Live performance DAW Bitwig Studio is now moving forward with their beta, and a video demo this time provides a clearer look at what the software actually does.
Ableton Live users, just be prepared for more of a sense of deja vu all over again:
“Bitwig Studio has two views: the Arranger View, and the Mixer view. Both views share a powerful non-linear environment called the Clip Launcher.”
Let’s talk for a moment about why that similarity has people talking.
How is this any different from other DAWs that share common editing paradigms? Is Bitwig any more a “clone” of something that already exists than anything else?
Well, for one, the set of paradigms seen here, while derived directly from those conventional DAWs, has remained in its particular form something that is ubique to Ableton Live. Other DAWs don’t work this way; Live does. The “non-linear” clip launching, in particular, works in a way that is unique to Ableton. In fact, while it’s Live’s greatest strength, it also contains a lot of Live’s limitations – which means it’s the area you’d be most interested in improving. I hope that we see ways in which Bitwig (or other software) goes beyond that feature, rather than replicate both its strengths and weaknesses; perhaps we’ll see more as we get more information on Bitwig. Lastly, I’m not convinced that the look-alike, leapfrog tendency of DAWs has always been a good thing, either: do you really need eight different DAWs that all work in more or less the same way? Are there really no other ways to make them work?
Having explained that, though, Bitwig in this video do show some things that aren’t in Ableton Live – and that’s welcome news. You see hybrid tracks and multiple selection. That’s a feature seen in traditional DAWs, but blending it with a clip-based, non-linear interface could be really powerful. You also see clip envelopes that can be attached to clips, but that aren’t restrained by the length of the clip. That opens up more creative possibilities that can help users get away from the cookie-cutter, everything-lining-up-on-the-bars, LEGO-style sound that can sometimes infect Ableton sets. Updated: A reader correctly notes that you can get something similar by unlinking envelopes; I’m still trying to work out whether this is genuinely different.
Also compelling is the per-note automation. Envelopes that go beyond clips and automation on each note could make for some really nice, creative sets and granular editing in a clip-style environment. The musical results here don’t quite show that off, but obsessive editors should love this. (Of course, a major caveat: we don’t yet know publicly what’s in store for Live.)
You’ll just have to wait to try the tool, though if you signed up for the beta, it is on its way to you. Bitwig reports:
We just sent out beta invites to our first group of testers and will be rolling out more invites gradually based on the amount of feedback and bug reports we get. This staged rollout process gives us the time we need to address the most urgent issues and will help us avoid receiving too many duplicate bug reports.
I think I’ll otherwise refrain from commenting on this or any future version of Ableton Live until each is done. Certainly, having competition is a good thing, and it’s prompting some interesting discussions. (And, it’s also prompting readers to remind us of the likes of Renoise and Reaper and Ardour and other DAWs that may not be a household name, but offer some striking functionality.)
The most significant element of this video may be the song lyrics it introduces to the world:
I’m a defector from the 80s, sent to the future to save us.
And, of course, channeling die-hards who want the beta:
Give it to me! Come on! Ah….
Excuse me: I may go defect to the 80s to suggest that they please use a different connector for MIDI, if in fact there are limited wormholes opening to previous NAMM shows. (Also, this could mean that Ableton Live is really just a project created in the past by time-traveling Bitwig developers from the future – which is only marginally less plausible than some of the absurd conspiracy theories I’ve heard from readers that Bitwig is a secret Ableton plan. I just hope I don’t run into Bruce Willis at LAX, because that could end really badly. I swear this cough is just allergies.)