IASIG Interactive XMF Workgroup (IXWG)

Status:  Active
Chair: TBD


Update: March 2012

In 2009 and 2010 there were significant changes in the makeup of the IXWG which resulted in reduced progress on the specification, and questions about the viability of the current specification and work plan were introduced. In an attempt to move the project forward, Michael Kelly (SCEE) proposed a new work plan to the IASIG Steering Committee (SC) which was a significant departure from the original plan, but was not supported by all WG members, and raised a lot of questions from the SC. After months of discussion and negotiation the SC recommended appointing Michael as Chair of the IXWG and pursuing both Michael's direction and the original work plan (creating two documents). Unfortunately this plan was never executed because shortly thereafter Michael changed jobs and could no longer commit to leading the IXWG. The group languished throughout 2011 without a leader and with no one to execute on the existing work plan. Interest in iXMF continues to be heard at industry gatherings such as GDC, and work will continue if and when someone comes forward that is willing and able to complete the project.

Members

(Past and Present, include:) Linda Law, Chris Grigg, George Sanger, Martin Wilde, Michael Land, Peter McConnell, Brad Fuller, Kurt Heiden, Ron Kuper, Clint Bajakian, Guy Whitmore, Peter Clare, Brian Schmidt, Andrew Ezekiel Rostaing, Steve Horowitz, Todor Fay, Matti Hamalainen, Robert Hooper, Bob Starr, Rob Rampley, Mike Leahy, Reagan Richey, Tina Blaine, Scott Snyder, Simon Ashby, David Javelosa, Daniel Wellman, Peter Drescher, Michelle Sorger, Michael Klinowski, Peter Bishop, Jim Hedges, Mark Oswald, Jesper Kaae, Adam Arsenault, Keith Charley, Alistair Hirst, Jamal Blackwell, Al Klassen, Jacques Lemordant, Simon Amarasingham, Richard Stevens, Kenneth Young, Howard Yeh, Michael Kelly, Keith McMillen, Christian Hessler, Tom Miley, Hak Matsuda.

Schedule


Purpose

This workgroup will create a specification for a new interactive audio file format that is based on the open-standard XMF file format.  This new format will be called Interactive XMF. The software entity that uses Interactive XMF files is called a Soundtrack Manager.  In order to develop the Interactive XMF file format (i.e. know what it needs to contain), the workgroup will also need to define the functions and features of a Soundtrack Manager.

Background

XMF (eXtensible Music Format) is a low-overhead, meta file format for bundling collections of data resources in one or more formats into a single file.  It was developed by the MIDI Manufacturers Association and published in October of 2001. Work on Interactive XMF commenced at Project Bar-B-Q 2001 during which time a rough concept was developed and a basic editor was designed.  On the strength of that work the IXWG was formed.

Interactive XMF is intended to be an open-standard, cross-platform means for audio artists to bundle audio content files with general information and audio implementation instructions.  Initially, it will be highly beneficial for the game industry, and since it may be used in any interactive audio application a potential to expand or create markets in other areas exists.  This new file format will put artistic control into the hands of the artists, keep programmers from having to make artistic decisions, eliminate rework for porting to new platforms, and reduce production time, cost, and stress.

History

(March 2010): Due to changes in responsibilities and priorities the WG has lost its Chairperson and a number of key participants. Members Linda Law, Chris Grigg, Michael Kelly, Tom Miley, David Javelosa, and Karen Collins met at GDC to discuss how much work is necessary before the initial release, and the best way to proceed. One proposal was to reexamine the feature set and design. In general, those in favor of re-examination seemed concerned that the current specification would enjoy significantly less industry acceptance than proponents anticipated. There was some discussion about how to make sure iXMF will meet the needs of interactive audio artists content creators, and whether the intended audience should instead be tool/technology developers, and whether the responsibility of translating (or hiding where appropriate) core iXMF concepts for users may fall to them. Everyone agreed to think the ideas over and then come back with their reactions and opinions on how to proceed.

(October 2009): In April of this year we began an on-going series of conference calls to facilitate discussion and completion of v1.0 of the iXMF file format specification. A spreadsheet has been created detailing the 52 items that need/may need to be included in v1.0, a third of which have been discussed and decided upon and now merely need to have text crafted for their inclusion in the specification document. Work proceeds slowly because of the other time commitments of the participants, but work does proceed. 

(February 2009): The working group met at SCEA in Foster City to review Sony's proposals for iXMF, with the expectation of creating a Simple Profile, primarily for streaming. At the meeting the group produced a list of issues remaining to be decided for an initial release, and both Sony and CRI presented opinions on required components. The group agreed to conduct bi-weekly conference calls and work towards agreement on a base framework.

(October 2008): Following the public comment period it was decided to define a profile containing functions and commands for basic streaming of audio, so as to accelerate uptake of the iXMF format by the development community. Work has also begun on incorporating changes and suggested improvements for the overall specification. The current schedule is TBD, because of unknown time and manpower available to complete this project. Presentations were well-received at both Austin GDC and AES.

(February 2008): Additional progress was made in February, and a public comment release was made at GDC in San Francisco. 

(September 2007): Some more progress was made towards completing outstanding items in anticipation of presentations at AGDC and AES. Additional working group participants have joined as a result of the presentations, and we are hoping the primary authors will have the time to complete the document before the end of the year.

(February 2007): Completion has been delayed due to lack of availability of time to dedicate to this project on the part of the working group participants. Small steps are being made, and new members are joining the group all the time, so we expect more progress later in the year. 

(December, 2005): The file format specification document is approximately 90% complete. Recent working group discussions have led to a finalization of a file sync point methodology in the form of what we are calling PositionRules. Most of the remaining work involves either small issues that still need bit more discussion or overview sections that need to be completed.

(May 2005): The file format has been tested against several real-world interactive audio use scenarios and performed well. The need for a few minor changes emerged as a result of this testing. Working group members continue their efforts to prepare the specification document for review by the entire IASIG.

(December 2004): Solutions have been posted for all 8 Test Case Scenarios.

(October 2004): New IXMF Specification Draft v.06 is now available in the member's file area and may be downloaded by IXWG members. Also, eight test use cases have been submitted by working group members. These will now be used to evaluate the iXMF specification. This exercise is intended to help identify any omissions or shortcomings in the iXMF specification as well as highlight iXMF's capabilities. It is anticipated that only one more revision of the specification will be needed prior to its submission to the IASIG for review and approval..

(August 2004): Post GDC discussion has been wrapped up. A revision of the draft specification document is currently being worked on based on input gathered at GDC and discussions on the workgroup reflector in subsequent months. The next version of the specification document is scheduled to be completed by September 20. Also by September 20, workgroup members have been asked to submit test use cases which will be used to check the abilities of Interactive XMF to handle various interactive audio scenarios.

(June 2004): The schedule has been revised. Some discussion regarding variable names has taken place as well as discussion and adoption of some changes to the prior draft specification based on feedback from the IXWG and discussion with GDC attendees. At the GDC session on iXMF dozens of attendees signed up to either volunteer to help the IXWG or to be put on an iXMF update mailing list.

(January 2004): On 12/20/03 a revised version (v.5) of the specification document went to the entire working group for review and feedback. This is the second version to be submitted to the entire group and revisions were based upon input gathered from the group since the first draft was submitted to it in August, 2003. Also, an IXWG member who is a game composer and sound designer has created a test case scenario to help the group evaluate the specification. Additional test cases are being solicited from within the group. In March, IXMF will be presented at an Audio Track session of the GDC. Session attendees will be asked to provide input on the spec and assistance with its development and adoption. And, an update on the IXWG's progress will be presented at the IASIG town hall meeting at GDC.

(October 2003): IXMF was presented at both AES and Project Bar-B-Q in October. At AES some of the IXWG members met to complete a section of the specification document that covers runtime architecture, runtime functionality, and content development. At Project Bar-B-Q a workgroup formed to create a launch strategy for IXMF. During the conference, this group formulated a launch plan that is likely to be highly successful.

(September 2003): The IXWG members have reviewed the preliminary specification document and are in the process of recommending changes and additions to it. Initial discussion has been focused on the sections of the document that describe runtime architecture, runtime functionality, and content development.

(August 2003): The sub-group has completed draft ".03" of the Interactive XMF specification document. The document is incomplete, and has been submitted to the entire IXMF Working Group for comments and completion. The working group will help complete the document by filling in some missing information and answering some questions that require group discussion and consensus.

(June 2003): The IXWG members completed a discussion of what the Soundtrack Manager needs to be able to do.  From that discussion a document was created that detailed the Soundtrack Manager's functions and features.    A sub-group consisting of Chris Grigg, Martin Wilde, George Sanger, and Linda Law is currently working on the Interactive XMF design document, which is nearing completion.  The next step will be the creation by the sub-group of the Interactive XMF specification based on the design document.  Once the specification has been written, a report that describes the operation of the system at a moderate level of detail and includes the Interactive XMF specification will be written and submitted to the entire IXWG for review.  The report will then be reworked as necessary.

Public Links

Members Only

 

Corporate Sponsors