OSC, again

I wanted to revive this thread which has been dead for more than two years, but it’s located and the Older Cubase Versions forum and I’m afraid no one will ever read it again.

A user in the original thread suggested that the inclusion of the OSC protocol in Cubase would only be interesting to people who’d like to brag about their studio being wireless. But that misses the point completely. OSC isn’t about wires; it would be just as useful to control Cubase with an iPad if it was wired to the DAW. It’s about customizability and control. And after two major revisions to Cubase it still hasn’t made its way into the application.

Control surfaces and master keyboards have always used programmable knobs, faders and buttons, with names printed next to them like K1, F1, B1 etc. In my case the hardware would always end up with masking tape laid out on top with more useful names on them (Breath, Tempo, Project Setup). This has changed somewhat with LCD control surfaces such as Maschine. But nothing comes close to an interface which you can build yourself which is laid out in the way you find most useful, and which you can touch directly.

Cubase is a huge beast. Everyone does different things with it. Some people spend hours with features like hitpoint detection and audio warp, which I’ve never touched in my life. These same people might never look at something like Expression Maps, which I use daily. Some people need both. Everyone is used to a work routine that s/he finds best and no two routines are alike.

Creating an interface for yourself on an iPad with the commands you use most often, clearly labeled and laid out, has nothing to do with looking good in the studio. I work in my home studio and I rarely have clients visiting. Most of the time we listen to the stuff I create (TV music mostly) in editing suites. In my case, no one gives a dime about the hardware or software I use. The only thing that matters is the quality of the final mix and the time it takes me to get there. And since creating my custom Cubase interface in Lemur on the iPad, everything is going much, much faster. No need to remember keyboard shortcuts anymore. I can automate many, many more tasks that are repetitive and annoying, and I don’t have to remember which one is accomplished with Command+Option+F1 and which uses CTRL+Shift+Right Arrow.

However, this is difficult to do with MIDI. One reason is that the Generic Remote dialog in Cubase is very cumbersome to work with. It can’t be resized, multiple entries can’t be edited simultaneously and there’s no search/replace function. More often than not I find myself exporting the setup to XML, reordering stuff in a text editor and importing it back in.

Another reason is bidirectionality and readability. With OSC it’s very easy to create buttons and faders that respond to and reflect the state of an application. Granted, you can do that in MIDI (that’s how Mackie Control works), but compare the legibility of “Note On 49” to something like “Transport/Metronome Click”. Or “CC 56” to “Channel 3/Pan”.

It’s frustrating to see Steinberg add features like Chord Assistant, which belong IMHO in an application such as Band in a Box, instead of the many customization features users have been begging for for years, OSC included. Personally, I don’t need the application I use to make a living to teach me the circle of fifths. I’d rather have it do what I have in mind, and as fast as possible. For the time being, MIDI isn’t dead of course. I use it all the time. But the future clearly has touch interfaces everywhere. They’ve invaded everything from vending machines to airplane controls (apparently the forum engine doesn’t allow the word “kokpit” spelled correctly). When you think of a touchscreen, you think of customizability. And when you think of THAT, MIDI just isn’t cutting it anymore.

Another user in the same thread made a comment which seems still true, sadly enough: “Until people drop Cubase and start to use more open solutions like mixbus/ardour there is no commercial pressure on steinberg. They will continue to develop things that look good in the sales presentations and not what is really needed in a studio.”

I don’t want to drop Cubase. I like working with it to the point that many actions have become transparent to me. But come one, another amp simulation plugin? Really?