Archive for November, 2010

UltraStar: Adding Videos

Posted in UltraStar on November 24, 2010 by kokairu

Please note: my UltraStar guides now have their own dedicated website on UltraGuide.net. An updated version of this article can be found here

Sorry it’s been so long since my last UltraStar updates, but I’ve been very busy with the program itself, getting it ready for Christmas!

Note: I have no idea if these guides are proving useful – looking at my site stats, I notice that I’m getting a handful of hits a day from people trying to find out how to set up their microphones etc. It would be great to hear from you either way… tell me it’s been useful, totally unhelpful, or perhaps some elements need further clarity. That, and whilst I’m no expert on the game, if you want to fire a question or two at me then I’ll be happy to help if I can.

Now that we’re done with the bare necessities of the game, we can move on to the bonus tutorials. This section will look at how to add video files to the songs. Video files are not necessary, but many people prefer to use them as they definitely enhance the experience of the game. As a result, and this is something that you’ll probably want to note, many people make .txt files that match the video version of the song, rather than the album version or the radio edit. Quite often, this doesn’t make a difference (music videos normally use the same version of the song in question), but on a number of occasions, it can. For example, I was adding ‘Rock the Casbah’ by The Clash the other day, and the text didn’t match the lyrics towards the end of the song. I added the video version instead, and the problem was rectified.

Many users on USDB won’t specify what version of the song their .txt file refers to, so this trial-and-error process can be quite common. It’s worth looking at the comments at the bottom of the song – these can quite often be in another language, primarily German. If you don’t speak the language, paste the comment into Google Translate, and you can normally get the jist of things. It is often stated which version of the song you’re supposed to use.

As well as making the game more fun, adding video files can make obtaining the songs you want much easier. For example, I actually really hate Cheryl Cole’s ‘Fight For This Love,’ the song that I used in my adding songs tutorial, but I decided to put it on there, because some people like it (failing that, a lot of people at least know it), and I want to widen the appeal of my collection as much as possible. I don’t want to buy the MP3, because I won’t be adding it to my iPod. The sound quality generally isn’t as good, but when you and your friends are screeching your hearts out over it, you probably won’t notice!

Your first stop for music videos, of course, is YouTube (though DailyMotion is a good place, too). Using the download helper add-on for Mozilla Firefox, it’s possible to download videos in .flv format to your computer. Once you’ve downloaded and installed this feature, visit the video of the song you want, and eventually the (new) icon next to the address bar will begin to move. This means that Firefox has detected the video on the page, and it is possible to download it.
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Click on the arrow next to the icon, and select any of the options referring to the video (it doesn’t matter which one, I don’t think, but correct me if I’m wrong). The video will begin downloading, though you should navigate away from the video on the browser first, or you’ll be waiting there all day.

Now that you have the video file, you’ll also need an mp3 containing the same audio used in the video file (you could try adding the normal mp3 if you like, but getting it to synchronise with the video can be tricky – if you want to have a go, the #VIDEOGAP tag in the .txt file specifies when the video should start playing, and this is independent of the normal #GAP tag, which specifies when the audio should start). There are a number of tools that will create an mp3 based on your video file. Those downloaded from YouTube are usually .flv files, but you can get .mp4 files from DailyMotion, and these are much easier to contend with!

For .mp4 files, I’d recommend downloading DBpoweramp. Once this is installed, you can simply right-click on the video file, select ‘convert to,’ and create an mp3 file in the same directory. This will also work for a number of other file types, both audio and video (not .flv, sadly).

For .flv files, you can use a number of .flv convertor programs, plus some online facilities that link directly to the YouTube video itself, such as www.flv2mp3.com.

Once you have a video and an audio file, place them both in the same directory as your .txt file, and link the two files in the .txt file using the appropriate tabs, for example:

#ARTIST: Cheryl Cole

#TITLE: Fight For This Love

#MP3: Cheryl Cole – Fight For This Love.mp3

#VIDEO: Cheryl Cole – Fight For This Love.flv

The next step is to open UltraStar Deluxe and test the song – does the video file load? If not, make sure you’ve spelled the filename correctly and used the right file extension. To get the text to synchronise with the lyrics, use the same method with the built-in editor function that I described in the adding songs section. Enjoy, and please let me know if this was useful or not!

The X-ploitation Factor 2010: Live Shows Episode 7.2

Posted in The X Factor on November 22, 2010 by kokairu

I’m not really sure why Paije went last night, rather than on any of the previous weeks. His performance slot was decent and he was given the belter he deserved to have. Perhaps it was because his fans presumed him to be safe, or the fact that he wasn’t quite the ‘ultimate’ contestant, appearing before Wagner and Katie. At any rate, he was sacrificed in favour of a more desirable contender.

Matt – not being painted so favourably at the moment, should be safe for now, but may fall on the last hurdle after all.

Cher – all evidence would suggest that she received the least votes last night. If performance has anything to do with it, hers wasn’t great, plus Louis voted in her favour when he was supposed to be playing the role of Paije’s loyal supporter. I also heard rumours of a double elimination suddenly being executed, depending on how the results were looking. If Cher wasn’t looking too hot, there’s no way they would take the risk. In the most contrived series to date, I’m guessing they’ll get her into the final somehow.

Paije – outsang Cher in the sing-off, but if that aspect isn’t highlighted then we won’t notice, of course.

Katie – She sang as well as she ever does if you ask me, but the slowed down tempo of a song clearly relating to her “plight” and a haircut that plays to the “broken woman” image (it almost made her look like she’d overcome some horrific disease or something) was enough to keep her clear of the bottom two. That, and she was given the final slot of the night (this hadn’t been done since week 3, so they could get away with it). I have to admit, it was very well constructed. The more instances the girl can appear as though she didn’t get the least number of votes, the more we can perceive that she “deserves” to be there. The effect may even last for longer than just this week.

Wagner – I think a lot of people have visions of Simon Cowell quaking in his little boots that Wagner will end up winning the programme. I’m not saying he isn’t a contender, and I’m certainly not saying the bosses will want him to win, but they definitely haven’t showed signs of trying to shake him off yet. Week after week he’s given a late slot and a popular song to massacre. I can’t really see them keeping him for much longer, though (if the coast is clear for a triple elimination that will see his exit next week, I think it will be employed). That, or maybe the campaign will succeed, who knows. It seems unlikely, but then, I said the same thing about the Rage Against the Machine campaign last year. For a number of reasons, though, I’d still advise against it. Firstly, if everything is poured into getting this guy to win it and he falls into second place by 1 measly vote, then it will be a wasted effort and all that would have been achieved is even more revenue for the programme. Secondly, these campaigns place far too much importance on Simon Cowell in their manifestos, painting his portrait as some sort of evil and cunning dictator – exactly the same concept that the programme itself portrays, thus endorsing its stupid illusions even further. I’m not going to claim that Simon Cowell has nothing to do with the show’s production, but there’s definitely many more producers involved in the manipulation and execution of the programme. In other words, voting for Wagner to win should be done as a testament against The X Factor/SyCo TV/Music as a whole, not to one charismatic idiot. That, or just spend that money on some beers down the local, ignoring the existence of the show altogether.

No comment on Rebecca or Mary. Not enough controversy from that corner. As for One Direction, I’m about as surprised that they’re still there as I am when I tread in dogshit as I walk down Hermitage Lane in Maidstone, and equally as pleased about it.

The X-Ploitation Factor 2010: Live Shows Episode 6.2

Posted in The X Factor on November 18, 2010 by kokairu

I have no idea what this show is playing at… hence a lack of entry on Sunday. I’dve said Katie and Paije, based on the voting leak, but that shifted somewhat from what it was at 9 am yesterday anyway.

Mary – Was given a popular Elton John song, sang it well, not much else to say if I’m honest.

Paije – I have no idea how he’s managed to survive the bottom two each week. I like Paije an awful lot, he just seems like a nice chap and he has a very good voice. But first slot again? A stupid pink jacket? Where no other contestant had been handed ‘Your Song,’ you can’t blame the song choice on all the good ones being taken. With Paije, they have the tools to make him a winner, but they’re deliberately going in the opposite direction.

Wagner – Indifferent. I don’t hate the guy, because that’s what they want from me… and I don’t love him, because as far as gimmicks go, he’s second-worst only to The MacDonald Brothers of XF ’06. I sort of liked how “I’m Still Standing” morphed into the African chant of “Circle of Life,” though an alarming sign that they’re actually pulling out stops to keep this guy in. Far more so than Paije, a contestant who’s actually talented. There’s no sign that they want him out, yet – presumably because they know nature will take its course eventually. Please don’t “boycott” this show by voting for Wagner. It’s a ridiculously self-contradictory sentiment, and I’m sure you don’t need me to spell it out to you.

Rebecca – Good and all that.

Matt – as above.

Cher – I think she’ll make the semi-final at least, but I don’t think she’ll win. They’ve been successful in their plan with Cher – she’ll probably end up with a successful pop career, and the longer she stays in, the better her chances. Is Katie being implemented as a tool to make Cher seem less annoying?

One Direction – the only thing I can think to say is… follow katieweasel on Twitter. The first and last person whose updates are worth reading on that damn website.

Aiden – I was right in the first place. Then I was wrong. Pseudo-vampire image or no pseudo-vampire image, he was eventually completely disposable to them.

Katie – time will tell what the idea is here. The most plausible theory I’ve heard is that they want her on the XF tour next year (this consists of the 8th highest placed contestants, which she has now officially secured), but the girl is seriously unpopular… is her status as an act on this tour somehow going to catapult Miss Waissel (or Lola Fontaine, or whatever) into a successful, multiple-platinum artist? Is she gong to, quite simply, make more people want to go? I just can’t see it. However, all the same, 8th place in the competition may mark where they were planning to take her for whatever reason. I’m just stunned by their persistence.

Presently, we have 8 acts left after week 6, where we would normally have 6. If they’re going for a three person final, they need to get rid of 2 extra people at some stage in the coming weeks. Now that Katie is in the top 8, will we now, finally, have 2 weeks’ worth of double evictions? A triple eviction, perhaps, to narrow the contestants down to 5 at for next week (wherein judges have no say and it’s all down to the public vote)? This seems risky on their part, as they’ll lose an element of control over who ends up in the top 5. Maybe they’ll go for a 4/5 person final, even.

The Simpsons on Reflection Part IV: Season 2

Posted in The Simpsons on November 10, 2010 by kokairu

Sorry this entry’s taken so long to do, but it’s not like you want to plough through classic Simpsons at breakneck speed… it needs to be savoured.

We’re currently in between seasons 2 and 3. The former is certainly a step up from season 1 in many respects – the animation is much better and the characters are far more established. Humour-wise, it follows on nicely, but as I pointed out in my last Simpsons entry, the jokes in the first series are remarkably good (you just have to put certain things aside), so there was little room for improvement. Actually, on the whole, I found that the season 2 episodes were LESS joke-packed than those in season 1. But then, you have to remember there are nearly twice as many episodes in this series, and season 2 had some pretty big shoes to fill… big shoes to fill.

I think some of the more enjoyable episodes in this segment were those that I hadn’t liked that much on viewing at the age of 10: Two Cars in Every Garage, Three Eyes on Every Fish, Bart Gets Hit by a Car, and Simpson and Delilah. You might argue that lower expectations caused me to enjoy these ones more, but it seems more likely that I “get” aspects of these episodes that I didn’t before. I remember Bart Gets Hit by a Car confused me no end when I was younger: I genuinely didn’t understand why Bart was wrapped up in bandages one minute and then fine the next. I saw it a fair few times, too – it was one that we’d elected to tape when it was on. But “compensation culture” is still among us (at risk of losing marks for context again, this episode may be more relevant to Britain now than it was in 1991), and I have a renewed appreciation for this episode. Likewise, electoral campaigns haven’t changed, and Simpson and Delilah covers human superficiality in a non-clichéd and hilarious way (of the 3 episodes I’ve picked out, I particularly enjoyed this one – Harvey Fierstein is one of the best guest voices to ever appear on The Simpsons, and I know I’m not the only one that thinks that).

Conversely, some of the episodes that I remember liking a lot didn’t do much for me this time round. My other half proclaimed at the end of Dancin’ Homer that it wasn’t a great episode, I exclaimed that he didn’t know what he was talking about…. But that was based on loving this episode as a youth, and I realised that I’d actually laughed very little on this viewing. The same can be said for Dead Putting Society (though Homer’s annoyance at the lawn mowing forfeit, or rather, the fact that Flanders is enjoying it, had me in stitches), and Bart vs Thanksgiving. Arguably, I’m segregating more child-oriented episodes from those more suitable for the adult audience of The Simpsons. It is a family show, after all, and it successfully appeals to the mature and the younger audience… without simply throwing the odd (unfunny) innuendo in there like a run-of-the-mill Dreamworks animation.

I’m judging season 2 on VERY high standards here, of course. It’s not as though the highlighted episodes are bad (and to define bad, we need only look 10 years down the line), it would just be a boring entry without offering at least some critique.

Now that’s out of the way, I particularly enjoyed the following episodes:

Simpson and Delilah, for reasons highlighted above

Bart the Daredevil, because the ambulance crash will NEVER get old. This is an example of when physical comedy (something Zombie Simpsons heavily relies on) can be brilliant. It’s perfectly timed, and though Homer falling down a cliff twice could be annoying and used as a time killing device, it’s still short and simple (on the second incident, we only hear his cries for a few seconds… though the first clip show says otherwise).

Itchy & Scratchy & Marge, though another fuzzy VHS tape favourite of mine that had previously been viewed innumerable times, always deserves a mention: “I will never watch your show, buy any of your products… or brake if I see you crossing the street.”/”Make it a pie, pies are easier to draw.”

Principal Charming, for Homer’s analysis of his friends and co-workers as potential partners for Selma

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?: If Harvey Fierstein as Karl is the best guest voice, then Danny DeVito as Herbert Powell is a close second, “I’m just silent because of the emotion involved.”

Bart’s Dog Gets an F, for Homer’s self-assured assertion to the neighbour that it could not possibly be his dog swimming in her pool, because he’s looking at him right… “D’OH!”

Brush with Greatness, for the Mount Splashmore counterpart alone.

Lisa’s Substitute, “Just because I don’t care, doesn’t mean I don’t understand.”

War of the Simpsons, for the marriage counselling scenes.

Blood Feud, for this screenshot:

I’d never looked at this properly before, even though it’s on screen, on its own, for a few seconds. I absolutely love it – it’s so melodramatic. I particularly like the wholesome way the recipient of the important letter is clutching a bowl of soup. Homer and Bart’s attempts to recall the letter are very humorous, too, and the wrap-up “it’s just a bunch of stuff that happened” is just great. Indeed, it is just a bunch of stuff, but it’s logical at least. No comment, Zombie Simpsons.

The X-Ploitation Factor 2010: Live Shows Episode 5.2

Posted in Digital Spy Idiocy, The X Factor on November 8, 2010 by kokairu

why is the whole cheryl not voting think gaining so much talk and hate, wasn’t it a no brainier she wasn’t gonna vote? i would have been shocked if she did?? dannii would have done the same and so would louis. how could she choose they were both her acts and imo it would be quiet heartless and rude if she chose one over another??!

You call that a shock? It wouldn’t even qualify as static.

I love watching The X Factor from this viewpoint. It’s so satisfyingly cynical, I can join in the conversations about it, and if I remain impartial to the contestants, betting can be a lot of fun, too. Bye bye, Trey C… hello 20 quid.

I’m not that great at guessing, though – it helps to have some leaked hints regarding the voting.

The rundown

Paije – Maybe he’ll make the final 5, after all. He seems to have a (somewhat deserved) following. Also, I loved his performance on Saturday. So much for being impartial.

Matt – Whatever. I like him too.

Rebecca – Well… is it enough to say I wouldn’t cry myself to sleep at night if she was sent packing? The Digital Spy prospects are very tempting…

Mary – You sing flawlessly every week, woman… but… it’s just a bit… TOO flawless… d’you know what I mean?

Wagner – YES! Let’s all vote for Wagner! Let’s stick it to Simon Cowell by feeding more money into The X Factor! He’s a gimmick that was picked out of a hat for this series, he’s nothing special on either of the interpretations of the word. He’s just there to enforce the idiot persona of Louis Walsh, who goes back to his mansion at the end of the programme and doesn’t give a fuck about the publicity he’s getting… because he’s sleeping on a bed of your money.

Cher – I am really indifferent. Enough people are on about her chaviness and I have little else to add to that.

One Direction – dear God, they were drowned out by the backing track… do you think it was intentional?

Aiden – I can’t place this one, but I think he’s safe for a little while yet.

TreyC – kthanxbai

Katie – Where exactly were you on the afternoon of 11/09/01? And do you have an alibi to back you up?

The X-Ploitation Factor 2010: Live Shows Episode 5.1

Posted in Digital Spy Idiocy, The X Factor on November 6, 2010 by kokairu

Stop picking on me,you dont like rebecca so your trying to bring properganda to the forum.

We’re finally down to a more manageable line-up, and it’s getting more and more tricky to pick out the ones that will come off less favourably. Even going on less memorable performances tonight (Mary, anyone?), who’s to say a given contestant’s fanbase won’t still vote based on previous weeks?

Well, as I’ve mentioned a few times, we could be in for a “shock” tomorrow. And by shock, I mean amusement at the sudden eruption of the DS forums. I also think that Wagner’s luck will run out this weekend, and he may well be in the Bottom Two-  along with Katie, TreyC or Mary. If Wagner is amongst the damned, I reckon his soul may be spared, depending on whom he will be up against.

The X-Ploitation Factor 2010: Live Shows Episode 4.2

Posted in The X Factor on November 1, 2010 by kokairu

Completely unsurprising result last night, so I can’t say I’ve got a huge amount to write today.

There’s no real certainty on exactly who’s going to go when in the coming weeks. There are, however, two categories: a) definite gonners, who way as well have ticking timeclocks levitating above their heads, and b) potential winners, whose early evictions are unlikely and would probably result in ridiculous Ofcom complaints.

a) Definite gonners:

Mary
TreyC
Katie
Aiden
Wagner (all gimmicks die sooner or later, and Wagner will be pushing it if he hopes to stay in much longer)
Cher (they are trying as hard as they can to push her into category (b), but they’re clutching at straws and will struggle to up her game after this weekend)
Paije

b) Potential winners:

Rebecca
Matt
One Direction

That’s not to say that everyone from category (a) will drop off, one by one, in the coming weeks without a glimpse of someone from category (b) in trouble. Next weekend is week 5, a week notorious in previous years for its “shock” evictions (Maria Lawson, Laura White, Lucie Jones). The only one from category (a) that would qualify as a “shock,” I think, would be Mary (Cher would be a mild static shock). That is, unless Wagner is saved from elimination above anyone else. It could happen quite easily. I reckon TreyC, Paije, Katie, and Aiden could be dropped in favour of The X Factor’s very own John Sergeant. But it’s slightly risky, after Jedward were kept in last year over someone who was actually talented. People do easily forget such things and continue to watch regardless, undoubtedly attributing the decision to the fake drama between the judges (“SIMON JUST DID IT BECAUSE HE WANTS TO ELIMINATE THE THREATS!”). However, if the show wants a last stab at pretending it’s a talent competition, Wagner would have to go under such circumstances.

Saying that, a Katie/Wagner sing-off could be the greatest circumstance the producers could ever conceive. Katie might be voted off, on the basis that the viewers “just don’t seem to be warming to her,” and Wagner could keep up the entertainment factor for another couple of weeks. The reason seems genuine, a hate figure leaves the show, and the possibilities for the media would be endless.