being able to do some scratching and beat juggling with this, but if you're the kind of guy that knows how to do that, you already have turntables.
posted by empath at 9:09 AM on July 14, 2011


Shouldn't it be 'wheels of aluminum'?
posted by lodurr at 9:20 AM on July 14, 2011


Yeah, but casual users don't spend hundreds of dollars on audio applications, they pirate them, if they use them at all.

Hang on, people BUY those?
posted by Hoopo at 9:35 AM on July 14, 2011


I paid for both Traktor and Ableton, and I buy the music I play at gigs. Nearly every DJ I know that gets paid to play pays for their software and music. Most of the people that pirate are just bedroom DJs.
posted by flaterik at 9:54 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hoopo: rumor has it someone in my circle of acquaintance actually paid money for Live. Everyone was really shocked, "can you believe she actually paid for Ableton Live?" "I heard she got a really good day job".
posted by idiopath at 9:58 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I pirated Ableton until I got comfortable with it playing gigs, then bought it at a version update instead of downloading the new torrent. I wasn't going to pay that much money for something I wasn't sure about, especially since none of the other DJs I knew were using it, yet. Every gig that I had turned into an impromptu tutorial session for whatever random DJ walked into the booth for first year or so, since most of them had just recently switched to CDs from vinyl (because of CDJs), and a lot of them thought even mixing on CDs wasn't 'real DJing'. People don't usually like to learn new skills after they've invested hundreds of hours into getting good at something, so they'll tend to trash whatever is new at first.

I'd honestly have been thrilled with this thing if it just had a simple interface for beatmatching and mixing that worked, instead of trying to make it work and look like turntables. Making 'virtual turntables' is flashy, and probably was an interesting technical challenge, but it was a bad UI decision, imo.
posted by empath at 10:10 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Could a web-app ever do midi support?

I haven't played with MidiSystem.getReceiver() under Java yet, so I'm not certain how well it works, but so far, my experience with other parts of the API is pretty good.

Whether or not there'll come a day where you can do this without some plugin is another story. I have my doubts. It occurred to me not too long ago that some of the criticism leveled at Apple regarding the iOS devices being "consumption" devices seems to more or less apply to how audiovisual media is treated in our markup standards: there's very little focus on generation and manipulation and input. It's largely about playback; the assumption seems to be that somebody else has already presented any relevant media you want to use in your page in a nice tidy package, and it was *more* this way before Apple did the not-very-standardsy-thing and introduced the canvas. Audio is at this point still pre-canvas, more or less. The developing audio API the author of this turntable thing mentioned could become the audio canvas, but the fact the author didn't use it should tell you something. dataURIs have sortof presented this escape hatch some developers have been using for a while, but they have limitations and I don't know if they could ever be used for realtime audio effectively.

And none of this touches the specialized input question. I can't tell if DPWS is meant to help with things like MIDI or not, but whether or not it is, I have a feeling it could be a long time before it finds its way into common browser support.

So, yeah. I think you might be able to do Midi support for a web app via plugin today. I think the tomorrow where you can do it all using open web technologies is probably years away, maybe even more than a few.
posted by weston at 10:56 AM on July 14, 2011


There are a ton of iOS apps that let you use a touch screen as a midi input device and they generally work really well. At least the ones I've played with. The iphone/ipad is actually a great controller for ableton.
posted by empath at 11:47 AM on July 14, 2011


Maybe I wasn't particularly clear about why I brought up iOS. It isn't that I think the "consumptive device" criticisms leveled against them were particularly apt, it's that I think the criticism is applicably apt when you consider how web standards have treated media.

iOS is a great platform for writing audio and/or control apps. But it's not a web app. Writing in-browser web-only apps (no flash, java, plugins, etc) that manipulate audio and accept MIDI control signals looks like it's a dream that's a ways off to me, even as web technologies are growing into a more fully-fledged application platform.
posted by weston at 12:28 PM on July 14, 2011


I am baffled that we are even talking about MIDI here when OSC is already a network based audio control protocol. Javascript hooks to send and recieve OSC would lead to so much awesome. Like maybe hardware vendors finally starting to support OSC (though the MIDI to OSC drivers and related userspace solutions will suffice for now).
posted by idiopath at 2:59 AM on July 15, 2011


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