The best news for iOS, macOS musicians and artists from WWDC

Apple’s WWDC, while focused on developers, tends to highlight consumer features of its OS – not so much production stuff. But as usual, there are some tidbits for creative Mac and iOS users.

Here’s the stuff that looks like good news, at least in previews. Note that Apple tends to focus on just major new features they want to message, so each OS may reveal more in time.

iOS 12

Performance. On both iPad and iPhone, Apple is promising big performance optimizations. They’ve made it sound like they’re particularly targeting older devices, which should come as welcome news to users finding their iThings feel sluggish with age. (iPhone 5s and iPad Air onwards get the update.)

A lot of this has to do with responsiveness when launching apps or bringing up the keyboard or camera, so it may not directly impact audio apps – most of which do their heavy work at a pretty low level. But it’s nice to see Apple improve the experience for long-term owners, not just show off things that are new. And even as Android devices boast high-end specs on paper, that platform still lags iOS badly when it comes to things like touch response or low-latency audio.

Smoother animation is also a big one.

Augmented reality. Apple has updated their augmented reality to ARKit 2. These are the tools that let you map 3D objects and visualizations to a real-world camera feed – it basically lets you hold up a phone or tablet instead of don goggles, and mix the real world view with the virtual one.

New for developers: persist your augmented reality between sessions (without devs having to do that themselves), object detection and tracking, and multi-user support. They’ve also unveiled a new format for objects.

I know AR experimentation is already of major interest to digital artists. The readiness of iOS as a platform means they have a canvas for those experiments.

There are also compelling music and creative applications, some still to be explored. Imagine using an augmented reality view to help visualize spatialized audio. Or use a camera to check out how a modular rack or gear will fit in your studio. And there are interesting possibilities in education. (Think a 3D visualization of acoustic waves, for instance.)

Both augmented reality and virtual reality offer some new immersive experiences musicians and artists are sure to exploit. Hey, no more playing Dark Side of the Moon to The Wizard of Oz; now you can deliver an integrated AV experience.

Google’s Android and Apple are neck and neck here, but because Apple delivers updates faster, they can rightfully claim to be the largest platform for the technology. (They also have devices: iPhone SE / 6s and up and 5th generation iPad and iPads Pro all work.) Google’s challenge here I think is really adoption.

Apple’s also pretty good at telling the story here:
https://www.apple.com/ios/augmented-reality/

That said, Google has some really compelling 3D audio solutions – more on this landscape soon, on both platforms.

Real Do Not Disturb. This is overdue, but I think a major addition for those of us wanting to focus on music on iOS and not have to deal with notifications.

Siri Shortcuts. This is a bit like the third-party power app Workflow; it allows you to chain activities and apps together. I expect that could be meaningful to advanced iOS users; we’ll just have to see more details. It could mean, for instance, handy record + process audio batches.

Voice Memos on iPad. I know a lot of musicians still use this so – now you’ve got it in both places, with cloud sync.

https://www.apple.com/ios/ios-12-preview/features/

macOS 10.14 Mojave

Dark Mode. Finally. And another chance to keep screens from blaring at us in studios or onstage – though Windows and Linux users have this already, of course.

Improved Finder. This is more graphics oriented than music oriented, of course – but creative users in general will appreciate the complete metadata preview pane.

Also nice: Quick Actions, which also support the seldom-used, ill-documented, but kind of amazing Automator. Automator also has a lot of audio-specific actions with some apps; it’s worth checking out.

There are also lots of nice photo and image markup tools.

Stacks. Iterations of this concept have been around since the 90s, but finally we see it in an official Apple OS release. Stacks organize files on your desktop automatically, so you don’t have a pile of icons everywhere. Apple got us in this mess in the 80s (or is that Xerox in the 70s) but … finally they’re helping us dig out again.

App Store and the iOS-Mac ecosystem. Apple refreshing their App Store may be a bigger deal than it seems. A number of music developers are seeing big gains on Apple mobile platforms – and they’re trying to leverage that success by bringing apps to desktop Mac, something that the Windows ecosystem really doesn’t provide. It sounds like Intua, creators of BeatMaker, might even have a desktop app in store.

And having a better App Store means that it’s more likely developers will be able to sell their apps – meaning more Mac music apps.

https://www.apple.com/macos/mojave-preview/

That’s about it

There’s of course a lot more to these updates, but more on either the developer side or consumer things less relevant to our audience.

The big question for Apple remains – what is their hardware roadmap? The iPad has no real rivals apart from shifting focus to Windows-native tablets like the Surface, but the Mac has loads of competition for visual and music production.

Generally, I don’t know that either Windows or macOS can deliver a lot for pro users in these kinds of updates. We’re at a mature, iterative phase for desktop OSes. But that’s okay.

Now, what we hope as always is that updates don’t just break our existing stuff. Case in point: Apple moving away from OpenCL and OpenGL.

But even there, as one reader comments, hardware is everything. Apple dropping OpenCL isn’t as big to some developers and artists as the fact that you can’t buy a machine with an NVIDIA card in it.

Well, we’ll be watching. And as usual, anything that may or may not break audio and music tools, we’ll find out only closer to release.

The post The best news for iOS, macOS musicians and artists from WWDC appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Sinevibes Whirl Creates ‘Barber-Pole’ Infinite Phaser Effects

Sinevibes has introduced Whirl, an macOS AU plugin, designed to create ‘barber-pole’ phaser effects., that go endlessly upwards or downwards.… Read More Sinevibes Whirl Creates ‘Barber-Pole’ Infinite Phaser Effects

The 90s are alive, with a free, modern clone of FastTracker II

It ran natively in MS-DOS, then died by the end of the 90s. But now it’s back: one of the greatest chip music trackers of all time has been cloned to run on modern machines.

FastTracker II will now run on Windows and Mac (and should run on Linux). The clone project started last year, but it seems to have picked up pace – a new set of binaries are out this week, and MIDI input support was added this month.

FastTracker II is a singular piece of software that helped define trackers, demoscene, and the music produced with it. If you’ve used it, I don’t really have to say more. If you haven’t, but you’ve used other trackers – even up to modern takes on the genre like Renoise – you’ve used software influenced by its design.

Like all trackers, the fundamental use of the tool is as a sequencer. But unlike other sequencer concepts – piano rolls which represent time visually like pianolas and music boxes do, multitrack recorders and DAWs modeled on mixers and tape, or notation views – the tracker is a natively computer-oriented tool. Its paradigm is simply about a vertical grid, with shortcuts for entry (represented as numerals) via the computer interface.

That makes trackers uncommonly quick via the computer interface. In the case of FastTracker II, you program every note and timbral change via mouse or keyboard shortcut, and it’s represented compactly in characters onscreen. FT2’s doubling up of mouse and keyboard shortcuts also makes it quick to learn and still quicker to use once you’ve mastered it.

In fact, firing up this build (in 64-bit on Windows 10, no less), I’m struck by how friendly and immediate it is. It’s not a bad introduction to the genre.

MIDI in is great, too, though MIDI out will “never” happen (in a message from the 13th of April).

But it’s kind of amazing this thing even exists. The clone is built in SDL, a cross-platform media library, the work of one Olav “8bitbubsy” Sørensen, who apparently got permission to do this. And it was never supposed to even happen. Heck, the thing was even buried with this note:

“FT2 has been put on hold indefinitely. […] If this was an ideal world, where there was infinite time and no need to make a living, there would definitely be a multiplatform Fasttracker3. Unfortunately this world is nothing like that.”

So, we may not live in an ideal world. But we live in a world where FT2 again runs on our machines. (Amiga fans, there’s also a ProTracker clone.)

Download it:

https://16-bits.org/ft2.php

Thanks to Nicolas Bougaïeff for this one, fresh off his Berghain debut. I want some new chip music from you, man.

And it’s … like the 90s are alive.

The post The 90s are alive, with a free, modern clone of FastTracker II appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Der Apfel und das liebe Vieh – Macs mit ARM-Prozessor, macOS 10.15

Apple Macs auf ARM Chips

Gerüchte kochen und Beweise finden sich immer mehr. Nicht nur bei den abschreibenden Medien, sondern auch bei denen mit echten Quellen, der Mac wird nicht nur ein „etwas anderer Windows PC“ sein, sondern …

… er wird wieder zu einem Teil seiner Wurzeln zurückkehren, dem ARM Prozessor. Dieser ist strukturell eher ein RISC-Typ, während Intel immer mehr spezielle Befehlsätze anbot. Der ARM-Chip kann von Apple selbst hergestellt werden und wird aktiv in iPads und iPhones verbaut. Der aktuelle A11 Bionic schafft bereits die Leistungen eines Macbook Pro 13″ zu erreichen und teilweise sogar einzuholen.

Es müsste eine Frage der Zeit sein, bis Apple diese Prozessoren auch in die Macs bringt. Der Vorteil dabei wäre, dass Macs auch iOS-Apps ausführen könnten und quasi beide Betriebssysteme in Gemeinschaft leben können, sogar miteinander kommunizieren lernen könnten oder zu einem einzigen OS zurück gewandelt werden. Das gilt primär für mobile Computer, denn die Vorteile der ARM-Chips sind für stromsparende, leichte Rechner gemacht, Handies und Tablets ohne Lüfter.

Intel vs ARM?

Intel ist eher auf Hochleistungsprozessoren spezialisiert und hat es nie geschafft, die Leistungsaufnahme und Wärmeentwicklung für Mobilgeräte so stark zu senken ohne eine deutlich Leistungsgrenze zu erreichen wie das Macbook One (12″). Somit werden wohl die 12″ Macbooks und das Air die ersten Geräte sein, die mit ARM ausgestattet werden werden. Denn sie sollen klein sein und müssen keine Raketen sein.

Das bisherige Air ist ohnehin ohne Retina-Display und mit veralteten aber schnelleren Intelprozessoren heute kaum noch sinnvoll – außer beim Preis, denn Apple ist auch noch nie so teuer gewesen wie zurzeit. Das liegt an der Verlötung der RAMs und SSDs, die man nicht mehr selbst leicht wechseln kann. Das lässt sich der Apfel sehr sehr gut bezahlen.

Was bedeuten Apple ARM Macs für uns Musiker?

Die ARM-Chips werden also primär in der unteren Klasse und überall da, wo Mobilität und wenig Strom eine Rolle spielen, Einzug erhalten. Schnelle Pro-Geräte werden sicher noch eine Weile auf die jetzt gerade angekündigte neue Serie von Intel-Chips setzen, so wie es der aktuelle iMac Pro tut. Soweit die Theorie.

Für Audio braucht man hohen Takt, die Verteilung auf mehrere Kerne bei Software-Synthesizern ist sehr begrenzt nutzbar. Und deshalb konnte der Mac Pro bei Logic X-Tests bisher gegenüber dem 4.5 GHz Normal-iMac mit 4 Kernen kaum etwas gewinnen. Für Video und andere Dinge, die nicht in Echtzeit passieren müssen, ist das anders. Deshalb wird der Musiker mit Power-Ambitionen sich wohl nicht sofort auf die ARM-Plattform stürzen, sondern die hochgetakteten Macs bevorzugen.

Apple ist kein Vertreter von Hochtaktung, nur in der Not-Zeit mit IBM und Motorola haben sie Wasserkühlung gebaut, und das Ding war laut. Das wäre für Audio jedoch die beste Option, daher haben Hackintosh-Bastler aktuell die beste Chance auf schnellste Rechner, je nach dem was der Mac Pro tun und können wird, der im nächsten Jahr zu sehen sein wird. Viele Kerne sind zwar sinnvoll, da die DAW die Plugins dann auf verschiedene Kerne verteilen kann, aber das ist auch „alles“. Viele Plugins, viele Kerne – das geht, sofern alle Komponenten das unterstützen.

Wie wird Apple das machen? Und wann?

ARM verwendet anderen Code. Wer sich schon jetzt an die neueren Regeln hält, wird in der Entwicklungsumgebung aber auch fast nur „neu kompilieren“ klicken können. Ältere Systeme hingegen müssten komplett neu gemacht werden. Alte Mac-User kennen das vom Umstieg von 68K auf Intel. So etwas braucht einen großen Vorlauf, weshalb die Gerüchte über deren Einführung mit macOS 10.15 schon weit gekommen sind.

Apple wechselt das OS jedes Jahr, daher sind die Meilensteine hier klar gesetzt und erkennbar. Vermutlich wird es die neue ARM-Plattform für Entwickler vorher geben als Entwicklerkit, so wie das bei Intel-Einführung passierte. Die Software würde zunächst in Universal-Apps eine Art Doppelpack bieten, wo beide Versionen zu finden sind. Ob Apple die Intel-Plattform komplett aufgeben möchte, ist fraglich, da ihnen die schnellen Optionen fehlen würden. Noch.

ARM Chips haben aktuell 6 Kerne, langsamere und schnelle für verschiedene Aufgaben. Texteditoren würden von den langsamen erledigt, Synthesizer von den schnellen. Man kann sicher auch weitere Kerne hinzuentwickeln und als A12 bringen, was sicher bereits in Planung ist oder erprobt wird.  So ließen sich die Defizite ausgleichen, indem man einfach 2 Kerne einsetzt.

Der Weg wird sehr, sehr ähnlich laufen, wie man das aus der Vergangenheit kennt: Eine Art Emulationsbox kann alte Sachen laufen lassen, vielleicht auch iOS-Programme und alles muss auf Dauer umgearbeitet werden. Dies wird sicher 2-4 Jahre dauern. Das Ergebnis wären aber auch Geräte, die sehr leicht und klein sind und seltener an die Steckdose müssen. Das sind Eigenschaften, die Musiker nicht primär benötigen, aber Mobilrechner sicher schon.

Wie schnell – Die lüfterlose Zukunft?

Wie schnell das nach der Entwicklung von iPhone X 2 und dem A12 sein kann? Nun, es wird schneller sein als ein 13″ Macbook Pro jetzt. Jetzige Apps auf dem iPad zeigen das noch nicht ganz, da Entwickler meist auch die Leistung so weit zurückfahren, dass auch „ältere“ iPads den neuen Synth nutzen können wie kürzlich der Minimoog von Moog. Man kann also durchaus erwarten, dass das nicht langweilig sein wird. Es wird günstiger sein, da Apple wenig fremde Teile benötigt und die ARMs in Massen herstellen kann und wird.

Apple möchte möglichst wenige Fremdhersteller im Boot haben. Die Apple ARM Macs werden für die meisten normal bis nicht so betuchten Musiker also interessant sein. Für Poweruser gibt es weiterhin Intels mit i9, 10 Kernen und mehr. Die neue Serie ist bereits alt, es wurden heute nämlich bereits neue i9 angekündigt. Apple wird Frameworks bauen und APIs, die alle, die sie nutzen, automatisch leichter auf ARM portieren lassen. Das gibt es bereits. Wegen solcher Dinge coden Entwickler gerne und oft lieber auf dem Mac.

Es wird viel passieren! Es wird aber auch mehr All-in-One Rechner geben, an die man wenig herankommt, jedoch mit einigen USB-C Ports, die jede Art von Anschluss ersetzen. So wie das bei den Macbooks aktuell bereits passiert ist. Intel wird nicht komplett verschwinden, aber ARM dazukommen. Und diese Geräte werden auch iOS-Apps laufen lassen und könnten mit einem Touchscreen ausgestattet sein, aber auch als normale Laptops angeboten werden oder eine Mischung daraus.

Adobe drops QuickTime support, as visual artists look for a solution

The story: Apple leaves QuickTime securities unpatched on Windows; Adobe drops support in their product line. But that leaves creative people stuck – including live visual artists. And now they’re looking for solutions.

First, here’s the sequence of events – and if you’ve been watching the general mayhem in the US government, you’d be forgiven for missing what was happening with, like, QuickTime for Windows security.

First, from the US Department of Homeland Security (really, even if the headline looks more like Macworld):

Apple Ends Support for QuickTime for Windows; New Vulnerabilities Announced [US-CERT Alert (TA16-105A)]

And from a private security firm:

Urgent Call to Action: Uninstall QuickTime for Windows Today [TrendMicro]

To follow that advice, you can perform that installation on Windows as follower (macOS users aren’t impacted):

Uninstall QuickTime 7 for Windows

That is, Apple had already dropped QuickTime for Windows development, including fixing security vulnerabilities – and this known one is bad enough to finally uninstall the software. It’s a Web-based vulnerability, so not particularly relevant to us making visuals, but significant nonetheless.

Developers should already have begun removing dependencies on QuickTime some time ago. But because of the variety of formats artists support, this starts to break some specific workflows. So here’s Adobe:

QuickTime on Windows [Adobe blog]

And before you get too smug, Mac users, you can expect some bumps in the road as cross-platform software generally tries to get out of QuickTime as a dependency. That could get messy, again, with so many formats out there. But let’s deal with Windows and Adobe software.

What works: uncompressed, DV, IMX, MPEG2, XDCAM, h264, JPEG, DNxHD, DNxHR, AVCI and Cineform), plus “DV and Cineform in .mov wrappers.”

What breaks: Among others, Apple ProRes (the big one), plus “Animation (import and export), DNxHD/HR (export) as would workflows where growing QuickTime files are being used (although we strongly advise using MXF for this wherever possible).”

Moreover, Adobe is dropping QuickTime 7 codec support on all April releases of their full CC product line:

Dropped support for Quicktime 7 era formats and codecs [Adobe support]

Adobe advises customers to move to newer codecs, but that isn’t always an option. PC World have a tough appraisal of the situation (one I’m sure Adobe could live without):

Adobe on QuickTime: You’re up the creek without a paddle [PC World]

That’s by Gordon Mah Ung, the editor who has been around this business long enough not to mince words.

David Lublin of Vidvox writes CDM to let us know that in the short term, this also impacts Adobe software support for their high performance, open Hap format (plus DXV and many other legacy codecs VJs may tend to use). I also spoke with Mark Conilgio of Isadora, who said he was sad to see QuickTime support go, and that it would prevent cross-platform file support, Isadora 3 will remove QuickTime dependencies and work with native file formats on the respective platforms.

Hey, Adobe: Get Hap!

A silver lining: this may be a chance to “shake the tree” and convince Adobe to add native support for Hap, a high performance format that leverages your GPU to delivery snappy playback, ideal for live and interactive visual applications. And given that’s an open source format, and unlike anything else available, that’d be great. There’s already a proposal online to make that (hap)pen:

https://adobe-video.uservoice.com/forums/911311-after-effects/suggestions/33853372-support-the-hap-codec

Hap was built in collaboration with talented developer Tom Butterworth. And Adobe has incorporated his code before: in 2016, Character Animator added support for Syphon, the inter-app visual texture pipeline on Mac:
https://www.adobe.com/products/character-animator/features.html

Work with Hap right now

For Hap support – and you really should be working with it – here are some immediate solutions.

Encoding to Hap from the command line using FFmpeg

Converting movies to the Hap video codec

But I’d love to see Adobe support the format. It’s just a codec; there’s no real UX requirement, and the code is there and flexibly licensed.

Meanwhile, perhaps this is a nice illustration of how important it is that live visual art move to open, cross-platform de facto standards. It makes work and art future proof and portable, and removes some overhead for developers making both free and commercial tools. And given that computers are based on many of the same architectures, it makes sense for the ways we store video and express graphical information to be portable and standardized.

For Vidvox’s part, there’s a nice summary on their page of what they support – and a lot of the formats they’re championing can be used by developers on Windows and Linux, not just macOS:

Open Source At VIDVOX

The post Adobe drops QuickTime support, as visual artists look for a solution appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Adobe drops QuickTime support, as visual artists look for a solution

The story: Apple leaves QuickTime securities unpatched on Windows; Adobe drops support in their product line. But that leaves creative people stuck – including live visual artists. And now they’re looking for solutions.

First, here’s the sequence of events – and if you’ve been watching the general mayhem in the US government, you’d be forgiven for missing what was happening with, like, QuickTime for Windows security.

First, from the US Department of Homeland Security (really, even if the headline looks more like Macworld):

Apple Ends Support for QuickTime for Windows; New Vulnerabilities Announced [US-CERT Alert (TA16-105A)]

And from a private security firm:

Urgent Call to Action: Uninstall QuickTime for Windows Today [TrendMicro]

To follow that advice, you can perform that installation on Windows as follower (macOS users aren’t impacted):

Uninstall QuickTime 7 for Windows

That is, Apple had already dropped QuickTime for Windows development, including fixing security vulnerabilities – and this known one is bad enough to finally uninstall the software. It’s a Web-based vulnerability, so not particularly relevant to us making visuals, but significant nonetheless.

Developers should already have begun removing dependencies on QuickTime some time ago. But because of the variety of formats artists support, this starts to break some specific workflows. So here’s Adobe:

QuickTime on Windows [Adobe blog]

And before you get too smug, Mac users, you can expect some bumps in the road as cross-platform software generally tries to get out of QuickTime as a dependency. That could get messy, again, with so many formats out there. But let’s deal with Windows and Adobe software.

What works: uncompressed, DV, IMX, MPEG2, XDCAM, h264, JPEG, DNxHD, DNxHR, AVCI and Cineform), plus “DV and Cineform in .mov wrappers.”

What breaks: Among others, Apple ProRes (the big one), plus “Animation (import and export), DNxHD/HR (export) as would workflows where growing QuickTime files are being used (although we strongly advise using MXF for this wherever possible).”

Moreover, Adobe is dropping QuickTime 7 codec support on all April releases of their full CC product line:

Dropped support for Quicktime 7 era formats and codecs [Adobe support]

Adobe advises customers to move to newer codecs, but that isn’t always an option. PC World have a tough appraisal of the situation (one I’m sure Adobe could live without):

Adobe on QuickTime: You’re up the creek without a paddle [PC World]

That’s by Gordon Mah Ung, the editor who has been around this business long enough not to mince words.

David Lublin of Vidvox writes CDM to let us know that in the short term, this also impacts Adobe software support for their high performance, open Hap format (plus DXV and many other legacy codecs VJs may tend to use). I also spoke with Mark Conilgio of Isadora, who said he was sad to see QuickTime support go, and that it would prevent cross-platform file support, Isadora 3 will remove QuickTime dependencies and work with native file formats on the respective platforms.

Hey, Adobe: Get Hap!

A silver lining: this may be a chance to “shake the tree” and convince Adobe to add native support for Hap, a high performance format that leverages your GPU to delivery snappy playback, ideal for live and interactive visual applications. And given that’s an open source format, and unlike anything else available, that’d be great. There’s already a proposal online to make that (hap)pen:

https://adobe-video.uservoice.com/forums/911311-after-effects/suggestions/33853372-support-the-hap-codec

Hap was built in collaboration with talented developer Tom Butterworth. And Adobe has incorporated his code before: in 2016, Character Animator added support for Syphon, the inter-app visual texture pipeline on Mac:
https://www.adobe.com/products/character-animator/features.html

Work with Hap right now

For Hap support – and you really should be working with it – here are some immediate solutions.

Encoding to Hap from the command line using FFmpeg

Converting movies to the Hap video codec

But I’d love to see Adobe support the format. It’s just a codec; there’s no real UX requirement, and the code is there and flexibly licensed.

Meanwhile, perhaps this is a nice illustration of how important it is that live visual art move to open, cross-platform de facto standards. It makes work and art future proof and portable, and removes some overhead for developers making both free and commercial tools. And given that computers are based on many of the same architectures, it makes sense for the ways we store video and express graphical information to be portable and standardized.

For Vidvox’s part, there’s a nice summary on their page of what they support – and a lot of the formats they’re championing can be used by developers on Windows and Linux, not just macOS:

Open Source At VIDVOX

The post Adobe drops QuickTime support, as visual artists look for a solution appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Audulus 3.5 For Mac Updated With Hundreds Of New Modules

Audulus 3.5 features a major retooling of the Audulus module library, with hundreds of new modules. … Read More Audulus 3.5 For Mac Updated With Hundreds Of New Modules

Roland and MIT want to use music to teach kids programming

Millions of children worldwide use Scratch to enter the world of programming. Now there’s a new way to connect to music, as Roland teams up with MIT.

There’s a long, amazing history of teaching programming and creativity to kids. A lot of this legacy traces back to Cambridge and Wally Feurzeig, Seymour Papert, and Cynthia Solomon, with their late 60s introduction of the Logo programming language and accompanying Turtle Graphics, alongside a physical turtle robot. (Cynthia Solomon by the way has had an ongoing career contributing to this work and was one of the people instrumental in seeing this tool introduced to Apple’s 80s computer initiatives, which is how I grew up with it.)

If you understand topics like programming, logic – and machine learning, artificial intelligence, and related fields – as an extensive of how we think, then this is more than simply vocational prep. It’s not just making sure we have a generation of cheap coders, in other words. Learning programming, creativity, and media in this way can help how we think – so it’s really important.

Scratch is one of the latest to follow in these footsteps. It’s a free visual programming environment available on all operating systems and in 70+ (human) languages, built in its latest iteration with Web technologies. You can use it in a browser, and it has some surprisingly sophisticated interactive sprite and behavior capabilities, merging some of the best of past tools like Smalltalk, HyperCard, Director/Lingo, ActionScript, and others.

You know – for kids.

The GO_KEYS keyboard from Roland. Its price is a bit above the entry level (around $300). The main thought here is to reach new musicians by offering different ways of playing with loops and discovering music.

So now, where Roland comes in – now there’s an extension that lets you plug in a Roland GO:KEYS keyboard and use the GO:KEYS both as controller and sound source. Roland tell us “the SCRATCH X Extension combined with new firmware on the Roland GO:Keys allows for bi-directional communication via USB.”

You can program the GO:KEYS – and its musical capabilities – from Scratch. And you can control Scratch interactively using the keyboard’s notes and velocity, without any manual setup. So you can trigger animations or interactions from the keyboard, and Scratch can rely on GO:KEYS unique looping and sound generation facilities to add musical elements. Roland explains: “The GO:Keys Extension for SCRATCH X includes “blocks” which can select Loop Sets, play back specific patterns, determine the musical key, and so on.”

The SCRATCH X extension is the work of Roland; Scratch itself comes from the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab.

Scratch programming interface with the new Roland module.

There’s some really cool potential here. HyperCard allowed kids (and adults) to create interactive storybooks and the like; with Scratch and GO:KEYS, you can imagine using keys to trigger story events, program logic creating musical events, and live control of music both from Scratch and the keyboard. Creative kids could turn this into a wild new instrument, complete with physical controls.

Now, of course, whether you specifically need the GO:KEYS for this or not is another matter. But it’s nice to see Roland even interested in this area. (And there’s an opportunity for the company to follow up with hardware loans and the like, and to work with other partners.) It’s also an excuse to look at this theme and where it could go.

Creative coding and teaching have long been a passion for me and this site, so I’ll be sure we follow up on this one!

GO:KEYS

scratch.mit.edu

The post Roland and MIT want to use music to teach kids programming appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

djay Pro 2 For Mac Brings Artificial Intelligence To DJing

Algoriddim has introduced djay Pro 2, an update to the macOS DJ software that brings artificial intelligence to DJ mixing, an improved audio engine and more. … Read More djay Pro 2 For Mac Brings Artificial Intelligence To DJing

djay Pro 2 brings algorithms and machine learning to DJing

A.I.D.J.? The next-generation djay Pro 2 for Mac adds mixing and recommendations powered by machine learning – and more human-powered features, too.

When Big Data meets the DJ

The biggest break from how we’ve normally thought about DJ software comes in the form of automatic mixing and selection tools. One is powered by machine learning working with DJ sets, and one from data collected from listening (Spotify).

Automix AI is a new mixing technology. And hold on to your hats, folks, if the “sync” button was unnerving to you, this goes further.

When we say “A.I.,” we’re really talking machine learning – that is, “training” algorithms on large sets of data. In this case, that data comes from existing DJ sets. (Algoriddim tells CDM that was drawn from a variety of DJs, mostly in hip-hop and electronic genres.) Those sets were analyzed according to various sonic features, and the automixing applies those to your music. So this isn’t just about mixing two different techno tracks with mechanical efficiency – it’s meant to go further across different tempos and genres.

It’s also more than matching tempo. Automix AI will identify where the transition occurs, decide how long the fade should be, and apply filters and EQ. So, if you’ve ever listened to existing Automix features and how clumsy they are with starting and stopping tracks, this takes a different approach. Algoriddim explains to CDM:

The core of this tech is finding good start and end regions for transition between two songs, while also respecting the corresponding sound energies and choosing an appropriate transition accordingly (e.g. most likely EQ or short filter transition if you have two high energy parts of the song for the transition)

Then there’s “Morph” – which Algoriddim argue opens up new ways of mixing:

This actually goes beyond what a regular DJ can do with two hands. Morph not only syncs the songs but seamlessly ramps the changed tempo of the inactive deck to its regular speed as the transition progresses. E.g. in the past if you had a hip-hop song at say 95 BPM and an electronic track at 130 BPM, syncing the two and making a transition would leave the new track in an awkwardly rate changed state (even with time-stretching enabled). So as the transition starts, both songs (in this example) would be playing at 130 BPM but as we are doing a simultaneous tempo “crossfade”, the hip-hop track ends up being back at 95 BPM at the end of the transition. This ensures the tracks always play at their regular tempo and these types of mixes sound very natural, allowing for seamless cross-genre transitions.”

Also impressive: while you might think this sort of technology would be licensed externally, the whiz kids over at Algoriddim did all of this on their own, in-house.

On the Spotify integration side, and also related to automating DJing tasks, “Match” technology recommends music based on BPM, key, and music style. Existing Spotify users will be familiar with some of this recommendation engine already. Where it could be good for producers is, this means there’s an avenue by which your music gets exposed by algorithms. And that in turn is potentially good news, if you’re a producer whose music isn’t always charting the top of a genre on Beatport.

These “autopilot” features are all under your control, too: you can choose which parameters are used, choose your own tracks, switch it off at will – as you like. Or you can sit back and let djay Pro run in the background while you’re doing something else, if you want to let the machine do the DJing while you cook dinner, for instance.

Pro features, for humans

Okay, so at this point, djay Pro 2 may sound a bit like this:

But one of the disruptive things about Algoriddim’s approach to DJ software is, it has simultaneously challenged rivals both among entry level and casual users and more advanced users at the same time.

So, here’s the more “Pro” sounding side of this. Some of these are features that are either missing or not implemented quite the way we’d like in industry leaders like Serato and Traktor.

A new audio engine with master AU plug-ins. A rewrite of the engine now allows high-res waveforms, post-fader effects, higher-quality filters, plus the ability to add Audio Unit plug-ins as master output effects.

Integrated libraries. iTunes, Spotify, and music in the file system / Finder are now all integrated and can be viewed side-by-side.

Integrated library views bring together everything on your local machine as well as Spotify.

Smart filters. Set up dynamic playlists sorted by BPM, key, date, genre, and other metadata. (Those columns are available in other tools, but here you get them dynamically, a bit like the ones in iTunes.)

Keyboard Shortcuts Editor. There’s a full editor for assigning individual features to custom shortcuts – which in turn can also map to custom hardware or the MacBook Pro Touch Bar.

CDJ and third-party hardware support. Whereas some other players make their own hardware or limit compatibility (or even require specific hardware just to launch, ahem), Algoriddim’s approach is more open. So they’re fully certified by Pioneer for CDJ compatibility, and they include 60 MIDI controllers in the box, and they have an extensive MIDI learn function.

More cueing and looping. Version 2 now has up to eight cue points and loops, with naming, per song. (I recently lauded Soda for adding this.) You can also now assign loop triggers to cue points.

Single deck mode for preparation. Okay, some (cough, again Serato) lock you into this view if you don’t have authorized hardware plugged in. But here, it’s designed specifically for the purpose of making set prep easier.

Accessibility. VoiceOver support makes djay Pro 2 work for vision-impaired users. We really need more commitment to this in the industry; it’s also been great to see this technology from Algoriddim showcased at Apple’s developer conference. If you’re using this (and hopefully CDM is working well with screen readers), do let us know.

New photo / still image support.

And it does photos

Back to less club/pro features, the other breakthrough for casual users, weddings, and commercial gigs is photo integration. Drag and drop photos or albums onto the visual decks, and the software will make beat-matched slide shows.

The photo decks also work with existing, fairly powerful VJ features, which includes external output, effects, and the like. You can also adjust beat sync.

Still image support builds on an existing video/VJ facility.

Plus a no-brainer price

The other thing that’s disruptive about djay Pro 2: price. It’s US$49.99, with an intro price of US$39.99, on the App Store.

You’ll need Spotify Premium for those features, of course, and macOS 10.11 or later is required.

https://www.algoriddim.com/

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