Feb 08
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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

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

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

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

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 V Collection

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

Cakewalk Z3TA

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

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

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

Pioneer CDJ 2000 Nexus

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 DJM 2000 Nexus

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

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

Roland V1 HD

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 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

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

Sony 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+

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

RODE Video Mic 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

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

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

Boris FX BCC 10

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

Red Giant Magic Bullet Looks

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

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

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

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

Fuji XT1

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 RX10ii

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

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

X-Rite ColorChecker Passport

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

Adobe Lightroom

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

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

PortraitPro 15

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

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

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

Act! Pro

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

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.

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Dec 01
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Music Production Expo, or MPX, as the kool kids are calling it, kicked off recently at Emirates Stadium, in London.

The killer seminar was the misleadingly named ‘Music Producers Guild – About to press record?…are you ready?’. Given the title, I quite reasonably assumed this would be a technical seminar about how to master for vinyl. Instead it comprised a stellar lineup of producers discussing the finer points of the rehearsal, pre-production and production process.

The panelists were Danton Supple, who spent many years working with legendary producers such as Trevor Horn, Steve Lillywhite, Phil Spector, Paul Oakenfold, Mike Hedges and Gil Norton, at Sarm Studios, before moving into production in the late 90’s, and who is currently working with Dave Gahan at Strongroom Studios; Charlie Andrew, who started out as an assistant at Abbey Road, working on The Wall (Roger Waters Live In Berlin) and film scores for Gangs of New York, Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets and the Lord of The Rings trilogy, and went onto work with everyone from Alt-J to Madness, securing along the way, Grammy, Brit & Ivor Novello nominations and a Mercury Prize; Dan Cox, a sound engineer, music producer and co-founder of Urchin Studios in East London, who won Breakthrough Engineer of the Year at the 2014 MPG Awards and has worked with Laura Marling and former Sonic Youth front man Thurston Moore; and Catherine Marks, who has worked closely with Alan Moulder and Flood, and whose production, mixing and engineering credits include Wolf Alice, Foals, PJ Harvey, Kanye West, Ian Brown, MIA, Placebo, Ride and Killers.

If there was a central message of this seminar, it was rehearse more, edit less. People hear performance, not gear and all the expensive gear in the world won’t help a bad performance. In an era of ever shrinking budgets, the rehearsal/pre-production process is everything, as it provides an opportunity for production team and musicians to get to know and understand each other musically, refine structure and tempo, and polish performances, without the pressure of costly studio time.

Yamaha, who had the largest show presence of any of manufacturer, presented a seminar entitled ‘Synthesis Made Easy’, which encouraged musicians and producers to shun the never ending supply of presets and sample libraries in favour of growing your own (sounds), a sentiment with which I couldn’t agree more!

In a similar vein, MSL Professional presented a wonderful seminar entitled ‘Understanding Modular Synthesis’, during which Bryn Wildish taught everything you have always wanted to know about modular synthesis but were too afraid to ask, with the help of a colleague, who patched and re-patched a Studio Electronics modular synth like some kind of ninja geek.

Native Instruments‘ Product Owner for Komplete Kontrol software, demonstrated the new Komplete Kontrol S88 weighted keyboard and the Native Kontrol Standard (NKS), an SDK that enables third-party software companies to integrate their VSTs into Komplete Kontrol and Maschine. The benefits of this are twofold. Firstly, an ever growing list of third party plug-ins can take advantage of Kontrol keyboard features such as the keyboard Light Guide, Native Map and Native Browser Integration. Secondly, because the NKS SDK is incorporated by software authors, at Plug-in level, not as an extra layer, whenever a plug-in is updated, it will continue to work seamlessly with Komplete Kontrol/Maschine, without the need for driver updates. When I had a hands on with the Komplete Kontrol keyboards I found them intuitive, stylish and a pleasure to play. My only problem being which I wanted more – the S61 key semi weighted, or the S88 weighted?

Unlike MSL and Yamaha, who demonstrated methodologies for consciously and calculatedly designing sounds, Novation, presented its alternative philosophy of creating sounds and music serendipitously, with their brand new beatbox, ‘Circuit‘. This diminutive LAUNCHPADesque beatbox has, hidden under its hood, two full on Nova synths and a four part drum machine. It also has knobs on, that affect pre-mapped sound parameters…unlabelled knobs…and therein lies the serendipity. Given its price point, specs, and design, I predict big things ahead.

Meanwhile, on the show floor, my prize for most audacious stand went to Funky Junk, who, not content with displaying a healthy range of Eurorack modules, practically the entire DSI range, a Roland Jupiter 4, TR 808 and Sequential Circuits Prophet 5, had…a fully functioning Yamaha CS-80 for attendees to play with (and good on them for taking it there)! Invariably I had to ask. The answer was a cool fifteen grand. Meine kleine gelt.

KMR Audio were sporting an equally extensive range of (non vintage) synths, including the Modal 008…which, quite frankly, paled into insignificance alongside the Prophet 6 they had on demo. Having spent a little time playing with Prophet 6s, I have to agree with Dave Smith – it truly is ‘vintage with a modern twist’, offering all of the character of a Prophet 5, without being a clone and providing more versatility and sound shaping possibilities than its illustrious predecessor.

Roland were showing the full schmeer of Airas (minus the System 500 modules) and the rather lovely sounding JD-XA; but not the Boutiques (which have, apparently, already sold out). Of course, some people will inevitably ask which is better, the JD-XA or the Prophet 6? The answer is that they are very different beasts and which is right for you depends upon your needs.

Korg‘s stand, which consisted of just two keyboards, was almost as diminutive as their Volcas. Apparently, this was because they have no spare stock, as everything they have is selling like hotcakes…which, I guess, is what happens when you give the punters exactly what they want.

Yamaha showcased a range of products including Steinberg Cubase and the entire Reface series, which seemed to draw considerable interest. Studiologic showed the Sledge, which sounds great, but should probably come with sunglasses. Sonic Distribution had a healthy range of items on show, including products from Waves, Apogee and Rupert Neve Designs. Novation wowed the crowds with their brand new Circuit and kept them there with their full range of synths and controllers.

Other keyboard controllers on display included Native Instruments’ Kontrol series, Nektar‘s comprehensive range, Akai’s Advance and Keith Mcmillen’s QuNexus. Beat controllers included Native Instruments’ Maschine and Akai’s new MPC Touch, which, at points, had people queuing to cue it. Pioneer were also well represented with their world class Serato controllers (and CDJ decks) in full effect.

Completing the lineup were more education institutions offering music tech courses than you could shake a bank statement showing a lifetime of student debt at; and if it all got a bit much, ACS were showing their all important custom made (and generic) earplugs.

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Sep 30

Sandisk Extreme Pro 64GB CF Card

All Posts, Hardware, Photography, Reviews, Storage, Video Comments Off on Sandisk Extreme Pro 64GB CF Card
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Now that you can buy an APS-C camera with an 18MP resolution for a few hundred pounds, many full frame DSLRs offer over 20MP and some medium format cameras are resolving as much as 60MP, there’s a real need for large capacity media. Add into the mix high Megapixel RAW burst modes and the advent of DSLR video and there’s an equal need for speed. Sandisk soundly answer both of these needs with its Extreme Pro series which are available in capacities of 16GB, 32GB and 64GB. Continue reading »

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Aug 16

365 Group Acrylic Clapperboard

All Posts, Film, Hardware, HD DSLR Accessories Comments Off on 365 Group Acrylic Clapperboard
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Once upon a time, if you wanted to make a movie, you’d need a sound recordist to capture audio to tape (as film doesn’t record sound) and a clapperboard to enable you to sync them up in post. Then along came video (which magically captures both sound and pictures to the same medium) and the clapperboard went out of the window with the baby, the bathwater and the bath. But that wasn’t the end of the story because the advent of the HD DSLR has meant that filmmakers once again have the need for clapperboards. So where do you go when you want a clapperboard…Clapperboard.com? Almost…Clapperboard.net actually! Visit the site and you’ll see a dizzying array of clapperboards by ‘365 Group’ costing from £15 to £1500. I tested their most popular model, the ‘Acrylic clapperboard with black & white sticks 280mm x 240mm’, which, at £39.99 represents excellent value for money. Continue reading »

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Jul 24
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Ableton Live is something of a dichotomy. For live performance and remixing it provides the best possible software interface…which is seriously constrained by the worst possible hardware interface…a screen and a mouse. And if that’s not bad enough, running Live on a laptop, on stage, makes it look more like you’re surfing the web than performing. The answer is a control surface that frees you from the prison of the computer and lets you play ‘Live’. Although there are plenty of these around, until recently, none were optimal or optimised for working with Live. However, Akai Professional’s dedicated Live controller, the APC40, changes this. Continue reading »

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Jun 26
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If you think that HDSLRs are the only game changer in town, think again. Over the last few years there’s been a revolution going on in lighting, at the forefront of which are Litepanels. In fact, their use of proprietary LED technology is so innovative that last year, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences awarded them an Emmy! Continue reading »

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Jun 11

Ableton Suite 8

All Posts, Audio/Music, DAWs, DJ, Reviews, Software Comments Off on Ableton Suite 8
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Ableton Suite 8 packshot

Ableton Suite 8 is 50 percent live performance instrument, 50 per cent digital audio workstation…and 50 per cent remix tool. If that sounds like 150 per cent…it is! Based around the latest release of Ableton’s now legendary ‘Live’ application, it adds into the mix no less than ten instruments and sample libraries. If you’re not already familiar with Live, either you’re an Alpha Centaurian Ostrich, or a member of Status Quo. Either way, you can familiarise yourself with what it is and does here. Continue reading »

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May 21

Oli Sorenson Creative VJ Course

All Posts, Courses, VJ Comments Off on Oli Sorenson Creative VJ Course
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Oli Sorenson VJ Workshop

Last month, people travelled from all over the country to attend Oli Sorenson‘s (AKA VJ Anyone) two day VJing workshop at OFVM in Oxford. Given that he is one of the world’s top five VJs (according to no less an authority than DJ Magazine) and the man behind London’s ‘AV Social’ and ‘Dark Fibre’ nights, it’s hardly surprising that his workshop proved so popular. Continue reading »

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