Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
dengel

Ableton Live controller concept

59 posts in this topic

midilayout0xl.th.png

Total Inputs:

38 Rotary Pots

10 Linear Pots (9 channels, 1 xfader)

2 Joysticks

99 (yes, 99!) buttons.

New panel layout: enablernewlayoutandst0aw.th.png

explanation a few posts down.

Here's the kicker - I am trying something new. I am going to use a hacked USB keyboard for the buttons and send all my on-off triggers via keyboard mappings. This means it will be a hybrid device, but for the cost of a free-ninety-nine keyboard, I have all my on-off triggers taken care of. There will be some oddities there - for instance, even though it can't be done from a standard keyboard, some buttons will have the shift key wired permanently to them (so I can map a and A, for example) I am not sure yet what will happen if I press both of these at the same time, so I still have to test that.

The way I use live, though, I see that as an infrequent problem at most.

I even worked out a way to get the joysticks to control the effects sends via game-to-midi using ReJoice and MidiYoke/MIdiOX - but that solution can't get me the number of pots that I need (52 total Axes). At least I don't think it can - anyone know of anyone who has made a game controller with Tons-o-axes? In any case, I would worry about playing out with that setup  :D but I'd like to know for curiosity's sake!

Hence, I am here. It looks like I can get away with just one Midibox64 for my layout above (not yet to scale, BTW, but I am envisioning a 19"x10" or 12" panel).

Does that seem right? I am a total midi-building newbie - I just want to know what I am going to need to get this project done right.

Oh, and the case - I am doing something neat there too, I hope. A plexi top panel,frosted. one the back of the panel, I will put an opaque material, and then cut around the components so that light can shine through those spots. Inside the case will be white cold cathode tubes to provide a backlight around the components. Then, I will tint these areas, creating a frosty colored glow surrounding each component that is color coded to the components function. I'll photoshop something so that makes more sense... Or maybe that is an old-hat idea that you guys have seen a million times.  :-\

Because of that, I am going to make as many of the board components white - buttons-knobs, etc - as I can. Also, while some items in the diagram are square, most buttons will be actually be round when it is all completed.

Lastly, users of Live might notice that I have only done a single send on the effects channels. That is just because the feedback loop from sending an effect to itself is just a little dicey to me, and when playing live at a gig might be a danger. I am transmuting to all digital after 5 years as a club-playing vinyl jock. After this, I might make a Traktor control as well - although Behringer is coming out with the BCDJ2000 in mid April 06, so that might be suitable. But a matching custom control would look SO SWEET!

Thoughts? Warnings? Ideas?

Newbie Don.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi,

with the MB64E application this seems to be feasible. The USB keyboard option is a nice idea!

It would be very nice, if you would document your design in the Wiki later, because many people have introduced their dedicated live controller in the past, but the build process was never written down, and is therefore lost as source of information for others, who are planning to do something similar.

Best Regards, Thorsten.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, I would love to know about that USB buttons solution, too!

About the design: So far so great! ;)

Only a few things you could think about:

- Important: You said you will build a 19" rack version. Will you also be using it as a rack version or more as a desk version (putting on some table somewhere)? This greatly changes the "best" positioning of the components. Especially as we talk about a equipment which should be used LIVE! :)

As long as you'll take answering: The BIG point is to get the most important stuff as near to you as possible! Also some fails could be brought inside by putting e.g. important buttons directly over some fader. When hitting it roughly you *could* be able to touch the crossfader and fade the most important channel (just as an example). In your case I really don't know if those pots next to the faders won't bring in some potential for "Oooops, didn't wanna do that" situations. ;D

For the parts: As you're using it live, please please please ONLY get the best stuff! Do NOT look on the price to much. In nearly all cases (meaning pots, encs, faders) I really can sugget ALPS. Very good prices for such high quality stuff. For the buttons you already have your solution (which is really great!). :)

So far! Greetz!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First, the project has a logo and a name now:

enabler3mz.png

Today's update:

DJ-minimod.jpg

I'm going to mount the panel in this SKB case, which will give me a portable solution for tabletop use (although the panel could still be removed and mounted in any standard DJ rack). It is 8u(14in) by 19", which should be big enough.

I have changed my mind on the white surface - black is easier to find parts for, and will increase contrast in the dark (where I will play most of the time anyway) with my gelled backlight idea.

At the bottom of the case I will mount 2 HD USB2 cages on top of foam pads, which I will mirror my sets on for backup in case of failure. The panel and the circuits for the midi I plan on mounting in their own box, with the panel connections for the pots wired into some kind of quick-release mechanism. Finally, a few cold-cathodes will provide essentially heatless backlighting for the panel. Today's mission - seek out some lexan to test the panel ideas and see if they are feasible.

The keyboard controls will stay with the panel, and the panel will be connected to the laptop via the simgle USB channel.

Toyed also with the idea of a capacitance touchscreen kit, like here at: http://www.touchscreens.com/products-addon.html with a static array of buttons that are backlit - it would save a LOT  of wiring, eliminate a ton of construction time, and look cool as hell. The only drawback - only one sample can be fired at a time. Trying to decide if I care, since this is mostly for DJ mixing - as long as I can fire the samples within 4 beats, I won't miss my marks. Plus, I'd get 3 million presses or more per "key". Thoughts?

BTW, I got a great deal at EPOhouston.com (my local electronics supplier) on 45mm Japanese-made faders. They aren't ALPS, but seem to be pretty good quality and are only $2 US apiece, new in bags and feel as good as the faders on some midrange mixers I have played on. I plan on using these as volume faders; they are linear 10Kohm - this should work OK, right?

The slide pots had center detents, which were easy enough to remove by dissasembling and removing the tiny ball bearing and spring the engaged the center position. Now they are nice, smooth, and continuous.

Pay_C, I agree on the EQ Knobs - I just sorta ran out of vertical room. Since deciding to go to 8U high, I have room now to move them above the faders (horizontally) where they belong.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OK, I am now in possesion of my panel building materials. I bought a small piece of lexan to test the concept on - I'll be doing that today. I'll take pictures, and post the results. I guess a Wiki start is in order...

Also, here is the keymap PDF for perusal:

http://rapidshare.de/files/16499781/keymapping-enabler.pdf.html

and a default set in Ableton ALS format, with all the keymappings in place (this set's keymap will NOT make any sense w/o this controller, btw - I don't suggest you set these as the default set in Ableton unless you plan on building this controller too  ;) ).

http://rapidshare.de/files/16505620/template.als.html

enablernewlayoutandst0aw.th.png

New layout and ergonomics. All colors have a coded function. Green makes clips go, duotone sends to Xfader, blue affects the volumes of a the track in a row, Purple sends to headphones, yellow and orange send to...well, the sends (yel 1 , or 2). White is the master controls. Missing from this drawing are the global stop, start, and record which will be white and will be the only non-round button shapes - they will look like transport images.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice, I dig that logo! :)

Just out of curiosity, why "Enabler?"

And one other thing... What software are you using for those front panel designs? I've been trying to find a good 'sketchpad' for front panels, and that schaeffer app is a bit too complex for just a sketch...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks! I am a graphic designer by trade - so this is all Illustrator, CS2 to be exact.

"enABLEer" for ableton - get it? it "enables" one to use ableton live...

I finished the testing of the backlight today, and witha couple tweaks it will work like a charm.  I'll be posting up a front panel basic assembly concept tomorrow.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah it helps to be in the industry :) I was secretly hoping you'd tell me that it was some cool freeware or open source app, but no such luck... Guess not everywhere can be as cool as ucapps.de ;)

That's a good name though mate, and a nice looking logo - I especially like the backwards 'e' that becomes an 'A', very clever. Nice font for the other letters too. Rock on :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

enablerpanelconstruction8tf.th.png

Well, here is the panel design. I'm trying to get the panel to scale, and I am a bit worried about fitting it all into 8U. Time to go buy some knobs at EPO and start laying out parts on a desk to see if I can get the ergonomics right.

EDIT: Well, I mocked up a full size 8u panel today using paper bits. Bad news is, only 5 channels will fit on the board and still be open enough to avoid keypress confusion.

I lose 8 samples, but that isn't so bad. I also reduce the number of pots required by 6 and minus out 11 buttons. That gives me some extra buttons to assign to FX params! yey.

Edit Again - after building a computerized scale mockup, I got my 6th channel back! See a couple posts down.

Photos to come of the mock up board, and the scale template tomorrow.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey, good stuff you got going here. I noticed you're posting the images on imageshack...I hope you're saving them so they won't be lost over time. Be nice to have this on on proper site eventually.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, Mike! yeah, the eventual goal is to get it all set up as a project tutorial. Documenting things along the way ensures that I don't make as many mistakes in building things...

I am certainly in possesion of all these files.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Funny how important prototyping can be...

I made a full size mockup in Illustrator today and took it to my local electronic shop, where I used it to place the various panel components on it and see if the distances and such were adequate. Thanks to that trip, I have completed the top panel design and ergonomics, and am happy to say that I got my 6th channel back!

enablerscalelayout5wn.th.png

enablerscalelayoutvinyl6tl.th.png

The grey rings in the image are the 2.5mm "light rings" around each component. To simplify the construction of the upper sample trigger columns, I have simplified and encircled them in a single light box, rather than a light box around each button. This saved me 40mm of vertical space or so, which as you can see is at a premium (there's some differences in the BW image, which made some small changes to the layout and added two pots on send 2 that I forgot in the first drawing)

The purple buttons are the cue/xfader assign buttons, and the red are the channel start/stops. All the knobs on the channels are the EQs and effects sends. the big 25mm boxes are going to be joystick pots.

I am keeping the same "Tron" look. I am sourcing the people that will affix the vinyl backing to the topsheet/panel, and then it's off to the cutter! The only thing I am worried of is how I am going to cut the fader channel holes so they look great. I might have to get a local machine shop to do it with CNC or laser for it to look good. buttons and rotaries are much easier, as the knob covers the hole.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Don. Nice design, and not to rain on the parade or anything, but...

Have you built any of the circuitry yet? It's worthwhile to have the interface designed, and really nice to make sure that everything will fit where you want it to, but there's such a thing as putting the cart before the horse. Maybe it's time to start actually building a core, AIN, DIN, DOUT, all those good things? It was pointed out recently in the forums that many people have great intentions and announce grand projects, but without actually getting in there and seeing them to completion a lot of them seem to end up as simply nice images for everyone to look at.

No offence meant, and not to belittle your efforts to date, just curious if you've started the *real* work yet. :)

-drin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice. Be keen to see how it goes. USB hackjobs do work and are pretty cool.

I was gonna build a similar interface for abelton, but i stopped using it because i require being able to switch thru sets of clip groups (not clips) live and couldn't find a way to do it. hopefully you'll have more luck with your live stuff than i did :D

Also, there's no reason why people should waste time doing things they aren't totally interested in. That's what midibox is for. If you can be smart about things and do less work for same result, then you win. HACK THAT KEYBOARD BOY! :D

(ps i'm doing a similar thing but using a usb-uart translator and sending sigs to uart from a uC, so dont feel alone :D)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Don. Nice design, and not to rain on the parade or anything, but...

Have you built any of the circuitry yet? It's worthwhile to have the interface designed, and really nice to make sure that everything will fit where you want it to, but there's such a thing as putting the cart before the horse. Maybe it's time to start actually building a core, AIN, DIN, DOUT, all those good things? It was pointed out recently in the forums that many people have great intentions and announce grand projects, but without actually getting in there and seeing them to completion a lot of them seem to end up as simply nice images for everyone to look at.

No offence meant, and not to belittle your efforts to date, just curious if you've started the *real* work yet. :)

-drin

No offense taken.

Well, actually - building the box first IS putting the cart before the horse. I had no doubt after seeing other people's impressive and completed projects that with the effort spent, I could "follow the recipe" and wire up some knobs as well. I wasn't quite sure how to make it functional, cheap, and unique though. That's where this thread came in.

I'm a designer by trade, web specifically, and the first thing with any interface is that you first have to identify what the interface is for, then define requirements, then you determine what resources, materials, and technologies fit the needs and the budget, then you decide what your technologies will be, then you plan your interface - a few times - and THEN you begin construction. The concepting is a part that eventually HAS to be done, and I can't get an idea of my eventual project costs/time until that stage is complete. The midibox core requires no concepting - you buy it, build it, solder your pots, program if needed, and go. So, it makes more sense to design your idea fully in the mind first, then start your assembly - that is, if there is a goal in mind and not just a box with random knobs on it ;)

Let's say I had built the midibox first, and then found out it couldn't do what I needed, or that I couldn't fit what I needed into a space suitable for my needs? Then I wasted time AND money. In addition, since I am new to this, I have a lot to learn about electronics, and that learning is best done BEFORE I spend money, not after.

Also, The store for Midibox stuff isn't back up yet :(.

I have begun the circutry for the keyboard bit, because that was easier to "get" and because if I couldn't make that work then the project wouldn't even get started. I am happy to say that it works as well as I hoped, and that if I could play Ableton on keys A,a,B,b, and C,c then I'd be done!  ;D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Don. I've been doing interface design in software for almost 20 years now, and I know the importance of requirements definition, thanks. However, there comes a point when the heart of the project has to be tackled. My own feeling is that going ahead and having the panels CNC cut, the vinyl cut, all those things, is getting ahead of yourself at this point. You've designed it, great. Now set the design aside and build the box. When you get near completion decide if your design still fits your requirements and then get the panel made.

Having gone through 14 iterations on the interface for our upcoming controller I can appreciate the effort you're going through. Just don't get so far ahead of yourself that you find you've painted yourself into a corner by the time you've completed the circuitry portion of the project, which by the way is not quite as cut and dried as you made it out to be. If it was these forums probably wouldn't be as full of "help me!" messages as they are...

-Adrian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, then - we are in total agreement. But the point to get to the heart of the project has not yet come. Here's why:

1) I am still learning basic concepts of electronics and soldering, etc.

2) I want to buy the parts from Smash TV, and his aren't yet ready

3) I am working concurrently on several aspects of the project, which I am approaching the way I would any new project. I even have a gant chart for it, silly enough. For instance, I have friends that do CNC work, and have offered to help with the panel face. The sooner I get it to them, the more time they'll have to take on my charity case(no pun intended, but there it is :D ).

4) As I am sure you have found, sourcing components can be tough. I am VERY particular with my performance equipment, and will spend hours upon hours just deciding on knob shape, for instance. This takes time, but is otherwise free.

5) MONEY. It's always the rub! :P

Eventually the heart needs to be built, and while my description of the build process was a massive oversimplification (I lurked enough to know that) it doesn't change the fact that with methodical progress, the Core is a known construct that WILL get built. I'm not really doing anything insane with it - just a bunch of pots leading back to the core and its associated child modules. But I won't play around with a $150bux+ of parts without first training myself in basic electronics knowledge. That would be pretty wasteful of my strapped budget.

Anyway, i've been a DJ'ing in clubs for 5 years. I know that the design I made (while not perfect) will definitely fit my requirements, which are pretty narrow really. My main concerns (keyboard hack, m64 capabilities/limitations, and power supply and drain) have been answered wonderfully by experimentation, Moebius and TK. The rest really is just a matter of applying principles thankfully discovered and shared by all the awesome people here in these forums. Hopefully, I can make my own contribution when the "enabler" is finished, althogh I believe that contribution will be in good documentation/plans and not in the electronic realm- just too little that I know there to be much help to anyone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To get back on track -

Neat Keyboard emulator boards, and fairly cheap at $69.

http://www.vetra.com/312txt.html

But using a utility like Keyhook or Keyscan (my personal preference) is the way to go if you have some time and want to be cheap about it.

I have begun the laborious mapping of the LiteON SK8115 keyboard matrix, and will post a PDF of the mappings when I am complete. Not all keyboards use the same mappings, though - I chose the SK8115 because it is cheap and widely available. But really, any USB keyboard will do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

kbschema0aw.th.png

This is the pin header assignment diagram for the 7 button group headers. I'm having a bear soldering these things, I'll tell you. Trying to make a PCB but I'm having issues with trace overlap.

EDIT: The upper right mappings in the drawing are wrong - those are meant to be the scene triggers, but I forgot to label them properly in the schematic.I'll replace it when I fix it...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If doing this keyboard hack for the specific hardware becomes too difficult maybe you could try to finish off the PS2-IIC converter? That way you could use any PS/2 keyboard just by plugging it in :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If doing this keyboard hack for the specific hardware becomes too difficult maybe you could try to finish off the PS2-IIC converter? That way you could use any PS/2 keyboard just by plugging it in :)

Curiousity, Stryd - What does this mean? ???  ;). The idea is to go away from a keyboard completely, by using the core of a USB KB to do all the momentaries with new buttons. This is because I have so many buttons that a MB64 won't handle them all, and I don't want to dual core for just 30 buttons. Essentially, I have to build new pathways for rewiring the KB buttons (similar to what many MAME cabinet folks do), because they all have the membrane style switches nowadays.

Once I figure out vias in ExpressPCB, I think the problem will mostly go away, because then I can overlap traces in the third dimension. On a 2-d plane, it isn't possible. Eventually, a1 through b13 will all get boiled down to a single wire-hole for each number, which will then connect to the corresponding holes on the KB core (diodes will be used to reduce KB ghosting issues that might arise).

I am just trying to not end up with a rat nest of wires, so that the thing is serviceable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Once I figure out vias in ExpressPCB...

Hey dengel. Are you planning on having ExpressPCB etch your boards for you? Just in case you didn't know, the software only lets you layout boards - you then have to send the files to them, where they etch them and return them to you. I tested it last month and a simple 1 inch by 3 inch 4-switch/4-LED board was going to cost $70 to etch! You can't even do a screen capture of the layout and use it for an etch, because the size is deliberately wrong in the onscreen version.

If you want to etch your own boards and pay a LOT less than that, you're much better off with Eagle. It may take a little more work to learn but it'll generate board images you can use to etch your own boards.

-drin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Curiousity, Stryd - What does this mean? ???  ;). The idea is to go away from a keyboard completely, by using the core of a USB KB to do all the momentaries with new buttons. This is because I have so many buttons that a MB64 won't handle them all, and I don't want to dual core for just 30 buttons.

Ahhh I understand now, sorry! You can use a scanning matrix for large numbers of buttons...But then the keyboard hack should be cool too :) And useful in lots of ways :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Adrian, thanks for the Heads up! Appreciate it - I was going to have them etch the board for me, but perhaps now I will reconsider that route. Without the boards, though, there would be 162 wires to solder, and at my current skill level this isn't tenable :(, so I have to find a solution. I saw one guy that used Photoshop to screen cap things from expressPCB, reversed the image, and etched his own but this seems a bit overboard.

If ExpressPCB isn't a good choice, do you guys have suggestions about what software and service to use? I'll check out Eagle, anything else I might look for?

Don.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

(Pretty much) Everyone around here uses Eagle, so.....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0