Reason SSL Mixer Hardware Controller

This forum is for discussing Propellerhead's music software. Questions, answers, ideas, and opinions... all apply.
User avatar
geremix
Posts: 27
Joined: 30 Apr 2016

Post 27 Aug 2017

amcjen wrote:.

If we do this right, it will feel so fluid that you won't even have to think about it anymore--you just get to focus on making music.
!
I'm about to cry! This is soooooo cool.
Thanks thanks thanks!!!!



Enviado desde mi iPhone utilizando Tapatalk

User avatar
EnochLight
Posts: 4899
Joined: 17 Jan 2015

Post 27 Aug 2017

amcjen wrote:
27 Aug 2017
I finally had a day off today (work has been bananas), so I sat down and printed out actual-size sections of the Reason SSL mixer. AAAND, I took some pics, so this is more show and tell...
Dear god, it's a full 44" long, and that's before I made the fader the full 100mm (the Reason one is smaller, something like 60mm).
I realize Selig has actually worked on one of these and can attest to how gargantuan they are, but why are you trying to reinvent the wheel? Just build yours with the same angles as the real thing, keep it as one strip, and all controls should be able to be accessed then, correct?

Or am I missing something here?



SSL 9000K.jpg
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
Windows 10 64-bit | Reason 10 |  Studio One 3.5 | Asus Sabertooth Z77 | Intel i7 3770k Quad-Core @ 4.5 Ghz | 16 GB RAM | Mushkin Reactor 1TB SSD | RME babyface Pro| Nektar Panorama P-4 | M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro

User avatar
amcjen
Posts: 169
Joined: 14 Apr 2017

Post 27 Aug 2017

EnochLight wrote:
amcjen wrote:
27 Aug 2017
I finally had a day off today (work has been bananas), so I sat down and printed out actual-size sections of the Reason SSL mixer. AAAND, I took some pics, so this is more show and tell...
Dear god, it's a full 44" long, and that's before I made the fader the full 100mm (the Reason one is smaller, something like 60mm).
I realize Selig has actually worked on one of these and can attest to how gargantuan they are, but why are you trying to reinvent the wheel? Just build yours with the same angles as the real thing, keep it as one strip, and all controls should be able to be accessed then, correct?

Or am I missing something here?
SSL 9000K.jpg
Nope, you're right--that was the original plan when I first started considering this project. What I didn't anticipate was that the controller would still be so large (I assumed this controller would be smaller than an actual SSL because no second small fader, no bus assignment push buttons at the top, etc., but I was wrong).

It isn't clear to me anymore that full channelstrips are the ideal way to have easy and immediate control of every channel on, say, a 32 channel setup (nothing huge).

To me, much of the fun of product development is taking all possibilities into consideration, figuring out which are worth keeping, which are worth ditching, and which can be done better in a different way.


User avatar
selig
Moderator
Posts: 7323
Joined: 15 Jan 2015

Post 27 Aug 2017

One more thing about all those knobs - the interface to scan them all will be huge. 33 knobs per channel, somewhere around 40 buttons. There will be a limit to how many can be scanned I would think?

As for size, in Reason the routing display, insert section,and sends are all BIGGER than the 'real' SSL!

I'm thinking more about the idea of the high quality touch encoders for the center section, and the fader/mute/solo/automation for the rest with a big touch screen to see channel info.

This could be done with 38mm channel width, and a 303x535 px (16:9) display. You will have to shrink the channel width by half to show it all, but could enlarge it to 'zoom' into certain controls. Mock ups are done, will post shortly…


Sent from some crappy device using Tapatalk
Selig Audio, LLC

User avatar
Faxxer
Posts: 110
Joined: 28 May 2016
Location: Lawton Oklahoma USA

Post 27 Aug 2017

Thank you for the kind reply to a guy who knows absolutely nothing about such things!
:essentials: :adapted: :re: :PUF_take: :refillpacker: :recycle: :rebirth: :reason: :record: :refill: :ignition: :o

User avatar
Faxxer
Posts: 110
Joined: 28 May 2016
Location: Lawton Oklahoma USA

Post 27 Aug 2017

Now that I think about it.... this isn't that far from the older days of devices like when AVID had their own proprietary gear to go along with their software...(They charged massive amounts of money too!)
The computer has changed it all for us little people....you guys can use your skills to adapt things that used to cost 25k to be something alot more of us can afford.....

I remember.... back in 2001...a TV station I worked at had an AVID and get this... "An Avid Operator" on salary.....because it was so specialized to use. Today, you can buy a copy of Vegas Pro for 300 bucks and a cheap pc and do everything that guy and 25k of money could do......computer.....goooooood.
:essentials: :adapted: :re: :PUF_take: :refillpacker: :recycle: :rebirth: :reason: :record: :refill: :ignition: :o

User avatar
amcjen
Posts: 169
Joined: 14 Apr 2017

Post 28 Aug 2017

Faxxer wrote:Now that I think about it.... this isn't that far from the older days of devices like when AVID had their own proprietary gear to go along with their software...(They charged massive amounts of money too!)
The computer has changed it all for us little people....you guys can use your skills to adapt things that used to cost 25k to be something alot more of us can afford.....

I remember.... back in 2001...a TV station I worked at had an AVID and get this... "An Avid Operator" on salary.....because it was so specialized to use. Today, you can buy a copy of Vegas Pro for 300 bucks and a cheap pc and do everything that guy and 25k of money could do......computer.....goooooood.
It really has changed things hasn't it? So amazing.

User avatar
Ahornberg
Posts: 1541
Joined: 15 Jan 2016
Location: Vienna, Austria

Post 28 Aug 2017

selig wrote:
27 Aug 2017
One more thing about all those knobs - the interface to scan them all will be huge. 33 knobs per channel, somewhere around 40 buttons. There will be a limit to how many can be scanned I would think?
...
That's an issue. You will need a lot of MIDI channels to transmit all that MIDI-CC-data.
I think each mixer channel will need it's own MIDI channel.

User avatar
selig
Moderator
Posts: 7323
Joined: 15 Jan 2015

Post 28 Aug 2017

Update:

Not saying this is THE way to go, it's just one option. Sourced a touch screen display, 16:9 ratio with 535 x 303 px. (the biggest they offered). It also has a large 'surround', so you can't get it that close to the edges as I'd like, but this is a "real world" mockup to show one possibility. Mounting the screen vertically, you get 303 px wide which gives you about 38 px per channel in groups of 8. The SSL channels are around 41mm wide so I adjusted down to 38 to see how it looks (so the screen can line up properly).

In this mockup, there's no way to show the entire vertical channel strip at proper width, so I shrunk it by half (and scaled it down a bit more to fit). This gives you room to add channel specific controls, such as a dedicated meter (bottom) and audio input controls (top: shown here since these are audio channels). So you would need to have a wide (left) and narrow (right) option, but I think that can be turned into a plus by adding the metering and channel info.

There are many other screen options but this one works out nicely so you end up with a total 'box' size of 414mm x 816mm (approx. 16in x 32in). For simplicity, I may use these measurements as a starting point for the center section mockup…
Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 8.41.29 AM.png

Pros: great visual feedback, lines up with hardware faders, touch screen allows interaction.
Cons: border will not allow banks of 8 faders to be 'continuously' connected, channel display must be scrolled or scaled down.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
Selig Audio, LLC

mcatalao
Posts: 785
Joined: 17 Jan 2015

Post 28 Aug 2017

selig wrote:
23 Aug 2017
SSL dimensions wouldn't make total sense because the channel strips also include track busses (x32), small fader section, only 5 sends (one stereo, 4 mono), etc.

But each channel is 1.625 (41.275mm) inches wide. Fader sections are level and only include the fader. Above that is the scribble strip (reason puts it below the fader, but for hardware you'll want it above the fader so you can read it when working the faders!). Then comes the channel, sloping upwards at a 12° angle.

The main channel knobs are around 11mm in diameter, the pan knob around 15mm (estimating from a photo).

The approach I wanted to take was not quite the same as yours - I wanted to take the cheaper approach (Sony DMX-100 style) which is to have a center channel strip (same as Pro Tools ICON consoles). So you only have one dynamics/EQ section, but you can replicate the meters/sends/faders/pan/mute/solo per channel. You can work very quickly with this setup, and it will save you tons if you decide to go this route. Plus it means you can really deck out the dynamics/EQ section with LED rings on every control (important when first loading a song, and of course when switching channels.

Here what I came up with, built as a modular system so you could use just a center channel (everything you need in one place), add faders in banks of 8, or add a hardware I/O section (thinking Props Balance with this drawing).
Selig, i'm already doing pretty much this with my 3x BCF2000 and a BCR2000:

Image

Basicly BCF2000 1 to 3 control 24 channels at a time. These 3 surfaces are slaved to reason Mixer, and i have 2 buttons to control the remote base channel for the BCF2000's.

The BCR2000 is set as a master controller (or more accurate a master surface), and it will "re-position" the rotors to the selected device on the sequencer, so if in the sequencer i'm on a nn-xt i get the position defined on the remote file for an NN-XT. Same for a mixer channel. To navigate the channels, i have 2 buttons on the bcr2000 that go up and down in the sequencer. And since when you navigate the tracks the channels get focus on the SSL i can see what i'm doing.

My only nitpicks (and mind they are related more how to reason implements the automation for the SSL) is that for midi devices, you have to force the creation of a track for each ssl channel, and only then you can access the ssl channel. Then there is the issue with the track order, because reason starts to create automation channels separated from the devices. It's a mess. Then there is the fact that you start having 2 sequencer tracks for a device (one for the device itself and its automation, and another for the ssl channel). And then you have to check order for the automation vs main device vs SSL VS Sequencer order. It got a tiny little bit better on the last 2 versions, mainly for new tracks, BUT... for older tracks most time the ssl order still remains unaffected...

Anyway, between the insert patches with default devices with the device's controls mapped to SSL channel buttons, the sends, eq's and dynamics full controlled in my BCR2000 i can do pretty much 90% of a mix never touching the mouse. I still use a lot of command keys in the keyboard thought, but even navigating the sequencer is pretty much the keyboard.

I guess dimensions are way different from the mixer in the screen VS in the BCF's. I only think the BCF's could have some sort of indicator of the name of the tracks, and Behringer and other brands have that in newer surfaces. I worked around that with Color coding, expanding the mixer screen to have all the tracks available, and having a very strict track order in my mix. I feel really confortable with this now but it took some time to get where i am now, regarding usability. And i have to say, not being able to select a track from the SSL doesn't help, as the sequencer button only "shows" where the track is. :/ So if in the sequencer i'm on the the Kick, and i remember to change something on a voice on the chorus, that is channel 37... that's freaking tedious... :(

Still for the most part, it's great to work with "hardware" instead of using a mouse for everything...

User avatar
selig
Moderator
Posts: 7323
Joined: 15 Jan 2015

Post 28 Aug 2017

mcatalao wrote:
28 Aug 2017
My only nitpicks (and mind they are related more how to reason implements the automation for the SSL) is that for midi devices, you have to force the creation of a track for each ssl channel, and only then you can access the ssl channel. Then there is the issue with the track order, because reason starts to create automation channels separated from the devices. It's a mess. Then there is the fact that you start having 2 sequencer tracks for a device (one for the device itself and its automation, and another for the ssl channel). And then you have to check order for the automation vs main device vs SSL VS Sequencer order. It got a tiny little bit better on the last 2 versions, mainly for new tracks, BUT... for older tracks most time the ssl order still remains unaffected...
One day I'll start a thread and share my thoughts on a new DAW approach that gets rid of all of these sorts of problems…
;)
Selig Audio, LLC

User avatar
geremix
Posts: 27
Joined: 30 Apr 2016

Post 28 Aug 2017

MY OWN MOCKUP

Hi everyone, I took the amcjen's PDF files and looked into other control surface (and borrowed things here and there) and made my own idea of a Reason controller, just for fun and only to make a small contribution to these wonderful project.

I hope these help in some way!

Image

The faders are from the Mackie Control and are the same measure of the original.

The main channel strip are about 40mm wide (every section)

I took Selig's idea of using a amoled touch screen for the channel's information and for scrolling the channels horizontally.

I used another screen in the master section to change between sends, sends masters, fx returns and insert related stuff in a way to take advantage of that set of rotary encoders and save some space in the master section.

Under the transport, I've placed a kind of touch pad for scrubbing and move the L and R markers. This can be used to zoom control for the sequencer too.

I forgot to put more transport controls but I thinks there's plenty of room for that.
I forgot to put the "un-mute all" and "un-solo all" buttons too.

I've placed some function buttons for user custom assignment above the center/master fader. In my Reason "new" template set I have a custom combinator set to my control room were I have a "MONO" button for mono listening of the mix, a "EQ IN" button for EQ correction when I work with my inEars outside my studio, a "SUB ON/OFF" switch to feed the output I have connected to my SubWoofer, and a switch from master to send 8 mix listening that I use for artist monitor self mix.
I really like the idea to control this from the surface too.

Remember this is a fast mockup and is UGLYYYYYY

I don't like where the bus compressor is, but I didn't find another place to put it.

Here are a dimensions comparison with another real world stuff:

Image

I hope you like it and I really wish to contribute with the project and the community.

Cheers!!


--
G E R E M I X
@bygeremix

User avatar
dioxide
Posts: 926
Joined: 15 Jul 2015

Post 28 Aug 2017

Just a thought to add. No-one has tried putting the EQ left to right. I have a Vestax controller that I have mapped this way and it works well with the visual Equalizer. Also Softube's controller uses a L to R format for the EQ.

https://www.softube.com/console1.php
viewtopic.php?f=12&t=7495793&p=273239#p273401

User avatar
amcjen
Posts: 169
Joined: 14 Apr 2017

Post 28 Aug 2017

selig wrote:
28 Aug 2017
Update:

Not saying this is THE way to go, it's just one option.
<snip>
Pros: great visual feedback, lines up with hardware faders, touch screen allows interaction.
Cons: border will not allow banks of 8 faders to be 'continuously' connected, channel display must be scrolled or scaled down.
This is super cool Selig! I hadn't considered that, but it's a really interesting consideration.

I'm assuming that the graphic detail would have to be reimplemented onboard the device though right? Or does this act as an additional monitor from the computer? At first I thought it was just as an additional monitor, but I can't see how the slim version could be shown from just acting as a monitor.

This is really intriguing!

User avatar
amcjen
Posts: 169
Joined: 14 Apr 2017

Post 28 Aug 2017

geremix wrote:
28 Aug 2017
MY OWN MOCKUP

Hi everyone, I took the amcjen's PDF files and looked into other control surface (and borrowed things here and there) and made my own idea of a Reason controller, just for fun and only to make a small contribution to these wonderful project.

I hope these help in some way!
WOAH, this is amazing! I studied this layout for quite a while and it's starting to really grow on me! I had to print it out to sketch on it. Nice work!
geremix wrote:
28 Aug 2017
I've placed some function buttons for user custom assignment above the center/master fader. In my Reason "new" template set I have a custom combinator set to my control room were I have a "MONO" button for mono listening of the mix, a "EQ IN" button for EQ correction when I work with my inEars outside my studio, a "SUB ON/OFF" switch to feed the output I have connected to my SubWoofer, and a switch from master to send 8 mix listening that I use for artist monitor self mix.
I really like the idea to control this from the surface too.
Do these control the 4 buttons in the master insert section, or is this another combinator you have wired in series on the way to control room out?
geremix wrote:
28 Aug 2017
Remember this is a fast mockup and is UGLYYYYYY
No way! IMO mockups are the best when they are clear enough to communicate effectively, but still happen quickly (b/c they change a lot so faster the better!)
geremix wrote:
28 Aug 2017
Here are a dimensions comparison with another real world stuff:
Oh this really sets the point home about size comparison--very nice!

FWIW, it looks like typical desk sizes are ~30" (762mm) deep x 60" (1524mm) wide. So plenty of room for screens, keyboards, etc.
geremix wrote:
28 Aug 2017
I hope you like it and I really wish to contribute with the project and the community.
I do! I'm going to toy with this layout and try some things. We're evolving the idea so nicely. :)

-Allison

User avatar
geremix
Posts: 27
Joined: 30 Apr 2016

Post 29 Aug 2017

amcjen wrote:
WOAH, this is amazing! I studied this layout for quite a while and it's starting to really grow on me! I had to print it out to sketch on it. Nice work!
Thank you Allison!! It's my pleasure to contribute to this exciting project.
If you want I can send you the design with a bigger resolution.
amcjen wrote:
Do these control the 4 buttons in the master insert section, or is this another combinator you have wired in series on the way to control room out?
I've made this in another combi and put it between the desk's control room out and my hardware outputs, leaving the master section clean.

Image

I've been asking for a "MONO" button at the master section for a long time.
Once, I've started a project with a programmer to make a RE for speaker control and other control room/monitoring related affairs but we gave up shortly for lack of time.


--
G E R E M I X
@bygeremix

User avatar
amcjen
Posts: 169
Joined: 14 Apr 2017

Post 29 Aug 2017

Ok, took a page from Geremix and Selig, and tried a new layout (for only the center section)--one with appropriate desired dimensions. I'm aiming for 13" wide maximum (not counting endcaps, b/c those should be able to come off if you add additional mixer banks to either/both sides)--to get close to the original 4k width. And this prototype v2 came in at 20" tall, all in, including the palmrest. And I was able to provide 12 degrees slant of the board--kinda feels awesome and real-ish!

Here's the v2 layout (incorporating Geremix's idea of making the send/return/pan of the master FX slimmed down and selectable--great idea!)

Image

And I mounted it to posterboard to get the right slant angle for the eventual layout. May or may not keep the slant--it may be weird to have all the faders on the slant as well for the fader banks--but haven't started those yet. All the buttons feel like the right size, and I copied the transport dimensions exactly from my DM3200 (b/c I like its size, I can use it without looking, which is super important for a transport!)

Image

Image

Not quite sure if the wrist wrest is long enough yet--my hand just barely fits, so may need another half inch. But, sitting in front of this in full size, this is a piece of hardware I think I'd really like using!

I was on the fence about including the Big Meter, but I think it's really helpful for monitoring all of the hardware inputs and outputs when mixing--especially if you're using external gear--since you can scroll through both the inputs and outputs, it's kinda nice. I thought you could source Reason channels into Big Channel too, and I was going to ditch the meter on the channelstrip fader, but appears that Big Meter is only for the 64 ins/outs for the hardware interface--ah well.

Only thing I wasn't able to include was Geremix's suggestions about custom user-defined buttons. I think it's a great idea--just need to find a location for them.

Also, still a little undecided about the large OLED touchscreens--I haven't been able to source any of those (without having custom ones made), so avoiding falling into that temptation if I later can't find any for reasonable cost. Haven't ruled it out though! (esp for the Big Meter, so that the VU offset would work properly).

Off to bed!
- Allison

User avatar
amcjen
Posts: 169
Joined: 14 Apr 2017

Post 29 Aug 2017

geremix wrote:
29 Aug 2017
Thank you Allison!! It's my pleasure to contribute to this exciting project.
If you want I can send you the design with a bigger resolution.
That would be great if you don't mind! I like your faders more.
geremix wrote:
I've made this in another combi and put it between the desk's control room out and my hardware outputs, leaving the master section clean.

Image

I've been asking for a "MONO" button at the master section for a long time.
Once, I've started a project with a programmer to make a RE for speaker control and other control room/monitoring related affairs but we gave up shortly for lack of time.
Ah, interesting, that's really clever. I load everything up in my master inserts, but between control room and speakers for things like monitoring is a much better idea--keeps your mains clean, like you said.

In this case, I'd really want to incorporate these user assignable buttons. Maybe I'll cut down the width in half of the buttons under the control room level knob, and add 5 user assignable buttons there.

Wish there was a bit more room, to add four knobs/four buttons, all user-assignable, for combinators in this situation. Maybe we could make the master insert four knobs/four buttons reassignable to another combi--if you use remote override, I bet you could map them to anything you want (which would make this HW super flexible, if any/all sections could have their default midi mappings able to be turned off and just used as general midi controllers.)

- Allison

User avatar
Ahornberg
Posts: 1541
Joined: 15 Jan 2016
Location: Vienna, Austria

Post 29 Aug 2017

really exciting what's going on here :thumbs_up:

User avatar
geremix
Posts: 27
Joined: 30 Apr 2016

Post 29 Aug 2017

OMG, this is AWSOME! Great job Allison!!!

All the design is smooth and clever.
I really liked the idea to get off the end caps and be able to join the segments into one device.

With this you can do only 2 separate devices: the "main station" and the 8 faders. Maybe you need the "main" to use the first 8, but you don't need the 8 to use the main and you can use it alone. For example, If that were the case today, I'll buy only the main because I got the Mackie Control. After I sell it I can buy the first 16 channels... just a thought...
amcjen wrote: That would be great if you don't mind! I like your faders more.
Ok! Where do I send it to?
amcjen wrote: ...I'd really want to incorporate these user assignable buttons. Maybe I'll cut down the width in half of the buttons under the control room level knob, and add 5 user assignable buttons there.
This could be nice.

Watching the design again I'm thinking, what if the Props add more functionality or more buttons to the master section? Maybe they read my feature request for the MONO button and add it, or some kind of channel grouping (I'm praying for that every day)... I don't know anything about hardware making, but, can you design, lets say "the master fader and side buttons" section, in a way you can replace it for a new one with more capabilities in the future?? Like a modular, kinda lunchbox way?

I know you barely have an initial idea of what the thing would be, but planning things ahead with these kind of situations in mind, can help you to make room for growing... just another thought!
amcjen wrote: Wish there was a bit more room, to add four knobs/four buttons, all user-assignable, for combinators in this situation. Maybe we could make the master insert four knobs/four buttons reassignable to another combi--if you use remote override, I bet you could map them to anything you want
I forgot remote override!! This is the solution. I almost never use the Master Section Combinator's knobs and buttons, maybe the bypass only. I don't think you have to make room for another set of asignable "combi controls", we can just re-asign the ones we need.

Once again Allison, thanks for these amazing job!!



--
G E R E M I X
@bygeremix

User avatar
selig
Moderator
Posts: 7323
Joined: 15 Jan 2015

Post 29 Aug 2017

amcjen wrote:
29 Aug 2017
Not quite sure if the wrist wrest is long enough yet--my hand just barely fits, so may need another half inch. But, sitting in front of this in full size, this is a piece of hardware I think I'd really like using!

I was on the fence about including the Big Meter, but I think it's really helpful for monitoring all of the hardware inputs and outputs when mixing--especially if you're using external gear--since you can scroll through both the inputs and outputs, it's kinda nice. I thought you could source Reason channels into Big Channel too, and I was going to ditch the meter on the channelstrip fader, but appears that Big Meter is only for the 64 ins/outs for the hardware interface--ah well.

Only thing I wasn't able to include was Geremix's suggestions about custom user-defined buttons. I think it's a great idea--just need to find a location for them.

Also, still a little undecided about the large OLED touchscreens--I haven't been able to source any of those (without having custom ones made), so avoiding falling into that temptation if I later can't find any for reasonable cost. Haven't ruled it out though! (esp for the Big Meter, so that the VU offset would work properly).

Off to bed!
- Allison
Hey there, making some progress but so far is looking like all the buttons crammed into the space - needs a better 'design' IMO.

Also, I don't follow the "replicate the software screen" approach. I instead would look at actual user workflow. What functions do you use the most, what functions will you be forced back to the keyboard/mouse to use?

For me, I use Save and Undo a LOT. No, they are not that glamorous, neither do they appear on the mixer page - and so they do not appear on your mockup. BUT they are probably some of the MOST USED functions of all when working with Reason.

Leaving these (and other important) functions off the hardware requires you to use the keyboard/mouse, or have to refer to the other screens far too often IMO. This is something I learned from working with the HUI, and later the ICON D-Command (which thoughtfully include these functions).

So rather than be strict with your idea of replacing the mixer window, instead extend your concept to building the BEST hardware controller for Reason! That's the way I approach it, fwiw - maybe not what you intended, maybe not what you want for your own purposes. But food for thought, at least.

Consider how you work with Reason. What commands do you perform the most? What functions do you need the most? I would suggest that in the most basic form, navigation is the most common function performed, either navigating to a new instrument/track/channel, navigating to find and then load a preset, navigating to a different part of the timeline, navigating to change the mode or pointer function. Taking the idea of 'navigation' to this basic level you can see that a hardware controller needs to be good at these things in order to be the most useful. With that in mind, I suggest also adding the arrow keys from the keyboard, which can be used for zoom and selection. Just because this is a mixer controller doesn't mean you can't use it when editing!

You will also need to apply Fitts Law and similar UI design concepts at some point.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitts%27s_law
For example, the way you are laying out your drawings to scale is part one. Part two requires you to already know the most common functions you typically perform when mixing - have you observed your workflow to discover this? It can be very helpful to video yourself working on a mix (with a cell phone camera) - play back the video and note which features you use the most/least. Also, if you have the chance, spend some time working with a hardware controller to see what you like/don't like, from the perspective of a user AND a designer/builder! If you look at hardware controllers that have been used for a while, you can see what buttons have the paint rubbed off, and what buttons have the most dirt around them! The play button on SSLs is the first to go, and on the ICON, the save, undo, and redo buttons have the most dirt around them! So these need to be easy to hit, and close by where your hand is at rest.

Check out this image of an ICON controller - looks very much like the one I use. Notice where the 'dirt' is - this is where the hands rest and also indicate which functions are used the most!:
Image

My overall approach suggestions:
The first step is not to lay out the controls IMO, it is to define the device broadly. I find it helpful to write up the product description as it might appear in an ad or store page (even if you're making it just for yourself). Also define your goals (a design "spec") with regards to features, functions, costs, size, look/feel, etc. Then you can start to focus more - measure your mockups against your goals, to see if you are hitting all the marks or not. Next up is to create a feature list, then a very specific control list (checking against your goals along the way). Then you can prioritize the features/controls to determine size/location, starting with the obvious (transport buttons should be closest and should be big and feel solid, etc.).

Otherwise you'll keep changing course and starting over, rather than following a more "iteration" based design process.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iterative_design
Also consider the 80/20 rule as it applies to many aspects of the design process:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle
http://www2.latech.edu/~box/ase/papers2 ... mpaper.PDF

Anyway, just more food for thought, since any changes/mistakes with hardware are much more costly than with software (but in both cases should be minimized IMO).
:)
Selig Audio, LLC

User avatar
amcjen
Posts: 169
Joined: 14 Apr 2017

Post 29 Aug 2017

selig wrote:
29 Aug 2017

Hey there, making some progress but so far is looking like all the buttons crammed into the space - needs a better 'design' IMO.

Also, I don't follow the "replicate the software screen" approach. I instead would look at actual user workflow. What functions do you use the most, what functions will you be forced back to the keyboard/mouse to use?

For me, I use Save and Undo a LOT. No, they are not that glamorous, neither do they appear on the mixer page - and so they do not appear on your mockup. BUT they are probably some of the MOST USED functions of all when working with Reason.

Leaving these (and other important) functions off the hardware requires you to use the keyboard/mouse, or have to refer to the other screens far too often IMO. This is something I learned from working with the HUI, and later the ICON D-Command (which thoughtfully include these functions).

So rather than be strict with your idea of replacing the mixer window, instead extend your concept to building the BEST hardware controller for Reason! That's the way I approach it, fwiw - maybe not what you intended, maybe not what you want for your own purposes. But food for thought, at least.

Consider how you work with Reason. What commands do you perform the most? What functions do you need the most? I would suggest that in the most basic form, navigation is the most common function performed, either navigating to a new instrument/track/channel, navigating to find and then load a preset, navigating to a different part of the timeline, navigating to change the mode or pointer function. Taking the idea of 'navigation' to this basic level you can see that a hardware controller needs to be good at these things in order to be the most useful. With that in mind, I suggest also adding the arrow keys from the keyboard, which can be used for zoom and selection. Just because this is a mixer controller doesn't mean you can't use it when editing!

You will also need to apply Fitts Law and similar UI design concepts at some point.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitts%27s_law
For example, the way you are laying out your drawings to scale is part one. Part two requires you to already know the most common functions you typically perform when mixing - have you observed your workflow to discover this? It can be very helpful to video yourself working on a mix (with a cell phone camera) - play back the video and note which features you use the most/least. Also, if you have the chance, spend some time working with a hardware controller to see what you like/don't like, from the perspective of a user AND a designer/builder! If you look at hardware controllers that have been used for a while, you can see what buttons have the paint rubbed off, and what buttons have the most dirt around them! The play button on SSLs is the first to go, and on the ICON, the save, undo, and redo buttons have the most dirt around them! So these need to be easy to hit, and close by where your hand is at rest.

Check out this image of an ICON controller - looks very much like the one I use. Notice where the 'dirt' is - this is where the hands rest and also indicate which functions are used the most!:
Image

My overall approach suggestions:
The first step is not to lay out the controls IMO, it is to define the device broadly. I find it helpful to write up the product description as it might appear in an ad or store page (even if you're making it just for yourself). Also define your goals (a design "spec") with regards to features, functions, costs, size, look/feel, etc. Then you can start to focus more - measure your mockups against your goals, to see if you are hitting all the marks or not. Next up is to create a feature list, then a very specific control list (checking against your goals along the way). Then you can prioritize the features/controls to determine size/location, starting with the obvious (transport buttons should be closest and should be big and feel solid, etc.).

Otherwise you'll keep changing course and starting over, rather than following a more "iteration" based design process.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iterative_design
Also consider the 80/20 rule as it applies to many aspects of the design process:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle
http://www2.latech.edu/~box/ase/papers2 ... mpaper.PDF

Anyway, just more food for thought, since any changes/mistakes with hardware are much more costly than with software (but in both cases should be minimized IMO).
:)
First off, I really appreciate your response Selig. It's clear to me that you're after the best design possible for a physical controller for Reason--and that's certainly a shared goal here. :)

That said, I do agree that save/undo/redo are used a ton--I think those are the ones I use most after the transport. They're so important, that I placed them in the previous mockup as physically close to the stop/play buttons of the transport as possible, in order to minimize reach for the most often used functions. Did you miss them by chance?

It's also why I thought to move the sends and master inserts above the more often used items. I don't mess with those much, but I like to boost global reverb returns sometimes to wash a song out shoegaze-style with a quick grab of the knob. Also, and maybe this is just me, but I hate remembering which send is which--was 2 my tape echo, or was it 3? So for me it's really important to be able to glance and see it with as minimal reading as possible. Especially if bouncing between songs in a single session.

I was unfamiliar with Fitt's Law, but I really like it, thank you for sharing! When I lay out these things, I'm constantly thinking in tradeoffs--it's like a multi-dimensional chess board. On one axis you have ease-of-use. It should just feel natural. It shouldn't feel crammed or confusing. But it should also not include such symmetry that it forces you out of your creative zone into thinking about the tool rather than the work being done with the tool. A good example of this is the recent movement towards EQs to be horizontal, symmetric, and all the same knob color (like that Icon image you posted.) That's a horrible idea, IMO. Why?

Because my brain has evolved over millennia to observe color and shape asymmetry extremely quickly without thinking (along with other capabilities like peripheral vision to catch lions about to attack you from behind the bushes!) So when I look at some (not all) of the newer interfaces, it makes me sad because they've removed both the color identification of the knobs, AND they removed the asymmetry of the knob layout. Both of those design choices force me to have to translate from my thought stream during mixing of "add a little air to that channel", into "ok, which knob is the HF dB knob? Ok, looking, read the label, ok it's that one. Wait, is that Q or LF? Oh it's Q, b/c I'm in the middle two, it's the same knob position on the Icon" Meanwhile two bars have gone by so I reach back to the transport rewind and go again. That gets fatiguing after a while. With asymmetry you can even go by feel without looking at all (like those great little bumps on keyboards so you can find your way without removing your eyes.) I suppose you get muscle memory after a while with your tool, so it's something that we're good at adapting to, but I take the symmetry and monochromatic color as a drawback, not a benefit.

So, I guess the point I'm trying to make is that yes, there are almost certainly things we can do differently with new hardware controller designs that simply make the old stuff look way too heavy and unnecessary--such as the full channelstrip per channel. Back in the day, it was necessary b/c it was all analog and made the most sense from a signal flow standpoint. And now we can break from that. But there were a lot of really good design decisions in there too IMO, and I don't personally want to throw all of those out. For instance, I rather prefer the look of an API lunchbox (as geremix put it so well) for the center section--with all its side-by-side rectangular channel strips. Why? Because when the Props inevitably change some thing in Reason 11 or 12, it would be easier to just remove, say the Inserts section and put in a new one with the new features. Hardware controllers are unfortunately bound to their ever-changing software counterparts, and that puts the hardware folks at a disadvantage from a malleability standpoint.

As background, I don't have experience on an actual SSL, nor do I on the Icon. I've used Allen & Heath analog boards for a long time, and later moved to the Tascam DM3200, which has some of its own cool features (like holding down a button while pressing "select" on a channel will zero out that channel's fader). It becomes a thoughtless gesture to press and swipe across all 16 fader strips to zero out the faders without even thinking. It's those thoughtless gestures that I'm after with this.

Ok, so back to the original challenge: there are multiple axes--the first (and likely most important) is that it's easy to use, and we just covered that. Others are cost, physical size, technical feasibility and difficulty, and what I'll call "joy of use"--which is the feeling you get when you use a really fantastic tool and it just does exactly what you need. Actually now that I think about it, "joy of use" is when you nail the ease-of-use axis--it's the result of success on that axis.

So for me, this project has these axes in the following order from most important to me to least important to me:

- ease-of-use (and "joy of use")
- technical feasibility
- physical size
- cost

In other words, I really really really want it to be braindead to use. I would prefer it not to be ultra difficult on the technical side from a component or firmware standpoint, since this is still a side hobby at the moment. I do prefer physically smaller than bigger, all else being equal, but bigger isn't a dealbreaker if it's required to maintain that ease-of-use. Cost to me is the least important--I'm not optimizing for that at all right now, within reason. This is mainly because for others to make a living making controllers, they must compromise on ease-of-use and physical size in order to hit the proper cost point to make profit and sustain. I don't want that limitation in this project--at least not yet.

There's an old adage we use at my office: "Make it work, make it right, then make it fast".

And I realize that there will inevitably be things that won't be possible b/c of limitations of Reason--for instance, it appears that there is no Reason Remote means to toggle "record enable" on a track. You can set it to auto-record-enable whenever you select a track, or you can turn it off and manually do it with the mouse. That sucks--I want a red record-enable button on each channel, next to the arm button. Also, did you know that Remote provides "Insert FX input and output" peak meters? I didn't--and don't see where they show up anywhere in Reason. Seems like it could be important from a gain-stage standpoint--especially with things like Pulverizer that overdrive easily.

Speaking of inserts, I haven't seen any mockups other than my own that include them, either as part of the channel strip, or as the master inserts. Am I the only one that uses them? FWIW, I find them super interesting for making custom-type "presets" for certain types of tracks. I have bunch of guitar ones, and some vocal ones, and drum ones. They are great to scroll through while mixing to see if there's a better fit for a track in a mix. That's why I include it, despite the size.

When I think about how I mix, I use the transport the most, then the faders to bring up rough mixes. Then I move to EQ, compression, and FX to try to make space for them to play well together. Reverbs/delays to push them to the back, EQ to make them sit in a frequency range, and compression to smack it down if it's too unwieldy from a dynamics standpoint.

I use the loop enable a ton, because there are sections that get messy from a clarity standpoint, or need help, and I get tired of always hitting the triple tap of stop-holdrewind-play. So I placed the loop set points very close to the play button too. (Was also thinking that there are a lot of opportunities for adding additional quick hotkeys with this interface, like hold down the loop L or R button while pressing the rewind or fast-forward to move the locator back or forward a bar). There are lots of opportunities for these sorts of features. (Another are markers--why oh why doesn't Reason have markers? Digital Performer had them 15 years ago. Markers could be easily added to this interface and recall them simply by sending a new song position Remote message. So much expansion/refinement possible!)

I use click a lot--sometimes for tracking, but more for seeing if a certain section drifts out of timing too much, but no click level, that's available on the sequencer transport. I also listen to returns a lot to see how reverbs tail off, so I like the ability to switch the control room source right there with the up/down buttons. For things like the mixbus compressor, I'll spend 30 seconds with it after a rough mix is made, then I'll come back and spend a couple minutes with it once a mix is close to being done. Then I don't mess with it again. If I could put it further away, I would.

I've described a lot, but the core point I'm trying to drive home is that I'm coming from a pretty specific perspective with this project. My default method right now is to run everything direct out into the digital physical mixer and just mix on that. But then I am just using Reason as a multitrack recorder. This method is fine, it sounds decent, but it's also not intuitive or inspiring. Definitely no "joy-of-use" going on! So it's like, use a mouse to mix, or menu-dive and read labels on the Tascam to get to compressors and EQs. But then they aren't saved with the song. They're saved in the Tascam mixer. Then the Tascam mixer got discontinued. <facepalm>

I think the next steps for me are to lay out the fader banks (I can see them in my head, and they're heavily inspired by Selig's earlier mockups), and then get them printed it out and mocked up as well. Will refine button sizes, locations, and alignment later. Then it will be time to start prototyping each section on a breadboard. I will start very very very small--like just the transport first. Then perhaps channel and bank buttons, and then transport bar. Then start with input, and work down the line. As they're all being prototyped, once they prove to work, I'll order up the OSHpark prototype PCBs and put together working lego versions.

Again, thank you Selig for your comments--you brought up a lot of great points to ponder.

- Allison

User avatar
dioxide
Posts: 926
Joined: 15 Jul 2015

Post 30 Aug 2017

Perhaps a delta wheel control for channel selection would be useful. This doesn't need to be larger than a knob but needs to be an encoder.

User avatar
selig
Moderator
Posts: 7323
Joined: 15 Jan 2015

Post 30 Aug 2017

@- Allison - apologies, I DID miss the Save/Undo/Redo buttons in your mockup! Didn't mean to sound dismissive, my primary critique was more about the layout and organization (and lack of 'white space').

Responses roughly in order of your comments…

Sends/Returns: I would add the complete return section, since it's the most useful IMO (though I never use the pans). Then you can switch to sends, which I never mess with on digital consoles but should be available. I also like the idea of the pans as a second 'layer', but could be more confusing that way too.

The EQ/Comp layout on the ICON matches certain plugins (McDSP Channel G is one, which I use), but not the SSL (there weren't SSL Clones from Waves at the time it was released IIRC). The benefit of this controller is it only has one EQ to emulate, and thus can do so more accurately! To those of us used to working on the original, this will come in handy - to others, not so much but still useful to match the Mix View IMO. This puts horizontal orientations out of the picture in my mind.

My comments about not sticking to the Mix View were 100% about ADDING things, not changing or taking away - just to be clear!

Record arm buttons on each channel would only apply to Audio Channels, because Mix Channels and Bus Channels cannot be 'record armed' (they CAN be automated, which is why they all should have automation buttons IMO). So it could be confusing to add them to every channel because they would not have any function in many cases.

The Insert peak meters are in the Combinator, thus they also show up when you drag a Combinator into an insert, but only in the Rack View when you "show programmer" - maybe that's what the Remotes are for? Gain staging isn't important in Reason, BUT keeping consistent levels at every stage is - you need higher resolution meters to know if you're adding a dB of gain or two with an insert though, and these limited meters would not communicate that information accurately.

Inserts - totally left them out for no reason other than lack of use on my part (and many others claim to hardly ever use the knobs/buttons). BUT, the bypass is essential at the least - will include the entire section in future mockups.

Loop controls are essential for my work too - every command available on the key pad should be a button IMO. The transport is already covered, but "go to loop start" and "go to loop end" are essential, as is "loop and play" ("P" key), Return to Zero (RTZ, decimal key), a single button to go back to the last "play" start position, etc. There is also the arrow keys, which can be VERY useful especially when combined with modifier keys (and are included in my next center section mockup).

BTW, Rewind and FF buttons ALREADY move the play head one bar when clicked, so no need for a combo for this!

Another feature to consider is a jog-wheel style encoder, which can be assigned by "mouse hover" - move the mouse over ANY control and the rotary affects that control. This would accommodate REs and even VST control, as well as giving you another simple way to move around the interface when you are doing mouse-centric tasks (but still want to use hardware). You could ALSO have the master fader be able to be put in this mode, which can be a quick way to work when using only a center section (and besides, you don't need the master fader 99% of the time, so giving it another function or two seems logical - in my mockup it doubled as a channel fader, negating the need for TWO faders in the master section).

Lots of great ideas happening here, can't wait to see where this leads!
:)
Selig Audio, LLC

User avatar
Gaja
Posts: 998
Joined: 16 Jan 2015
Location: Germany

Post 30 Aug 2017

Here's an idea about the record enabling/ automation button. They don't need to be mutually exclusive. In my vision the record enable button would simply act as Keyboard focus on instrument tracks, so you can select your synth from the mixer (of course I don't know if this is technically possible at all). The same button, with the help of a modifier button could be used to toggle to automation mode, so you could enable both automation and arm for recording very quickly on eight channels (that is if you can glide over those buttons with your finger). As I said, I don't know if this is possible or feasible, but I wanted to contribute my idea to this amazing project.
Thanks for doing this. It's really exciting to watch this grow!
Cheers!
Fredhoven

  • Information
  • Who is online

    Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests