Where will VCV Rack go to?


(Dieter Stubler) #1

Hi there,

Maybe this is the wrong place for this post but I did not find a better one.
Getting in touch with VCV Rack a few weeks ago was a great experience and opened a complete new world for me.

I’m working in the IT business and spend a lot of time in front of computers.
Years ago I started to make some music using FL Studio but I did not stick on this hobby since I didn’t want to spend more time on my computer.
Realizing there is a big DAWless movement right now, I reached out for a Elektron Digitakt last Xmas and have a lot of fun making music without a computer and I enjoy the haptic feeling of touching real knobs and buttons.
For me, a lot of drag to the modular world is based on this haptic patching and tweaking but to be honest, real modular I just can’t afford.

Now VCV Rack makes all that patching and tweaking affordable.
I spend money on paid modules though and pricing is quite acceptable for me.

Still trying to avoid computer interaction with shoving a mouse and typing on a keyboard, I decided to go for a touch screen system.
I bought a HP Pavilion All-in-One 24-f0059ng with a 60,5cm multi touch display and I’m really happy with this setup regarding performance.
Building patches did not bring the machine to it’s limits yet and I hope future multi threading support in VCV Rack 1.0 will make this even better.
Having a lot of fun for a few weeks with my system now, I encountered a lot of ‘light’ but also some ‘shadow’, which motivated me to write this post.

VCV Rack does a really good job virtually presenting the ‘functionality’ of the modular world but does a bad job on transporting the haptic feeling of patching and tweaking.
No multi touch support at all. Fiddling around with a virtual touch pad and a virtual keyboard is a pain. Some functions like fine tuning knobs and sliders is only possible with pressing additional keys on a real keyboard.
Without a keyboard and all the keyboard shortcuts, working with VCV Rack is a sometimes very tedious.
I use Hi!Computers very nice Chameleon software to setup a performance multi touch ‘shell’ above VCV Rack to control VCV Rack knobs and sliders via MIDI CC for my patches but that does not help when building patches.
Also looking forward to Rack 1.0 because I will be able to tweak even controls using MIDI CC, which do not have modulation ports.
Maybe Hi!Computers announced Armadillo software for touch screen support may help but it’s not available yet and it does not solve the root problem.

Using VCV Rack as VST plugin in a DAW is a direction I personally don’t want to take.
Since more and more plugins delivering DAW functionality in VCV Rack modules like really heavy sequencers seem to come up, I believe that I’m not the only one who prefers to be DAWless.
As a result I’m curious on the direction VCV Rack development is moving and try to start discussion on this topic with a few questions.

To the VCV Rack developers:

Is there a plan to transport the haptic feeling of patching and tweaking over to the virtual world?

To do this, a profound support of multi touch displays is a must have from my point of view.
All interactions with the Rack would have to be possible in a intuitive way without touching a mouse or keyboard .

Will the modular idea being pushed forward ?

Having multiple ‘pages’ for modules in VCV Rack to switch between for example would be great.
Virtual patch modules which can be created, saved, loaded, expanded or collapsed, could hide a complete patch under a small module presenting the needed ports and knobs when collapsed.
This way, patch hierarchies could be built to save a lot of space and time and whole patches could be used like simple modules.
Maybe loading and saving sub patches in rack lines which can be collapsed and expanded would be a possible first step in this direction.

To the plugin developers:

Sophisticated plugin functionality should not be paid by forcing ‘Rackers’ to keep their mouse and keyboard around.
Let’s take the Piano Roll plugin for example. A really fancy tool but with bad usability without mouse and keyboard. Entering sequence steps using a touch screen is arduous.
I don’t say that such plugins should not be developed at all because there are a lot of users without any dislike of mouse and keyboard for sure.
Plugin developers should make up their mind to which type of user a module is targeted to and there are some of them like DAW users running VCV Rack as a VST plugin, DA less users looking for plugins delivering DAW functionality in VCV Rack, performers requiring rock solid control in live situations, touch screen users trying to get away from mouse and keyboard and others.
Maybe a ‘touch enabled’ label for plugins would be a good idea to support module selection for people like me.
To build ‘touch enabled’ plugins, the VCV Rack team has to deliver a profound multi touch support the first place however.

That’s for my thoughts right now.
Sorry for the long post but I’m really curious on other VCV Rack users views on this topic and where VCV Rack is moving to.Regards

Dieter


(Marc Boulé) #2

I can’t really comment on the touch-screen aspect of your post, but regarding the DAW vs DAW-less discussion, I can say that for me, if I’m in front of a DAW I will not make music, and practically the only music I have ever made in my life was with VCV Rack and it’s virutual Eurorack paradigm.

Plugin developers should make up their mind to which type of user a module is targeted to

So in the case of Impromptu Modular, I can say that all my modules will strive to keep the non-DAW approach, as this is what I personally prefer. But as always, each of us have preferred tools, and as musicians we should always use the tools that insprire us most. Cheers!

P.S. I think that with VCV Rack, the overlap of DAW and Eurorack will become more important with time, and if the platform can cater to both needs, then it will be even stronger. When VCV Rack started, and Andrew can correct me if I am mis-speaking, it was described as “Virtual Eurorack”, then with time it became “Virtual Eurorack DAW”, and then finally now it is probably best described as “Virtual modular synthesizer DAW”. With Andrew’s timeline module, it will likely bring Rack even closer to having DAW-like capabilities. Ok, I’m not a big fan of labels, but they do help convey the spirit of this wonderful tool! :slight_smile:


(Dieter Stubler) #3

Hi Marc,

thanks for your reply!

I like the style of the Impromptu Modular modules but I haven’t done much with the more complex modules of them but as far as I have seen those modules can be operated with the right click menu and mouse actions without additional keyboard commands or fancy mouse events (like setting velocity in Piano Roll where you have to drag on steps). I think any module which could also be implemented in hardware has to have a clean interface without fancy GUI operations.

Thus a ‘touch ready’ label would mean nothing else as that the module could be used in a real rack if someone would build them in hardware without interface change.

I personally will try to avoid modules not following this approach.

My hope is, that at some point in the future a multi touch support will be implemented to support all ‘standard’ operations also possible for real hardware modules (just switches, plugs, sliders and knobs) which would be really great.

You mentioned ‘Andrew’s timeline module’. Where can I find information on it ?

Regards
Dieter


(Marc Boulé) #4

I see it the same way as you do, and it’s actually a goal of mine that I should be able to make my modules for real if I wanted to.

For the timeline module, not sure there’s much information yet, as this is a future project of Andrew’s, but in a facebook post dated Aug. 10 2018, Jim Aikin asked about a timeline module:

My top request for developers – a timeline module. Step sequencers, even large ones with 64 steps, are designed to loop. A timeline module would not loop. It would run for 10 minutes, at least, with reasonable granularity (16th-note steps for its trigger outputs). It would have several tracks. Maybe gates of arbitrary length in addition to triggers – that could be in the form of “on” events and “off” events in a single track. Voltage-controlled playback speed.

To which Andrew replied:

This is planned as a commercial VCV module, probably early next year.


(Dieter Stubler) #5

Hi Marc,

thank you for the information.
This timeline module is something I am desperatelly waiting for.
Tried to (miss)use the Piano Roll thing to implement a timeline because of its huge number of beats and patterns.

Allready thought about building one myself but I’m deaply involved in the development of our companies really huge software product which is available as open source too (have a look at www.schedulix.org if your are interested). Thats for IT business and has nothing to do with music but does not leave enough time and motivation for another software project :frowning:

One feature I would like to see in this future timeline product would be the ability to set marks (maybe limit to 127 as number of midi notes) or another way to (re)set the current position in the timeline for more freedom in live setups, patch building and manual looping if necessary.

Regards
Dieter


(Joopvanderlinden) #6

The closest thing to a timeline so far, but quite practical, is Nysthi’s Janneker. I use it all the time. It was built as a companion to Jooper, and, basically, it will output a pulse after a set number of bars (or whatever time division you choose). There’s also Janneker timed, which does the same, but with seconds.
This pulse can be used to trigger a switch (like Jooper) or any other event.
You can also “record” a performance into Janneker.
If you are interested, and you would like more information, just let me know.

Joop


(Richie Hindle) #7

I’m definitely interested to know more - I read someone saying something like “Janneker and Jooper are how you build structured music with Rack” - is there a tutorial somewhere to demonstrate that?


(Andrew Belt) #8

Yes, haptic response can be achieved with MIDI controllers, which you will be able to map directly to knobs in Rack v1.

If you want more than this, like patching cables, any potentially commercial product that achieves this would be approximately the cost of just making analog hardware, so if you really need to physically patch cables, just buy Eurorack, since it’s the least expensive modular format.

Multi-touch has nothing to do with haptic response. However, it may be added if touch support is added to GLFW.

A piano roll plugin will be likely be available from VCV in the future as a premium plugin.


(Andrew Belt) #9

The original copy text on the website was “Open-source Eurorack DAW” or something. I later changed it to “Open-source virtual modular synthesizer” since people were confused why I used the term Eurorack, and it wasn’t a DAW yet. But I’ll probably change it back to “Open-source modular synthesizer DAW” or so after releasing the timeline and piano roll modules, since I believe those things are how most people define what is a “DAW”.


(Dieter Stubler) #10

Hi Vortico,

I understand that a ‘real’ haptic feeling need real hardware.

What I mean with haptic feeling in VCV Rack is a more intuitive and comfortable way to just use my hands an fingers on a touch screen to push buttons, to turn nobs, move sliders and plug cables like I would do with real buttons and knobs.

For example, using a touch sceen to plug cables is currently a real pain so I have to use my virtual keyborad and touchpad all the time, turning knobs and moving by touch does not work at all.

I just don’t want to work with VCV Rack the same way (pushing mouse and typing keyboard) as I do in my daily work all day long.

Maybe I’m special with this demand, but I feel much more creative if I do not have to deal with mouse and keyboard.

Regards
Dieter


(Andrew Belt) #11

Nothing I can do without touch support in GLFW. Since this feature is a low financial priority, I can’t afford to add it to GLFW myself, at least in the near future.


(Joopvanderlinden) #12

I can send you a first copy of the manual I am writing for that. Where should it go?


(Richie Hindle) #13

Wonderful - thank you! My email address is richie@entrian.com


(Phil Golden) #14

@Stubs you should check out Tuna Knobs if you want direct interaction with a touch screen device. I think they are available on Amazon now, but iv’e never used them myself.


(Skrylar) #15

But piano rolls and trackers don’t even go in the cabinet. They go on the ST or Amiga sitting next to it :wink:


(Jim T) #16

piano roll isn’t going to play nice with touch screens. but it can be programmed through midi controllers to setup the things that don’t work well on touch.


(Dieter Stubler) #17

Hi Coirt,

Nice gadget but without touch screen support in vcv rack those are not usable.

Good virtual controls on a touch screen do not need hardware knobs.

Have a look at Hi!Computer Chameleon Software to see and feel how nice touch screens can be used.

Regards
Dieter