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dengel

Ableton Live controller concept

59 posts in this topic

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?

Repeat after me: Eagle, eagle, eagle, eagle, eagle, eagle, eagle...

Continue repeating till you pass out. :)

Eagle is the best package I know of. I found it difficult to understand at first so I looked around at PCB pckages for about three weeks. I should have saved my time and just dug into Eagle first to begin with... :)

-drin

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Then I'll set about learning Eagle. Anyone have any advice on board fabrication outsourcing for the PCB boards?

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Then I'll set about learning Eagle. Anyone have any advice on board fabrication outsourcing for the PCB boards?

Easiest is to do it yourself! Buy 1 litre of Ferric Chloride (I use MG Chemicals - $7.99/litre). Buy single or double-sided copper clad boards from your local electronics supply shop (or Radio Shack if you need to slum :)). I use P&P Wet to print the board on a laser printer then iron the paper onto the board. Drop it into the ferric chloride, agitate gently for 30 minutes at room temperature - one completed board!

Relatively easy and FAR less expensive than farming it out...

-drin

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I'll need vias and what not too - the dual layer boards seem pretty tough to get right, I've heard...I might just have to suck up the cost of this one. Maybe I can get around the vias problem with bridges instead - that sounds like a plan! Then I can get a single layer board to work.

Yey!

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Yeah, just tell Eagle there's no bottom layer on your boards and (if I recall correctly) it'll render with wire jumpers instead.

-drin

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Yes! I have finally ordered the following from SmashTV (all as kits).

1x DINx4

2x AIN

1x Core

Which should give me enough stuff for 32 buttons, 64 Pots, and the core - correct? I don't plan on running an LCD on the unit, so I think that (minus the buttons and pots, etc) this is all the PROCESSING stuff I need, right?

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Yes - You know math pretty well. Looks ok.

Moebius

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Haha! I just wanted to make sure that there were no mystery parts that I didn't order and would find myself needing. Since this is my first electronics project basically ever, I'm a bit concerned about getting things right. Thanks Moebius for the confirmation. Actually, I no do math so good ;).

Don.

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New Panel - switched to Aluminum for strength/ durability issues afer some testing. The Lexan would work, but over time I think it would just get too beat up as a mobile controller - If it was staying in a studio, perhaps it would be OK, but out in the world I worry.

One thing that the crappy BCD200 taught me was a new way to use Ableton; Previously, I had not used it with a MIDI controller, so I hadn't yet figured out the encoder jog for selecting scenes. This made a lot of my buttons unneeded, and I was able to add some controls I had to leave out of the first version. So, this new design reflects that. I also went back to 4 channels, because with the option of the rotary selection My sets aren't limited by a button grid anymore. Also added is a space for my laptop to mount in.

The buttons on each channel are for:

cue, waveform/Device view toggle, loop in, loop length, Quantization value nudge fwd/back, x fader assign, and of course start stop.

I've eliminated the effects sends on the sends themselves, and instead I am using two encoders, to be assigned to whatever needed in the sends, and 4 buttons, also for params (or potentially 2 params and 2 xfader assigns). There's also encoders for BPM, and of course the jog wheel. finally, there's a headphone cue volume and master vol pots. Because I used 63 of 64 DINs for this, I had to make the global quantization value selector a pot instead of an encoder.

enablerpanel4yv.png

Can anyone here export Shaffer Panels as DXF or something similar? I Have a line on getting this cut locally, but I'd need to get him a CAD version of this.

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thats looking very nice dengel. its really good to read what other ableton users are planning.

a few things though... "My sets aren't limited by a button grid anymore." could you explain what you mean - you mean the scene scrolling with an encoder?

also the waveform/device toggle, is that a midi paramater or are you using bome or something?

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If you look at my first concept, I was going to arrange for 8 samples per track over 6 channels (and 7 more butons for scene play), for a total of 56 samples. The plan was to tag team this with Traktor, and just mix into a new song in Traktor, change the whole live set, and then mix OUT of Traktor whenever I ran out of tracks in the first set.

Unfortunately, this was pretty limiting, but because I didn't have a midi controller, I didn't have a way to see how the scene scroll could quickly get you from item to item. I still think that the discrete grid is better IF Ableton allowed loading multiple live sets and IF there was a quick way to replace scenes with new sets of samples. But since finding the encoder wheel option, grids like 4x100 plus are easy to navigate, and I plan on separating the scenes by color according to my own system (like green for vocal tracks, orange for tech tracks, yellow for ambient, blue for shout-outs and one shot samples, etc.)

For the Waveform/Device Toggle, it is a keyboard event sent through Bome via MidiOX/MidiYoke. First, I send a key command to switch focus to the channel, and then a second SHIFT-TAB command to toggle between the Waveform view and the Device Chain. This lets me check on EQ params/wave settings without the mouse, or to select different devices in the chain with fewer mouse clicks.

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If you look at my first concept, I was going to arrange for 8 samples per track over 6 channels, for a total of 56 samples. The plan was to tag team this with Traktor, and just mix into a new song in Traktor, change the whole live set, and then mix OUT of Traktor whenever I ran out of tracks in the first set.

Ummm, 6x8= 48, not 56, right?

I have friends who use Ableton and run sets for 4-5 hours without a MIDI controller. I'm not sure why you feel limited without one, but then again I don't use the program.

-drin

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Without some kind of control, you have to be very quick and precise with the mouse, and you can only work one control at a time - you can't simultaneously lower Mid and Low, for instance, or change the parameters of the ping pong delay and its curve.

Some of these things can be fixed via keyboard (PC, not midi) control, but not the important ones. If you are mixing very dynamically, you need a controller - just as you can't truly get the most out of Traktor with a mouse, Ableton just works better when you've got the ability to do multiple things at once.

Ableton can be a jukebox, or a very dynamic on the fly re-editor. I have no doubt that one could fill up session view with 400 tracks and play for days, one after the other - but get 20 songs split into 20 pieces, and it's a different story. Alot depends on how you use the program.

On the 56, I forgot to mention I was including a row of the scene play buttons as well, so I meant 7x8. That's what happens when you are trying to finish a post just before leaving work!

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Hey dengel.

I understand the limitations of operating without a MIDI controller. I just meant to make the point that they're not required, that you can operate without one for more than a few tracks.

I'm the last person to suggest someone NOT have a MIDI controller, particularly on the ucapps site. :D

Just out of curiosity, have you tried mixing into a track in Traktor from Live? I mix Traktor with my 1200's every so often and I find it's not the easiest thing to do sometimes.

-drin

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Yes, I've done it but it is VERY difficult, primarily because the closest I came to playing live with...well, Live was a coffee shop gig, and I used just a KB and Mouse, like your buddy. It was this gig that actually precipitated me finding this site, after looking at the crappy state of commercial controllers.

My old setup was a pair of Numark CDX's, which is what I used for mobile gigs, otherwise I just used the 1200's at the club. I had to sell the CDX's last year because of work done to the house :( . This was one of the saddest moments of my DJ life, because i will tell you that the CDXs were the best piece of equipment I ever owned. At least for Progressive and House, they performed flawlessly week after week, and I cannot say enough good things about them.

When I first tried Ableton, I just didn't "get" it. But my buddy, who had been using it longer than me, showed me the light. It's a really neat tool.

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When I first tried Ableton, I just didn't "get" it. But my buddy, who had been using it longer than me, showed me the light. It's a really neat tool.

Now just convince club owners that you should be allowed to jack your laptop into their sound systems. :) I've found that's the biggest problem in most clubs. House parties, sure, but clubs? Not so common.

I still use 1200's, as well as Technics SL-DZ1200's, but whenever I can I use Traktor. It's much easier to haul my laptop around than bags full of vinyl, and it sounds almost as good.

-drin

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Exactly. I have a pretty good relationship with the clubs I play at - they are willing to try new things, so I'm not concerned. We've had Sasha's Involver tour, BT's Laptop Symphony Tour, etc come play and they've (like it or not) opened the eyes of a lot of club owners (and clubbers!) to the digital realm.

It's funny, but DJs themselves are some of the most luddite-esque of the whole bunch.

And with you on the laptop total agreement from you there - It was why I went to the CDXs - I just hated lugging vinyl around, and I liked the freedom to play tracks that I edited rather than having to remember  - this song does something weird at 1:23... There's nostalgia value there, but I just want to play a good set, and I'll use whatever I can to make that happen.

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Hi there dangel,

well for what I read you are doing the same as I did, as far as an hybrid (midibox + ps2/usb PC Keyboard)

I Just finished my Midibox64, and found one little problem with the keybaord hack, I don't know if this happens with all keyboards, but well, I got my ps2/PC keyboard at computer salvage store for only 1 dollar,  I tried it, and it was ok before I opened. well first try to get one keyboard that is not too new because every single one is going to have carbon conctacs to the flexible circuitry (phisical Key matrix) if you get one somewhat old keyboard you should get SIL compatible perforation in the keyboad's pcb., well when I did all connections, it works good for  a peridod of time but after a few minutes my laptop starts to beep constanly (as of when you press a key and never let it go) I tried to open notepad to check if something was beeing "typed" , (possible short c., making constant contact) but nothing, am still debuging it but am getting tiered of it, am thinking of a din instead.  Also you can only have 26 letters going at the same time, If you have another keyboard with the shift key on, everything you "type" will be in upper case even if you are using the "non-shift" keyboard, but still you can have a shift key and once you hit it you will have another 26 letters to use.

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That's one reason I chose the Liteon; the Liteon PCB has through holes on each matrix pre-drilled. This is actually a pretty new KB, it is a USB keyboard that shipped with my Dimension 9100 in December. I haven't had any lockup issues with it. It always just acts as a second KB.

The shift key is a problem. In order to prevent ghosting, you have to install unidirectional diodes all over the place. Windows treats all KB input in a single batch. That is, if you press the shift key on one keyboard, the entire system will now be shifted on ALL keyboards. You can do as you suggested, and it is practical for a few switches, but gets pretty complicated once you get more than a few buttons because you have to use DPST switches for all your shifted keys. Even then, if you press more than one at a time, you can get ghosting problems that aren't acceptable for live performance.

While the KB solution will work for some purposes (for instance, as a power source for always on LEDs, or as a replacement for some DIN buttons if you've gone slightly over the 64 limit), in the end I've found that a DIN is an easier solution - and probably cheaper too.

I have opted for an all midiBox solution with Bome's Midi Translator as an intermediary for those functions that are only KB controllable.

EDIT: forget Notepad - get a program called Keyscan or Ghostkey; these will help you alot.

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Well, as you may know from "Latest News" My boards came in from SmashTV, and they built up great. Today, I got a Midisport UNO from M-Audio, hooked my core up along with my 9v, 1.67Amp PSU, and.....

It All Works! I have successfully loaded MIOS 1.9 to the core, and have to say that thanks to the tutorial with pictures and the MIOS Studio utility, it was easy as can be. I felt like I was watching "Wargames" as all the fun Midi sysex messages flew across the screen.

Tonight I will build up the rest of the modules (I've only done the core and 1 DIN so far), and then it's onto the Midibox64 customizations.

EDIT: All modules - 2AIN, 2DIN, 1DOUT, 1 Core - are all built. The core sends its random messages now that M64 Hex is uploaded - now I have to learn how to modify the main file so I can get my midibox programmed. This part proceded much faster than I thought - time to get on that panel construction!

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So, Encoders on the Midibox 64?

I think that I may have made a mistake on my design: I suppose that I need to use the Midibox 64E code, not the Midibox 64 code if I need encoders (I need 6). I thought that encoders could just be assigned a button-note value for up and another value for down, but I guess that isn't the case.

So, I need to do a MB64e I guess, with a mix of pots and encoders, or just go ALL encoders: Here's my final requirements for the mix version:

38 Pots, broken down as:

12 EQs

8 effects sends

4 Gains

4 Volumes

1 Xfader

2 effect channel volumes

4 pots for 2 Joysticks on Effects Channels

1 Master Volume

1 Cue Volume

1 BPM setting (software will limit range)

51 Buttons

and 6 encoders

1 jogwheel

1 Global Quantization Setting

4 effects params

So, seeing that I am no C programmer, is the MB64e capable of the above configuration without a complete MIOS reworking, or do I need to abandon the encoders? If I went all encoders instead, are there enough spaces to do 42 encoders and 51 buttons (I think not, but just wondering)?

I guess one other option is to just use buttons for navigation - or get some of those nifty "encoder-like pots" that I mentioned in Parts Archive.

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If I went all encoders instead, are there enough spaces to do 42 encoders and 51 buttons (I think not, but just wondering)?

Right, MIOS only supports up to 128 digital inputs and every encoder uses two of them so 42 encs and 51 buttons are too much for one core. But MB64E can handle 64 analog pots in addition. So go for the MB64E (and a mixture of pots and encs) or use a second core and chain it wit the MB link (http://www.ucapps.de/midibox_link.html).

Raphael

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Well, The enabler is in the final stretch  ;D: Here is the final faceplate that is getting sent to the printer (it is going to be a plastic overlay on the CNC'd panel) Note that on the first channel, I have left off the knobs (the grey flanged knobs on all the other pots) so you can see just the graphics - the knobs are there to help you imagine it as it will look when it is in a usable state.

enabler31me.png

A couple changes in this design. Slightly fewer param buttons on the sends, and obviously it is vertically smaller. Also, it is 4-channel now, and I have eliminated all the "Scene Play" functions because I never play an entire scene at once - if I ever find the need, it will be so seldom that I'll just fire off with the mouse, or perhaps a KB mapping. The scene play on the board just seemed an easy way to screw up. Lastly, I am using a 4 band EQ, because 4-band is Coolio, and anyway, I had room. Also eliminated the channel gains, since you can set the gains in Live when you warp the tracks, making it not so necessary. I have the pots for it, but it just cluttered the design so out they went.

I have the Hand-drilled version (has fewer buttons, and uses pine instead of Oak for the box) rigged up and as I played with it last night, I have to say that the MBHP is great. In fact, with Ableton (since it has midi-learn) you don't even need to reprogram MIOS at all - a base M64e load works just fine. I'll be doing it for completely asthetic reasons, though, just so I can see pretty stuff in the LCD.

I'm preparing a walkthrough guide with pix, downloadable SVG's of the faceplate and faceplate graphics, and even a video or two (just got an Everio hd camcorder :) ), because I think that an update (for those who use Smash's boards) will be helpful to newcomers.

Tomorrow night I play my first house party with the prototype, and next week the faceplate gets CNC'd.

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Nice work there dengel, it's great to see it all coming together!

Are you getting your face-plate CNC'ed in the UK?

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Looking good!

How did the test with the prototype go?

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