Quick guide to the Bitwig Studio Interface
Imagine after using Propellerhead Reason and FL Studio whilst starting out into the world of Computer Music Production I was left slightly confused by the look of Ableton Live’s Session view with all its clips and what looked like an excel spreadsheet in a DAW. This was around the time of version 6 to 7 of Ableton Live and I was really put off by this layout back then. It really did knock my interest in the software, confusing me almost and I continued on my way using the same two programs I knew really well.
However, it seemed more and more big name producers in the industry that I followed were getting into Ableton Live in a big way and I made the decision to give it one more go, a big go however, one that when taking a little bit more time to understand it would catapult my workflow into a new dimension – just like every other Live user out there will understand. Once I got to grips with understanding the layout and how it worked I became hooked. It certainly wasn’t viewed as a spreadsheet anymore.
Now working as Sales Manager in a popular Music Tech store in my home town, I get to have discussions with many current and new users of Ableton Live, and some of the potential users tell me they don’t understand it and why it doesn’t look like a normal DAW like they are used to such as Cubase or Logic arranging and recording in a linear manner. This is where I step in and demonstrate the actual product to them to show them what it is about and how it actually works especially the workflow between the two main views – Session & Arrangement.
Now the one thing about Live in the arrangement view in comparison to every other linear DAW out there is that although it works exactly the same as most other DAWs regarding linear recording and arranging, the layout of this view is almost the opposite to what regular producers and engineers are used to if coming from Cubase, Logic or Pro Tools. It seemed a little higgledy piggledy and always still felt a little bit clunky even, cramming all the detailed info parameters into a horizontal chain of devices and windows to fit on the screen.
So with these two BIG issues for any newcomer to the Live software interface which can be off-putting especially when they are used to the standard ways of recording or laying a track down, it seemed to me Ableton had a bit of a battle on their hands with the old school stereotypes.
Enter Bitwig Studio.
The Eye of the Beholder
If you really want the old school arrangement feel you are used to already from Logic or Pro Tools you can! Bitwig Studio is more traditional in the sense of other DAWs layouts when arranging a track with the mixer controls on the left hand side and browser on the right.
Or how about the Session view just like Ableton Live with its scratchpad of ideas, clips and loops? Do you want both the mixer view and the arrangement view open at the same time? Guess what you can do that also! Or would you prefer the new horizontal clip view at full screen to work with? This is like a step sequencer for sequences – now there’s a thought!
The interface is dynamic in design, as in there is not really a set default layout as it all depends on how the user works. The main areas to work with include the arranger window, mixer window and edit window with info panels and the browser dropping in when you need them.
So what’s my point? You can have whatever view you want, whichever view you are used to all available on one screen (or even up to three screens). Bitwig Studio makes great use of window space – imagine functional info panels that open when u need them and where you need them at touch of a button . A bit like Ikea space-saving units.
However it doesn’t stop there, you can have all these multiple views available across two screens or even triple screens if you have enough room in your studio! Suddenly your workflow becomes that much quicker.
A Fresh View for the Future
Apart from the extremely polished graphic work and window animation used within the interface itself, there was one very notable change that the developers made during the beta testing period. They moved the menu bar from the usual industry standard top left hand side of the software application (you know the File, Edit, View bar at the top of every piece of software) to the top right hand side.
I questioned Bitwig on this interface change and the response was extremely positive:
“After a day it feels pretty cool to have to transport bar on the top left, and the browser and the menu on the right, to “grab” things from”.
That is just how they feel it should be after testing many different layouts. I was a bit miffed if I am honest to why they changed this as most people are used to it being on the left and was left hoping future users wouldn’t dislike this. However after using the many beta’s with this change, it absolutely makes sense to me now. Your mouse is almost always on the right hand side with most users being right-handed. So instead of crossing the screen diagonally to get to your menu bar you simply just move up. It means less time to get to what you need to get to improving your workflow and doesn’t take long to get used to at all.
One Step Ahead
The horizontal clip launcher at full screen is another clever feature taking the ‘session view’ from Live to another level – a horizontal level!
I can’t wait to see the Launchpad from Novation used horizontally! Or maybe some new controllers from different manufacturers being announced sometime after with this horizontal launch control and sequencing.
This is how Bitwig Studio and the Bitwig team have got many people hooked on what is to come. Their vision, thoughts and unique considerations to the future of the DAW workflow got me excited just from one seminar with Dom Wilms down in Leeds over a year ago. Version 1.0 has features and under the hood technology most producers have been crying out for years and some nobody has even dreamed of when making music (the histogram chaos engine for example?), but when Version 2.0 arrives this is when there may well be an actual change to the game.