Music in the Metaverse

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Presentation from the 2008 Audio Engineering Society 2008 Conference on the challenges and practicalities of running an internet radio station designed originally to serve listeners in the virtual world of Second Life. I've updated it from its original 2008 presentation to include equipment currently in use.

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  • Music in the Metaverse

    1. 1. Music in the Metaverse Sound engineering for a new world Richard Elen, Brideswell Associates
    2. 2. Second Life: An Introduction• The biggest on-line ‘metaverse’ – 1.5m active ‘residents’• 65,000 residents in-world at a time• Behind each ‘avatar’ is a real person
    3. 3. Second Life: An Introduction• SL is a ‘Web 2.0’ application, combining: • Instant messaging • Social networking • On-line computer gaming• But… it’s not a ‘game’ – no winners, levels, points, strategy…
    4. 4. Second Life: An Introduction• Environment created by residents• Residents retain rights to IP• Buy and sell virtual land• Build houses, mansions & castles• Local currency convertible to $US• >US$1.5m changes hands daily
    5. 5. Second Life: An Introduction• Significant presence from libraries & universities• Non-profits, Medical training, many in-world businesses
    6. 6. Second Life Viewer
    7. 7. A look outside
    8. 8. Music in Second Life• Very popular• Virtual clubs, balls & parties
    9. 9. Music in Second Life• Three main types of musical activity: • Automated playlists (internet radio) • DJ sessions for clubs, special events • Live music – solo musicians & groups
    10. 10. RL radio meets SL: Science Friday• Real Life NPR weekly radio show• In-world presence• Streamed live in-world• SL residents ask questions in real time which can appear in the programme
    11. 11. Music in Second Life• Internet radio model with some unique considerations• Icecast & Shoutcast streaming servers• Servers rented by venues, music providers• Often multiple originators per stream• Listeners on ‘parcels’ and via stand-alone players
    12. 12. ‘Parcel Media’• URL set for the land parcel• FMOD embedded player for audio (QuickTime for video)• Handles many stream types, notably mp3 and Ogg• Largely independent of the Viewer• Allows reception of internet radio
    13. 13. ‘Parcel Media’• URL set in the application by right-clicking on the land parcel and choosing ‘media’ tab set parcel URL• Activated with media controls media controls
    14. 14. SL music production & distribution chain• Different possible sources
    15. 15. An example:• Originally provided DJs for special events in Caledon (Victorian/steampunk region)• Expanded to 24/7 service on 6 genre streams for parcel & off-world listeners• General internet listeners now well over 50% of audience• 16 staff around the world
    16. 16. An example: • Dances & parties• Caledon Library Book of the Month
    17. 17. An example:• Programme Guide• Main stream manually programmed playlists• 5 other streams including Steampunk etc
    18. 18. Author’s setup SM58 Music Music TFPro Library LibraryVoice channel/processor (2 x 2TB mirrored Backup FW drives) FW drives Headphone monitoring Soundcraft Compact 4 Main output Mixer Megaseg Web browser (Playlists) Preview Main output Spectre Metering Traktor (level, waveform etc) Preview (Live DJing) NiceCast TC Electronic Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 Streaming DBMax digital S/PDIF USB Audio Interface Client broadcast processor Intel Mac Mini Remote Shoutcast server
    19. 19. Streaming client• Macintosh example• Sends audio to server• Sends metadata to server and to TuneIn etc
    20. 20. Streaming client• All staff use same settings for seamless handovers• 44.1 kHz sampling, 16-bit (CD spec)• 128 kilobits/sec – compromise between quality and bandwidth• MP3 format for maximum off-world listener compatibility (WinAmp, iTunes etc)
    21. 21. Music apps• DJ application for live gigs
    22. 22. Music apps• Playlist system for daily shows (Megaseg for Macintosh, SAM for Windows)
    23. 23. Quality vs practicality• MP3 is an elderly format• Lossy compression with sub-optimal quality• Need to maximise loudness without clipping• Need to overcome background noise (in-world and otherwise)
    24. 24. Quality vs practicality• Compression to maximise loudness – outboard and/or within playout system• Limiting to avoid overloading interface or stream
    25. 25. Operational challenges• Extreme latency: hard to monitor stream Are you still on the air? Sound any good?• SL Viewer takes a lot of CPU power: use separate computer for music• Difficulties of handing over between presenters/artistes: settings & timing• What is your avatar doing? Encourage audience’s ‘immersion’ & suspension of disbelief
    26. 26. In closing…• Second Life is equivalent to the Web in the early 1990s• In five years, this will look like the Dark Ages of Lynx and Mosaic• Music has a central role to play in the metaverse• Challenges like any other medium
    27. 27. Useful links• Second Life: http://secondlife.com• Second Life Music Community Forums: http://slmc.myfastforum.org/• Radio Riel: http://radioriel.org• Caledon Wiki: http://www.caledonwiki.com/
    28. 28. Music in the Metaverse© 2008 Richard G Elen / Brideswell Associates

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