Touchscreens are often compared to the ground-breaking – if imaginary – designs of Star Trek: The Next Generation. But Brazilian Paulo Egidio Silva must be a real Trekker. His elaborate touchscreen panel configuration really looks like the LCARS
computer system
simulated on the TV show.

Of course, that isn’t to say this isn’t a practical system. By making extensive use of the MIDI SDK for Cubase, the Dragon MIDI rig controls every element of a Cubase session, from mixing to routing to adjusting plug-in parameters. It actually has three elements:

1. A multi-screen touchscreen for selecting mix and send settings and changing routings
2. A conventional motorized control surface (the Yamaha 01V96) for mixing on real faders
3. A hybrid of screen and physical gear, by which plug-in instruments get both an interactive screen and physical encoders

If Geordi LaForge happens to be your mix engineer, you’ll be ready. Here’s my understanding of how it breaks down. (I couldn’t find additional documentation beyond the video, so Paulo, if you’re out there, we’d love to hear from you!)

Touchscreen Panel: 16-strip mixer, controlling up to 128 tracks. The idea is to use the motorized mixer for physical mixer control, but jump between and record-arm tracks, sends, and the like using the touchscreen.

Virtual patch points: An additional screen provides sends and buses and a virtual patch bay for connecting them.

Panning: A graphical display lets you select pan position – apparently stereo only for now, but surround would be an obvious application.

Windows, shortcuts, zoom, etc.: Button shortcuts along the side of the screen and zoom encoders let you easily navigate your set and zoom around.

Screen with actual physical controllers: Plug-in parameters are mapped to a screen that has physical controllers on it. You see the parameters and position on the screen, but you actually tweak a real encoder. Look about four minutes into the video — the effect is really striking.

Special Liquid Mix shortcuts: The appeal of Focusrite’s Liquid Mix is virtualizing beloved vintage gear. But these guys take it quite a few steps further, with shortcut screens decorated with photos of the real gear.

A big thanks to Primus Luta (via Twitter) for finding this!

As seen on the SOUND ON SOUND forums.

Side note: just to illustrate how incredible the fake computer displays on the 1980s Star Trek series were, the “touch displays” were originally just backlit Plexiglass. And I think that, in turn, illustrates the value of doing design in the physical world before the virtual one – if they hadn’t had to work as real-world lighting displays before being translated to virtual animations, they might not have been as distinctive. Michael Okuda, the LCARS designer, likely had no idea he would influence later thinking about how real, functional touchscreens could work.

Update: Interview, specs, photos on Paulo’s studio (translated from Portuguese)

  • http://tomdavenport.co.uk Tom Davenport

    Incredible – in particular, the dials fixed to the screen.

    Apart from the awful font and design, I really want something like this. What could it be built in, and where do we get touch screens like that?

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  • Wonder Dog

    Super kudos for the amazing integration and customization. Very, very cool.

    -10 points for using LCARS. As slick as it looked on Star Trek, LCARS is a nightmare from a design and usability point of view.

  • http://www.tweakingknobs.com TweakingKnobs

    That is fuckin awesome! I would like to have one like this, and one just with buttons in a mtrix to control live's session view.

    Yoou could then see what is in wich clip.

    Imagine if a big company would make one like this with biuttons for live ?

    sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet !

  • Diego

    I agree with both wonder dog and tom… the Screen with actual physical controllers is AWESOME.

    Major companies should look upon this, and learn.

  • http://nickshelestak.com Nick

    That is so sick.

  • Jul

    Crazy.

  • tng

    *cries*

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Wonder Dog: That's just because you're Cardassian. ;)

    In all seriousness, though, yeah, would you go for an LCARS interface now? Probably not, ideally. But look at the time. This show aired in 1987. The Mac was on System 2.x – and the Apple II still outsold it. Most people were running Commodores or DOS. So yes, whether or not it makes *this* interface more usable than other alternatives, I think the fact that that 1987 interface would be desirable over two decades later is impressive.

  • RCUS

    This is indeed the future. I'm talking 100% grade A, year 2000 shit right there. Just amazing. Granted it's probably buggy as hell but so is the novation SL stuff, which looks like it was designed in 1934 compared to this guys setup!

    Pretty sure we're looking at like Automap version 38 with that plugin controller.

    You can have that cubase setup tho. Gave me a headache just thinking about cubase again.

  • Wonder Dog

    @ Peter: I guess it is a matter of perspective. But if we're going to emulate TNG tech, why don't we aim a little higher? I'm sure being assimilated into an Orchestral Collective would bring some unique interaction advantages… :0)

    Regardless of how they dressed this interface for public consumption, touch + tangible interfaces like these are the future.

  • AlexP

    Excellent.

  • http://bricktable.wordpress.com Jordan Hochenbaum

    Like Joey Lawrence once said…whoa!

    In all seriousness though (well at least half…no but seriously, all) I have about a billion+1 ideas right now… nice work!

  • c64

    There is even talk about the Plugin Controller going into mass production with the developer at Gearslutz: http://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-much-gear-so-li

    Enough show interest might make it happen :)

  • Paulo Egidio

    Well, all of this started because we bought an bcr2000 for the studio and it sat over the desk for about an year, unused.

    Then I tought, it would be really nice to have an small lcd screen to have the labels for the encoders.

    I tried to find small lcds and realize not only that they're expensive and there's no way to attach 20 or more to a computer.

    So we design a glass, put some holes into it and attached the buttons.

    Paulo

  • Paulo Egidio

    About the LCARS:

    LCARS IMHO is a beautiful design. Another point is they're designed FOR touch screen systems. We realize that to be useful, one button should have at least an 40×40 pixel area.

    If you compare this with the standard buttons within cubase, for example, you'll get sometimes an 13×13 pixel button, like the solo and mute buttons.

    The lcd/touch screen is a fast and convenient way not only to know which 16 tracks the 01v96 is displaying at one time, but also provides several "software" buttons to press.

    In fact, we hardly click anywhere on the cubase screen anymore. When we use the mouse, if for controlling things like melodyne-style plugins thet needs extensive mouse manipulation.

    Best Regards,

    Paulo

  • frank

    old news maybe, but kind of similar. http://www.engadget.com/2008/07/16/sensesurface-s

  • David

    Hey Paulo!

    Fantastic setup, I just wanted to ask what make of LCD touch screen you use? did you buy a touch screen or did you build it? is it multitouch?

    I'm looking for a good cheap touchscreen for a setup for ableton live I have been building!

    Cheers!

  • Paulo Egidio

    You're looking for a product called Magic touch. It is perfect if you already have the lcd.

    Paulo

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