Tag Archives: Synth

Brad Ormand - Renegade Rambler Audio UI idea

2016.03.01 – Audio Granulator Progress

While in the process of writing an audio program for the ARM chip and another display, I began to also write code for Mac OS 10 and iOS.  I hit some good vibes and continued going forward with the Mac app and left the ARM system on the bench, as is, to come back to later after I finish this Mac app.  I switched gears, as I normally do, but I now have the pieces together to make this app, and it’s multiplying my motivation…

I have been studying DSP and audio algorithms in C++ quite a bit lately (and I had already made great progress with the DFT and FFT in 2015), and am having a great deal of fun analyzing and manipulating sound.  My degree and background are from this area, but I have never had to actually code a chorus or reverb or EQ (although I’ve built hardware analog EQ’s and compressors).  So… I decided to go through making this higher-level abstraction app to beef up more of my real-time digital audio knowledge.  I’m using Core Audio and Audio Units.  Then, after one or two of these apps, I can come back to the bare ARM system, with which I’ll have to write these “units” from scratch (and I can’t wait – looking forward to it.  Just need a quick win first, ‘cuz I’m gon spend some time on it – like a year).  It’ll also help me decide how I’m going to organize the higher-level abstractions from my low-level C++ code once I get back to coding the embedded ARM system.

ARM Breadboard Circuit 1 Brad Ormand

I’ll have the fast FFT implementations and FIR and IIR filters in the CMSIS DSP lib, etc, and I’ll at least have a fast sine and cosine routine, but it’s a lowest-level implementation that I’ll have to “hand” assemble to be a 4-pole LPF or a phaser or even a simple notch, etc.  I’ll have to make my post-DAC “Nyquist” filter at 22kHz and all of that stuff on the ARM system in hardware, etc.  It’ll be at least 44.1kHz at 16-bit – I want (people) to be able to actually use the audio generated by it – some really killer and sonicall-pleasing sounds.  So, that’s coming up…

Brad Ormand's Second Fourier Transform - Noise

It’s kind of a tall order for me.  I have some work to do before I can write a digital audio system from scratch at the chip/embedded level – from Math to code to electrical components. I can’t wait to do it and spend time on it, but I must prepare.  So, I did a few mathematics problems this weekend dealing with impulse response and the summation of the FIR filter to get to know what I’m dealing with.  So, I’m going to do it all step-by-step in my free time until I’m able to grasp it and code good implementations.

M A C   A U D I O   A P P

I have been successful at building a Core-Audio-based sampler for iOS in C++ and Swift.  I have a functional demo that starts and ends the time window at particular points along the audio clip using touch – all real-time.  My next step is to draw the waveform out into a SpriteKit view and to get the app to respond to the touch drags to resize the play window to the visual waveform on the UI.  Just that part itself has been a bit tedious, not-to-mention any zooming of the waveform, which hasn’t even been considered, yet.  Then, of course, I’ll need to render out the playhead rolling along as the samples get played.  There’s a lot of interpolation that has to be done since there aren’t enough pixels to show every sample, and I’m trying to get that stuff out to it’s own thread and to see if I can somehow pre-calculate it all when it first comes in.  I made a pencil sketch of the UI to come – it’s the initial view, but I’ll have a keyboard or sample pad view of sorts.

Brad Ormand - Renegade Rambler Audio UI idea

As for the audio source, right now I have it playing from a file.  But, I don’t think I’ll let the user bring in files with  it.  It’s just too weird on the legal side since I’ll let the user save it back to disk, and I have to detect and convert what type of files they attempt to load in and stuff (mp3, ogg, AAC, which wav, etc), and well…  I really just want the user to be able to press record and mess with the stuff that gets recorded, and probably with a 15-second limit – focus – kind of like Twitter’s 140 char limit.  That audio will then be recorded into and played from a file of course, but I can count on it being a 32-bit float PCM format, and just run with it.

In the end, I want the thing to act as a granulator, where you bring in audio and are able to loop sections of audio at really tight intervals, or even with randomized time and pitch parameters, where it acts as a sound design tool.  I do this in Pro Tools all the time by hand and cut samples like 1000 at a time and shift them incrementally and copy and paste them offset next to each other for effect, but it’s definitely time-consuming.  I’ll probably still do that because I have ultimate control, but I’d like to be able to go into the app environment and get sounds from machines or birds or rubber bands or my voice or even the wind and allow the user to really fuck with them to make them something else entirely.  Of course, they’ll be able to save the original tracks and save the performance.  And, I’ll offer a few time-based effects and definitely some distortion and crush on there, too.

So…  that’s what I’ve been getting into.  It’s after-work stuff, so it’s kind of slow-going after a day of already programming for hours at the day job, but I’m making definite progress and can’t wait to circle back to the embedded system, as well.  I have many, many things to look forward to on this front.

 

 

Simple Analog Synth Brad Ormand

2016.01.22 – ARM Cortex M4F System Running Great

There’s so much going on in my research and experiments, it’s just hard to explain everything right now.  But, in a nutshell, I have been patiently (but consistently) ramping up knowledge of building some awesome applications for the ARM Cortex M4 – both hardware and software.  I have a lot of audio processing, lighting, and graphics ideas to start on so my first step is to become well-versed in their operation.

In the last month or so, I have been drawing faces, drawing UI, painting, making headway on the ARM stuff, woodcarving, working on music, running over my budget for the new year (like multiple times with complicated, categorical spreadsheets), doing some behavior modification (like stopping drinking sodas and exercise regularly and others), working on this site, and so much more that I don’t write about.  Sometimes, it does seem like I have too many things going on, but like I say – “I just follow my interest” – and, where it leads, that’s where I go- just enjoying life as it comes, working with what I have.  I definitely try to wisely balance it all by not getting into “comfort-only” scenarios, like spending gobs of time on stuff that doesn’t require any hard thinking or sweat from the brow.  Rather, all of my “hobbies” require actual work and are investments in my future and have the additional benefit of brightening my days when I do them.  The fulfillment factor is high.  That’s what I’m feeling right now.  But, I also have to take it one step at a time as to not get burned out – going for a good balance.  It’s a great start to the new year.

// A R M

As for the ARM stuff, though…  Lately, I have been deeply involved in trying to find a great toolchain and chipset that would work well with Mac OS X and my limited PCB fab opportunities here.  I heavily explored the Atmel SAM4S for a while, and then the Silicon Labs EFM32 (I do like Simplicity Studio), and even experimented more with PIC24’s and PIC32’s (I like MPLABX, too), but I have been heavily preferring the NXP / Freescale Kinetis K series Cortex chips and their KDS (surprised, but happy about their merger 🙂 ).  I have everything I need to program and debug them,  and I think Freescale and NXP have a lot of support around their products these days.

ARM Breadboard Circuit 1 Brad Ormand

And, whichever ARM Cortex M4F I choose, I feel future-safety coming off this because of the CMSIS rallying and the ARM standards and it’s growth.  And, the IoT revolution is really just beginning, and I want on the train, and I’m digging my own tunnel with these research shovels.  This is certainly a new career path for me, but as I am already “dug in” to, and known, in the software industry I am currently employed in, I will continue that for a few more years.  It’s stable.  But, as I get more and more skilled at producing hit ARM apps with CMSIS, C/C++, and assembly, and as I refine my architecture ideas (both HW+SW), I’ll be closer to being able to switch my day-to-day doings over to full time by about 2020, I believe.

// G O O D _ M I L E S T O N E

So, that’s what I’m thinking for that…  It was a huge milestone to get the Kinetis rolling with some of my former code written for the PIC24.  I ported some stuff over and after a few nights, I finally got it rolling!  It was really nice to see it running as expected.  Many things are different – interrupts, 32-bit vs 16-bit, registers, SysTick, NVIC, etc., so being able to rely on this setup as my “go-to” platform gives me a lot of leeway to design stuff from now on.  It’s huge because it finally allows me to have a string of product design and code architecture sessions over the next months that won’t be interrupted by changing platforms or technical difficulties.

Also, I’m using the Segger J-Link now with a bare, exposed, Kinetis K22 ARM LQFP 64 chip that I soldered to a little plain break-out board (with filter caps and custom programming header and stuff).  I’m going direct to bare chip without a dev kit, which was what one of my requirements were all along to getting this train started.  I wanna design the board, power, regulation, routing, logic levels, inverters, amplification, communication, interfacing, headers, electro-mechanicals, etc. – the entire system.  Cuz, I think that stuff is fun, too.  More work, but I wouldn’t wanna give up that phase.  And, so I’m saying, that now that I’ve got that innovation complete with something stable in the lab, I feel like I have a platform to jump off of to design an endless amount of other applications, unrestrained.  But, boy did it take a few months of setup time and sifting through the cruft of what would work best for me and my setup.  Now, all good.

// T H E   _  F U T U R E

Simple Analog Synth Brad Ormand

I think, first, I’ll get the previous project I wrote about last month all set up with this new “drive train” and then move on back to the FFT application I developed last year, perhaps with my DisplayTech color TFT with cap touch.  Maybe a pinch zoom for FFT window resolution?  Maybe a custom, level-switchable analog front end?  Maybe build a touch, animated GUI lib to apply to all my new designs.   Maybe a digital version of my old “Audio Tool” with selectable synthesis?  Who knows..  I’m ready to get things going and move on though.  Seems like I just got to the point to where I can finally get to the product design phase.  Ready to go.

 

 

Brad Ormand - The Spirit of Adventure Springs Eternal - Music Album

09.14.2015 – The Music Journey

So, my album “The Spirit of Adventure Springs Eternal” was released this month on the 4th.  I wrote the songs, played the parts, sang, recorded, produced, edited, mixed, and mastered it.  And, now I have released what I made to the public.  I’m both excited and relieved!  Now, I can mature my style and move on to the next batch of songs.  I have lots of new things planned!

It’s out in all major outlets – iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Spotify, XBox Store, and a lot of other places.

Here it is on iTunes  &  Google Play  &  Amazon :

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It’s out for sale and stream, but it’s also simply a statement that “I’m out here, too” and “I want to have fun with music, too, and engage in business with it, too“.  And, I’ve been receiving some attention for it from players in the industry.  It helps to put me in place to do more and more and more of it.  And, I’ll only get better and better at it because I’m determined to do so and I just work all the time.

Brad Ormand Album on Google Play

This one was far better-sounding and more balanced than my last, and the product gets better with each release.  My plans are to keep continuing to release every year or so until I am coming up with hit records every time with Grammy potential.  I may or may not be capable, in the end, we’ll see, but I’m sure going to try. 🙂  I mean, if you examine a successful entrepreneur’s or artist’s or businessman’s early work, it was likely not his defining work.  But, when they do succeed in a big way, the lessons and potential came from practice and those earlier experiences and their grit.

I’m already inspired by other July and August releases, such as from Dr. Dre, The Chemical Brothers, Astralwerks, and Skrillex’s labels that have forged my image of what better, more intricate touches the next album can contain.  I’m not saying the album I released this month is not strong work, because it is, but I am saying that I have even better-sounding stuff coming through the pipe, which is why I am somewhat relieved – it’s because now, I get to switch over to work on the new ones and prepare them for massiveness!  I’m going to keep doing this.

Brad Ormand Album on iTunes

In 2013, I completely re-vamped my production and engineering style.  I went back to basics and learned other ways to do many things, and then combined it with what I was already good at.  The process and practice paid off.  Now, in 2015, I am at that platform again.  I have dug deep into the interworkings of modern vocal synths and more advanced synth parameter automation with Pro Tools in the last few months, which was my 2015 goal – to do more with synthetic harmonics using formants and organic, voicebox sounds – both beautiful AND retched!  And, I can’t wait to take it to its depths in the next few months.  Also, I have a much better narrative and storytelling sense now, and I have an idea how I can improve my mastering approach.  I have so many ideas for sonic production that I can hardly stand it – from heavy songs to really chill, beautiful, warm songs.  A lot of good stuff is coming, I truly believe.

Anyway, I’m excited about Spirit of Adventure because it contains a few gems, some great choruses, and some powerful sub bass and kick drums (that I’m proud of) – all of that can garner attention and be licensed for broadcast, sustaining this.  I want this business to fund my writing and production process (and each upcoming album), and so the engine goes on and on, etc…  That’s all I ask.

Brad Ormand - The Spirit of Adventure Springs Eternal - Music Album

All this is part of my journey as a music producer.  The album had varied genres, and it can stand for what many things I am capable of doing up to 2015, my versatility.  I am an unknown artist, right now, but this album at least puts me on the map so that my next one comes through with people already paying attention.  I’m open for business, tho.

I’m dead set on making top-quality songs – songs that evoke real emotion and spread love and dazzle you and make you excited about life!  And, I already know where to go from here.

 

Brad Ormand Music 2015 07 17

07.17.2015 – I Love You

I put up a new version of “I Love You” this evening after working on it for a little bit, cleaning up the vox and adding a nice little melody.   I wanted to make the sub-bass kick hard with the bass drum, so I kind of “blended” the two with some cutting EQ for some tight interlacing.  There’s a lot of sub there, tied to the kick, and I want the typical car system driver to feel the bump in their chest and throat – and to feel the sub in their armrest, so I added a few freqs at different q’s to the kick to really cut through – like what an 6″ or 8″ sub is good for.  And, as for the sub, I decreased the 60 to 90 and accentuated the 30 and a half and 40 – like what a 12″ or 15″ would be good at.  Big bass!  But, with a tight kick – as I did in “What You Lookin’ For?”.  It really helps the chorus feel fat, too.

I also added a little melody line in a high synth hollow triangle sound that mirrors and accentuates the vocals pretty good.  It’s a bit funky, too – couldn’t help it.  Love that kind of stuff.  I have recorded these vocals like…  about 8 times to get the right feel.  Bout time it started to come together!

Also, I cut some parts out completely – a few parts that I sang that sounded really exotic and has good potential for dance.  While I’m sad about not using them in this song, I just can’t justify it for this song’s continuity.  It’s the nature of the biz.  I’ll revisit them later for a more appropriate song to tie them with.

Brad Ormand Music 2015 07 17

And, lastly, the lead vocals needed a lot of tenderizing.  Like, I cut a lot of 2k-ish and took some 500 hertz honk out of them.  I increased around 8k and made them sizzle a bit, along with a little more doubling – on top of all the other past EQ.  I increased the level of the second harmony for a bit of solidarity and the whole stem is sounding pretty good.  I’m surprised, actually.  I never thought I could *really* get this cut to work.  But, it’s turning out ok.

The cymbals on the chorus I left pretty much as they were.  I played two takes of sticks on a bell of a 16″ Zildjian A from, like 1976 (or something) – it’s a really old school cymbal with the marks rubbed off that I hand-picked when it came in used to a drum shop I used to work at.  I used to go over there and test crashes for a prime non-standard-sounding candidate, and this is my favorite one.  I hardly gigged with it since I wanted to preserve it for the studio.  It’s bad, man.

Ok, that’s it.  I’m really excited about this song.  I think it has some good potential for the market, and well…  I really like listening to it – That’s the main part of all my songs – if I keep listening 🙂  Take care.

Brad Ormand - Music Player

06.08.2015 – What You Lookin’ For?

I’ve turned over a new leaf in my music production style, recently.  I branched out a bit.  During the production of my other song, “The Crew’s in the Kitchen“, I thought of some stuff that I had been meaning to develop.  So, I spent considerable time this weekend (including time in which I should have been sleeping) tweaking production techniques and synth instruments to use for that idea.  And, then I applied them to “What You Lookin’ For?“.  It sounds considerably different.  It’s the next step in the evolution of my maturity as a producer.

A few months ago, I wrote about the sub bass parts I generated for the chorus, and it has been a thrill to listen to, but I had been wanting more out of the entire stack.  I kept running into problems with too much presence when using screech sounds and high formants.  So, that’s what I focused on – getting a majorly dynamic instrument that fills up the frequency gaps in my chorus, that cuts, sounds dope, but that doesn’t squeal too much at around 2 to 4k.

A new chorus lead part was written, along with accompanying strings.  Also, I tweaked the verse parts to be much more interesting by adding a melodic arp and honking lead chops.  I really like the result – the chorus is actually kind of sexy and laid back, but with an aggressive vibe.  The resulting bends and wah effects just hit the spot for what I was thinking about doing.  So, I was pretty excited to have finished something like this.

I feel like it was all done through just natural inspiration and rawness.  The point had come to where the idea had matured in my head.  There was a wakefulness I felt while programming that track during that time.  I showed up with an intention…  and it all just happened, in session.  I can learn from that.  Don’t have to have a solid idea beforehand – just have a direction and walk up to the canvas and paint, so to speak.  See what happens.  I still want to make it less abrasive in places, but while retaining some aggressiveness.  I’ll work on that as I continue through my listening tests and analysis.

Painting - Color Bubbles - Brad Ormand

05.23.2015 – Shake That Move & Painting

S O N G S

Well, I’m full into the new job and everything’s stable.  So, I started re-mixing a lot of my songs and painting and building a bit – whereas the last few weeks have cut into my personal and project life, since I really wanted to get the work stuff settled.  I added “Shake That Move” to my music playlist.  I can still cut it down a few minutes and remove some of the repetition, but the kicks and snares and vox are sounding really nice and all of the filters are leading into one another nicely.  I’m happy with how it’s going so far.  Days of work, addressing each little thing.

The opening kick sound is just what I have been trying to go for.  I mean, I am very, very happy with it!  And, the rest is getting more and more balanced every time I work on it.  And, of course, “Strike” and “Doing Fine”  have had a lot more work done to them.  …Just getting them all ready to be done and released…  I also worked on 3 of my “on deck” songs because I had ideas for them (not posted until “in beta”, so to speak).

Sometimes the best thing for assessing if something is working is a night’s sleep, some dreams, and fresh ears.  And, I can’t stress enough how much having a sub in the truck helps keep my kick and sub levels in check.  In the studio, I have a few 8’s, but there’s nothing like running the songs through real-world scenarios in between mix sessions.

Brad Ormand - Music Player

I have a zillion other ideas, and I can feel my workflow and creating ability, along with my production quality improve every time I do a song.  So, I’ll be happy once these are released and I can move on to some of the other ideas.

P A I N T I N G

So, I had an idea to do a whole bunch of circles on a gradient background like bubbles in a fizzy drink.  At first, I was inspired by a Sprite can that had a similar pattern that looked really beautiful.  I wanna see if I can do my spin on that kind of thing with acrylic on canvas.  Also, I did one really similar to that when I was in high school a long time ago on a concrete wall.  It came out cool.  And, I saw an art installation in Houston that had primary colors as different shaped square blocks around it, and that was striking.  I’m going to try something 🙂

Base Painting - Brad Ormand

Painting - Color Bubbles - Brad Ormand

I was going to run a prominent feature through the whole thing once I got the bubbles laid out.  There are like a thousand more bubbles to go, but one I get them in, I can start thinking about the finishing part.

A note about the feelings I’m getting lately…  I took a break from painting over the last few months, and realized that I was happier when I had the time to paint and was in the process of creating something artful.  And, now it’s confirmed – I feel more alive and happy if I have a painting or some creative visual art going at any point – I feel great just starting a piece and re-evaluating every so often to get it closer to my original vision.

I have other projects pending such as the Honeycomb Light and the Synth prototype, but feel like I have to spend some time painting to get my senses back and to get some creative juices flowing before I can effectively get back to those.  It’s about “catching” that wave of natural inspiration and motivation for me.  I can start making it “wavey” and then the right wave will come and in no time, and I’ll be surfing.  And, right now, I’m inspired by the painting and songs, and can feel the right stuff starting to stir up.

Comparing SMD Components

04.16.2015 – SMD In-House PCB Test & Truncated Icosahedron Paint

I painted the Truncated Icosahedron (I’ll call it by it’s shape name cuz I can’t think of anything else fancy to call it yet).  Yep – I got a supply of Metallic Blue, which glistens in the sunlight, for the outside, and painted the inside Titanium White.  What’s the result?  Well, it looks cool as hell, but now I gotta think what to do with it….

I wanna light it up soon, but I’m into 3 projects simultaneously right now and have a job, but, I’m thinking I’ll light this one up with those Philips Lumileds in series with a small dimmer control board.  We’ll see…  More thinking required.  Or, more appropriately, when I get the idea, I’ll start implementing it freely.

Truncated Icosahedron Brad Ormand

PCB SMD TEST

I’m trying to see if I can get the precision necessary to etch these micro-trace circuit boards with Ferric-Chloride, in-house.  I have a small lab set up for that, but I have no idea if the resolution from the etching phase will be sufficient.  In the past, I have had a hard time with small traces washing right away.  But, I think that’s an error in my photo-exposure process, not the chem bath.  That’s why I’m gonna try with this test.  I have my AD 654 Adapter (so I can breadboard with it), the RGB LED headers, and the MCU SMD board for my Honeycomb light all put onto a sheet that I’ll run through the process.  I might fail.

However it turns out, I’ll find out what capabilities I *do* have after it’s done.  And, perhaps, I’ll see where the bottleneck is and be able to overcome, we’ll see.  But, it could be awesome and hold electrical integrity just fine!  I hope that’ll be the case.  Then, I’ll be able to pump out usable products from this run.

Comparing Circuit PCB Components

At the top of this pic, I put in my old RGB LED header for comparison which is twice as big as the ones I have slated to make.  That’s good.  These will be nice and tidy.  Also, you can see in the pic, next to the quarter, the tiny TQFP chip that I have to be able to make precision traces for and be able to solder onto it.  And, then there are the SOIC-8 parts at the top left to go onto the other boards.  Most of the passives are 1206, but a few are 0805’s.  I bunched the rest of the packaging next to it because it sets the scene 🙂 .

I’m glad I did a test print on paper because the first one was crappy resolution @ 72 DPI (fixed it), and also, in this one, I left one of the soldermask layers on the design (fixed that, too).   BTW, the moisture test (Cobalt Dichloride Free) turned pink in a matter of minutes taking it out of the package, but was blue just before.  I’m not going to reflow these, but it’s interesting to see the effects, especially here in Texas.  Shipped from Mouser, also here in Texas.  It’s humid today – 89%, reported.

Comparing SMD Components

Anyeeewayees… We’ll see how everything comes together.  I see it like this: If I’m able to fabricate these SMD boards here, more power to me for testing prototypes with small surface-mount components – mainly the chip leads.  But, if I cannot get consistent results, then I’ll either go back to prototyping with through-hole parts, improve my fab process, or just get them made when I need ’em.  But, I *do* wanna find out if I have the resolution necessary, in-house.  Exciting!  I’ll report on what I find.

Honeycomb Light First Circuit BradOrmand

04.08.2015 – Synth, Job & Lights

New, in the sphere of my workings is a job that I will be starting at soon as a Sr. Software Engineer.  The recruiting process was long and pretty taxing due to just the management of all of the leads and people to stay in close contact with over the last few weeks.  My goal was to find a “match”, and that’s what I found.  The people are great, the job calls for what I have to offer, and it appeals to me as a developer, as well.  I’m ultra-excited about it!

SYNTH

In other news, I ordered some components to start building a real, accurate, and high-potential analog synth module!  I have the basics spec’d out and ready for a test setup.   So far, it’s going to feature the Analog Devices 654 Voltage-to-Frequency converter as the main oscillators and LFO, and Texas Instruments Active Filters throughout.  I just received them in today.

Synth Keys Idea - Brad Ormand

I posted my thoughts on an idea for a frequency mangler / modulator using digital logic (as an analog signal effect) a while back, and after I get them running, I’ll try to implement that idea with these as I go along.  It’ll produce a kind of ring-modulated effect.  So, there’s plenty to do before I get it up and running as I have to design circuits around them, but I imagine I’ll have something going pretty soon.

I hung out with friends and family over the Easter holiday, and I probed some mechanically-minded acquaintances’ minds about putting together a wooden keyboard (with my electronics inside) to hook into the synth module.  I got plenty of ideas.  I’m visualizing a few scenarios: One, as an all-in-one solution for peeps to just get and start playing as a standalone fun-toy, and two, as a separate controller for hooking into various modules.  I’ll keep that on the back burner, but for now, I just wanna build something that works and makes awesome sound.  The first synth will be on the breadboard, and the first keyboard will probably just be a crazy in-shop, spring-loaded array of chopped wood hitting tac switches.

LIGHTS

Honeycomb Light First Circuit BradOrmand

And, for the lights…  The thing I was waiting for was to write the software to be as fast as possible with the on-chip oscillator, and to see if it’d be fast enough for my scanning.  Well, I did that, and it’s not.  It falls short by at least a few MHz.  So, I have now, in-stock, an external oscillator that will push the MCU to 20MHz, and I’m waiting to see what kind of stability I can get with that.  As the experiments go forward, I’ll know if the solution I have already designed will work.  One more home-made PCB test, and I’ll have the answer.

Now that I have cleared the schedule a bit, I can begin to develop more projects.

 

Hex Light - Stills Of Animation 2 - Brad Ormand

02.12.2015 – Lights & Devices

During the last few days, I have written several animations for the Hex Light, improved the animation library and software utilities I have going for all of my lights, and have swapped animations one after another trying to find the right sequence.  I also got blended colors going.  **I really need to start producing video to go with these log entries…

And, in the interim, I’ve been doing a lot of research into prices of parts, chips, and supplies to make the boards and art.  Basically, I’m trying to design REV B of the board and enable part- and code-sharing among as many of them as possible.  Actually, it’s pretty exciting.  I like doing it.  It’s like a little game.  🙂

Hex Light - Stills Of Animation 3 - Brad Ormand

I showed the Hex Light and other projects to friends and family this weekend and it was a hit, I think!  And, plus, we talked about all kinds of possibilities for the future, such as limited editions, knotted wood, inset screws, and wall-sized art.   Plus, I got advice from some business veterans about marketing and product design.  That gets me excited for the future.  I like this.

But, for now, I want to focus on making a good selection of the lights – large, medium, and small – all price ranges, and making the prototypes as cool as they can be 🙂  Also, I’ll be in business with the Dodecahedrons and my paintings, as well.  I’ll have an album and a synth instrument, as well, upcoming.  It’s thrilling to me to design these and come up with stuff that people get excited about!  I get excited about them, too!

Hex Light - Stills Of Animation 2 - Brad Ormand

That being said, there’s only so much I can do at a time.  Plus, I have a full-time engineering job.  But, every night and on the weekends (if I’m not venturing out), I chip a piece of the shroud away from the form of the dream.  Right now, as I said, I’m designing products.  I’m implementing the ideas that inspire me.  I did a Hex Light prototype all the way from an idea to done and working.  This REV B board for it is going to be what I’ll try to put into production.  I’ll keep working on it as I continue to get the other lights caught up to the “working prototype” stage.  As I said, they’ll all share some common parts and production methods.

For instance, I’ll probably go with a 44-pin TQFP MCU, get them in bulk and flash the appropriate program on them for the application.  It seems like I could save money by getting 3 or 4 different processors, specific for each application (like if I only needed 2 full ports and 2 ADC’s for one thing, instead of 4 full ports and 6 ADC’s), but really, I can’t save that much, because getting bulk means that I already save cash on the one model, in bulk.  If an MCU costs $8 each for under quantity 10 and $5 each for 500 or more, I get the discount, overall.  And, as for the labor, I’d like to work with a common port pinout and register layout for the common libraries I’m writing.  That’s the kind of thing I’m spending the most time on now.  Haha – who knows what will end up being “the right thing”, but I’ll learn as I go along.

REV B for the board will halve the size and be labeled much better with a proper soldermask, silkscreen, and two layers – plus it will use SMD parts.  Mounting it on the art will be much easier, and I can use that same board in a few products.  I’ll have to make other boards, say, for the Tri-Light and single hex “mini” lights, but my direction now is to get the more complex board settled and then use the techniques learned from that to create the mini ones.

Hex Light - Stills Of Animation 1 - Brad Ormand

Anyway…  I could go on and on…  It’s fun to try to get these pieces going for production.  It’s not stressful, but it’s not easy, either.  I want to see these pieces come alive and be in good form, so I’ll do what I have to and just see what I got after they’re done.  Then, I can move on to other projects, like the synth and metal dodecahedron.

JP8000 V8 Fender Bass Brad Ormand

02.04.2015 – Job, Painting & Songs

It has been a heavy week at work – plenty of ups and downs, and plus, there’s a lot of code to write, as well.  So, I’m a little consumed by it.  Thinking about it.  Planning for it.  Etc.  Even off-hours.

Yeah, it’s almost like painting and songwriting are like the perfect compliment to code development.  That’s what I do when dev levels get too high.  Then, when the “logic levels” get too low, I crave shifting bits and pushing pixels.  And, sometimes, the balance is half-and-half.  And, like I said before, mental noise from sources that I’m not inspired by dampens my ability for creativity, but it also dampens my programming ability.  Most of the enjoyment of my work comes from inspired times when I’m mostly peaceful.  However. there *are* other times when good work gets done, just..  I guess I don’t enjoy it as much.  I anticipate that enjoyment factor, and that motivates me.  It is what it is.  Just speaking freely.

So, I haven’t gone forward on my hex light hardware like I was going to do.  But, I did manage to mix another version of “Doing Fine”.  I think it’s the best version so far.  And, I’m in pre-production for an animated video for it.  Already drew out the prime character in my sketchbook.  As for the song, I put the best stuff right at the top, and made the chorus hit soon after.  Hard.  I’m excited about it.  My focus is on getting usable material for people – for my listeners, for film sync, for songwriting integrity, for replay’s sake, for emotional and memory recall – all of that.

JP8000 V8 Fender Bass Brad Ormand

And, having it “usable” means that it’s valued for some reason or another and listened to or used fairly frequently because of those attributes.  So, it’s kind of like how a businessman would add value to a product.  I do what I feel, yes.  But, I also have a vested interest in making the song “solid”, and not letting it go until it is that – mostly because then I don’t have to keep working and thinking and working on it… cuz, it would be… Done.  In the case of “Doing Fine”, I think the value added is the chopped, pitched vocals arranged in such a way that provides for a unique, pleasurable chorus, and the way that the lyrics and synths seem happy, then sad, then happy again, and so forth – kind of a pushing-pulling effect, over lyrics like “Drowning in my mind”  and then “But, I’m really doing fine”, etc.  There’s much more to it, but that’s all that I can write in words right now.

I have one more thing to do, though.  When I messed with the compression ratios on the drum sub and master bus, I made the mix breathe better, but somehow reduced the overall power of the kick.  So, damn, well – I’ll see what frequencies of it are hitting, by analysis, and which are not.  I’ll increase some choice freqs and give it power without damaging the mix, or having it pump and breathe.  It’s delicate at this point, cuz the mix is so right, I feel.  It’s the game.  It’s the balancing act.

So, I’m really glad about that mix.  I’m also pretty satisfied with how the new painting is going.  It’s not finished, of course – there are plenty of highlights and shadows and details to add, but, it’s on the way. 24 x 30.  A work in progress that I’ll keep around for whenever I get inspired to tap on it again.

Brad Ormand - Painting 34

The premise came from my moon painting and how the ridges create shadows.  And, also from some clouds in another classic painting I saw recently.  I want to try my hand with that kind of stuff – see how it goes.  I like clouds.  I look at them.  Stare at them.  Marvel in them.  Just, it seems like they’re a challenging thing to try to paint, but really fulfilling if I can get ’em okay.

Brad Ormand Synth OptoCoupler VCA

01.06.2015 – Synth VCA, Job & Songs

J O B

Today, I chased down a software bug at work for about 6 hours.  For real.  Sometimes, it’s like that.  But, yeah – it ended up being because of a leftover overridden function in one of the data models in the client code.  I can’t go into details because it’s work/job stuff, but that function was empty and did nothing and got called, and thus, messed up the whole call stack, but threw no error.  Urrgh!

Haha.  But, I followed the stack trace deep into the libraries – Underscore, Backbone, and Marionette to find what was happening, but it led me to my own code in the end (yeah).  So, it was a roundabout way of getting to the bottom of it, but effective, since it led to the discovery of the override.  I mention it because I feel a good sense of accomplishment from finding and fixing it.  It was a fun journey, looking back on it.  But hours ago, I was starting to get frustrated a bit.  I could see my mind blaming the libraries, and then questioning using them at all, and then mentally commenting on the whole library stack decision, etc.  But now, I don’t really think any of that.  It was just when I was deep in finding the solution.  But, at least I just observed my mind instead of reacting.  And, that’s the lesson I took away from this:  If you just persist through the difficulties, technical or emotional, that come up while doing something that you really want to learn or have a deep desire to be proficient at, there are rewards waiting, and actually, joy at the end of it.

I did a similar thing with the circuit design program Eagle the other day.  I couldn’t find an part that fit my bill, and I had to make my own LBR spec.  I hadn’t done that before.  And, I just got kind of angry that there were no default quick keys for Mac.  There actually are, but they aren’t the standard CMD-modifier keys, instead there are F keys and assignable quick keys.  I was sensitive to that for a moment, overlooking the amazing tool that Eagle is.  Ah, but I quickly overcame the frustration once I learned the steps, and I love Eagle more than ever after having gone through that process.  Haha, I’m noticing that there’s an element of struggle involved to get used to something before you can really appreciate it.  I did the same thing 10 years ago when trying to get CSS down.  I remember massive frustration, especially with IE 6 vs Safari vs FireFox (Chrome hadn’t been invented yet). But, I love every bit of styling stuff up now.

It’s interesting how I was compelled to write about this “failure” and how sometimes I don’t when I achieve a massive success. I guess it’s like the story of when you broke your arm or took a ripper out on the climbing wall.  Ha.  Just, there’s something about going through it that adds something meaningful to life.

S Y N T H

Anyway, there’s the job story of the day.  But, I also made progress with my synth modules in the last few days.  I built an opto-coupled, bipolar-driven voltage controlled amplifier for my VCO.  It’s not the first one I have built, but, it’s the best one so far 😉  I built one for a compressor in about 2002 like this, but it was pretty shoddy and I was still learning.  I’m much better at the layout and design these days.  So, in addition to it being functionally working, it also looks super cool while it’s operating!  By opto-coupler, I mean the input voltage is controlled via a light/LED that gets sensed by a resistor that’s light-sensitive.  I don’t need it to be fast, and I’d rather take the character of the electronics, in fact.  Also, I have it uncovered to show the light now (it’s beautiful), but it’ll be sealed in production.  I have a gain reduction LED tapping off of it for the UI anyway.  The light is bright at -∞ dB, and off at nominal.

Brad Ormand Synth OptoCoupler VCA

I implemented a filter in between, but haven’t finished it.  This is just me picking away at the synth build as I get spare time.  Like I said in a previous post, it’s priority has been suspended until March or so while I work on the lights and the songs.  But, I can see it coming together, and it sounds really great!  Oh, I can’t wait to do something with it!

For the synth UI, I defined a few more attributes as I was going through this process.  Actually, I had a dream about effect circuits and that led me to more ideas.  (A lot of my ideas come from the dreamworld 🙂 ).  For instance, I have a good idea for a modulator/envelope using a similar opto-coupler, but with a big cap charging up for a log delay.  Then, I’m thinking about splitting the output, taking one side to a distortion circuit or similar and then to the inverting input of an op-amp, and the other split to the non-inverting, and let that deal with the mess coming in, trying to balance them.  Then mix it back in.  I imagine it’d be kind of like an inverse distortion or weird levelor if I got the signal levels right.  Those are on the block for experimentation.

S O N G S

For “Kitchen”, I added some sub bass to the chorus to fill it out, and it sounds so good.  I’m leaving it.  The kick and sub work well together, creating a good stiff lock for the chorus, while the verse still has a pretty low and round kick sound to it, a bit louder, and with a bit of a knock on it.  I think the difference is a pretty nice contrast.

And, I also added that octave sub to parts in “Lookin’ For”.  I went a bit crazy and just created a whole new bassline for it to vibe with.  It goes with, but is alternative to, the synth bassline and lead already present.  All of it comes from a regular sine signal generator. Ha.  But, I added some comp and a bit of light fuzz to it.  Anyway, it’s really coming along.  I tested the levels today, and it’s right up there with commercial tracks.  Good balance, “feel-able” sub, and pretty present, as well.  It’s almost ready for packaging 😉 .

For both of the sig gen parts, I had to re-mix after testing because the 100Hz range was overpowering the 40Hz range, so I put a lo-pass shelf in the middle at about 80 and knee-d down until 100 was about 3 dB down, leaving the low sub at the same level after gain compensation.

Brad Ormand - Synth UI

12.29.2014 – UI Art Design & Songs

I had a few ideas, recently that I wanted to draw up as real interfaces.  This one, I wanted to do as an interface for controlling a synth module with your fingers, lighted up, of course to the beat or ambient sound.  I also liked the “bird-ness” of the last one I did – kind of like an eagle or a falcon drawing from New Mexico or the ancient Aztecs.  So, I was kind of in that “vibe” when I drew this.

I drew a place for an LCD or OLED matrix display where you can program the machine to do several things, like assign pads to voices or control timbre or routing.  Now, my synth, the “guts” of it, at least are wAy down the road to being able to do this kind of stuff, but…   Well, now I know what Im going to want it to do. 🙂  So, it’s like that synergy between concept and design, and iterating back and forth, I guess.

Brad Ormand - Synth UI

So, going forward, I’d like to cut this one out, route it, drill it, paint it and try to attach the touch sensors I’m building to it, and then combine my synth module (currently on my biggest breadboard) with it.  So, this will be my first synth integration with pads and digital control.  I have built various synths and compressors and EQs and noisemakers in the past, but they were very “project-style”, not really a presentable product.  They sounded awesome (I think – and my friends thought), but I would stuff a proto board into a plastic cup I found in my kitchen and take it around with me, before.  And, shit like that.  haha.  I want a real product prototype that is presentable and that flows with fascination.  Actually, I want that for me.  But, I hope others will like it as well.  We’ll see how it goes as we go along.

Brad Ormand - Synth UI Creation

And, as for my music….  I went ahead an put some clinical bass into “Looking For” straight from the signal generator!  Pure sine at 58 Hz, and more in different places.  But, I listened back, and well, I think I need a few more harmonics – at least one, an octave above.  I want the chorus on this song to pound with bass, but not be just put in there loudly, willy nilly.  Nah – I’m going to need some of those harmonics.

And, for “Kitchen”, I finally got the kick to be so super tight that I don’t want to touch it anymore.  It’s tight with a subsonic release, too.  I just like it.  I mixed more parts in and out, too.  This one is on deck and pretty much ready.

As for the rest, I think I’ll just continue to take it easy with no deadlines, no pressure, just going out of pure interest and motivation to let them “fall in” where they may.  Each one gets better and better and better.  I can afford to take the time.  I have arranged it that way.  And, plus, it’s going to be better, in my opinion, to get something GrEAt, instead of just putting out songs, just to put out songs.

K that’s it for today.

 

Brad Ormand - JTAG Mapping

11.27.2014 – Thanksgiving

Lots of Thanksgiving-related outings I’m going on.  I have been out of town twice on mini-road trips and have seen a lot of wonderful people in the last few days!  I love the holidays.  I got to eat turkey, play football in the yard with the guys, build camp fires, play pool, engage in deep conversation…  I got to “ride along” on a shoot of a TV commercial.  Hell, I was an assistant camera operator to my brother who was running the thing.  It was fun.  I watched as he’d raise the cam from the floor to reach for the sky on the jig crane thing, at least 12 feet in the air and swoop it around back.  Lots of cool and crazy stuff going on right now.

As far as projects, I’m just kind of getting back into the swing of things…  I did figure out the JTAG pins of the ARM Cortex M4 that I soldered onto that board, recently. I got ARM GCC and the communication software rolling.  Now, it’s just seeing if I can communicate to it (or flash it already) from the Mac.  Once I get signal acquisition from the chip, I mean once I can confirm that it’s all in order and works fine, I’ll flip back over to programming it to test out the FFT on the SSD1306 or some other display since my shit went out before I could produce an animated version of the FFT stuff last week (or so).  It was just a weird (and mysterious) coincidence that I was at the pinnacle of the venerable and illustrious Fourier transform showcase, and….  Hardware Malfunction.  Shit.  Gotta step back and rebuild some stuff before I can move forward.  Anyway… then once that’s wrapped up, I’ll finally get back to the main project – the synth! (Oh, and, I have to launch this Project Log pretty soon, too).  There’s a lot to do, and here we go…

Brad Ormand - JTAG Mapping

Whew!  So, I’m just in a nested function call right now with all of these things going on at once, especially with the holidays.  But, I did my social stuff, got my fill, I encountered and overcame adversity, and now I’m going strong as ever.  Just gotta knock these bits out piece by piece.

Also, after Thanksgiving lunch while on the couch watching the Cowboys with my friends and family, I had a chance to draw a little bit of a better diagram for my Moon Painting “snake”.  It’s that LED square matrix array that I want to be made into a cable that I started a few weeks back.  So, now I’ll be intermittently going over to the “art dept.” when I take breaks from the synth and FFT vector.

Brad Ormand - 4 x 4 LED Matrix Snake, part 2

I realize, again, that there’s really a lot on my plate, as far as the projects I’m into.  But, I actually love it.  In a few weeks, everything will be caught back up and I’ll have a product to demo and a better direction for what all of this means, long-term.  I just have an indication in my mind that I want to produce these projects, and I’m not about to stop now.  I’m biting off more than I have ever bit off before.  Now spending time chewing.  But, if you have done that in real life (bit off too much food for the size of your mouth hole), you know you eventually get it all chopped and swallowed and then you’re free for whatever comes next (or you choke or spit it out, but that’s not going to happen 😉 ).  I kind of have that same feeling today.  But, all while smiling and wanting to get back into it.  whew.  hahaha – But, I’m busy chewing.

Brad Ormand - Synth Diagram

11.17.2014 – Synth & Chips

I like this title, “Synth and Chips”.  Makes me think of a small, dark British pub that serves fish (and chips) that has a few guys up there with Moog’s and TR-808’s and TB-303’s playing night jazz.

But, I mean to say that I started back on the synth circuit and that I’m ordering new ARM chips.  Haha.

Alright, so, all of this investigation into the Fourier Transforms was to add that to my toolbelt to use when designing audio gear.  It’s interesting to me as well, and was great learning.  Plus, I can investigate using it for synthesis sometime in the near future.  But, for now, I’m designing the amp and filters to use in my digitally-controlled analog synth.  The sound generation and signal path will be all analog, but the control voltages and gates and triggers and some effects (opted in or out, blatantly digital, like granulation or sample glitches, and maybe the delay) will be digital.  I drew a diagram (not exactly finished, yet – very preliminary scratch note) while I was waiting for my hamburger, at the deli across the street from work, between my morning and afternoon meeting.  It’s work that has to be done, first.  Still coming up with the concept…

Brad Ormand - Synth Diagram

There’s much to be designed, and I’m making this my official embedded project right now.  The work with the SSD1306, the Fourier work, the work on the Audio Tool, the analog filters work, and the VCO work all converge to contribute to this.  I have that ST7565R display that I’ll put some time in to write a driver for and investigate to see if I want to use that instead, but other than that, I’m pretty much committed to this project until at least the end of the year.

Brad Ormand - Moon Painting Outside

11.03.2014 – Moon Painting, Future Projects & Songs

I went ahead and put those ridges onto the painting with plaster and painted them up.  Also, I applied some granular spray paint with some kind of fiber or rubber or something in it that makes the surface rough.  I left 4mm grooves in the center of each to run the light pipes.  I haven’t put the pipes in yet, but while working on them at the bench, I had a bit of trouble making the light uniform through the light pipe with a one-ended LED (even with a superbright, at max current).  So.. I got sand paper and roughed up the outside of the light pipe and tried that.  There was more light coming through the length of it, and it looks super cool, but it’s too defined – it looks like “light scratches” when illuminated, it doesn’t diffuse it, and it’s non-uniform – looks cool, however…..  nah, I don’t think it’s going to work for this installation.  At this point, I think I’ll just go ahead and cut the pipes into about 4 cm chunks and put LEDs on each end and make a “snake” out of it wrapped in some kind of wax-like paper to get a soft glow, running the wires inside the whole burrito. 🙂

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 12.56.54 AM

IMG_2647

In other news, there are other projects in the pipeline as I move forward.  I have 160 green LEDs on the way for a 16×9 custom display/matrix.  They’re about 3.8mm each and should pack pretty tightly without being overly tiny to handle and solder, through-hole, not SMT.  I’ll arrange them in a little case and try to diffuse them a bit, and light ’em up in different patterns and animations.  It’s in preparation for some other art projects I am thinking about down the line that will require these skills.  I have an initial schematic that I drew up with a few shift registers (already in stock) and I want to get a feel for myself how far I can take it – both from a processor speed/memory perspective and a volts/current perspective.  About 10 to 20 of them will be used for my current Moon Painting, and the rest will go to the 144 that I need for the display.

Also, I have a new display coming in as well.  I have wanted one of these since they surfaced up on the scene.  It’s a chip-on-glass reflective dot matrix LCD.  128×32.  It’s super dope.  It’s the ST7565R (controller name).  (The entire part name is NHD-C12832A1Z-FSW-FBW-3V3, and I’d rather not call it that 😉 ).  It paints grey pixels on a white backlight, and I can’t wait to dig into that, for sure.

As for the SSD1306, I have had some other ideas that I’d like to see implemented.  I’m still in the R&D phase for that.  For instance, I can set up some basic 3D and draw wireframes, I’m sure.  But, I think I’ll probably have to turn down the frame rate or write it in assembly.  Even the 3 sine wave scrolling animation missed frames, and it was visually slow, so I doubt it can handle polygons.  However, as a precursor, I’ll at least make a “star blaster”, like where the stars come at you in 3D.  That’ll be less expensive.  And, I can animate the camera left and right so that the z-axis is offset back and forth.  That might be all I can do, but we’ll see.  And, I still have that box and grid thing I wanna do…

I might go ahead and start on the triangle wave conversion for that VCO while I’m at a good stopping point with the painting and SSD1306.  And, I want to see what kind of adjustable filtering I want to do as well.  I know I want it voltage-controlled as well, but like I said in a previous post, I want to select my values very carefully and put some real time into it. And, maybe I’ll try to digitally control the VCO and VCA while I’m at it.  Might put up a rotary encoder to an ATTiny and have it spit predefined levels out so I can get like a sweep of the notes or some sinusoidal patterns for the low-pass.  I’ll be getting into this world soon enough.

I have a list again for music updates, too.  The “Strike” kick needs some punch – I overdid the sub before.  I want to write a square wave synth solo for “Kitchen” going into the bridge that sounds kind of like a guitar had done it, bluesy/funky.  And, there are little vocal tweaks that I want to do to “Fine” and “Crush”.  Also, “Feeling” could use a bit less synth bass and more kick, <1db, micro change.  And just a few more as I wrap these songs up to go out.

This is how I like things.  Having plenty of projects that I care about, going through each one, making progress, toggling back, growing my toolkit, relaxing, no deadlines, expressing myself.  Multi-discipline, using all areas of the brain, trying to fulfill my potential, but doing so in a gentle, chilled style.  There’s no goal, just seeing what comes out if I follow my interest.  Nothing contrived.  Everything enjoyed.

 

 

BradOrmand.com Design Mock V2

11.02.2014 – Blog, VCO & Digikey

Not much going on today so far.  My current project is working on getting a good design for this WordPress blog going.  Yep, I’m writing all of this before it has gone live (for a month now).  I edited another video to go with the Audio Tool and synth VCO – a demo of how it sounds.  I mean pics just don’t do sound and animation any justice at all 😉  So, gotta break out the limited video editing skill that I have.  Good enough for now.

And, I have a potential design that I did a few months ago for the site, but it’s kind of “out there”.  However, it looks cool, tho, nonetheless.

IMG_2243

I’m tweaking that now.  I’ve used the twentyfourteen theme as a base and cloned it to this “BlueTech” theme (that’s just what I’m calling it right now).  I have done quite a lot with it so far, and have chosen to use elements from this.  It won’t look exactly the same, but I hope to keep the colors, bg, header, and use the “eyeball” as an audio player or image gallery or something.  I don’t know.  I’m modifying the style.css file, making new sidebar.php and page.php’s, etc.  Still working on it…

Also, I’m putting together an order to Jameco and Digikey.  I’m getting in an ARM Cortex-M4 ATSAM4S (D32B), QFP, soon and getting a toolchain lined up.  And, I need some JFETs, 5532s, and some more mylar caps for the synth start-up on my breadboard – and a bunch of other stuff.

 

Brad Ormand - Audio Tool Testing

10.26.2014 – Synth, Audio Tool & Cut Grass

Woke up dreaming about the VCO. I was still wiping my eyes when I was putting the LM5532 on the breadboard to implement it. Then, I took a break to hang with my Dad. He came over with a few lawnmowers that I borrowed to cut my yard with. So, we cut the grass and then got some BBQ. Lots of good conversation, talking about projects and current events and different things. For real – can’t get much better for a Sunday. Plus, the yard looks dope.

IMG_2582

Ok, then I built the VCO. Took me few hours, exchanging values, but I got a solid square wave from 40Hz to over 6k. Fuck yeah… At one time, I had the low freq at about a hertz, just watching the trigger go on and off on the scope… like, that was a cool thing, I guess – but, might be cool for a LFO – I want audible frequencies only, on this aspect, though. And, also, it sacrificed some top end when I configured it that low. I was only able to range it to about 500hz or so at the top, and, number 2, the cap was not holding very long so the “square” was looking more like a deformed saw.

So, anyways – yup – 40 to 6k. Solid Square. I’m happy with that.  And, I got it going right at line level, about 1.7 volts peak max, which is what I wanted to be my specification throughout.  I put some keys up to the volts-in and played with the sound for a while, combining my Audio Tool osc with it – jacking the frequencies up as it crushed through the amp. It was fun. Now, on to figuring out some values for frequencies and shaping the other waves.

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 11.48.27 PM

Brad Ormand - Audio Tool Test

10.25.2014 – Audio Tool & Synth

I wired the connector up to the mic. It worked fine. I think the whole Audio Tool piece is a little bit trashy, actually.. 😉 It’s at least “scrappy” – by it’s look, and it’s operation. It’s a shop tool as far as I’m concerned. However, the stick-on tag look is really growing on me haha. Luvvit.

Brad Ormand - Audio Tool Test

 

Yeah, It has major distortion on it’s output about 3/4 of the way up to it’s gain max.. But, hell – I have been using that, too, musically and for the mic.  I sound like an aircraft pilot through it when it’s all the way up – ha kinda cool.  So oh well. But, it comes in really handy. I have been taking it everywhere to run signals through stuff and also just as an on-desk portable audio amp to test circuit output with. I already see design improvements across the board, but it had to be fully completed for me to acknowledge that, I think.  The major aspect is that I just keep building and building and learning and learning with every invention.

I am really wanting to get my VCO design rolling now that I got the Audio Tool construction out of the way. The SSD1306 dev has taken a back seat after I got it working as a debug display for my code (instead of using LED signaling, etc – dreadful). But, anywayees, for the VCO, I’ll start with a square and just try to get my ranging right. And, then I’ll try to wave shape that into 1 or 2 more usable waveforms. Then, I want to add a few keys up and play a few pitches. Then, I’ll work on a filter and amp for it.

Brad Ormand's Tektronix 2235 Oscilloscope

10.22.2014 – Job, Synth & Mac Pro

I’m split two ways. Haha – between work projects and my own. It has always been that way, I guess. I seemed to have lost a bit of steam in my creativity and enjoyment factor. I have to put the deadline for work first – because it’s my bread and butter (literally), and they count on me to do this in several ways, and I don’t mind doing it.  I like my job. It’s a wonderful project and I’m blessed with the opportunity to do it, but the fear lies in not being able to get it all done in time.  However, I met with some project leads and got a few of my questions clarified, so I feel waaay better – The project is still on track!

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 8.02.20 PM

This morning, I had thoughts of building my synth package up, again. I might refine it to be more of a Frequency Generator with different waveform options as opposed to a musical instrument (yet). I need one for my lab bench anyway. I want to build a prototype digital multi-waveform oscillator machine from scratch to get the reps in – to learn their principles well. I’ll build that, program the UI, make the boards, set the case, and start using it to run clean signals through my analog filter experiments, and, also cuz I wanna use my Tek 2235 2-channel Oscilloscope to measure the input and output of each wave post- and pre- filters.  Tek analog is a beautiful blue-green-juicy candy cane blast to use – more than any other oscar I have worked with – nothing looks cooler lol..

Plus, it would be waaay cooler to have a freqGen that I built personally than to have a store-bought one. I’ll make sure it’s accurate. And then… Based off of what I learn from that experience, seeing it all the way through, touchscreen menus and all, I will build a musical multi-voice synth, and even more synths after that, including a digitally-controlled analog synth – I have mentioned before that that’s what I want to be capable of.
Yet, I can’t dump myself into it now. Gotta get that site for work built first. Enough writing. Here we go 🙂

A few hours later… I have a really cool-looking set of animated panels, in and out that I think will Wow the audience (that work is presenting it to) and gain interest for the product – nice, smooth Quadratic eases and the panels are all functional, as well. Screen size detection for centering elements, a nav to switch states in-page, non-refresh-style. Loving it! It’s coming along. I don’t think I can show the screenshots or video of it since it’s proprietary / under NDA, but you can see my style of web UI from this and my other public sites.

K just ordered the DDR2 FB-DIMM RAM for my Pro Tools Mac Pro from New Egg – after returning the generic DDR2 RAM that I mistakenly purchased the other day. Ugh – glad that’s done. Now… As soon as I get that RAM installed (and it works), I’ll be getting back to those sub and kick parts for “Fine” and “Kitchen”. It’s weird having that system out of service right now. I miss it. 🙂

Brad Ormand Pro Tools Session

10.19.2014 – Songs & Synth

Lots of activity this past weekend regarding projects…  The most notable is the new vocal chop melody I arranged for “Doing Fine”.  It really has impact!  I am really happy with how that song is sounding, and can’t wait to iterate over all of them again.  I keep pressing my own limits and it’s apparent that if I just keep going, I will create the sounds that I have dreamed about.  But, it seems to just come from staying relaxed and following my interest and “letting” myself go – having no deadlines or pressure, but just dropping into the creation of these songs because I like to improve the impact of their delivery – making the speakers talk!

Speaking of “talk”, I said that because it sounded cool (ha) to make a speaker “talk”, but halfway because also I have really been interested lately in formants and vocal box harmonics and how they shift over time and all of that.  One of the books I got in the other day describes some of that.  I had first heard of this topic back when Antares introduced AutoTune.  Glad to get more into it.  I want to synthesize vocal sounds.  I’m no expert right now, but I will implement something to that effect (somehow) in my designs.  It’s just where I’m at, I think – sound-wise.  The vocal chop I did for “Fine” is a testament to that (sounds great to me).  I love that style so much! I want to try synthesizing it, too.

Brad Ormand - SSD1306 Font Set Implementation

10.16.2014 – Set Pixel, Pull Ups & Synth

I had a stomach ache yesterday. Probably from that super hot salsa on those tacos. Lol. Didn’t feel very sharp yesterday. I did write a setPixel function for the display and a blitting mechanism to transfer the back buffer. An optimization might be to allow a certain buffer window to be transferred instead of the whole display refresh, but… That can certainly wait until I get the screen running at a good frame rate, first.

And, I have an old telephone keypad and deciphered it’s matrix routing so I can start using it in the interim as keys to produce sound and input bytes with. It’s a 3×4. It’s another driver to write. Awesome.

IMG_2556
With that and a few optical decoders and analog pots, I think I’ll have all of the input UI I need to control a pretty capable digitally-controlled analog audio synth. Maybe two VCO in’s, two cutoffs, two resonances, two pitch knobs, 2 saw/sine selector, a mode momentary, and 4 pitch/vary buttons… This is just the first time I have thought about it, so.. Here we go. This gets me thinking on the synth design a little. I want to do something different than a plain old keyboard.

In other news, I am thinking of building an outdoor pull up bar. I think I want to use metal water pipe – about an inch thick. Cemented into the ground next to my porch. About 4 feet wide. Nothing fancy, simple, but very sturdy – and, that gets sunlight. I can do about 5 wide-grip pull ups now, and so let’s go for 10, strict. I’ll attach an assist band with a seat on there for beyond-failure reps. Maybe start with a set of 10, assisted, rest, then a set of 5 regular, rest, then another 4 or 5, rest then maybe start 3 sets of 10 assisted. See how that goes and adjust. Training will get me there if I stay in the groove. I’ll make my own mistakes, and adjust to the patterns as I find out better ways… As I do everything else.

Note to self… Put 2 LEDs on an analog or DAC output, one inverted. So that they kind of “toggle” real time with the sound 🙂