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Tag: iPad

Plugins and control surfaces

There are two very important things according to plugins. One is obviously how you like the sound of it, the other is how easy, convenient is to use it. The first goes without further comment. Read about it, download the demo, test it, and if you really like what it does, buy it. I could go into details (again), but in my opinion it’s pretty straightforward, because if you happen to dislike the plugin sonically, there’s no question, you won’t ever use it. So let’s assume we found our plugin and bought it.

Here’s come the second really important point, the ease of use.

Graphical User interface

The very first thing we see is the “face” of the plugin. It can be simple or artistic, or it may depict some vintage gear. The main point is how much do you like it? I know it’s strange to read this about plugins, but think about it for a moment. If you like the look of it, it’s more likely you’ll use it, your brain’s going to remember all the important controls and their exact position. And be honest, we all like a nice GUI, after all we stare at it for long hours on a typical mix session.

Just a very short personal note on this. While I really like these shinny, beautiful GUIs, I think sometimes plugin manufacturers should spend more time on usability and easy of use than graphics.

Technical issues

We cannot avoid some technical stuff when we try to find our trusty tools.

Obviously it’s very important to check if the plugin is available in the format our DAW support. In my case it’s AAX Native and it’s a bonus if AAX DSP also supported. I don’t want to derail my own post, but this DSP thing might need a bit of explanation. Although today’s computers are immensely powerful, in post production there are serious reasons why we like to have the DSP option. One, that is most mentioned on the online forums is latency. Namely when you have a full mix and need to record some overdub with the full mix still going intact, you might end up with latency issues with a Native only system. If your session is not so huge, then it wont’ be a problem.

For a quick example I just describe the last feature film score mix I did. I tested this on both Native and DSP systems, and believe me, a very, very powerful Native system would choke under the burden of this session:

  • 280 tracks
  • approx. 1000 plugins inserted
  • almost all HDX2 DSP was used up
  • 38% of a 6 core trashcan MacPro used up
  • session had a 1.5 hour-long HD video

Although I haven’t tested this, but using Native system only would be very demanding with a session like this.

Stability

This is a big one for me. It can be a world class plugin, but if the company behind it has a bad support, or the plugin constantly crash the DAW, I won’t use it.

I’ve found that some companies are much better at making efficient, stable plugins than others.

Other important consideration is how good is the plugin when it comes to automation. In the post audio world we heavily rely on automation, so plugins need to be 100% reliable. Otherwise you never know what really happens, and every bounce can be different, defective. On certain things you might spot the difference, but in a heavy mix it takes more time to find what causes the strange feeling that something is off. In a big supersession it can take forever to check every automated plugin.

Control surfaces

The last point is how the plugin maps on surface. Some would say that you can adjust the parameters with a mouse, which is true in essence, but when you have a huge mix, you need to have a more tactile control in front of you. To be honest, in 2015 it’s still surprising to me that many plugins simply not, or not well mapped to surfaces.

One particular example is Slate Digital plugins. I love some of their stuff, but the mapping is just unusable. Let’s take their Mixrack as the example. It is a very versatile tool as you can change the order of the processors, but if you look at the surface, you’ll see this:

mixrack s6 map

So, instead of clear parameters, you see this hodgepodge of letters and parameters. Obviously if you use different chains, the letters corresponds to completely different parameters. It’s not simply inconvenient, it’s unusable.

It’s a known issue at Slate, I’ve even emailed them, but their response was far from promising. They simply stated they know about the issue but have no solution right now. That’s it.

I know some would say it is because Slate has some competing product with the Raven, but I think any pro audio company who really thinking in long term should take this issue very seriously. I travel a lot, work a lot in different studios and controllers are everywhere. From the small few fader unit through the Artist series up to the fancy Avid S6.

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Summary

I didn’t plan to write a summary post, but lately I think this would be the best to tell everything what’s going on. So here it is, a wide variety of things randomly happening around me. I had so many projects continuously going on that sometimes I lost in the flow. Fortunately there’s an app for this too. 😉

Versatile interface

I had been pondering for months about a really versatile and useful interface that I will be able to use in many different, but equally demanding situation. After long months of searching, testing, pondering and re-testing I decided to get the Sound Devices USB Pre2.

It wasn’t an easy decision, because when it comes to equipment I’m very picky, the candidate must be: sturdy, well engineered and built, versatile, very good sound quality both in and out, have to have multiple connection options, must work flawlessly with wide variety of computers, etc. So, you can expect a review in the next few weeks.

Weight issues

Many of you know that I have a little partner with me almost all the time, the Sony PCM D50. I’d been using the basic model of Joby’s Gorillapod, and as it turned out, unfortunately it cannot hold the recorder safely in place. It’s still a great little flexible tripod, but not adequate to use it with the Sony. I thought the bigger model (hybrid) would be fine, but a short test run proved otherwise.

So, the ultimate choice is the even bigger Gorillapod: SLR Zoom with the ball head.

Obviously it is much bigger in size, but this can hold the recorder firmly and safely at the place I want. I had to decide which is the more important factor, size or safety and I decided that safety is much more important (at least for me).

You can see the size difference here:

The good thing in the new, bigger Gorillapod is that you can use it as a proper tripod if you want to, but in a second, it can be the usual super-twisted holder you already know.

Pro Tools 10.3

The new update which corrects many bugs that disturbed all of us in post production. All I can say is so far so good. It works fine without any crash or hiccup. I’m still on Lion, plan to upgrade to Mountain Lion in the near future, but right now I have no time for that, and as the golden rule says: never ever upgrade during big projects… I postponed the upgrade. Even before updating Pro Tools I made a complete system backup for safety, and I suggest the same to you. Always backup before any serious upgrade.

I’ve heard good things about Mountain Lion and as the latest release from Avid actually supports the new operating system, maybe my upgrade is going to happen sooner than I first thought…

Macbook Pro as a power-horse

Yes, I admit I’m a geek. Sometimes I lost control over myself, so I upgraded my laptop. The old hdd has been retired, and a brand new Samsung 830 series SSD replaced it, the difference is quite amazing. But you may already know this, but might miss the fact that I upgraded to 16GB of ram. Well, Pro Tools just loves it. It really boosted the whole performance.

I use Freememory on my laptop, and with 8GB I sometimes ran into problems. Now, with 16GB in the machine, every ram hungry app can eat ample amount while the os still have enough to work with.

iPad stand

I’ve been looking for a good iPad stand for a long time. The required features were:
* shall be stable (obviously)
* made from durable materials
* able to place it on the top of audio consoles of all kind
* small enough that it doesn’t need much space when not used

And then I came across this:

Twelve South Compass iPad stand. Just the perfect solution for me. It holds the iPad safely, because of the legs it can stand on consoles and virtually everywhere. And, when not used it can be very small in its own little holder. As it is made from steel it’s very strong, fulfils all my need.

Thunderbolt to Firewire adapter

I waited for this, and after such a long wait Apple released it. Immediately bought one to test it with different external HDDs and with an RME Fireface UFX sound card.

With the HDDs I experienced no problem at all, actually it is pretty fast and you save yourself a complete Firewire port.

But, the real good news is that it works perfectly well with the RME sound card! Without a hiccup. Tried it during recording sessions, during mixing and editing and it’s been working fine from the first minute. Of course a Thunderbolt hub would be even better, but I’m happy with this little adapter now. Belkin promised to release a Thunderbolt hub in september this year. They haven’t released it yet, I hope we don’t have to wait too long now.

Omnifocus to keep me sane and at least partially organised

You may know the Omnigroup, they make spectacular software for the Mac and for iOS devices. Omnifocus is a GTD application which can be perfectly utilised in post production.

It’s useful if you have many small things to do, but also perfect if you have various recurring tasks for the day or for longer periods. I’ll write about it in the future, for now it’s enough to know that it’s a really remarkable application. A real life saver for me.

Future articles

First of all, thank you for the suggestions and lots of emails!

Of course the Shortcut for our pleasure will be continued shortly, and I plan to make some really interesting new things more tied to post production sound. I won’t make any promises, but I will really do my best to post interesting things, so stay tuned, lot’s of interesting things are on the way…

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Air Display mini review

Recently I stumbled upon this iOS app called Air Display. I knew this app exists for a while, but never considered using it for anything during work. I knew it’s nice, it can turn your iPad into your mac’s second display, but still, never considered it as a viable solution up until now.

Few days ago as I was wandering on some online forums, I accidentally read about this little utility again, but now I thought I would give it a try. It’s cheap, very easy to set up, so what could I possibly loose? Well, that 10$, but maybe it’s very useful, and then the price is more than fair. As usual, I have searched for reviews and opinions, and finally decided to try it.

Install

This was a very pleasant experience. I bought the app through the appstore (Air Display iTunes), and while it was downloading, I downloaded the mac version of the host software from here. The whole download-install-setup procedure is ridiculously easy. Once you’ve downloaded the necessary software, there is only one thing left: make sure that your iPad uses the very same WiFi network as your desktop/laptop machine, that’s it. Launch the desktop app, and if you plan to use it regularly then consider to turn on the autostart function, so every time you switch on your machine, this utility will be launched. It “eats” very little memory in the background. Now, your only job is to launch the iPad app and wait a little (few seconds), and as I told you, without any further setup, in a few seconds, your iPad will act like a second touch screen enabled monitor near you mac or pc.

In use

It’s usable even in everyday computing, but for me the  main point was how useful can it be with Pro Tools? Well, in short: very useful! You can drop many floating windows or plugins onto this secondary iPad screen and if you use a decent WiFi network it is surprisingly fast. There is a very minimal lag in reaction time, but nothing really disturbing. I love having metering plugin on this secondary screen.

It’s easy to edit plugin parameters on it, or use it as a video screen, although you have to be aware of the fact that there is a slight latency, and it can vary, so watch out for it. It won’t be a problem in most of the cases, but nevertheless it’s worth mention that it’s not a “zero latency” frame-accurate monitor.

Still I have successfully used it for mixing while the video screen was on the iPad. The picture quality is very good, even better with the new iPad, but I have tested it with a first generation iPad, and to be honest, it has been close to flawless in operation all the time.

I even got used to the little time lag as it is really not disturbing after a short period of use. As I expected, the touch sensitivity is very good, if you’re an iPad user you won’t have any trouble with it.

Conclusion

For what it does, and for this price I definitely think that this little app is a no brainer, even more if you already have an iPad. The application is very stable, doesn’t stress your computer, so even if you’re into bigger Pro Tools sessions, you won’t encounter error messages because of the Air Display app. I really recommend you to check it out!

Pros:

  • cheap
  • virtually no set up required
  • it just works

Cons:

  • maybe the little latency
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