Cycling ’74 this week has announced an upcoming new version of its Max software, the DIY patching software for multimedia, from live sound and music to visuals. It looks as though more details will be available in the fall, but we at least get a glimpse of the goals for Max 6, as well as a new pricing scheme, and more information is likely at the NYC Expo ’74 conference. Max (and now Max for Live, too) is certainly at the heart of a lot of the projects we talk about here on CDM, so we’ll be watching.

Cycling ’74 founder and leader David Zicarelli describes greater “accessibility” as the goal for the new release, both in terms of “obtaining and learning” the software. That means documentation and tutorials and the Website go alongside new features in the software and new pricing. The other two goals: “quality” and “performance.”

In short, here’s how Cycling says Max 6 will evolve:

  • Improved performance, particularly via “code generation,” which sounds a bit like a just-in-time compilation optimization scheme for higher-performance patches. (This won’t be included free with Max 6, but as an add-on, however.)
  • A gen~ low-level signal-processing objects, for coding your own 64-bit DSP objects with greater performance than in patches.
  • The Mozilla JavaScript engine is integrated for greater performance (JS was always a bit of a performance bottleneck in Max, so this is potentially pretty huge), as well as the ability to use 2D HTML5 graphics code with Max.
  • Better sound quality, including a new cycle~ wavetable, resampling filters, crossfading between versions of a patch, and a new audio mix engine.
  • Workflow improvements, including enhancements to how help and documentation is displayed.
  • Project management.
  • Improved OpenGL animation and rendering tools. (I’ll write soon about what we know about Jitter changes separately on Create Digital Motion.)

Pricing schemes have changed, too.

US$399 ($199 upgrade from v5) gets you Max, MSP, and Jitter; no need to buy Jitter as a separate add-on. (Apparently those code compilation features will run you extra, though whether that’s $5 or $500, I have no idea yet.)

Subscriptions for students now run 12 months instead of 9. There are new volume discounts for academia, also based on subscriptions, too.

The place to find out more is likely to be the Expo ’74 conference.
Expo ’74

In Brooklyn October 14-16 (coming to the East Coast after its first, West Coast installment), Expo ’74 will be a series of hands-on events. The US$295 early bird pricing ends July 15 (Friday); it’s $395 thereafter.

There’s no word yet on the implications for Max for Live, but it seems safe to assume the new release will be accompanied by an updated Max for Live edition, too.

So, what does this mean for Max 5? Via Cycling ’74 comments, Joshua Kit Clayton explains backwards compatibility:

Max 6 is essentially backward compatible with Max 5. There have been some small changes which might cause issues in extreme edge cases. For example, on Macintosh, we’ve changed from using Carbon Event Model to a Cocoa Event Model, so if an object uses its own internal Carbon or Cocoa Event Loop, they may need to make some changes since the application has changed the primary event model of the application. There may be some minor visual differences. However, the vast majority of third party objects which work in Max 5 will work in Max 6 without alteration. If third party MSP externals wish to make use of 64bit resolution audio signals, they will need to be updated, but they will still work at 32bit resolution if they remain unchanged.

Don’t worry. While there are many great changes to the application, we’re not going FCP X here

For now, you can read David’s comments from yesterday. And if you buy Max 5 starting now, Max 6 will be free.

Announcing Max 6