Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hey, I have another suggestion!

I'm just chock full of great ideas! Did you know that you have to provide your own music to competitions? Yes! They like them on CD's with your skater's name, skating level and whatever written on it. So, you can have them professionally cut and labeled, which is what I've seen from Big League skaters in our rink, or you can cut them yourself and scrawl on them with a Sharpie.

Most of us already spent our money on ice and coaches and whatnot, so the DIY and Scrawl method is pretty popular.

But it's not foolproof. We get undone by the CD player in the Rink. Yes, the ice monitors tell me that 50% of the CD's provided do not work, and this includes ours. The Skating Director tells me that it's because "so many different CD's cut by so many different computers make the machine dirty." I went so far as to donate a CD player that we had lying around, but I don't think it's being used. In fact, I worry that the July Comp may be undone by the fact I can't get our CD's to work at Home Rink. (They work fine everywhere else.)

But you know what? CD's are dumb. They're too easily damaged, kids wind up sorting through dozens of them like cards, (I once showed up to practice with the wrong music) and between cutting software to burner to player, there's too much room for error and I can't whistle like Woodstock in the event of a malfunction.

Here's a tip: MP3's on Flash Drives. If a family can cut their own music, they can bring a Flash Drive. Get a Netbook or cheap laptop, (you could probably score a used one off a skating family willing to donate) hook it up to the sound system and take Flash Drives. Tell the kids to bring them with luggage tags on them, and only have the one MP3 file on it which has been named SKATERNAME-MUSIC.  Ice Monitor loads up the music of the kids on that Practice Ice session, and it's just a click to cue it up. Delete everything when that session is over. No muss, no fuss, no loading and reloading, and Flash Drives can be re-used more easily than a RW CD.

Am I being overly simplistic? Has this been done before and failed miserably? Should I just go sit down?


  1. I find that the Verbatim CDs work in almost all players, and I always get just the CD-Rs. Sure sometimes I feel like it's a waste to have only one song on a disc I can't ever use again and won't ever listen to again after the competition is over since I'll be sick of the music. But my skater's music has always played without a hitch. I also have a lightscribe drive so I can make the labels pretty. And I always have 3 copies, one to use and 2 for backups.

  2. We've been using the Sony CD-R's. Someone told me they have better luck with CD-RW, but didn't give a brand. I'll try Verbatim's and see if that helps. But the very nature of this conversation only highlights the Stupid of this process. Specific brands of CD's? Ugh, P.I.T.A.!!

  3. Some competitions we've attended specified CD-Rs only, no CD-RWs. Why? Not sure, but perhaps so they aren't accidentally rewritten over. I totally agree about flash drives, as long as it's the only thing on the flash drive. Why not also have a spare copy on your smart phone or ipod?

    I've also heard parents remark that it's the temperature of the rink that causes the CD player to malfunction. A cold rink is more problematic. Have a warm extra copy available if needed.

    I have to agree, get a laptop. CD players have always been problematic. When newer technology becomes common, use it.

  4. I've wondered for a while why we don't do this. I think it's just habit and I wonder if there was a slow change every time, switching from records to cassettes to cds. My rink actually has a cassette player and I'm pretty sure most of the kids there have never even seen a cassette.

  5. I had a nightmare in my first ever comp a couple of months ago, when neither my usual CD or the brand new spare copy worked! Fortunately, my coach saved the day with her ipod. While I stood by the judges waiting and panicking the kids I'm friendly with came up and offered to sing my music for me, but I'm glad it didn't come to that lol!

  6. Some coaches and ice monitors can't use a computer. Flash drives are also fragile. So are USB ports. The computer will get infected with malware. The music is encoded in an incompatible codec. The computer will be stolen or broken the day of the competition.

    In an ideal world, I would have a server connected to the sound system. Skaters would use a web interface to upload their music. The software would confirm that the file format was correct and provide each skater with a list of the order and times in which the music will be played. All of this would be tied into the electronic billing system. The music plays with no human intervention. Sound volume is automatically normalized and capped. The only tricky thing I can think of is: what if the Zamboni is late preparing the ice? If skaters miss the start of their music because they are not ready, tough. I think with a system like this people would get to do about 10 times as many program run-throughs.


  7. It is typically the digital format that is the problem not the CD disk or player (sometimes it is the player but that is the rink's problem). Save the music as a .wav file instead of MP3. Write it to disk as .wav. My music was the only one that played at last year's show cuz the player decided it didn't like MP3s that night. Another trick is to keep the disk warm. If you are in a cold rink keep the disk in your jacket. If the player in a cold rink is acting up some people have put them on a heating pad to keep the inner temp warm. Don't forget these are optical read devices and are subject to condensation in cold environments (think glasses fogging up when you step outside/inside).

  8. AMS - Do you have any other negatives, there, Nellie? Can't use a computer? Learn. Bad Codecs? MP3, how hard is it? Malware? Antivirus. Stolen? The CD player can have the same fate. Broken? It's already broken. All these excuses are just saying that my music won't play. Well, it's not playing now.

    No human intervention? Can't be done. We tried that in the theatre with moving lights acting as spotlights. The actor would wear a sensor which would tell the ML's where he was. In a perfect world, it was great! No sleeping Spot Ops! No Missed Cues! But the Perfect World has an endless tech, no equipment snafus, and an unlimited budget. This system, which is still available on the market for some reason, is hardly ever seen anywhere anymore. In a performance situation you don't ever, ever, ever want to have sound, lighting, rigging or any other cues running wholly by themselves. Variables happen, and you need people. (I know the main rag comes in on the close of that act which was supposed to be five minutes ago, but she's still dancing nude with a pumpkin and aluminum foil. Better wait. I know I'm supposed to blackout and aim for the soloist, but that Tot is getting a prime photo op if I stay on her for awhile longer. I'll give her a few extra seconds. I know Act II starts at 8pm, but the line to the restrooms is really long so let's give them a few extra minutes to finish up.)

    Perfect isn't possible, but Better is. I thought skaters only got 3 plays of their music per session, anyway.

    Baffled, I'll try a WAV this time and let you know if that helps... Fitting since I'll be cutting music tonight! Then I'll make and market CD Cosies for skaters and retire.

  9. Here's some inside dope: a certain skating director who shall go nameless apparently did not know that you can email music. Wants it delivered in person. This same nameless skating director also thinks that her music editor "owns" the music to the winter ice show (which is all, by the way, in the public domain).

  10. I've had countless outside DVDs that would not open while handling presentations, but MP3 files never failed. Unless the flash drive itself got corrupted, that's a totally different story.

    While I think it's a brilliant idea and likely the future direction, initial implementation will involve some thoughts.

    My number one concern is malware. Antivirus will not prevent it. Putting a likely infected flash drive back into my own computer is a big no-no. However school computer labs usually lock down the security so much that 1) the limited/standard user can't do anything to the system itself hence minimal infection 2) restart wipes out everything and restores the original image.

    Some technical training may be needed but really it should be foolproof enough. Heck it's probably easier than that music player where the play button can't be seen from wear! Collect the flash drives and copy the music to desktop and double-click to open. If wanted, a playlist can be kept on the non-system drive (which does not get wiped out on restart) so no more copying is needed for the rest of the season unless there is music change.

    If Wifi is available, FTP or dropbox would be nice too. Bluetooth is probably taking too long. Now that is more technically challenging :P

  11. "Save the music as a .wav file instead of MP3."

    Audio CDs and CD players do not work that way. Audio CD format is Audio CD format, which is similar to certain of WAV formats. Using WAV as opposed to MP3 as an intermediate stage may get you better sound quality under some circumstances. Data CDs do work that way. There exist apparatus that looks like a CD player but is also able to play music files saved on data CDs. Skate Mom: Does rink have one of those?

    "AMS - Do you have any other negatives, there, Nellie?"

    Hey, you asked "Am I being overly simplistic?"

    I was talking about practice ice, not the show. I wouldn't try to automate the show either.

    "I thought skaters only got 3 plays of their music per session, anyway."

    Can you put all this secret info on the website? Also, what is the reason for this rule, if nobody else has music to play? There were some sessions where only one skater had music, and I think he sometimes did more than 3 plays. But normally even on crowded sessions there is no program going on most of the session.

    "thinks that her music editor "owns" the music to the winter ice show (which is all, by the way, in the public domain)."

    I think she is mostly correct. The score is in the public domain. However the copyright to the recording is probably held by a recording studio. The editor probably owns a license to distribute it which allows him to issue a very restrictive license to the rink. The edits themselves probably do not constitute a copyrightable derivative work. According to Wikipedia, "A sound recording is copyrighted separately from the musical work it records." But I wish you were right. Due to the stupid laws there are very few high quality public domain recordings.


  12. AMS, Not everyone is working on a program on Practice Ice, so you may not hear as much music as you think. Some people are just there to practice. As for the whole tech thing, I guess I'm just not as smart as you. I was simply taking a cue from my sound buddies in the theatre who are largely abandoning CD's in favor of digital formats. I myself have not purchased a hard CD in a least five years. But hey, maybe I can ask them to burn my stuff for me, and I'll give it to them on a flash drive.

  13. Don't be so serious! I don't like the current system either, but I don't have any easy solution. If skating were funded like football, there would be a perfect technology available, but we're stuck with cheap and unreliable.

    I'm one of those people not working on a program (hopefully coach will let me soon...) but I wouldn't mind if other people got more than 3 runthroughs a session, just so long as they are skating at a level appropriate for the session (not doing triples on a PreFS, going really fast).