Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Drill Writer for Marching Band

Not necessarily for writing drill, but rather for making a quickly accessible reference booklet for drill that has already been written for an entire band.

Some background knowledge: I participate in my high school's marching band fairly heavily. In order to learn the half-time show every year we pay a guy to write "drill," or rather, to map out our positions on the field corresponding to the music. He gives us these complicated looking sheets where every band member is a little tick mark on a graph of the whole field. This is a very compact way to represent everyone at once, but it can be difficult to accurately see one member's single position in a hurry. Since we are always in a hurry in band, there is the necessity to have a quicker reference for every member of the band. Thus, the dot-book. Everyone makes up a small notepad that contains a page for every set of the drill (the show is segmented into many different blocks with a point, or dot, for every member that they should reach by the time the music for that block concludes). Usually kids draw out a little diagram and write down their dot coordinate style. Others take those full drill sheets, cut out the part they're in, highlight themselves, and paste that into a small booklet.

Regardless, all that sounded like quite a lot of work that I really didn't want to do. I thought about how to tackle the issue and decided that I could make a program pretty easily that would graphically write up a page for my dot-book once I entered in my field coordinates and spit out a .jpg of it all. After quickly going over the java docs on the built-in Graphics library and doing some google searches it still seemed feasible. In about four hours I was done with the program, which, granted, is probably longer than it would have taken to write it up manually, but hey, I actually enjoy programming; I do not enjoy mindless writing with a pencil.

Also note that they banned having this all on your phone, the quickest and most obvious choice. To be honest the temptation to go off task is probably too much for most kids in high school, so it's not too unfounded.

The result was the Drill Writer... 5000. I don't know, I just felt like the name needed some sort of pizzazz after it, I usually don't do that. Check it out:

View of the java program without any data entered yet
Every time I hit "Write New Point" the program exports a .jpg to a specified folder with a name that increments with every set number (set1, set2...). After this, I can print out the pictures with windows pretty simply doing them four to a page. From there they are quickly cut out and stapled together. Adding more sets as we get them is quick too—just remove the staples and re-staple it with the new sheets.

To be even fancier, take the pictures to office max. Have them make up one of these for 5 bucks:

My dot-book I used today straight out of my pocket
I'm quite happy with the results. I now have one of the most well done bot-books in the band while it also takes me very little time to add to it. Programming is awesome.

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