Saturday, January 06, 2007

MetaFFRend : FFRend as a plugin authoring tool

I plan to re-purpose FFRend, from an effects renderer, to a plugin authoring tool, somewhat like Pete Warden's discontinued FreeChain project. This idea was proposed by Leo Mayberry (AKA KillingFrenzy) on VJ Forums, and seconded by many others. FFRend will be able to output a freeframe "meta-plugin" that behaves identically to a given FFRend project. A meta-plugin contains *links* to other plugins. A meta-plugin is a DLL containing FFRend's rendering engine, plus some project data (which plugins to load, parameter and automation settings, signal routing, etc).

The project is in development, and about 50% done. I already have proof of concept: I can create a meta-plugin that runs a FFRend project from within any freeframe host. The main limitations are, 1) it's hard-coded which project the meta-plugin loads, and 2) no parameters are exposed to the host.

The biggest headache is creating the GUI within FFRend for deciding which parameters the meta-plugin should expose to the host (I call these "meta-parameters"). Ideally a meta-parameter should be able to control different types of properties, not only plugin parameters, but also oscillator settings and so forth, as MIDI already does. Also, it would be nice if a single meta-parameter could control multiple properties (i.e. grouping). This is important because many hosts severely limit the number of freeframe parameters.

The structure of the project data needs to be finalized soon. I'm working on that now. Meanwhile I'm also working on some ease-of-use features for FFRend: a dockable file browser with tabs for Projects, Plugins, and Clips, and a dockable preview window. Both features are commonly found in VJ software.

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