Yes, Slate as in Steven Slate. As in Slate Pro Audio. As in Slate Digital. But mostly commonly, Slate – has announced RAVEN 2.0. For those not familiar with the original idea, Raven is the touch screen control on a large screen, relative to the size of a large format console. Add Pro Tools DAW integration and we have the gist of RAVEN.
As history has shown us, whole digit updates always imply some significant improvements over the previous version of a piece of software or hardware. So what gives with the 2.0? For starters, their new Batch Command System takes touch control workflow to the next level.
Some of the best audio engineers out there take the time to memorize key commands in order to increase productivity of a session – We want results! But regardless of anyone’s experience in a DAW, workflow is something that people want to be quick and painless. That’s where the Batch Command System comes in. There are common processes that every recording session will contain including a headphone mix, track naming, etc. With RAVEN 2.0, users can use the Batch Command System to complete these processes in a fraction of the time.
Want some numbers to back it up? According to Slate, Batch Command System are single buttons that can execute up to 1,000 key commands, mouse clicks, and menu selections.
With just a few finger swipes, touch screen DAW control seems to finally be finding its niche among our world.
RAVEN 2.0 will be available June 27, 2014, and will be a free update for all RAVEN users.
Be sure to watch the full video from Slate for RAVEN 2.0, and see it in action:
Let’s get small(er)!
Slate got things started in touchscreen consoles with their flagship Raven MTX, which ranges from $15,999 to $17,499 in cost. The company has now made their touchscreen console tech more accessible with the Raven MTi – their newest touchscreen console offers a smaller 27” display that allows control over any parameter within a user’s DAW including many other user-customizable options.
The Raven MTi will ship with Mac OSX compatibility with PC support to be added in the near future with a simple software update. ProTools 10 and 11 is currently supported with all other major DAWs and video editors like Logic, Cubase/Nuendo, Ableton Live, Final Cut Pro, and Adobe Premiere available later this year.
Here are more touching details from Slate Media Technology and Guitar Center:
Slate Raven MTi
Guitar Center is proud to offer the Slate Media Technology RAVEN MTi Multi-Touch mixer/controller. You’ve never experienced anything like it, with its state-of-the-art touchscreen display featuring the RAVEN Mixer, and powerful control capabilities for all major DAWs.
The RAVEN MTi puts your DAW at your fingertips and allows your creativity to flow. The lightning-fast virtual control surface, running user-customizable RAVEN software, lets you follow your instincts with nothing in the way.
Other controllers and consoles are what they are-from the day you buy them, to the day you retire them. The Slate Media Technology RAVEN virtual control surface will always adapt and evolve to offer the quickest and most intuitive workflow in your studio. The RAVEN MTi removes all obstacles between you and your DAW.
THE MULTI-TOUCH DISPLAY
Slate Media Technology built the RAVEN touch display from the ground up using new and cutting-edge touchscreen technologies. It’s more than just a 27″ touchscreen display—as if that weren’t enough. It’s sharp, bright, looks great at any angle, and is incredibly responsive. With its NanoGlide™ surface, the RAVEN is even smoother than your favorite tablet.
- RAVEN’s NanoGlide™ surface provides previously unheard of resolution and smoothness to capture the finest, most subtle mix moves with total accuracy.
- The RAVEN Toolbar, living at the bottom of the screen, gives you instant access to all the important functions of your DAW software.
- Routing, bussing, soloing, automation, channel assignments, plug-in parameter editing, plus, of course, faders and panning-it’s all right there in the RAVEN Mixer, configured perfectly to your DAW.
THE RAVEN MIXER
The RAVEN makes your DAW a multitouch control surface, providing complete access to faders, pans, mutes, solos, sends, automation, and even plug-in inserts, all immediately at your fingertips. A customizable interface employing intuitive multi-touch gestures will have you moving effortlessly through your sessions.
The future is Wow.
The arrival of Slate’s eagerly anticipated next-generation audio console is a good development for producers, engineers, mixers, and audio post pros, who can finally start experiencing one in a studio instead of a trade show floor.
RAVEN MTX’s will be available for hands-on demos at select GC Pro stores, which are the exclusive US dealers for the console. Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Dallas, Washington D.C., Nashville, Miami and Chicago will all play host to one. MSRP for the RAVEN MTX is $15,999 for the stereo version, and $17,499 for the surround version.
For a limited period of time, the Surround version of RAVEN MTX will include the Penteo 3 Touch Stereo-to-5.1 Surround Plug-in, the world’s first multi-touch plug-in for the Raven MTX which transforms any stereo recording, soundtrack, DJ mix or live television broadcast into surround sound. As a result, the RAVEN MTX’s usefulness in audio post gets a solid acceleration.
See how the RAVEN MTX was conceived and designed in this recent SonicScoop article.
The RAVEN MTX Multi-Touch Production Console combines a state-of-the-art multi-touch display, feature-rich multi-touch DAW control software, and a world-class analog monitor section.
The console features a 46-inch touchscreen that provides direct touch access to every aspect of the production process, from recording, editing, plugin control, MIDI composition, and final mixing.
Meanwhile, the console’s RAVEN MIXER software is a powerful multi-touch mixer that can control all major DAW’s, and the RAVEN TOOLBAR provides intuitive control familiar to slick mobile computing devices.
According to Slate the console facilitates quick navigation through any virtual production environment. Raven’s high-quality digitally-controlled analog monitoring section delivers multiple inputs and outputs, plug-and-play integration with digital audio interfaces and multichannel artist cue mix systems, 7.1 surround capability, and on-board Laptop Reference speakers.
The RAVENS are landing.
When Slate Pro Audio’s RAVEN MTX multitouch production console started appearing at trade shows, the WOW factor was through the roof. People saw something they had never experienced before, or even dared to seriously consider.
On exhibit: A giant touch screen display featuring a powerful multitouch mixer (the RAVEN MIXER) that can control all major DAW’s, along with a flexible and user-customizable, multifunction toolbar. A full-featured analog monitoring section with multiple speaker outs and input sources, smart phone connectivity, USB, multiple headphone send and cue options, and a lot more were part of the package.
The result is a console vastly different from any other control surface out there. And now that they’re becoming available, early-adopting pros are installing RAVENS into their studios and going to work with them.
As captivating as the RAVEN is, its beauty is not just skin-deep. SonicScoop found out just how intensive its story — and philosophy — is when we talked to Slate Pro Audio’s VP of Creative Operations Alex Oana, the Co-Designer and Product Manager for RAVEN.
Working together with Steven Slate and the company’s dedicated team, Oana experienced first-hand the inspiration, intensive problem-solving, and hard work required for this hyper-ambitious fantasy to became an audio reality. Here’s the way it went down:
Starting from the 10,000-ft. view, how does Slate decide what new products – hardware and/or software – to develop?
Most of the time product development at Slate begins with Steven asking himself, “What do I need?”
In the case of the RAVEN he had been working on a monitor controller he wanted for his studio when we met. I suggested to Steven that a studio hardware product like that should be built around the DAW. Steven kept saying, “Let’s make it bigger, like a console” and I kept throwing in features like integrated USB, iPhone dock and laptop reference speakers which led to him hiring me!
We took our non-multitouch RAVEN X1, a huge confusing console that made no sense, to NAMM 2012.
Out of frustration I said to Steven, “We claim to be innovative, but this [Raven X1] isn’t innovative at all. What would be innovative is if we made the Raven a giant touch screen so you can touch your DAW directly.”
Three things separate Steven Slate from other developers:
1) He can’t let a good idea go,
2) He won’t rest until he sees an idea through, and
3) It has to be perfect.
My little multitouch idea that I had been dreaming of since I first started working with Pro Tools in the late 1990s started our journey along the “bleeding edge.” After 18 months of blood sweat and tears we know first-hand what that term truly means.
From there, what made the RAVEN a priority for Slate to develop?
DAWs are amazing. As advanced and miraculous DAWs are, there’s been no intuitive way to interact with them. Before RAVEN, working with a DAW was like trying to play a guitar with a trackball.
We looked around and it just seemed like everybody who should be making multitouch hardware and software was just sleeping. We really wanted the RAVEN for ourselves because using a keyboard and mouse to create music sucks and it’s not healthy. My elbow, wrist and hands were killing me!
When we debuted the prototype RAVEN at AES 2012 we knew one of two things would happen – we’d be the laughingstock or people would flip out. Luckily people flipped out.
Steven said that Slate wanted to “respect the console heritage” in creating the RAVEN. What does that mean from an ergonomic, creative and sonic standpoint?
Think of a wraparound Helios console from the 1970s. It was designed to place every control the engineer would need within easy reach. As studio tools expanded the consoles got bigger, racks of outboard sprung up behind and to the sides, making it impossible for the engineer to work in the sweet spot.
Now all those tools, minus the microphones and converters, exist inside your computer and DAW. The RAVEN makes accessing these infinite tools intuitive and direct, like it was when you could reach out and touch your console and your outboard gear.
At Slate we firmly believe in the virtues of virtual. Virtual replications of console, tape, and stereo bus compressors…. All sounding great, vastly more affordable, instantly recallable, and facilitating collaboration.
What was the initial vision for RAVEN – what did you see as the big creative/technical opportunities that would result from a multitouch production console for Pro Tools?
It seems so simple: to touch what you see. Doesn’t that just make sense? That’s where it started. Talented software engineers and graphic designers create gorgeous, infinitely adaptable, virtual landscapes within the pixels of the computer display. Steven and I just wanted a way to reach into that world.
The RAVEN is compatible with every major DAW and will initially ship with Pro Tools control – Logic and others soon to follow. No matter what DAW you use, you’ve been handicapped trying to access all its features by dragging a mouse pointer from one place on the screen to another.
Right out of the gate, RAVEN’s multitouch mixer and user-customizable controls are simultaneously familiar and innovative. Yet we are at the dawn of what is possible in multitouch interaction with software. I have so many ideas I want to do – ideas that will make working with audio, and other creative fields for that matter, more intuitive and fun.
Now think again about this gorgeous virtual world I talked about. Most of those graphic user interface (GUI) design methodologies are based on physical, analog hardware ergonomics. We will make the transition to a virtual mindset – create new ways of interacting with our software, sculpting sound with our hands… Sky’s the limit.
Conversely, what did you identify as the most significant challenges you would face in realizing that vision?
It’s crazy that Apple OSX, made by the same people who popularized handheld multitouch hardware, is not inherently multitouch.
We are using every trick in the book – and many new ones invented by our programing team – to create a seamless multitouch experience.
Please describe the major stages of the design process – what had to happen in order for the RAVEN to move from concept to prototype to finished product?
Finding the right collaborators
Trial and error
Overwhelming public reaction
A kick ass team
A market hungry for innovation
Of all those stages, which proved the most complex to complete? Why?
Oddly enough, the digitally-controlled analog circuitry and the physical console itself were by far the most difficult. Building prototypes, making revisions, building more prototypes… hardware is hard. Software just seems easier and more fun to develop.
All aspects of the RAVEN were thoroughly researched. For instance, getting the right glide for the touch glass required a lot of trial and error.
Did you have any difficulties in making RAVEN interface cleanly with Pro Tools itself?
We didn’t know if any of it would work. There were dozens of conversations in which Steven and I would ask our lead programmer, “Can we ______?” His response was often, “I’m not sure. I think so. Let me find out.” Sometimes we’d hit a brick wall and figure out a work-around. Most of the time he did figure it out, sometimes easily and sometimes with a significant amount of voodoo.
We were pinching ourselves and making little cellphone videos the first time we had multitouch control running on Mac OS. It was, and still is, a world first. It was like magic. A moment of awe. We felt like pioneers.
Are all Pro Tools-compatible plugins ready to go on RAVEN? What makes a plugin optimized for this workflow?
You can touch any plugin with single touch via the RAVEN, but some plugins are easier to touch than others because of the way the GUI is designed.
Plugins are now being developed for multitouch with larger controls, knobs you can turn – the plugin itself will be able to detect whether it’s running on a RAVEN and automatically kick-in the multitouch functionality.
What were some surprises along the way that you learned about human interface design, specifically, as you built the RAVEN?
We thought the correct angle for the RAVEN was going to be low, like a console. That might make sense if we were doing just faders, but because the RAVEN is also the main computer display, we realized a more present 40° angle was essential for good posture and easy viewing and reach.
We built a funny wooden table to hold one of our early touch displays at various angles. We still have it out back somewhere – dusty and rained on. It can be tilted from flat to about 45°. All the guys at Slate sat at this mockup table and worked with various DAWs, changing the angle. The 40° angle was the winner.
Looking at the console, we were worried about the acoustics implications of this relatively steeply angled, large glass surface which encountered skepticism at the 2012 AES debut. Among the skeptics was renowned acoustician and studio designer Wes Lachot. But Wes didn’t just criticize, he did his homework. Back at his design studio, Wes input the RAVEN’s dimensions into his acoustic modeling software and delivered this surprising result:
“The good news about your [RAVEN] console design: The 40° angle precludes the comb filtering effect of a typical console. That’s something you can advertise – that’s a cool thing.” – Wes Lachot, November 2012
Is the RAVEN meant to replace the console, or simply complement it? What are the different scenarios that you can see it being implemented in studios, either personal or world-class commercial facilities?
There was a time when people couldn’t imagine making world-class records without consoles, tape machines, or outboard gear. Now listen to what we do, 100% inside the computer.
The RAVEN is simply a more direct path into your computer. And unlike a hardware console or controller, it’s near-infinitely adaptable. Remember the first few times you dialed phone numbers on your iPhone. It took a minute to get used to. Now it’s faster and just makes more sense than clunky physical buttons.
The RAVEN is designed to be at home in any studio scenario: tracking, overdubbing, editing, ADR, post production, mixing…
Who do you see as being early adopters of the RAVEN? And what type user do you think will need some convincing?
It’s not surprising that very successful musical artists, engineers, and audio producers are innovative in their techniques, their creative vision, and in their hunger for new tools to help them create and/or improve their workflow.
Some of our first RAVEN customers are these types of people – household name recording artists and top industry pros. It won’t be long before word gets out who has RAVENs.
I want to talk about that word “workflow” for a minute. It’s so unromantic. But it’s important because if you have good workflow you spend less time working and more time creating. That’s a major point of the RAVEN.
The RAVEN will appeal to anyone who finds a computer display and a mouse pointer a limited means for creating their art. Like any new technology, there are leaders and there are the people who have to wait and see. The RAVEN’s multitouch technology is inevitable – it’s no longer a matter of “if,” it’s “when.”
I take it you’re getting plenty of feedback from people at trade shows and private demos. How are you deciding what to incorporate ASAP, versus putting on the list to do later?
The funny thing is, just being able to touch your computer directly is revolutionary. Opening that door is worth the price of admission. The fact that we also created the world’s first multitouch mixer to run on Mac OSX and a flexible set of tools for interacting with your DAW is almost like icing on the cake.
Though the RAVEN multitouch software is already fairly comprehensive to the functionality of the DAW environment, we are just scratching the surface of what we can do with multitouch interaction with our audio and music creation software.
As a large-format mixing console and DAW controller the RAVEN is unlike any that have come before it because the RAVEN software can adapt and evolve along with ever-changing DAW software or whatever application you’re running. That’s a huge benefit to RAVEN customers. Sure, it will keep us on our toes, but that’s what Slate is all about.
Lastly, what’s the Big Lesson you learned from the process of creating the RAVEN – put another way, what advice would you give to someone thinking of designing an ambitious new controller for tracking, mixing and/or editing?
Don’t do it – it’s too hard. Just kidding. Learn the developer’s rule: There’s quality, cost, and speed. Pick two.
- Alex Oana, Slate Pro Audio VP Creative Operations, RAVEN Co-Designer, Product Manager