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Distanced dumbbell ringing - what are the issues

Page history last edited by R H Johnston 2 years, 5 months ago

Distanced ringing using towerbell dumbbells - What are the issues?

Richard Johnston 8.6.2020/ 13.6.2020 /17.8.2020


Initially I thought it would be difficult to ring distanced without good visuals.  Certainly initially most of use found we were ringing solely by the rhythm and listening, and some are still doing that.  There is much to be said for that as it is easier to work through the occasional internet latency caused bell pile ups.  But in fact as time has gone by I have found it has got easier to make at least some use of the graphics in ringing room. 


But better graphics would be nice, and this page is my thoughts on how to achieve it.


Update Oct 2021 - we have now discovered it is possible to use Zoom for visuals is the zoom latency is low.  The order of the images can be made more suitable by dragging the images into the desired order.  Ideally this would be in a line or a circle but this can only be approximated.  Some people have found  this useful, others don't, and is only possible if everyone rings a dumbbell and (ideally) has a separate zoom image.



For a tower bell action, the physical movement happens a long time before the sound is made.  If there is any variation in speed or rhythm, even the best ringer is going to find his bell in the wrong place a lot of the time, unless he can see those adjustments taking place before he pulls. In a tower ringers can do that without much conscious thought, but those signs are absent when distanced unless the information comes long before the sound.  so I believe getting a satisfactory visual experience is essential, even for top flight ringers..


Towerbell dumbbells were designed for people to practice on their own, and are generally designed to interact with a simulator program like Abel or Beltower.  That program provides all the visuals and sound the ringer needs to decide when to ring, so all that is needed is for the dumbbell to provide an impulse sufficiently early to

produce the sound. 


Until about 10 years ago, the visuals on Abel were on/off events when the bell sound happened.  Many people had great difficulty in making use of the visuals, and relied solely on rhythm and the sound.  Good in some ways, but not ideal.  Modern moving graphics are a much better experience.  However Abel and other traditional simulators are still on/off for any bell operated by a ringer.


That is because moving graphics is not easy to arrange if there is a single input, whether from a keyboard or a single pulse from a tower dumbbell.  (However there is a "work around" that I shall discuss later.)


Handbell Stadium (a very impressive new platform for distanced ringing on handbells)  gets around that problem by using a continuous stream of data from a accelerometer. 


In principle that can be done for a tower dumbbell, and there are some major advantages as the bell position is continuously monitored but the technology to do that for towerbells has not yet been developed. I have used accelerometer data from my dumbbell in the past, so the principles are  already solved, and is not difficult.  



What distance ringing platforms are available?


Ringing Room


The best known and currently the most used is ringingroom.


It has the advantage of being multi-platform, but if you are using my software for collecting the serial port information,  you need a PC anyway. :-)


As it is at the moment, ringingroom is like Abel was before 2010, just on/off, with the graphics and sound simultaneous.  Tom Farthing, perhaps the first person to ring a course of a method on a dumbbell on ringing room, made no use of the visuals, and just rang by rhythm and sound - which is ok if the ringing is near perfect..


I have been in touch with ringingroom's  developers, and they are willing in the long run to add what I think necessary to make a satisfactory visual experience, but it is not available now.


The big advantage in the short term is that the platfoirm is very easy to use, and many people are familiar with it, and no alterations to dumbbells are needed.


Muster - update Oct 2021 - Muster has been discontinued.


There are two or three other new distanced platforms, but only one of them is any better for tower bells, and that is Muster.  (Handbell stadium is handbells only)


Muster is a clever program because it confines itself to communication between the ringers across the internet, and uses Abel or Beltower to do all the hard work of the graphics and sound.


Muster can take some experience of managing firewall settings to get it working, but once it is, it works well.


Like ringingroom, Muster is keypress based, but clever settings in Abel can produce the visual movement before the sound, and probably early enough to be



The setup requirements to achieve this are as follows:




Download Muster: https://drichards2.github.io/muster/  (the latest version)


It is an unzip and run program.  Very simple.




You also need the latest version of Abel - version 3.10.2


(For our purposes Beltower will NOT do.  I have tried to set it to dowhat is needed but I can't.  I suspect it is supposed to do what is wanted, but it doesn't.)


If you don't have Abel, get it from AbelSim: http://www.abelsim.co.uk/


We will use the standard settings of Abel, except for


a) Ringing/ User starts bell movement.  set to ON


b) Options/  Screen/Print Options / Bell pictures / select Moving Ropes (Hand Zone)


c) the number of bells is set to the number of bells to be rung


d) Peal time  -we will use that to adjust the speed of the bell picture movement.  (this will need experimentation, but start with 1:0 speed (the fastest possible))


e) View/ User Bell movement ticked


If you have this correctly set up, pressing the key j in the ringing window will move the graphic and the bell will sound at the end of the movement.


Setting up your dumbbell


If your dumbbell has two sensors that send signals at the start and end of the stroke, then setting up is simply a matter of using my autoconfiguration program (v0.7 or later), and setting the signal to be sent by the first sensor to be activated.


If your dumbell has a BDC sensor, this makes the signal rather too late, so for proper performance you will need to arrange sensors  near the top of the stroke.


My program can cope with having BDC input as well, but you will need to change your normal simulator settings, for zero delay/.



The current software  provides a system to ensure that the bells do not remain wrong stroke in the event of a missed stroke (which is quite common on dumbbells and in distanced ringing anyway). 


Longer term it is probably going to be better to fit a completely separate system to the bell that monitors the bell position continuously. This can be done cheaply and easily using Arduino components, and development is underway.



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