Category Archives: Music

Why email is not a good transport for music?

Why email is not a good transport for music?

Digital music has been used at major competitions for more than two years already. Submission started with ‘sneaker net’ via USB sticks to being submitted exclusively via the internet. Most clubs now know about file share services like dropbox, google docs and OneBox. However, every now and then, there are still people trying to submit music via emails. Here are the reasons why music-via-email is not recommended:

  • Your message might cause your recipients’ mailbox to exceed the storage quota. It may cause your email to bounce back. Even worse, if the recipients’ mailboxes exceed the storage quota, he/she could be prevented from receiving any other emails – thereby your action can cause problems for many others.
  • Depending on your server configuration, your message might cause your own mailbox to exceed the storage quota. If messages you send is saved in the Sent folder, large attachments to other people counts against your mailbox size quota as well. When you exceed the storage quota, you could be blocked from sending/receiving additional messages.
  • When a file is attached to message, it has to be encoded. The encoding process causes attached files to become 1.37 times larger than they are on your computer. For example, if you send a 5 MB file attachment, the attachment is sent as 6.85 MB of data.
  • Receipients of the music files usually have to delete the emails immediately due to size. With fileshare services, folders are left intact. If we encounter problems (even as late as podium practice), the host can easily copy the file(s) again from the shared folder. This is an advantage to everyone involved.
  • Time-saver for both the sender and receiver – as oppose to simply doing a folder copy and then let the computer do all the work, you have to attach file(s) to each email and you have to make sure that it is not stuck in the ‘to be sent’ status. The receiver also need to detach the files one email at a time rather than deal with it one club at a time. It may not seem a lot of time but with close to 150 participants, each spending 30 seconds, this is easily more than an hour extra that can be spent on other tasks.

Advantages of file-share services:

  • Delivery is much faster – the sending and receiving ends are both optimized for sending bigger files. Furthermore, encoding is not required. So you will find that the synching process (upload/download) takes only fraction of the time.
  • File-share services can serve as an off-site backup or a repository for the club. Running a gymnastics club takes a lot of time and effort. To be able to share files across individuals with different roles avoids most versioning problems. Furthermore, the convenience to make files assessible via any device cannot be understated.
  • If you plan it properly, common resources can be shared across the club easily – for example, parents handbook, club letterhead, contact lists, videos, picture, club logo (I cannot even remember the number of times that a club came to me looking for ‘lost’ club logo).
  • If you ever sell your business or have a new partner, having established a shared club resource already setup can reduce a lot of headaches.

Do learn fileshare services for more than just music submission! Here are links to some tutorials:

Digital music is here to stay!

Digital music is here to stay!

Pacific Rim 2014 came and gone and believe it or not, we always finish slightly ahead of schedule.
Yes, digital music rocks! There were indeed some interesting challenges but nothing that slowed us down.

  • Digital music files were used for the entire competition. However, performances were still using CDs. Guess what, the CD player decided to bite-the-dust halfway through and did cause some stressful moments.
  • Placement of speakers – the speakers were shared with trampoline. After getting conflicting requests of being “Too loud, lower the volume” by the audiences, and then immediately by the judges “Can’t hear the music, crank it up” and then again “Too loud” from others really got us scrambling. Finally, we solved the problem not by volume itself but the angle & balance of the speakers. Placement of speakers in opposing sides facing each other is less than ideal.
  • Even though we officially requested for MP3s, music submitted had a variety of other codecs like wav, m4a, aif and more. I tested out the music when they were collected and tagged. I know that everything works fine using my computer. However, at the venue, the computer tested bite-the-dust and we had to use a borrowed laptop with a different Windows version and found that a couple of files did not work and had to be ripped again at the venue. Good thing that was discovered during training. MP3s and wav files are the most universally portable formats with the longest history. So do stay with proven codecs or you may discover problems when you play it on a different computer.
  • The music organizing and playing was so easy to use that after one of the breaks, we didn’t even think of checking to see if the music person is back before starting the competition. That did cause a little bit of a scramble but it all worked out. 🙂
  • There was a little bit of a learning curve in preparing digital music for some countries. However, that all happened a couple of weeks prior to the event. Some tried copying their music files directly from CDs versus ripping it. However, CDA files that you see on CDS are simply indices to the music but not the music itself. Therefore, they had to re-submit again. However, all these communication and transport can be done quickly over the net.

What worked well?

  • Simple to use, training took less than a couple of minutes. Collection is easy to use but requires slightly more training.
  • People liked the flexibility of music submission through mainstream file-share services.
  • For Pacific Rim, the rotation draw order is by country. Each country can decide its own start order at the technical meeting which doesn’t give too much lead time. After an athlete’s music were tagged during music collection, the change of start order involves very little additional work.
  • No mad sorting before a rotation means that the job can be handled by one person and can take breaks with everyone else.
  • No long wait time because of CD load times and therefore no angry coaches and judges. If it work during training, it work during competition. The music plays almost instantaneously at the press of a button.
  • For finals, once we fed it the correct rotation as generated from the scoring program, the music system is ready – no re-sorting or re-tagging required. At Pacific Rim at the finals, we actually had to substitute 2 athletes within a couple of hours before start time but all we had to do is to update the rotation and it is ready. At national championship, after collecting and tagging it once for competition A, competition B music can be ready within minutes the rotation is published.
  • It is so easy to use that I think the commentator may double as the music person when desperate.
  • If your music conforms to the naming convention of “name – apparatus” where “name” is first and last name, you are ready for nationals!

Looking forward to seeing the software used at Westerns and Nationals!

Digital music work well during podium training

Digital music work well during podium training

It saves CD loading and switching time and we can almost start the music immediately for the next gymnast. With digital music, unless the computer will not boot up, you will not get a case where a CD will not read during competition.

Tips: During podium training, the list is kind of random depending on team coach’s specified order. They use a handwritten order. So instead of scrolling through the full list of athletes, use the list filter on the right, key in a few characters of the name (first or last name) and the list will be down to a gymnast, simply click on the correct apparatus and click “Play at cursor”.

(During actual competition, the rotation order drives the playing of the music and so this search is not applicable.)