29th February 2016

Virtual Belfry

What it runs on
PCs running Windows XP and later. It works well on a touchscreen device.

What it does
Virtual Belfry is a simulator program for use in the tower or at home. It has features designed specifically for teaching and for method and striking practice. The program’s main window has a selection of different views, including:

  • A smoothly-scrolling blue-line window. This shows the actual blue line, with your own line superimposed over it (the rows themselves are optional). It is useful for occasional reference during ringing (when lost, for example), but its main value is as a completely objective post-touch reference for discussion of faults during a teaching session.
  • A “beatometer”, showing a real-time, animated representation of the rhythm of the ringing with an indication of the ringer’s correct and actual place. Hard to describe, obvious when you see it. New learners struggling with rounds tend to like it.
  • A histogram to show at a glance how accurate the striking was.
  • A history window where all results in a session accumulate and can be saved to show trends over time.
  • Moving ropes with unique ropesight aids.
  • Photographic animation of bells.

The photographic animation uses real photography of the bells of St. David’s Cathedral in Hobart (eight before augmentation, twelve after) and St. Paul’s church in Maryborough, Queensland. The bells behave realistically, providing a way to show how bells of different sizes work together and how they are checked and held up during change ringing. The images for the original eight bells are available by free download. The twelve bells and the Maryborough bells require separate purchase.

The bells will ring any method, composition or call change sequence you choose from the program’s built-in lists. There is also a separate menu of exercises, useful for teaching. You can add new items to any of these lists (e.g. methods obtained from the MicroSIRIL library). You can call touches manually (using the keyboard), or by starting a pre-defined composition. Compositions are stored in formats that closely match their normal written forms and allow splicing, half-lead calls and more.

The program connects to sensors using either RS232 control signals (via serial port pins) or the Bagley multi-bell interface and other, similar interfaces.

What it costs
£35, or AUD$50 if purchased within Australia. (The animated bell images are in addition to this, as described above.)

Where to get it and/or more information
The program is downloadable from the website. Everything is functional, so you can try it and see how it works, but until it has been activated (following purchase) there is a limit to how long it will ring for before stopping (8 whole pulls, after which they can be restarted, of course).

The program can be purchased via the Virtual Belfry website, www.belfryware.com
Payment is by direct deposit or by Paypal(typically with a credit card). Delivery of purchased bell images is by CD through the post.
Full details about the program are also available on the website.

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