BlipZones is an application for configuring BlipBox MIDI presets. It also lets you use the BlipBox directly as a MIDI controller on your computer, without requiring an external MIDI interface.
With BlipZones you can split the BlipBox screen into zones, and each zone can be configured as a virtual slider or button (horizontal / vertical, momentary / toggle).
Whether slider or button, the zone can send almost any MIDI message: Control Change, Note on/off, NRPN, Pitch Bend, Aftertouch, Channel Pressure.
The app lets you do most things you would expect: configure zones, save and load to file, upload and download to the BlipBox.
But BlipZones also has an on-screen simulator and can connect to a virtual MIDI interface on your computer. This means you can run a preset and plug it straight into your DAW. And if you have a BlipBox connected, then the simulator and device are fully synchronised.
To configure the application, press the Settings button in the main window. If you have a BlipBox connected (or several) then the port should show up in the drop-down list. Select the right port, then click Connect. The BlipBox should flash to show it is connected. If the BlipBox port does not show up (as is currently the case with the Windows build) you can type in the correct port name into the text box.
For Windows, this may be COM3, COM4, or COM17 depending on your computer’s configuration. You can find the right port number by going to Control Panel / System, then choosing Device Manager from under the Hardware tab. Look for USB Serial Port.
The Serial Speed should be left at 57600, unless you have changed the BlipBox device settings – i.e. unless you know what you’re doing!
To connect BlipZones to another MIDI application you only need to select the MIDI output interface. On Mac OS X and Linux you can choose BlipZones, which will create a new, virtual MIDI interface which another application can listen to. Unfortunately, on Windows it is not quite so easy. In order to send MIDI data between two applications on Windows, you need to install a virtual MIDI driver or virtual patch cord. Free applications that may work include MIDI Yoke, Mountain Utilities MIDI Tools, and perhaps Maple.
The BlipSim window shows the screen of a BlipBox simulator, which can run the current configuration (tick the Run box) or show the area of the current zone (tick a Zone box). By clicking and dragging in the simulator window, you generate events which send out MIDI output in the same way as the BlipBox does in stand-alone mode. If a BlipBox is connected then it will be synchronised to the simulator, meaning that any input from the box will update the simulator and vice versa.
Tip: if you are running low on CPU cycles, try minimizing or closing the BlipSim window.
The main BlipZones window lists the 8 zones of the current preset. Presets can be changed with the drop-down box in the top right corner. Any modifications made to a preset will be preserved when you change to another, making it easy to jump between different settings.
A preset can be saved to file and later loaded back. The file format is plain XML.
If a BlipBox is connected you can also send the preset to the device. It will then be written to the device’s non-volatile memory and stored for stand-alone use. By clicking Request you can restore a preset which has previously been stored on the BlipBox.
Each preset consists of up to eight active zones. Each zone covers the area defined by its X and Y sliders. To view the area in the simulator, tick the Zone select box.
Three different drop-down boxes let you configure the type of zone, the type of message sent, and how the zone is displayed on the screen.
Channel simply sets the MIDI channel that messages will be sent to.
Data sets the static part of the message. For CC messages (Control Change) this is the controller ID. For notes, this will be the value of the note velocity if you have configured a slider, because the slider outputs a range of pitches. For a note button this will be the fixed pitch value. Some messages, Pitch bend and Polyphonic Aftertouch, don’t have a data setting.
Range controls the range of the output values. For most messages, such as Control Change, this is in the range of 0-127. Setting a narrower range will result in the values being scaled.
Button zones output the Max value when the button is switched on, and the Min value when it is switched off.
Pitch Bend and NRPN values actually have a greater MIDI data range: 14 bits, or 16384 unique values. For these, the min and max settings represent a coarse range setting. More precisely, that means the 7 most significant bits of the actual range, which will be something like Min*128 to (Max+1)*128-1.
The output range can be inverted by simply setting a larger Min than Max value. Inverting a zone means that a slider will go ‘the other way’, and that a button will send the smaller value when turned on and bigger when off.
Zones may overlap, completely or partially. This is useful for example to define a cross-fader, a slider which is also a button, or an x/y controller with a horizonal and a vertical slider.
The application can also be built from source. To do this you may use git to check out both BlipBox and BlipZones into the same build directory:
git clone firstname.lastname@example.org:pingdynasty/BlipBox.git BlipBox
git clone email@example.com:pingdynasty/BlipZones.git BlipZones
Or access through our github account: https://github.com/pingdynasty
Once checked out you can find build configurations in BlipZones/Builds for Linux, MacOSX and VisualStudio2010.