About the Fel Petai Website
Website address - www.cymrupop.com/archive/sgrechian
The Internet offers the format of several media, similar yet different to many, such as magazines or television. The Internet's similarity to magazines is that its pages can carry both text and graphics, in full colour and are of benefit to music promoters in that any promotional site can incorporate the colours of the product's artwork (in this case, black and white text against a red background).
Unlike magazines though, the Internet offers additional media that can further promote the product, eg sound clips and even video clips, in much the same way as television, or a promotional video. Unlike television though, the Internet allows users to choose what they view and in which order, being in a non-linear format, with all sections related, yet totally independent of each other. In this respect, the Internet can be said to be a blend of magazine and television media, with the user in control.
Sgrechian EP is unique in that it is the first Welsh-language recording to appear on the Internet in its entirety, including sleeve artwork and complete tracks.
You will need to download a RealPlayer to hear the tracks, and if you do not already have a RealPlayer, you will probably need to close down your Web browser to install it into your hard drive. The main page of the site features an image map of the sleeve artwork (see image on the right). This acts as the main Contents page. By passing your mouse over parts of the image, the titles of the subsequent pages will appear in the bar on the bottom left side of the browser (eg "EP tracklisting", "EP credits" etc) and these can be accessed by clicking on the corresponding parts of the artwork.
Most links on the image map will open the following page in a separate window, which allows the site to be viewed in two ways
By using the image map on the main page, viewing the following page, then closing the window, returning the browser to the main page.
The image map is provided on each text page, which allows each window to be left open, allowing the user to view all text pages conveniently without the time wastage of using the browser's Back and Forward facility.
The text was designed using HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language), which links all the documents together as well as arranging the text according to size, colour and position on the page in relation to other elements (such as graphics, forms, tables etc).
The graphics were added by scanning the artwork and photograph, which translated the data into a language which could be understood by computers - in this case GIF and JPEG files, which can both be manipulated in graphic processing programs such as Photoshop or PaintShop Pro.These programs can tidy up fuzzy images or correct mistakes which occurred at the scanning stage, or even as far back as the printing/publishing stage, allowing the images on the website to be of a superior quality to those on the original sleeve.
The main problem with including music on a website is the sheer size of soundfiles created through Digital Signal Processing. For example, a 1-minute Mac-based .aiff (Audio Interface File Format) soundfile sampled at 44.1kHz in 16-bit stereo consumes around 10.1 Megabytes of disk space (see table below).
Table 1: Relative sizes of digitally recorded 1-minute audio clips
For this reason, my intention was to include short, 10-second excerpts of each track on the website, mainly due to a limited amount of web space dedicated to the site, but also to allow quicker download times at the user end.
My intention was to embed the soundfiles within the web pages by using HTML coding, allowing users to hear the desired track by clicking on appropriate buttons. This would have been possible due to Netscape's internal default plug-in, Live Audio, which reads soundfiles from within web pages. Unfortunately, I would have to have provided two versions of each soundfile - one in .wav format (that can only be read by Windows-based Pcs) and one in .aiff format (which can only be read by Mac platforms). This would have doubled the amount of web space needed for the soundclips, and would have further added to the delay in downloading the pages when accessed by the user.
The inclusion of soundfiles in .aiff and .wav formats resulted in the website becoming far too ponderous, making the pages impossible to load successfully, especially during the busiest time of the day, when web traffic slowed download times to only a couple of hundred bits per second.
The other alternative was to use bitstreaming technology, a method of making audio, video and multimedia available in real time, with no download wait. The RealSystem is a system devised by the Real company to shrink audio files into manageable sizes through advanced filesize compression. The resulting files are incredibly small compared to the originals, without major degredation of sound quality.
Real technology is used by many leading companies on the Internet to include audio and video on their websites. Future Sound of London and Orbital are among the many artists who offer Internet-exclusive tracks for download into RealPlayers, while Virgin recently previewed Massive Attack's forthcoming album exclusively on the Internet using RealAudio technology. The three main elements of the RealSystem are
The main problem with using this system is that a RealPlayer is required by anyone who wants to hear the tracks on the Sgrechian website, and searching for and downloading plug- ins is often a labourious and lengthy process. For convenience I have placed a link from the homepage directly to the RealPlayer download page. Once the RealPlayer has been installed into the user's hard drive, the audio files can be stored in the player's accompanying folder, allowing the user to hear the tracks at a future date the need to return to the website. This is a new form of music delivery and storage, meaning that tracks can be distributed anywhere around the world without the need for shipping CDs or cassettes which is often costly. Since the website is only for promotional purposes and not yet a commercial venture, it is important that the tracks are not in CD-quality stereo audio, but rather in a slightly less audio quality,as a taster of a band's sound, perhaps encouraging people to buy the band's products in future. Who will buy a product if they can download it in CD quality for free?
The audio tracks for the website were recorded from the master DAT (any digital source will do, but this EP was originally only available on cassette) into Sound Designer in their entirety, at a sampling rate of 44.1kHz, in 16-bit mono (since the encoder I used is an earlier model and only encodes mono soundfiles). Each soundfile was then edited and processed to offer the best sound quality, then converted into a format that the RealEncoder can read, in this case, .aiff files.
The RealEncoder was downloaded and installed into the Mac's hard drive , then the .aiff files transported from the SD folder into the encoder one by one, where they were encoded into a mono code that allows the best sound quality for modems at speeds of 28.8kbps and above. This is the recommended minimum code for encoding music, in mono or stereo. The resulting files, stored in the RealEncoder folder, now carry a .ra (Real Audio) extension.
The next step was to upload the soundfiles into a server so that they could be accessed from the Sgrechian website. Real provide a server for this purpose, which stores the soundfiles in the web designer's hard drive. For the soundfiles to be accessible at any time, the computer would have to be switched on all the time, with the server running, and since this was impractical at this time, I needed an alternative location to store the soundfiles.
Without a RealServer, the only other place to store the .ra soundfiles was on the same web server that stored the HTML and graphics files, in this case GeoCities, an American-based free Internet space provider. In order to upload the .ra soundfiles to the Internet, the browser had to be reconfigured to be able to read .ra files, and this was achieved by editing the general preferences so that the browser identified files with .ra extensions as those which required the RealPlayer plug-in and will issue the user with a warning before attempting to play the audio files.
Having configured the browser to identify the file types, the next stage was to upload the soundfiles into GeoCities' CGI (Common Gateway Interface)-bin, where files are transported between individual computers and the World Wide Web. After the files were uploaded, moved from the CGI-bin into the Sgrechian personal directory and activated, the next step was to alter the HTML programming of the site to allow users to access the soundfiles at the click of a button. As with the consecutive pages, the tracks are located within the image map on the main page, and are identified on the bottom left of the web browser by the word Soundclip (eg Sgrechian Soundclip, Oes Rhaid i Ti? Soundclip, etc).
The purpose of the project is to allow users worldwide to access the music of Fel Petai, and in turn, to experience Welsh pop music where they may not have previously had that opportunity. It is hoped that eventually I will be able to sell subsequent EPs on the Internet in CD quality, without having to manufacture any CDs or cassettes, while utilising probably the most potent marketing tool in the music industry since MTV in the 1980s.
This page was designed & written by Ed Cox on behalf of Gog Rock.
© Gog Rock1998-2003