Conceptual Model:VLC

VLC, that brilliant media player with over 9 downloads each second for years!

If you don’t know VLC, the above line would have you think that VLC is some incredibly feature-complete, elaborate package (like iTunes), that pwns all that the user wants.

Fact: VLC has no way to adjust the stereo L/R balance!

There is an interesting reason why I was hunting for that feature. It is well known that many songs have different instruments sounding differently loud on the left and right channels.. it has a nice effect. But often, we are interested in listening to only a particular instrument, say. And that is why I was looking for the audio balance..

I couldn’t find it in the VLC options; nor was there any mention on the Wiki. Some forums had even discussions about how this feature simply has not been implemented.

What? How could this feature not be implemented in something meant to be a sane media player?

As it so happens, the developer’s aim is very clear; and that is what they’ll do. So, from what little feature-study I have done, this is the precise conceptual model in the developer’s mind (and we thought only the consumer’s mind mattered):

Developer’s Conceptual Model of the functioning of VLC:

(Input(s))–>>Decapsulation–>>Decoding–>>Filters/Effects–>>Encoding–>>Encapsulation–>>(Output(s))

All the filtering operations are performed as operations of single channels; but the stereo function involves the interaction of channels with each other, which simply cannot be achieved by this model.

And therefore even though everybody knows that audio balance is a very basic thing, it was not implemented it because it wasn’t there in the model!

This is a brilliant example, showing how the developer’s conceptual model also matters in shaping the product. Another, less dramatic one is the homepage of Blender, the 3D modelling/animation software which is truely loaded with the most sophisticated features (except GIobal Illumination, pardon me :D), yet user friendly and inviting for beginners. Andrew Price pointed out in his presentation at Blender Conference last year, that Blender can shape the homepage to be more user-oriented than developer-oriented, and probably get more traffic. Because currently, 60% of the area is occupied by Developer’s News, BlenderNation Updates, and links to the Blender Conference or the Developer Forums. There’s nothing in there for the new user except a Download link.. kind of let the user know only by trying it out! So Andrew suggested that there could be some basic information about what Blender exactly is, or examples of some brilliant artwork done in Blender.

The aim of the website has been like an announcement/meeting area; though now we are seeing it slowly get in shape for the users as well, I think.

And suppose some VLC developer does read this, and decides to implement it. I think this is what may happen: VLC won’t have just one tiny audio-balance knob added. Instead, it will probably come up with a huge linear filter/convolution module, where you can upload a small program in a C-like dialect(called VLC), to get the channel mixing the way you want. Then, they’ll provide a few presets like 80-20.c, 50-50.c, for the user’s convenience of course. (Note the similarity to the Spatializer/Graphic Equalizer.. fine individual sliders, and some presents, but no “group sliding” or “stick-together” of the sliders)

Well, I’ve probably let my imagination run a bit there, but you get what I mean. Each software project tends to have a certain kind of persona/image as seen on the whole. If you though that VLC is an incredibly feature-complete, elaborate package (like iTunes), that pwns all that the user wants, ironically, it is an incredibly feature-complete, elaborate package (like iTunes), that pwns all that the developer wants. Still, one just can’t do without it!

The developer’s conceptual model, as discussed here, probably matters only at a very deep level of structuring. But deep is where it gets subtle and beautiful!

If you have read this far and want the short of the rest, it is “Rate this Post!”, but at length:

Rate this Post! because I want more statistics.. number of hits is one thing, but I want to know how many users actually reach the end. If you rate this, the count can provide me this statistic.

3 responses to “Conceptual Model:VLC

  1. nice thought! The end gets a little boring with your statistics. What do you really want to do with the stats.

    PS: I didn’t rate the article. Account for that when you are counting the guys who have reached the end.

  2. Pingback: Hit Count? Read Count! « Magnets and Miracles

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