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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Flattening A PDF

I downloaded a W-9 pdf file from the IRS (the form you provide to someone you contract to work for so they can let the IRS know how much they have paid you -- and can write it off as a business expense).

Nice, it is set up as a fillable form. So I typed everything in. Now to email the completed form. But, I don't want to send a form that can be edited. What I need to do is "flatten it" so it is no longer an editable form.

After trying the many steps Adobe requires to flatten the pdf, I realized the IRS locks the form so you cannot change it. I guess they want everyone to print the file and mail the form -- this must be to help out its sister organization, the USPS.

After a lot of experimentation and reading, I was ready to quit. Then I thought, "I'll take a screenshot!" Well, that didn't work so well due to screen size restrictions. The, I went to save the completed form and noticed under the Acrobat Edit menu a selection "Take a Snapshot." I tried it and realized it is a VERY simple method of flattening a pdf. Note that I know this works in Acrobat Pro X. Not sure about other versions (but it's worth a try).
  1. With the form open, click Edit > Take a Snapshot.
  2. Swipe the whole document page -- don't include anything outside that page.
  3. Click File > Create > PDF from Clipboard.
  4. Voila! A flattened version.
  5. For a single page, just save this file and email/store it/whatever!
  6. If there are more pages to the form, it's a bit more complicated, but still easier than most methods I read on the web.
  7. Take a snapshot of each page, creating a separate pdf for each page. 
  8. Save all the pdf's, I suggest using their page number as the file name.
  9. File > Create > Combine Files into a Single PDF ...
  10. Open the folder containing the pdf's of the pages.
  11. Drag them into the "Combine Files" window and arrange them in order (if they aren't already arranged).
  12. Save the pdf. It's flattened -- you can email/store it/whatever!
Hope this helps someone(s).


Over the years I have tried many DAWs. I was a user of Cakewalk from the very early days, so I pretty much stuck with it. When things went to the subscription/update system, I was careful not to update unless a new feature made it easier to use. I didn't do much updating.

The Cakewalk Application Language (CAL) was one of the things that I really liked about Cakewalk. It was "somewhat" easy to figure out by looking at how others got CAL to work. Over the years, it was only maintained for backward compatibility. It's a shame it wasn't improved upon and made a bit easier to use without having to take a lot of time to learn it.

Years ago, I tried Reaper. I don't actually remember much more than I tried it. Because of a recent recommendation from a friend that I try Reaper again, I did. Very soon, I saw the tremendous potential of this DAW. As with any new software, there is a learning curve, but there's plenty of help on the web to straighten the learning curve quite a bit.

I've always stayed away from recommending DAW's. The biggest reason for that is that one could write a #1 song using any of the DAW software available today.

I will recommend Reaper for several reasons:
  1. You can download the latest version and try it out for 60 days. After that, it still works, but you're supposed to pay for it to continue use. 
  2. You can install it on as many computers as you wish as long as only one copy is being used at a time. 
  3. You can install it as portable software because the program saves all program files and settings in the install directory. So no more having to chase down files from all over your hard drive just to take a copy of the program and run it on another computer.
  4. It's $60 for personal, non-profit or educational use. If you use it commercially and your gross yearly income is less than $20,000, it's still $60 -- more than $20,000, it's $225. 
  5. There are a ton of actions (similar to running a CAL script in Cakewalk) that are not built into the core program but can make repetitious actions for you. They are NUMEROUS, but you can search them with keywords to find what you want. And they can be mapped to keystokes.
  6. As stated above, YouTube has many good to great videos explaining the basic to the advanced. 
  7. It has a performance meter that lets you know the percentage of CPU use overall and for each track. The program itself doesn't appear to be a CPU hog.
  8. It boots up fast.
  9. Keyboard shortcuts can be set to mirror other DAWs you may have used before.
  10. Once you have some of the basics down, the program just makes sense.
  11. There are Reaper related sites and blogs galore.
The down side for me has been frustration in learning some of the Reaper terminology. What most DAW's refer to as a "clip," Reaper uses the term "item." When I was looking to separate a stereo track into two mono tracks, I discovered that I needed to "Explode" the items on the stereo track. One click from that discovery, the L and R channels appeared on separate mono tracks with both in a folder. "Imploding" will do the opposite action and make two mono tracks a stereo track.

 I'll update this as I learn more.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Helpful PC Tools

Here are some PC tools (some have Mac versions) I find indispensable. I'm sure many of you reading this already know of them. I hope the info is helpful to those who aren't aware of some of them. They are in no particular order:

MediaInfo - displays file information including containers, tags, video, audio and subtitles. Adds an entry on the context menu, so you right click on a file to use it. Or it runs in a window and you can drag-drop files into it. You can export the information to text, html, xml, html and MANY more. I find the Tree View the best for individual files, but you can add whole directories (sub directories included) and choose files from a drop down menu. It's free, but you might want to donate something for the project.

dBpoweramp - if you're often in need of  changing an audio file from one type to another, this is the Swiss Army knife for that. Select a file or files, right click and select convert, select the file type, and you get a quick conversion (uses multi-cores). There are lots of codecs available on this site for use with this utility.

Everything - this replaces Windows' slow and ever-running in the background search. It is fast! When you add a file, it appears in the Everything window immediately. It can be set up to live in the notifications area of the task bar. There are all sorts of search possibilities. It has a portable version. This is one you'll want to support with a donation. What a time saver!

Bulk Rename Utility - "BRU" is another Swiss Army knife utility that is a file re-namer on steroids. I don't use this often, but when I need to, it is a huge time saver. Did you misspell a file name that is replicated like filenam000 - filenam999 (1,000 files)? Where is the %$@# E in filenam on all 1,000 files?!!! Using BRU, you go to the file directory, select all of the files to be renamed, select the BRU Add section, click insert, enter the alphanumeric(s) you want to insert and the position you want them entered. And you don't have to guess what's going to happen if you make the change -- the New Name column updates as you set up the changes you want. You can change file dates, add a folder name to the file names, replace alphanumerics with other alphanumerics (this is another way you could add the "e" to "filenam" -- search for "filenam" and replace it with "filename"). Copy/Move files, change file attributes, timestamps, and ... enough said -- check it out. Free for personal use, but a donation is appreciated.

Cathy Disk Cataloging Tool - got a lot of data CD/DVD's? Do they have cryptic notes as to what is on them? Do you wish you had a catalog of all the files on all your data disks? Well, this tool is the one for you! You run Cathy, put a CD/DVD in the drive, and it catalogs the files. It's fast and just does the job. Keep on putting the data media in and the catalog grows to include them, too. It's free.

VLC - plays most any video/audio file. General MIDI files, too.

Media Player Classic - plays many media files. There's an announcement that the latest version may be the last one.

OK -- how about adding your favorite utilities to this list. Just comment them in.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sorry About Going Dark!

When I first started this blog, I had a lot of things I wanted to share with anyone who had an interest in the subject matter. My health "experience" of the past three years surely put a damper on a lot of those plans. Of course, dying would have made the plans impossible! :-) So I'm thankful for the "experience." I'm in a position of getting somewhat good health news from time to time, which gives me periods of vacation from any heavy healthcare. I'm making the most of these times.

There are a lot of songs I've written along the line that I've intended to arrange and record "later." Well "later" is here, so I spend a lot of time doing that.

I'm also going to give some of the instruments and outboard gear I've stored for years a new home by auctioning them off. This includes one of the what I could call "Doom" guitars that I used to come up with music for many of the game projects I worked on. It's a red Gibson ES-330 that's had the pickups raised a bit (reversible). I bought it to celebrate not losing any fingers while in the Army. That was shortly after I returned from overseas. I bought it from George Luther at Rhythm City in Atlanta. It was my first of many purchases from him. George started the music superstore as you may know it today. If you have the time, watch George recall his and Rhythm City's experience in a NAMM 2008 Oral History (video).

George started Rhythm City in 1961 with money he and his wife had saved for years. He bought all of his merchandise with cash and never borrowed money from a bank. He would beat anyone's price to get a sale. Other music merchandisers didn't like his competition, but they had to respect his success.

Sorry about going off on this, but I always loved to deal with George. When I lived in Florida in the late 90's, I was in a Sarasota mall, and well ahead of me, I saw George from behind. I caught up with him and discovered that he had retired after selling Rhythm City to Guitar Center. Reading about the sale later, suppliers and competitors praised the "shrewd move" by Guitar Center Management, and one supplier noted Guitar Center got an immediate presence in Atlanta and "[took] out a major competitor." I had to laugh out loud when I read the last part of that statement!

I'll put up another post with more about the auction, including the reason, recent photos, the serial number and such.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Boss Sounds In Duke Nukem 3D

Face Off wrote and asked the following question:
"Hi Bobby.I have a quick question about Duke Nukem 3D. In fact it's a question I've been wondering about for years: the sounds/growls of the Battlelord and Octabrain, where did you source those sounds from? Were they from real animals??"
One of the good things about finding the old 90's data CD's was that I can give you a more definitive answer to this question than my memory would serve.

These sounds were produced at a very hectic time in the production cycle -- between the release of the shareware version and the full version.

According to Wikipedia:
"The shareware version of the game was originally released on January 29, 1996, while the full version was released on April 19, 1996 as version 1.3d." Duke Nukem 3D - Wikipedia
I received artwork of two bosses (BOSS2.pcx and BOSS3.pcx) on around March 12, 1996. And I do mean "artwork," not animation:


This explains my text to Greg Malone, the project director, when I sent potential effects to him on March 19, 1996. By the time I sent these effects, I had sent thousands of sound files. As with almost all of the projects I have worked on, the earliest potential sound effects I sent were usually the ones that were used, even though I may have sent scores of possibilities after the first one.

Note that "time and sleepiness" mentioned below probably helped me in thinking that this was written in 1995 instead of the actual year, 1996.

March 19, 1995
Hey again! 
Here are some more sfx.  It is difficult to know exactly what route to
take regarding the death sounds without seeing how the bosses die --
but, I tried to hit a happy medium on it. 
As usual, many of these sounds are fairly interchangable, so please
don't let my file names mislead you.  A roam sound may be what you
consider perfect for an attack sound, an attack sound for a pain sound,
etc.  Also, some of these may work for an earlier alien/critter if there
is still some lack there.  I guess plugging things into the game will be
the ultimate test. 
Also, I included a few walking sounds for Boss 3 -- don't know if you
planned on that or not.  I would think that the walking sound _could_
take the place of the roaming sound.  If Boss 3 is the only critter to
have a walking sound, it would set him apart and people would definitely
know that he is coming for them.  I know that the programming aspect
might be the problem with this idea. 
Files included here:
Boss 2 attacks -
B2ATK01  WAV        11,688  03-19-96 11:48p b2atk01.WAV
B2ATK02  WAV        17,494  03-19-96 11:48p b2atk02.WAV
B2ATK03  WAV         8,982  03-19-96 11:48p b2atk03.WAV
B2ATK04  WAV        16,376  03-19-96 11:48p b2atk04.WAV
B2ATK05  WAV        18,018  03-19-96 11:48p b2atk05.WAV
Boss 2 deaths -
B2DIE01  WAV        18,464  03-19-96 11:48p b2die01.WAV
B2DIE02  WAV        27,158  03-19-96 11:49p b2die02.WAV
B2DIE03  WAV        44,828  03-19-96 11:49p b2die03.WAV
Boss 2 pain -
B2PAIN01 WAV        14,132  03-19-96 11:49p b2pain01.WAV
B2PAIN02 WAV         9,732  03-19-96 11:49p b2pain02.WAV
B2PAIN03 WAV        11,950  03-19-96 11:49p b2pain03.WAV
B2PAIN04 WAV         6,182  03-19-96 11:49p b2pain04.WAV
Boss 2 recognize -
B2REC01  WAV        14,576  03-19-96 11:49p b2rec01.WAV
B2REC02  WAV        17,546  03-19-96 11:49p b2rec02.WAV
B2REC03  WAV        18,342  03-19-96 11:49p b2rec03.WAV
B2REC04  WAV        10,656  03-19-96 11:49p b2rec04.WAV
B2REC05  WAV        12,010  03-19-96 11:49p b2rec05.WAV
B2REC06  WAV         6,844  03-19-96 11:49p b2rec06.WAV
Boss 2 roam -
B2ROAM01 WAV        16,850  03-19-96 11:49p b2roam01.WAV
B2ROAM02 WAV        18,248  03-19-96 11:49p b2roam02.WAV
B2ROAM03 WAV        11,698  03-19-96 11:49p b2roam03.WAV
B2ROAM04 WAV        12,698  03-19-96 11:49p b2roam04.WAV
Boss 3 attack -
B3ATK01  WAV        26,882  03-19-96 11:49p b3atk01.WAV
B3ATK03  WAV        17,990  03-19-96 11:49p b3atk03.WAV
Boss 3 death -
B3DIE01  WAV        13,160  03-19-96 11:49p b3die01.WAV
B3DIE02  WAV        32,200  03-19-96 11:49p b3die02.WAV
B3DIE03  WAV        24,104  03-19-96 11:49p b3die03.WAV
B3DIE04  WAV        14,308  03-19-96 11:49p b3die04.WAV
Boss 3 pain -
B3PAIN01 WAV        12,214  03-19-96 11:50p b3pain01.WAV
B3PAIN02 WAV        11,078  03-19-96 11:50p b3pain02.WAV
B3PAIN03 WAV        12,564  03-19-96 11:50p b3pain03.WAV
B3PAIN04 WAV        21,630  03-19-96 11:50p b3pain04.WAV
B3PAIN05 WAV        30,306  03-19-96 11:50p b3pain05.WAV
B3PAIN06 WAV        16,094  03-19-96 11:50p b3pain06.WAV
Boss 3 recognize -
B3REC01  WAV        11,506  03-19-96 11:50p b3rec01.WAV
B3REC02  WAV        18,874  03-19-96 11:50p b3rec02.WAV
B3REC03  WAV        15,482  03-19-96 11:50p b3rec03.WAV
B3REC04  WAV        22,962  03-19-96 11:50p b3rec04.WAV
B3REC05  WAV        12,190  03-19-96 11:50p b3rec05.WAV
B3REC06  WAV        19,264  03-19-96 11:50p b3rec06.WAV
B3REC07  WAV        22,314  03-19-96 11:50p b3rec07.WAV
Boss 3 roam -
B3ROAM01 WAV        22,972  03-19-96 11:50p b3roam01.WAV
B3ROAM02 WAV        29,016  03-19-96 11:50p b3roam02.WAV
B3ROAM03 WAV        21,658  03-19-96 11:50p b3roam03.WAV
Boss 3 walk -
B3WALK01 WAV        14,664  03-19-96 11:50p b3walk01.WAV
B3WALK02 WAV        14,692  03-19-96 11:50p b3walk02.WAV
B3WALK03 WAV        10,334  03-19-96 11:51p b3walk03.WAV 
I will try to do something with the music -- time and sleepiness may
take their toll there.  Wish that George had made these problems known
earlier when there was plenty of time. 
For those of you who were not working/playing on a computer in the DOS days, you should be aware that file names in DOS could be a maximum of 8 characters, followed by a dot, followed by 3 characters. Thus the sometimes cryptic file names. The REC files are "the boss recognizes me" sounds. ROAM are the sounds made when the boss is roaming and "thinking to himself."

As for the sounds used, many were animal sounds. I used a lot of animal growls, grunts, screams, hisses and such. For BOSS3, I added mechanical/metallic sounds for his walk.

As I've mentioned in at least one other post, I record sounds whenever I travel (or hear some local, usable sound). I've been to quite a few zoos, several rain forests and other places where I might luck up on some really usable sounds. Of course, I've made use of sound effect CD's too.

A lot of the mechanical sounds I used in Duke 3D were recorded at Apogee headquarters. The coke machine: coin servo, drink supply mechanism, coins dropping in the change slot, hum of the refrigeration unit, etc. The copier cycling. The urinal flushing. The general "buzz" of multiple conversations at one time. The sky was the limit.

In recent years, I have saved the multitrack audio software files and all of the tracks' raw effects, settings, audio effects, etc. so I know how I came up with the sounds.

For Duke 3D, in those megabyte hard drive days, I would not have had disk space to store all of the raw effects I used, especially given the number of final effects that were required. Besides the effects, I also edited all of the voice over files, and there were many hundred's of those since the final voice overs were not chosen until the edited ones were completed. Add to that the rush of having to complete sound effects "yesterday," there was really no time to think about keeping track of anything more than getting things done.

I'm not trying to gain any sympathy here. My wording is an attempt to show the time pressure toward the end of the project.

It's too bad that Blogger doesn't give audio in a blog the same respect as video. It would be nice just to have an audio widget built in. Note that these are mono files, so on SoundCloud they will play on the left only. The link provided is private to keep it from cluttering up the song files up there.

Hear them here: SoundCloud

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Dark Ages of PC Games

Even for one who remember the early days of PC gaming, it's an eye opener to find documentation of what was actually happening. I recently found an old CD that contains some correspondence about my work on some of the earlier games. This was not really the Dark Ages. I remember saying it was the equivalent of Hollywood in the silent movie era, and the first "talkies" were just beginning to come out.

Here's what I think is the first letter I wrote to Scott Miller of Apogee software on April 25, 1991. My comments upon reading this for the first time in 26 years are in brackets [FWIW].

Mr. Scott Miller, President
Apogee Software Productions
April 25, 1991

Dear Scott,

I appreciate your letter and the chance to work with you and 
your  family  of software authors.  I promise that  I  will  work 
diligently  to  compose and arrange music you will  be  proud  to 
include  in  your  software.  I have to  apologize  for  not  yet 
including the tape I promised.  It will follow as soon as I  have 
received  the  latest version of Sputter, the program  that  will 
allow  me  to translate my 16 bit samples to 8  bit  SoundBlaster 
samples.    That   should   be  only  a   short   time   in   the 

[I looked for information regarding Sputter and it has more recently been the name of some software to "accelerate BitComet downloads." Yes, this was the DOS computer days where a PC would greet you with a "C:\" followed by a flashing prompt. I well remember the computer BBS's (Bulletin Board Services) filled with questions like "What good is a PC? All I get is a "C:\" on the screen -- and when I type anything, it doesn't understand" or words to that effect. These were very confusing times for those who bought the early PC's and had never owned a computer. By this time, I had owned a "Trash 80" -- TRS-80 and had built a TRS-80 clone (it even had a color monitor way back then)!]

[So, the operating system had no included software for editing audio, and Sputter was the answer to that. I have no memory of actually using Sputter.]

Since  I  last  spoke with you, I have  come  by  some  good 
software  and  instrument  sounds.   To me,  the  sounds  of  the 
instruments  playing  the  music is as  important  as  the  music 
itself.  I think that the music on Dark Ages is commendable,  and 
for  the  most  part, the choice of  instruments  was  excellent.  
Anyway, I got one file that contains over 900 instrument  sounds, 
most of which are garbage, but the task is to find the good ones.  
I have written a little program to audit the sounds, but it  will 
take a while yet to get through all of them.

[Dark Ages was the first "shareware" game to have AdLib sound card music. The AdLib was an FM synthesizer. It did not play digital audio, so any sound effects used in a game had to use the FM synthesizer. You can read about Dark Ages here: Dark Ages (Wikipedia)]

[Some of the FM instrument sounds I found (called "patches" back then) were very good, and were credited to a person with a username at one of the nationwide BBS's -- Prodigy or CompuServe. I messaged him so I could send him some money for his work. I never heard back from him, or his username was no longer recognized. I never found him. Remember, there was no internet search engines back then.]

[The program I wrote was in the BASIC language. I don't remember writing it. I do remember it played a melody and maybe some high and low end pitches for each new patch.]

I  have  received  the  Software  Development  Kit  for  the 
SoundBlaster, and it has helped some.  It mentioned a  Composer's 
Utility  (not included), which has not been advertised as  it  is 
new.   I  called  Creative  Labs and lucked  upon  talking  to  a 
salesman who is sending me those programs free (he says I will be 
the  only  one  to  have them  outside  of  Creative  Labs).   He 
expressed interest in Commander Keen and Dark Ages, so I sent him 
a  copy of the Shareware Versions.  I have tried to impress  upon 
Creative  Labs  the importance of helping us  get  good  sounding 
games out so they will sell more cards.

[I have very little recollection of this except to say I remember trying to get both AdLib and Creative Labs more interested in games that would greatly increase sound card use and sales.]

I am including a list of the phone calls I have charged  to 
your  number thus far.  I apologize for several very short  calls 
where my computer failed to link up with another.  The calls have 
been well worth the cost, especially the ones to VGER BBS,  which 
specializes  in AdLib and SoundBlaster software.  All but one  of 
the successful connections was made when I charged the call to my 
number (for some reason the operator assisted calls were a poorer 

[What's an "operator assisted call?" Ha! These were still the Dark Ages for telephones. They were all wired. Many people still had rotary dials. I didn't -- touch tone dial was "the way to go" for speedster dialers like me! "Operator Assisted" meant that I actually talked to a person at the phone company (usually a lady) who made a long distance connection for me. Long distance call costs were based on time and distance, and they were not cheap, even for back then.]

Also  enclosed are invoices for purchases made thus far  out 
of  the  $400 you sent.  I have an AdLib card on  order,  and  it 
should be here very soon.

[One of the reasons I believed Scott Miller was the real deal: he put his money where his mouth was. He sent $400 for me to purchase what I needed to get started with sound cards. I already owned some high end synths and samplers, but they did little good to produce AdLib and Sound Blaster ready music.]

[About this same time, I spoke with someone at AdLib and was told they were going to be in Atlanta for the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) convention in a few weeks. I went to that convention where AdLib had a booth. Surprisingly, they were not very interested in music for games. I never understood that. Evidently, AdLib felt that the sound card was going to sell well to Broadcasters?]

In the meantime, I am spending time learning the  instrument 
sounds  and  how  they may be used as sound effects  as  well  as 
musical  instruments.   I downloaded a program that  will  change 
Standard MIDI files to Creative Music Files and AdLib files.   It 
is  relatively  primitive,  but at least I  can  get  started  at 
hearing  what things will be like on the SB/AdLib.  I  have  also 
ordered a copy of a sequencer package that supposedly will  allow 
me to compose directly on the SB/AdLib.  Also, it is supposed  to 
allow  me to edit the instrument sounds -- we shall see, as  what 
is advertised is not always what works.

[I don't remember the name of the program that translates MIDI files to Creative/AdLib files, but I do remember the name of the "sequencer package" -- it was Sequencer Plus Gold, and it was everything they advertised it to be.]

I tried Dark Ages on my 10MHz XT, and it works just as  good 
as it does on the 386 25MHz.  Maybe your ad for it should specify 
a fast machine rather than a particular type of CPU?

[I still have the bill for that XT PC clone. I bought the thing at Rhythm City in Atlanta from the owner, George Luther. At the same time, I bought Texture -- a pattern based sequencer. Some time after that, I bought Cakewalk 1.0. All of this was before I had started working on game music. And, WOW, a 10 MHz XT! Can you say "FAST!" And then a 386 25MHz! Can you say "BLAZING?"]

I have yet to show Commander Keen to anyone that they  don't 
sit down and get lost playing it -- it is a real winner.  I  look 
forward to working on the music for the sequel trilogy.

[As I've said before, just a week or so before I was first contacted by Scott Miller, I had downloaded the first "Commander Keen" trilogy (using the Prodigy BBS). Like others who had done the same, I was very impressed with the game. When Scott messaged me on Prodigy, I had no idea he had anything to do with Keen. He somehow picked me out of 50 or so people that responded to his post about needing someone to write music for games. In our first call, he mentioned that he marketed Commander Keen. That was all I needed to hear to accept his offer.]

The W-9 is enclosed as requested.

[Let's don't forget TAXES!]

I  will  keep you posted on things as they progress.   I  am 
working  on your theme, but I haven't found the right  instrument 
sounds  yet.  I am enclosing a 360k disk with Color My  World  by 
Chicago  on it.  It is my first attempt at putting something  out 
through  the  SoundBlaster.   I chose it as  I  found  instrument 
sounds  that  reminded me of the song.  Just type "PLAY"  and  it 
should run, as the driver and program are included.

[I don't remember doing this. But how about the massive storage on a 360k floppy! I don't have the "Color My World" sequence or the patches I used for the sequence.]

Talk with you soon, and until then take care.


Telephone Calls Charged to Apogee Software Productions

Date - Time - Called - Reason

04/17/91 - 10:30 PM EDST - VGER BBS (California) - D/L files
Several attempts
Charged successful call to my number

04/17/91 - 11:30 PM EDST - SB BBS (SoundBlaster-California) - D/L files

04/18/91 - 07:30 PM EDST - MicroMusic BBS (Atlanta) - D/L files
Several attempts, no success

04/18/91 - 09:00 PM EDST - MicroMusic BBS - D/L files
45 minutes

04/19/91 - 09:40 PM EDST - VGER BBS D/L files
Unsuccessful attempts

04/20/91 - 07:47 PM EDST - VGER BBS - D/L files
32 minutes, charged to my number

04/21/91 - 12:30 PM EDST - Creative Tech Support
 Told to call back next day

Several  calls  made to Creative Labs 800 order line and transferred  to  Tech 
support, so no charges for these.

[See the notation "45 minutes" to download a file. Today you'd say, "How many gig?" Back then you would have said "Gosh, that had to be a huge file, even at 2400 baud!" Greatly simplifying it, the dial-up modem was receiving 600 bytes per second. 45 minutes is 2700 seconds. So the file must have been roughly 1.6 MEGABYTES -- a truly huge file for that time in history! Now, even at "slow" cable speeds, you'd get this file in seconds. Aren't we lucky to live in these times?]

[How does one get into writing music for video games? For me it was being prepared when LUCK STRUCK.]

Friday, November 11, 2016

Programs I Used When Composing On OPL FM Synth Soundcards

Jason wrote with the following inquiry:
There is a community dedicated to composing on OPL soundcards and we were wondering about your Doom and in general DOS music compositions. First, what program you composed with and are the FM patches available. I imagine they were GM patch banks defaulted by the midi composition, but some folks were asking.
In the early days of the OPL soundcards, the "gold standard" sequencing software was Sequencer Plus Gold ("SPG") by Voyetra. The reason for this was it had an OPL instrument/instrument bank editor. It is still available as an "as is" download. It will run in DOSBOX though getting it to interface to MIDI devices is something I've never had time to work on. I've used it to save a few native SPG files as General MIDI files.

Here's a post I put up back in 2013 that should help you some: Voyetra Sequencer Plus Visited Again

To rough out compositions, I used Cakewalk ("CW"). I had been using it for several years already and had it all set up to use the analog boxes for sound output. Having "real" sounds from those boxes helped me visualize (audiolize?) what I wanted musically. I would save the CW files in *.mid format and load them into SPG to create the OPL instrument for each track. I built different instrument banks for the different genres of music.

As I said in the post linked above, I have no idea what I did with the CW and SPG native and *.mid files I created. I also have no idea about the instrument bank files. They may be on some old magneto optical disks, ZIP disks or floppies, and "one of these days" I may get the time to go through those.

This information may help, too. It looks like it could possibly be used to recreate the instrument files by reading the data flow to the virtual OPL FM synth in DOSBOX: Blog post on DOSBOX-VST

I haven't had time to check any of this out myself.

The early 1990's files I created were not GM files and did not use GM patches. The *.mid files that were generated later was me taking the original non-GM files and choosing GM instruments to replace the OPL instruments. Sometimes it was a bit shocking to me how close the instruments I had created for OPL play sounded like the similar GM patches. While the GM 1.0 standard came out in 1991, it really had no used for me in the video game music until years later.

If there are any specific questions that you may have, feel free to comment on this post and I'll try to answer them.