January 19, 2008

VST3... tastes just like chicken...

by Chris Randall

Okay, I've just got done reading through the new SDK, reading the entire monster thread on the subject at KvR, and attempting (and failing) to build Steinberg's example code. (This is no surprise, because it is usually fucked beyond all recognition. Comforting, in a way.)

Let me state the following for the record, since if you're not a developer it may not be obvious: You, The User, gain NOTHING from VST3. This should be clear from the outset. The marketing points in the Steinberg press release are referencing shit that is included, almost entirely, in VST2.4. There is nothing in the VST3 kit that makes anything better, faster, stronger, lower CPU, lower latency, more likely to get you laid, anything. Don't believe the hype.

Take some time to get comfortable with that concept. Go ahead. I'll wait.

It is clear, to me at least, that this entire Switch rests firmly on what Ableton does. If they decide to support VST3 next week, and VST3 only (and there's no reason, historically, to suppose that they won't), then we'll figure this shit out in short order. If they don't, then Steinberg can go fuck themselves sideways, basically. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Of course, it isn't as cut-n-dried as that, but that's the basic feeling in the industry, at least among the people I communicate with. That said, and taking in to account my initial issues with the kit, it doesn't look to be that complicated of a process to port our shit to VST3. Not any more complicated than porting it to AU, anyways. So if we must do it, then it can be done. But as far as I can tell, there's no pressing need. None of our products will see any gain from moving to VST3, as we tend to design with a lowest-common-denominator feature set, as far as communicating with the host goes, so that we can build both AUs and VSTs from the same code base.

For what it's worth, through all the changes on the OS X platform in the last 3 years, we've had to do nothing on Windows. I suppose you don't get a free ride anywhere these days. I truly feel sorry for someone just getting in to VST development this week, though. They're in for a bumpy learning experience.



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Jan.19.2008 @ 7:57 PM
What, no mention of an open-source API/SDK movement? Goddamn realist.

Jan.19.2008 @ 8:10 PM
Chris Randall
I'll mention it when there's something to mention. You said basically everything that anyone knows about it in that one sentence.



Jan.19.2008 @ 8:31 PM
I wonder what Ableton thinks of the VST3 situation. It would be both interesting and helpful if they made their position public. I hope the say something about it soon. If a new, open plugin standard were to be developed, they strike me as the best chance at getting a major host on-board.

Jan.19.2008 @ 11:19 PM
Chris Randall
This may sound ridiculous, but truthfully, the best chance of getting a major host on board for a new format is Digidesign. RTAS has reached the end of its useful lifespan, and if someone handed them a well-supported format that was pre-designed for the five major DAWs, they'd be on it like stink on shit.

My opinion only, of course.



Jan.19.2008 @ 11:31 PM
Adam Schabtach
Sudden thought: why should Ableton care about VST3?

No, seriously. There's really not much in it that would be of great benefit to Live. Steinberg is one of their biggest competitors. Why would Ableton invest a bunch of development effort in adding creedence to a thinly disguised marketing ploy by their competition?

They supported AU because they had to. They cheerfully publish new effects and instruments for Live in their own proprietary format. I don't see why they would feel compelled to support VST3.



Jan.20.2008 @ 8:32 AM
As incompetent as Steinberg are, I still think Apple deserve a rather large flaming for pulling the 'we must own everything in our OS' BS, further compounding the time wasted by dropping PPC when they finally realised it was going nowhere...double the plugins, triple the switch overs for developers..And as you say Chris..no problems in Windows.

Fine if you wanna use Logic...not me thanks, I like to have a useful choice for my 'workflow'.


Jan.20.2008 @ 9:39 AM
What made my head spin a few times, was that VST3 is a new plugin format. In the rosy, shimmering dream that users like me, lives in, I seriously thought this was an extension of the existing format.

Now I know better.


Jan.20.2008 @ 12:19 PM
Chris Randall
Yeah, a lot of people don't understand that, so perhaps I should be clear. VST3 has very little in common with VST2.4, from a developer's perspective. It is rather like porting from VST to AU in complexity.

Switching from VST2.3 to VST2.4 (you will no doubt remember my ranting on the subject if you're a long-time reader) was, in retrospect, quite simple in comparison. It really just involved a search-and-replace of some key things (the ubiquitous Int to VST32Int, for example) plus moving some bits about.

But VST3 is essentially a whole new thing. One thing that gave me some trouble is that I didn't read the docs very well, and I discovered belatedly that, on Macs at least, VST3s go in a different folder. VSTs go in ~/Library/Audio/Plugins/VST, as you no doubt know, but VST3s get their own folder in /Plugins/ called, not surprisingly, /VST3. This was actually causing me to beat my head against the wall for a couple hours until some kind soul on KvR gently corrected me.

I guess there's something to reading the docs, after all. Who knew? I suppose I need to stop making fun of Adam for reading manuals religiously.

I was able to successfully build the sample project and have it validate in their provided app, but it immediately crashed Cubase 4 upon instantation, so I stopped for the day. I have to work on some ads for March magazines today, and when I'm done with that, I'll take another crack at things and see where we stand.



Jan.20.2008 @ 12:58 PM
Adam Schabtach
quantize: we flame Apple for exactly that every time we find an opportunity to do so.

Carl: as Chris said, yes, it's a whole new thing. The could have called it SNPF for Steinberg's New Plug-in Format, but they're calling it VST for exactly the reason you cite: they want their users to keep living in a rosy, shimmering dream in which Steinberg has their best music-making interests at heart. Wake up, it's not true. In fact, someone from Steinberg has said that there's a good chance that they'll remove VST2 support from their hosts in around two years. That would mean that two years from now, Cubase and Nuendo will cease to run ALL of the VST plug-ins currently available--commercial, shareware, and freeware. Any user who wants to keep using Steinberg's hosts will suffer a fairly massive attrition from their choices of plug-ins, since it's quite predictable (from looking at the attrition of software every time that Apple changes their stuff around) that many of those plug-ins will not be ported to VST3.

Now, how much of an issue this will be in the real world remains to be seen. Clearly there are lots of freeware VSTs out there that nobody will miss. As for commercial products, it's far too early for me (or anyone else) to predict the future. IMHO, though, expecting a free update for a plug-in written before the phrase "VST3" was uttered outside Steinberg's halls is rather like me expecting free CD copies of the hundreds of vinyl records I purchased before the CD was invented.



Jan.20.2008 @ 4:29 PM
Compared to AU, does VST3 seem unnecessary. If you want to develop for Mac/Logic there is just one route to go. But otherwise... are there any real reasons?

I've been following the KvR thread and it's very informative (it also shows that it's possible for a thread on KvR to enter the 20 page mark without people start hitting each other with fish). The Voxengo-guy (can't for the world remember his name right now) chainsaws through the PR bullet points quite brutally. But he seems to know his way around the code.

I don't know, but personally I would think a nose dive for Steinberg would be sort of healthy for them.

If VST3 takes some kind of hold, the company who will develop a VST2-VST3 wrapper would surely get his invested time paid back in full.


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