Saturday, March 29, 2008

Who wants MIDI in the Flash Player?


Who wants MIDI in the Flash Player?

The challenge:

The Flash Player has evolved through the ages to provide the most needed functionality. Through each version there have always remained a few common goals. What I have found is that:

Flash is small — from the player itself to the swf file format to the assets it is optimized to load, focus has been placed on small file sizes (this of course is not as apparent in many websites that are heavy in multimedia)

Flash supports standards — the player supports many web and multimedia formats standard in the industry, such as jpg, mp3 and xml

Flash is interactive — the players greatest strength is the dynamic behavior through ActionScript to allow user interactivity

MIDI, a music standard format that most computers support today, fits all of these categories (like a glove). In fact there’s an opensource project being developed to allow MIDI through Flash, though it requires an additional download and install to the user apart from the Flash Player itself (seen at

I’d like to take a poll. Do you think MIDI should be included in the Flash Player? Why or why not? I want both votes and opinions as I’ll organize the results and send them off to “Adobe, formerly known as Macromedia”. Please respond with some sort of opinion whether it’s pro or con. I’ll list the pros/cons I can think of below (you don’t have to read the rest of this email if you already have your opinion).

A little more on MIDI:
MIDI is a standard music format (some will argue that it’s the only standard) that represents pitches and instruments to be played as a song. It’s extremely small, being the vector of music, and has to be interpreted by a users soundcard. Almost all computers these days support standard MIDI, though it sounds synthesized (especially on the voice and string instruments). Some soundcards or additional software transform the common MIDI into amazing orchestrations, but most users don’t have this advanced playback.

MIDI pros:
can be generated dynamically and played through a sequencer to allow complete on-the-fly customization of sound.
very small in filesize
supported by almost all soundcards
numerous applications for the creation of MIDI songs (many are free)
it’s a standard that has been around for a long time (so there is a lot of support for it)
a small implementation (wouldn’t increase the Flash Player size by more than 50K)

MIDI cons:
most people will have a more synthesized sound
user experience isn’t guarenteed to be consistant (for those with higher quality soundcards)
as with all advancements, could make it really easy for developers to have annoying sounds playing on their sites ;)

In short, if the Flash Player had a midi sequencer built in it would allow developers to create lightweight interactive music applications, such as this sheet music rendering application or music creation applications. It could also allow users to experience a website that contained sound effects or decent background music at very little bandwidth cost. Macromedia has always been good about listening to the developer community and will surely make efforts to build the features we need, provided we tell them.

In sending this challenge to the Flashcoders mailing list I received a great response. Here I hope to summarize their contributions acurately to their credit. (also see full conversation)
see original publication and more here.

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