Start with any creation, and touch it right away from the iPad, with Max (or Max for Live). Photo courtesy Cycling '74.

Start with any creation, and touch it right away from the iPad, with Max (or Max for Live). Photo courtesy Cycling ’74.

I heard David Zicarelli once describe Max as a blank sheet of paper – a canvas on which you can imagine any musical creation. Until now, though, there’s been no way to touch those creations directly – other than with a mouse.

Mira is a lovely solution to that idea. As users “patch,” visually creating tools in Max, objects that impact user interface interaction (knobs, faders, buttons, musical keyboards and the like) are visible both on your computer screen and on your iPad. You even can add images, new objects for multitouch and motion, text, and images. And you can create tabbed interfaces, in case your patch has a lot of different options.

The app works with Max for Live, too.

For those of us who have spent ages testing patches clumsily with the mouse, the potential is simply lovely. An iPad becomes an easel through which you can play your patches like an instrument.

Mira costs US$49.99, so priced at the same rate as Lemur. That does mean that you might want to consider Lemur if you aren’t exclusively working with Max for control. Lemur offers interactive scripting and unique objects and physics possibilities that aren’t yet in Mira. On the other hand, the Lemur workflow generally requires a lot more time and effort – you must manually attach parameters in a patch to controllers. Generally, it asks the user to think about the controller and patch separately. (That might actually appeal to some, while it doesn’t work for others.)

The iPad serves as a remote control for Max patches, supporting a range of UI objects - including new ones created for touch and motion. (Those lack some of the fancier physics features found in Lemur, at least so far.)

The iPad serves as a remote control for Max patches, supporting a range of UI objects – including new ones created for touch and motion. (Those lack some of the fancier physics features found in Lemur, at least so far.)

The iPad and desktop sync wirelessly.

The iPad and desktop sync wirelessly.

I’m going to begin to sound like a broken record, but I do think another essential solution will be for desktop software to support touch. Max runs on Windows as well as on Apple hardware. Being able to use these same objects with Max on Windows using new touch laptops – many of which finally sport low latency and high accuracy – would be even more seamless, and would require only one device.

But make no mistake: this looks like a very nice way to work.

Users of Pure Data – an open source cousin of Max – should check out PdParty.

https://github.com/danomatika/PdParty

It actually goes one step further: your entire patch runs on your mobile device (iOS or Android), along with an automatic rendering of the interface. The upside of this approach is that you can run on only one device, as with my Windows suggestion above. Of course, the advantage of the remote control-plus-laptop approach is, you can use the more-powerful processing and storage capabilities of your bigger machine. Tablets and phones can do a lot, but more processing-intensive patches won’t work.

It seems in time we may start to see a wider spectrum of these sorts of solutions, as all our creations become easier to touch.

Mira is available now on the App Store. It’s iPad only (no iPhone support), requiring iOS 5.0 or later.

http://cycling74.com/products/mira/

Mira on the App Store

More hands-on video:

Palm Sounds interviews the developer:
Launching Mira & Loving Patches: an Interview with Sam Tarakajian

  • Nomad

    Nice article. You mentioned that Mira works with M4L. Does this mean that Mira can control M4L patches in Ableton Live right out of the box (even if one doesn’t own the full version of Max)? Has anyone tested this? If so, this would be a must buy for M4L users like myself.

    • ben

      I’m curious about this as well.

    • Jim Warrier

      Yes.

      Go to the Cycling74 site and download the externals drop them in the right place and the ui items appear in M4L

  • wetterberg

    Peter, it might behoove you to mention that it’s *mac-only right* now. It needs a mac-only external set. A lot of people shelling out without being able to use it.

    • Igor Molochevski

      I have the same issue, half of my work is on windows machines and half on mac. I am really upset that program that cost so much of money is not clearly labeled as mac only!

  • moss

    I also would prefer to see touch support on Win and Mac instead of having the hastle of a second device (with problematic WIFI connection).

  • Thopa

    I was looking forward to your review on this Peter. Mira its a great app, but there is so much to be done. To be honest , I think Mira could have been beta tested further, specially for a 50€ app. Also there are lots of Max4live objects that are not supported at the moment.

  • gunboat_d

    LOVE IT. just let me know when it works with windows.

  • http://v8media.com/ Ian Page-Echols

    I really would love a way to have custom images per button in a remote iPad window like this. I use physical controllers for most things, but still need video clip pickers to choose video clips in Max.

  • gLOW-x

    Sorry, but for 50 bucks, for now i go Lemur. Win and Mac, MIDI and OSC, stable, Ableton LiveControl 2… and more.

  • Keston

    Does anyone know if it is possible to display a jit.window (ideally in full screen) object on the iPad using Mira?

    • Sam Tarakajian

      Not at the moment, but we’re working on it :)

    • Keston

      Good to hear. Thanks, Sam!