Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Colorstream FAQ

When people see my color streams, the first question I always get is "What do you plan to do with them?"

Truth be told, I'm still trying to figure that out. I'm pursuing a few possible tracks though, and I haven't yet found the end of any of them:

- Mapping the sound spectrum "directly" onto the color spectrum, and seeing what it looks like.

- Making pretty pictures. Where the first track fails to be colorful, or interesting (which it so far hasn't), I'd like to tweak the algorithm to "see more" of the interesting aspects of the sound, and create interesting visuals.

- From nearly the start, it was my hope that I could take advantage of the eye's knack for pattern recognition, and use that to maybe recognize real speech and words, using color. Following this to the extreme, even to allow deaf people to see sound. I'm finding reality might stop this idea short of that end, but I'm seeing how far it goes anyway.

The next comment I always get is, "It would be great if it was a live stream, so you could see it while you heard it."

I had always pictured this as an eventuality for this project, or at least an ideal. These static strips of color are just approximations of the ideal which is probably a live leftward-scrolling color stream (the right hand edge being "exactly now"). Aside from this being beyond my current programming skills, for now I'm just developing the idea, and finding out what's possible.

* Image above: color stream of "color stream FAQ", spoken.

Monday, December 01, 2008


It's still in development, but I'm finally "releasing" a usable tool to create color streams from sound files. It's downloadable here, as a humble zip file. Instructions for setup and use are included. It's really just a simple windows batch script that calls three open source programs in sequence (be it a coincidental and ironic sequence) to do the heavy lifting...

LAME: the script takes in a .wav or .mp3 file, and passes it into the LAME MP3 encoder, which outputs a clean .wav file.

ARSS: the .wav file is passed into ARSS (Analysis & Resynthesis Sound Spectrograph) with particular parameters which creates a spectrogram image.

GIMP: the spectrogram image is passed to a custom GIMP script (included), which applies the color map to the spectrogram, and does the color blending, and saves the final image to disk.

(I do not know how these programs got named. I disclaim responsibility.) If anyone would like to try out this tool, I'm interested in general feedback, and finding interesting examples of sounds to demo this thing. The color mapping (which still seems to be in flux) is currently optimized essentially for speech, but is all very hackable in its present state.

* Image above: color stream of "Lame-Arss-Gimp", spoken.