Content-Driven Audio

Content-Driven Audio

Adaptive audio becomes really interesting when the audio gets behind the wheel and drives the playback environment to behave and/or change in a particular manner. This is commonly referred to as content-driven audio. DirectMusic's sequencer provides notifications that can be used to manipulate the playback environment, allowing for the interesting possibility of music driving gameplay rather than the opposite. For instance, a monster around the corner could wait to jump out at you until an appropriate moment in the score. Content-driven audio is a particularly unexplored area of DirectMusic, one that could be put to some interesting uses.

Playback Standardization

DirectMusic can play wave files. The great thing about wave files is that they can be CD quality, and (speaker quality not withstanding) they sound the same when played back on any computer. The problem with wave files is that they are big when compared to MIDI files, and they often limit adaptability and variation. A partial solution is to create a custom sample bank that is distributed with the MIDI sequence data in your DirectMusic file. While in most cases you are still forced to use minimal file sizes (restricting quality), you don't have to worry about different listeners hearing your sequenced music through different synthesizers/samplers; you've given them the sample bank that you created as part of the DirectMusic file. Before this standardization took place, you could listen to a MIDI file of Beethoven's Fifth through your SoundBlaster, while we listened to it through the sample set on our Turtle Beach sound card. The result: We both would have heard very different renditions. This is an audio producer's nightmare, since you have no control over the instruments on which your sequence plays. Luckily, this is no longer a problem, thanks to DLS-2.

DLS-2 (the Downloadable Sounds format, level 2) is a sound format used for creating and storing samples, much like the popular Akai sample format. DirectMusic can use DLS-2 samples. The great thing about DLS-2 support in DirectMusic is that audio producers can create their own custom sample bank and include it as part of the DirectMusic file. This means that no matter who plays the DirectMusic file, they will hear the same sounds that everyone else does (as opposed to relying on their sound card or soft synth rendering the sequence data). DLS also specifies basic synthesis abilities — specification of which waves comprise an Instrument and how to modify the source wave data according to MIDI parameters like pitch bend, modulation, and so on. DirectMusic, or more specifically the Microsoft Software Synthesizer that DirectMusic uses, supports DLS-2, which adds numerous additional features, including six stage envelopes for volume and pitch, two low-frequency oscillators, and MIDI-controllable filtering per voice. When using DirectMusic, these sample-based Instruments are stored in DLS Collections, which can be self-contained files (generally using the .dls file extension) or embedded directly within pieces of music, similar to traditional MOD files and the newer .rmid extension to standard MIDI files, where sampled Instruments can be embedded within the same file as the note information.

3D Spatialized Audio

Our world is one of three dimensions. Most audio that you've heard played over the radio or television exists in one or two dimensions. Even surround sound lacks a vertical component (sound coming from above or below). Audio engineers have developed a technique that synthesizes the way we hear sound in 3D space. DirectX Audio has this functionality. This means that a sound can be mixed in space not only to sound closer, farther away, or to the left or right but also from above, below, and even behind us, all using just two speakers! We do not go into detail here on how or why DX Audio is able to do this. Just know that you have the ability to mix sound in 3D using DirectX Audio.