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

Archives: 2007

October 30, 2007

A Terribly Unscientific Poll...

by Chris Randall

I'm deep in the throes of wrestling the UI for our next product in to submission, and I was kind of curious about something. I know there are basically two schools of thought viz. the user interface of a plug-in, as far as consumers go. There's the "hardware look" guys who want every plug-in to look like an 1176 exact, and the "Starship Enterprise" guys who think that anything that appears on a computer screen should look like Hello Kitty's toilet paper, except with animation.

That would, of course, be a gross generalization, but before we wade in to it, let me say this much: the user interface informs the use of the device, no matter what it is. Especially when you get in to the territory of stuff that doesn't exist in hardware. The UI and the DSP code are symbiotic, and one is essentially pointless without the other. This might not seem obvious at first pale (a well-coded 1176 clone will work just as well with the generic slider interface as with the photo-realistic rendering) but it is a fact. The UI sells the plug-in, more than anything else, and the sales provide a comfort zone in which R&D can occur, and the R&D births better DSP code.

In any event, I personally am comfortable with any UI, whether it have fake knobs or space-age OpenGL 3D sliders, as long as it is logically laid out. Nothing against the designers in question, but in my opinion this and this are both glaring examples of how trying to be all things to all people results in a UI of such ridiculous complexity as to actually hinder someone's workflow. The one-knob-one-function design ethos gets terribly overbearing when you consider that most people step through the presets until they find one they like, and maybe touch up the filter frequency a bit afterwards.

Obviously, each effect needs certain controls to be useful, and I won't argue that point at all, but our last release (Vapor) could easily have had 20 controls or more, if we made each possible data point in the algorithms accessible to the user. But it really wouldn't change what is useful about the plug-in, or how it will be used and in what context. It would certainly look more impressive, but ultimately, well, you know...

I am rambling a bit due to the excellent medication my dentist gave me today, but what I'm trying to learn is this: in a plug-in that has a certain complexity level which requires a couple dozen controls, do you prefer the immediately obvious, but somewhat overbearing and anachronistic hardware look, or the not-obvious-at-first-glance, but somewhat more apropos-to-the-context "Starship Enterprise" vibe? If you're gonna answer, try to explain your reasoning and put it in some sort of context, rather than just posting "hardware" or "Hello Kitty." I already know how the percentages will split.

October 30, 2007

It's been too long...

by Chris Randall

Because you know you want it. In fact, you need it. Man up and take that shit.

October 28, 2007

Open Thread...

by Chris Randall

Sorry for the lack of posting, but I spent Friday literally ankle-deep head-first in a hole in the ground digging out tiny rocks with a screwdriver in the high desert. I spent Saturday recovering from Friday, and now I'm spending Sunday discovering that absolutely nothing of note happened in the music industry on Friday or Saturday.

So, open thread today, and hopefully someone on YouTube will do something musically stupid that we can all laugh about Monday morning. Subject for today, swing and "groove" in dance music, and the utter lack thereof in the vast majority of it. If you're wondering why your progressive house track, which is essentially the same as that other fellow's, isn't selling as well as his, you need look no further than the swing slider in your DAW. And maybe scoot that first foot a little bit to the right as well. Presto. Hit. Make sure to give me points on the mechanicals.

October 25, 2007

MIDIjack and some AD stuff...

by Chris Randall

Just got the Synhouse MIDIjack for the The Source in the mail. I'll probably put it in tonight, and photo-doc the whole process, so you can see how easy it is (or isn't...)

In other news, we're entering the R&D phase for our next product, which will most assuredly not be of the "small and cheap" form factor of the last three. This one will be one of our full-sized full function products, and take a bit of time. As soon as we've hashed out the details (a month or so?) I'll start teasing. Also, T-shirts will go on sale in the AD store on Monday, since the initial rush for Vapor is more or less over, and we're back to our normal daily sales.

UPDATE: I finished installing the MIDIjack in the The Source. The scaling is a touch off, but that can be adjusted, and otherwise it works flawlessly, taking in to account the oddity of the The Source to begin with, of course. Here's a split-beaver shot of the The Source, before the install:

Here's what the MIDIjack looks like after it has been attached:

As I surmised, I was able to use the existing (and otherwise utterly useless) "Cassette Interface" DIN plug. It was as simple as de-soldering and capping off the existing five wires, and attaching the two from the MIDIjack. Easy. Here's a pic:

All in all, it took me about an hour, but I dilly-dallied. Someone with a little more in the way of electronics chops could do it quicker, I'm sure. It was kind of a drag to have to drill holes in the face of the The Source for the MIDIjack, but as the manual hinted, there really isn't anywhere else it could go, and you need access to the button.

I still have a few Micronaut songs to finish for the upcoming album, and it'll be fun to go through and replace and add with this little guy; I look forward to it.

October 23, 2007

And in the same vein...

by Chris Randall

Downloaded and installed the Cubase 4.1.0 update. All seems to be well. There's sidechain now, but it's kind of dumb in its implementation, I have to say. And 3rd party devs can't use it until Steinbaha releases the VST3 SDK, so you're stuck with the next-to-useless C4 compressors and stuff. But it is there, and that's something.

The new routing scheme is fairly crafty, though. Makes it much easier to print external inserts and shit, something I do quite often. The way they've rigged it, you can't make a feedback loop, which will no doubt bumb Adam out to no end. I think there might be a way, but I haven't fully investigated it yet.

The update also fixed a couple problems I was having with repeatable crashes and audio skippage. So that's nice. All in all, a good update. No complaints.


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