We end our post audio month with an interview with Ableton. The flagship product from this Berlin-based company is Ableton Live. Live introduced a new approach to making music with computers on stage and in the studio that was innovative in many ways. They spoke with us about how creatives, particularly video artists, are using their products.
Most video editors use software that supports loop-based audio, like Garageband, Soundtrack Pro, Soundbooth and Audition. What makes Ableton Live different?
One of the biggest differences is in the interaction between the two Views in Live: the Session View and Arrangement View. While the Arrangement View offers the traditional “linear” or “timeline” based approach to the production workflow, the Session View allows the user to build, launch and create multiple segues and audition particular sounds and musical phrases called Clips. Live gives the user the ability to instantly record or place these Session View Clips into the Arrangement View in real time.
For many video projects I will be given only one or two royalty-free songs to use. These songs are stereo mixed and often have little variation. So I’ll bring these tracks into Live to quickly and easily modify them. What are some of the typical and nontypical ways that music is remixed in Live?
Live’s time stretching ability – called Warping – allows the user to manipulate the feel and timing of the audio, voiceover material or musical phrases to match the video content in real time. Live can also create dramatic or slight tempo changes with musical phrases while retaining the audio’s original pitch. In addition, Arrangement View offers the user not just a traditional style of editing audio for video, but also allows the ability to stretch and modify the timing of particular video segments, opening a whole new way to work with audio and video.
Many well-known musicians and music producers use Live. What video artists or video productions have used Ableton and how?
Gary Long of American Idol uses Live to cue music bumpers and voiceover segues in real time during the broadcast.
Barbara Hagan is another professional at Sony Studios who uses Live in a similar fashion on shows like Jeopardy and Wheel Of Fortune. There are also gaming composers and sound designers at Activision who use Live on a regular basis. The list goes on, as we find out about more people every day who are using Live in their video projects.
Live has a passionate and dedicated community. It reminds me a lot the evangelism surrounding ground-breaking software in the video world like Final Cut Pro. How does Ableton work with these fans to spread the word and improve the user experience?
We love our users, and realize we have jobs because of them. We’ve always been willing to hear every suggestion or complaint because we want to improve the overall experience, and we always will be willing. Users often Tweet or Facebook message us directly and usually receive a response from us within 24 hours. We also have a very active forum where enthusiasts can discuss topics amongst themselves, with Ableton moderators overseeing and sometimes interjecting while gleaning things to work on for the next Ableton update or release. We also have a great tech support phone line that is pretty quick and painless. These sorts of options create an atmosphere that is comforting in today’s world of 30+ minute holds that have become almost a standard expectation for a lot of customers seeking support. Ableton users who have good experiences in solving their problems pass on their experience to new users. Word of mouth is definitely a very powerful form of marketing.
I was really excited when Lynda.com added an Ableton course a couple of years ago. Where else can video editors go if they’re interested in learning how to use Live?
Lynda.com is great for just about anything. There are also a good amount of music production schools that offer both online and classroom courses ranging widely in subject and duration for all levels of Ableton users, including Pyramind, Dubspot, Berklee School of Music, Icon Collective, Scratch Academy, Point Blank and more.
When it comes specifically to video, though, there aren’t many entities specializing in how-to courses. This is because Ableton is primarily an audio program, with some video features to help users with their projects – but we’re not aiming to be a go-to video software program. At this time a good old fashion google search may suit best – you’ll find results for tutorials on YouTube, Synthtopia.com, KVRaudio.com, trainingtutorials101.com, and the list goes on….
As a company that was started in 1999, you’ve witnessed a lot of change in how people create and manipulate sound. How have the web, mobile technology, and other advances influenced the way Ableton approaches computer-based music making?
The company started in 1999 with the first software release in 2001. Advances in technology usually lean toward simplifying the user experience, or creating an entirely new system that is more streamlined to achieve a specific goal.
Ableton has the same desire – to allow creativity to flow as easily as possible, while retaining powerfully intuitive characteristics. So we’ve always tried to keep one goal in mind: improving our users’ experience. It’s crucial in staying relevant with today’s musicians and audio/video engineers.
What are Ableton’s biggest challenges and opportunities moving forward?
Tying this in with the previous question – being able to continue helping our users and enhancing their abilities. The biggest challenge in today’s software world is being able to keep putting out new/unique features and content while maintaining an effective and fluid workflow that is also fun and rewarding.
What question(s) do you have for video producers or video editors?
The same thing we ask of all of our users – what could we do better? What features do you want to see us develop or enhance? It may not always be within our scope, but we’ll certainly consider everyone’s desires.
Are there any new features or partnerships in the pipeline that you can talk about?
A lot of people have been asking about 64-bit for a long time. We now have a beta version of Live 8 that allows users to create in 64-bit mode. Other than that, all we can say is that we’re working very hard on the next version of Live.
Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you want to mention?
There’s a partnership we formed with Cycling74 a few years back to create a product called Max for Live, which offers the opportunity for users to get “under the hood” to create unique instruments or effects that perhaps they’ve always wished existed. This includes video-related plugins to do a multitude of tasks.*
What’s exciting is that touring artists are starting to pick up on the ability to not only control sound but also video and lighting with Ableton + Max for Live + MIDI controllers (Gotye, for example), and that it will likely soon be picked up by many more artists.
So we encourage anyone who has yet to see features they’re hoping to be implemented in Live to get creative and enter the world of Max for Live. There are a bunch of free instruments and effects already online at MaxForLive.com, which is an awesome forum for this creative community. Welcome to the world of music software 2.0!
*I asked Clint Sand aka Synnack, creator and moderator of MaxForLive.com, to make some suggestions pertaining to video and places to find tutorials. Here are his comments:
- The reason you won’t see many classes or tutorials specifically about Max for Live + video is because, really, you can do anything in Max for Live that you can do in Cycling74′s video product called Jitter. So a “video in Max for Live” tutorial is just a Jitter tutorial and there are tons of those. If you search for Jitter content you’ll likely find a ton of stuff, including classes at universities.
- As for M4L’s ability to manipulate video – I would highlight the Vizzable project. It’s a set of M4L devices that let you easily generate and manipulate video inside of Live.
- Also check out the MaxForLive.com Video Library. There are some cool and interesting examples of M4L and video there, like this crazy thing that lets you map your face to Live controls using video: