9 August 2004

Binary content links

The O'Reilly Network site has an article on the failure of the Web to provide authors a means to quote from media files as easily as they can quote from text files. If a Web page is laid out correctly (using name attributes), I can easily link to specific sections on a page. There is no easy way to link to sections in an audio or video file.

The article references the RSTP (Real-Time Streaming Protocol) protocol. This appears to be primarily a more reliable delivery protocol than HTTP and offers a range parameter in the request. You can also specify byte ranges using HTTP. Larry Bouthillier has an entry describing how he sniffed RealPlayer and realized that it uses that method (I assume only when it's using HTTP tunnelling). Alexei Kosut also has a short entry musing over the history of the byte range. However, as far as I can tell, neither the RSTP nor the HTTP solution is available in a URL.

I've always tried to include audio clips when appropriate, but since it's generally involved to do so, I've only done it for transcriptions. I hate that people write music criticism and never actually refer to the music as notated. They'll quote the text or specify that this or that instrument was used, but ignore the primary aspect that makes it music. "I write book reviews, but I can't read." Part of the problem may be the difficulty involved in getting the notes into a Web page.

The best solution is to make a link to the full MP3 available along with a link to each section being discussed. Ideally, I also like to provide the music notation and MIDI. Getting all of that together can sometimes be a hassle. To get the musical quote, I clip the section using Cakewalk Home Studio 2002. To provide the MIDI and notation, I create a transcription in Allegro and save it as a MIDI and TIFF, then convert the TIFF to a JPG in Paint Shop Pro. It's worth it for some of the lengthier discussions but not for the shorter entries. There's got to be an easier way.

Allegro has a browser plug in that shows the sheet music as the MIDI plays. That's extremely effective and should be the perfect solution, but people are reluctant to install plug ins. And installing that particular plug in is harder than installing the free version of RealPlayer. It should be seamless and small, but instead it's a 3+ MEG chore just to get it. They passed up a real opportunity to become the standard in music notation for the Web.

[ posted by sstrader on 9 August 2004 at 12:28:21 AM in Programming ]