As hard as I tried ... this is STILL going to be a MASSIVE introduction. Let's get all the apologies out there from the start
And not without reasons and passion.
To start ... the last several months have really charred the last remaining brain cells. As chief 'cook and bottle washer' I ended up on a sole mission ... and I mean just that. No one else in my surroundings had a clue to understand what I wanted to do, and what was involved to do it.
Frankly, I wasn't quite sure how deep this would have to go, nor the time frame involved.
The was a need. It required a software solution. Had to get something that I'd even have a chance to not only grasp, but implement a design concept ... in this lifetime!
So we did, or I did. Piece by piece, reading, studying, testing, scrapping version 7 and starting all again. Only to realize that a complete rewrite would be the best. And I did.
The past 2 weeks ... I've been in the 'playground' with NEBULA.
Also ... those remaining cells need some time off ... and I have a few gigs to play
It's STORY TIME !! YEAH !!!
Hopefully I can muster enough to get this posted to the forum. I am working without a net ... so please be gentle ... and I truly hope that what follows may be of interest.
sorry for the delay ... AND for my cats '...in the beginning' entry. Just like the one with the thumb that can open his can of food, she trys to be a writer. NOT.
OK ... with a few post to follow. Lets start.
Hello fellow ‘Nebu-lites’ !
Early into my discovery of Nebula, we have developed a complex ‘Love/Hate’ relationship. Her beauty was countered with handling difficulties.
Let me take a moment here for some background reference.
We know Nebula’s resource demands required a rethink to the usual workflow. Memory and CPU was always under threat. Another hurdle was that of ergonomics.
An ‘Algo-based’ plug-in is usually a self contained, single interface. Nebula was designed as separate elements. A Nebula EQ is usually a single band, requiring multiple instances to build a representation of the complete hardware unit. The resulting EFX list could easily become a navigational nightmare in the heat of a session.
For some, this was too much. Thus bore the ‘hybrid’ concept using ‘algos’ driving through Nebulas. This is a workable alternative, yet still a sonic compromise.
For those who would not compromise. It’d be time for a workout. Do all the pre-processing you can to ready for a mix session is helpful. With enough experience, you hoped to have chosen the desired front end to process with. If you guess ‘wrong’, well it is not deeply held that the console sound or tape formula was responsible for denying a song ‘Hit’ status. Still, this is personal and can hold much passion.
When we get to shaping a track, trying to work with all these EQ 'instances' is usually some form of a juggling act. Track down the Neb from the EFX list; open it, make your adjustment, move or close that window ... then on to the next instance. If you needed to go back for additional changes, you again searched the list, hope you've found the right one, open it, adjust, and close it.
Oh wait ... more tweaks!
By the time you get done with all that ... you remember … 'oh yea, was I suppose to be listening to the music during all that commotion’?!?
Workflow. I’m not certain that ‘flow’ is the appropriate term here. It was more like ‘Work’, and a major distraction from job one.
To be focused and LISTENING
We have seen several attempts to improve upon this. The latest path has been utilizing built in DAW functions [like Reapers’ 'parameter modulation']. This opened additional controlling paths. Parameters could be cross linked to another, and through various 'scaling', able to control an 'object' from another. This provided some basic remote controls.
After much experimenting, though, some serious shortcomings were exposed. There’d be situations that just didn't seem to have solution. More advanced controls would often require additional 3rd party software to house the multi Nebulas, and/or provide additional controls and routing.
Finally, you then needed another plug-in to serve as the GUI 'master interface'. From the various commercial, shareware, and free plug-ins, one had to track down a suitable interface to use, not for its 'sound', but a ‘pretty face’ and layout. Then, if you used a different DAW, a new 'duck tape' solution had to be found.
Having been tantalized by the almost possible, and trying everything I could think of over many, many weeks. I followed and tried to learn from others’ gallant efforts. There always came an issue that was short of the basic requirement. A long list of these was prepared, but I thought better to spare you the details. [You’re very welcomed] Bottom line … I had enough.
The good thing about all this? Getting a ‘first time’ taste of what it could be like to work NEBULA as a comprehensive soft-hardware unit, rather than discombobulated pieces.
Developed in the early 1980’s and used throughout the audio industry, The MIDI Protocol.
Nebula comes with a barebones MIDI implementation, which by default is unassigned. From earlier efforts, a copy and paste to the .XML pre-assigned the feature to work.
NEBULA has 8 Continuous Controller [CC], that are accessed across all 16 MIDI Channels. These 8 [CC's] are directly wired to the 8 parameter faders [or knobs] on the Nebula interface.
Globally, NEBULA appears to be locked to OMNI mode. Meaning that all instances will respond to any command. To the best of my knowledge, this is what my testing has shown. This is rather inconvenience, and something that should most definitely be updated to [at least] the 20th century flexibility! Also, the main IN/OUT faders lack direct MIDI access. This too should be updated.
Still ... all is not lost. We do have MIDI ProgramChange command.
Even the mentioned limitations ... some of these have been addressed, and made to work. It does add some bulk to the solution, and not as elegant as I envision. A few 'simple' NEBULA updates would really be welcomed!
All is not BLEAK however.
If you are still following along, this may peak your curiosity
A VST Controller plug-in, custom designed specifically for multiple NEBULAs, and based on MIDI Protocol communication is being readied for ‘Beta-testing’.I have configured several different controllers that speak to specific Libraries. Each model has been designed to address a complete library.
I began with Nebula’s equalizer, since they typically have more instances loaded, and high user access require. Others have unique function routing.
The first 3 units:
CDS – GEQ
GEQ - main [Blur-edit].jpg (43.17 KiB) Viewed 1682 times
HO – Klarity
Klarity - main [Blur-edit].jpg (29.17 KiB) Viewed 1682 times
AITB – Massive/Passive
Massive-Passive-main [Blur-edit].jpg (75.18 KiB) Viewed 1682 times
Fundamentally, the Controller is built from a single [sub] module that contains the unique parameters of that specific EQ patch [as set by the Developer]. Some EQ's have only Frequency and Gain settings, while others include Q [bandwidth]. Some units also have filters [both single and dual].
Another variation has to do with the construction of the libraries. The Nebula faders [knobs], and the parameter they control, are dictated by the library developer and can vary to their order. Some libraries have also been user modified to include things like 'G-Drive' control.
The VST Controller engine was designed to be flexible in handling these variations.
Each Nebula parameter, be it Freq, Gain, or Q, has a dedicated [CC] that can be assigned from any of the 8 [CC] available.
Each of these [sub] modules can be assigned a discreet MIDI Channel [1-16].
Each [sub] modules has a ‘Bypass’ switch to pull it from the signal path. This allows an easy A/B comparison of the single module. With several modules active and tweaked, it is important to have ‘global’ A/B of all active EQs.
A 'Master Bypass' [MBP] has been implemented. This is a 'state aware’ bypass. If several modules are active, while others are in 'Bypass' mode, the MBP will 'mute' the active EQ modules. Disengaging the MBP will return all modules to their ‘pre‘MBP status. As one would expect, the active ones are on, the ‘muted’ ones stay muted.
Next, each [sub] module has the ability to issue a MIDI ‘Program Change’ command on its unique MIDI Channel. This single feature has many possibilities. For the initial beta release, I have placed limits on it [temporarily]. With several ideas in mind, I’m at a point that outside input could possibly expand on this concept.
Although I'm not a great GUI designer ... I can certainly appreciate it. Functionality and ergonomics are also major design consideration.
The intent of the GUI ‘look’ comes from a personal perspective. The ole 'peepers' ain't what they use to be ... and to be honest; they were never so great to start. I needed knobs that can be easily adjusted; with numeric readouts that can seen when stepping out from behind the screen.
And ya know ... when I'm working with a familiar particular piece of gear, like a M****y or Massenburg. I'm use to seeing and touching them. Now relegated to the land of 'virtualness', I really don't mind this Virtual Controller sharing a strong resemblance to the hardware in play. Not to be smug or anything ... but this is something I will be using every session. For tactile feedback, there should be no reason that this VST Controller would not respond to a hardware controller. If it can’t do this now, I want this added.
With the current design, I can honestly say, the working experience I felt while mastering a song using the Massive/Passive with this VST Controller was an absolute JOY. For the first time, working in NEBULA-LAND, I was able to focus more on the music. Making multiple EQ changes was a breeze. Minor adjustments were actually effortless, and fun! The next day, it was a pleasure to see everything load in and displayed correctly at my last saved settings ready to go.
Several more ideas on this along with other projects are in the works ... but first things first.
These are utilities that I’ve wanted and need for my personal work and sanity. Possibly other ‘Nebulites’ would find these useful. To that possibility, and to make it happen, I’m in the early process of getting a website up and running. A young nephew is up on these things and offered to help. [GREAT, cause this has been a one-man show].
To be very upfront, I’m not looking to retire as some software mogul. My professional career for nearly 30 years was audio engineering and production. Nebula was a key motivator for me to come out of retirement, have a professionally designed, and built Mastering Control Room.
In keeping with the traditional Nebula philosophy, I would like to make this very affordable. I would also like it to cover the cost to provide. So, at this point, I’m willing to try this as a test experiment. If all go relatively smooth, and the hassle factor remains minor to none. I’ll look to ramp up this and other projects. Should it not, then I will gracefully bow out, design for my personal needs and focus on my primary … music.
Before even considering a public demo release, I would like to humbly request the service of a couple ‘Beta-Tester’ to test and evaluate this project. I’ve had some early ‘testing’ from outside sources of test modules. [all working]. But now as a complete system, I need to know how it works on other environments.
Compatibility? That will hopefully be determined during this testing period. Protection and Cost? Again, considering all options and feedback. This will be a test experiment. I sincerely hope and work to a mutually positive goal.
If you are interested, and PLEASE, have experience that can be positive on this, you can PM me here at the Acoustica-Audio site.
I apologies for the intentionally ‘blurred’ screen shots. There is reason to the madness, as I would rather be certain of several things, and thus minimize any possible grief or thwarted expectations.
I would like to begin beta-testing using the AITB – Massive/Passive Equalizer. No slight to the other fine Developers … and even though I DIDN’T win the last Easter Egg hunt. Actually, besides being a workhorse Mastering EQ, it is all appropriately named. It’s Massive. Should provide a decent test load.
The ‘Virtual Controller’, which hopefully gets a really cool name … will be addressing 13 Nebula modules simultaneously. All my personal testing is on a WinXP  platform, using the latest REAPER sequencer. I have an FXChain preset saved that contains all the MIDI routing, and other Reaper odds & ends. No other 3rd party apps required.
Interest testers should include what platforms and software they have available.
Also … you MUST have the AITB Massive/Passive library. It would also be good to have ZAB’s NebulaSetup handy for obvious reasons.
I would like to start with a maybe 2 testers to see where were at. If more are needed, I’d much like to put out the call from those interested.
For those of us watching/ waiting on the sidelines … I’ll try to provide any details I can.
Hey, should you have any questions, ideas, comments … well, this is Our small community. Please feel welcomed. I’ll try my best.
Hey GANG … thanks for looking in. Lets’ see how she rolls. Thank-you.