Automatic music video

Much to my surprise, I have come to realise that YouTube is used by many for music listening. That’s too bad, as I don’t know much about making videos.

For a few songs, i used iMovie to cut together some footage and text. See for example From the bottle below

But making these was a bit tedious, especially when it’s the music and not the video that interests me.

So, after some surfing, I ended up with this little script using ffmpeg

ffmpeg -i "The Stage (v1.01).mp3" -i ../cover.jpg -filter_complex "nullsrc=size=1280x768 [base]; [1:v] setpts=PTS-STARTPTS ,scale=768x768 [cover]; [0:a] showwaves=s=512x768:mode=cline [sw]; [base][sw]overlay=x=768 [tmp1]; [tmp1][cover]overlay=x=0 [out]" -map "[out]" -map a:0 -c:v libx264 -shortest -crf 18 -c:a copy "The Stage (v1.01).mkv"

That yields the following video

and

ffmpeg -i "Beneath the snow (v1.01).mp3" -i ../cover.jpg -filter_complex "nullsrc=size=1280x768 [base]; [1:v] setpts=PTS-STARTPTS ,scale=768x768 [cover]; [0:a]showspectrum=mode=combined:slide=scroll:color=intensity:scale=cbrt:s=512x768[sw]; [base][sw]overlay=x=768 [tmp1]; [tmp1][cover]overlay=x=0 [out]" -map "[out]" -map a:0 -c:v libx264 -shortest -crf 18 -c:a copy "Beneath the snow (v1.01).mkv"

that generated this one

There are more possibilities for using ffmpeg and generating music visualisation, but I found these two to be the simplest to use. This is perfect for us nerdy musicians that want to be able to script all boring stuff out of our lives 🙂

(note that the script does not transcode the music, it leaves it as is = good thing)

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Fallur: Making of 2.0

feature

Now, the game Fallur was released a bit early, just to be out in time for christmas (and the reason for that being that I had invested 30 minutes into making christmas graphics for the game). Now it’s time to make the game good enough to be playable for the rest of the year.

screenshotGraphics

The graphics in the 1.0 version of the game where all photography based, and the game ran in 360×540 resolution with 48×48 sprites. This is a quite nice resolution to work in when using that kind of graphics, but if the graphics is to be hand-drawn it puts quite a lot of pressure on the artist.

Screenshot_2014-12-29-12-36-15For the 2.0 version I decided to lower the resolution quite a lot (4x) to hide the fact that I can’t draw at all, and also that the added resolution really didn’t add anything at all to the game play.

For sprites I used the very nice Random Sprite Generator by Boris van Schooten (check out his site that’s full of games and useful stuff). That received me of the pain of having to do much graphics.

The rest of the graphics is just scale down of the higher resolution images used in 1.0 except for the background that I simply removed in favour of a simple gradient that makes the game more playable.

Sound

Making music is one of my greatest passions in life. I am always playing my guitar and coming up with a new song. It’s like breathing. I have to do it. So making music for a game should be simple, shouldn’t it? Not really.

I make rock music mostly. I have once in a while made these “chip/synth”-kinds of tunes, but they are much more effort to make than a guitar based rock tune. So, I made this:

This is an early draft of music that could be added to the game, but I am not sure right now as it can’t be compressed below 2Mb of size without sounding really bad. I got it down to 1.5Mb by removing most high-frequency sounds in the song and then compressing to 80kbit. That will have to do for now..

Gameplay

The original gameplay was very simple. Hit all things that fall down (at varying speeds) but don’t hit the ghosts. Then of course the difficulty increased by increasing the number of things falling down as well as the speed.

The result was a game that was completely unplayable after level 20. It was simply to difficult. My analytics data proved the point by showing that most people failed early (or thought the game was boring and quit).

Change to the gameplay is now that there are 6 personalities with different behavioural patterns. For the first 10 levels only one, quite simple one is available. Then another, a little bit harder comes into the game and so on. The game is now playable for 60-70 levels for those who  fancy this kind of super simple game. It will be interesting to see on the analytics if anyone has the patience or interest to go that far or if people just drop the game after a few levels due to bordom.

What now

The 2.0 version of the game is now live on google play. It has a bit more evolved gameplay than the 1.0 version and a rock soundtrack of quite low quality.

Now I will keep my eyes on my analytics to see if this appeals to anyone at all, fix issues and enhance if needed. Who knows, there might even be an iOS version of there is enough of people playing it on Android. But the goal with the game is the same as before. I do this for learning.

There will be updates. Possibly the music will be changed, the Facebook integration is very rudimentary, perhaps a google play integration would be a good thing, overlay screen showing when a new monster has been unlocked should be made, sound effects added and so on.

But now, let’s see if anyone plays the game.

 

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Fallur: Why was it made?

After I made Lovur I experimented with some HTML5 frameworks for game development. I have always liked writing games but I’ve normally got stuck somewhere in sprite-handling routines and level editors but with these tools it was amazingly simple to prototype games.

Using the MellonJs HTML5 engine I prototyped two simple games in a few hours. That’s two playable games. I was intrigued by the efficiency of developing and of course I tried the games using Cordova on a recent Android phone and I got disappointed.

As nice and fast it was to develop in this environment the results on smartphone were quite bad.

I tried both games both using Cordova and also using crosswalk and CocoonJS for greater speed. I also tried re-implementing both games using Phaser (remember that I’m still writing about small prototypes of games).

To sum it up. Both games where jerky as normal Cordova builds, not reaching anywhere near 60 fps. With Crosswalk and CocoonJS they were playable, but at a high cost in file size and then just barely playable. I figured that if I would add any logic the playability would suffer. So I tried LibGDX.

I implemented both prototypes in LibGDX, this time taking a bit longer time than the HTML5 variants of course but with more control. The results where really smooth (I only tried on Android) and the development environment quite nice so I decided to continue working on the games a bit. After all, I have a few game ideas I would like to implement, but before I can do that I have to learn. Fallur is a place for me to learn.

I released it before christmas 2014, a bit ahead of time. The game isn’t ready, but it is playable (well, up to level 20, then it gets a bit too hard.. and perhaps a bit boring). I rushed it out since I had made a christmas theme for the game. The game will be re-themed later on and the game play will evolve.

As I am only doing this for my own sake and for learning I have no problem releasing an unfinished product on the world like this. Also, that is the reason the game is only available on Android. I will be updating it and that is simple and fast on Google Play. Also, as I will be evolving the game play and graphics (experimenting) I don’t have time to maintain different versions for different platforms even if the very nice LibGDX would make that possible.

Anyhow, I hope someone is enjoying the game despite it being in the state it is 🙂

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Fallur: A new simple game for Android

There is a new game on Google Play: Fallur.  The gameplay is simple, you are to catch anything that falls down except the things you shouldn’t catch. Simple eh? 🙂

Please try it out.

There will be more articles on why this game was made and what will happen to it in the future.

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Meaning of a message

There is so much in a picture and a message.
I’ve run two ads on Facebook. One for End and one for Supernatural Temptation. The one for End is getting alot of plays while the otherone isn’t. End is targetted at people with complicated relation status and has a picture that is clearly pointing at marriage issues (the same as below in the soundcloud image)

The one for supernatural was pointed to general hipsters that like independent music with an image that really conveys no message at all. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the ad for Supernatural was basically just waste of money as it did’t engage the viewer.

Lesson learned: There is no shortcut to real plays.

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One shot music video

Got this simple idea one day on my way to work. How about just shooting a video with the phone and sing along to a song? Said and done, I put my Xperia Z2 on the dashboard and started filming.

Simple enough, and I guess it’s better than my normal music videos as there is actually a video in it 🙂

Enjoy

You can see all my videos on my youtube channel (just don’t expect to much movement)

 

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Lovur experiment now over

Yesterday I removed Lovur from the Google Play store. I’ve learned what I wanted to with making it and as the program/game as such really brings no additional value to anyone and needed a little maintenance I removed it. Thanks for trying it out.

Next will probably be another game based on HTML5 using crosswalk and cordova.

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Lovur – first update

Now the Lovur application has been available for a couple of weeks and it currently has over 100 installs.
It’s unsurprisingly not a very popular application (people download it, test it and forget about it) but it seems to mostly work, except for a few crashes..

CrashesNow, this is a very neat feature in the Play Store. I get the crash and the stack trace! No problem to debug and fix 🙂

(in this case I was apparently using a function that doesn’t exist before Android 3.0)

 

 

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Using the spotify widget

Assuming things can be a bit risky.

I was delighted when I found these Spotify widgets that I could embed on my pages for promoting my music.



..and for those that have a Spotify subscription this is good. But not really for the rest of the world.

I was finding that I was getting quite alot of traffic to on of my pages that had a Spotify widget at the top but there was no increase showing in the statistics on Spotify. After a quick check of my page using another computer than usual I understood why.

Even though the widget looks like it can play the song, it can only do that if you’re logged into Spotify. If the play button is clicked the user is asked to log in (and most people won’t bother).

I’ve now moved the Spotify widgets further down on the pages and have SoundCloud ones at the top instead. That is much more effective as it requires no sign in.

 

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Ads with AdWords and Facebook

I’ve been experimenting with online ads using both Google AdWords and AdMob as well as Facebook ads for the last week.

Now, to begin with, the comparison will not be completely fair, as Google was running a campaign that gave me a coupon of 750 SEK (the very nice support at AdWords arranged that for me when I asked if I could be eligible for their ongoing campaign) while there was no such campaign on Facebook and thus my budget for testing there was significantly smaller than on the Google services. I have yet to find a similar possibility on Facebook to get started.

Anyway, I think I might have some preliminary findings that are of interest.

Lovur adFirstly, Advertising an application with AdMob has been quite effective. Even at low daily budget of 20 SEK/day it was effective. Weekends were especially good.

Advertizing music using Googles AdWords ads was however not as successful. The Ads got the clicks and thus visits to the sverrirv.com page of the tracks, but very few people stayed on the page to listen, and then only using the SoundCloud links (not Spotify). In fact, my Google Analytics data indicates that most people that got drawn in to the pages via ads didn’t stay on the page at all (0 seconds).  I guess that means they clicked the ads by mistake in most cases.

Facebook was just as unsuccessful as AdWords when it came to getting people to play the Spotify music. I guess that has to do with the requirement to have a Spotify account and that many people don’t have that. Facebook was however quite good at getting plays of the SoundCloud links. That’s reasonable as the music can be listened to directly in Facebook, not requiring the user to do anything at all other than listening.

My conclusion from this is that I will do my next experiment on Facebook with music and perhaps do another drive for my application using Google AdMob. I’m not getting people to listen to my songs by using AdWord at the moment (not necceseraly a fault of adwords. Can just as well be my website design that drives people away).

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