Frequently Asked Questions
Can Virtual Belfry be used like other simulators, connected to real bells in the tower?
Yes. This ability was introduced in version 3.0, along with some animated graphics
designed to help the teaching and learning process. At this stage simulator practice is limited to one active sensor at a time, although silent practice is supported (from version 3.1 onwards). Several different sensor types are now supported, including RS232 control signals (using the pins of a serial port connector), Bagley Multi-Bell Interfaces and other, generic ascii-character-based interfaces.
Which bells were used to make Virtual Belfry?
The photographic animation of the Bells Window
features three sets of bells:
- The original eight bells at St. David's Cathedral in Hobart, Tasmania prior to augmentation in 2005;
- The twelve bells (10+2 in reality) of the same tower after augmentation;
- The nine bells (8+1) of St. Paul's, Maryborough, Queensland.
Most of the sound recordings feature the above bells, but also included are recordings of the magnificent bells of St. Peter's Cathedral, Adelaide.
The tenor, and perhaps the second largest bell, strike slightly late on the last blow before standing. Why is that?
The delay has been introduced artificially because the author felt that striking with mathematical precision right to the end sounds robotically perfect and not entirely realistic. But it can be adjusted. Refer to the online help topic called "Behind the Scenes". It includes a paragraph about a text file named "tower.txt", which includes settings to control the amount of delay for the final stroke.
While ringing a plain course, why do the control panel buttons for bobs and singles turn themselves off and on again at the end of every lead?
The buttons disable themselves during the brief period when it would be ambiguous to make a call. Like real ringers, the bells on the screen require a couple of blows' notice to cope with calls. Once the deadline has been reached there is a period of ambiguity - the actual making of the bob or single (or no call) has still to be witnessed on the screen, but the program is a couple of blows ahead of the visible action and so the bells are committed to your decision. Once the processing of the bob or single (or lack thereof) has finished inside the program, the buttons are made available again.
The sense behind doing this becomes more obvious when you try calling a touch of Original, where calls can occur at every handstroke. It is essential in this situation to have a clear dividing line between calling opportunities.
What is that old bell I can see at the top right corner of the Bells window for the "Twelve Bells" tower?
That is a Mears bell, cast in 1822. It was originally mounted on a frame outside the original St. David's church that stood on the site of the current tower. After the original church was demolished in 1868 the bell found a home in another church across the river from Hobart. In recent years it has sat on the ground floor of the cathedral's tower. Finally, to make room for recent improvements to the ground floor area, it was hoisted into the belfry. One day it might be mounted for chiming.
What are those extra bells I can see on the left hand side of the old eight-bell frame at Hobart?
They are chiming bells. Before augmentation there were eight swinging bells and five fixed bells, together forming a chime of 13. If the original eight swinging bells were given numbers from 1 to 8 in the conventional way, the fixed bells could be given numbers of -1, 0, 1#, 3# and 5#.
Following augmentation there was no longer space for these bells at the level of the frame and they were lifted up to a new location about 5 metres above the rest of the bells.
On the Bells window, why do the sliders move to the centre as the bell is pulled off the stay? (and why do they make small movements all by themselves at points during the stroke?)
Well spotted! The original 8-bell tower had Hastings stays so there were no sliders. This was very convenient for Virtual Belfry. The sliders in the new installation presented a problem. Think about the images needed for the animation and you might understand that the slider has to be in the same position all the time while the stay is not in contact with it (unless the program was very clever and animated the slider as a separate image element - something that would have been FAR too complex!!) The only sensible position is dead centre, so the sliders were equipped with strong rubber bands during filming to ensure that they pulled to the centre as the bells rose from the set position. The system wasn't perfect, however, and the bells were able to nudge the sliders a little during filming without them returning exactly to the centre. This means that the sliders are not always in the same position for every frame.
When it came to capturing the images for the Maryborough bells, a way of ringing the bells was devised that dispensed with the need for the rubber bands while achieving the same self-centering result (I'll leave that as a challenge for you think about).