Why We Did What We Did
Collaboration and Distribution of useful information
is difficult, especially for independent musicians and artists.
The purpose of Multiple Insertions was to bring together
independant musicians and artists to collaboratively create
a single disc that could (technically)
reach the largest audience.
The MI Intent:
- Music - (redbook) CD of SWEAT ENGINE music.
- Multi-Cultural Electronic Art/Writing/Video compilation - Most
people understand the advantages of electronic work. In the case of MI, a color
hardcopy version of the same work would not have been affordable.
Making the compilation electronic and available on-line has given
techies access to art and artists access to new technologies.
By including Spanish and (in future projects), Asain, German, French
and other non-english languages, artists and musicians are linked with
different cultures. Who knows, some of the MI people may move to Hong Kong...
- Omni-Platform (tm) - MI was intended to be more than just an
"enhanced" cross-platform CDROM (Mac and PC). We planned for the MI CDROM
to work in any machine, without settling for the common
"most-common-denominator" approach (black and white text only).
- Demonstration of Web technology for collaborative programming - Compilation projects present the problem of fitting many individual arts into
a single structure. By building MI on-line, artists are able to view the
electronic material (as it may be different from the original) and make comments
about their work and the overall project.
- A Web site on a CD - When MI was started, few were on-line. Now many
are on-line, but not everyone. With an average Web Site containing ~20 pages
and MI containing more than 400, MI is a great tool for introducing people to
the Web without requiring network access. Also, as MI is geared towards a
multi-cultural audience, it will be mirrored on several sites around the world.
As the "site" is a CD, it can easily be mounted and made available on any network on any Web server.
Part of building a Web Site is creating an interesting and user-friendly structure. When MI was started, all sites were basic hierarchies. Because all of us
alternative types are tired of hierarchies, the MI project as a whole was
structured differently - the process as a community project; the site structure
as an Engine cycle.
- Performance Tool - MI was a means for organizing artists,
especially independent performing artists for performance.
As a result of MIP's Shows & Installations,
artists and musicians were introduced to other artists and had the opportunity
to display their work.
Upon the release of MI, the MIPs will continue, not only
with MI artists but with artists working on the Multiple Re-Insertions project.
Technical Omni-Platform (tm) Issues
Because MI is about the wide distribution of useful information, we
are open with our "trade secrets" and, generally, share what is involved with
producing an Omni-Platform (tm) project. We present the details
here with the hope that those with similar technical and moral experiences
will share their insight with us:
- Difficult Technologies - There are many technologies that
are used on the Web that do not lend themselves easily to CDROM.
Clickable Maps and CGI-based animations within the browser window require server support. While it is possible to run a server and access the CD, it
is not available on all platforms. So, we chose not to support it on MI.
A clickable map is, however, provided for internet users on http://multiple.insertions.com.
- Including a Browser - As much of MI is HTML, it makes sense
that we should have include a graphic browser. We found that it was not
cost effective (from a licensing perspective) to include any
real browser. More importantly, we found that there was no one "omni-platform"
browser. Also, after some research we found that most people
could easy acquire browsers and it was not worth us sacrificing
art space for software space.
- The Interfaces -
Now, HTML is not very fancy compared to full blown multi media
packages such as Director, but it's free and "omni-platform".
However, we did want to have
a "fancy" interface, so we decided to have two interfaces. One
in HTML and one in Director.
- The CD Format (mixed-mode/hybrid) - MI is not actually an
"enhanced CD" as track 1 is audible. Enhanced CDs, in some cases, still
require special CDROM drivers which makes them less available and not as easily insertable. In order to include "CD Quality" audio MI is mixed-mode. In order to include Mac files, take advantage of Mac icon and file placement and have the CD work on PCs and Unix machines, MI is Hybrid in that it contains Mac data with ISO data. The
CDROM mount point was also an important issue. Each platform likes
to mount in a different place (/cdrom, /mi, E:\, etc.). This was important
in the Director movies and with the HTML bookmark files.
- Filenames - All Omni-Platform (tm) files are 8.3. This poses
problems with common non-DOS file extensions (such as .html, .pict, .moov,
etc). Contributed HTML is always a problem as most people link to .html files.
When these filename extensions are truncated to .htm, (the 8.3 ISO filename limitation) PC browsers
will only look at the first 3 characters of the extension, whereas Mac and
Unix browsers will continue to look for the full .html extension.
Scripts have been developed to deal with this problem.
- Image Formats (GIFs, JPEGs and PICTs) - We used JPEGs wherever
possible, as the JPEG format comes with less possible legal baggage than GIFs.
JPEGs also allow for variable image quality and, more importantly, size. In order to deal with a mix of graphic HTML browsers, GIFs were used for all inline (icon) images. The JPEGs were converted to uncompressed (linked) 8-bit PICTs for the Mac/PC Director interfaces.
- Colordepth, Colormaps and Fonts - This is particularly important in an artistic compilation. This is also, where we had to make the greatest
sacrifices to accomodate the variety of platforms.
These issues alone added ~6 months to the project.
On the Director side, we were forced to limit the number of colors to 256;
greatly reducing the number of different colormaps - many images were dithered to the Mac's system
pallet to reduce the overal number of different pallets.
As for fonts, well, we settled on Times and Courier (as these are
the fonts that are common to all platforms and default in many
web browsers). Problems with font sizes varying accross hardware were
resolved by converting text to images and reducing the overall size
of text screens.
- File Size - The ~650MB data+audio limit dictated much of what
we could do with the CD. Images were JPEGed, Quicktime size and Audio resolution were reduced and some content was even left out. Additional content has been
posted on the website. We look forward to future projects which will utilize
a higher capacity media.
- Scripting and Filters - Many scripts were used to convert, create, and organize the text, html and image files. Some of these scripts, though not documented,
are available on this CDROM in the mi/mi/mi_html/scripts directory. While we
don't have the space (or time) here to describe our HTML->Director conversion
techniques, we are happy to share them...
- Audio File Format - Finding a common audio format / sample rate for Macs and PCs is hard enough (for the Director end 22.05k was used). At the time of release, there was still no single audio
format that would play easily on all platforms for both the HTML and Director
interfaces (no, not AIFF, AU, WAV...).
We found Audio only Quicktimes to be rather portable as the Quicktime players
are capable of dealing with the audio format and sample rates on all platforms.
choke on audio only; so we added a small image making it a true Quicktime video.
- Video (Quicktime vs. MPEG) - While rather universal, MPEG still bites on Macs and PCs without additional hardware.
The Future of the Insertions Series:
PHP, DBE, SE and all of the MI support group have a very strong
Omni-Platform (tm) technical base. Future projects (including
the Multiple Re-Insertions project) will, of course be
Omni-Platform (tm). Other important themes are:
- More emphasis on Multi-Cultural issues
- More music; compilation of bands
- New web technologies (VRML, JAVA, Inline Animation, Database, etc)
- New network technologies (I-TV, etc)
- Other CD formats and Platforms: CD+G, Game machines