Chris Randall: Musician, Writer, User Interface Designer, Inventor, Photographer, Complainer. Not necessarily in that order.

Archives: March 2011

March 28, 2011

Discord3 and Replicant 64-bit OSX AU and VST...

by Chris Randall

I have, in my grimy little paws, 32/64-bit installers of Discord3 and Replicant. We'll push them out tomorrow, but if you'd like to test, and you already own either or both, hit me up and I'll sport 'em to you.

EDIT: Okay, Discord3 v1.1.0 for OS X and Replicant v1.6 for OS X are now in the store for immediate download. If you own either, you're good to go. A note: if you only use Ableton Live on a Mac, or one of the other 32-bit hosts, there is no earthly reason to do either of these updates. This update is mainly for Logic users and people using Cubase 6 (64-bit), along with the couple of other minor hosts that are 64-bit on the Mac.

Also, the number of comments this post initially got before the edit (1), and the number of e-mails I received (2) will show you exactly how important this 64-bit boondoggle is. These are two of our best-selling plug-ins, with many thousands of legit purchased copies of both out in the world, in heavy use every day by industry professionals, and only two people were like "shit, gotta have it."

March 24, 2011

New (and older) Micronaut Stuff...

by Chris Randall

This is definitely absolutely the final "experiment" video. I have decided how I'm going to do the next micronaut full-length, and am going to begin work on that in earnest now. In this one, everything is sequenced in Live. I'm using the SoundPrism Pro app to play the TETR4 for the main melody line. I record the one-measure clip in to Live, then loop it, as you can see.

A quick note about SoundPrism. If you have an internet connection and are a musician, you probably saw the hullaballoo a couple weeks about how Apple had rejected a SoundPrism update because of MIDI capability being an in-app-purchase. Audanika re-submitted the MIDI version as a "Pro" build, and it is now available in the App Store for $9.99. This is a very cool app, and I recommend it.

Due to many requests, I've taken the audio from three of the "experiment" videos, plus the full track of "location 1" (the field recording video/song), plus one previously-unheard track called "procedure 1" which I did entirely in Max, no samples, no external synths, and made a BandCamp release. (Boy, that was a long sentence.)

Anyhow, it can be found here for pay-what-you-want-minimum-nothing, which is how I've taken to doing the off-release stuff.

An interesting technical point is that these five tracks were created with five different methods.

1. location 1: Field recordings, re-sequenced in Live.

2. experiment 2: hardware synths, sequenced with an Apple //e and Roland CMU-800R.

3. procedure 1: Entirely procedural/algorithmic, done entirely in Max/MSP, end to end. No samples, no hardware synths, no plug-ins.

4. experiment 4: MIDI algorithmically generated in Max/MSP, driving hardware, recorded in Live.

5. experiment 5: All hardware, driven by MIDI sequenced in Live, recorded in Cubase 5.

While those facts, in and of themselves, aren't that amazing, what I found odd was that, upon assembly of the collection, all five tracks are strikingly similar. I think this was a result of the whole point of these experiments, which was to determine a new workflow that didn't involve making short samples and moving them about until I had a song. In other words, I wasn't looking to push any melodic envelopes; rather, I was concentrating on technical matters.

Strange how things work out.

March 21, 2011

The End Of The Road, Vis-A-Vis Hipster Cool...

by Chris Randall

My main purpose in putting this up, aside from strictly historical interest, is to make James from RetroThing wet his pants with jealousy. Jeff Laity from TASCAM (who posts as synthetic here) sent me this little gem completely out of the blue, because he knows this is the sort of thing that makes me all giggly like a little girl.

What it is: the TEAC Open Reel cassette system. Check it. You've got an empty shell of a cassette, and you can swap out the reels of tape as if it was a reel-to-reel. There's a take-up reel included with the system, and each roll of tape has its own little plastic case that screws apart. I think, from a commercial standpoint, that it's interesting this was ever released at all.

The construction quality of the reels themselves, and their little holders, is top notch, just as nice as a roll of Quantegy 2" or some such. The cassette shell thing is kind of not-as-awesome, but it'll get the job done. There's a slot in the side of the shell that you slide the reel in to, and then you spool the tape over to the take-up reel, and Bob's your uncle.

As far as I can tell, the point of this system is to be able to just leave the shell in your Walkman (or TEAC-branded version of same) and then you've got these little spools instead of a rucksack full of cassettes. They're much, much tinier, of course. A pretty cool concept all in all, but I wish (oh, how I wish) there was a tiny little 1/8" reel-to-reel deck they went with. No such luck.

March 20, 2011

How To (Not) Make A YouTube Video...

by Chris Randall

Okay, here's the deal. Either you're a media professional of some sort, or you want to be one. Concurrently, you got a new piece of kit and want to show it off on the 'Tubes, to amaze your friends and amuse your enemies. So why, oh why, do you insist on doing something like this?

The days of "Fucktard Of The Week" are long gone, and I didn't pick this video just to give the dude who made it a hard time. Rather, it embodies virtually everything nobody likes about YouTube gear demo videos in one fell swoop.

1. The Disembodied Hands. I'm guilty of this myself on occasion; sometimes it can't be helped if you're demonstrating a product, or making a video for eBay or something. But seriously, if there is any way you can fit an elbow or something in that frame...

2. That Boy Can Play! Jump? Blue Monday? Born Slippy? You're fucking killing me here. This may come as a shock, but we can all play those parts. Most of us can play them right, even. Unlike you.

3. The Rarest Of The Rare. The reason for making this video is obviously the super rare blue JP-8000. Nobody ever sees one. Seriously, if you're gonna put up a video of parts everyone can play, on a synth everyone has, at least wear a funny costume while you do it.

4. The Shit Quadrella. In short, shitty video, shitty audio, shitty performance, shitty gear. This is the very definition of a waste of bandwidth.

That video has 45,000 views. If you put all those people in one place, that place would need to be a football stadium. If you were going to play a stadium show, is this how you'd want to present yourself?

Crandall's Golden Rules Of YouTube Videos:

1. Play something we've never seen before. Either gear or technique, but ideally both. That way, you're adding to popular culture rather than taking from it.

2. Never apologize. If you plan to spend the whole video or description box telling me how your performance or gear or whatever isn't the best you can do, why should I watch it? Go back and do the best you can do, then hit the "upload" button.

3. Ditch That Cell Phone. The shittiest camcorder currently available takes video that is an order of magnitude better than the best cell phone. And for fuck's sake, buy a tripod, unless your BFF is a steadicam operator.

4. The Mic On Your Camera Is Fucking Useless. Record the audio of your performance anywhere but via the camera's mic. Record in the DAW you're using as a mixer, render, swap that shit out in iMovie.

Seriously, it's not that hard to put up something that is at least mildly interesting, if not outright entertaining. It's harder than recording a video on your iPhone 3GS and pressing the "Upload To YouTube" button, I'll grant. But if you're the sort of person that wants to do things half-assed, you wouldn't be reading this part of the article, anyhow.

March 18, 2011

iOS Apps: ur doin it rong...

by Chris Randall

My goal today was going to be to put up a fairly thorough review of the Fairlight App for iOS devices. However, I'm a little pissed off now, and with the mood swing comes a goal change.

I purchased the app essentially the minute it went live in the app store. It was $9.99, and I didn't really read the description. I was just like "ten bucks for a Fairlight IIx. Buy now. Click." Here's what I didn't know:

The $9.99 version is, for all intents and purposes, useless. All you can do with it is browse the IIx library, play those sounds from the on-screen keyboard, and play two fairly shitty Page R demonstration songs. That's it. End of story.

Right now, you're saying "but Chris! It says MIDI is a built-in feature right there in the App description! Plus I know from Audanika's recent experiences with Soundprism that you can't sell MIDI support via an in-app purchase! So it's still useful, right?"


CoreMidi support is not available in the $9.99 version. Page R doesn't send MIDI. The voices don't respond to MIDI. The keyboard doesn't send MIDI. It is, for all intents and purposes, a fart app that plays shakahuchi flute samples instead.

Is that image big enough to read? The entries without checkmarks are the ones you get in the Pro version, for which you need to pony up another $39.00. Now, the next thing you'll say is "well, it's a total of US$48.98 for a full-featured Fairlight IIx. That's not so bad." I agree. So what the fuck is the point of the trick, then? The $9.99 one should be free, because it is useless. The "Pro" one should be $49.99. And that's that.

I'll tell you what else I don't like: the fucking gimmicks. The keyboard and disk drive sounds are irritating. The little puzzle you have to complete at the beginning about made me want to frisbee my iPad across the fucking room. When an app is more than, say, $1.99, no matter what its price point beyond that, I expect it to be professional. Not a toy. This thing is made of wood, and someday, if the In App Purchase Fairy comes and touches it with a magic wand, it'll turn in to a real boy. It gets a "DO NOT BUY" from me.

EDIT: I was able to get the CoreMidi working by killing the app and restarting it. Note that it only works on the instrument that is selected via the P3 page. In the simple version, the MIDI implementation is just the selected voice, and that's it.

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