[whatwg] Codecs for <audio> and <video>

Chris McCormick chris at mccormick.cx
Fri Feb 5 09:27:45 PST 2010

On Mon, Feb 01, 2010 at 04:10:51PM -0800, David Singer wrote:
> On Feb 1, 2010, at 14:02 , Silvia Pfeiffer wrote:
> > On Tue, Feb 2, 2010 at 4:05 AM, Chris McCormick <chris at mccormick.cx> wrote:
> >> I think I speak for all procedural audio people when I say, can't we get
> >> the browsers to allow sample-block access to audio?
> > 
> > Sounds like a solid argument to me. But I'm not the one who counts. :-)
> I think that the browser vendors are currently trying to nail basic HTML5
> multimedia, then accessibility, then they'll take a breath and ask what's
> next.  But do you have ideas as to how?

Hi David,

Since you ask, I'll volunteer my opionion on how this interface should look.
First of all, it would be great to have the audio equivalent of the pixel-level
access that Canvas exposes. In the other post on this thread we can see a
reasonable start at an implementation of that in Firefox:

mozSetup(channels, rate, volume) // called to create the audio stream
mozWriteAudio(buffer[], bufferCount) // called to write buffer to the stream

So building from that, ideally you'd have something like:

// Set up a new audio output stream.
// 'callback' specifies a javascript function which will be called each time
// the buffer is empty.
// This should probably be double buffered to allow javascript time to fill
// the next buffer, or else just ask for two buffers to start with so the audio
// is always one buffer ahead of the callback.

o = setupAudioOutput(channels, rate, bufferSize, callback);
// direct write immediately into the audio buffer (should happen at the callback)

// The following is the input equivalent for accessing the microphone.
// 'callback' specifies a javascript function which will be called each time
// a new buffer of audio data is available and will pass that audio.

callback = function(buf) {
	// buf will contain a javascript array, or an AudioBuffer object
	// (see below)

// set up an listen to the microphone
i = setupAudioInput(channels, rate, bufferSize, callback);
// immediately read what is in the mic buffer at the moment
buffer = i.readAudioFromInput();

Those are the truly essential bits. Code level access to audio in and out.

Once those basics are in place, it would be great to be able to do fast vector
operations on buffers of audio data. It would be cool to have an AudioBuffer
type to enable this. This would basically be a javascript array, but with
convenience audio functions.

a = AudioBuffer([0, 0.5, 0.2, ... (64 samples) ...]);

For example, if you wanted to apply a volume ramp to a chunk of audio data you
might have an operation like this:

// this could be a buffer of audio that has come in, e.g. from the microphone
myBuffer = i.readAudioFromInput();

// this is a buffer of audio data going from 1 to 0 (a 'fade' over one block)
lineBuffer = AudioBuffer([1, 0.9, 0.8, ... (buffer-length number of samples)]);

// multiply our buffer by the fade ramp
newBuffer = myBuffer.multiply(otherBuffer);

// post our audio into the device

Some other fast AudioBuffer functions for operating on vectors of audio data
would be:

multiply() -> multiply two vectors together (or a constant with a vector)
add() -> add two vectors together (or a constant with a vector)
shift(x) -> delay a vector in time by x samples
   * shift would return the remaining samples
   * this would be useful for building filters and other audio effects
fft() -> perform a fast fourier transform
   * returns an array of two buffers with the result - real + imaginary
ifft(r, i) -> perform an inverse fast fourier transform with two buffers
   * returns an array of audio data
copy() -> fast copy of an entire buffer of audio data

Ideally some of those could operate on sigle-value floats as well as vectors of
audio data, where appropriate. Additionally, if two vectors are different
sizes, the default behaviour should be to 'wrap' the shorter vector to match up
with the longer one.

So the developer would do this stuff in the output-buffer callback. If just
these few functions could be implemented it would take us a huge distance
towards being able to do amazing audio stuff right inside the browser without
requiring flash.

Thanks very much for your time.

Best regards,



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