DJing in Second Life seems like a very complicated process, it requires different components, planning and testing. This post is an outline of the requirements needed to DJ in Second Life. This is not a technical step by step guide, and you may need additional references not covered in this post, many I will link to throughout. This post is meant to serve as a starting point for those interested in DJing.
To begin, there are five major components when DJing in Second Life: Computer Hardware, Streaming Software, Audio Stream, Second Life and Licensing. Each of these components are connected with each other as displayed in the diagram below.
The most important aspect of DJing in Second Life is your computer. Many people only have one computer system which must be able to run both Second Life and your streaming software while having enough space for your music library. Another requirement is your internet connection, it must have enough bandwidth for both Second Life and streaming software. Second Life is resource hog and eats up a lot of bandwidth and system resources. Some streaming software are just as resource intensive however all of them use a significant portion of your bandwidth upload speed. The best indicator to see if you can DJ in Second Life is run both Second Life and the streaming software at the same time. I do have some really important recommendations:
- Test your internet connection – Most broadband services can handle the bandwidth required for DJing. A rule of thumb is if you have cable internet service or better your in the clear. DSL and Satellite broadband connections may encounter some problems. One way to see if your Internet connection will be able to support streaming is to test it with Speedtest.net. If the results of the test indicate that your upload speed is 1500 kb/s or better you should be in the clear, even upload speeds of 1000kb/s should be sufficient. Anything beneath that number and I would worry, however testing the process will provide the best insight.
- Obtain a second system for streaming only – In general if you are spending $1,500 or more on a computer system, your more than likely to have enough resources to DJ in Second Life with only one system. The problem of a one system setup is it can become unstable due to software crashes and technical malfunctions. I recommend purchasing a cheap second computer (a laptop will do) with an external sound card and external hard drive to DJ with (budget roughly $600 – $1000). Streaming software does not require as much resources as Second Life, so a low-end computer strictly for DJing and maintain high quality production.
- (If you can) Avoid using your integrated sound card – Most systems have an integrated soundcard. This means your soundcard is attached to your motherboard. I highly recommend purchasing an external USB sound card or a PCI soundcard to use. Not only will the quality of your audio sound improve, but you may avoid problems that will prevent you from DJing effectively.
- Purchase a quality microphone – One of the things I’m really cautious about is my microphone quality. If your planning on DJing in Second Life and making it a career, purchasing a quality mic or headset will go a long way. I’ve previously listed some tips in improving mirophone quality that also applies to purchasing a new mic. A note about microphone types; the streaming software you choose will determine the type of microphone you use. Winamp, for instance, has a history of not working effectively with USB microphones. The alternative is to purchase a 1/8 inch or 1/4 inch microphone to plug into your soundcard or to use a program that allows different audio inputs such as SAM Broadcaster.
There’s two types of streaming software, free and not free or “professional” software. I do not classify pay streaming software as “professional”, you can DJ professionally with free software. The distinction between the two lies with the software’s features rather than the sound quality.
Winamp provides a free plugin, the Shoutcast DSP, enabling the program to become a powerful DJ tool. This is one of the popular and common means of DJing online. Winamp is free lightweight music program with lots of features, supports a wide range of audio formats and includes an excellent music library. However, there are problems when running Winamp and Shoutcast in Windows Vista; The Shoutcast DSP 1.9.0 is very old and hasn’t had a recent update. Using Winamp and the Shoutcast DSP requires several steps detailed in this guide I’ve written.
SAM Broadcaster is the popular “professional” package. It provides a wide range of features not found elsewhere, but has a steep learning curve and does not support all audio formats (namely AAC+). There are some quirks, especially with microphone use. A tip if you plan on using your mic with SAM: in the Voice FX panel, click on Config then the Encoders radio button, then Ok Trust me on this one, you will save yourself a headache! SAM is a great choice for any DJ, although expensive ($299). If you are planning on making a career as an online DJ it is worth the price tag.
Virtual DJ mimics real DJ turntables and mixers. It is best used for those who want to strictly create hour long mixes The best feature of Virtual DJ is the ability to interact with vinyl turntables or CD players. You can download free timecoded CD’s or acquire timecoded vynl and DJ with your DJ equipment.
B.U.T.T. and SimpleCast are free streaming applications, their main function is to send an audio source to an audio server. If you have your own DJ equipment, you may hook up a mixer to your computer where the sound is sent to your audio server. While B.U.T.T. and SimpleCast are great pieces of software, they are very limited in use (unlike the other software, they don’t play audio files). Usually when using this type of software, your using an connected audio source to your computer.
Mac users can rely on Rogue Amoeba’s Nicecast to DJ. It’s not a free program, but inexpensive ($40), and interacts with iTunes, Quicktime and all sorts of audio programs. Mac users may also want to take a look at post for additional DJing resources.
An audio server is where the music you play is send to online and where your listeners tune in. Usually audio servers are called a “stream”. There are three types of audio servers, ShoutCast, IceCast, and OddCast. 99% of the time you’ll be using a ShoutCast server to stream music into Second Life. Regardless of your audio sever, Second Life can only recognize .mp3 and .ogg streams.
Most home internet connections do not have enough bandwidth to act as a proper audio server. For every listener you have connected to your stream, bandwidth is being utilized to send that audio to each user. A more effective option is to purchase streaming services (or Shoutcast/IceCast hosting services) from a company. I use Catalistpro.com (note: I have several working relationship with them, so my opinion may be biased) or Project X (a friends shoutcast service.) Both of these services are ran by Second Life residents, however feel free to use Google and find a host who best meets your needs.
When you obtain a server, you will receive a listening address, it will look something like this: 192.168.1.1:8000. This address serves two purposes: 1) how people are going to listen to your music and 2) how you connect to your stream. The address is comprised of two parts, the server address and the port. All streaming software requires these two pieces of information in order to stream. The address is everything before the colon (in this example, 192.168.1.1), the port is everything after the colon (8000). Most streaming software you will need to place these numbers in two different locations; for others to listen they are going to need the full address (http://192.168.1.1:8000). Other bits of information you will receive from your provider is a password for the stream. This is used to connect to your server and very important. Listeners do not require a password to listen.
The next part of this equation is Second Life! Second Life has the ability to play audio streams without the use of additional programs. Every land parcel in Second Life has the ability to attach an audio stream address to it. To do this pull up the land information by clicking on it’s name at the top of your screen or in you menu, click on World then About Land. Here, click on the Media tab and insert your audio servers address in the Music URL box. When your stream is active (that is when you are connected and playing music), everyone can listen by clicking on the Play Streaming Music Button. In some cases, when your working at a club, the land owner will be the only one with permission to change the Music URL. In this case, all they need is your stream address. Torley Linden created a great video tutorial on how to accomplish this.
Be mindful, if you have voice activated others will hear you through your microphone. Also in certain cases sounds in Second Life may be heard on your stream. To provide the best quality, disable all Second Life sounds while DJing.
One question that comes up is that of music licensing. I’ve shared my thoughts in past about this topic, but will reiterate here. You must pay music royalties if you are going to DJ online. Tracks designated under certain Creative Commons licenses, or explicit permission from an artist and those included in the production of their work do not apply. One example would be the Nine Inch Nails Ghosts I – IV album, which contains the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license. If you meet the licenses criteria, you are able to play it on your stream.
I have many posts focused on the topic of DJing online, which you can find by going through the DJ Tips Category Archive. Additional sources of information are:
- SHOUTcast Toolbox 2.0
- Online DJ Wiki (disclaimer: this is a project in development of mine)
- Second Life Streaming Audio FAQ