Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Official PlayStation Podcast Episode 394: Crash Landing

Email us at [email protected]! Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google or RSS, or download here Hey y’all! This week we sit down with composer Bobby Krlic, who shares the creative process behind crafting Returnal’s soundtrack. Stuff We Talked About Mass Effect Legendary EditionOddworld: SoulstormReturnal (interview begins at 21:20)Outer Wilds The WitnessDisco Elysium – The Final CutGames that made us see things differently in the real world The Cast Sid Shuman – Senior Director of Content Communications, SIE Tim Turi –  Senior Content Communications Specialist, SIE Thanks to Cory Schmitz for our beautiful logo and Dormilón for our rad theme song and show music. [Editor’s note: PSN game release dates are subject to change without notice. Game details are gathered from press releases from their individual publishers and/or ESRB rating descriptions.]
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    SSL's UF8 DAW controller is really a luxury searching for an audience

    My studio setup, like many bedroom producers’, is a hodgepodge of random nonsense. Honestly there are a lot of pain points in my current workflow, but one of the biggest is mixing. I use a Tascam 424 Portastudio (yes the kind that records to cassette tapes) as a submixer, before moving over to Ableton where I do most of the heavy lifting. You can’t beat a modern DAW for its expansive set of controls and automation but, clicking and dragging knobs and sliders just feels disappointing. Solid State Logic’s (SSL) UF8 gives all those virtual controls a physical incarnation. It’s not the first mixing controller, nor is it the cheapest, but it’s definitely one of the more comprehensive and premium options on the market. At $1,299 the UF8 is not for casual hobbyist musicians. You need to take your craft fairly seriously to drop that amount of money on something relatively niche. Remember, it’s just for mixing and transport controls, you’ll still need a separate controller to actually, you know, play music on. But I will say that, after a week with the UF8 on my desk, I get the appeal. Terrence O'Brien / Engadget Physically this thing is nothing but pure pleasure. The entire device is encased in metal, and the top has a nice brushed texture. The motorized faders are smooth and quiet, and the encoders offer just a hint of resistance — they definitely make my Tascam feel like a toy. The faders definitely aren’t silent, but they’re not distracting as long as you’ve got the speakers at a reasonable volume. This is definitely a pricey luxury to have on a controller, but not a useless one. If you’re bouncing back and forth between your screen and the faders, you want the two to mirror each other. The buttons also make it quick and easy to select and arm tracks for recording, to mute or solo them and even tackle things like send effects or control your various plugins. Training myself to stop relying on my mouse and keyboard has been hard, but when I remember to reach for the UF8 first it’s always an enjoyable experience from a tactile perspective. The basics are pretty obvious if you’ve used a mixing console or DAW. There are eight faders (one for each channel); with select, mute and solo buttons next to them; eight encoders across the tops of the faders that default to controlling the pan of each track; and a small display that gives you information about each track, feedback about parameters and indicate what the encoders and soft keys along the top are controlling at any given time. Terrence O'Brien / Engadget The problem is that some of the more advanced tools (like controlling plugins) might be a few button presses away, and it’s not always immediately clear how to get there. The eight screens give you a good amount of information, but the controls and labels are constantly changing. I’m sure I’d get used to it in time, and it’s an unavoidable byproduct of putting so much power in a relatively compact form factor, but it can be a bit disorienting. For instance: Let’s say I have a simple session set up with drums, a soft synth and bass on tracks one, two and three respectively. All the tracks also have a compressor and an EQ plugin on them. If I want to tweak the settings for the EQ on track two, first I have to select the channel in normal mode, not record mode. Then, all of the indicators under each channel will change to list the various plugins on that channel. Meaning that, even though the large label on the screen over track one says “Drums” the small text underneath it will say “ANLG”, because Ableton’s Analog synth is the first plugin on track two which is currently selected. And while the fader on track one will still control the volume of the drums, the encoder that normally controls panning now won’t do anything when you turn it. From here I’ll have to find the EQ plugin (which, for the sake of argument we’ll say is after the compressor and under track three) and press the encoder under it. At which point all the labels for the encoders will change again to reflect the controls of the EQ plugin. From here you’ll turn those knobs to find the settings you want. And you may even have to flip through multiple pages of parameters. Again, this puts comprehensive control at your fingertips, but it can be a bit confusing while you’re still finding your footing. Terrence O'Brien / Engadget The depth of the controls is truly impressive, though. Out of the box the UF8 works pretty seamlessly with Ableton, Logic, Studio One, Cubase and Pro Tools. There are templates for each DAW that you can select and then customize to your needs. There are three “quick” keys on the top left that you can program to perform certain tasks, like switching between arrangement and session view in Ableton, or opening your plugin browser. On the top right corner are six softkeys which change what the row of eight buttons across the top do. The first spot is set in stone, but the other five banks of controls are user assignable, so they can start and stop playback, set punch in points, turn on looping or even trigger keyboard shortcuts. Tweaking all of those settings too is super easy with the SSL 360 app. It even has its own dedicated button on the face of the UF8. So if you suddenly wish you had one-button access to save your project or go full screen, you can immediately hop into the configuration tool and do that. (Honestly, one-button save should be in the default selection of controls, but I digress.) Terrence O'Brien / Engadget If you take the time to learn the UF8 and customize it to your workflow, I could see it being a big asset. As much as I’m used to doing most of my mixing and such with a keyboard and mouse, having faders that I could push around in real time and control multiple tracks at once was amazing. But price will be a limiting factor here. While SSL says the UF8 is designed with both the professional and the hobbyist in mind, I have a hard time seeing too many weekend warrior musicians picking one up. $1,299 is a lot to ask even for something this premium feeling. Instead I imagine this will fit better in the homestudios of professional producers and as an add-on to SSL’s massive professional consoles, like the $50,000 Origin (which the UF8 just happens to slot perfectly into the center of).

    Ableton Live 11: The largest upgrades explained

    Ableton announced Live 11 in mid November and now it's finally here. The latest version of its incredibly popular DAW is out of beta and available to all. The list of new features in Live 11 is long and impressive: Comping; linked track editing; MPE support; expression editing; live tempo following; macro improvements; updated devices and soundpacks; five new devices, including a hybrid reverb and new pitch shifting plugin; chance tools; plus a host of improvements to Max for Live. That's in addition to lots of little interface tweaks and updates to Push support. I've been using the beta since it was announced back in November and while I haven't put every new feature through its paces, I can say unequivocally that Live 11 is a solid upgrade from 10 and well worth your time. Just know that Live 11 is a bit more resource intensive that Live 10. And Live 10 was a lot more resource intensive than Live 9. So if your machine was already struggling after the last big update, you might want to wait until you can upgrade your hardware too. Here's a quick overview of what's new and the standout features (to me). MPE Terrence O'Brien / Engadget Lets start with arguably the marquee feature — MPE support. Ableton Live is one of the last major DAWs to add support for MIDI polyphonic expression. Bitwig has it, Logic has it, even Garage band has it. That means instruments that respond to MPE like Arturia's Pigments and sonicLAB's Fundamental can be that much more expressive when paired with the right controller, like the Sensel Morph. I mention those two in particular because they've been my go-to testbeds for exploring MPE. (They also couldn't be more different from a sonic standpoint.) Ableton was smart enough to update a few of its stock instruments to support MPE too, like Wavetable and Sampler. You can find presets under "MPE Sounds" in the browser if you want to quickly dabble and explore. Ableton also included MPE Control and Expression Control devices, which you'll find under MIDI Effects. These let you decide how exactly you want various MPE functions to be used and map them quickly and easily. MPE Control also lets you take advantage of some of the tools available to you on an MPE controller, even if the instrument you're using doesn't support it. So, for example, you could fire up Ableton's Analog, tick a couple of boxes in MPE Control and slide your fingers around to trigger pitch bends and move the mod wheel. To be clear, you could always do this, but it's just a lot easier to get set up now. This might sound minor, but I think one of the barriers to adoption of MPE controllers is getting them to play nice with non-MPE software. I don't want to spend an hour building custom mapping for every virtual instrument. I want to connect my Morph or Roli and just have it work as expected. This is a big step in that direction. Especially since, in my experience, your settings will need a lot of fine tuning to make the most of MPE and this really simplifies the process. You can still take advantage of many of MPE's features even if you don't have a compatible controller by using Ableton's new expression editing tools. These allow you to dive in and manually tweak pitch bends, modulation and aftertouch on a per-note basis, just like you would any other automation lane. It's intuitive and simple, and might even convince a few more people to embrace MPE once they've gotten a taste of what it has to offer. Comping Ableton The other headlining feature, at least for me, is comping. This simply allows you to record multiple takes of the same section of a song without stopping and then combine the best parts easily. (I can already hear a bunch of purists screaming "that's cheating", but they're wrong.) Now, I'm fully willing to admit my technical skills as a musician are mediocre at best and I can be a bit sloppy, so just being able to record eight takes in a row without stopping is huge. Plus, this is a feature that many other DAWs have had for quite sometime, so Ableton is actually playing a bit of catch up here. And you can get creative with comping to create harsh glitchy juxtapositions or to just pullout the best parts of a jam. Comping works with both audio and MIDI too, so whether you're trying to nail a vocal, a guitar solo or a complicated chord progression with a VST there's something to be taken advantage of. And it's incredibly easy to use. Basically each take is a "clip" (that will make sense to existing Ableton users) and they're grouped as take lanes under the main track in arrangement view. You then simply drag markers back and forth to indicate where you want to switch between your takes. And then, if you want, you can bring those clipped bits over to session view so you can trigger them separately to create new variations and combinations. Linked track editing [embedded content] This is pretty straightforward, but it makes finetuning multi-tracked parts a breeze. You can link a bunch of tracks together and, whatever you do to one, is automatically applied to the others as well. This is great for cutting up and automating double-tracked rhythm guitar parts, or if you've got a melody being played on a piano and a synth at the same time, you just sync them up once, then start editing. This also makes Ableton a lot more flexible if you're using it to edit say a podcast, or working with video and audio simultaneously. Once you've got everything synced up properly, you just link the tracks so that any changes you make don't cause the tracks to become misaligned. And again, this works with MIDI as well as audio. In fact, you can link MIDI and audio tracks and edit them both at once. I'll sometimes use this as a way to pull out new musical ideas from a long jam. I'll record the MIDI and audio simultaneously, then go back and edit them as a linked track. The audio track gives me a preview of what the new part will sound like, and when I want to record the freshly pieced together melody without the harsh cuts, I have the MIDI ready to go. Inspired by Nature Terrence O'Brien / Engadget There's a number of new sounds and devices in Live 11, but few have captured my attention quite like the Inspired by Nature pack. These instruments and effects use physical and natural models to determine sounds, modulation and sequencing. The most straightforward of these is Bouncy Notes which drops a virtual ball when you play a note and as it bounces, that note repeats. But you can draw walls and obstacles inside the "sequencer" (if you can call it that) that deflect the balls, or alter things like the launch angle and speed to create generative patterns. Similarly Vector Delay uses a gravitational model and orbiting spheres to determine the parameters of a multitap delay. Terrence O'Brien / Engadget Then there's Emit, another bouncing ball / moving particle style device, but this one is a granular looper and synthesizer. It has so many controls and modulation options, that it can do everything from glitchy percussion loops, to atonal drones, to pretty plucked melodies, but all with a unique and slightly unpredictable bent. The 10,000-foot view is: you have particle emitters that fire either automatically as your track plays, or when triggered by MIDI. The particles then careen through the spectrogram of your sample. Honestly it's probably deep enough to get its own 1,000 word write up. Just be aware the Emit is quite resource intensive. So, I highly recommend you record your results as audio or at least freeze the track once you're done. Vector FM and Vector Grain function almost exactly like Vector Delay, except they rely on FM and granular synthesis respectively. Then there's Tree Tone which is a strange sort of generative resonator instrument that's built for drones and gentle random melodies. Probability and randomization

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