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Topic: I want my AI Knob/Speed Dial in Cubase

In this thread (http://frontierdesign.com/forums/topic/ … -promised/) I have posted several feature requests including an AI-Knob/Speed Dial (a dedicated encoder changes the parameter the mouse pointer is hovering over). According to the answer from Frontier it is quite unlikely that we see this feature in the Alphatrack.

Since I really want an AI Knob I tried to help myself. One solution may be

1. Buy a Novation Nocturn
pros:
- can also control instruments plug-ins (the alphatrack can not be used here!)
- complete freedom of configuration
- autolearn
- with automap it works with every plug-in
- has a Speed Dial

cons:
- wrapping your plug-ins with a specific DLL, may ruin your presets
- price (100 Euro), the sum of alphatrack and nocturn nearly equals the CC121

so after some searching I found the perfect match for the Alphatrack, the Griffin Powermate. It can be configured as a standalone AI-Knob by assigning a Mousewheel to the knob. Additionally you can configure a single press (mouseclick) Press-and-turn (e.g. scroll) and long klick. So I have ordered one and I will share my results here
pros:
- freely configurable
- AI-Knob for any type of plug-in
- can be used for all kinds of programs
cons:
- price (40 Euro)
- no Midi output, but I come to this later

Since I am an engineer I try now to find some costfree workarounds.

3. Use an old USB mouse, rip it apart and try to construct a vertical axis for the Mousewheel.

pros:
- cheap
cons:
- too much work, so I ordered a Powermate

4. Try to re-assign the encoders of the Alphatrack. Since there is no support to be expected by Frontier, I again searched the internet. My idea is to insert an intermediate Midi-Port from which I can extract and change the Midi Messages before they are routed to Cubase.

4.a) I found the following Programm which seems to be able to do this: Bome Midi Translator (http://www.bome.com/midi/translator/). With the Pro version you can translate Midi-Messages to Mouse Movements and it inserts itself between a Midi-Output and an application. There is a trial available, and on the weekend I will give it a try. Also it can be used together with the Powermate for a do-it-yourself midi controller!

pros:
- flexible configuration
cons:
- price (59 Euro), Powermate is cheaper
- additional software needed, in between midi processing

4.b) There seems to be a free-of charge solution with glovepie (http://carl.kenner.googlepages.com/) and MidiYoke (http://www.midiox.com). Glovepie can take multiple controllers ranging from keyboards over joysticks to wiimote including Midi and convert them to each other. With Midiyoke you can configure a virtual Midi port. So you can direct alphatrack Midi-out to glovepie, extract a mousemove out of an encoder turn and forward the remaining midi to the Midiyoke port. In cubase use midiyoke as the input for alphatrack. I have not tested this, but it is an idea. Again it may also work with the Powermate.

pros:
- free of charge
cons:
- complex
- lack of documentation

5. There seems to be a way to work on the Cubase xml files to change the assignment of the encoders of the Alphatrack. Unfortunately I did not find any documentaton on this. In a german homerecording forum a member posted that he has changed the encoder functionality in Cubase by xml editing. Perhaps Frontier is so  kind to provide more information about this? But you can not get the AI-Knob/Speed Dial by this, but at least you gain the flexibility Frontier is not willing to support.

A final word to Frontier. You should get your things together and provide your customers with a more intelligent and flexible solution. Being able to configure a handful of buttons and the whole rest is fixed is a joke! The competition is not sleeping.
When I look at the automation pane of Alphatrack I see that you are wasting three turn encoders just for On/Off purposes (R/W automation global/track). Imagine what you can do if you provide here a user configuration/autolearn option for the three encoders including AI knob/speed dial and a mapping to keystrokes/mouse moves! You may use the knobs for zooming, horizontal/vertical scroll, asiign any plug-in function, and so on.
But when I reconsider your answer to the feature requests I am not that confident that you listen to us.

So please everyone who wants to have more flexibility with Alphatrack should raise his hand in this thread.

Cheers
Digi

Last edited by digi (2009-04-24 08:07:09)

Re: I want my AI Knob/Speed Dial in Cubase

As promised I give you an update about my efforts.

1. I installed Bome Midi Translator and tried to configure the middle rotary encoder in the automation pane.
Good news, you can gain full control over the Alphatrack with Bome Midi Translator.
Bad News, it does not work in parallel with the Cubase Plug-In DLL. So you have to program the whole Alphatrack functionality by hand. And I have not figured out how to receive track and plug-in text information from Cubase. But if you want to program your own surface for your DAW or for other programs like Office, Winamp and so on, Bome Midi Translator works and comes with a handy template for the Alphatrack. But for my efforts to have an AI knob this is a dead-end-street. For this reason I will not put any effort in reprogramming the Alphatrack. An interesting result was that I found out more about the way the Alphatrack works. Each button, even the shift and the pane buttons (PAN, SEND, EQ, PLUG-IN, AUTO) send out their own midi CC code. The code of the encoders does not change. Therefore the plug-in DLL has all the “intelligence” to translate the midi code and to maintain shift and pane states. I can now imagine one additional way how to come to an AI-knob. The midi code of an encoder, when a certain pane is selected, may be translated to an appropriate wm-message (e.g. mouse move or scroll) towards the host application.

2. On Saturday I received my Griffin Powermate, and it worked like a charm. Installation was easy, I assigned scroll-up/down to the turn of the knob, and additionally keystroke G and H to a pressed turn so I can zoom in and out in Cubase.
It works so well that I am thinking of returning my Alphatrack, because the Powermate is at least for me the more natural way to work. I hover with the mouse over an arbitrary parameter, say volume, pan or an EQ, and with my left hand I can immediately control the value with no clicks. This also worked for most plug-ins.

My conclusion after a weekend recording session:
The Alphatrack works so-so. There are too many clicks (and they sound like clicks due to the loud buttons) necessary for controlling a function. E.g. I want to change the Q value of the high band Eq of a given track. First I must change to the track by clicking several times on track > or track <, then click on EQ. Then I have to click three times on F2 until the encoders show the correct assignment. I will not talk about how to control a plug-in! With the Powermate and the mouse I click on “e” on the desired track on the mixer, hover the mouse over the desired parameter, and I can immediately control the Q-value. Only one click! And I can control Instrument plug-ins in the same way while there is no possibility for this with the Alphatrack. On the recording session I used the Alphatrack mostly for setting markers, for controlling the song position and to enable record on/off.  So I stayed on the PAN pane only. But the advantage over using the keyboard is not that huge to justify 220 Euros.

Cheers
Digi

Last edited by digi (2009-04-27 02:21:10)