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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » Mac


Universal Audio just made their interfaces into a live vocoder, more

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 14 Nov 2018 8:47 pm

Why would you want near-zero latency on an effect? Well, maybe you want to run something like a vocoder – and that means the latest addition to Universal Audio’s offerings is a big deal.

Universal Audio continues churning out software updates with new analog emulations and other add-ons to buy; 2018 has been a huge year for them. But those effects often don’t come cheap, and they are tied to UA’s own hardware. So one of the selling points of working that way has been that UA offers near-zero latencies, letting you track through those effects. That is, plug-ins are great – until you need real-time performance, since they can add loads of latency.

This is meaningless, of course, if you’re just applying effects to recordings after the fact. But a vocoder is an entirely different story, so I suspect that the new vocoder included in this month’s UA update will matter to a lot of people.

Interesting, UA are so locked in the studio paradigm that they say you’ll want to “track” through the vocoder – record while monitoring. But I imagine this vocoder may find its way onstage. Lots of vocalists perform with laptops for greater flexibility, and the UA vocoder has real-time MIDI and keyboard control.

The new Vocoder comes from Softube, those Swedish masters of emulation, who have made themselves a big name both as a provider to UA and as an independent vendor (including with their own native platform, though it doesn’t provide the same real-time possibilities).

The result is a vocoder that looks promising in the studio and onstage. I need to test this, so disclaimer – this isn’t a review. But here’s what they’re promising.

Any vocoder is a combination of synth and vocal input, by default. Here, you get an emulation of an analog polysynth, and then a number of unique tools specific to this offering.

  • 12-voice polyphonic “carrier” synth (that’s the synth you’ll combine with your vocals)
  • Analog synth emulation
  • Four waveform types, pitch modulation, pulse width modulation (and octave and attack/decay controls)
  • Variable bands – 4-, 8-, 12-, 16-, and 20-band modes – for simpler retro “robotic” effects to richer, modern digital vocoder styles
  • Resynthesis parameters – emphasis, spectral tilt (which adjusts how you shift between frequencies), shape, and parallel bend controls
  • MIDI control of notes and chords (also available from their built-in keyboard onscreen if you don’t have a MIDI source handy)
  • Synced freeze function – so you can capture a snippet of sound, and then use different clock divisions synced to a DAW or MIDI source

“Freeze” a snippet of sound, then manipulate that freeze in sync with your DAW or a MIDI source, with various clock division options.

Spectral controls give you more contemporary sounds, retro robot sounds, or anything in between.

And yeah, you can use this on vocals if you’re a terrible singer. You can use it if you’re a great singer. You can use it on things that aren’t vocals (hello, drums). And so on. Here are some nice tips from their even nicer studio:

This wasn’t the only addition to UA’s latest software. See also an AMS Neve console built especially for emulating the desk preferred by big budget Hollywood productions. That gives you the whole console strip you’d find at, say, Skywalker Sound – with Compressor, Limiter, Expander, Gate, and Dynamic EQ, plus four-band parametric EQ. Will it make you sound more Hollywood? No idea. Will it give you a psychological boost to try? Probably.

https://www.uaudio.com/uad-plugins/channel-strips/ams-neve-dfc-channel-strip.html

AMS Neve DFC Channel Strip.

And also in this release, they’re unveiling the first-ever authorized emulation of the legendary Lexicon 480L. If you don’t know that 80s-era reverb by its model number, you might know it from its beige case and faders – it’s one of the more recognizable effects in history. Being authorized in this case matters, because they were able to derive the results directly from the original’s firmware. (Oh yeah – digital means a “model” can be very accurate indeed.) And again, you can use this live. First thing I would do would be to map some faders to those parameters.

Lexicon 480L – the original hardware.

https://www.uaudio.com/uad-plugins/reverbs/lexicon-480l-digital-reverb-effects.html

9.7 additionally includes an emulation of the Suhr SE100 tube amp, plus from Brainworx the bx_masterdesk Classic chain.

But I do think the vocoder will be the one that gets people’s attention, because everyone —

Oh, no, I’m going to be interrupted by Robert Henke again.

More:

https://www.uaudio.com/uad-plugins/special-processing/softube-vocoder.html

(PS, if it’s an Auto-Tune effect you’re after, they also have a real-time edition of Antares’ Auto-Tune.)

The post Universal Audio just made their interfaces into a live vocoder, more appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Deal: get 8 engines, 19 expansions, with Output’s music software sale

Delivered... CDM Staff | Scene | Tue 13 Nov 2018 11:04 pm

Promoted: Using just one Output product can feel like you’ve got access to someone else’s studio, hard drive, and sound tricks. How about getting all of them? Output’s bundle is on a special say for November only.

[Partner post]

From now through November 30, you can get a special discount on The Bundle – that’s all the standalone instruments and effects from Los Angeles’ unique sound creation studio, ready to use on your Mac or PC. That includes nearly everything that Output makes. (The only exceptions are Arcade, which is priced by subscription, and Platform, which is a physical piece of furniture so … hard to download.)

The Bundle is already a great deal – it’s terabytes of sound, nineteen expansions, and eight separate engines, but costing 60% less than what it would if you bought all of those on their own. Now, you get the whole deal for another 25% off that discount.

How artists use these

What’s it like when you create these? Check it out. Vastly experienced producers Skizzy Mars and Michael Keenan use multiple products, layered, to create a particular sound they wanted for their work:

Che Pope, Grammy winning boss at Kanye West’s label and entreprenuer-composer and someone who has worked with everybody, makes a five minute beat and makes heavy use of Analog Brass & Winds:

Having these kinds of archives can be powerful when combined and used creatively. Composer and assistant Joanne Higginbottom, who has worked on the likes of Guardians of The Galaxy’, ‘Samurai Jack’, and ‘The Public’ is a great example of that. It’s not just about dialing presets – it’s about reaching deep to quickly combine sounds into a palette that gets the job done and is unmistakably your own. Watch her talk about her approach and inspiration – and how she can jam on the mod wheel when working and get to that instinctive level (including with these tools):

What’s in the box

This is a mind-blowing amount of content. Just one Output product includes multiple effects and a flexible engine – so you can dial up a big range of sounds, but also modify and shape new sounds in a powerful, specific engine. Those engines cover particular tasks like hybrid takes on strings, bass, vocals, and even more abstract concepts like pulses and reversed sounds, all with combinations of acoustic and electronic, analog and digital.

But put them together, and you get a whole range – a futuristic orchestra, if you will. You can mix and match, layer, and produce even bigger, more complex sounds all your own. What’s in the box:

ANALOG BRASS & WINDS
+ Brass Knuckles Expansion Pack

ANALOG STRINGS
+ Modern String Beds Expansion Pack
+ Neon Strings Expansion Pack

SUBSTANCE
+ Booty Bass Expansion Pack
+ Base Bass Expansion Pack
+ Dystopian Bass Expansion Pack

MOVEMENT
+ Current Expansion Pack
+ Beyond 4/4 Expansion Pack

EXHALE
+ Barely Vocals Expansion Pack
+ Indie Vocals Expansion Pack
+ Ambient Vocals Expansion Pack

SIGNAL
+ Adrenaline Expansion Pack
+ Classic Analog Expansion Pack
+ Cinematic Expansion Pack
+ Tape Loop Expansion Pack
+ Glow Expansion Pack

REV
+ Beautiful Pads Expansion Pack
+ Translucence Expansion Pack
+ Desolation Expansion Pack

REV X-LOOPS

That’s hundreds upon hundreds of presets, which can now be combined with one another or modified, too, and all the effect and sound engines inside.

We’ve been covering a lot of Output’s creations from the start:

Output’s Analog Brass & Winds is an orchestral library for synth lovers

Analog Strings from Output melds string orchestras, string synths

Substance is a new software approach to every kind of bass

Movement is a do-everything, musical rhythmic effect

Check it out at Output’s site:

https://output.com/products#instruments

Thanks to Output for their support of original content on CDM.

The post Deal: get 8 engines, 19 expansions, with Output’s music software sale appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

The new Maschine Mikro is tiny – but now its workflows scale

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 7 Nov 2018 8:51 pm

Native Instruments this fall unveiled a bunch of low cost alternatives to its flagship producer products – and the one that perhaps attracted the most attention is Maschine Mikro. Can you fit more into a small package?

If you’re really into Maschine, here’s my advice: MK3. Full stop. The MK3 has the most expressive, playable pads of any of the Maschine line. It’s got the same big display as the previous Maschine Studio – meaning you can make arrangements, adjust parameters without squinting, and set mix levels really easily. (None of that is possible on the Mikro.) And it has all the latest refinements, but it’s in a perfect form factor, as beloved on the original model and MK2.

It’s also reasonably compact. Maschine is my lifesaver for gigs because whatever may be in checked luggage (and therefore lost in checked luggage), you can fit Maschine MK3 into a backpack.

By comparison, I’m not fond of Push on the road, as I think its layout is better suited to studio creation than live performance, and it’s just a little bit bigger and a lot heavier than other devices – plus no audio interface. Small details, major difference if you’re playing fit-the-rig-in-the-backpack. And I know that sentiment is shared.

But there are times when you might want smaller, and you might be on a tighter budget – particularly if you’ve already invested in another controller.

So the Maschine Mikro is back. But this time, the pads are better, and while that display is small, you really can get away with using it. It could be ideal in a corner of your desk, and it’s more portable.

FACT Magazine have a great compact (natch) breakdown of how the Mikro works.

First, you inherit the touch strip and the note repeat from the rest of the line. That includes these clever performance effects, which are really quick to access from the touch strip. Note repeat and chord modes let you get away with squeezing lots of ideas onto a small palette — and, let’s be honest, they help you fake being way better at finger drumming than you actually are.

Sorry, might be projecting there. Better than I am, for sure.

And then there’s sequencing, too, which also scales well to this small form factor:

I’m personally sticking to the MK3 for one reason alone: the encoders to me are invaluable. I can load Reaktor Blocks instances in Maschine and then really shape sound on the encoders while keeping track of changing parameters on the displays. It’s like having a huge modular rig without the gear and back ache and debt. And I think the MK3 is good enough that it’s worth swapping in even the MK2 to get one – and certainly the MK1, which lacks the various workflow improvements and especially those great pads.

But I totally get the appeal of the Mikro.

I think ironically reducing that form factor finally lets you focus on learning some core features of Maschine and focusing on them. It looks like a no-brainer next to Ableton Push or an Akai APC or whatever you use as your DAW and controller arrangement (keyboards, etc). We’ve also seen previously how much musicality you can get just by focusing on the pads, as our friend Alan Oldham (DJ T-1000) took on even the first-generation model.

Cues: Detroit innovator Alan Oldham talks to us about techno, creation

So for getting out and playing, this is great stuff – and a bargain buy with the core software, a bunch of sounds, and a controller, too. I bet some people will get these as gifts – and have a great time.

https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/maschine/production-systems/maschine-mikro/

The post The new Maschine Mikro is tiny – but now its workflows scale appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Streaming music is coming to DJ software, but one step at a time

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 23 Oct 2018 3:23 pm

Streaming is coming to DJing. Last week saw new announcements from Tidal, SoundCloud, Serato, and several other software makers. But progress is uneven – expect these features at first to be primarily about discovery, not what you do at a gig.

The news this week:

SoundCloud announced coming support in Traktor, Serato, Virtual DJ, Mixvibes, and more:
Just announced: Soon you can access SoundCloud’s catalog of music directly through your DJ software [SoundCloud blog]

Serato announced support for SoundCloud Go+ and TIDAL premium and HiFi subscriptions in forthcoming DJ Lite and DJ Pro releases. They didn’t post even a news item, beyond sending a press release, but TIDAL added this minisite:

http://tidal.com/serato

The markets

First, before talking about the technology and the deals here, we need to first talk about what “DJ” means. Across that spectrum, we can talk about three really different poles, as far as use cases:

Wedding DJs (read: people taking requests). This is the big one. You can tell, because when streaming site Pulselocker shut down, there were screams from people who were playing wedding gigs and suddenly lost access to their music. This isn’t just about a technological shift, either. As American music markets have fragmented and mainstream pop music has lost its hegemony – and as DJing and music consumption have become more global – the amount of music people might request has grown, too.

Whatever you think of wedding DJs, you can imagine weddings as a place where global cultural and technological changes are radical and inseparable. And that’s good, because I don’t know about you, but if I have to hear “At Last” one more time, I may try to drown myself in a punch bowl.

If you have to take requests, access to all music becomes a need, not a luxury.

DJs playing hits. There’s also a club DJ crowd looking for big hits, too, which tends to overlap in some ways with the wedding DJs – they’re going for popularity over digging deep in a particular genre. That means that certain big hits that a particular streaming site has (cough, Tidal) become relevant to both these groups. (I was recently schooled on the importance

Underground DJs. More at the CDM end of the pond, you’ve got DJs who are trying to discover new music. Tidal might not be so relevant here, but SoundCloud sure is.

If you routinely tab back and forth between SoundCloud and your DJ app, integrating the two might have appeal – even for underground digital diggers.

The question of what DJs in each of these groups would want to do with streaming also varies. There’s discovery – some people are looking to play tracks on their digital DJ decks without first downloading, or for integration of streaming sites. There’s playing in actual gigs, with a live Internet connection. Then there’s playing gigs where you don’t have an Internet connection – more often the norm – where you might want tracks from a streaming collection to be synced or cached to storage.

How the DJ streaming landscape just shifted

Amsterdam Dance Event last week tends to center on the business of electronic dance music, so it was a stage for some of the players to crow about new achievements – even making some of those announcements before the solution is fully available.

In particular, DJ software maker Serato and streaming site SoundCloud were vocal about their coming solutions.

Some takeaways:

These solutions are online only. Let’s start with the big disclaimer. Downloads are here to stay for now, because these services work only when online, and standalone decks are left out.

Streaming tracks are fully integrated – I’ve confirmed that at least with Serato, who say when you’re connected, the tracks cache and perform just like locally stored tracks. But that’s when you have an Internet connection.

Pulselocker, the service specifically focused around this idea, had offered the ability to store tracks locally. None of these integrations offers offline access, at least initially. I’ve been told by Serato that if you lose an Internet connection mid-track, you can at least continue playing that track; you just lose access to other streaming content.

Wedding DJs or some clubs where you can rely on an Internet connection I expect will take advantage of streaming functionality right away, for DJs who take requests. For DJs who prepare music in advance, though, it’s probably a deal killer.

(Pulselocker was acquired by Beatport earlier this year, a sign that the big players were making their moves.)

Once upon a time, there was Pulselocker. But the service was acquired by Beatport, and nothing yet offers offline functionality as it did. (Blame licensing?)

SoundCloud and Serato are looking to get ahead of the curve – while we wait on Beatport and Pioneer. SoundCloud is partnering with all the major software vendors. (Only Algoriddim, whose djay product line for desktop and mobile is already integrated with Spotify, was missing.)

And Serato are leading the way with Tidal and SoundCloud integration, replacing their existing Pulselocker functionality.

Timeframe for both: “coming months.”

There’s reason to pre-announce something here, though, which is to try to steal some thunder from some market leaders. Beatport and Pioneer are of course dominant players here. We know both are readying solutions – Beatport making use of that aforementioned Pulselocker acquisition, presumably. We just don’t know when those solutions will become available; Pioneer CDJ hardware in particular is likely fairly far into the future.

Just don’t underestimate the Serato/Tidal combo, or even Serato/SoundCloud. Those are big partnerships for the US market and genres like hip hop, both of which are big and growing.

DJ compatibility is a way to sell you subscriptions. Yes, artists and labels get paid, but there’s another factor here – DJing is becoming so widespread that it’s a way to upsell music subscriptions. DJing really is music consumption now.

Use Traktor, Serato, Virtual DJ, Mixvibes, and others? SoundCloud hopes you’ll buy a top-tier SoundCloud Go+ subscription.

Using Serato, and want to play some top hits in high quality? Tidal can offer Premium (AAC) or HiFi (including lossless FLAC and ALAC streaming) tiers.

In case you doubt that, both services will work with full integration using just a 30-day trial.

SoundCloud still lags in quality. Just as on the site, SoundCloud for now is limited to 128kbps at launch, as reported by DJ Tech Tools.

Yes, streaming DJs could represent a new revenue source. This is one potential bright spot here on the creator side. Assuming you can reach DJs who might not have purchased downloads on Bandcamp, Beatport, and the like, the streaming sites will divvy up those subscription fees and calculate revenue sharing for track plays by DJs.

What does all this mean?

It’s easy to assume this is all meaningless. Serious DJs playing big club and festival gigs – or even underground DJs playing with dodgy Internet connections and meticulously organized USB thumb drives of USB – you’re obviously not going anywhere near this when you play.

And those DJs taking requests at weddings and playing the latest dancefloor megahits, well, that’s relevant to you only if you’re producing those kinds of hits.

But there remains some potential here, even with these launch offerings, whenever they do materialize.

For all but the most specific boutique labels and artists, I think most music creators are trying to maximize exposure and squeeze revenue wherever they can. A whole lot of those labels do put up their music through distribution, meaning you can download directly on Bandcamp, for instance, but you can also stream catalogs on Spotify and iTunes. (Anyone who’s doing digital distribution has likely seen long lists of weird streaming and download sites you’ve never even heard of, but where your music gets dumped and … eventually ripped and put up on pirate music sites, too.)

If this gets more people on premium subscriptions, there’s hope. It’s better than people listening to your music on YouTube while you get paid next to nothing.

The real question here is how streaming integration looks. If discovering new music is really what this is about – at least until fast Internet becomes more ubiquitous – then the integrations need to actually make it easy to find music. That shouldn’t just be about some automated recommendation algorithm; it will require a whole new approach to DJ software and music tools. Or at the very least, these tools should make you want to sit at your DJ rig with some friends, punch up some new artist names and find tracks. They should be as appealing as going to a record store, thumbing through records, and putting them on turntables – in a virtual sense, anyway.

And what about ownership? I think it’s important for DJs to be able to differentiate between always-on access to all music everywhere, and their own music collection, even if the collection itself is virtual.

Why not put SoundCloud streaming in your DJ app, but offer one-click buying to add downloads?

Or why not use the cloud as a way to sync music you’ve already bought, rather than make it exclusively an overwhelming supply of music you don’t want, which you lose when you lose Internet access?

At the very least, labels who are already squeezed as it is are unlikely to savor the thought of losing download revenue in exchange for hard-to-track, hard-to-predict subscriptions. $10 a month or so seems utterly unsustainable. A lot of labels already barely break even when they pay for even basic PR and mastering services. Imagine the nightmare of having to invest more just to be found on streaming services, while earning less as flat fee subscriptions are divvied up.

There’s an idea here, but it’s far from being ready. For now, it seems like the best strategy is to keep your catalogs up to date across services, keep building close relationships with fans, and … wait and see. In a few months we should see more of what these offerings look like in practice, and it seems likely, too, we’ll know more about where Pioneer, Beatport, and others plan to go next, too.

The post Streaming music is coming to DJ software, but one step at a time appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Logic Pro 10.4.2, MainStage 3.4: why you’ll want to update now

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 28 Sep 2018 1:48 am

The new Logic adds multi-track Smart Tempo, and sorely needed external storage of sounds, among other improvements – and live performance-friendly MainStage syncs up with Logic’s latest instruments, effects, and features.

Note that Mojave actually isn’t specifically mentioned in these updates – but pro audio users will, as always, want to move nice and slow with major OS updates to let hardware and software developers catch up and find any issues.

But existing Logic users should grab this one. Here’s the big one: if you’re running Logic on a machine that’s low on hard disk space (raises hand), you can now move your Logic Sound Library to an external storage device. So while 10.4 did add improvements for choosing what to install and what not to install, this is … possibly even better, because you can just buy a big, cheap drive and not sweat it at all.

Smart Tempo was a fascinating idea in 10.4, but now it’s actually fleshed out – so multi-track recordings, MIDI data, and imported stems now can all work with flexible time, without a metronome. (That is, they can both be a source or a target.)

Another overdue but important improvement: automation points can align vertically.

None of that will make you more creative, but Alchemy could. It’s an instrument that’s one of the best reasons to use Logic at the moment, even if we’re all sad it’s no longer a plug-in. And if you weren’t already importing audio into its powerful engine, now’s a good time to start, with a workflow that lets you choose how the engine will play that audio right as you drag it in.

The word from Apple:

• The Sound Library can be relocated to an external storage device
• Smart Tempo can analyze tempo data across multi-track recordings to define the Project Tempo
• Imported multi-track stems can follow or define Project Tempo
• Smart Tempo now analyzes the tempo of MIDI performances recorded without a metronome
• Alchemy provides drag and drop hot zones that let you select re-synthesis and sampling options while importing audio
• Alchemy allows numerical editing of parameter values
• Dragging one automation point over another now aligns them vertically
• New mixer mode allows channel strip fader and pan controls to be used to set send level and pan
• Automatic Slurs can be applied to selected notes in the Score Editor
• Add a photo to track or project notes to help remember key session details or studio hardware settings
• This update also contains numerous stability and performance improvements

Now we’re just waiting on a release that finally cleans up some of the older effects and instruments in Logic’s library – one by one, we’re getting there. (Sculpture and Space Designer gladly got a big refresh in 10.4!)

MainStage

MainStage now syncs up with the latest Logic, though it’s a shame these releases are not in (word of the week) “lockstep.”

So the following list is so long for MainStage because it’s partly catch-up with Logic 10.4’s various additions. That is a big deal for MainStage, because 10.4 included a bunch of effects and instruments.

This also means MainStage could be a go-to if you just want to jam with those toys and don’t care particularly about Logic – or, for that matter, even a DAW, period.

The “3.4” version number gives you a clue that this is the bigger of these updates:

General
• Channel Strip MIDI input inspector allows any MIDI CC data to be filtered, transformed or passed through
• Text notes can be added to the bottom of channel strips
• The Metronome is now fully configurable, with separate settings for Bar, Group, Beat, and Division
• This update also contains numerous stability and performance improvements

Sound Library
• The Sound Library can be relocated to an external storage device
• 2 vintage brush kits for Drum Kit Designer
• More than 800 new loops in a variety of instruments and genres
• New Visions library for Alchemy adds 150 cinematic presets

Plug-Ins
• ChromaVerb is a sophisticated new algorithmic reverb with a colorful, interactive interface for creating rich acoustic spaces
• Space Designer offers a new design and a scalable, Retina interface
• Step FX adds rhythmic multi-effect processing using 3 powerful step sequencers and an X/Y pad
• Phat FX makes your tracks bigger and bolder using 9 effects that add warmth and punch to your sounds
• The Vintage EQ Collection provides 3 accurate models of vintage analog EQs from the 1950s to the 1970s
• Studio Strings and Studio Horns are deeply sampled, realistic ensemble instruments with custom articulation controls
• Mellotron is now available as a standalone instrument plug-in
• Retro Synth now offers 18 different filter models
• The length of individual steps in the Arpeggiator plug-in are adjustable
• Loopback now applies a small crossfade at each loop cycle to reduce the likelihood of clicks or other audio artifacts

Alchemy
• Alchemy provides drag and drop hot zones that let you select re-synthesis and sampling options while importing audio
• Alchemy allows numerical editing of parameter values
• Alchemy adds 12 new synthesized formant filter shapes
• Alchemy now offers a side chain input that can be used as a source for envelope followers
• Alchemy includes an automatic time align feature for improved morphing
• New additive effects in Alchemy expand the options for filtering and modulating sound

Previously:

Logic Pro X 10.4: New effects, and play and mix audio without a click

The post Logic Pro 10.4.2, MainStage 3.4: why you’ll want to update now appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Real time visuals, no money spent: two great commercial tools

Delivered... Ted Pallas | Scene | Wed 26 Sep 2018 8:40 pm

Real-time design and live visuals can provide transformative powers. But what if you’re not ready to commit both time and money right away? Here are two industrial-strength tools that get you started for free. Meet Smode and TouchDesigner.

My name is Ted, and I wrangle content for live deployment to screens and sound systems. I also manage very large installs. Recent jobs include the NFL Experience in Times Square, a graphics package for Bounce Chicago, and a soundsystem install for a themed entertainment attraction built around Trolls. Next up, looks like a magic show and a year of touring a heady art music piece. I am living evidence that you can study theater and not computers, and still make a daily living doing Crazy Work with computers.

So, working with real-time visuals matters in the work I do.

The old way of doing things: go back into the content source file, make edits, render out a new video, maybe encode the video in an extra step, move the video to the server… it’s a lot, and it’s rarely a smooth process. The growing real-time toolkit, though, gives me a new option – I can just make the change in the media server, and then say “okay, how does this look?” It’s an incredibly empowering change, but with one major challenge – cost of entry, both for a strong machine to run on and time and money invested getting into the proper tools.

There are open source options. But for an easier entry into software – while still not spending money just to get going – I’m recommending either TouchDesigner or Smode.

You can expect the following features out of both packages:

  • Playback of a variety of media, moving or still or audio
  • Generate text, from string composition to font formatting to animation
  • Respond to a selection of external protocols, such as MIDI or DMX
  • Some amount of “projection mappability” – Smode locks their stronger stuff behind a paid license, while TouchDesigner gives you everything you’d need (or everything to build what you’d need.)
  • Respond to audio input, which can be shaped within the server
  • A timeline for making cues happen specifically, repeatedly and reliably.
  • The feature you’d really love access to is one you’ll have to pay for – and it’s NDI input/output
  • A user community that understands working on projects with high stakes

Resolution can be a deciding factor. If you want 1080p output and you don’t want to spend money on a license, just go download and start learning Smode. TouchDesigner’s Non-Commercial license (“no money needed if there’s no money made”) is locked to 1280×1280 output. That can be a benefit – it’s easier on system resources – but for applications that need HD (for output to monitors, cameras, or where aliasing is an issue), you might start with Smode, instead.

Beyond those features these two softwares are very different, which means they probably both have a home somewhere in your workflow. Here’s a quick comparison:

Smode

What is it? Smode is a real-time compositing engine initially built to map projections and LED screens on TV sets. It features an Adobe After Effects-style approach to look building – you put everything on a timeline, and set keyframes to do what you need them to do. There are also hooks for audio reactivity, MIDI input, and OSC input. Commercial use with the free license is allowed, it will output 1080p, and when installed on the right machine, it’s very reliable.

Who is it for? Smode is for teams that are building shows to a timeline – or even better, to timecode (hosted by Smode for other devices to follow.) I am not a regular Smode user, but with a week of playing with it, I’d say it’s a strong candidate for teams that already have a strong studio workflow (maybe feeding Resolume with content for projection mapping) and would like to start exploring what it’s like to do more work on-site. The UI in Smode references a number of classic media environments, from the stacked/nested object list to the dropdown menus in the timeline. If you don’t like looking at new UIs, this is the package for you. The army of After Effects power users out there will feel right at home in Smode. Bonus points go to the dev team, who bless you with a fat stack of totally awesome 2002-style 3d generative content. If you agree that the 90s are back this year, you should grab this software for building looks in 2020.

Who is it not for? I wouldn’t use this for busking – making up a show as I go – unless I was doing something very specific, such as deploying and live-tweaking a particle engine. I also wouldn’t use this without having a solid understanding of key frames (though this is certainly an ideal place to learn!)

What are the features that cost money? Mostly you miss out on advanced projection mapping tools, low-latency inputs and resolutions larger than a single HD (1920×1080). You also need to purchase a license to bet access to DMX and Artnet – if you’re using the server on a site with a lighting console, they think you have enough money to pay for a license.

I’d highly recommend purchasing a license – they’re affordable, and supporting software is vital to see it continue to develop.

What does it cost? Licensing Smode is currently in an interesting place – there is currently only distribution in France, Spain and Greater China. If I wanted to buy Smode I’d probably audit the heck out of the free version, make something cool, and then send it to the company so you can be linked up with the right distributor for your region. In general I think it’s always a good idea to involve yourself with companies that provide you critical tools – if you fall in love with Smode (from outside France, Spain or Greater China) it looks like your path to purchasing will involve developing this relationship as a default.

TouchDesigner

What is it? TouchDesigner is a node-based compositing tool originally forked off the grandparent of all node-based compositing tools, the great Houdini FX by Side FX. TouchDesigner is a combination of a graphics processing engine, a 3D rendering engine and a 2D engine that rapidly draws to the screen space. It’s also a Swiss Army knife for control operations – MIDI, DMX, Artnet, OSC, depth cameras, Windows multi-touch and audio are all within easy reach. It’s been used on some of the largest projects in the world, including the Salesforce Wall (this is a personal favorite, so I’m deciding to link it), upfronts and sporting events, concerts and the Times Square New Year’s Eve webcast. Touch has a workflow (and vocabulary) built around operators, or “OPs.” There are “CHOPs,” or “CHannel OPerators” for doing things to numbers, “TOPs” or “Texture OPerators” for manipulating images in 2D space, and so on – there’s special OP types for 2D manipulation, number channel operations, 3D space, materials, and data manipulation operations. The language is a bit unique compared to the VJ world, but that’s ok – it’s worth the time to learn, as you’ll be able to slip more readily into the Houdini FX world.

Made with TouchDesigner: The 33 meter (107 ft) long Salesforce Wall

Salesforce approached Obscura with the opportunity to create imaginative media for the 107’ long LED video wall in the lobby of their flagship San Francisco office. Our creative teams worked closely together to envision and produce work that transforms a passageway into a mesmerizing hyperreal environment. From capturing California’s Redwood National Forest in stunning 12K resolution, to a designing a convincing CG waterwall and more – we held nothing back in striving to impart a sense of wonder to everyone that enters the building.

Who is it for? TouchDesigner is for teams that are focusing on interactivity (or insane levels of flexibility) over complicated timeline/keyframe manipulations. Real-time media servers are exciting because they allow the content to inhabit the space more like a performer and less like a painting – the media can listen, respond and operate with specifiable levels of procedurality. Where TouchDesigner really shines as a part of my process is in how the tool approaches noise – there are ways to build any number of elegant solutions, allowing me to get things wiggling and jiggling without having to be so damn deterministic about it.

Who is it not for? If you don’t want to learn something new, stay away. If you want to look at everything from the point of view of a timeline, stay away. If you hate math, stay away. If you want a UI that serves you everything you need all the time (whether you need it in that instant or not), stay away. If you hate forums posts, wikis and YouTube, stay away. All of the rest of you – dig in.

TouchDesigner has one of my favorite origin stories in all of computers – it was initially a fork of Houdini, the massively powerful VFX and 3D compositing engine used in Hollywood for close to three decades. This is where all the -OP language comes from, and if it makes sense to you, go download and learn Houdini. If you are looking for work in media and you know Houdini, you will find work to do.

What are the features that cost money? This is a bit of a different proposition from what we saw with Smode, in spirit – resolution is similarly locked, and so is NDI. There’s also a whole bunch of highly advanced integration features that you’ll need a commercial license to access. The non-commercial free license does include Artnet and DMX, though, both in and out – a favorite use for TouchDesigner around my studio is as a host for LFOs and LFOs only, being utilized for processing somewhere else.

What does it cost? Touch Designer Pricing: TouchDesigner has two levels of paid license – Commercial and Pro. Commercial costs US$600, and unlocks all the features you’d need to handle a “typical” TouchDesigner deployment for a commercial job site. Pro adds a number of features specific to the needs of sites with a live broadcast/camera recording component, 3rd party projector calibration, simple sync of multiple TouchDesigner computers, custom bug fixes specific to the build of TouchDesigner you are deploying (very relevant for installations) and six hours of top-notch support.

Why do these two tools stand out?

There are, of course, other options – especially VVVV (for “free to use”) and Notch (for paid licenses.) [Ed.: Obviously, CDM will keep talking about other tools. Windows-only vvvv or “v-four” or “v-vier” in German has its own robust community; its user paradigm and licensing and workflow are all very much like TouchDesigner, which admittedly also makes choosing between them tough. Notch Builder is its own animal, and also well worth talking about when it comes to authoring motion graphics. In the long run, either could be just as strong, but I agree with Ted that if you want some short-term results to play around with, these two options here are tough to beat.]

I am recommending these two tools, Smode and TouchDesigner, specifically for artists, designers, VJs or teams that are new to a real-time workflow. They’re a gateway to the world of graphics that you can start with right away – without having to roll your own code (at one extreme) or be limited to low-performance, more creatively restricted VJ applications (at the other).
ho

More advice

Which OS – and what if you have a middle-of-the-road Mac? If you are doing graphics on a daily basis, I advise using Windows. I no longer consider the MacBook Pro a viable choice for doing live media work with modern software packages. If you are looking at a computer from 2016 or earlier and wondering “will these tools run well on this thing?” – I’m going to manage your expectation towards “not really.” If you are on on one of these older Macs, I’d consider focusing energy on VDMX, Lumen, and Photoshop – fake real-time by getting good at using VDMX’s LFOs to beatmatch visual FX parameters to music. A very new MacBook will do a slightly better job, but I still wouldn’t expect stellar performance – to push frames you need a solid graphics card. For real time I wouldn’t spec below a GTX 1080 – it’s pricey, but I honestly find myself topping out my rig all the time.

Ed.: I’ve chatted quite a bit about this with VDMX developers Vidvox. They are indeed happy on the newer Mac hardware, but they’ve also specifically optimized their software for that use case – and VDMX isn’t necessarily built for the use cases Ted is describing here. Since a lot of other software is cross-platform, even on Linux, the PC at the moment is an objectively better value for money with graphics. This isn’t a platform war, because it isn’t even a feat: there is an order of magnitude difference in flexibility and low cost for GPU power for your money, and it’s measurable. In music, it’s another ballgame: music applications tend to be less intensive than visual ones, they don’t use CPU resources in the same way, they don’t make any use of the GPU that would make a difference, and the Mac has some specific advantages that are different than the ones in visuals. You might well still choose Windows, but at least there’s more of a choice involved. And… now I’ll wait for comments on this.

Of course, follow the advice here – this isn’t about us telling you to go buy a new computer. Unless you want us to. -PK

Which framerate? Work at 60 FPS. 30 FPS is going to be less acceptable as time marches on. 29.97 is unnecessary for work heading to a projector, and you’ll want the extra frames to retime content if you are VJing a wide range of genres. A 120BPM 4-to-the-floor at 120 BPM would place a keyframe every 30 frames. Working at 60 FPS lets you get as low as half-time and still keep a good framerate, and speed up with enough resolution to maintain the critical elements of the motion.

What else should you be learning? Of course, general computer science skills are super critical to keeping this process healthy for your studio. You should be able to network stuff up, patch a video system, route audio as-needed and keep a tidy file system. It wouldn’t be bad to be familiar with some basic programming syntax, either – a lot of the time cue lists express themselves “programmatically,” and TouchDesigner goes so far as to let you use Python expressions in literally any text field.

Stay in touch! One last note – I’m looking to meet new producers and directors, if you’re looking to integrate real-time content into your project please feel free to reach out to ted@savag.es and we can talk about what you’re getting up to.

Ed.: Let us know how you’re doing with these tools and what you create! And if you work in this field, and have work you want to share or advice you want to give – including arguing with any here – we’d love to hear from you.

Also – one tip, I can wholeheartedly recommend Stanislav Glazov as a TouchDesigner instructor. He’s touring with Dasha Rush and doing various projects around Europe and Russia. Follow his studio Licht Pfad for more. We’ll be checking in with Stas soon, too, especially as he collaborates with our Establishment label. -PK

https://lichtpfad.selz.com/

TouchDesigner: http://derivative.ca/
TouchDesigner YouTube channel (with a bunch of stuff from the Berlin summit earlier this year)
Smode: http://smode.fr/

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Reason 10.2: “Yes, finally” to some stuff users want

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 26 Sep 2018 5:15 pm

Reason 10.2 is out now as a free update to Reason 10. It’s a “workflow” update – but those additions will likely be welcomed by current users.

I’ll spare you the GIFs, but the enhancements are detailed in a blog post from earlier this month:

Reason 10.2 is coming – see what’s new [Propellerhead Blog]

Basically, you get multi-lane editing (so you can finally edit multiple MIDI tracks at once, just as recently added in Ableton Live 10, also a bit overdue).

And you can adjust multiple faders at once in the mixer.

And you can snap to an adaptive grid (the grid changes with zoom level, though existing fixed grids remain).

There’s also an “Add Device” button.

The update you may be waiting for is still forthcoming. Later this year, Propellerhead promises improvements to VST integration. (It seems after years of being a holdout against plug-ins, Propellerhead did demonstrate some of what they’d previously argued – that plug-ins are tough to support and can add performance wrinkles.)

But it’s good to hear they’re working on it. Here’s what they write:

Meanwhile, work on VST performance is ongoing. The result of this work will be released as a separate free update later this year. The reason it’s a separate release is because the performance work is an extensive rewrite of the inner workings of the program and requires an expert task force.

Update news:

https://www.propellerheads.se/blog/reason-102-here

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Powerful SURGE synth for Mac and Windows is now free

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Wed 26 Sep 2018 5:05 pm

Vember Audio’s Surge synth could be an ideal choice for an older machine or a tight budget – with deep modulation and loads of wavetables, now free and open source.

And that really means open source: Surge gets a GPL v3 license, which could also make this the basis of other projects.

People are asking for this a lot – “just open source it.” But that can be a lot of work, often prohibitively so. So it’s impressive to see source code dumped on GitHub.

And Surge is a deep synth, even if last updated in 2008. You get an intensive modulation architecture, nearly 200 wavetables, and a bunch of effects (including vocoder and rotary speaker). Plus it’s already 64-bit, so even though it’s a decade old, it’ll play reasonably nicely on newer machines.

Inside the modulation engine.

Features:

General

Synthesis method: Subtractive hybrid
Each patch contain two ‘scenes’ which are separate instances of the entire synthesis engine (except effects) that can be used for layering or split patches.
Quick category-based patch-browser
Future proof, comes as both a 32 & 64-bit VST plugin (Windows PC)
Universal Binary for both VST and AU (Mac)

Factory sounds

1010 patches
183 wavetables

Oscillators

3 oscillators/voice
8 versatile oscillator algorithms: Classic, Sine, Wavetable, Window, FM2, FM3, S/H Noise and Audio-input
The classic oscillator is a morphable pulse/saw/dualsaw oscillator with a sub-oscillator and self-sync.
The FM2/FM3 oscillators consists of a 1 carrier with 2/3 modulators and various options.
Most algorithms (except FM2, FM3, Sine and Audio-input) offer up to 16-voice unison at the oscillator level.
Oscillator FM/ringmodulation
Most oscillator algorithms (except FM2/FM3) are strictly band-limited yet still cover the entire audible spectrum, delivering a clear punchy yet clean sound.
Noise generator with variable spectrum.

Filterblock

Two filter-units with arrangeable in 8 different configurations
Feedback loop (number of variations inside the parenthesis)
Available filter-algorithms: LP12 (3), LP24 (3), LP24L (1-4 poles), HP12 (3), HP24 (3), BP (4), Notch (2), Comb (4), S&H
Filters can self-oscillate (with excitation) and respond amazingly fast to cutoff frequency changes.
Waveshaper (5 shapes)

Modulation

12 LFO-units available to each voice (6 are running on each voice and 6 are shared for the scene)
DAHDSR envelope generators on every LFO-unit
7 deformable LFO-waveforms + 1 drawable/stepsequencer waveform
LFO1 allows envelope retriggering when used as stepsequencer
Extremely fast and flexible modulation routing. Almost every continuous parameter can be modulated.

Effects

8 effect units arranged as 2 inserts/scene, 2 sends and 2 master effects
10 top-quality algorithms: Delay, Reverb, Chorus, Phaser, EQ, Distortion, Conditioner (EQ, stereo-image control & limiter), Rotary speaker, Frequency shifter, Vocoder

http://vemberaudio.se/surge.php

Via Synthtopia.

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This tool lets you play all those popular vocal hooks like a keyboard

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 25 Sep 2018 9:40 pm

No, it’s not quite Millennial Whoop: the VST. But Output’s latest, Hooked, makes a whole trove of popular pop vocal elements playable like an instrument.

California sound boutique Output has already done one outing in vocals – Exhale. True to its name, that product made breath-y vocal ingredients playable, with an engine that let you freely warp and mangle materials and add effects. It was great, and I certainly overused it here and there thanks to the ability to squeeze whatever sound you wanted. (I got carried away enough to make this track.)

Just one catch – the edit process was a lot of mouse-ing around in the UI, adjusting faders, then playing on the keyboard.

And that’s where Arcade comes in. Now the “edit/mangle the sound” workflow and the “play around like an instrument” workflow are one and the same. So, even with a mouse, the process is much clearer. And once you really begin to use the keyboard-centric interface, you discover you can make big changes by playing.

So ‘Hooked’ isn’t just a set of stock clips you would use to replace a studio session vocalist. It’s something you might mess around with as an instrumentalist (or supplementing your own vocals, for a software/human hybrid).

Plus to avoid this getting dry (literally), they’ve added a bunch of processing – “pedal boards, pitch shifters, modular and analog gear.” And of course you can add more from there. (Arcade has an extensive, editable effects engine.)

The other big change: Output are now embracing a subscription model, so you subscribe once to Arcade and get this content included in your price, rather than having to commit separately to each new monolithic instrument they unveil.

As always, this tool seems both essential for anyone on tough deadlines for commercial work, while wanting to keep things fresh and original, but also potentially very powerful for creative abuse and unexpected applications. And yeah, I think mixing this with your own vocals could also be interesting. Let us know if you give it a try.

Singer/songwriter/producer Keeley Bumford aka Dresage seems to have contributed to the human side of the samples. Photo: Output.

More:

https://output.com/hooked

https://output.com/arcade

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Max 8: Multichannel, mappable, faster patching is here

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Tue 25 Sep 2018 8:15 pm

Max 8 is released today, as the latest version of the audiovisual development environment brings new tools, faster performance, multichannel patching, MIDI learn, and more.

Max is now 30 years old, with a direct lineage to the beginning of visual programming for musicians – creating your own custom tools by connecting virtual cables on-screen instead of typing in code. Since then, its developers have incorporated additional facilities for other code languages (like JavaScript), different data types, real-time visuals (3D and video), and integrated support inside Ableton Live (with Max for Live). Max 8 actually hits all of those different points with improvements. Here’s what’s new:

MC multichannel patching.

It’s always been possible to do multichannel patching – and therefore support multichannel audio (as with spatial sound) – in Max and Pure Data. But Max’s new MC approach makes this far easier and more powerful.

  • Any sound object can be made into multiples, just by typing mc. in front of the object name.
  • A single patch cord can incorporate any number of channels.
  • You can edit multiple objects all at once.

So, yes, this is about multichannel audio output and spatial audio. But it’s also about way more than that – and it addresses one of the most significant limitations of the Max/Pd patching paradigm.

Polyphony? MC.

Synthesis approaches with loads of oscillators (like granular synthesis or complex additive synthesis)? MC.

MPE assignments (from controllers like the Linnstrument and ROLI Seaboard)? MC.

MC means the ability to use a small number of objects and cords to do a lot – from spatial sound to mass polyphony to anything else that involves multiples.

It’s just a much easier way to work with a lot of stuff at once. That was present in open code environment SuperCollider, for instance, if you were willing to put in some time learning SC’s code language. But it was never terribly easy in Max. (Pure Data, your move!)

MIDI mapping

Mappings lets you MIDI learn from controllers, keyboards, and whatnot, just by selecting a control, and moving your controller.

Computer keyboard mappings work the same way.

The whole implementation looks very much borrowed from Ableton Live, down to the list of mappings for keyboard and MIDI. It’s slightly disappointing they didn’t cover OSC messages with the same interface, though, given this is Max.

It’s faster

Max 8 has various performance optimizations, says Cycling ’74. But in particular, look for 2x (Mac) – 20x (Windows) faster launch times, 4x faster patching loading, and performance enhancements in the UI, Jitter, physics, and objects like coll.

Also, Max 8’s Vizzie library of video modules is now OpenGL-accelerated, which additionally means you can mix and match with Jitter OpenGL patching. (No word yet on what that means for OpenGL deprecation by Apple.)

Node.JS

This is I suspect a pretty big deal for a lot of Max patchers who moonlight in some JavaScript coding. NodeJS support lets you run Node applications from inside a patch – for extending what Max can do, running servers, connecting to the outside world, and whatnot.

There’s full NPM support, which is to say all the ability to share code via that package manager is now available inside Max.

Patching works better, and other stuff that will make you say “finally”

Actually, this may be the bit that a lot of long-time Max users find most exciting, even despite the banner features.

Patching is now significantly enhanced. You can patch and unpatch objects just by dragging them in and out of patch cords, instead of doing this in multiple steps. Group dragging and whatnot finally works the way it should, without accidentally selecting other objects. And you get real “probing” of data flowing through patch cords by hovering over the cords.

There’s also finally an “Operate While Unlocked” option so you can use controls without constantly locking and unlocking patches.

There’s also a refreshed console, color themes, and a search sidebar for quickly bringing up help.

Plus there’s external editor support (coll, JavaScript, etc.). You can use “waypoints” to print stuff to the console.

And additionally, essential:

High definition and multitouch support on Windows
UI support for the latest Mac OS
Plug-in scanning

And of course a ton of new improvements for Max objects and Jitter.

What about Max for Live?

Okay, Ableton and Cycling ’74 did talk about “lockstep” releases of Max and Max for Live. But… what’s happening is not what lockstep usually means. Maybe it’s better to say that the releases of the two will be better coordinated.

Max 8 today is ahead of the Max for Live that ships with Ableton Live. But we know Max for Live incorporated elements of Max 8, even before its release.

For their part, Cycling ’74 today say that “in the coming months, Max 8 will become the basis of Max for Live.”

Based on past conversations, that means that as much functionality as possibly can be practically delivered in Max for Live will be there. And with all these Max 8 improvements, that’s good news. I’ll try to get more clarity on this as information becomes available.

Max 8 now…

Ther’s a 30-day free trial. Upgrades are US$149; full version is US$399, plus subscription and academic discount options.

Full details on the new release are neatly laid out on Cycling’s website today:

https://cycling74.com/products/max-features?utm_source=press&utm_campaign=max8-release

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UA unveils a maxed-out Thunderbolt 3 Apollo – and it’ll monitor surround sound

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 7 Sep 2018 5:14 pm

Universal Audio’s Apollo flagship audio interface and DSP platform is getting a big generational refresh and Thunderbolt 3. There’s a lot here, but maybe the most significant development is that 5.1 and 7.1 surround monitoring support is coming later this year.

It’s the Apollo X line for Mac and Windows – the x6, x8, x8p, and x16, all with Thunderbolt 3 connections to the computer and loads of I/O.

“UA’s hardware are just dongles for their plug-ins” – yeah, I hear that a lot. But the Apollo line was from the beginning the hardware that changed that. It said to users, hey, what if that add-on was also one of the best audio interfaces you can buy, even before adding in the DSP benefits. And then, over time, we’ve seen UA bake in greater functionality using that DSP horsepower.

The new Apollo really speaks to the high end of the market. These are the people who do depend on the reliability of the DSP hardware – because native processing, while enormously powerful, lacks the same predictability. (That’s a nice way of saying your CPU will suddenly peg and make a horrible glitching noise out of your sound.) That’s good to have anywhere, but especially in production environments in studios, in TV and video and games, in live tracking. A “studio” isn’t what it once was, to be sure, but then that’s also been the advantage of UA’s mobile interfaces. This is still about those situations where time is money and quality is everything, even if that use case may or may not be a studio per se.

Nicely enough, UA has managed to price out these systems for that full range, from the entry-level model at two grand (in reach of at least some serious independent producers) up to a maxed-out $3499 model.

In the process, we also see UA’s move from its more iterative, provisional approach of the past to a top-to-bottom hardware upgrade and greater software integration we get now. Having been on the UA train for a while, their stuff is just way more useful and way more reliable and easier to configure than when it started.

So here’s what you get:

All new A/D and D/A conversion which UA claims now best the industry for dynamic range and low signal-to-noise.
More DSP. 6-core processing boosts DSP by 50% over the past generation.
Mic preamp emulations. So, here’s another reason to run dedicated DSP – you can track through integrated preamp emulations of Neve, API, Manley, Fender, and more, saving money and space and adding flexibility in the studio, and then letting you take that studio rig on the road in a way that was previously impossible.
Surround formats up to 7.1, with speaker calibration and fold-down.

The surround thing is coming quarter 4, and obviously makes this way more appealing to exactly the sort of production environments likely to be attracted to UA in the first place.

There’s also various nice little touches: a built-in talkback mic and cue support, +24/+20 switchable operation, and a nice software bundle which interestingly now includes Marshall and Ampeg models. (I’m guessing that’s part of this focus on producers.)

The various models:

Apollo | x16 — US$3,499
133 dB dynamic range, THD+N -129 dB, 18 x 20 interface.

Apollo | x8p — $2,999
8 Unison-ready mic preamps, 129 dB dynamic range, switchable +24 dBu headroom settings, 18 x 22

Apollo | x8 — $2,499
Like the above but 4 Unison mic pres, 18×24.

Apollo | x6 — $1,999
The “producer one” – 2 Unison mic pres and Hi-Z ins, still surround support up to 5.1 (the others do 7.1), and 16×22 I/O.

The full range looks like a winner to me; I think we will see a lot of these show up in the studios, mix rooms, post facilities, and a lot of producer rigs, as UA promises.

There just isn’t anyone else doing this kind of platform. (The closest, Softube’s Console 1, in fact works perfectly with the UAD so it’s less a rival than a part of the same ecosystem.) It’s not going to be for everyone, but it does continue to look better for the people it’s for.

https://www.uaudio.com/apollo-x

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New Massive, cheaper cost of entry, and all today’s NI news, explained

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 6 Sep 2018 4:14 pm

Native Instruments just dumped a whole bunch of product news today – almost too much to follow. Here’s all of it in a nutshell. Spoiler: a new Massive synth is coming, TRAKTOR 3 is here, and it’ll cost less to get into their DJ, Maschine, and keyboard ranges.

There are two things coming that are really, really cool. One is the Massive synth, the power plug-in that sort of accidentally helped launched EDM, is back. And maybe to make up for EDM, now there’s a bunch of new features everyone will love. (Please, please try not to make another giant American/European dance genre with them.)

And on the DJ side, as I wrote separately, you get a new version of TRAKTOR plus a controller with moving, “haptic” wheels that’s more fun to play.

Other than that, this is mostly just about refreshing the product range and adding some more cost-effective entry points. Let’s follow along:

The products

MASSIVE X: Roughly a decade later, we get an all new flagship NI synth. Massive X has a new sound engine that takes advantage of today’s CPUs, new subtractive filters, lots of new effects, and a big modular engine for routing everything together. We should get more of the grimy, analog-modeled sound Reaktor Blocks and Monark and their ilk have given us, but despite “Monark” appearing on the filters, NI’s engineers tell me they wrote new code. Massive X is interesting, though: it seems both simpler and more understandable on first glance, but deeper and more modular under the hood.

Unfortunately, you’re going to have to wait to see more – Massive X is due in February, and the screenshots I’ve seen aren’t yet available to the public.

It’ll lead Komplete 12, though, across all editions. The existing Massive remains bundled with Maschine, and will continue to see updates – as it’s far lighter on CPU usage.

KONTAKT’s new Creator Tools promise to be a major boon to sound library developers and power users.

Same UI, but new effects in the new KONTAKT 6.

Wavetable module.

New KONTAKT. Kontakt 6 is another long-awaited update. For end users, there are new instruments: Analog Dreams (retro synths), Ethereal Earth (hybrid traditional/synthesized instruments), and Hybrid Keys (digital/keyboard combos).

But it’s really the behind-the scenes stuff that matters here. You can add three new reverbs, Replika delay, wah-wah, and a new wavetable engine to your instrument creations. There’s also a powerful Creator Tools app for people building sound libraries for their ecosystem, including instrument editing and debugging.

In other words, what you’ll really want to do with Kontakt 6 is play around with that wavetable module and make your own instruments.

KOMPLETE KONTROL A-Series – the cheaper ones. Like the NI keyboards and their easy navigation / mapping, but don’t like the higher price and don’t need (or want) those light-up colors? The A-Series is for you. The display is tiny, but the encoders are still usable and touch sensitivity means you can see which parameters are mapped to each encoder. NI have also developed their own semi-weighted keyboard action – and it feels pretty good. In return, prices are way lower – US$/EUR 149 (25-key), 199 (49-key), and 249 (61-key). Seems like it’ll be a huge hit.

KOMPLETE KONTROL S88 – the hammer one. The fully-weighted, hammer-action S88 gets an overdue MK2 refresh (it was one generation behind all the other sizes), so with the new displays and control features, plus wheels and not just touchpads. Also, while it’s a Fatar keybed, they’ve chosen a different one with a slightly faster action. I like this one better, for sure – it’s on par with some of the better liked hammer keys in recent years (feeling to me indistinguishable from the Kawaii keyboards, for instance). USD/EUR 999.

MASCHINE MIKRO The new MIKRO lets you access Maschine without hooking up a larger controller. That seems ideal for tight spaces and tight budgets. It doesn’t have exactly the same pads as the MK3, and losing those big displays is definitely a tradeoff. But I’ve got one in to test to see how the pads compare, and I personally relish the idea of keeping the MIKRO hooked up at all times in my shared studio rather than constantly swapping the larger controller with other machines.

The software bundle is where this gets really nice: Maschine Factory Selection (still a full 1.6G of sounds), Massive, Monark, and Reaktor Prism, and of course a MIDI mode for use with other software. Price for all of this is US$/EUR 249, with all that software no one else has.

TRAKTOR 3. The latest Traktor Pro 3 is a major rebuild, with a slick, flat new look, and a much easier, more powerful interface. Mixer FX are more direct one-knob effect and filter controls that are made ready for live jamming. Audio quality is improved, too, with the ability to route mixer audio entirely externally and a new time stretching algorithm. More on this soon.

TRAKTOR S4. Haptic wheels, an updated controller setup, dirt-resistant faders, and full inputs and outputs for $899 makes this the flagship controller to beat. Full preview:

TRAKTOR S2. The S2 looks and feels a lot like the S4. Sure, it lacks the S4’s fancy haptic wheels, but at least the build is similar. The S2 is still a capable entry-level controller, though it will have to go up against Pioneer offerings that work with their CDJ and Rekordbox ecosystems (aka “pack only USB sticks and go to the club” ecossytems). I’m also curious how it compares to Roland’s new controllers, which work with Serato and feature low-latency operation and some 808-inspired drum extras. But it looks like it brings a lot of what was great about the Z1, only with the ability to beat match on wheels.

Note that this promises future iOS compatibility, though. Time for an updated mobile TRAKTOR, no doubt. US$/EUR 299.

Online platforms. Sounds.com itself looks largely as we’ve seen it – so we’re still waiting on how this will integrate with NI’s products or what other features it will bring. But it is expanding internationally to more countries and adding new content. The Loop Loft soundware site and Metapop online collaboration/community hub meanwhile, each recent NI acquisitions, see their own updates. I hope to talk to Mate Gallic from NI about how this is all fitting together.

KOMPLETE 12. A lot of these products center around the new Komplete bundle. This year’s edition includes the all-new Kontakt 6 and electric sunburst Session Guitarist, Massive X (later on, when it’s done), and TRK-01, the Reaktor-powered kick/bass synth. (TRK-01 came out this summer and is stupidly cool, like dangerously so. More on that another time.)

When they’re available

NI don’t normally announce products this far ahead of shipping, so it’s worth just putting this on a timeline.

Now: Sounds.com, Loop Loft, Metapop updates (Web services)

Fall: Traktor Control S2 (vague on that date at the moment)

September 18: Maschine MIKRO

September 27: S88 keyboard

October 1: Kontakt 6, Komplete 12

October 18: Traktor Pro 3

October 23: Komplete Kontrol A-series keyboards

November 1: Traktor S4

February 2019: Massive X

And you get this video now, of course:

The post New Massive, cheaper cost of entry, and all today’s NI news, explained appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Inside Cypher2, and what could be a more expressive future for synths

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 3 Sep 2018 11:01 am

For all the great sounds they can make, software synths eventually fit a repetitive mold: lots of knobs onscreen, simplistic keyboard controls when you actually play. ROLI’s Cypher2 could change that. Lead developer Angus chats with us about why.

Angus Hewlett has been in the plug-in synth game a while, having founded his own FXpansion, maker of various wonderful software instruments and drums. That London company is now part of another London company, fast-paced ROLI, and thus has a unique charge to make instruments that can exploit the additional control potential of ROLI’s controllers. The old MIDI model – note on, note off, and wheels and aftertouch that impact all notes at once – gives way to something that maps more of the synth’s sounds to the gestures you make with your hands.

So let’s nerd out with Angus a bit about what they’ve done with Cypher2, the new instrument. Background:

A soft synth that’s made to be played with futuristic, expressive control

Peter: Okay, Cypher2 is sounding terrific! Who made the demos and so on?

Angus: Demos – Rafael Szaban, Heen-Wah Wai, Rory Dow. Sound Design – Rory Dow, Mayur Maha, Lawrence King & Rafael Szaban

Can you tell us a little bit about what architecture lies under the hood here?

Sure – think of it as a multi-oscillator subtractive synth. Three oscillators with audio-rate intermodulation (FM, S&H, waveshape modulation and ring mod), each switchable between Saw and Sin cores. Then you’ve got two waveshapers (each with a selection of analogue circuit models and tone controls, and a couple of digital wavefolders), and two filters, each with a choice of five different analogue filter circuit models – two variations on the diode ladder type, OTA ladder, state variable, Sallen-Key – and a digital comb filter. Finally, you’ve got a polyphonic, twin stereo output amp stage which gives you a lot of control over how the signal hits the effects chain – for example, you can send just the attack of every note to the “A” chain and the sustain/release phase to the “B” chain, all manner of possibilities there.

Controlling all of that, you’ve got our most powerful TransMod yet. 16 assignable modulation slots, each with over a hundred possible sources to choose from, everything from basics like Velocity and LFO through to function processors, step sequencers, paraphonic mod sources and other exotics. Then there’s eight fixed-function mod slots to support the five dimensions of MPE control and the three performance macros. So 24 TransMods in total, three times as many as v1.

Okay, so Cypher2 is built around MPE, or MIDI Polyphonic Expression. For those readers just joining us, this is a development of the existing MIDI specification that standardizes additional control around polyphonic inputs – that is, instead of adding expression to the whole sound all at once, you can get control under each finger, which makes way more sense and is more fun to play. What does it mean to build a synth around MPE control? How did you think about that in designing it?

It’s all about giving the sound designers maximum possibility to create expressive sound, and to manage how their sound behaves across the instrument’s range. When you’re patching for a conventional synth, you really only need to think about pitch and velocity: does the sound play nicely across the keyboard. With 5D MPE sounds, sound designers start having to think more like a software engineer or a game world designer – there’s so many possibilities for how the player might interact with the sound, and they’ve got to have the tools to make it sound musical and believable across the whole range.

What this translates to in the specific case of Cypher2 is adapting our TransMod system (which is, at its heart, a sophisticated modulation matrix) to make it easy for sound designers to map the various MPE control inputs, via dynamically controllable transfer function curves, on to any and every parameter on the synth.

How does this relate to your past line of instruments?

Clearly, Cypher2 is a successor to the original Cypher which was one of the DCAM Synth Squad synths; it inherits many of the same functional upgrades that Strobe 2 gained over its predecessor a couple of years ago – the extended TransMod system, the effects engine, the Retina-friendly, scalable, skinnable GUI – but goes further, and builds on a lot of user and sound-designer feedback we had from Strobe2. So the modulation system is friendlier, the effects engine is more powerful, and it’s got a brand new and much more powerful step-sequencer and arpeggiator. In terms of its relationship to the original Cypher – the overall layout is similar, but the oscillator section has been upgraded with the sine cores and additional FM paths; the shaper section gains wavefolders and tone controls; the filters have six circuits to chose from, up from two in the original, so there’s a much wider range of tones available there; the envelopes give you more choice of curve responses; the LFOs each have a sub oscillator and quadrature outputs; and obviously there’s MPE as described above.

Of course, ROLI hope that folks will use this with their hardware, naturally. But since part of the beauty is that this is open on MPE, any interesting applications working with some other MPE hardware; have you tried it out on non-ROLI stuff (or with testers, etc.)?

Yes, we’ve tried it (with Linnstrument, mainly), and yes, it very much works – although with one caveat. Namely, MPE, as with MIDI, is a protocol which specifies how devices should talk to one another – but it doesn’t specify, at a higher level, what the interaction between the musician and their sound should feel like.

That’s a problem that I actually first encountered during the development of BFD2 in the mid-2000s: “MIDI Velocity 0-127” is adequate to specify the interaction between a basic keyboard and a sound module, and some of the more sophisticated stage controller boards (Kurzweil, etc.) have had velocity curves at least since the 90s. But as you increase the realism and resolution of the sounds – and BFD2 was the first time we really did so in software to the extent that it became a problem – it becomes apparent that MIDI doesn’t specify how velocity should map on to dB, or foot-pounds-per-second force equivalent, or any real-world units.

That’s tolerable for a keyboard, where a discerning user can set one range for the whole instrument, but when you’re dealing with a V-Drums kit with, potentially, ten or twelve pads, of different types, to set up, and little in the way of a standard curve to aim for, the process becomes cumbersome and off-putting for the end-user. What does “Velocity 72” actually mean from Manufacturer A’s snare drum controller, at a sensitivity setting B, via drum brain C triggering sample D?

Essentially, you run into something of an Uncanny Valley effect (a term from the world of movies / games where, as computer generated graphics moved from obviously artificial 8-bit pixel art to today’s motion-captured, super-sampled cinematic epics, paradoxically audiences would in some cases be less satisfied with the result). So it’s certainly a necessary step to get expressive hardware and software talking to one another – and MPE accomplishes that very nicely indeed – but it’s not sufficient to guarantee that a patch will result in a satisfactory, believable playing experience OOTB.

Some sound-synth-controller-player combinations will be fine, others may not quite live up to expectations, but right now I think it’s natural to expect that it may be a bit hit-and-miss. Feedback on this is something I’d like to actively encourage, we have a great dialogue with the other hardware vendors and are keen for to achieve a high standard of interoperation, but it’s a learning process for all involved.

Thanks, Angus! I’ll be playing with Cypher2 and seeing what I can do with it – but fascinating to hear this take on synths and control mapping. More food for thought.

https://fxpansion.com/products/cypher2/

http://roli.com/

The post Inside Cypher2, and what could be a more expressive future for synths appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Inside Cypher2, and what could be a more expressive future for synths

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 3 Sep 2018 11:01 am

For all the great sounds they can make, software synths eventually fit a repetitive mold: lots of knobs onscreen, simplistic keyboard controls when you actually play. ROLI’s Cypher2 could change that. Lead developer Angus chats with us about why.

Angus Hewlett has been in the plug-in synth game a while, having founded his own FXpansion, maker of various wonderful software instruments and drums. That London company is now part of another London company, fast-paced ROLI, and thus has a unique charge to make instruments that can exploit the additional control potential of ROLI’s controllers. The old MIDI model – note on, note off, and wheels and aftertouch that impact all notes at once – gives way to something that maps more of the synth’s sounds to the gestures you make with your hands.

So let’s nerd out with Angus a bit about what they’ve done with Cypher2, the new instrument. Background:

A soft synth that’s made to be played with futuristic, expressive control

Peter: Okay, Cypher2 is sounding terrific! Who made the demos and so on?

Angus: Demos – Rafael Szaban, Heen-Wah Wai, Rory Dow. Sound Design – Rory Dow, Mayur Maha, Lawrence King & Rafael Szaban

Can you tell us a little bit about what architecture lies under the hood here?

Sure – think of it as a multi-oscillator subtractive synth. Three oscillators with audio-rate intermodulation (FM, S&H, waveshape modulation and ring mod), each switchable between Saw and Sin cores. Then you’ve got two waveshapers (each with a selection of analogue circuit models and tone controls, and a couple of digital wavefolders), and two filters, each with a choice of five different analogue filter circuit models – two variations on the diode ladder type, OTA ladder, state variable, Sallen-Key – and a digital comb filter. Finally, you’ve got a polyphonic, twin stereo output amp stage which gives you a lot of control over how the signal hits the effects chain – for example, you can send just the attack of every note to the “A” chain and the sustain/release phase to the “B” chain, all manner of possibilities there.

Controlling all of that, you’ve got our most powerful TransMod yet. 16 assignable modulation slots, each with over a hundred possible sources to choose from, everything from basics like Velocity and LFO through to function processors, step sequencers, paraphonic mod sources and other exotics. Then there’s eight fixed-function mod slots to support the five dimensions of MPE control and the three performance macros. So 24 TransMods in total, three times as many as v1.

Okay, so Cypher2 is built around MPE, or MIDI Polyphonic Expression. For those readers just joining us, this is a development of the existing MIDI specification that standardizes additional control around polyphonic inputs – that is, instead of adding expression to the whole sound all at once, you can get control under each finger, which makes way more sense and is more fun to play. What does it mean to build a synth around MPE control? How did you think about that in designing it?

It’s all about giving the sound designers maximum possibility to create expressive sound, and to manage how their sound behaves across the instrument’s range. When you’re patching for a conventional synth, you really only need to think about pitch and velocity: does the sound play nicely across the keyboard. With 5D MPE sounds, sound designers start having to think more like a software engineer or a game world designer – there’s so many possibilities for how the player might interact with the sound, and they’ve got to have the tools to make it sound musical and believable across the whole range.

What this translates to in the specific case of Cypher2 is adapting our TransMod system (which is, at its heart, a sophisticated modulation matrix) to make it easy for sound designers to map the various MPE control inputs, via dynamically controllable transfer function curves, on to any and every parameter on the synth.

How does this relate to your past line of instruments?

Clearly, Cypher2 is a successor to the original Cypher which was one of the DCAM Synth Squad synths; it inherits many of the same functional upgrades that Strobe 2 gained over its predecessor a couple of years ago – the extended TransMod system, the effects engine, the Retina-friendly, scalable, skinnable GUI – but goes further, and builds on a lot of user and sound-designer feedback we had from Strobe2. So the modulation system is friendlier, the effects engine is more powerful, and it’s got a brand new and much more powerful step-sequencer and arpeggiator. In terms of its relationship to the original Cypher – the overall layout is similar, but the oscillator section has been upgraded with the sine cores and additional FM paths; the shaper section gains wavefolders and tone controls; the filters have six circuits to chose from, up from two in the original, so there’s a much wider range of tones available there; the envelopes give you more choice of curve responses; the LFOs each have a sub oscillator and quadrature outputs; and obviously there’s MPE as described above.

Of course, ROLI hope that folks will use this with their hardware, naturally. But since part of the beauty is that this is open on MPE, any interesting applications working with some other MPE hardware; have you tried it out on non-ROLI stuff (or with testers, etc.)?

Yes, we’ve tried it (with Linnstrument, mainly), and yes, it very much works – although with one caveat. Namely, MPE, as with MIDI, is a protocol which specifies how devices should talk to one another – but it doesn’t specify, at a higher level, what the interaction between the musician and their sound should feel like.

That’s a problem that I actually first encountered during the development of BFD2 in the mid-2000s: “MIDI Velocity 0-127” is adequate to specify the interaction between a basic keyboard and a sound module, and some of the more sophisticated stage controller boards (Kurzweil, etc.) have had velocity curves at least since the 90s. But as you increase the realism and resolution of the sounds – and BFD2 was the first time we really did so in software to the extent that it became a problem – it becomes apparent that MIDI doesn’t specify how velocity should map on to dB, or foot-pounds-per-second force equivalent, or any real-world units.

That’s tolerable for a keyboard, where a discerning user can set one range for the whole instrument, but when you’re dealing with a V-Drums kit with, potentially, ten or twelve pads, of different types, to set up, and little in the way of a standard curve to aim for, the process becomes cumbersome and off-putting for the end-user. What does “Velocity 72” actually mean from Manufacturer A’s snare drum controller, at a sensitivity setting B, via drum brain C triggering sample D?

Essentially, you run into something of an Uncanny Valley effect (a term from the world of movies / games where, as computer generated graphics moved from obviously artificial 8-bit pixel art to today’s motion-captured, super-sampled cinematic epics, paradoxically audiences would in some cases be less satisfied with the result). So it’s certainly a necessary step to get expressive hardware and software talking to one another – and MPE accomplishes that very nicely indeed – but it’s not sufficient to guarantee that a patch will result in a satisfactory, believable playing experience OOTB.

Some sound-synth-controller-player combinations will be fine, others may not quite live up to expectations, but right now I think it’s natural to expect that it may be a bit hit-and-miss. Feedback on this is something I’d like to actively encourage, we have a great dialogue with the other hardware vendors and are keen for to achieve a high standard of interoperation, but it’s a learning process for all involved.

Thanks, Angus! I’ll be playing with Cypher2 and seeing what I can do with it – but fascinating to hear this take on synths and control mapping. More food for thought.

https://fxpansion.com/products/cypher2/

http://roli.com/

The post Inside Cypher2, and what could be a more expressive future for synths appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Luminance adds shimmery reverb to your sound – and it’s a runaway hit

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 17 Aug 2018 7:14 pm

Reverbs can mimic real spaces (precisely or loosely), or sound like springs, or sound like thickened delays. Luminance goes somewhere else: unreal, shimmering spaces full of glimmering reflections. And it’s already taking off.

Shimmer-y reverbs are perhaps a zeitgeist now, as developers return to digital effects and new twists on those ideas. From the team formerly at CamelAudio, we saw ChromaVerb in the Logic Pro X 10.4 update at the start of this year, and a couple of Max for Live devices have gone a similar direction.

Luminance has the advantage of sounding unique, utterly beautiful, and with a clear, simple interface – one that lets you dial in just the amount of effect you want, while always producing lovely results. It’s probably the most accessible take I’ve seen on the idea, and the results sound modern and fresh without being too unfamiliar.

In short: it’s some dreamy sauce you can add easily to anything. And that may explain its runaway sales. Mac-only developer Sinevibes has a strong following, but this particular plugin, the developer told us, has already far exceeded any other launch, even in its first 24 hours in the world.

Here’s how Artemiy describes it:

Luminance is a plugin for creating “shimmer reverb” effects – unreal acoustic space simulations which gradually pitch-shift the reverberation tail. It’s a novel take on this coveted effect, here based on a modern “feedback delay network” design with high-quality interpolation – plus quite a few original tricks such as phase-inverted time modulation, special configurations for damping and signal blending. All this gives Luminance a fresh and highly musical character: it smoothly follows the original melodies and harmonies and creates a lush background sound layer reminiscent of a dreamy symphony of strings or pipe organs. And to ensure highest possible day-to-day usability, Luminance has an easy-to-understand set of finely-tuned parameters.

There’s a really nice demo video that gets the point across (probably also helped sales):

An update since launch has added compatibility fixes all the way back to Mac OS X 10.6 – there’s something you don’t hear often these days.

Cost: US$29. (Demo and bundle pricing available)

32-bit/64-bit Mac AU only.

http://www.sinevibes.com/luminance/

The post Luminance adds shimmery reverb to your sound – and it’s a runaway hit appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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