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Thread: The Perfect MIDI Controller ? Help us design it !

  1. #1
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    Lightbulb The Perfect MIDI Controller ? Help us design it !

    Hi guys,

    For several years now we have been investigating the perfect MIDI controller for laser usage.
    Somehow each and every MIDI controller out there, with the currently popular APC-40 included, has some features you like but lacks others.

    We have contacts with various MIDI controller design manufacturers who are all most willing to build us all " the perfect laser midi controller"

    Yet the problem is what do " we" (you) all feel is needed in this unit.

    Basics in any midi controller are of course:

    - MIDI Interface ( PC/OSX )
    - MIDI In/Out/Through

    For Beyond or LivePro

    - 64 buttons with feedback switching
    - 4 channels for intensity( output )
    - master channel

    But what else would you want in there ?

    Would you like to have :

    - Text assignable labels ( to set your own labels per button/fader/knob in your own language for example ? )
    - Rotary knobs for color or what ? How many would you feel you need ?
    -
    -
    -
    -

    Please help us design this " perfect unit" so we can find the best option available in design, usability and pricing.
    We have at least 3 MIDI companies wanting to assist us in the final design.

    If you are a good in GUI design, please post any pictures of your design here as well.

  2. #2
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    This sounds like a great project - you are brave asking these questions, because what is perfect? I know what I like but others might want completely different things, depending on what sort of effects they are creating and how much control they want of those effects. For me, I want maximum control for crazy abstracts which may have numerous variables. Others may want to control a handful of variables for simple beam shows, where a few sliders might do the job on top of some push buttons or mixed with a touchscreen.

    At the moment I am looking at the Livid Ohm RGB as it has colour assignable push buttons, which I like a lot, plenty of faders and twisty knobs, plus sexy wooden bits :P


    Keith

  3. #3
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    Cool

    I know a lot of this will depend on the final feature list, but do you have any idea at all as to the estimated price point of this new device?

    I agree that both the Novation Remote Zero and the Akai APC-40 have their limitations (I own both), but the APC-40 is priced at about the top of the range of what I think is reasonable for a controller. Maybe if the new unit was truly revolutionary it might be worth stepping up to around $400 or so, but beyond that I don't know how many people would be interested.

    That being said, here are some features I'd like in a "perfect" controller:

    Dedicated button bank for cue selection
    Separate button bank for chases (need enough for projector chases and BEAM-RAIL turret chases - maybe separate banks?)
    Cue page swap button(S)
    Joystick for position in X and Y with dedicated "reset to home" button
    Rotation knobs for X, Y, and Z (both discrete and continuous rate) with "reset" buttons below (or above)
    Dedicated button bank(s) for effect selection (thinking about the "Beyond" interface here)
    Sliders for scan speed, track brightness, overall brightness, effect speed, color cycle, etc
    Master blackout switch
    Flash buttons for projector channels (like chases, but momentary on)
    Tap button for beat-sync

    Figure on at least another half-dozen user-configurable buttons that could be used for various assignable commands, and the same thing for the sliders and rotary knobs...

    Not sure if it's worth it to have LCD's for text-assignable labels - I have a feeling that would add too much to the cost. But having custom skins available would be great.

    Basically my thought is to put all the controls you might normally use from the keyboard, plus all the controls you currently use on any controller, plus the extra goodies all in one box. That's my suggestions anyway, but I have a feeling all those features will make it too expensive...

    Adam

  4. #4
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    Pocket Electronics, by Doepfer.

    Then draft your own panel, get some switches and knobs you like the look of, up to 16 total, and wire them to the board.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Galvonaut View Post
    This sounds like a great project - you are brave asking these questions, because what is perfect? I know what I like but others might want completely different things, depending on what sort of effects they are creating and how much control they want of those effects. For me, I want maximum control for crazy abstracts which may have numerous variables. Others may want to control a handful of variables for simple beam shows, where a few sliders might do the job on top of some push buttons or mixed with a touchscreen.

    At the moment I am looking at the Livid Ohm RGB as it has colour assignable push buttons, which I like a lot, plenty of faders and twisty knobs, plus sexy wooden bits :P


    Keith
    Hi Keith, livid is one of the manufacturers I was talking about. I have spoken with them ( am a dealer of their units for several years now ) and they would be more then willing to assist in the design of a perfect laser controller.

    The idea for this thread is to get as many opinions as possible on what people would want to see in a MIDI controller.
    The items you speak of ( abstracts ) are more to be found in the end-controller ( the thing you control with your MIDI controller ) .
    For the MIDI controller you need to think about buttons, knobs, faders, layout etc.

    In your case you may want to add a pot for each of the variables you need to create your abstracts. As I know very little about abstracts but I do know Pangolin can use 3 generators to create them, you may want to have 3 pots you can assign a generator to and be able to adjust the generator variable for your effect.

    So in short, you would need at least 3 knobs for the variables, 1 switch to turn them on or of , so 3 switches and probably a master fader as well.
    Feel free to correct me where I am off here.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Doctor View Post
    Pocket Electronics, by Doepfer.

    Then draft your own panel, get some switches and knobs you like the look of, up to 16 total, and wire them to the board.
    Nice idea, never knew this existed. Can you place a link to more info ?
    Just wondering if we may want more then just 16 switches and knobs in total.

  7. #7
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    Not handy, but Google will work with this one if you do this:
    "pocket electronics" AND doepfer
    Dieter Doepfer does all sorts of good stuff. This one is likely the cheapest and most versatile way to go.

    If you want more controls you can use a MIDI merge device. Don't try to splice two outputs directly because messages will crash that way.

    If you are making a switch-heavy controller you might use a keyboard scanner to do it. Later, the code that receives all the MIDI signals will direct note messages as switch signals.

    One neat thing about Pocket Electronics is that you can use a pot, or a 'rotary encoder' which puts out digital pulses, and has no start or end position. That might be useful.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by buffo View Post
    I know a lot of this will depend on the final feature list, but do you have any idea at all as to the estimated price point of this new device?
    There a really good question. The aim is to stay around the APC-40 normal pricing which is around 400 to 500 EURO MSRP.
    With enough units in an order ( 50 is the minimum ) the price of the initial design costs drops significantly and so will the price of the whole item.


    I agree that both the Novation Remote Zero and the Akai APC-40 have their limitations (I own both), but the APC-40 is priced at about the top of the range of what I think is reasonable for a controller. Maybe if the new unit was truly revolutionary it might be worth stepping up to around $400 or so, but beyond that I don't know how many people would be interested.
    Clear ! The price determines the ability of the unit to be sold, yet in this case the sales also determine the viability of the production, so one needs the other.
    Kind of a Chicken & Egg Situation isn't it

    That being said, here are some features I'd like in a "perfect" controller:

    Dedicated button bank for cue selection
    Separate button bank for chases (need enough for projector chases and BEAM-RAIL turret chases - maybe separate banks?)
    Cue page swap button(S)
    Joystick for position in X and Y with dedicated "reset to home" button
    Rotation knobs for X, Y, and Z (both discrete and continuous rate) with "reset" buttons below (or above)
    Dedicated button bank(s) for effect selection (thinking about the "Beyond" interface here)
    Sliders for scan speed, track brightness, overall brightness, effect speed, color cycle, etc
    Master blackout switch
    Flash buttons for projector channels (like chases, but momentary on)
    Tap button for beat-sync

    Figure on at least another half-dozen user-configurable buttons that could be used for various assignable commands, and the same thing for the sliders and rotary knobs...

    Not sure if it's worth it to have LCD's for text-assignable labels - I have a feeling that would add too much to the cost. But having custom skins available would be great.

    Basically my thought is to put all the controls you might normally use from the keyboard, plus all the controls you currently use on any controller, plus the extra goodies all in one box. That's my suggestions anyway, but I have a feeling all those features will make it too expensive...

    Adam
    Quite so...the more buttons, the happier we all are but at some point in the design you need to reflect on what we really need. What will we use the most ?
    Your suggestions are well noted. You say the Beyond Interface, but the unit should also work similar on say LivePro and possible be adaptable for Phoenix Live or other types of software.

    Would we want some kind of EMERGENCY button on it ? ( not quite te same as a black-out but close )

  9. #9
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    Added question :

    Something else to think about here is this.

    Would you all prefer a system with indeed buttons, faders, knobs, meters and whatnot.

    Or...

    Would you like to have an option to build your own button set and use a touch screen where you can place all the knobs, buttons, faders etc that you want where you want them. Including text or labels per item.

    So in essence the question is, should the controller be fixed to a number of knobs, buttons etc or do we go the other way, solve the issue with less hardware and go the touchscreen way ? Sort of a big iPad / MS Surface thing ?

  10. #10
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    Before you get in too deep, be aware that every context for MIDI control usually ends up at some point with this consideration of the 'perfect' MIDI controller.

    There is only really one answer: One that can create any MIDI message at the user's will with little effort. Peavey's PC1600X is probably the best ever created, but it would be lousy to use in the dark as a laser controller.

    So you have one of two effective choices:
    1. Make a single slab of purely virtual controls.
    2. Use a cheap and efficient MIDI ADC board and let people design panels.

    The first is taken by the likes of Apple and Samsung. Don't go there. You will not be able to compete. The second is why I mentioned Doepfer's Pocket Electronics. Your most cost-effective way to do business may be to get just 5 different panels worked out according to as much user input as you can get, and find a cheap way to get them cut and marked with control labels, and to find bulk sources of the best deals on decent pots and switches you can get. If you agonise over one ideal form you will lose.

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