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My So-Called Second Life - Part V

SHOUTcast. What is it? From Wiki-pedia: "SHOUTcast is a server for streaming media developed by Nullsoft. It allows digital audio content, primarily inMP3 or HE-AAC format, to be broadcast to and from media player software, enabling hobbyists and professionals to create Internet radio networks. At least one GPL'd compatible streaming system also exists, Icecast.

SHOUTcast is 
cross-platform, and freeware.

OK, in layman's terms, its the software you need to get your audio from your computer to the rest of the Internet. It runs on a website server. It runs on either Linux systems or Windows systems. Its the thing you need to create an Internet radio station, or in this case, the thing you need to create your live concert performance. Let's say you have a webserver like I do for my avatar performer, a dedicated server that can handle the bandwidth, etc. for streaming live audio. I run a Linux box (told you I was a little geeky underneath). In my root folder, I simply dropped the SHOUTcast software folder in there, and followed the instructions to configure it (which were really simple), and told it to stream audio on port 8888. You can choose just about any port number, the software tells you how to do that in the setup information file or config file. Because I put that in my root server, it means that is now a streaming audio URL that I can use to connect my client side (that's the computer in my home I use for the concert) to the server side (the SHOUTcast server). Sounds complicated, but it really isn't. I use that scary program on the Mac called Terminal, which lets me connect to the web server where SHOUTcast lives, and issue a little text command to start the server. The configuration file also lets me dictate at what sample rate I want to webcast, and how many listeners are allowed to be connected at one time, along with a password to secure access to the streaming server. From then on I am ready to connect to it whenever I want from my home computer and start the show. 

Now, you can get around all of that uber-geek stuff completely one of two ways: either you use the streaming SHOUTcast server information that belongs to the virtual world venue you'll be playing in, OR, you can rent access to a SHOUTcast server by the day or month from any number of people in Second Life who have set themselves up as service providers. A monthly SHOUTcast server rented from somebody in SL, that is able to be heard by 100 simultaneous listeners at 128k MP3 quality runs about $14.00 or so a month to rent. Since I play so many concerts in SL and because I have my own dedicated web-server and the geekitude required to manage it, I set up my own. I strongly suggest you don't set up your own SHOUTcast server when you're first getting started with this. Rent one, or use the one the club provides. 

I am on a Mac so my examples are going to be from my platform, but conceptually it works the same way in Windows, only using a different software application. As I mentioned in my other blog posting, Windows users would use WinAmp to stream their live shows over the Internet by adding the SHOUTcast plugin to it and configuring it the same way that I configure the Mac application (which is not free, but a paid product) called Nicecast. 

Nicecast allows me to choose an audio device, or application, and stream the sound from it up to the SHOUTcast server, which then acts as a relay server that allows lots of other people to listen at the same time. You couldn't possibly get more than one other person listening to your webcast from the bandwidth you have from your cable or DSL connection, but a webserver at a hosting company can handle it. So in essence, the Nicecast (or WinAmp with the SHOUTcast plugin) sends the sound up to the SHOUTcast server, which then re-distributes the load and lets lots of people hear at once. In Nicecast, you enter in the address of the "stream" as its called by SL users, which in my personal case is (without the http:// part), but many SHOUTcast servers are just setup for IP addresses, so you'd stick in the IP address. Then you'd enter the Port Number, which I mentioned earlier for my personal SHOUTcast server, is 8888. Then the password for the server is entered, you save it, and that's it for setting up the server.

Next you tell either Nicecast or WinAmp what sound source to send up to the SHOUTcast server. In my case I tell it to send the sound from my Digidesign 002R, then everything I plug into the 002R that comes out of the main outputs is now being sent via the Internet to the SHOUTcast server. Anyone who puts the SHOUTcast server URL (for instance, into iTunes, or WinAmp, or on Second Life, in the Media Settings tab for the land area you are performing in, will be able to hear the sound coming from my 002R. 

Nicecast and WinAmp both make it easy to automatically capture an "archive" of your live performance. Its literally as easy as finding the menu commands in the software, telling it to archive your webcast, and just like that you've made a nice bootleg of your live show. Of course, the sound quality that it archives will be the same settings you stream at, i.e. 128k MP3, so if you're serious about recording the shows vs wanting a simple archive, you're better off splitting out the signal path to a recording setup.

OK, that's enough geek for today. If you have any questions, feel free to fire away.

Posted: 12/3/2008 10:41:28 PM with Comments | Add Comment | Email Link | Permalink
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