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  • DIGIDESIGN TRANSFUSER - NOW WITH CONCLUSIONS!

    Well, I wasn't expecting this...but then, I sort of was. It seems like Digidesign has gone through some major changes lately, specifically, implementing "Elastic Audio" (which finally allowed Pro Tools to do serious looping and stretching), and acquiring Wizoo's instrument division, now known as A.I.R. (Advanced Instrument Research). Clearly, Digi is trying to position Pro Tools as not just a tape recorder emulator, but also as a compositional/remixing platform. In that context, Transfuser - their latest RTAS virtual instrument - fits right in to this new direction.

    A little bit of backstory: Wizoo supplied instruments for Steinberg, such as Virtual Guitarist and Xphrase, as well as M-Audio (KeyRig, Latigo, and Darbuka) but they were also big in content, doing quite a few sample CDs and libraries. In fact, my "Technoid Guitars" sample library for HALion was done through them. They also picked up some of the engineers behind Creamware's SCOPE system, and set up shop in Bremen, Germany prior to being purchased by Digidesign. So Transfuser didn't some out of nowhere; it fits into what Wizoo had been doing for years prior.

    This Pro Review is unique as it coincides with the introduction of a preview version of Transfuser that is being made available for free, and works for three months. That was a bit surprising, as most time-limited demos run for a month; but I think Digidesign is betting that after three months, you'll be hooked. And based on my experiences so far with Transfuser, I think that's a wise bet. Meanwhile, this will make it easy for anyone with a Pro Tools setup to participate in the Pro Review, and make comments.

    If you haven't downloaded it yet, you will need a Pro Tools setup (M-Powered, LE, or higher) and an iLok, as it won't run without authorization. As to links so you can download it or find more information, the main landing page is:

    http://www2.digidesign.com/transfuserpreview/index.cfm?ref=transfuserpreview_hc

    From there you can go to the download link, as well as get more information about Transfuser.

    Short form is that Transfuser is a groove-oriented instrument with a drum sequencer, phrase sequencer, the ability to create loops via real-time slicing as well as convert loops to MIDI grooves, mixing, processing, and quite a bit more. A lot of it is oriented toward real-time manipulation as well as groove randomization and processing; it's very much a complete instrument by itself. If I had to draw an analogy, I'd say Reason meets Xphrase - if Xphrase had not been discontinued and was now up to version 27.

    If Transfuser was released as a stand-alone instrument, I'm sure it would do well. In fact, I predict that quite a few people will buy the cheapest version of Pro Tools they can find just so that they have a "shell" for running Transfuser.

    I've attached a screen shot to kick things off. Note that I had to reduce it to fit the "no more than 900 pixels wide" art requirement for HC; in future screen shots, we'll focus on specific parts of Transfuser, which will let us do full-size shots.

    As to the genesis of the screen shot, what happened was I opened up Transfuser, and there was a big blank space that said "Drop Track or Audio Files Here." Well, okay, so I did just that, from the browser on the left. I dragged in a drum pattern, and a drum machine appeared...then dragged in a bass loop, and a phrase sequencer appeared. And then I started editing drum sounds...and then I realized I should probably launch the Pro Review!
    N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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  • #2
    But before I could use Transfuser, I had to do the iLok thang. Now, I'll be fair: 95% of the time, the whole iLok process works just fine. People drop authorizations into my account, I download them to my computer, and all is well.

    Not this time.

    Somehow, my computer's year reference had changed to 2010. I'm not sure how, why, or when, as documents I'd done earlier that day had the 2008 time stamp. But when I went to call up Transfuser, I was told there were 0 days left in the license. Same with the Reel Tape Suite and Eleven guitar amp.

    I contacted Digi tech support, and they obligingly dropped new authorizations into my account. So I downloaded them, but got an error message how the download couldn't complete, and to try again. I tried again, and next thing was a message saying there was a problem, and to click on the Recovery button. Except the recovery process didn't work, and it said to try again. So I did. Nothing, except that the previous authorizations had been removed and the new ones hadn't gotten on the iLok. And I couldn't use the iLok until this was resolved.

    Back to tech support, and I gotta say, Digi came through. First, I was told "Whatever you do, don't try to recover again" because apparently if you try that too many times, the iLok gets locked. Instead, the tech advised trying to recover on as different a machine and browser as possible. So, I switched from 8-core Intel Windows XP running Explorer to dual G5 Mac running Safari (that seemed different enough), and tried again. It worked!

    Now, I don't want this to turn into a discussion of copy protection; as far as I'm concerned, companies should protect their intellectual property, and besides, it will be much more fun to talk about Transfuser. But I mention this because Digi really shouldn't have to clean up after iLok messes, yet they did, and their tech support really did right by me.
    N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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    • #3
      One thing I should mention is that preview software is not intended for "mission critical" applications. While it's not a public beta, I'm sure Digi wouldn't mind if you posted any repeatable bugs here I should also mention that this is for Pro Tools 7 and above.

      I also thought you might appreciate my posting the list of known issues that comes in a PDF document with Transfuser. It's encouraging to me that they're fairly esoteric functions, not things like "Crashes if you try to hit play."

      Known Issues

      The following section documents some of the important known issues you may encounter when using the free preview of
      Transfuser with Pro Tools, along with workarounds if they exist.

      Deleting Session Audio Files (Issue #101618)
      Deleting audio files in Transfuser deletes them also from the session°s audio files folder.

      Mac OS X: Find and Relink disfunctional (Issue #102866)
      Only under Mac OS X: Find and Relink does not work correctly, located files do not load into Transfuser.

      Automating Track Solo (Issue #101934)
      Assigning a track solo button to an automation lane brings no audible result. Pro Tools crashes if you enable solo manually
      while automation is active.

      Mac OS X: Audio Engine Crash (Issue #102049)
      Only under Mac OS X: Skipping through the drum presets in the Drums module via right and left arrow buttons crashes the
      Pro Tools audio engine.

      Audio Files Not Saved (Issue #101624)
      REX and 32 bit files are not saved when using the Pro Tools "Save session as" function.

      Problems with Trigger Pads after Loading Tracks (Issue #102868)
      The Trigger pads° assignment does not work correctly (wrong highlight after loading/unloading tracks with assignments).

      Loop Points Not Audible after Editing (Issue #102046)
      In the Phrase Module: Edited loop positions are not audible until the loop is triggered again.
      N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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      • #4
        Referring to the screen shot, you can see several modules. Note that the left side is cut off a bit to fit in a 900 pixel wide image.

        (1) is the browser, and (2) is an info pane. Anyone who's worked with Ableton Live will have a sense of deja vu with these two. FWIW, I like it when standard interface conventions start to develop, and it looks like "browser on the left with info pane below" is turning into one. This also gets across that Transfuser is a single-window interface.

        (3) is the Tracks Pane, which is home to several modules - going from left to right, these are Track, Sequencer, Synthesizer, Effects, and Mix. This is a logical signal flow: (4) is the Track Module, which is where you manage MIDI channel assignments, keyranges, and select up to 12 sequences for track automation. To the right, (5) is the Sequencer section. You have a choice of three sequencers per track (or Thru): Drum Sequencer, Phrase Sequencer, and Slice Sequencer. Each has an associated module with the sounds triggered by the various sequencers, which is in the Synth section (6). The EFX section (7) modifies the sound with up to four effects, and then the output goes to the Mix section (8) when you set level and panning. Cool feature alert: In addition to Drum, Phrase, and Slicer synths, the Synth section also includes an "Input Synth" module, which allows processing audio from the track into which Transfuser is inserted.

        The bottom pane (9) is the Module Editor Pane. When you select a Seq, Synth, or EFX module, an expanded GUI shows up in the Module Editor Pane that lets you edit the selected module's parameters. This picture shows the step/pattern sequencer for the Drum Seq module.

        The area sandwiched between the tracks and Module Editor Pane is the Controller Section (10). It provides knobs, pads, virtual keyboard, and other performance controls. You can play these onscreen directly, or map controllers from an external control surface.

        Finally, there's a master section (11). This has effects sends, "master groove" (think of it as a groove template), transport controls, and the like.

        What this review will concentrate on in the days ahead is examining how each of these modules works individually, and as part of a whole. In this respect, the modular nature makes for a logical flow in a Pro Review: We can, for example, get totally into the drum machine aspects before getting into slicing, and then cover that in depth before moving on to the phrase seq.
        N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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        • #5
          Okay, I'm trying to stick to my schedule of one hour at a time per Pro Review, because I need to get to the M3 and Euphonix control surface today as well. But I'll be back tomorrow with more...stay tuned. So far, this is an instrument that really appeals to me and I have some pretty high expectations. We'll see if they pan out or not.

          Also, as usual, Digi has been invited to designate some poor guy - I mean, some company representative - to be available to answer questions and correct me if I say anything really stoopid. I'm not 100% sure, but I think that person might be Peter Gorges of A.I.R. That's good, because he really knows the product, but because he's in Germany there may be some lag time before questions get answered if he's asleep while we're posting away here in the US. So we may need to be a little bit patient.
          N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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          • #6
            Let's start with drums because, hey, everyone likes drums. Besides when you start a mix, what fader do you push up first?

            I rest my case.

            As we saw previously, a track has several elements that work together, including the sequencer, synthesizer, and effects. Let's look at the synth part first, because we need some sounds before we can sequence them.

            The Drum synth has a little window where you can load content, as shown in the first image. We're about to select "Hands Up Drums." I'm assuming the little number to the left of the drum name indicates the suggested tempo. Also note the two arrows to the left and right of the loading window: They let you step forward and backward through the drum sets. The only thing I'm not sure of is whether you can put the content in your own folders. All the content with Transfuser comes as one big monolithic block (like a .NKI file to Native Instrument fans).

            You can't really do multisamples on the drum pads, although you can have "A" and "B" samples, as selected toward the top of the window. The pads will show sample names if "B" samples are available.

            When the Drum Synth is selected, the Module Editor Pane shows your drum kit, as shown in the second image. But you're not locked into the kit you chose; you can select a different kit from the loading window above the 12 pads, and for the selected drum (as chosen by clicking on a pad), the loading window with the two little arrows at the bottom of the pads lets you step through related sounds. Clicking on a pad lets you audition the drum sound.

            However, note that these sounds are highly editable. The second image shows the wave editor, and here's what you can do.

            The first set of controls affect the overall sound, regardless of what editor function you've chosen. These are:

            *Change pitch
            *Filter cutoff and resonance
            *Hold/Release Envelope
            *Velocity response (note that the pads are "velocity sensitive" - click higher on the pad for higher velocities, lower for lower velocities unless you choose a negative velocity value, in which case that's reversed)
            *Pan
            *Level


            There are also more specific editors for Wave, Pitch, Filter, and Amp. The following controls are for the pitch editor.

            *Sample start and end time (drag lines, or use controls).
            *Velocity parameter for sample start
            *Random start (affected by sample state velocity control)
            *Reverse sample, also known as elpmas esreveR. This is handy if you want to check whether the sample contains any backward satanic messages.


            There are also "master" controls for whatever editing function you choose, namely Solo and Mute, and also, Pitch, Cutoff, and Decay controls that affect all drums. These are duplicated on the Drum Synth module itself, so if the Module Editor Pane is on something other than drums, you can still alter these master controls at the Drum Synth itself.
            N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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            • #7
              The first image shows the Pitch editing section, which is basically an envelope with breakpoints you can draw and erase. The Pitch control sets the pitch; it basically duplicates the function of the lower control, but adds to it – for example, if the lower pitch control doesn’t go high enough for you, you can increase the Pitch editor pitch control and raise it further. The Envelope Depth gives positive and negative amplitudes for the envelope you’ve drawn, and Vel causes the envelope to respond to velocity.

              The Filter editor, shown in the second image, has the same basic envelope concept as the Pitch editor. However, you can choose among Lowpass, Bandpass, Highpass, and EQ response. I get what all of them do except for EQ…maybe someone from A.I.R. can explain this.

              The third image shows the Amp editor, which controls amplitude. The envelope options are pretty much the same as the other editors, with the Level control setting a “baseline” level, and velocity affects the envelope depth, positively or negatively.
              N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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              • #8
                Now in case you're thinking "It sure would be nice to be able to control pitch or filter cutoff (or whatever) in real time, or automate them..." well, you can.

                Check out the attached image, which shows what happens when you right-click (I assume it's Ctrl-click with the Mac) on a knob: You can select Learn CC (i.e., be controlled by the next controller signal you feed to Transfuser), Assign to Smartknob (which chooses one of the knobs in the Controller section we discussed earlier), or Assign to Automation Lane, which is something we'll get into later with automation. You can also set Minimum and Maximum controller excursions, which is cool if you want a hardware knob's full throw to cover only a limited range of values. This gives better resolution when making fine adjustments.

                All that's left to cover for the drum editing module are the effects for the various drums (which are not the same as the master effects section for a track) - each drum can have its own effect - and output and mute group options. More to come...
                N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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                • #9
                  So about those drum effects...

                  You have three effects per drum sound, with the options shown in the attached image. These are pretty much EQ/dynamics/distortion effects, as opposed to, say, modulation or delay/reverb effects, which seem better suited to the effects sends.

                  Speaking of which...note the output stage on the right. This has two effects send to the main output, as well as a Poly and Group parameter. Group is the usual deal - you can assign different drums to one group, set the polyphony to one, and hitting one drum will cut off any drums that are playing. The classic example is grouping open and closed hi-hat so that hitting the closed hi-hat will turn off the open hi-hat.

                  Of the effects, the one that appeals most to my twisted sense of signal processing is the ring modulation, particularly because you can tie the Frequency and Frequency Modulation parameters to controllers

                  And that's pretty much it for the drum sounds, unless I missed something. Although I'm still waiting for someone from A.I.R. to chime in and let me know what the "EQ" option is in the filter section...anyway, let's move on to the sequencer section that actually triggers these sounds, if for no other reason than so I can record some audio examples!
                  N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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                  • #10
                    Whoa! We're definitely starting to get into some different kinda stuff here, thanks to MARIO (which stands for Musical Advanced Random Intelligent Operations). At first, I was disappointed, because I though that clicking on the MARIO function would transport me to a world of 8-bit sounds, suitable for Nintendo and Atari video games...or maybe there was a new Mario Brothers video game based on created dance music loops. But actually, it's more like a KARMA Lite function that adds useful variations to grooves. So far, this is an impressive feature that goes beyond the expected.

                    But first, the basics. Tthe first image shows the drum sequencing module, and most of it's straightforward...or at least, it appears that way at first. The deeper you dig, the more you find out that you can live comfortably in this module for quite a while.

                    You can see the usual step sequencer interface toward the right, with individual horizontal "tracks" of drums. But look at what I've circled in red: This isn't just a place to draw in a hit and trigger a drum, as you can choose from Velocity, Time, Pitch, Filter, Decay, and Pan. For example, if you choose pan, you can adjust the pan for each event. Or the decay, or the filtering,*or the pitch...this is wild stuff. Even better: The "time" edit parameter, which lets you lead or lag individual hits, ahead or behind the beat.

                    In fact, this is cool enough that I did a little WMV video. Unfortunately it doesn't include sound, for technical reasons too boring to go into here (I'll explain why if anyone's interested). Still, you can see me choose different parameters with the cursor, and adjust them. Cool beans. But we're not done yet. (FYI: I can do QuickTime movies as well, but they don't look as good as WMV...if enough Mac fans complain, I'll do QT movies but I instead recommend going to http://www.flip4mac.com and getting their free WMV player for QuickTime.)
                    N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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                    • #11
                      Here are some other features I like about the drum sequencer...

                      * Total of 64 steps. Yes, the previous screen shot shows only 16 steps, and that's all you'll see at one time. But referring to the first image, the section in the upper right has a bar/loop/auto-scroll selector. You can click on any one of four bars, so the 16 steps are those in the selected bar. You can loop just one bar, a couple bars, or all four. With auto-scroll selected, the 16-step display will scroll to the next measure that plays. Or, you can keep a static display if you want to, say, edit something happening in the third bar.

                      This is a really intelligent way to manage sequences longer than 16 steps, but I do have a wish list item: Being able to right-click on one of the measure indicators and select Copy or Paste. This would make it much easier if you came up with one good bar, and wanted to turn it into a four-bar loop with variations. You can do this with the Edit drop-down menu toward the top, but it's a little more time-consuming.

                      * Choose different sets of sequences. The second image shows the 12-key "keyboard." Clicking a key selects a different pattern, but note that the change is instantaneous: The newly-selected pattern picks up in the same place in the sequence. There's no way I can find to tell it "wait until the first sequence plays through before changing to the next sequence." I'm also surprised you can choose from "banks" of the sets of patterns as you can in Reason, but you can call up a different sequence for the drum sequencer.

                      * Groove and Simplify controls. The third image shows the Groove and Simplify controls. Of these, Simplify is the more original of the two: You can literally simplify a part by just turning the control clockwise. The Groove control can either pick up the master groove, or choose from several "canned" grooves (swing, laid back, push - what Transfuser calls "ahead" - and random). The control itself determines the influence of the groove on the pattern.
                      N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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                      • #12
                        And what about MARIO? Well, we'll cover that next, and then we'll have pretty much dealt with the drum section. Well, of course, except for any hidden stuff I haven't found yet...
                        N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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                        • #13
                          Interesting...we have over 750 page views (!), but no one has asked any questions or commented on the software. Maybe that's because I'm doing such a fabulous job But please, don't be shy if you have comments or questions!
                          N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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                          • #14
                            Craig you are doing a fabulous job!
                            Keep it coming!

                            I have a few questions:
                            Will the full version of Transfuser come with a large library? The sounds included are pretty cool and it's easy to just grab any random bunch of sounds and get something useful. I just want more!

                            Editing the steps in the drum sequencer is a bit fiddly, for example changing the pitch of a step to +1 takes quite a bit of trial and error, holding your tongue a certain way etc. Holding shift or ctrl didn't make any difference, any insight on that?

                            MARIO is awesome. not a question, I just wanted to say it.

                            Oh yeah, and in the step sequencer you can change how many steps are on each track, up to 32, including triplets and dotted if I recall correctly. Change it where it says 16 below the M and S for each drum.

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                            • #15
                              Hi Fusers,

                              My name is Wolfram Knelangen. I am the product manager at A.I.R. and I will chime in every now and then to answer your questions. If possible.

                              Thanks so far, Craig, for this thoughtful and detailed Transfuser Review - great job!



                                Hope this was helpful. Fuse on!

                                --Wolfram

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