Now that 2015 is over, everyone is back from their holidays and recovered from their xmas hangovers (aka January) it seems like the perfect time to announce the winners of The Technofile Awards 2015. These awards are given to the best products that were available to buy new in 2015 (regardless of when they were originally announced or released). So, without further fanfare…unless you happen to have a fanfare sample to hand…here are the Technofile Awards 2015:
Best Digital Audio Workstation (DAW): Ableton Live 9.5 Suite
Live remains almost unique in the way that it works with audio. Its legendary intuitiveness and flexibility make it the first and last word in loop based composition and production in the studio and the perfect tool for performers and DJs in a live setting. But it’s not just about loops. Live is a fully featured DAW and Live 9.5 Suite offers a multitude of virtual instruments, effects, and samples. Paired with Push it is simply unbeatable.
Best Control Surface: Ableton Push 2
Push takes Live to a whole new level of immediacy and interactivity by unlocking what’s ‘in the box’ and transforming it into the ultimate live performance and remixing tool. What’s more, because it’s unconstrained by a keyboard paradigm, Push helps to democratise music creation. Whether you use Live in the studio, or for live performance, Push is the ultimate accompaniment.
Best Hardware Polyphonic Synthesizer: Sequential Prophet 6
The Access Virus Ti2, Roland JD-XA and Prophet 6 were all contenders for this award. Each is a magnificent and very different kind of beast, making direct comparisons rather futile. What made the Prophet 6 the winner was neither a sense of nostalgia, nor analogue hipsterness, but simply that it sounds amazing, timeless even. Dave Smith has called it “vintage with a modern twist.” The Technofile wholeheartedly agrees. In the Prophet 6, Dave Smith has managed to create an instrument with all the character of the Prophet 5, but with even greater sound shaping options and The Technofile salutes him for this! In fact, we’d go so far as to say that in the future, the Prophet 6 may be seen as even more of a classic than its legendary predecessor! As for the Sequential badge, that’s the icing on the cake.
Best Hardware Monophonic Synthesizer: Korg ARP Odyssey
Unlike the Sequential Prophet 6, Korg’s ARP Odyssey reissue is all about both nostalgia and analogue sexiness. That said, the Odyssey rates as one of the best mono synths ever made…as any recording featuring Billy Currie will demonstrate, and aside from the mini keyboard, the (K)ARP Odyssey is spot on. Now all we need is a (K)ARP Odyssey with full size keys…and an (affordable) Eurorack compatible (K)ARP 2600.
Best Software Synthesizer Collection: Arturia V Collection 4
Arturia, without question, make the world’s best classic synth emulations, which they then feed steroids and train to do tricks the originals couldn’t! In fact their ‘Mini V’ and ‘Modular V’ are so good that no less a luminary than Bob Moog himself (RIP) used to personally endorse them…which should tell you all you need to know. The V Collection includes all twelve of Arturia’s amazing soft synths/keyboards, namely the Matrix-12 V, Solina V, Vox Continental V, Mini V, Modular V, CS-80V, ARP 2600 V, Prophet-V & Prophet VS, Jupiter-8V, Oberheim SEM V, and Wurlitzer-V. Also included is Analog Lab, which houses all 6000 plus patches from these synths/keyboards and enables you to quickly sort, filter & combine them; and Arturia’s Spark 2 drum production software, which is packed choc full of classic drum machine emulations. Buying the hardware equivalent of just one of these classics would set you back many times more than the price of the entire V Collection…and that’s before you even start to think about the cost of maintenance, making Arturia’s V Collection both excellent sounding and excellent value for money…which is The Technofile’s favourite combination.
Best Individual Software Synthesizer: Cakewalk Z3TA+2
Z3TA has always been a Technofile favourite. When The Technofile reviewed the original (PC only version) we said “Its analogue emulations are warm, lush and fat, with a bass end to die for, its FM sounds are nasty (in the best possible sense) and its trance sounds are spot on. Added to which it has a completely mental arpeggiator…” Since then, not only has it got even better, it’s also, against all the odds, gone Mac, making it The Technofile’s Best Individual Soft Synth of 2015.
Best Groovebox: Novation Circuit
One of the reasons why The 2015 Technofile Awards were not published until the beginning of 2016, is because it ain’t over ’till it’s over…as Novation proved in late 2015, with the surprise announcement of Circuit. This deceptively diminutive LAUNCHPADesque groovebox has hidden under its hood two full on Nova synths and a four part drum machine. It also has unlabelled knobs that affect pre-mapped sound parameters in serendipitous ways. Add into the mix a (beta) software synth editor, the ability to function as a standard USB-MIDI controller, and a price tag as diminutive as its dimensions and…BOOM!
Synthesizer of the Year: Sequential Prophet 6
With Eurorack in the ascendant, the Korg MS20 & ARP Odyssey back on the scene, and a multitude of Moog modulars joining the fray, one might be forgiven for checking what century it is. Yet at a time when analogue has never had it so good, one thing has been conspicuous by its absence – a true analogue poly synth, one with real VCOs. Enter Dave Smith with the Sequential Prophet 6. The Technofile regards it as a peerless, timeless classic.
Best DJ Deck: Pioneer CDJ-2000NXS
Often imitated, never equalled, Pioneer’s CDJ series have been an industry standard for years. It’s easy to see why – these decks are brilliantly designed, built like tanks, feel fantastic to use and offer hardcore functionality including integrated WAV/MP3 playback from sticks/hard drives and direct timecoded discless USB control of Serato DJ, Scratch Live and Traktor Pro2. We would say that unless you’re still using vinyl these are the only decks you’ll ever need…but just before The Technofile Awards went to press, Pioneer announced the CDJ-2000NXS2. Guess what’s likely to be The Technofile’s Deck of The Year 2016…
Best DJ Mixer: Pioneer DJM-2000NXS
Pioneer’s range of excellent DJM Mixers covers most budgets and requirements. However, the Technofile Award for Best DJ Mixer goes to Pioneer’s flagship DJM-2000NXS. Pioneer call it “futurology fulfilled.” The Technofile agrees. Offering an extensive range of functionality including advanced connectivity, beat slicing, quantized beat effects, ‘side chain remix’ (borrowed from the Pioneer RMX1000), ‘Frequency Remix’ (offering a 7 band touch cross fader), MIDI control, and a USB/audio interface, this mega mixer perfectly compliments Pioneer’s Technofile Award winning CDJ-2000NXS decks.
Best DJ Software: Serato DJ
With 4 deck support, key analysis, ‘Pitch ‘n Time’ key shifting and syncing, ‘Beat Jump’, track quantisation, smart crates, MIDI output, nameable rearrangeable cues, and remote control from Apple iPads/iPhones, Serato offers DJs pretty much everything they could want…and if they want more, Serato provides it with expansion packs. There’s even a Serato Video expansion pack that takes DJs into VJing territory (for better or for worse). The kicker though, is Serato DJ’s extensive support for third party control surfaces, mixers and interfaces, including dedicated hardware from the likes of DJ hardware heavyweights such as Pioneer and Denon.
Best VJ Hardware: Roland V-1HD
Between Pioneer discontinuing their legendary DVJ decks & SVM A/V mixer, the corresponding increase in laptop usage, and an industry wide switch to HD (and higher resolutions), there has been a gaping hole in the market for a small, affordable HD A/V mixer with HDMI inputs…and Roland recently filled it with the V-1HD, which includes 4 HDMI inputs, 2 HDMI outputs and a 12 channel audio mixer. We’d love it if they offered a version with a crossfader, but (for once) The Technofile is not complaining, as nothing else compares.
Best VJ Software: Resolume Avenue 4
Resolume Avenue is to VJing what Ableton Live is to DJing. Its intuitive interface lets you mix, scratch, blend, cut, edit, scale, position and apply effects to multiple layers of HD video in real time; synchronize them with audio, apply audio effects (including VSTs), and add live camera feeds and generative content made in Flash and Quartz Composer. Furthermore, it is GPU accelerated and offers support for Blackmagic hardware. Perhaps it is unsurprising then that Resolume Avenue is probably the most popular VJing software on the planet.
Best Projection Software: Resolume Arena 5
Arena is essentially Avenue with added functionality for shows with more complex requirements. This extra functionality includes the ability to control Arena from a lighting desk with DMX, send colours to DMX fixtures and sync them to your visuals, configure complex projection mapping on almost any surface, and blend multiple projectors to create seamless panoramas of up to 360 degrees. Consequently Resolume Arena 5 is perfectly suited to arenas, festivals, installations and complex projection mapping.
Best Video Camera: Sony PMW PXW-FS7
In the FS7, Sony has designed a camera that combines their excellence in sensor design and manufacture and their experience in 4K, with the sort of feline ergonomics that make sense for ‘run and gun’ shooting. Would we love this camera more if it recorded 4K internally, in Rec. 2020, and had a global shutter? Indubitably! But even without these things, the FS7 offers outstanding quality at an unmatched price. With the Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6L still vapourware and the Canon C300 MkII & ARRI AMIRA costing substantially more, it’s the only game in town as far as The Technofile is concerned and one that’s well deserving of the Best Video Camera Award.
Best External Video Recorder/Monitor: Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+
The Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+ offers an excellent combination of video recorder and monitor in a slick package. It’s ability to record 4K, UHD, 2K & HD, via SDI and HDMI, in Apple ProRes, uncompressed DPX, and RAW, with high frame rates of 60 fps in 4K and 240 fps in HD, means it can be used effortlessly with practically every camera and NLE on the market. Meanwhile, its touchscreen OLED monitor with 3D-LUT support enables you to see exactly how your graded footage will look. Couple this will all of the image analysis tools you would expect, such as waveform, histogram, false colour, pixel zoom and three-mode focus assist and you can see why the The Covergent Design Odyssey 7Q+ wins The Technofile’s Best External Video Recorder Award.
Best Video Microphone: RØDE VideoMic Pro
The RØDE VideoMic Pro is a compact, ultra lightweight, broadcast quality shotgun microphone designed for use with camcorders, DSLRs and field recorders. Its built in shock mount provides isolation from unwanted handling noise and its standard shoe mount, which has a 3/8″ thread in the base, allows it to be mounted directly to a camera’s hot/cold shoe or to a boom pole. A selectable 80Hz high-pass filter cuts out low noise from sources such as air conditioners and traffic, and a -10dB/+20dB PAD switch enables the mic to be attenuated to suit the sound source/recorder. It can record for over 70 hours from a single 9V battery and is covered by RØDE’s 10 year warranty. Add to this RØDE’s renowned audio quality and a fantastic price and its not surprising that the RØDE VideoMic Pro is the go to microphone for numerous filmmakers and productions.
Best Non Linear Editor (NLE): Adobe Premiere Pro CC
Unlike some NLEs that depend upon proprietary CODECs and consequently can require you to spend days transcoding footage, Premiere Pro will natively edit pretty much anything you care to throw at it, from smartphone clips to 8K video. However, that’s just the start. Deep integration of SpeedGrade’s Lumetri colour engine puts colour at the heart of Premiere Pro CC, by enabling footage to be graded direct from the timeline. The Warp Stabiliser and tracking and masking options (taken from After Effects) confer greater flexibility and productivity upon editors. Optical flow and pixel estimation technology is great for time remapping and frame-rate conversions, and the Mercury Playback Engine provides GPU acceleration galore. Support for Microsoft Surface Pro, Windows tablets and Apple trackpads allows you to use touch and gestures to perform a wide range of editing tasks, which coupled with support for DNxHR, HEVC (H.265), OpenEXR & HDR means that Premiere Pro continues to stay ahead of the curve. Add into the mix tight integration and round tripping with other key Adobe applications such as After Effects, SpeedGrade & Audition and you have a fantastic, forward looking NLE.
Best Motion Graphics/Post Production Software: Adobe After Effects CC
Used extensively for animation, motion graphics and post production, After Effects is the Swiss army knife of video software. Not only does it excel at all of these things and more, but its tight integration with other key Adobe Creative Cloud applications such as Premiere Pro, Photoshop and Illustrator makes it a no brainer for video professionals.
Best Video Plug-in Collection: Boris FX BCC 10 For Adobe
It’s not surprising that Boris FX boasts over a million users including many major UK & US networks. With over 250 filters and tools for creating professional motion graphics, visual effects, and finishing, Boris Continuum Complete offers a breathtaking array of things to do to your footage. However, the recent release of Version 10 considerably raises the stakes, thanks to Boris FX’s purchase of Imagineer – the company that makes Academy Award winning tracking software Mocha. As a result of this purchase, Mocha’s planar tracking and masking engine has been integrated into the BCC 10 PixelChooser, allowing much more to be done from your NLE’s timeline. Tasks such as blurring faces, isolating filters & correcting footage are simplified and time spent masking & manually keyframing is significantly reduced. Mocha data can be used to track lens flares, corner pins, titles & graphics, whilst unlimited mask layers let you do everything from simple effect isolation to full blown rotoscoping. BCC 10’s new Beauty Studio skin retouching tool also uses Mocha technology, in conjunction with a keying algorithm that isolates skin tones, to give advanced skin smoothing whilst retaining natural sharpness and contrast. The new Title Studio lets you create 2D/3D broadcast titles and motion graphics at any resolution, and there are a multitude of new image restoration tools, transitions and effects including light leaks and The Technofile’s favourite – beat synced glitches! From image creation to image destruction, BCC 10 is the one.
Best Video Individual Plug-in: Red Giant Magic Bullet Looks 3.1
With over 200 brand new fully customizable presets designed to match the look of your favourite movies and TV shows, Red Giant Magic Bullet Looks 3.1 is unbeatable when you need colour fast. However, it is so much more than just a bunch of presets. An updated Colorista tool, professional scopes, a new LUT tool, film stock emulation and 41 tools including ‘Mojo’ (for that blockbuster look) and ‘Cosmo’ (for beauty retouching) provide extensive options, and a streamlined interface makes them incredibly easy to use. What’s more, it’s been rewritten from the ground up, with GPU acceleration. So if you want a fast and fun way to achieve professional colouring results, Red Giant Magic Bullet Looks is it.
Best Scriptwriting Software: Final Draft 9
If you’ve ever tried to write a script on a standard word processor, you’ll know how laborious and creative flow destroying it can be. Final Draft solves this problem by automating the formatting process. Simply pick an industry standard templates for your movie, stage play, sitcom or TV drama and move between its pre-formatted script ‘elements’ (dialogue, character names and scene headings) using the ‘tab’ and ‘enter’ keys. As you write, Final Draft formats your text, simple as. What’s more, it’s packed full of writing aids and its .fdx format offers tight integration with third party production programs. No wonder it’s the number one selling script writing application.
Best Film Camera: Holga 120 GN
It has a plastic lens, a plastic body, takes film…and it’s quite simply the coolest and most fun camera ever made, so the recent news of its discontinuation was shocking, particularly given the resurgence of all things analogue. The Technofile salutes a legend and maintains that until you can shoot, process and print award winning pictures with a Holga, you shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a DSLR!
Best Full Frame Digital Camera: Sony A7rII
When Sony released the original A7 & A7r, they got a lot right and some things wrong…and there was no shortage of people pointing out the latter. To their credit, not only did Sony listen to this feedback with good grace, they addressed it full on with the A7rII, which quantum leapfrogs over its predecessors (and its competitors) by packing in unprecedented amounts of improvements and innovative new technologies. Headline features include a 42.4 mega pixel back-illuminated, copper wired, 35mm full-frame CMOS image sensor, sensitivity of up to ISO 102,400, 5-axis image stabilization, and 4K video recording in XAVC S at 100 Mbps. Both still and video image quality are excellent and the addition (thanks to user demand) of a 14 bit uncompressed RAW option for photos allows you to squeeze every last bit of information out of your files. Consequently the Sony A7rII is one of the most forward looking, technologically advanced, innovative cameras ever made and as such represents mirrorless’ coming of age.
Best APS-C Digital Camera: Fuji XT-1
The combination of classic ergonomics, superb lenses, compactness, affordability, and, of course, excellent image quality, makes the Fuji XT-1 an almost irrisistable proposition for anyone who grew up with manual film cameras and/or who doesn’t need a full frame camera. In fact, The Technofile would go so far as to say that the Fuji XT-1 is one of the few digital cameras that feels like a real camera, which makes it both fun and a pleasure to shoot with.
Best Bridge Camera: Sony RX10 II
Sony rewrote the sensor design rule book when they released the RX10 II (and RX100 IV). Featuring the world’s first 1” back side illuminated (BSI) stacked sensor with advanced signal processing and attached DRAM memory chip, the RX10 II offers all of the benefits you would expect from a BSI sensor, plus dramatically faster read-out speed and processing, resulting in a maximum burst shooting rate of up to 14 fps, a maximum electronic shutter speed of 1/32000 sec and slow motion video capture at up to 960fps. Add to this a 24-200mm equivalent ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T lens with an aperture ring, ‘Fast Intelligent AF’ at a quoted minimum speed of 0.09 sec, a high contrast XGA electronic viewfinder, a maximum ISO of 12,800, dust and moisture sealing, Wi-Fi, NFC, focus peaking/magnification, and internal 4K video recording in XAVC S and The Technofile’s verdict is that it’s the best bridge camera ever built.
Best Compact Camera: Sony RX100 IV
If you think mobiles killed the compact star, think again. The Sony RX10 is a miniature marvel that features exactly the same sensor found in the RX10 II. Consequently it boasts many of the same features. Although video clips are limited to 5 minutes (as opposed to the just under half hour recording of the RX10) that’s more than long enough for most purposes and the maximum stills frame rate is actually 2 fps faster than its big brother! Add to this a handy pop up T coated XGA EVF and a ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T 24-70mm lens with an F1.8-2.8 aperture and you can see why The Technofile thinks that the Sony RX100 IV killed the mobile star.
Best Photography Accessory: X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Photo
Providing three photographic targets in one conveniently camera bag sized protective case, this absolutely essential piece of hardware is deceptively clever. In addition to offering a white balance target, its boasts an industry standard 24 patch colour chart, that can be used on its own for simple colour correction, or together with the included calibration software, to create custom DNG profiles. It also features a ‘Creative Enhancement Target’ which, used in conjunction with Lightroom, makes precise, repeatable, creative control of colour and contrast, as simple as a click. Brilliant!
Best Photo Editing Software: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC
When it comes to digital photography, The Technofile’s mantra is simple…shoot RAW, process in Lightroom. Built from the ground up to fulfil the needs of the modern digital photographer, Lightroom is to Photoshop what Live is to Logic and each new release somehow manages to add important functionality without compromising usability. That’s why The Technofile has long maintained that Lightroom is the best thing ever to happen to digital photo processing.
Best Photoshop/Lightroom Plug-in Collection: Google Nik Collection
Silver FX Pro is simply superlative at creating classic black and white looks, making it a long time industry favourite. Thanks to Google’s takeover of Nik, it is available as part of a suite containing all of Nik’s other equally excellent plug-ins, for far less than any one of them used to cost. These other plug-ins comprise Analogue Efex Pro, which lets you explore the look and feel of classic cameras, films and lenses; Colour Efex Pro, which offers 55 filters, any number of which can be stacked together, saved and applied as a look; Viveza, which lets you selectively adjust the colour and tonality of your images without complicated masks or selections; Dfine, which provides noise reduction tailored to your camera; Sharpener Pro and HDR Efex Pro, both of which do what they say on the tin. All of this makes Google Nik Collection amazing value and a suite that will genuinely help you take your photos to the next level.
Best Individual Photoshop/Lightroom Plug-in: PortraitPro 15 Studio
When it comes to beauty retouching, this unique piece if software lets you do in seconds what takes minutes in Lightroom and hours in Photoshop. However, its intelligent algorithms go much further than a simple skin peel and make up job, offering facial reconstruction of a calibre that puts some of the best plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills to shame…and all with just a few simple clicks! For beauty, fashion and portrait retouching nothing else even comes close.
Best Illustration Software: Adobe Illustrator CC
Illustrator is peerless in its own right and tight integration between it and other programs within Adobe’s Creative Suite, such as Photoshop and After Effects, take it to a whole new level, making it standard across many creative industries from design to post production.
Best Web Design Software: Adobe Dreamweaver CC
Dreamweaver has been the gold standard in web design software for almost as long as there has been a web. As internet technologies continue to develop and evolve, so does it, whilst somehow managing to get more usable with every version.
Best Contact Management Software: Act! Pro V18
Nowadays, being a master of your creative discipline(s) is not enough. If you really want to succeed, you also need to be your own business, marketing and social media manager. Doing this effectively means managing your contacts and interactions with them. Act excels at this, enabling you to keep contact information, associated notes, history, activities, documents, opportunities, social media profiles and more in one organised place. Tight integration with key third party applications means you can sync your Act contacts and calendar with Outlook and Google, then easily access them from either application; write an Outlook email from within Act and have this automatically recorded in your contact’s record; and view popular social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook from within Act itself. There’s even integrated analytics for times when you want to generate reports and really drill down to the nitty gritty.
Best Utility Software: Norton Security With Backup
When it comes to anti virus software, one name is synonymous…Norton. In the past, anti virus software has meant compromises in system performance that have proved particularly problematic for time dependent audio and video applications. Thankfully though, systems have become so powerful and Norton so evolved and proactive, that this is no longer an issue. Of course, as computing has evolved, so have devices and nowadays we all have lots of them, all of which require protection. That’s why Norton can now be used across multiple PCs, Macs, Android and iOS devices, by multiple members of your family, making it excellent value for money and The Technofile’s continued top tip for protection.