November 11, 2005

New TC plugs are food for thought...

by Chris Randall

TC announced a couple new PoCo plugs today, and in doing so, also announced their new UI initiative. This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart, so I have a bit to say on the subject. (What are the odds?)

When you're making plug-ins, you have to decide if you want to do a hardware look or a look that takes advantage of the environment (i.e. a computer screen. I've found that, in general, people prefer the former. I haven't really explored something like the Fabrik C pictured above, but I've gazed longingly at the System 6000 stuff for some time. The two schools of thought are, in my opinion, as follows:

The Hardware School states that a device that does a particular thing is more intuitive if it looks like the hardware.

The Modern School states that it's stupid to make a piece of software look like hardware, when it's on a damned computer screen.

Now, when we're doing something like Phase Two, which exists in the Real World as the Mutron Bi-Phase, logic would dictate that we make the UI as similar to the real thing as possible. (Which we've done.) But for something like Filterscape it makes sense to take advantage of the computer paradigm. (IMO, Filterscape is the single best modern UI there is.)

Speaking just to the email on the subject I've received, most people prefer hardware looking plug-ins to modern looking ones. I've done a bit of meandering in the AD product line before I settled on our current cartoonish hardware look, which I feel takes advantage of the computer environment, but still keeps an intuitive hardware feel to things. To get a good cel-shaded 3D look, I obviously need to tilt the hardware a bit, and this won't work for something like Ronin.

Anyways, I'm just thinking out loud. What do you guys feel? Is something like the new TC plugins and their uber-modern interface better than something like DubStation and its simple, cartoonish UI?



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Nov.11.2005 @ 11:48 PM
On a related note, Apple sent me a link to a page of theirs about how to get into the AU plug-in market. Urs Heckmann (who produced Filterscape) is quoted extensively. Apparently he "would have the UI actually written or designed by someone else". See link []">link [] (via the ADC newsletter).

I haven't used many plug-ins, but I've thought a lot about designing UIs, and I think the trick is to reconcile all the opinions given above with that of the silent majority - everyone who has never used the rack-mount equivalent, and in fact has little or no experience with anything similar, but who might like your plug-in (or whatever) if they found it attractive/non-scary enough to try out. (Apple seem to think that this market might be growing since they started bundling GarageBand with every Mac.)

How? Perhaps by having multiple UIs for the same product: the simplified, non-threatening, cartoonish one for newbies, the "faithful replica" for those who once owned the original hardware, and some sort of streamlined, power-user interface for both groups once they've made their way up (or is it down?) the learning curve. I think plug-ins could be particularly suited to this approach. Might muck with the marketing strategy, I dunno.

Just my NZD0.05 (we don't have 1c & 2c pieces anymore)...


Nov.12.2005 @ 1:31 PM
Chris Randall
It's interesting you bring this up, as we've been pondering something similar. What we're going to do is have the UI itself be like we always would, but have extended adjustments available via the non-UI panel (Logic and Live) or accessible via automation (Cubase/Nuendo.)

I'm also tempted to put a "circuit bending" panel in for some of our plugs, which would be like the Fish Filet stuff, where you are presented with some trimmers/switches/whatever for extended parameter control.

To answer Suit 'n' Tie Guy's inevitable question, yes, we'll be adding text-edit fields for Discord 2, only for the pitch, though. If we were going to model an H3000, we'd have the keypad and everything. But we're modelling the H910 and H949, which are notable for their obvious lack of a keypad. But you've complained enough to where we're gonna sort it out for the pitch, literally just for you.


(It's worth noting that the H3000 is a very different animal from the H910/949/969. It would entail basically writing an operating system that ran inside the plug-in, and reverse-engineering one of the deepest effects units ever. We won't be doing that, at least not for the forseeable future.)



Nov.12.2005 @ 1:46 PM
I always hate those hidden circuit panels, just seem gimmicky to me. QuadFrohmage has something like that, too. But really, it's just an added layer of complication to the GUI, since it's at least one mouse-click extra to access parameters that you should have been able to reach anyway.

That method seems to be the exact opposite of what TC is on about, too, since the main drive behind the new GUI style is to have contextual information like graphs and things change according to the parameter you are using, rather than you having to click on a tab to access each context.

I think you guys did a great job fitting a lot controls in an accessible panel with Ronin. It would be a lot less pleasant to work with if it required a bunch of tab flipping and hidden layers. I'm sure it scares away less advanced users, but that's what Dubstation is for, and lets face it, some folk are just dullards, no amount of dumbing down ever seems enough for them.


Nov.12.2005 @ 6:41 PM
Suit & Tie Guy
thanks for the consideration, however i'm not suggesting "modelling" the UI of an H3000. that's ridiculous. in fact, Eventide's own "H3000 Factory" or whatever is the silliest plugin i've ever seen ... and of course irrelevant being a TDM POS.

if anything i would encourage you to _not_ model hardware UIs simply because i don't think they translate well to a 2D computer screen under mouse and keyboard control.

also it's one thing to make a UI look like an RA Moog module or an ancient guitar pedal from a company which doesn't exist anymore. i think copying the look of something from a company like Eventide is far riskier behaviour than even STG would indulge in.


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