A guide to Winamp visualisations

The visualisation plugin features of Winamp (http://www.winamp.com) allow you to watch real time graphics that respond to your music as it plays. It's not quite a video clip, but with some of the more advanced plugins, it's not far from it. If you're not sure what these visualisations look like, fire up Winamp and hit Control-Shift-K to see for yourself (Figure 1).


The most popular visualisation plugin is called AVS (Advanced Visualisation Studio), and it comes included with the full Winamp download. If AVS isn't your default visualisation plugin, then you can select it from the plugin preferences by hitting Control-P from within Winamp (Figure 2). AVS comes complete with dozens of presets that you can select from a list by right-clicking the AVS window. Alternatively, you can leave it to randomly move through the presets as the music plays. If you left-click the AVS window, however, you can bring up the AVS preferences and change the way it behaves. The first thing you might want to do is to get rid of all the text messages that pop up over the AVS graphics. To do this, select display from the settings menu, and then check the two boxes that are marked "suppress status text" and "suppress title text"
(Figure 3). If you select Presets/Hotkeys from the settings menu, you can change the duration between preset transitions as well as specifying hotkeys for any preset. The hotkeys feature is one of the best kept secrets of AVS, for with this you can beat match your graphics for some fun interactive mixing! If you find a preset you like, you can assign it to a hotkey by pressing the Control key and any of the numeric or F keys. You can then use the same key to trigger the preset at any time. Other hotkeys include R, which toggles random selection, and space bar, which will randomly select a preset. Next, you can go to the transitions page from the settings menu and select some preferred transition options such as transition duration and the option to preload.If you want to delve a little deeper into AVS, you can start building your own presets. To do this, left click the AVS window to open the AVS editor window. From here you can use the preset menu to add, remove and manipulate image generators and effects. This can be a little confusing at first, and a lot of the options involve mathematical formulas, but if you explore existing presets you will quickly get the hang of it. Besides, a lot of it is really trial and error and random experimentation, although you do get a feel for what sorts of things do and don't work after a short while. To get started, load up an existing preset and see what it entails. Figure 4 shows the settings for the "Space Trippin" preset. As you can see it involves four Render components and six Transition components.

To get a feel for how these components work, click the "Trans / Roto Blitter" line and click the checkbox next to "Enable on-beat change". Continue by modifying the other components and if you like the result, you can save the new configuration from the preset menu. If you open up a few presets you will discover that often the most interesting and complex graphics result from very simple combinations.

Other Visualisation Plugins

AVS may be the most popular, but there are some other plugins available that are equally as spectacular and some, such as Arkaos VMP (http://www.arkaos.net/), enable you to create entire interactive video clips from a variety of source materials, including video files, with real time effects. For a complete list of visualisation plugins available for Winamp, check: http://classic.winamp.com/plugins/.

Got a digital audio question? Ask HelpScreen.

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Daniel Potts

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