So I have to say hats off to SSL for moving the DAW control surface forward with the UF8 (albeit while keeping one foot firmly in our Mackie compatible past).
The UF8 is a delight to use and the integration of one aspect of the 360 software – keyboard macros “on steroids” -is executed really well and feels like a part of the overall experience rather than something that has been “bolted on”.
But what if you already have another DAW that doesn’t posses that technology? My first thought as a developer was to build something similar but after half a day of investigation I came to the conclusion that this was not a road I wanted to go down (I am supposed to be writing music after all \\:-))
So, some head scratching and further surfing later revealed a lovely bit of software called “Touch Portal”. This seemed to be a software competitor to hardware aimed at “streamers” (if that is a word) – most commonly “YouTubers”. For them it provides a touch button approach to common activities that they want to quickly perform during a streaming broadcast – in a similar fashion to hardware products like Elgato’s Stream Deck). However, although that is perhaps their largest market it was written to be a general client for Personal Computers – something I would describe as being more like a “customisable and iconised keyboard”
And so I downloaded it onto my Android phone and started playing. It quickly became clear that this had potential and that I would need more than a single page of shortcuts (which necessitated a purchase at £12.99).
A few days later and I was developing quite a sophisticated and custom system to aid my own music related workflow (Here are a few screen shots from the client running on my phone that I go through in the video below – you can see that it is still a work in progress by the number of blank spaces on some of the screens.).
It should be noted that with the exception of navigating the client UI itself, all these buttons trigger things on my DAW / Control Surface (or PC in the case of URLs). Also worth noting is that a similar experience can be just as easily put together for any other DAW (and I note that an ICON pack is already available for “Reaper” so clearly I was not the first to find this useful bit of software!)
I don’t plan on offering any kind of tutorial on how to do this but I will say that it is all pretty straightforward and well explained on the Companies Web Site:
A Quick Walk Through.
I have to say that when I saw this functionality in the UF8 I found it quite compelling and very nicely integrated into the device. But if you are more of a “mixer traditionalist” and value multiple faders (24 tracks feels about right to me) then the UF8 suddenly becomes quite an expensive option, and given that, like a lot of us, I am already happy with my current Control Surface the “Touch Portal” option is a good one to explore.
In my earlier post about “my ideal Control Surface” I left an area of control surface as a blank display – I have to say that I would love to see this kind of functionality developed for a future Control Surface! The prospect is quite compelling as having these buttons on the control surface itself is significantly better than having to pick up your mouse and/or remember all those keyboard shortcuts (and FL Studio has over 200!!). It’s also a very lightweight and cost effective solution for the control surface manufacturer as all the heavy lifting is done on the PC running the DAW. And I can think of no better way of cementing the close Controller-DAW relationship that offering pre-set buttons (matching the iconography of the chosen DAW) for each of the major DAWs on the market!
I love that FL Studio is constantly being improved – the video below is pretty poor so I might redo it and introduce some of the new features (Playlist tracks are now selectable. (Ctrl+Up/Down Arrows) now selects a track – would make a good couple of “Touch Portal” buttons methinks \\:-) ) . (Coming in V20.9- currently in beta)
Interesting that a mix of iPad and Control Surface has already been tried by at least one manufacturer (albeit primarily transport focussed in this case)