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Pattern Editor request!
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zeekay
Posted 2010-01-18 7:51 AM (#14991)
Subject: Pattern Editor request!


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Posts: 15

Really loving revisit, might end up completely changing my workflow (and for the better). Using it with loopbe and ableton live, and it is just fantastic being able to directly sequence everything in my project in a single tracker interface. Used revisit a couple of years ago but didn't give it too much of a chance, really digging it now, you have made some great progress in the last year or two!

A few minor requests to increase basic usability!

1. I really dislike how the effect column always contains .00, is it possible to add an option for empty fx columns to be displayed simply as ...? This really adds a TON of visual clutter, and really is extremely distracting to me. I've used renoise and openmpt extensively, and really prefer their simpler display for empty fx. Is there anyway to add this as an option to the preferences? It really is much easier for me to visualize the pattern data without the automatic 00s!

2. Option to rename channels by right clicking on their titles from the pattern editor! Pretty please??

Thanks!


Edited by zeekay 2010-01-18 7:56 AM
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chrisnash
Posted 2010-01-19 7:24 AM (#14992 - in reply to #14991)
Subject: RE: Pattern Editor request!



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Hi Zeekay,

'Glad you're having fun with reViSiT. I definitely plan to look into adding functionality to the channel headers - and on-the-spot renaming seems a logical step. The priority now is getting my research done, but I'm looking forward to adding lots of exciting new features, come the summer.

As for the effects columns, the .00 format has traditionally been seen as an important design feature. It acts as punctuation mark for each track, and allows users to quickly scan over the pattern and identify the other columns. Apart from making the effects column itself stand out, it's quicker for a user to identify the volumn/panning column if it's the "··" left of the ".00", rather than getting lost in a sea of dots:

··· ·· ·· .00 ··· ·· ·· .00   vs.   ··· ·· ·· .·· ··· ·· ·· .··   or   ··· ·· ·· ... ··· ·· ·· ...

For beginners, it might even have the advantage of looking like a bit of the pattern they don't have to fill in. Overall, though, it's something reViSiT inherited from IT2 (and IT2 from ST3), but no one's commented on it before, so I don't know what everyone else thinks (?). Fast Tracker had a similar approach (000), but confusingly didn't even make a distinction between command and parameter. The enduring memory I have of the dot-only approach was Buzz, which made it look basic and yet (perhaps paradoxically) esoteric.

Anybody else have any thoughts?

Chris

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CS_TBL
Posted 2010-01-19 4:33 PM (#14993 - in reply to #14992)
Subject: Re: Pattern Editor request!



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I agree on the navigation bonus of the ".00". Navigation is key, and since there're no distinctive thick bars between tracks, it'll have to come from the fields them self. Tho, different colors for fields may work as well. But I wouldn't make that a fixed solution. If there could be any choice in layout at all, then let it be that: choice.

It may look logical to create no-frills clean interfaces for trackers, which would be in line with any office utility. But that's where the uniqueness of a tracker comes in: it's not a utility, it's an instrument. In the same way a violin may look illogical compared to a piano.. after all, why 4 strings when you could have 1 long string supporting all tones? Or why 3 valves on a trumpet instead of 6, for more options? I see a tracker as an instrument one has to learn, and it'll come with "quirks" compared to normal office software. Yes, all dot cells and one 00-cell may look inconsistent, but once you've learned to play the tracker, you'll see why violinists love 4 strings. But I figure all this will be one of the conclusions of that darn thesis that delays reViSiT development. :P

PS. I don't play trumpet, wouldn't really know whether 6 valves have any benefits ^^. I have a violin tho, and an alto sax in a suitcase (need to fetch a new reed, I chipped the original one within a minute after I bought the sax ^_^)
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chrisnash
Posted 2010-01-19 5:01 PM (#14994 - in reply to #14993)
Subject: Re: Pattern Editor request!



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Hmm, well, I actually thought about buying a 5-string electric violin once. It would have the 4 string of the Violin, plus the 4 strings of the Viola, in one instrument.



Chris
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CS_TBL
Posted 2010-01-19 5:16 PM (#14995 - in reply to #14994)
Subject: Re: Pattern Editor request!



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Some people are even more extreme with their strings: http://watertower-music.com/sherlockholmes/musicians/
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zeekay
Posted 2010-01-20 1:47 AM (#14997 - in reply to #14991)
Subject: Re: Pattern Editor request!


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Posts: 15

I've used trackers for a number of years, and no I don't think the 00 is useful in the least...as neither of the trackers I've used extensively have done this. I've never had any problems telling columns apart.

openmpt:


renoise:


i really prefer this approach myself. using 00 to differentiate between columns seems unnecessary in revisit's case (as revisit clearly defines columns already):


The actual pattern data is much more distinct, and the columns are still quite easily differentiated between in my opinion.

If you haven't yet, I'd recommend checking out openmpt (which is free and available at http://sourceforge.net/projects/modplug/) and playing around with their interface. The tracker part of the ui is extremely well done. It'd be nice to see some of their conventions adopted (like the ability to select single columns within a channel, deselection on click, etc).

I'd really love some options to customize revisit a bit to personal preference, which will inevitably vary from person to person.

Edited by zeekay 2010-01-20 2:10 AM
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CS_TBL
Posted 2010-01-20 9:44 AM (#14999 - in reply to #14997)
Subject: Re: Pattern Editor request!



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If there's one thing that sets reViSiT (and its users) apart from all the rest then it's its relation to its roots. Other trackers seem either a clone of FastTracker, or something entirely new. reViSiT's interface dates back to Impulse Tracker, which dates back to Screamtracker 3. And Screamtracker 3 is where I myself began, more than 15 years ago. With an interface like that being so consistent over all those years, it's very hard -if not impossible- to change certain aspects. So yes, user customization may be the solution, but just that then: user customization, and nothing set in stone.

I figure that may well take a number of years though, and I hope Chris puts some attention to other important areas first.. (multiple pattern copy, channel insert/delete/swap, order sort, all subrows open, percussion state etc.) :P By that time you may already have grown used to the .00 column as it is now..
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zeekay
Posted 2010-01-20 1:59 PM (#15001 - in reply to #14999)
Subject: Re: Pattern Editor request!


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Posts: 15

I requested this as an option in the preferences and it seems like a minor addition which is why I put it forth initially. I've been tracking about 3 years and have used about a half dozen different trackers. To me the actual pattern editor interface is the most important aspect of any tracker, and makes or breaks them. If you are going to be staring at and working with patterns for 99% of your time it should be as easy to look at and use as possible.

Even though renoise is superior in almost every single way I still use openmpt because the interface for entering notes/arranging/etc is more comfortable to work with. Just as a simple example, in renoise/revisit you can't easily select JUST the volume column, they force you to grab the note/instrument data as well. In mpt/openmpt you can select any column and copy/paste/shift/whatever you might want to do with said data. (This is something I'd really like to see in revisit as well).

Since I'm going to spend hours upon hours entering/editing data in the pattern editor I want it to feel "good" and be as comfortable and flexible to work with as possible. These small details are a matter of preference of course, but attention to detail counts for a lot :D

I agree with you about multiple pattern copy/delete/reorder, channel insert/delete/reorder/etc. It would be quite nice to see a small orderlist with drag and drop sort/copy/duplication. Again going back to openmpt but it does the best job that I've seen so far:


This is always visible directly above the pattern editor. You can click within the orderlist and enter in pattern numbers directly, as well as copy/paste/selection/duplication with keyboard or mouse. I should note that multiple pattern selection was only added into the very latest build, 1.18, which should be released publicly soon.

Edited by zeekay 2010-01-20 2:18 PM
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CS_TBL
Posted 2010-01-20 2:24 PM (#15002 - in reply to #15001)
Subject: Re: Pattern Editor request!



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I always like the fact that the orderlist was 'big' on a separate page rather than relatively small on the main page. In case of reViSiT, it's a VSTi, amidst other plugins (which are always way too big). It's very practical for the reViSiT window to be compact, in order not to eat away too much screen space. Apart from anything, I'm a composer who never uses non-linear order lists. I never re-use a pattern and never have order lists which look like: 0,1,0,26,14,100,3,5,7,0,2,5,63,52,73,74,75,1,2,3,10,52,31 etc. I see these kinds of lists in many old tunes. If I need to reuse a pattern, then I simply make a copy of it. Why? If ever I want to change one note in such a copy, I'd need a new pattern anyway. By not reusing patterns the 'classic' way, I'll never have pattern fragmentation.

Also, some people may like other trackers for specific reasons. But that doesn't mean that reViSiT should become like other trackers as far as it concerns things that are set in stone. When everything is custom (even the GUI and location of sections/widgets) then it doesn't matter of course, though I doubt this will happen any time during CN's thesis.
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zeekay
Posted 2010-01-20 2:53 PM (#15004 - in reply to #15002)
Subject: Re: Pattern Editor request!


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Posts: 15

I reorganize songs a lot as I go. It's a matter of flexibility and ease of use to be able to sort and organize the patterns quickly/easily. Pattern fragmentation is annoying, so I'd also vote for a button/shortcut to quick rename the current pattern order to 0,1,2,3,4,5,etc.
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chrisnash
Posted 2010-01-20 3:38 PM (#15005 - in reply to #15002)
Subject: Re: Pattern Editor request!



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Hmm, I'm not sure whose argument your screenshots support, actually. As you say, it's down to personal preference, but that looks like an awful lot of dots to me - though I can't say I'm a fan of the font you're using. One advantage that the other programs have is that they can use a different colour to delineate the effects column. In reViSiT, this might interfere with the use of instrument colours. However, I'll consider adding something as an option. I'll have to re-arrange the preferences page, but this might have to happen anyway, to support other options. As CS_TBL points out, this will happen after the research.

Saying that; whereas a feature might be a minor addition to add - and, you're right, this certainly is easy to code - I'm very careful about what users are able to do. If something is clearly the right way to do something, it gets set "in stone". If its the wrong way, it's not available as an option. If it comes down to preference, it depends on the merits of each option.

In general, I've always been wary about adding too many options. With OpenMPT, this lures you into the idea that you can customise the interface enough to match what you were working on before, with the inevitable result that it will always disappoint you because it can never be a 100% match of what you're used to. It also means you spend your first 30 minutes with the program, simply trying to set it up, before getting down to music. For me, this meant that MPT never really had an identity of its own - it seemed to be this melange of IT2, FT2 and generic Windows GUI programs. This is perhaps harsh, because it was an impressive program, but when I was looking for something to replace IT2 - I could never really get into MPT, despite all the customisations.

It's no coincidence, then, that reViSiT inherits more from IT2 than any other tracker, but you shouldn't get the impression that it's stuck in the past. I've always maintained that reViSiT is IT2-"inspired", rather than a clone. There are lots of things it does differently, and I don't allow nostalgic IT2-fanaticism to dictate what goes in. However, what IT2 got right, reViSiT uses. Who's to say what's "right"? Well, that's what my research hopes to learn.

One thing IT got right was the way it handled screen layout and focus. One screen, one focus, one purpose, one shortcut. As you mentioned, the pattern editor is the most important thing in a tracker. For that reason it can't have any competition for your attention - no instrument list, no panel of buttons, no track settings and, sorry, no order list. This focus is not just about eyes and mind, but control too. FT2, Renoise and MPT all suffered, from encouraging (or forcing) people onto the mouse in this crucial screen. It's not as bad as floating windows, like in sequencers, but shares some of the disadvantages. (This will be extensively discussed in my thesis, with evidence from my study, other studies and psychology theory in general).

You'll be pleased to hear that, when I did the coding for sub-row selections, I coded the foundations for sub-column selections, too. However; how, or if, I add them is still undecided. Having sub-column selections really slows down copy-and-paste operations, if you want to handle whole rows. For example, if it takes 8 cursors to the right to select a channel, rather than one; it's a major bottleneck. You might argue that you can hold the cursor down, but the loss of accuracy in such cases will damage your feeling of being "in control", and derail the flow you were in. Alternatively, perhaps there are special shortcuts for sub-column selections and whole-column selections. In which case, this is just another thing for the user to learn, and which do you make default? I'd be interested to hear how OpenMPT does this.

In any case, I hope this helps you understand where I'm coming from!
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CS_TBL
Posted 2010-01-20 3:57 PM (#15007 - in reply to #15005)
Subject: Re: Pattern Editor request!



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I never really had the impression I'd ever need sub-column selection. But that's a musical argument mainly: I just never separate these columns. To me they're like pasta and tomato sauce .. they could be separated, but why would you?

But it may also depend on the music one makes. zeekay: what style do you do?
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zeekay
Posted 2010-01-20 5:01 PM (#15008 - in reply to #15005)
Subject: Re: Pattern Editor request!


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Posts: 15

Thanks for the lengthy reply, I at least understand where you are coming from now! I did spend a lot of time customizing OpenMPT, but I spent far more time trying to reorganize keyboard shortcuts/creating a usable project template for use with revisit. In fact I've spent almost all of my time trying to get a setup that is comfortable and easy for me to use...instead of actually making music! A lot of this is due to how I'm using revisit (entirely as a midi generator) which required me to setup each instrument to use separate internal loopbe ports, customizing midi cc per instrument (by the way the last two midi fx don't seem to save CC properly, they are reset when I reopen my template 8xx and 9xx), then customizing each track in my template to receive midi data as well as working with the midi fx I setup to control macros on the empty instrument/drum racks (ableton live has an "instrument rack" which you can place on each midi track in a project, this has 8 customizable macro controllers which can then be used to modulate/automate any parameter of any plugin/device on that track...making it a great front end for a revisit controlled track, since this lets you easily track out automation data directly in the pattern). This is as you can imagine very laborious with the current interface. The simple fact is people tend to work in different ways, and adding options to facilitate this seems logical, and only beneficial, especially when it does not detract from your normal operation of the application. Forcing people into your exact workflow is only going to limit the appeal of your application.

My personal approach for instance, is to use the tracker quite like a first person shooter, keyboard + mouse, left hand roughly around wasd! I cluster all of the most commonly used shortcuts around there and tend to use the mouse to quickly enter notes exactly where I want them, instead of using up/down/left/right to navigate through the pattern (I do that too, it really depends on which is more efficient in a given situation). For editing/manipulation of pattern data this approach excels compared to simply using the keyboard, I can make precise selections with the mouse rapidly and shift/transpose/copy/duplicate/etc with the keyboard. In my case a combination of customizable keyboard shortcuts + solid mouse support is essential. Sure I know all the keyboard shortcuts (and use most of them heavily), but there are simply some things that are faster and more efficient to do with a mouse (or combination!). Using a mouse doesn't distract me from the pattern editor at all, I mean I don't need to look at my mouse to use it anymore than I need to look at my keyboard to type. I'm able to segue back and forth fluidly between both hands on the keyboard and mouse+keyboard approaches. This approach has developed from numerous OHCs (one hour competitions) and other competitions which require as rapid and efficient data entry and editing as possible.

As for sub-column selection that would be amazing! In OpenMPT it's 5 left arrows to the next channel in an empty channel, which actually makes it more efficient than revisit in everything than except selection, since it groups the instrument, volume and effect param data. I really love this approach as well! I'd recommend checking it out again if you don't know what I'm saying. This is another tiny thing I miss from OpenMPT that slows me down in revisit. As for selection with keyboard, I do that too but only with small bits of pattern data, as it's much faster and easier to select large amounts of data with a mouse than a keyboard anyways. Selecting pattern data in revisit is actually kind of aggravating because you can't deselect by clicking on the selection (normal behavior in renoise/mpt).
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zeekay
Posted 2010-01-20 5:16 PM (#15009 - in reply to #14991)
Subject: Re: Pattern Editor request!


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Posts: 15

@CS_TBL:
Commonly I use this for applying fx only from one instrument to another. Try the same slides on a different instrument, or mix and match bits of fx. With what I'm doing with revisit it'd be super nice because I have the midi cc fx mapped out to macros in live, so I'd really like to be able copy/paste automation data around. I could for instance increase the gain on a comp to add bite to certain bits of a lead, and then copy the automation used there around to other parts, without tracking it all out again...etc....lots of things! Terribly useful!

As for what style of music I make, I'm doing mostly electronic music with trackers, with a variety of influences and in a number of different styles I guess...actually I pretty much swore to stop thinking about music in terms of genres because it's so limiting! Too often I'll think "Ok this is going to be a drum and bass track" or "I want to try and make an electro house track". I'm just trying find my own voice, my own style right now. For jazz/blues/rock/funk stuff I tend to stick to recording, although I do like tracking drum parts out a lot (I play piano/bass/guitar/sax/drums).

Edited by zeekay 2010-01-20 5:23 PM
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chrisnash
Posted 2010-01-20 5:43 PM (#15012 - in reply to #15008)
Subject: Re: Pattern Editor request!



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I saw a YouTube video of someone using Renoise in the same manner you describe - one hand on the keyboard, one on the mouse. He definitely had moments "in flow", but these were being occassionally derailed by problems with mouse interaction. The point is, although you say you don't have to look at the mouse itself, you do have to look at the mouse pointer, to work out where it is and where you want it to go. This is sometimes true of the keyboard and its cursor too, but many key commands don't require you to know the cursor location. Also, when you have two cursors to keep track of (e.g. mouse and keyboard) you have the cost of 'homing' between them and, again, your attention and focus are divided.

One of the central aspects of my research is that WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menu and Pointer) is not necessarily the best paradigm for creative music programs, yet it is the one that dominates all mainstream [music] programs. It's critical that a user can build up virtuosity with a computer, just like they do an acoustic instrument. One example of virtuosity on a computer is touch-typing - a learned, sub-conscious, motor skill that supports, rather than requires, higher-level thinking in another domain (e.g. letter writing). Tracking, as I think we would all agree, is a musical cousin of touch-typing, and thus reViSiT's core focus will always be about enabling faster interaction through keyboard use. The ways the mouse and pointer are used do not really support such learning, so will find less of a role in the way reViSiT "should" be used. Try using the mouse with your eyes closed, or try to think of an acoustic instrument that works more like a mouse than a keyboard. Saying that, mouse support was greatly enhanced in the last version, and will probably be further developed. However, any role the mouse is given in reViSiT will typically be a stepping stone to better ways of working, usually involving two hands on the keyboard.

As for the deselect issue, you're right. I actually tried to code the behaviour you describe, but I had limited time to get the version out and it was proving more complex than you might think. I've thought of another possible way to code it now, so perhaps it will appear in the next update.
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CS_TBL
Posted 2010-01-20 6:39 PM (#15018 - in reply to #15012)
Subject: Re: Pattern Editor request!



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I'm not even sure WIMP is a good paradigm for any creative tool. Actually, I'm not sure whether a programmer or 'a' designer should always be the chosen ones to design an interface. In the best case everyone makes his own in a Borland Builder kinda fashion: place object, define UI and events, define actions. :P
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chrisnash
Posted 2010-01-20 6:55 PM (#15019 - in reply to #15018)
Subject: Re: Pattern Editor request!



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Then you'll be glad to hear that a colleague and I are writing two articles about why WIMP and the principles its based on (direct manipulation, visual metaphor) are inappropriate for creative software, notably music and programing, in general.
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CS_TBL
Posted 2010-01-20 8:05 PM (#15021 - in reply to #15019)
Subject: Re: Pattern Editor request!



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Captain Obvious would say: "add a midi learn feature to reViSiT" and we could stuff some reViSiT functionality into MIDI controllers. To expand our 'keyboard'.. :P

Or, heck, support the extra keys on this one:

 


(woahey, classic layout even!)


Or, what about this MIDI controller? http://www.synthtopia.com/content/tag/livid-ohm64


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