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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Unlocking the power of iTunes 1: Visualization control

For those who have been using iTunes since it has come out, the following information might be old news, but for several new Apple users, this might be entirely new. iTunes is a fairly straightforward application to use, and most users, although proficient, are only aware of about 75% of what iTunes is capable of doing. This article will deal with the control of visualizations in iTunes. As you may already be aware, Apple has included a fairly complex, if somewhat psychadelic, set of visualizations for iTunes. These visualizations are built on a three concept: one layer, labelled the Visualization Form, a second layer, labelled the Visualization Effect and a third layer, labelled Visualization Colour. It is the combination of these three independant layers that creates the seemingly endless possibilities of Apple's visualizations.

But now that we are aware of these layers, a question that comes to mind is how many are there and are they listed? Well, yes, and someone has gone through the trouble of listing the contents of these layers at Winston's iTunes Cheet Sheet. Apple has thoughtfully provided several keyboard controls for iTunes that are simply not published for consumers. Some of these keyboard controls are specifically for the advanced control of visualizations.

The three following controls, which allow the user to toggle each layer independantly, is used to create a specific combination of layers to reach a desired visual effect. These controls are:

  • Q / W - toggle visualization "form"

  • A / S - toggle visualization "effect"

  • Z / X - toggle visualization "color"

Once a desired combination is reached, it can be frozen, or saved and assigned to a designated numerical key by using other commands. This can be an interesting addition for anyone using iTunes in a DJ setting, as it provides the ability to project a programmed visualization on cue. Here are these additional commands:

  • D - Reset Visualization to default

  • N - toggle Normal or high-contrast colors

  • M - Manually select config mode (user, freeze, random)

  • R- Randomly select config mode

  • C - display Current visualization config

  • NUM keys - user config presets (use SHIFT and # to record a preset)

Have fun experimenting with these settings. They can provide a new and interesting feature to a great media player like iTunes.

In the next installment, we will look at adding new visualizations to iTunes and where these can be procured...

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