We’ve seen apps made exclusively for touch devices like the iPad. And we’ve seen very basic touch support in desktop apps. But Bitwig Studio 1.3 is both.
So, on the same day we find out about a proper touch laptop, we also get a DAW that’s ready, today, to take advantage of it. (See also FL Studio below, though Bitwig brings specific support for Microsoft’s new displays, and some new ideas.)
Also, is Bitwig actually trolling Mac fans, or Apple? Because Bitwig is touting the fact that OS X will at least get its new “E-Cowbell device.” (I’m not making this up.)
For multi-touch devices on Windows and Linux (yes, Linux) – plus a specially-optimized profile for Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Book – Bitwig has a lot of new touch features. They aren’t just responding to touch events; they’re going further.
Full multi-touch support. This is, of course, essential. It doesn’t work on OS X – there literally isn’t a model for processing the events – but it does open up some possibilities even on Linux.
Here’s what that looks like when mixing:
Radial menu and gestures. To try to make touch more useful, Bitwig are also adding a shortcut menu, for quick gestural access to settings for devices, drums, clips, arrangement, notes, and tracks. I really have no idea whether I’m convinced by this without having used it, but I’m intrigued. It also represents a different approach than Ableton’s, which has been to focus on moving control to physical hardware (Push). Clearly, there’s an argument for each approach – there’s something different about getting away from a display and using something tactile – but it’s nice to see something happening with the touch/display end of the equation.
Looking at this at first, it looked like a separate remote-control layer. In practice, though, that “radial menu” is maybe better thought of as a heads-up reference to what gestures do. The result can be really fast gestural editing, as seen here in arrangement:
I’m really keen to try this, especially as arranging with a mouse is painful. (It’s even worse when working with two people, as my studio colleague Nerk can attest.)
You can play right on the interface. Rather than go to a separate iPad remote (as Apple does with its own Logic and GarageBand), Bitwig are building a keyboard right into the tool so you can play directly. It’s like having a hardware controller or an iPad app built into your display.
There’s a built-in drum editor. There’s a pad layout for playing drum pads, as well, plus some touch editing options.
More on 1.3:
Thavius Beck, who is actually featured in press shots from Microsoft, already showed what this might look like on a prototype back in July. I’ll be trying to track down Thavius and having a chat with my Berlin neighbors at Bitwig soon.
When can you use this? Right now. (And that means if you do have a big multi-touch monitor, that works, too!)
For more like this, check out FL Studio in spring. Oh, and yeah – clearly, part of what’s holding a lot of developers back is Apple and a big Mac customer base. The ones who are focused on other platforms are trying out ideas like this. FL doesn’t have the shortcut gestures Bitwig does, but it does have some other nice ideas, and I’ll bet some FL users are looking at the new Surface line.