Friday, January 4, 2013

User Interface

I listened to some people going back and forth recently about new ideas for user interfaces for manipulating audio. One was kind of bored with the old knob and fader setup (don't take offense Brethren) and the other was trying to get at why that wasn't working for him and what would work better.

As it turned out, knobs and faders are pretty good tools for what we do. You can be extremely clinical and say things like, "let's go in and take a little 500 cycles out of that rack tom, three dB, an octave wide." and you can also get very free and creative by just running things back and forth until it feels corrected, or right, or new, or interesting. Like it or lump it you can cram a lot of control into a little space with the traditional interface elements. That's why so many plugins look exactly like real world gear, or an approximation thereof.

But where the new ideas come in to play is for the experimenters. While an engineer with set goals and an idea in his or her head probably wouldn't be interested in having a cube of space in front of their monitor that they can wiggle their fingers in and have the audio change (like this one for instance), someone looking to create new sounds and be free of traditional limitations might be all for it. Picture it though. You've got an orb on your screen that will change the EQ and other parameters on a track depending on how you wave your hands in front of the screen. There's two camps, how the hell do I get this thing to take 500 off the rack tom and the other camp that's singing "A Whole New World" in the back of their head while they dive in.

The truth is, people have been floating ideas out there like this for decades (three at least) and it just hasn't caught on. Even with digital mixers having tablet remote, some with virtual stages that you can position instruments on to control level and pan, it's just not what people want. Sort of like video phones. Sure there's great examples like the Korg Kaos pad but you see who that's aimed at. Creators, experimenters, people looking to free form.

What are your thoughts on the subject Brethren of the Knob and Fader? Hit the comments section below or better yet, look us up on Facebook and drop us a line.

1 comment:

  1. (solomute on reddit, fwiw)

    I come from the camp that believes that a solid grounding in the fundamentals is necessary in order to build yourself up to a higher plane of workmanship. If you don't know what a decibel is or what 500hz sounds like, you fundamentally cannot mix audio. Now, folks can disagree about how best to introduce a prospective engineer to the concepts of decibels and frequencies, but these are the fundamental primitives by which audio is manipulated, and I can not agree that it is possible to manipulate audio without that knowledge.

    The booking guy at the venue where I work recently asked him to teach him sound, because some of his clients were asking him to tour with them as a tour manager, but he would have needed to be able to run sound. Of course, as a career-minded individual I asked him why, if he was turning these gigs down anyway, why he did not pass them on to me. He did not have an adequate answer, but as a believer in karma I started teaching him what I could. I got as far as gain structure when he asked me if he actually needed any of this technical stuff, and if I could just show him a simple procedure for getting a mix up and running. It was at this point that I decided that this person would never be capable of mixing, and let him know this fact. He was less than pleased, and I'm sure it hurt my career opportunities, but at least I saved some poor band from going on the road with someone who couldn't hack it.

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