Touchscreens are often compared to the ground-breaking – if imaginary – designs of Star Trek: The Next Generation. But Brazilian Paulo Egidio Silva must be a real Trekker. His elaborate touchscreen panel configuration really looks like the LCARS
computer system simulated on the TV show.
Of course, that isn’t to say this isn’t a practical system. By making extensive use of the MIDI SDK for Cubase, the Dragon MIDI rig controls every element of a Cubase session, from mixing to routing to adjusting plug-in parameters. It actually has three elements:
1. A multi-screen touchscreen for selecting mix and send settings and changing routings
2. A conventional motorized control surface (the Yamaha 01V96) for mixing on real faders
3. A hybrid of screen and physical gear, by which plug-in instruments get both an interactive screen and physical encoders
If Geordi LaForge happens to be your mix engineer, you’ll be ready. Here’s my understanding of how it breaks down. (I couldn’t find additional documentation beyond the video, so Paulo, if you’re out there, we’d love to hear from you!)
Touchscreen Panel: 16-strip mixer, controlling up to 128 tracks. The idea is to use the motorized mixer for physical mixer control, but jump between and record-arm tracks, sends, and the like using the touchscreen.
Virtual patch points: An additional screen provides sends and buses and a virtual patch bay for connecting them.
Panning: A graphical display lets you select pan position – apparently stereo only for now, but surround would be an obvious application.
Windows, shortcuts, zoom, etc.: Button shortcuts along the side of the screen and zoom encoders let you easily navigate your set and zoom around.
Screen with actual physical controllers: Plug-in parameters are mapped to a screen that has physical controllers on it. You see the parameters and position on the screen, but you actually tweak a real encoder. Look about four minutes into the video — the effect is really striking.
Special Liquid Mix shortcuts: The appeal of Focusrite’s Liquid Mix is virtualizing beloved vintage gear. But these guys take it quite a few steps further, with shortcut screens decorated with photos of the real gear.
A big thanks to Primus Luta (via Twitter) for finding this!
As seen on the SOUND ON SOUND forums.
Side note: just to illustrate how incredible the fake computer displays on the 1980s Star Trek series were, the “touch displays” were originally just backlit Plexiglass. And I think that, in turn, illustrates the value of doing design in the physical world before the virtual one – if they hadn’t had to work as real-world lighting displays before being translated to virtual animations, they might not have been as distinctive. Michael Okuda, the LCARS designer, likely had no idea he would influence later thinking about how real, functional touchscreens could work.
Update: Interview, specs, photos on Paulo’s studio (translated from Portuguese)