Apple recently launched Logic Studio, a brand new suite of audio-centric applications. Giorgio Ungania puts the software to the test.
Most major creative software developers such as Apple and Adobe are working towards providing clients with bundled packages whereby, through one single suite, it is possible to purchase a group of applications that were usually sold separately.
With Final Cut Studio, for instance, a user can get Final Cut Pro, Motion, Soundtrack, Compressor and so on.
The common ground is to provide a 360-degree solution that enables digital artists to work in a single environment without ever leaving the suite.
Aside from including different programmes in the same package, developers are also designing the applications to work smoothly with each other so that the digital assets can be edited and managed into a seamless workflow environment.
The previous version of Logic, Logic Pro 7, was a digital audio workstation targeting mainly music composers who needed to manage MIDI and audio in a single application.
Logic 8 is a complete reavamp of Logic. It has been placed at the very centre of Logic Studio, a bundle of applications and audio digital assets that gives users a one-stop shop for their audio production requirements.
The Bundle includes
• Logic Pro - the re engineered version of Logic, sporting brand new features and a completely redesigned user interface.
• MainStage - a brand new application for live music performance.
• Soundtrack Pro 2 - Apple's tool for audio to picture, already present in Final Cut Studio and now included in Logic Studio.
• Compressor - to export audio in all the existing codecs.
• Studio Instruments - a large library of virtual, ready-to-use plug-in instruments.
• Effect Plug Ins - A brand new series of virtual effects that support surround sound.
• Sound Library - A massive library of royalty-free audio and midi loops, samples and effects.
Let's take a closer look to all the single elements included in the bundle, starting with Man Stage, introduced for the very first time with Logic Studio.
MainStage is a music performance application that turns any Mac into a live rig.
The concept is pretty straightforward: any live performer will now have at their fingertips an enormous amount of ready-to-go sound palettes and virtual instruments they can utilise during the performances.
One of the common features now available in both MainStage and Logic Pro 8 is the template dialogue box chooser that pops up each time the application is launched.
Apple is providing the users with a large selection of starting point templates that makes it easy to get started with the application.
With MainStage, there are a large number of templates that cover a spectrum of scenarios within live performance.
There are templates for keyboard players, guitar players, drummers and so on. The main window within the application is called Stage and gives an accurate look at the nature of the patches available in the session.
The image below is a sample of a keyboard session. To the left of the Stage is the Instrument List, which gives the performer a selection of ready-to-use audio patches divided by instrument genre.
From grand pianos to electric organs and synthesisers, this list is very extensive and covers all the basic requirements of any keyboard player.
Of course the Instrument List audio patches are completely customisable and can be edited and saved at any time. What is really noticeable is that when the user switches from one sound to another, the transition between patches is seamless so there is never an interruption in the sound.
Editing the patches and creating personal sound palettes is quite intuitive and easy. In the middle of the Stage, the main parameters of the current audio patch are displayed through very large graphic knobs, sliders and pedals.
The real beauty of editing MainStage patches is that a user can literally drag and drop any virtual audio controller on the Stage.
The editing takes place in the Patch Editing Stage. Once again, there is a library of ready-to-use virtual controllers that users can include on their customised Stage to control any parameter in the patch. For instance, it takes literally a couple of seconds to add a slider to the stage and control the decay time of a delay, or add a rotary knob and control the distortion amount into an Hammond organ.
Not only is it possible to assign controls to all the parameters but the real innovation of MainStage is the configuration of any external hardware controller. For example, when the user is utilising a midi keyboard, it is possible to control any parameter through any hardware knob, slider, button or pedal.
To assign a hardware controller to a software one is extremely easy; all that is required is to highlight the virtual controller on the Stage, press a 'Map' button and touch the desired physical controller on the keyboard.
MainStage will then receive a midi message from the keyboard, and map that controller to that parameter. It takes literally minutes to pair all the main parameters of an audio patch to a keyboard layout and save it for future use.
Apart from Keyboard templates, there are guitar-oriented ones with many ready-to-use patches divided by music genre.
These patches are strongly based on Guitar Amp Pro, a software audio plug-in that simulates various popular guitar amplifiers and provide the user with a very large selection of guitar sounds, from squeaky clean to ultra distorted.
Basically, the only extra gear required for live performance is a midi pedal-board to trigger different ambient sounds and settings. A guitar player, therefore, can go to a gig carrying just a laptop and a pedal-board.
This is indeed a step forward from the old times when musicians needed to carry multiprocessors, pedal effects and amp heads to transport their favorite sound rig.
There are also templates fro midi drummers that can create their personal drum set accessing the thousands of ready-to-use samples included in the Logic Studio Bundle.
MainStage is handy for performers who need an easy-to-transport solution for their live gigs. The learning curve is really fast and it is possible to create personalised set-ups in no time.
Logic Pro 8
Logic 8 has been radically redesigned with the vision of providing the user a complete overview of the sequencers in a single window. Through Tabs and retractable panes, the browsers and menus are resident on one single desktop page.
This is similar to MainStage. When the user launches the application, they get a template chooser, which is an ideal starting point for any given audio production.
The arrange layout simply takes the most important windows of old Logic 7 and gathers them together.
On one side of the screen, it is possible to see display the event editor, audio bin, library or a browser to find files, songs and bounces.
Switching between layouts is possible with a single click of the mouse. At the bottom of the screen is an audio editor.
Here, it is possible to switch the Mixer, the Piano Roll, the Score editor and Hyper Editor.
Finally, Apple has allowed the mouse right click menu in Logic so now it is possible to access menus with a single mouse click. All effects and routings now support true surround sound including 5.1.
Ultrabeat is a new plug-in that makes percussion patterns and grooves creation very intuitive.
Its new step mode turns the mouse pointer into a groove input device that makes the building of intricate loops quick and easy.
Ultrabeat is loaded on any audio channel as a normal plug-in and its output can be routed anywhere in the virtual mixer.
Also, a new Delay Designer comes with Logic Pro and is ideal to create multi-tap delays with the option of routing each tap to a different surround output bus.
Logic Pro 8 is miles ahead of version 7 and makes multi-track recording and mixing hassle free.
This is also available in one single window and, therefore, time is not wasted in swapping and resizing windows and panes.
Soundtrack Pro 2
Soundtrack Pro 2 is the same high-end sound for picture application that comes with Final Cut Studio.
Although Logic Pro is capable of handling audio-to-video projects, SoundTrack Pro works much better when used in conjunction with FCP.
You can sample accurate edit audio to any given video as it works seamlessly with FCP. One can also re-edit the video and have the soundtrack automatically updated to the new edit decision list.
Through Compressor, one can export mixes and bounces in hundreds of different codecs and file formats.
This is useful to distribute audio to the web, DVDs and YouTube.
Jam Packs are a collection of free royalty sound and samples ready to use in Logic Pro and Soundtrack Pro 2.
There are thousands of instrument loops: foley effects, synth sounds, ethnic loops and so on. These give the music composer or sound designer a complete palette of ready-to-use elements.
To conclude, at a retail price of under US $500, Logic Studio is a very appealing audio solution for many categories of professionals.
With the bundle, you get everything you need to create cutting edge multi-track recordings and mixes.
Alternative solutions are not comparable with Logic because they come with propretary hardware while one can run Logic Studio on any Mac regardless of its audio interface.