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Topic: OT: Questions for Bruce

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  1. #1

    OT: Questions for Bruce

    (or for anyone with an opinion):

    My studio is built around the two things that empower me most: Gigastudio and Sonar. I am very proud to own both of these software packages. A previous post raised the issue of GS\'s lackluster user interface, and I was wondering what your thoughts were on the same issue regarding Sonar (and the entire product line, really).

    Why is the UI so purposely not pretty to look at? It seems obvious that the mainstream customer\'s perception of quality really is influenced by how the interface looks and feels. Sonar made some drastic improvements in terms of the integrated Track view, but the overall UI is very much the same as Pro Audio. [The rest of the multitrack products\'s UI are mainly derivitave, though certainly for understandable reasons.]

    All I could ever wish for was a skinning feature for the meat-and-potatoes visual elements. I think a good case can be argued because Sonar descends from Pro Audio, a very mature product. Given that, wouldn\'t you agree that such a feature warrants at least an upper-middling priority?

    That way I could look to the visually gifted among the user base to come up with a theme that enhances my user experience. As an example I always think of Samplitude, as said (I believe) in the aforementioned other post. There are so many great skins! But AFAIK nobody can match Sonar for MIDI features and ease of use.

    So why do Cakewalk UIs always have that, well, un-pretty look to them? Even that bright-rainbow default color scheme for the audio tracks. Ugh.

    But for me there can be only Sonar because of how excellently it (PC #1) works alongside Gigastudio (PCs #2 and #3). So I just wish the UI could be either reworked or exposed with a skinning capability.

    What do you think, and can you tell me any stories of management\'s thought process on this...

  2. #2

    Re: OT: Questions for Bruce

    I ask you this: what\'s better, a plain, lightweight interface with a low footprint, or a pretty interface that takes up a ton of precious memory?

    In my opinion, there\'s absolutely nothing wrong with Sonar\'s interface. It is very intuitive and easy to use. It isn\'t as nice to look at as a beautiful woman, and no interface ever will be, so what\'s the point?

  3. #3
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: OT: Questions for Bruce

    I guess I don\'t agree, in short. I do not judge a UI on its \"prettiness\" but on its effectiveness, and SONAR has one of the more effecitve UIs out there.

    GigaStudio on the other hand can use some serious UI improvement, not the look, but the efficiency of its design. There are very few programs out there which waste more pixels. As I understand it, UI is one of the elements which is getting a look for 3.0.

    But overall, I disagree with the idea of the UI being anything but neutral. I don\'t want to be noticing it, or having it compete for my attention.

    I do agree on one thing. That default color scheme on SONAR is UG-LY!!!!! You can always change it, though, so it\'s really not even a blip on the radar. I\'m more concerned with function.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: OT: Questions for Bruce

    That said, though, you might be more pleased with future versions, because there are many new features planned that will necessarily involve updating some views...and there are some new visual artists on the team there that are very talented.

    However, I doubt a user-skinnable interface is in the cards. It doesn\'t fit in with their mission. They allocate development resources very tightly, and unless something has a specific musical purpose, it generally doesn\'t get priority.

  5. #5

    Re: OT: Questions for Bruce

    It\'s hard to imagine skins hogging up too much RAM. But I do see your points, and I basically agree. I don\'t have a huge problem, I just wish they could come up with at least an alternative visual design, that updates what is already there.

    In general I like the information architecture, i.e. the usability and logical arrangement of features, but I feel like some areas, like the Console, have inefficient visual designs. And they just don\'t look cool. I know it\'s superficial but I wish they did. As I said the track view was a huge improvement but the rest of the interface just feels kind of dated.

    Anyway I love Sonar. That\'s why I paid for it, just like GigaSampler and Gigastudio. [img]images/icons/tongue.gif[/img]

  6. #6
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: OT: Questions for Bruce

    I think you may be happier with the next release. The same kinds of UI development that went into the new track view should be appearing in more and more areas over time.

  7. #7

    Re: OT: Questions for Bruce

    I sure hope they improve the MIDI portions of the user interface in the next edition of Sonar. It\'s hardly changed since my old, dusty Cakewalk Home 7, and that\'s not a good thing.

    During the last couple of nights I\'ve combed through the UI for Sonar and Cubase. I\'m usually a pretty positive guy. But I hate both their UIs.

    First Cubase. There you are looking at the piano roll. You want to change a B to a B flat. You click it with the mouse and drag it down, but it doesn\'t move. You need to move the mouse to the toolbar change its mode (grrr.) and move back to the B where your attention was in the first place. Or you could right-click to change it. Great. Two mouse clicks for the mode change, but at least you don\'t have to drag the cursor all over, which is a *real* pain with the laptop mouse pad I\'m looking at right now.

    I don\'t have strong opinions yet about other items in Cubase, but if the efficiency of moving the notes around isn\'t streamlined, I\'m not motivated to look much deeper.

    Now Sonar. Click the notes and they move. Great! But what\'s up with the envelopes?

    In track view I can add an envelope - even a MIDI one. I can add points. Cool. But it can\'t spline? It doesn\'t do LFO? It just takes linear tracks to points? How musical is that?

    And weirder still is that in piano view I can make an envelope on the same controller that I tweaked in the track view, but the two don\'t correlate. Who wins? I guess the modulate one another, but why. Give me ultimate control with one killer UI model. Not two hamstrung models.

    The piano view envelope lets me look at only one envelope at a time using the same interface as CWH7. That\'s ancient. And how do I know what controllers I\'ve touched? Not in piano view. You need to read your events to see that.

    One thing I\'ve never understood is why the channel can be changed for the envelopes in the piano roll. Take this example: Track one has MIDI notes on channel 1. Track two has MIDI notes on channel 2. When viewing track one piano roll, I can modify the mod wheel envelope on any channel. Let\'s say I choose channel 8. Now I do the same on track 2 - I make an envelope on mod wheel channel 8. Now the envelopes for the two tracks control the same controller on the same channel, but the envelopes shown in each track are different. Useless and bizarre.

    Maybe I need to get a used Mac and get Logic or DP. They\'ve got to be better than Cubase and Sonar. Right? Please?

    Or maybe I need to start a letter writing campaign to Sony to have the Sonic Foundry developers write a *real* sequencer to replace their half-baked OPT implementation in ACID 4. A fully conceived MIDI sequencer from the creators of Vegas and ACID would be a dream come true. Vegas and ACID. Now those UIs rock!

  8. #8

    Re: OT: Questions for Bruce

    \"It\'s hard to imagine skins hogging up too much RAM.\"

    This kind of stuff belongs in Winamp, not in a professional sequencer application.

    Your imagination is really underestimating the wastefulness here.

  9. #9

    Re: OT: Questions for Bruce

    Tamino - yeah, I guess you\'re right. Do you feel this way about the corresponding feature in Samplitude? And about wastefulness, yes it is I suppose. But: the size of the audio file I/O is fairly constant, so beyond that basic load the producer invests his CPU, RAM, and bus resources as desired. In that context I suggest Sek\'d has the right idea. And, because it so happens that the Sonar UI of today was only about a 35% update, I wish that instead of spending the production dollars on more person-hours to get it right they could set up an import feature and publish the authoring spec. They\'ll get 100x the return compared to the same dollars invested in the best visual designer they could ever find, because it suddenly becomes (as it were) \"open source.\"

    Have you ever looked at the Samplitude skins that were developed? Some of them are beautiful, and they really make me want to interact. But from the demo I discovered that the MIDI support is as poor as it is strong in Sonar. And Sonar\'s MIDI strength is what drove my buying decision. I would have paid a lot more than they charged for it, too. Samplitude developers: if you read this please pick the brains of people like King Idiot and JonFairhurst as you overhaul the MIDI engine. If you can make programming and on-the-fly edits as easy as it is in Sonar, I will consider paying $1K for the privilege. (And evidently, the insert convolution rocks.)

    So Jon -- thanks a lot for posting. It\'s like you came and kicked everyone\'s for me. Thanks buddy!! I bought Cubase VST as well and was so disappointed with it... so unpleasant to use, the only one worse of course being Logic on the PC.

    In fact, there is one Cakewalk MIDI feature that sold me over all others. AFAIK, only Cakewalk lets you drag the note in the piano roll up and down easily, and then trigger the notes as you drag up and down. I tried other programs but programming seems so much easier in Cakewalk products. So Bruce, I really hope you\'re right in that substantial improvements are on the way. The would-be chrome look SUXXX!!!

  10. #10

    Re: OT: Questions for Bruce

    Izenagi, glad to help make your case. As you can tell I\'m really unhappy with the current sequencer UIs on the PC. And to have to spend hundreds on these blimps, just cause they added audio tracks...

    So tell me, do you have a Japanese background? (Should I call you Izenagi-san?) If so, that may help explain why the UI is so important to you. (I work for a Japanese company and have been to Japan nearly twenty times in the past seven years.)

    In the US a gift is measured by the value of the gift. The wrapping doesn\'t matter. In Japan the presentation of the gift is as important as the gift itself. An American sees the wrapping as overhead. A Japanese see the wrapping as an integral and critical part of the message.

    Heck, I almost missed my flight once because of the twenty minutes it took for the shop clerks in the Ginza district to wrap a simple purchase. (I\'m an impatient American :-)

    I guess I\'m trying to say that the value of the user interface is truly in the eyes of the beholder.

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