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MIDI Manufacturers Investigate HD Protocol

January 2015

The MMA Executive Board at the Winter NAMM show in Anaheim CA held a meeting of prospective developers to discuss possible procedures for bringing HD Products to market. The Board noted that the additional options possible with the proposed HD Protocol could make product interoperability more challenging to achieve, and require significant market education. There was an open discussion of business issues such as licensing, trademarks, compliance testing, etc. The Board explained that the MMA is a volunteer-run organization that operates on industry consensus, and therefore needs to know how the industry wants to bring such products to market. The Board declined to say when the proposed HD Protocol Specification would be released, and did not provide any details on the specific features and benefits expected from the proposed protocol, but did agree to publish an F.A.Q. to help correct some of the misinformation that exists outside of MMA (due to the confidentiality requirements inside MMA).

June, 2014

The HDWG has been developing messages for device configuration, to enable saving and restoring of a complete state of an HD network (e.g. an entity can be queried for individual settings and/or a dump of that entity's current configuration.)

January, 2014

The WG produced a new draft in 2013 which simplifyies the protocol by reducing the number of messages, and also improves synchronization. Both real time and beat-based time stamps have been proposed, and multiple messages can share a common time stamp. Variable length messages allows the HD protocol to contain fewer overall number of messages, without sacrificing any features. Since a goal of HD is to be "transport agnostic," the HDWG has been studying HD over USB as well as HD over Ethernet. Additional query and response messages will make it possible to do conformance testing. In the coming year, the WG plans to begin studying potential recommended practices for different products and situations.

January, 2013

On January 27, members of the HD Protocol Working Group provided a private demonstration of prototype engineering hardware and software using a working draft of the HD Protocol Specification. Various devices were connected via wired and wireless Ethernet, to demonstrate the plug-and-play connection and session management capabilities built into the HD Protocol, as well as features such as higher resolution controls, more throughput, and MIDI device compatibility. The purpose of the demonstration was to encourage more companies to participate in completing the HD Protocol Specification. Therefore, invitations to the event were extended only to companies that qualify to be MMA members and express an interest in joining MMA to participate in this project. 

January, 2012

In response to MMA member comments at the 2011 MMA AGM, the HD Protocol working Group in 2011 produced two new revisions to the draft HD Protocol Specification. The last draft was approved by the MMA Technical Standards Board (TSB) for implementation testing to validate and evaluate the specification (which is still considered to be under development). Eleven companies attended a "plug-fest" on the Monday after the NAMM Show to share implementation experiences, identify areas of the specification that need work, and test the interoperability of four independently-developed code-bases. The results will be discussed in the MMA, along with next steps and the future work-plan.

January, 2011

MMA members reviewed a rough draft of an HD Protocol and UDP Transport proposal during the Annual General Meeting in January during NAMM. The proposal establishes the features that are proposed for HD protocol, but lacks the clarity and completeness needed for a published proposal, and has yet to be tested nor decided by a vote of the MMA membership. Among the new features proposed for HD Protocol is a more advanced palette of note messages. In addition to the default interpretation of the note number field as a pitch (as you might do with MIDI 1.0, excepting percussion staves), the draft proposal allows HD senders to specify a direct pitch. When a Note message specifies Direct Pitch, rather than the Note Number field determining the pitch of the note, the specified Direct Pitch value is used (as closely as possible). The Direct Pitch field sets the base pitch of the note, overriding the base pitch that would otherwise be selected by the note number, allowing easy implementation of alternate tuning systems.In addition to Note On and Note Off, the draft includes a Note Update message that allows modification of parameters or controllers during the lifetime of a note. Note Update messages with Direct Pitch are not the same as Pitch Bend, since these Note Update messages will update the base pitch. The Pitch Bend controller provides an offset to this base pitch. More information about proposed features may be provided in the future, however interested parties are encouraged to join MMA to participate in development of the specification. 

January, 2008

For the third year in a row, dozens of MIDI hardware and software manufacturers gathered at the Marriott in Anaheim CA, in conjunction with the Winter NAMM Show, to discuss ideas for a new High Definition protocol for musical instruments."MIDI has worked fantastically for more than 25 years," said MMA President and CEO Tom White. "High Definition protocol could encourage market growth through more expressive products, improved ease of use, and new and innovative applications. Plus new High Definition devices and software would be designed to be compatible with all of the great MIDI hardware and software now and for the future."The proposed changes would increase the number of MIDI Channels and Controllers, and provide greater resolution in data values for all of the current MIDI 1.0 messages. Moreover, all of this would be accomplished with single messages, as opposed to the compound messages often used in MIDI 1.0, which means using and editing MIDI data will be far easier for both developers and users. The new protocol could also support the creation of entirely new messages that were not practical with the MIDI 1.0 protocol."At this point our 'HD Protocol' is still under development, but we've seen a lot of interest from both hardware and software developers," said White. "Our policy is not to discuss MMA Specifications publicly until they're officially adopted, but in this case we want to make sure that all qualified companies know what we are thinking about so they have the opportunity to participate before the first version is published."The original MIDI 1.0 Specification, developed in 1983, has been the foundation for interoperability of digital musical instruments for 25 years. The initial "MIDI 1.0 Specification" contained the rules for remote control of keyboard devices, but over the years additional specifications were developed for file exchange, sound exchange, synthesizer design, and new applications such as stage lighting and ring-tones. Today the term "MIDI" applies to the wide variety of file formats, applications, and device specifications defined by the MIDI Manufacturers Association.

The MIDI Manufacturers Association is an industry non-profit organization that is responsible for maintaining and extending MIDI. Formed in 1985 by the original developers of the MIDI 1.0 Specification, the MMA provides a forum where companies using MIDI can cooperate and collaborate to make their equipment interoperable. Companies that are interested in participating in the development of the new HD Protocol should contact the MMA (see the contact form on this site.)

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