The Latest Frontier in Audio Engineering… Photoshop?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but can that picture sing to you? Someone appears to be releasing software that could also put a whole new meaning to the term ‘photo sharing’. Sure, making pictures make sound isn’t entirely new, but it’s apparently possible to take a sound file, turn it into a bitmap and take that bitmap and turn it back into the original sound file.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

When you think about it, all a spectral analyzer does is take an existing recording, and interprets it into a visual format. All the frequencies are there in various dots in various opacities. In short, all the information in a song is turned into a picture. What if you could take that image and save it as a bitmap? What if you could take that bitmap and re-interpret it as the original sound file?

Many people are certainly aware of Photoshop being a powerful tool. It’s been used in pretty much every field that deals with the standard image including government and military purposes. Bridging the power of Photoshop to sound seemed like a stretch of the imagination at best, but one video a software developer posted on YouTube clearly demonstrates that you can not only read sound via an image, but manipulate that sound and re-insert it back into the program and create a new sound file out of it.

From the perspective of those who actively engage in sampling, this kind of technology is a very exciting prospect because you don’t actually have to filter down that sound through a series of equalizers to get what you want (this method has been known to leave behind issues such as audio distortion to name one side effect)

From the perspective of security and justice, one can’t help but figure that the prospect of using photoshop could help clear up audio evidence such as clearing out pink or white noise in the background to clearly hear someone speaking. Of course, this kind of thing has happened for quite some time, but still, it could theoretically be one more tool that can be used to solve crime.

From a file-sharing perspective, this could be one more way to thwart anti-piracy methods. Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, the anti-filesharing organizations manage to convince a majority of software developers to install programs onto people’s computers that deletes all sound files that didn’t come with the operating system. File-sharers could easily develop a workaround by playing images instead through these kinds of technology.

Granted, in the foreseeable future, it’s hard to envision the bitmap becoming the standard format for trading music. It should also be worth noting that it’s fairly evident the video shows an example in a very ideal circumstance (a series of high sliding notes being played over some basic drum hits) but it opens a lot of possibilities when discussing music or audio clips.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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