It's called the "Buzz". Now buzz may just be a word, but as software developers, we love it when we have it, and there is a lot of buzz going on right now about Opcode System's Studio Vision Pro 3.0. Buzz can be generated by many things, including marketing and word of mouth, but there is no buzz like the buzz that is generated by the product itself. I may be biased, (well, okay - I am biased) but I feel that the Studio Vision 3.0 buzz exists because the product has new audio features that no one else in the industry has. What's more, these knockout features are implemented in a musical way (yes, musicians can actually use them) and to top it all off, they actually work incredibly well!
In this article, I will try and explain these new features, and hopefully give you some ideas as to how you might use them in the real world.
In Studio Vision's updated DSP menu, you will see a plethora of new commands. I am going to concentrate on the five most talked-about: Pitch Shift, Time Scale, Adjust Audio Tempo, Audio to MIDI, and MIDI to Audio (yes, it says MIDI to Audio!).
Pitch Shift is, in principal, a very simple concept. You want to transpose that guitar part you just recorded into a different key. The problem is that when you usually transpose audio up or down, it plays faster or slower. So, after transposing, the guitar part in question is out of sync with the rest of your recorded parts (I've played with some bad guitar players before, but...). Studio Vision compensates for this problem by expanding or compressing time at the same time it performs its transposing duties. Therefore, your file remains the same length whether you transpose up or down. Cool.
Ever find a couple of audio drum loops that you thought would sound great together, only to find out they were at different tempos? Time Scale is the feature for you. Time Scale could, in a way, be considered the opposite of Pitch Shift. With this feature, you are able to expand or compress a file's length without changing its pitch. In the Time Scale dialog box you are given the start time, end time, and duration of the selected audio event. You can view this information as measures and beats or in SMPTE time (hr, min, sec, frm) and can then change the end time or duration to stretch or compress the file to the desired length. You also have the option of setting a scale factor from .5 to 2.0 in increments of 0.001. Handy just in case you want to exactly double or halve the length of the audio but you're not a mathematician. (Um, let's see. Two seconds and 23 frames times two equals? Hmm...)
In the example above you could change either drum loop to match the other, or you could change both loops to a different common length. I've seen people spend an entire afternoon in the studio doing this procedure using a sampler. In Studio Vision Pro 3.0 you could do it accurately in a matter of minutes!
After making them both the same length, a neat trick is to figure out the number of measures in your drum loops (this is very easy: just listen to them and count - no computer needed), then select them, go to the DO menu and Scale Time. (This is a different command from the audio Time Scale.) There you just tell Studio Vision that your audio events are four bars (if that is what you counted), and the program will calculate the tempo of your drum parts making them fit exactly 4 bars. After that, just loop those suckers and you're on your way!
While it may not be the most widely publicized Studio Vision feature, I feel that this next item is one of the most powerful and musically useful features in any digital audio program. It's called Adjust Audio Tempo. In short, it lets you change an audio region's duration not by thinking of it as a static length of measures/beats or minutes/seconds, but as a dynamic ever-changing tempo. In its simplest form, this feature lets you change your song to a new tempo after you've recorded the audio! This is the "New Tempo" option.
Is your song too fast at 120 bpm? Slow it down to 116 bpm if you want. All SV 3.0 asks for is the initial tempo, which it defaults to anyway (a nice feature). You then just type in the tempo you want and - bingo!- Studio Vision adjusts the file to fit that new tempo. But there's another even more powerful option in this dialog box. It's called "New Tempo Map".
Music is rarely without tempo changes, whether they be slight variances or very noticeable retards and accele-randos. This option lets you create a file from your existing audio that will follow any tempo changes you have made in your sequence. For instance, in Studio Vision's strip chart you can "draw" a new tempo map with any number of useful tools, or in the event list editor you can numerically make any tempo changes you wish. The Adjust Audio Tempo option faithfully adjusts the audio files so that they follow any and all tempo changes you've made in one easy procedure.
Audio To MIDI is the second most publicized feature of Studio Vision 3.0. It is unique in the fact that it does not just look at the audio file and create a bunch of MIDI notes that approximate the pitch content of the audio. It actually analyzes all aspects of the file and converts that information to MIDI notes/velocity, MIDI volume, and pitch-bend! Almost every nuance is retained to the point where you can play both the audio and the converted MIDI back simultaneously and they will track in perfect unison no matter how intricate the original audio file may be. There's even an option that allows you to convert brightness to a MIDI controller (typically Controller #74 on most synths).
This in itself is amazing as you can now double any single audio line with a MIDI instrument or convert your audio to music notation. But if you notice in the DSP menu, there is also a MIDI To Audio command. What? How could I convert MIDI information to an audio file and why would I want to?
Well, imagine you have, say, a vocal line you've recorded into Studio Vision. Imagine converting that to MIDI. Now that it's MIDI, you have individual editing control over many musical parameters. I mean, MIDI is real easy to edit, right? So just fix the pitch of a flat note by re-drawing some of the pitch bend information, change another note just by dragging that MIDI note event to a different pitch in the graphic editing window. (That's the note you really wanted to sing anyhow, but you couldn't quite reach it!). Also, you wanted to crescendo that long note you held at the end, so you just draw in some MIDI volume information. And now - you guessed it! - you can take that new edited MIDI information and convert it back to digital audio with all your edits intact!
What we have done is, in a way, given you the ability to break your audio performance out into many of its component parts, and allow you to individually edit those parts in a very easy and graphical manner. You can then convert that information back to affect the original performance. In essence, MIDI becomes a tool for editing digital audio. When I first heard about it, I didn't believe it either.
Combine all this with TDM implementation, completely new faders, support for all of Digidesign's hardware (including Pro Tools 3), and an award winning MIDI sequencer, and you have one of the most powerful music tools ever created.
Oh, and just in case you're wondering what other people think about Studio Vision 3.0:
Buzz, buzz, buzz ... Visit the Opcode Web site at "http://www.opcode.com".