Author Topic: XMPlay Labs: Experimenting with Cover & Rating.  (Read 8261 times)

Astral Soup Design

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XMPlay Labs: Experimenting with Cover & Rating.

Written by Nicolas Bahamondes
Bahamondes & Furan



Conventions: Skin Consumer is the final user who uses your skin.
Note: Download the functional sample skin from this forum. This text could have incoherences, that's because of the language limitations of the author of this article.


A. INTRODUCTION

Skinning could be a headache in many platforms or players. Some of them are based in XML Parsing, others are based in propietary formats where users must use special "IDE" programs, and others use basic models as Text configurations with BMP's. Also, the user needs to keep in mind the technical limitations of the skin, until a point where the imagination is repressed: The creativity must adapt to the platform, when really is the platform what must adapt to the creativity.

Music Players like AUDION (From Panic, Inc.) and XMPlay (From Un4Seen Developments) are really good starting points to unleash the potential of a skin creator.

With the introduction of the Alpha Blending bitmaps, the visuals into the Main Player and the Rating System introduced in early builds of XMPlay (also known as "Stuff" versions), this player is getting into its golden age: I dare to say this because the skinning limits are almost down.

I assume you've read the "XMPlay Skinning Manual" and you have basic experience in this matter. I'll show you for the moment two new features: Visuals into the Main Player and the Rating System.



B. THE VISUALS INTO THE MAIN PLAYER

With the introduction of XMPlay 2 in the past, visualizations (Based on the Sonique Visual Specification) were shown into a separate window (known as the "Info Window"). This feature is in XMPlay 3 yet. In the Stuff releases, Ian Luck (the mastermind behind XMPlay) reenabled an undocumented feature called "Visuals into the Main Panel". This feature let users to watch visuals in the same Main Player Window, just like in Sonique, Windows Media Player, etc.

At this moment, NO ONE HAD CREATED A PUBLIC SKIN USING THIS FEATURE (Listed into the XMPlay Support Site). I took the decision to make a Sample of this feature in the Recently Finished NeverStop HiDPI.




Figure 1: NeverStop HiDPI with the Visual into the main player, using the "XMP-COVERART" plugin.


As you can see, you can use this feature wisely to bring Cover Art support to this player, leaving a pleasant experience to the skin consumer. For the MOD enthusiasts, it adds a quick access to the MOD Pattern to mute or unmute channels/instruments. If the visual fails to load (because of the little space assigned to the visual) or if you double-click the visual, a Generic Cover Art is shown.

Mini Mode can use this feature, too! Look those results.




Figure 2: Mini Mode with the Visual into the main player, using the "XMP-COVERART" plugin.


To implement this feature, let's go to the mask file of the main panel. The Skin Author must assign an unique color to the Cover Art Area.


Figure 3: Comparison between the Main Panel and its mask.

Notice the dark grey square drawn into the panel mask. That color uses the Index 27 into the BMP Palette. If you can't edit easily the palette, you can make and save the mask. With the aid of XPal (To manage the colors) and Paint Shop Pro (to fusion mask and palette) you can finish the work.




Figure 4: Showing the Color Index of a Palette using XPal. Index 27 is for the visuals, Index 26 is for the rating.



C. THE RATING SYSTEM

The Rating System is a visual aid to evaluate how much the user likes a song. Personally, I don't use this feature a lot. But remember: Think not only in you, think on the Skin Consumers. The best advice I can give to you, dear reader, try to implement all the features you want at a harmonic way. Don't make a monster, make a wonderful skin.  ;)

The Rating System uses an additional bitmap, called knob_rating.bmp. That file must include five (5) stars enabled, with equally proper space (For example, If your star is of 16x16 pixels, consider a height of 16 + 2 pixels of space = 18 pixels. Multiply the value in 5 and you'll get 90. The final size of your file should be 90x16), and you can use a transparent color (magenta, for example) if you need to. The disabled stars are drawn into the Main Panel.




Figure 5: An example of the Rating System.



Figure 6: Comparison between the Main Panel and its mask. Notice the disabled stars and the light grey into the mask.


Draw the disabled stars into your main panel, determine how much heights. Then, go to the mask and draw the Rating Area with the Height and the Width obtained previously on the Main Panel Bitmap. Use an unique color, use the Index 26 to assign the ratings into XPal or another palette manager. Make the necessary previous steps from the Section B.



D. CONCLUSION

It's time to incentivate Skin Authors to use the newest features introduced in XMPlay, even the Stuff features. Authors mustn't have fear to unveil their passion through skinning. Authors can suggest new features if are not sattisfied with something in XMPlay. Everyone needs to dare to make unique skins, because for every skin there's an user who uses it because it likes.

Ian Luck remember us one thing regarding the Visuals into the Main Panel: Make Tests! Some vis plugins have problems (will crash) with particular display sizes, so it's a good idea to try a bunch of vis plugins to check that your vis area is OK. (Citation).


- Nicolas Abarca Bahamondes
« Last Edit: 2 Jan '14 - 20:36 by Nicolas @ b&f »

Y@nekŪ

  • Posts: 273
I will implement visual info in my new skin! This is very good guide.

Ian @ un4seen

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Nice guide :)

One thing to note is that some vis plugins have problems (will crash) with particular display sizes, so it's a good idea to try a bunch of vis plugins to check that your vis area is OK.

amit

  • Posts: 723
Ian , wouldn't it be better if skin designers could assign specific visualization to their main/mini panel design with the relevant svp file attached? Designers could then integrate the correct placement and size for the visualization whether it is cover art , spectrum or other , to their design.

Astral Soup Design

  • Posts: 275
Nice guide :)

One thing to note is that some vis plugins have problems (will crash) with particular display sizes, so it's a good idea to try a bunch of vis plugins to check that your vis area is OK.

Added this line to the Conclusion of this XMPlay Stuff Labs Guide.

Ian @ un4seen

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Ian , wouldn't it be better if skin designers could assign specific visualization to their main/mini panel design with the relevant svp file attached? Designers could then integrate the correct placement and size for the visualization whether it is cover art , spectrum or other , to their design.

Do you mean a skin's vis area would always have a particular vis showing? I'm not sure it would be good to force a particular vis on the user, but perhaps a skin could be allowed to define a default vis and the user would still be able to disable/switch away from it if wanted via the right-click menu. Here's an update with that option...

   www.un4seen.com/stuff/xmplay.exe

It adds a "vis" skinconfig option to define a default vis plugin to display with the skin, eg. you could have "vis = xmp-coverart.svp" for the cover art vis plugin. The vis will be shown automatically (if it's installed) when the skin is loaded, unless vis has been disabled, ie. set to "No visualisation".

PSXGamerPro1

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Can you have the mod patten display as a default vis. of a skin's main panel?
« Last Edit: 9 May '13 - 01:18 by PSXGamerPro1 »

Ian @ un4seen

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That isn't currently possible, but I'll look into adding that option in the next update.

Astral Soup Design

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A Not-so-Bug Bug detected.
« Reply #8 on: 15 May '13 - 05:58 »
Testing a "super-ultra-secret" new skin, I've noticed there's a strange behaviour with the visuals into a Alpha-blended Main Panel.
The Vis gets invisible alpha-blended zones (possibly because a issue with the "magic color").

I think this bug looks good in some scenarios with some vis. It achieves a new experience in Visualizations.

Remember: panel_main.bmp (Alpha) + "Visuals into Main Panel" Feature + Some visual with the magic color property.

It looks amazing, but it looks like a bug.

Ian @ un4seen

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There is indeed an issue with using both a vis display and an alpha channel in the main panel. I'm currently looking into an efficient way around that. I'll hopefully be back with an update shortly!

Astral Soup Design

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Re: XMPlay Stuff Labs: Experimenting with Cover & Rating.
« Reply #10 on: 16 May '13 - 00:06 »
Is it a chance to add this alpha property in any vis? Not like a bug, but a interesting feature.

Ian @ un4seen

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Re: XMPlay Stuff Labs: Experimenting with Cover & Rating.
« Reply #11 on: 16 May '13 - 17:38 »
Do you mean allow a vis plugin to set the alpha channel in the vis display area, rather than inheriting the skin's alpha channel? If so, I think that would be technically possible as the vis data does include an alpha channel, but I'm not sure any vis plugins currently do anything with it, so it would probably have to be something optional that is enabled by the vis plugin, ie. a vis plugin would need to state that it does support the alpha channel for XMPlay to use it.

Anyway, here's an update to fix the current vis display + alpha channel issue...

   www.un4seen.com/stuff/xmplay.exe

It also allows a skin's default vis to be set to a format-specific mode (eg. MOD/MIDI/AHX modes) via a "vis = *" skinconfig entry.

PSXGamerPro1

  • Posts: 258
Re: XMPlay Stuff Labs: Experimenting with Cover & Rating.
« Reply #12 on: 20 May '13 - 01:14 »
Is it possible for you to make it not required to have a info window by having all the options in the main panel?

This will be useful for the skin I would like to make.
The skin will be true vista like.

Ian @ un4seen

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Re: XMPlay Stuff Labs: Experimenting with Cover & Rating.
« Reply #13 on: 20 May '13 - 16:39 »
No, I'm afraid it isn't possible to put the info window stuff in the main window.