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Web cam karaoke in genesis.

Saturday, 26 January, 2013

Update 27 Jan 13: I finally discovered how to do the internal version of webcam karaoke within Win7 and presume 8 is the same. Once Stereo Mix is enabled, it must be made the default communication device. As such Flash can see it. When selecting Stereo Mix at this point, everything that goes through the sound card goes out over your Flash broadcast. In order to use the microphone, you must monitor the microphone on the default speakers, which pumps the microphone output into Stereo Mix and therefore into your Flash broadcast. You absolutely must monitor your system through headphones otherwise everything becomes a perpetual feedback loop. Be certain to disable this mic monitoring following the broadcast. Use Windows Volume Mixer, sometimes called application volume control, to adjust the mix.

My reader, Mr. Hyena, kindly sent along an article about the karaoke scene in Portland Oregon. Because so many fads have descended upon my fair community of residence from the Pacno, I expect within weeks a hipster-oriented karaoke club shall open in Austin. Possibly karaoke could become the national fad it should have been twenty years ago. The need to design and perfect webcam karaoke within the next few months has suddenly reached a level of unanticipated urgency.

I have not devised a cute moniker for webcam karaoke just yet. Camaoke?

To clarify this objective, I intend to devise a system by which the casual viewer hears the music and singing done live on a webcam through a Flash interface. This effect may be achieved in two ways, either digitally or a quasi-analog method. Again my ability to experiment is limited by the power of my toy computer.

I presume the performer possesses the following.

  • a quality mid-range laptop (Intel i5 or similar) running Windows Vista or newer
  • a discrete webcam with on-board sound (Mid-range Logitech or similar)
  • a reasonable quality microphone to capture ambient room sound (Samson Go-mic or similar), and used to address the audience, perhaps integrated in the cam as in the Logitech 920C
  • an account on a chatting and streaming website which transmits using Flash on the performer’s end.

As far as applications go, I envision the following while performing.

  • a music player to fill silent gaps and keep an ongoing audio level during lulls in the chat room. It need not always be audible.
  • a browser window to access the camming website, with some sites or protocols this is a dedicated application.
  • another browser window for searching or accessing and playing karaoke files through You Tube or similar
  • or a dedicated karaoke-file player
  • presumably a couple of communication apps for e-mail, Skype, AIM, Google Chat and so forth.
  • on top of all the other crapola that loads when you run your system.

The method I have been attempting to work out involves using something not unlike ManyCam, xsplit, ffsplit or similar. Although intended to be used with video, there is no practical limitation of using them to process audio. Levels will be a constant concern, unless you already have a MIDI setup with appropriate instrument sounds and a library of songs. That limitation is far from a deal breaker. The problem with this method is the use of digital devices. That is, it will be difficult, except with the most sophisticated of these tools, to run applications as audio sources. With one of these, the good one, you have an ongoing cost which by my standards is prohibitively high.

A particular cam site has tell-tale sounds which are an essential part of the experience and the dumping of raw audio into Flash is preferred. I have attempted to work out how to dump the raw sound from the “sound card” into Flash. No, I can’t get Flash to address Stereo Mix. I do not think it can be done within the OS, and have yet to find a more modest tool which accomplishes this. The Flash component is critical, because this is how the major cam sites interface with users on both sides.

I am entertaining suggestions, clarifications or corrections.

The other method would involve just running the sound card through the 3.5 mm external speaker jack to a board or audio interface, mixing with a mic and feeding the mixed and potentially leveled sound back into the same laptop, as a distinct device, for use with Flash. You would have to monitor all of your audio through a headset which I suspect is not a problem. In theory you could have two mics, one for singing and one for the room and switch them analog. Your digital mics could not be used in this application. You could also add another mic for a duet or similar. Part of what I’m doing this afternoon involves pricing the gear which may make this possible. I don’t think one will get away spending less than $150 all in and it may be much more, pending my comprehension of how this stuff actually works.

I was tempted by the prospect of a $40 quality (-ish) mic to play with, but now I’m working on a whole other game.

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