About the past, the now and the future!
Hey, you beautiful individuals around the world! I’m back with some (actually a lot of) words on the past, the present and the future of what we’ll be doing here at HTA.
I hope you’re well and have enjoyed some of that late summer sun out there. Or maybe you’ve just returned from holidays, still all relaxed and ready to go out and produce some fresh tunes or hack some cool stuff! In any case, now is as good a time as ever to take a quick moment to let you guys in on with what ideas we started this company with, what we’ve achieved so far and where we want to be in 6 months’ time from now.
That day in January, I setup my tiny modular rack, turned on the main power supply, booted my laptop and started. And by started I mean I started from scratch, building a development system to hack effects and to write a book with.
Every story has a beginning
Mid-January, I made my way through the snow to our brand new shared space we are now calling our humble office space. I was extremely excited to finally have some legit time to kickstart the ideas I had and to get things moving in a more dedicated fashion. My long-term goal was to build my own creative musical devices, both in software and hardware, that I could part-wise open source and sell at the same time.
I didn’t have a clue yet on how to get from idea to actual product but I knew I had the tools to get there somehow. I am from an embedded software engineering background with a lot of experience in application development and I had worked in a company that built mixing desks and networking gear for broadcast audio. So, armed with these skills, all I had to do was to wrap my head around DSP coding, how to design efficient real-time audio applications and about a million other tools needed for audio software and hardware development. Piece of cake!
It was clear I needed a goal I could achieve in a more short-term. This is when my first project was born. If I had to teach myself DSP anyway, why not document this process in order to give back to you guys - the audio-loving people! I decided to write a book on how to program DSP effects. I thought it would be great if this book could be read by anyone, that is especially people like me that were just getting started with DSP. I wanted the content of this book to go further than a typical click and point tutorial for Reactor (for example), but without drifting into academia too much. I also wanted the reader to be able to program the effects that I talked about in the book and to take it to their performance rig to play with it. With that thought in mind, I needed to work out how to get from effect design, to code and from code to something that could run on a guitar pedal or a modular.
Finally, I decided to purchase the Rebel Tech OWL modular, a Eurorack module that can be programmed with Pure Data, Max/MSP, C++ and other languages, to test how well I could actually get my concept to work.
So, returning to that day in January, I setup my tiny modular rack, turned on the main power supply, booted my laptop and started. And by started I mean, I started from scratch, building a development system to hack the effects and to write a book with.
Today and beyond
Fast forward to today: After hours of setting up tools, reading code, books and scientific papers, experimenting, investigating, I have finally become comfortable with these DSP shenanigans. And even though I’ve probably lost some hair over it, it turns out I really enjoy developing for audio.
Vanilla Processors has grown over time and is still work in progress. Writing a book is a real challenge! …and with regards to my original target, to keep things simple in the book text, that didn’t quite work out as planned. I had to settle on adding more math into the book than I intended to, so that things are more comprehensive.
To keep things accessible, I wrote a pure data environment that you can use to understand and program along with the book. Bundled with tutorials this environment and the book, Vanilla Processors should offer something for all of you interested in getting into DSP development more quickly…I hope!
Our projects are all engineered to free up more of your precious time to focus on the actual fun, which is designing and creating more audio patches!
Along the way I’ve met some interesting people and had many discussions about my ideas. Thanks to all the feedback I’ve received, I felt inspired add other projects to the Happy Thoughts Audio portfolio. The projects all tie in with my idea of getting people up and running with DSP quickly.
You will ask, what these projects are and how exactly do they tie in? And what about the future thing?
Good question. Well, the first phase for Happy Thoughts was always about building tools with you guys - the community - in mind. This is why all my projects for this initial development phase will be and will remain open sourced. The four projects we are working on here are intended to get anybody up and running with hacking audio in no time and on a tight budget. We have the tools to teach you the art (Vanilla Processors), we have the tools to take your patch and bake it into a program that can run on actual live gear (Howl), we have the tools to test your creations with in the web browser (CRUNCH) and we are even working on creating a cheap hardware module that you can use in your live gigs (super-secret code name). For the hardware we’ve teamed up with our friends from Seismic Industries. These project are all engineered to free up more of your precious time to focus on the actual fun, which is designing and creating more audio patches!
Cause at the end of the day, that’s what we should be focussing on: The creative coding. And if you’re eyes aren’t bleeding yet, I can only hope that you all check in regularly here and join us on the journey to turning this vision into reality! I promise this was the last looooong blog post. For now, hehe. Until we talk again, from Zurich with love, Ben