Seer Systems

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Seer Systems developed the world's first commercial software synthesizer in the early 1990s. Working in conjunction with Intel, then Creative Labs, and finally as an independent software developer and retailer, Seer helped lay the groundwork for a major shift in synthesis technology: using personal computers, rather than dedicated synthesizer keyboards, to create music.

History[edit]

Seer's founder, Stanley Jungleib, joined the staff of Sequential Circuits (creators of the groundbreaking Prophet-5 synthesizer) in 1979. Working as Publications Manager, he drafted the technical manuals for all Sequential products.[1] Jungleib was a charter member of the International MIDI Association (which later became the MIDI Manufacturer's Association[2]) and helped to establish the MIDI protocol. In 1992, Jungleib was invited to teach a seminar on MIDI at Intel Architecture Labs. This led to the launching of an Intel project to create a software synthesizer for the 80486 processor. Jungleib assembled a development team, and at the end of 1992 founded Seer Systems[3] to work on the project. The resulting synthesizer, code-named Satie, was demonstrated by Andrew Grove in his keynote speech at Comdex in 1994. Intel discontinued the project in 1995, possibly due to friction with Microsoft over Native Signal Processing.[4]

Seer began afresh with a Pentium-based architecture. That same year, the founder of Sequential Circuits, Dave Smith, joined as President.[5][6]
Seer struck a distribution deal with Creative Labs in 1996, which contributed to strong financial results for the AWE64.[7] Over 10 million software synthesizers, the "Creative WaveSynth", were shipped as a result. It was the first publicly available synthesizer to use Sondius WaveGuide technology developed at Stanford's CCRMA.[8]

In 1997, Seer released Reality, the world's first professional software synthesizer for the PC.[9] Reality won the 1998 Editors' Choice Award from Electronic Musician Magazine. Industry veteran Craig Anderton[10] called it a "groundbreaking product."[11] 1999 saw the introduction of SurReal 1.0, an affordable player for Reality and SoundFont instrument sounds,[12] the release of Reality 1.5, which added web features, more polyphony and better sound card support,[13] and the issuance of U.S. Patent 5,886,274 ("System and Method for Generating, Distributing, Storing and Performing Musical Work Files"/Inventor, Jungleib/Assignee, Seer).[14]

But by 2000, legal struggles with hostile investors, limited distribution and piracy caused Seer to cease active development, suspend sales through retail outlets, and briefly shift to an online sales model.[15] An unrelated company, Seer Music Systems, founded by Canadian engineer Ian Grant, acquired the distribution rights and continues to offer legacy demos and support.[16]

Since 2003, Seer's primary focus has been upon protecting its intellectual property (the '274 patent). Over several years, and following related litigation, the technology was licensed to Beatnik[17] (2004), Microsoft (2006) and Yamaha (2007).

Products[edit]

Reality[edit]

Announced in January 1997, Reality [11] ran on Pentium PCs under Windows 95/98. Version 1.0 offered multiple types of synthesis, including PCM wavetable, subtractive, modal synthesis[18][19] and FM, as well as physical modeling via the Sondius WaveGuide technology licensed from Stanford University.[8] Reality was the first synthesizer able to simultaneously play multiple synthesis types on multiple MIDI channels in real-time.

Reality 1.5 was released in 1999, adding more polyphony, support for a broader range of sound cards and the ability to load and play SoundFont 2.0 samples. It also incorporated SeerMusic, enabling fast Internet playback of music files using a combination of MIDI and Reality synthesis data.

In its 2017, February issue Electronic Musician gave Seer Systems Reality a 2017 Editors’ Choice Legacy Award, terming the 1997 introduction “a game-changing product—an unprecedented achievement—that has shaped the way we make music.”

SurReal[edit]

In February 1999, Seer announced SurReal,[12] a playback-oriented version of the Reality synthesizer engine. It was designed to be more user-friendly, and had fewer controls, but could load and play complex Reality soundbanks as well as SoundFonts. SurReal also supported SeerMusic for internet delivery.

SeerMusic[edit]

SeerMusic [20] was introduced in January 1998. By combining MIDI performance data, synthesis parameters and sample data, music playback files could be significantly smaller than standard compressed digital audio data.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Prophet 5 Documents". SCI Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 Tribute Site.  External link in |work= (help)
  2. ^ "MIDI Manufacturers Association". official site. 
  3. ^ "Seer Systems" (official site). 
     See also "Seer Systems Archives" (1992-2005), and whole archived pages (since 1996), on archive.org
  4. ^ Steve Lohr (November 16, 1998). "Depth of an Old Microsoft-Intel Rift Is Disclosed in Court". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-04-29. 
  5. ^ "MIDI Founder Joins Seer Systems.". AllBusiness.com. 1995-08-16. Retrieved 2011-04-29. [dead link]
  6. ^ "MIDI Founder Joins Seer Systems.", Business Wire, (archived on The Free Library by Farlex), August 16, 1995  External link in |publisher= (help)
  7. ^ "Seer Systems Archives: 1997". Archived from the original on 2008-08-19. 
  8. ^ a b Walker, Martin. "Reality PC Software Synthesizer". Sound On Sound (November 1997). The name Sondius may seem familiar, and if I mention the AWE64 Gold soundcard and WaveSynth/waveguide synthesis, you'll probably remember the connection. Sondius provided the software technology for Creative Labs to add some basic physical modelling sounds to their latest soundcard, for more realism and expressive playing. I'm sure everyone who bought a Gold card tried these out, and they were certainly significantly better than the equivalent wavetable sounds, but not exactly jaw-dropping, and a bit of a fiddle to use. ...", "Reality is a software-based synthesizer (fully 16-part multitimbral and 64-note polyphonic), incorporating Sondius technology, and developed by Seer Systems. This Californian company has Dave Smith as its president (the person behind MIDI), as well as an impressive list of credits. Unlike the first waveguide synthesizer, Reality uses an open-ended system which currently allows waveguide (physical modelling), subtractive (analogue), FM, modal (using a bank of resonating filters), and PCM (sample) techniques, to create a much greater variety of sounds. ... 
  9. ^ "Seer Systems Reality Software Synthesizer". Winter NAMM '97 Coverage. Harmony Central. January 16, 1997. Archived from the original on 2005-09-28. 
  10. ^ "Craig Anderton". craiganderton.com. Archived from the original on 2012-10-26. 
  11. ^ a b "Seers System". Midiguy.com. Retrieved 2011-04-29. 
  12. ^ a b "Seer Systems Announces SurReal Software Synth". Winter NAMM '99 Coverage. Harmony Central. February 6, 1999. Archived from the original on 2010-01-07. Retrieved 2011-04-29. 
  13. ^ "Seer Systems Now Shipping Reality 1.5 with Web Features and New Power". press release. Harmony Central. September 25, 1998. Archived from the original on 2008-12-21. Retrieved 2011-04-29. 
  14. ^ US application 5886274, Stanley Jungleib, "System and Method for Generating, Distributing, Storing and Performing Musical Work Files", published 1999-03-23, assigned to Seer Systems, Inc. 
  15. ^ "Seer Goes Direct; Ships SurReal Super Bundle". press release. Harmony Central. January 11, 2001. Archived from the original on 2008-12-21. Retrieved 2011-04-29. 
  16. ^ "The Note Museum". notemuseum.com. Welcome to The NoteMuseum, home of the infamous Reality Software Synthesiser and a place for you to find some very special sounds for your notes. ... / Both Reality and SurReal are available for purchase in the SeerMusic section.  
  17. ^ "Beatnik, Inc. - Enhanced Audio Solutions". beatnik.com. Archived from the original on 2010-11-26. 
  18. ^ Bilbao, Stefan (October 2009), "Modal Synthesis", Numerical Sound Synthesis: Finite Difference Schemes and Simulation in Musical Acoustics, Chichester, UK: John Wiley and Sons, ISBN 978-0-470-51046-9 
     See also companion page.
  19. ^ Doel, Kees van den; Pai, Dinesh K. (2003). Greenebaum, K., ed. "Modal Synthesis For Vibrating Object" (PDF). Audio Anecdotes. Natick, MA: AK Peter. When a solid object is struck, scraped, or engages in other external interactions, the forces at the contact point causes deformations to propagate through the body, causing its outer surfaces to vibrate and emit sound waves. ... A good physically motivated synthesis model for objects like this is modal synthesis ... where a vibrating object is modeled by a bank of damped harmonic oscillators which are excited by an external stimulus. 
  20. ^ "Seer Systems Announces New Internet Music Delivery Solution". Winter NAMM '98 Coverage. Harmony Central. January 30, 1998. Archived from the original on 2008-12-21. Retrieved 2011-04-29. 

External links[edit]