Recording

Emagic Logic Audio Platinum: INTEGRATED MIDI/DIGITAL AUDIO PRODUCTION SYSTEM

With the increasing power of personal computers and development of digital audio workstations, several feature-packed programs have been developed to

With the increasing power of personal computers and development of digital audio workstations, several feature-packed programs have been developed to integrate MIDI and digital audio seamlessly into a multipurpose production application.

Logic Audio Platinum is the highest-tiered configuration of Emagic's four Logic MIDI/audio software applications (the others are Logic Audio Gold, Logic Audio Silver and Micro Logic AV), and it is a very powerful option among the wide variety of sequencers on the market. The program combines MIDI sequencing, editing and scoring with digital audio workstation features at an extremely high level of resolution and control. From its humble beginnings on the Atari to its current state in the Mac and Windows universe, Logic has been an innovative player in the battle between MIDI/digital audio sequencers. The current software (Version 3.6 as of this writing) is full of features that can be harnessed for use in a variety of production environments.

OVERVIEWIn the MIDI realm, Logic offers 960ppq resolution and impeccable timing. The resolution is there, and the timing is even tighter when Logic is used in conjunction with Emagic's Unitor 8 MIDI interface. Emagic has developed a proprietary system called Active MIDI Timing (AMT) for moving MIDI data between Logic and the Unitor 8. I did an A/B comparison between the Unitor 8 and my existing interface, and the difference was substantial; a downside to the Unitor 8 is the lack of word clock (although VITC is supported). This wasn't an issue in my setup, but it's definitely a consideration for some production environments.

Logic supports the myriad of sync options available today and has a Tap Tempo feature for programming real-time tempo parameters on-the-fly. Tempo data are non-MIDI, meta-level events that can be edited in a variety of ways.

The software supports a wide range of cards, including Emagic's own multiplatform PCI card-the Audiowerk 8-designed to dovetail with Logic Audio. For this review, I used a Digidesign Pro Tools|24 Mix Plus setup, and I had no problem configuring Logic for use with the Digidesign hardware.

One of the strongest points of Logic is the Screenset feature. This allows you to define up to 90 custom screenset configurations that can be recalled via the number keypad. So, for example, if you have a set of tools that you use for one task set up in one screenset and you want to jump to another screenset for a different task, you can quickly switch between the two with the touch of a key. The variety of configuration options in Logic makes the Screenset function a welcome necessity for users who want to become facile in using the program. In addition to the Screenset function, the majority of Logic's numerous mouse-based functions can be executed via custom key commands; integrating the screenset function, these key commands allow you to substantially speed up your work flow.

Another important concept to consider when choosing an application is the ability for windows to update graphic information in real time as it is selected or edited within a separate window or editor. This is done via the Link, Show Contents and Contents Catch buttons that are found on windows. You can define these display options for every window that bears relation to the window where you are going to make selections or edits.

BASIC PROGRAM LAYOUTThe main window of Logic is the Arrange window, where MIDI and audio information is recorded, displayed and played back on horizontal tracks. Tracks can be individually muted, soloed or scrubbed. Each track is played through a MIDI or audio "Instrument," and each Instrument's settings can be controlled via the Instrument Parameter Box in the bottom left corner. Instrument parameter settings such as MIDI patch, volume and pan information can be sent to devices when loading a song. Other parameters include transposition, velocity limiting/expansion, note range adjustment and delay.

Individual MIDI sequences and audio information are represented graphically and can be controlled via the Sequence Parameter Box in the upper left corner. MIDI parameters, including quantization, transposition, velocity treatment and delay, can be changed on-the-fly and are non-destructive-an extremely useful feature. I've had more than a few clients wax rhapsodic about the joys of adjusting quantization factors during playback in real time. A Loop On/Off switch in the parameter window that allows you to loop a MIDI sequence or audio region without having to make multiple copies is very cool. Once you have tweaked your tracks to where you want them, any parameter changes set in the Sequence Parameter box can be transformed into permanent MIDI data via the Normalize function; sequences can also be graphically edited.

The Transport Window controls and displays the recording, playback and location functions. Multiple variations (such as SMPTE clock display, Bar/Beat display) can be configured, and multiple windows can be displayed at the same time. The transport window can be expanded to a very large size, allowing for easy viewing from across the room-a feature that is especially appreciated by one of my visually challenged clients.

Switches on the main transport window also allow you access to Logic's Cycle mode, which is the program's loop playback function, and Autodrop, the program's record punch-in locator. Cycle and Autodrop location points can be entered numerically via the keyboard, or graphically via the mouse. Other buttons include record, pause, play, rewind/forward, solo/solo lock, metronome and replace (for punching in audio and MIDI).

Logic also lets you create and store Markers that can be viewed and accessed in the arrange window and its own window list. Marker points can be displayed as bars/beats or as SMPTE addresses (with the ability to be time locked). The Markers are helpful when used in conjunction with Cycle mode to set up various in and out points for quick location within a song; it would be nice, however, if Logic allowed you to store Autodrop points within Marker points so that preset punch in points can be called up without having to input them manually.

For quick mixing of audio and MIDI information, the Adaptive Mixer is a condensed mixer based on all tracks that are visible in the Arrange window. The Adaptive Mixer is ultimately designed to make using the Environment (see below) easier and is available via menu selection or key command.

QUANTIZATION/GROOVEThe MIDI quantization options within Logic are quite extensive. Sixteenth-, eighth-, half- and whole-note quantization parameters with a range of swing variations are available, as well as a number of -tuplet options. An Extended Sequence Parameter box that allows you to apply additional quantization parameters is available for those hard-core quantization tweak heads. The Q Strength parameter is especially helpful for finding a balance between quantized and non-quantized events. I found this to work really well with adjusting swing quantization factors. Custom quantization groove templates can be created from MIDI data or audio based drum loops, and you can import third-party groove templates (such as DNA Grooves). All in all, Logic covers every MIDI quantization need or desire one could possibly think of, all in real time.

EDITING OPTIONSThroughout various windows in Logic, MIDI and audio can be edited using HyperDraw editors. HyperDraw is a graphic editor based on MIDI controller data, so volume control is going to be controller number 7, whether you're dealing with audio or MIDI information. The graphic representation consists of plot points connected by lines.

The Event List can be used to make precise adjustments to recorded data when the graphic display of other editors is not suited to the task; it is the only editor that provides access to all recorded event data (including program-specific non-MIDI META events). You can also restrict what you see and edit to specific event types-useful, for example, if you want to zero in on a specific MIDI controller number without wading through a sea of pitch-bend data. MIDI events can also be added and subsequently edited, and SysEx editing capabilities are available.

The Hyper Editor (not to be confused with HyperDraw mentioned above) is a graphic editor well-suited for editing drum sequences and controller data. Data types within MIDI sequences have their own graphic representation and can be adjusted with various tools via the mouse. Custom setups called Hypersets can be configured, saved and called up for use in carrying out specific tasks. Any quantization can be applied graphically within the Hyper Editor.

The Matrix Editor edits note events in a piano roll-type graphical interface environment. Existing notes can be edited or notes can be added to the sequence. Controller data can be edited via a HyperDraw display.

The Score Window allows users to work with traditional music notation in dealing with MIDI information. Input, editing, copying or deleting of MIDI events and changing their musical position can be done directly in the Score Window. In addition, the Score Editor is used to produce printed music. Sequencing and preparing music for printout are closely related in Logic. Recorded MIDI notes are immediately displayed in the score, and notes that are inserted with the mouse on the screen or changes of already existing notes can be played back in real time.

THE ENVIRONMENTThe part of Logic that can send shivers down the spines of new users and seasoned veterans alike is the Environment. At first glance, understanding the Environment may appear to be the technical equivalent of decoding the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, configuring the environment to work in a basic MIDI setup is actually quite easy, and diving in and learning the concept of the Environment's form and functionality allows the depth of possibilities to become clear. The Environment is a powerful but elegant tool that allows you to customize your setup while providing scalability for a high degree of flexibility.

The idea behind the Environment is based on object-oriented programming-you use "objects" to create a virtual representation of every device in your MIDI and Audio setup. Some objects, such as MIDI instruments and faders, address your real devices (hardware-based synthesizers and DAW I/Os, for example). Other objects can have specialized functions, such as effect modules, routing switchers or MIDI data tranformers. All objects within the Environment are connectable via virtual cables, allowing you to control the signal path of your particular setup, and most objects have a set of parameters that allow for tweaking of the highest order. Environments can be set up in different display levels (layers), and objects from different layers can be interconnected.

The different types of objects in Logic, multiplied by the sheer number of addressable parameters, allow for infinite possibilities. A substantial number of users have developed some pretty sophisticated Environments over the years-everything from custom sysex-based synth editors to drum machine emulators. A few of these are included on the installer CD, and many more are downloadable from Emagic's Web site. The complex nature of the Environment can increase the steepness of the learning curve, even for the avid manual reader. There is even a third-party tutorial book available for learning the intricacies of the Environment. The bottom line on the Environment is scalability: From the very simple to the highly intricate, both ends of the spectrum can be explored for your working setup.

AUDIO FUNCTIONALITYLogic works with a plethora of audio cards on both Mac and Windows (non-NT) platforms. The program supports Steinberg's ASIO, Lexicon and MOTU 2408 I/O formats, most Digidesign hardware, as well as Audiosuite, Premiere and VST-based plug-ins on the Macintosh, and DirectX on PC. Logic works very efficiently-even with a high track count putting a load on the CPU-when utilizing the Apple Sound Manager. A colleague of mine brought his G3 laptop to the studio to play a song that had 32 audio tracks with a fair amount of VST plug-in activity going on. Logic just hummed along without even a hiccup. Not bad for a program using the Apple Sound Manager as a bus.Logic dovetails nicely with Digi-design's Pro Tools|24 hardware, and I've yet to run into any hardware incompatibilities at all-very important when working with clients who aren't happy with too many bumps in the road! TDM-based plug-ins are supported, as is the 64-track feature that is available to Pro Tools|24 Mix users. One plus as far as plug-ins go-Logic can have multiple plug-ins open at once, which is helpful when you have tracks with a number of effects needing to be tweaked.

The recording, busing and playback signal path is controlled within an audio Environment layer via faders, with aux sends and plug-in inserts easily accessible. Another feature is the Audio Configuration window, a matrix window that allows you to edit signal path routing for all of your audio objects without having to jump to the respective faders. This is helpful in large systems (i.e. 64 tracks with numerous aux groups).

Mixer automation is one area that could be enhanced. Recording and keeping track of fader information is confusing and inconsistent. It took me a while to factor the quirky automation into my working style, and unpredictable fader behavior would occasionally occur. Also, since Logic's automation is based on MIDI controller data, the smoothness that is necessary for some mixing situations just isn't there. TDM plug-in settings were often lost when reloading previously saved songs. Enhanced automation would be a welcome addition to a future release.

Working with audio files is very straightforward and, in fact, one of the more intuitive aspects of the program. The graphic overviews of the audio files are displayed in the Audio Window where any number of region start and end points can be defined. Regions can be defined as any segment of an audio file, ranging from one sample to the entire file. Once a region is defined, it can be dragged from the audio window to anywhere in the Arrange Window.

Information about the regions, such as length (in sample, bars/beat, SMPTE or minute/second increments), size and even file location can be displayed. Logic also allows you to time-stamp audio files-extremely useful for exporting projects to a Pro Tools session.

Double-clicking on a region brings up the main editing window with extensive editing features. Region start and end points can be tweaked. As is the case when dealing with MIDI data, audio regions can be tweaked in real time during sequencer playback-even when carrying out destructive edits. This makes adjusting loops within the context of a song a breeze. The edit resolution is zoomable down to the sample and the region can be viewed in bars/beats, SMPTE, samples or minutes/seconds increments. Editing options within the window include fade in/out, gain change, phase inversion, silence and DC offset removal.

Logic's Digital Factory function, accessible from within the region edit window, offers some cool effects: The Time and Pitch Machine, which gets an A+ in the Cool GUI Category, allows you to tweak pitch and tempo via an intuitive and easy-to-use interface. Other tools include the Groove Machine, which is a requantization tool for audio files, and the Energizer, which is an exciter type of destructive effect. Tools for extracting groove templates from loops are option-packed and very effective.

Logic's Fade Tool is by far the most intuitive and easiest way to crossfade digital audio that I've ever used. Fades and crossfades are "painted" between audio regions in the arrange window, using the mouse; fade curves can then be selected and tweaked numerically in a parameter box during sequencer playback. It's that simple.

THE BOTTOM LINETo touch on all of the available features in a written review of Logic could easily fill a lot more space than I have here. The bottom line: Emagic has managed to combine MIDI and digital audio into a very powerful package that can be customized to suit many different working styles and production environments. The timing and resolution within the program form the basis for a smooth and very musical working environment.

There is a potential for people to be frightened by the learning curve, but this should be expected from any program with the depth of features that Logic has to offer. At the basic level, configuring the program is relatively simple. If your goal is to become a power user, judicious time allotted to learning the deeper intricacies of the program will reap exponential rewards in productivity and creativity.

Special thanks to Mark Pappakostas at Digidesign for his assistance.

Emagic, U.S. offices: 13348 Grass Valley, Building C Suite 100, Grass Valley, CA 95945. Phone 530/477-1051; fax 530/477-1052. Web site: www. emagic.de.

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