For some time, I’ve been a champion of Livid Instruments’ controller hardware, because I like the principles behind it. The devices are handmade in Texas using sustainable woods and environmentally-friendly stains, are standards-compliant with open specifications, open source software, and driverless class-compliant operation on Mac, Windows, and Linux, and lend themselves to programmability and customization. They certainly have some of the spirit of the open source monome devices, but for anyone who wished the monome grid also had knobs, faders, and such, and didn’t require weird serial-over-USB drivers, it’s nice that we have Livid, too. This is not by way of advertising Livid, either. I really believe that generally, open configurability and small-batch construction result in hardware that’s more fun to own and use.
But, oh yeah – there’s also the question of what you can actually do with your music using these controllers. With grids, crossfaders, and faders at the ready, the Ohm64 and more compact Block each have plenty of control possibilities.
The gang at Livid, and the community of users this niche line has attracted, have been hard at work over the past months inventing new ways of controlling musical and visual applications. Here are a few of the best of those examples.
Of course, the wildest of all is the Renoise work at top by proflific Renoiser hitotori. Do not adjust your computer; there’s not something wrong with the speed of the video at top. (Who needs drugs, really – even caffeine – with music like that? I’ll have what he’s having. Check out his other YouTube uploads, as well.)
Here are some other applications:
Reason + Ohm64
Before Ableton’s mapping features or Novation’s Automap, there was Reason and Remote. And the use of Remote scripts can still be very powerful, as seen here, complete with some keyboard tricks.
See Livid’s forums for the Ohm 64 Remote Script, which should work with any recent 8.x version of Live.
What’s most impressive about it is that, thanks to some ingenious work by Mike Chenetz of max4live.info, it not only “automaps” the Ohm64 but even provides access to the “red box” used by Novation’s Launchpad and Akai’s APC. You don’t even need a copy of Max for Live to pull it off.
There’s also now a script for the Block. I have to say, I like using the Launchpad with Ableton, but I’m constantly reaching for device knobs that … aren’t actually there. (The Launchpad only has buttons.) That means the Block wins out in day-to-day practicality for most users, unless you only ever trigger clips and never so much as adjust a filter cutoff or wet/dry amount.
Some of the most amazing integration comes from nativeKONTROL, the advanced scripting project that began with the KORG nano series. These are really advanced scripts that have elaborate, layered control of everything from sequencing drum racks to muting and arming tracks – more control, even, than you get from the APC40. Because it’s a script, you don’t need a special template (any file will work), and you don’t need Max for Live. nativeKONTROL omComponent handles the Ohm64, and just this week blockLive added the Block, seen below. These are payware, at $22.50 for the Block and $25-45 (depending on how many presets you want bundled in) for the Ohm. But they’re really quite impressive pieces of work.
Max for Live
I’m burying the lead a bit here: Livid’s open-sourced LividStep Max for Live device is about the most brilliantly useful patch I’ve seen yet. It finally fills a gap Live itself hasn’t managed to fill: it makes patterns you can step sequence live. Video part 1 below; see also part 2.
Here’s a demo video by user Monoque featuring some nice use of drum pads in Max for Live with Ableton Live. I’ll try to find some other information on the custom plug itself.
The crossfader, faders, and banks of knobs make the Ohm a natural DJ controller. (The Ohm itself was designed by folks who make and use VJ software, so that’s not a coincidence.) Using Traktor Pro DJ from Native Instruments, the Ohm becomes a controller for looping, cues, sync and bpm, mixing, effects, and even navigation of the browser.
MIDI and Hardware
Yes, while it seems almost every other recent controller has dropped the good, old-fashioned MIDI DIN connectors, the Block and Ohm64 each have 5-pin MIDI ins and outs. That means you aren’t only restricted to using them with software, as soillodge illustrates here with an Access Virus B and SU10 sampler, plus a noise swash pedal from the brilliant 4ms pedals.
The Ohm64 was designed first and foremost by visualists, so it’s naturally a nice controller for those applications, not just Livid’s own Cell DNA, which comes free in the box.
As covered on CDMotion, the GrandVJ guys have automapped the Ohm to their software, and legendary live visualist Johnny DeKam has a really drool-worthy rig combining the Ohm with a ViXiD video mixer and his custom Vidvox VDMX setup. (Vidvox? Livid? VDMX? Vixid? Vidmx? Vidvid? Vidxvidvidvid? Yeah, it’s tough to keep straight, but it’s my job.)
It’s even possible to display very simple, low-resolution images on the Ohm’s grid.
Got tips of your own?
To me, all of this variety strikes home an important point: we talk a lot about of-the-box integration, but hardware is cooler when it works with more than just one piece of software. Even if you’re not a power user, your own personal needs may be different from someone else’s. In fact, if you’re not a power user, you’re even more likely to expect to be able to connect a piece of control hardware to more than one thing and have it work. We’ve seen that desire not only with the Livid line, but with gear like the KORG nano series and even devices marketed for use with one app, like the Novation Launchpad and Akai APC. That says to me that smarter control and open devices that allow users to easily contribute their own ideas make sense.
The above compilation isn’t even complete. For more on the hardware and techniques for using it:
Lots of good discussion, tips, and the latest scripts live on the forums: http://blog.lividinstruments.com/forum/
And for more video tutorials, see Livid’s Vimeo account.
I’ve tried to feature some of the ideas from the community here, but of course the Livid gang have done the most videos, and I’m sure there are plenty I’ve missed. Are you a Livid owner with your own custom rig? Want to share your impressions, tips, templates, etc.? Let us know.