Old 11-09-2011, 05:11 AM   #1
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Default Control Surface - Reaper DIY Kits

There's been a lot of talk on here about control surfaces, compatibility, lack of support from manufacturers etc etc....

So, I propose a solution: we define a hardware control surface, package them as DIY kits (or sell them assembled), and define our own Reaper Control Unit protocol. Perhaps a starter is here: http://lividinstruments.com/hardware_builder.php

It would need:
- motorised faders
- transport control buttons
- rotary encoders
- automapping for ReaPlugs

Just putting this idea out there, very interested to see how it progresses with input from the forum!
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Old 11-09-2011, 06:37 AM   #2
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Those Livid units are INSANELY expensive. Better to make our own, I think.
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Old 11-09-2011, 06:38 AM   #3
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highlyliquid.com/midi-controllers/midi-cpu/
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Old 11-09-2011, 07:15 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by rictus View Post
highlyliquid.com/midi-controllers/midi-cpu/
That's a start. But I'm thinking we will need more than 24 signals. Can these be chained?
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Old 11-09-2011, 07:54 AM   #5
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I don't know.

Let's forget about specific hardware and first settle on a design. What is it most Reaper users want in a control surface? I'm not fortunate enough to own one, so I have little experiece, but I think what I'd like is:
- transport: play, record, stop, seek
- ~8 encoders for plugins
- 1 fader for channel level and/or writing automation
- channel selection: next, previous

For something like that, 16 inputs is enough. What about other users? I realise some will want 48 faders and pan pots, but I think it's better to design something small first, a la Faderport.
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Old 11-09-2011, 07:58 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by rictus View Post
I don't know.

Let's forget about specific hardware and first settle on a design. What is it most Reaper users want in a control surface? I'm not fortunate enough to own one, so I have little experiece, but I think what I'd like is:
- transport: play, record, stop, seek
- ~8 encoders for plugins
- 1 fader for channel level and/or writing automation
- channel selection: next, previous

For something like that, 16 inputs is enough. What about other users? I realise some will want 48 faders and pan pots, but I think it's better to design something small first, a la Faderport.
Fair point.

- For ReaEQ, you would need minimum 9 pots (LP Freq, HP Freq, 2 x (gain, freq, q)).
- 8 motorised faders, each with solo, mute, arm, record, pan pot
- LCD display for track name and track level?

Maybe we branch to mini and pro surface? Hardware and control protocol.
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Old 11-09-2011, 05:03 PM   #7
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We should get other users to weigh in regarding the features they want. I think it's much easier (and cheaper) to have a seven-segment display that simply shows the track number than it is to have a display capable of also showing the track name, which could easily be 20+ characters.

Motorised faders are quite tricky I believe. Someone should do some digging and see which companies make those.
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Old 11-12-2011, 12:19 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rictus View Post
Those Livid units are INSANELY expensive. Better to make our own, I think.
http://www.ucapps.de/

i think that Midibox can be a good alternative but i don't see so simple..
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Old 11-12-2011, 08:27 PM   #9
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Ask NYM.

FWIW, you can use an Arduino as the brain if you want to do it through MIDI. http://arduino.cc/ (The new UNO may allow it to be seen as a UART over USB- don't know. I have an older one)

You can also use a Teensy http://www.pjrc.com/store/teensypp_pins.html It DOES show up as a UART over USB. i.e., Reaper SEES it as MIDI hardware

Just about any controls except motorized faders can be found for very cheap.
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Old 11-13-2011, 02:40 AM   #10
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I was thinking maybe the TI MSP430 series could be a good bet... The Launchpad development kit is less than $5 so would be super cost-effective.
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Old 11-13-2011, 08:19 AM   #11
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For faders the best are here: http://www.pennyandgiles.com/Audio-a...-pg-27,2,,.php

The other alternative is ALPS, but P&G are the best for audio work I think.
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Old 11-13-2011, 11:48 AM   #12
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I like your style, chaps, but this is going to be a mo`fo` to agree a spec on, let alone administer the design and then set up a kit for it!

As an ex-audio manufacturer, I will be fascinated to see a) how much the kit winds up costing and b) if it ever actually sees the light of day.

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Old 11-13-2011, 03:47 PM   #13
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Ivan, why so negative? Maybe you've seen things like this fall flat a thousand times, but it's no skin off your back to let us fail

I honestly think this could work but this thread is obviously just the very beginnings of a seed of an idea. Bouncing the idea around is a good way to see if it can be done.
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Old 11-13-2011, 04:09 PM   #14
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i think 8 faders is the minimum for a serious control surface.

great idea! i'm looking forward to what this becomes

i think it's also important to know the interface to start with - will it be midi, usb, firewire, ethernet, etc.
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Old 11-13-2011, 04:57 PM   #15
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I have been on the hunt like crazy for a control surface for Reaper. I am starting to think it will never come unless I make it myself.

I have made control surfaces in the past. My last project, I modded out my CS2000 control surface to include motorised faders on all channel faders, and made a direct connection on the console to the DAW through mackie control protocol to control and record the touch sensitive faders to the analog console.

I want in on making this control surface.

I believe it would need to be modular, adding banks of faders, encoders, etc. 8 channels is enough to start and people are used to that number. If 8 isn't enough, add 8 more channels with another unit. Just add 8ch banks until you are satisfied.

All Reaper plugs should be automapped to the encoders. All 3rd party vst's need this too somehow.

Transport controls are a must, at least with what is on the transport in Reaper now.

an unlimited number of user defineable soft keys section for actions, editing functions through say 16 keys plus a bank key to get to the next set of 16 actions or functions.

A proper LCD to display all vital information.

Working now, I'll put more in shortly.
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Old 11-13-2011, 06:54 PM   #16
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Theres a couple of threads on the ableton forums that might be of some assistance.

http://forum.ableton.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=167650

http://forum.ableton.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=171822

And also have a look at http://www.ucapps.de/
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Old 11-13-2011, 07:03 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JHughes View Post
For faders the best are here: http://www.pennyandgiles.com/Audio-a...-pg-27,2,,.php

The other alternative is ALPS, but P&G are the best for audio work I think.
Yes, P&G are my faves. Serious $ though
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Old 11-13-2011, 08:52 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodal View Post
Theres a couple of threads on the ableton forums that might be of some assistance.

http://forum.ableton.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=167650

http://forum.ableton.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=171822

And also have a look at http://www.ucapps.de/
As for the first link:
Yes, Using a Teensy as a MIDI controller is pretty easy. You can even use MIDI libraries so you don't have to deal with hex at all
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Old 11-13-2011, 11:24 PM   #19
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Teensy should work just fine. Midi would be suitable and easy.
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Old 11-14-2011, 07:11 AM   #20
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I would like it to be ethernet rather than USB. I have used both for control surfaces in the past and avoiding the whole driver mess is pretty cool.
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Old 11-14-2011, 07:18 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audioguytodd View Post
Yes, P&G are my faves. Serious $ though
Alps high end K faders are actually really good, as good as or better than my PG3200's and you can get the Alps for around $5 a fader in large quantities. I think the PG's were closer to $200 each and they have had to be replaced already. PG states their 8000 series is made to last about two years before cleaning or replacement and their top of the line 3200's for 5-6 years. A little weak if you ask me.

I suggest the Alps K faders.
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Old 11-14-2011, 07:48 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HOFX View Post
There's been a lot of talk on here about control surfaces, compatibility, lack of support from manufacturers etc etc....

So, I propose a solution: we define a hardware control surface, package them as DIY kits (or sell them assembled), and define our own Reaper Control Unit protocol. Perhaps a starter is here: http://lividinstruments.com/hardware_builder.php

It would need:
- motorised faders
- transport control buttons
- rotary encoders
- automapping for ReaPlugs

Just putting this idea out there, very interested to see how it progresses with input from the forum!
i was thinking about it too, i thought this would be a good start point ( http://www.element14.com/community/g...S|e|7875181988 )
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Old 11-14-2011, 09:49 AM   #23
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I think that taking inspiration from something like SmartAV Tango would be the way to go. Provide a set of hardware buttons, faders and encoders and delegate the software part to a tablet that would live in/on the controller. An Android tablet usually has a USB port that will talk to keyboards and mice. So make the controller appear as a keyboard/mouse combo to a USB master. Make it open source so that people can add features and support for various plugins and software.
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Old 11-14-2011, 01:48 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Morris View Post
I want in on making this control surface.

I believe it would need to be modular, adding banks of faders, encoders, etc. 8 channels is enough to start and people are used to that number. If 8 isn't enough, add 8 more channels with another unit. Just add 8ch banks until you are satisfied.

All Reaper plugs should be automapped to the encoders. All 3rd party vst's need this too somehow.

Transport controls are a must, at least with what is on the transport in Reaper now.

an unlimited number of user defineable soft keys section for actions, editing functions through say 16 keys plus a bank key to get to the next set of 16 actions or functions.

A proper LCD to display all vital information.

Working now, I'll put more in shortly.
Sounds like the Mackie Control Units, but for them the software is already written and needs only a port to OSX and support for the extenders.
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Old 11-14-2011, 01:58 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thuneau View Post
I think that taking inspiration from something like SmartAV Tango would be the way to go. Provide a set of hardware buttons, faders and encoders and delegate the software part to a tablet that would live in/on the controller. An Android tablet usually has a USB port that will talk to keyboards and mice. So make the controller appear as a keyboard/mouse combo to a USB master. Make it open source so that people can add features and support for various plugins and software.
That is really a neat idea, but i don't think that they should appear as keyboard and mice for the tablet, even if this would work (i don't see how you transfer simultanious movements of x faders via keyboard and mose) that would be really a ugly hack. I think a better option would be to connect the hardware to a controller that converts them to MIDI messages and that the controller register itself to the tablet as a generic midi interface (i hope Android come with a driver for generic midi interfaces, i'm not sure about this).
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Old 11-14-2011, 02:06 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Morris View Post
Alps high end K faders are actually really good, as good as or better than my PG3200's and you can get the Alps for around $5 a fader in large quantities. I think the PG's were closer to $200 each and they have had to be replaced already. PG states their 8000 series is made to last about two years before cleaning or replacement and their top of the line 3200's for 5-6 years. A little weak if you ask me.

I suggest the Alps K faders.
Alps motorized faders for $5 each??? Or even non-motorized- give me some links to buy!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 11-14-2011, 02:11 PM   #27
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I would like it to be ethernet rather than USB. I have used both for control surfaces in the past and avoiding the whole driver mess is pretty cool.
Yes, I would like the same. But that would add extra $$$ to the project. Some don't care, some might
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Old 11-14-2011, 02:26 PM   #28
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Like I said, The Teensy++ over USB being recongnized by REAPER is pretty cool. You guys should try it. It isn't that much $$$.
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Old 11-14-2011, 03:44 PM   #29
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Visual feedback on this is huge for me. I like the idea of a touch screen/ tablet app or something working inside.

I am not a fan of most low end control surfaces with limited LCD feedback.

I do not know how many of you guys also work in surround, but surround panner/ joystick of some sorts would make me happy.

In trying to keep this idea on the less expensive side, (very tough) things like a tft display that could show different pages of metering, plugins and their controls, etc. might be out of reach. Unless...
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Old 11-14-2011, 07:00 PM   #30
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Who cares about price. I want smart LCD switches that display the name of the function.

I would like each channel strip to have smart parameter information displayed for each encoder, changing as the function under hand changes.

Basically if the System 5-mc, Tango, and Mackie Control Universal Pro had a baby.
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Old 11-15-2011, 01:50 AM   #31
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I have looked into this a lot myself
A few things i decided on for my own part

1 It needs to be based on MIDIbox (www.ucapps.de) the knowledge base and kits available are just too cost effective and powerful (prototyping and experimenting becomes very easy)

2 Modular in nature with the correct split of modules, for instance never put transport controls on the same module as the faders (Who wants to build two fader modules each with 8 faders and have two sets of transports)

3 Cost is of vast importance, while 1 or 2 people may well want to go full on and have motor faders and so on, the vast portion of Reapers user base would mainly want a cheap alternative (No matter how well it is intergrated)

Because of the costing side of things the important part to work out is the fader board module because you need a list of options as related to cost, the options i came up with where these

Budget option (est cost = $100)
Rotary encoders with shift button for precise adjust, Very low cost option can be built for little outlay

Mid Range option (est cost = $200)
Hotpots over LED (See Stribe project) high precision touch sensitivity with the added advantage that it also works as VU

Expensive option (est cost = $350)
Touch sensitive motor faders, only real issue with this is one of cost, with a massive group buy possibly getting ALPs motor faders down to about $18-25 each (This would need to be a big group purchase)

The estimated costs could well be wrong now, it has been a while since i looked into this but i do know that as motor faders are gradually being faded out in industrial use in favour of hot pots and other touch devices that they are growing now in cost on an almost monthly basis

Not to put a damper on the idea (Far from it, I had already decided years ago that the only real way to get good hardware control of Reaper was to do it the Reaper way and build your own) but as you can see from the estimated costs (That are probably very conservative now) it isn't really a cost effective option for the budget user considering the budget controllers available. problem being that to bring down the overall cost of a project like this you would need to cover the base common user, which in Reapers case is the budget user.
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Old 11-15-2011, 02:36 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by rictus View Post
Ivan, why so negative? Maybe you've seen things like this fall flat a thousand times, but it's no skin off your back to let us fail

I honestly think this could work but this thread is obviously just the very beginnings of a seed of an idea. Bouncing the idea around is a good way to see if it can be done.
I`m an ex-developer/builder of music electronics.

Good luck, guys.
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Old 11-15-2011, 02:40 AM   #33
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While there are Novation, behringer, Mackie, Korg and Akai alternatives, to name a few, it is goinng to be very difficult to bring something cost effective off that will attract enough people to buy the kit.

I currently use a couple of NanoKontrols but have also played with most of the others.

If you don`t need a Euphonics style box, there isn`t much point using anything other than the plain vanilla ones already available.

I would much rather see energy and inventiveness being aimed at improving Reaper-oriented software for existing interfaces.

But it isn`t my call, is it? Like I said, good luck, Guys.
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Old 11-15-2011, 05:21 AM   #34
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Visual feedback on this is huge for me.
That's what your computer screen is for!

The point of a controller is hands-on control. At most, the controller should inform you what channels/plugins are currently being controlled so that you don't need your mixer up on the screen, and maybe a little channel meter display mirroring the on-screen track meter.
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Old 11-15-2011, 06:51 AM   #35
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If you don`t need a Euphonics style box, there isn`t much point using anything other than the plain vanilla ones already available.
Agreed. I'd just change that to say Tango or Euphonix style box.
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Old 11-15-2011, 06:59 AM   #36
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That's what your computer screen is for!

The point of a controller is hands-on control. At most, the controller should inform you what channels/plugins are currently being controlled so that you don't need your mixer up on the screen, and maybe a little channel meter display mirroring the on-screen track meter.
I definitely like all the parameters displayed of say a plugin instance, rather than just encoders with no idea what they effect on the channel selected.

I like to work like I do on my console. When adjusting EQ, I do not look to the computer screen. If anything I look at the EQ knobs I am twisting.

My whole take on a control surface is to take out the computer feeling and bring it back to working on a console. The more it feel like a console the better. The visual cues(metering, plugin parameters, routing, etc.) would really help in that area for me.
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Old 11-15-2011, 07:10 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by gpunk_w View Post
I have looked into this a lot myself
A few things i decided on for my own part

1 It needs to be based on MIDIbox (www.ucapps.de) the knowledge base and kits available are just too cost effective and powerful (prototyping and experimenting becomes very easy)

2 Modular in nature with the correct split of modules, for instance never put transport controls on the same module as the faders (Who wants to build two fader modules each with 8 faders and have two sets of transports)

3 Cost is of vast importance, while 1 or 2 people may well want to go full on and have motor faders and so on, the vast portion of Reapers user base would mainly want a cheap alternative (No matter how well it is intergrated)

Because of the costing side of things the important part to work out is the fader board module because you need a list of options as related to cost, the options i came up with where these

Budget option (est cost = $100)
Rotary encoders with shift button for precise adjust, Very low cost option can be built for little outlay

Mid Range option (est cost = $200)
Hotpots over LED (See Stribe project) high precision touch sensitivity with the added advantage that it also works as VU

Expensive option (est cost = $350)
Touch sensitive motor faders, only real issue with this is one of cost, with a massive group buy possibly getting ALPs motor faders down to about $18-25 each (This would need to be a big group purchase)

The estimated costs could well be wrong now, it has been a while since i looked into this but i do know that as motor faders are gradually being faded out in industrial use in favour of hot pots and other touch devices that they are growing now in cost on an almost monthly basis

Not to put a damper on the idea (Far from it, I had already decided years ago that the only real way to get good hardware control of Reaper was to do it the Reaper way and build your own) but as you can see from the estimated costs (That are probably very conservative now) it isn't really a cost effective option for the budget user considering the budget controllers available. problem being that to bring down the overall cost of a project like this you would need to cover the base common user, which in Reapers case is the budget user.
I do agree that Midibox has a ton of this all figured out. Cost of those kits is awesome. Modular is great and their designs work really well. BUT, I do not believe that this would be a good fit for "our" controller. Midibox would simply be making a Mackie control universal, so why not just buy that.

We need something more than what a Midibox LC platform can offer. If cost is the primary factor in what to design, I think you are better off on a Mackie control universal, or midibox mackie control emulation.
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Old 11-15-2011, 07:14 AM   #38
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Expensive option (est cost = $350)
Touch sensitive motor faders, only real issue with this is one of cost, with a massive group buy possibly getting ALPs motor faders down to about $18-25 each (This would need to be a big group purchase)
.
I have done this before and can source Alps motor faders down to about $5 per motorized fader. Not a big deal to get into motor faders.

I hardly see $350 in the expensive side of things.
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Old 11-15-2011, 01:08 PM   #39
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It`s ten Nanokontrols, though.... (grin)

I`ll butt out and leave you guys to it, but couldnt resist that one.
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Old 11-15-2011, 07:28 PM   #40
jacobestes
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Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 415
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If it's going to be for Reaper, I think it should (in the spirit of Reaper), be inexpensive and customizable. Being a DIY kit I think that should be easy, but I hope you guys don't get carried away.

I understand that if it works better than a similarly priced control unit that's out there already, that's preferable, but I still think a low price should be one of the main goals.
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