Computer-Music.com contains articles and product reviews related to making music using computers and creating 3D computer animation in sync with music. Computer-Music.com is also the home page of  Donald S. Griffin, an experienced professional composer, sound effects designer and audio consultant with an emphasis on computer games,  video games and internet music and sound effects. For pricing and contract availability send email to: DGriffin (@) Computer-Music (.) com

Computer-Music.com  contains articles and product reviews related to making music using computers and creating 3D computer animation in sync with music.
Computer-Music.com is also the home page of  Donald S. Griffin, an experienced professional composer, sound effects designer and audio consultant with an emphasis on computer games,  video games and internet music and sound effects. For pricing and contract availability send email to: DGriffin (@) Computer-Music (.) com

Quick Picks

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Welcome to Quick Picks

Quick Picks is a list of products that look promising but which we have not had a chance to review. Some will eventually become Spot Reviews and others may be removed from this list as we learn more about them.

All reviews on this site are always under construction. Additional information is posted as it becomes available.

Table of contents:

What are Quick Picks?
Why not a Spot Review?
What if you have a question? 
What if you want to recommend a product?

Most Recent Quick Picks 
Audio Quick Picks 
Video Quick Picks 

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What are Quick Picks?

Quick Picks are not recommendations or reviews. We created Quick Picks because we keep finding more promising products than we can find time to review and faster than we can review them. Some of these will eventually move to the Spot Reviews page while others will be removed from Quick Picks if they turn out to not be as good as they seemed or when their development is cancelled. In this way Quick Picks is a little like a news page. It will change quickly and often as we gather more information. Quick picks may be so new that they are only press announcements and are still under development. Others may be so new that review units are not yet available. Others may be here in the studio but we have not had time to use them. Others may have received substantial use but there is no time to write a review. Some are simple enough that a review is not necessary. Some are just bits and pieces of stuff we have heard about via browsing web. And some are so hot we just can't wait to for the Spot Review to be finished to let you know about them!

Why not a Spot Review?

Quite often we discover a product that looks promising because of its published specifications. Or we find a tool that reviewers may find useful but which is not appropriate for a Spot Review. Sometimes it is a piece of hardware that is too cumbersome to review, like a large keyboard or a whole series of speakers, or software that will require reading another 400 page manual but which does not fit the needs of this studio enough to justify our spending the time to check it out that thoroughly. Sometimes we are still waiting to see if the makers will provide a copy for review but we don't want to make you wait for that just to find out that it exists. As with Spot Reviews, where appropriate we will simply include links to the manufacturer's web site. Again, the idea of Quick Picks is just to let you know something exists without making you wait for a Spot Review that may never come.

Current plans are for all Quick Picks to appear on this page with the most recent item at the top. This means the page will be long but since it is mostly text it should load quickly. If we decide to add photos and longer descriptions we may change this to separate pages for each item.

What if you have a question?

If you have a critical question about a product on this page that you can't answer via the manufacturer's web site or tech support then please email us with your question by clicking on the email address found at the bottom of every page on this site. We will try to work with the manufacturer to see if there is a solution and either email you directly or post the answer in Quick Picks or later in Spot Review if/when the product is moved there.

What if you want to recommend a product?

If there is a product that you are really excited about and would like to share with the world please let us know. Quick Picks is all about hot tips and user feedback so please let us know what you think of any product that is listed on Quick Picks or that you would like to see on Quick Picks.

Disclaimer: The presence of a product in the Quick Picks section of this web site does not constitute an endorsement by Donald S. Griffin or Computer Music Consulting except where specifically stated. Many items appearing in Quick Picks may not even have finished development and/or testing so do not rely on their existence when making critical project plans.

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Most Recent Quick Picks
(updated Dec. 7, 2001)

(These will be moved below into their appropriate category after a while. They are not listed in both places)

Acid Pro 3 from Sonic Foundry. Acid is a very popular piece of software that allows you to piece together looping (and non-looping) pieces of audio into a musical whole by automatically aligning them rhythmically and automatically adjusting their length and pitch independently so they match in pitch, key, and timing. It is not always a completely automatic process but it is very impressive just how much is handled properly automatically. The result is that you can take a few bars of some drums and a few bars of a bass line, a sax riff, some oohs and ahs then lay down some vocals and have something that may or may not be the next great musical hit but is certainly a kick in the pants (a whole lot of fun) to produce.
http://www.sonicfoundry.com/

Amapi 3D version 6 by Eovia is one of the most popular 3D modeling packages. I often see renders where the artist is using very expensive animation and/or rendering software but says they modeled in subject in Amapi or that, when forced to work in a particular package at work they will model something at home in Amapi then bring it to work. I am currently working on a review of Amapi for this site.
http://www.amapi.com/

Epson Perfection 2450 (2400x4800 dpi) print/film/slide scanner with USB or Firewire connectivity. I chose this particular model for myself because it has film and slide scanning ability in a high enough resolution to make it worth the trouble. But the price is that of a high consumer level scanner i.e. just under $400. A good scanner is indispensable in music or graphics studio. Graphics uses are obvious and musicians will find one useful for scanning sheet music into a converter like Smartscore or OCR (optical character recognition) for importing long lists of instrument patch names from their new synthesizer into their favorite sequencer. Also handy for copying or faxing contracts and acquiring images for CD covers or videos.
NOTE: Only after spending a long time with tech support did they find out from the engineers that they will not support the Firewire connection with Windows 98. I am told it works fine with Me and XP though. But I do not plan to upgrade to Windows XP for a while to allow time for all the software and hardware to catch up with its support and bug fixes. So I can not tell you how much faster the Firewire connection is than the USB connection.
http://www.epson.com (Pick country, then scanners, then this model.)

Fruity Loops 3 from Image-Line software. Since the early days of  personal computers there have been two lines of music software that I think of as sort of music hacker software. One type is based on simulating early analog synthesizers. Reason from Propellorhead Software seems to be the highest form of that type. The other variety involves taking often simple bits of audio, a drum hit, a drum pattern, a note or a few notes of bass or guitar, some vocal licks and even sound effects, and laying them down end to end in a rhythmic and hopefully musical way pattern. In the earliest days they were fed to the speaker one at a time, then later in multiple, coordinated, parallel tracks for mixing so they were usually called Trackers. Fruity Loops seems to be the currently the highest form of polish and style in Tracker software. It is pretty to look at, fun to play with, and nice to listen to. Neither Reason nor Fruity Loops have the raw power and flexibility of a full fledged MIDI/audio sequencer package they each bring a lot of ease of use and fun to the table as well as a few things that most good sequencers either don't do at all or don't do easily. Reason is only a bit more than half the price of a good Sequencer package and Fruity Loops is only about a fifth the cost. At that price you can hardly go wrong.
http://www.fruityloops.com/

Inspire 5.1 digital 5700 surround PC speaker system from Creative Labs look, from the specs, as though they may be quite a nice consumer grade PC speaker system, at least for gaming. Generally this sort of thing does not have the capabilities needed for a music production studio but these may prove to be a good compromise to getting 5.1 surround sound into your PC without spending an arm and a leg. I have yet to year these speakers in action. They are a quick pick because they fit my definition of 'worth a look' Being digital they plug into the S/PDIF out of the Audigy series sound cards mentioned here.
http://www.creative.com/destinations/inspire/

KARMA by Korg and Stephen Kay. There is no way to describe this synthesizer that will please everyone. It is a combination for a slightly stripped down Korg Triton Synthesizer with Stephen Kay's KARMA software embedded inside. KARMA stands for Kay Algorithmic Realtime Music Architecture. Providing realtime performance access to the KARMA engine are several buttons, dials and keys not found on a standard Triton. KARMA is NOT an arpeggiator nor is it a MIDI sequence trigger device or an instant music machine. well over 1,100 GEs are provided and one of these is associated with each instrument patch. When the KARMA feature is turned on then playing a note or notes within the key range of the GE's control will cause it to generate additional notes and rhythmic patterns. But these notes and patterns are not merely preset chords and/or patterns. Each GE is a software algorithm, a little program, that takes your note input and processes it to intelligently output notes and rhythmic patterns depending whatever input the GE is set to pay attention to. Each GE has quite few parameters which each can effect its output and these can all be controlled by the user in realtime from the keyboard or an external MIDI device. I am starting to think of KARMA as a bit like a horse in that those than can ride that horse will find it extends their reach while still allowing them to steer their own course. While those who can not learn how to ride will gain little except an expensive mouth to feed. For these KARMA should still be a LOT of fun just to play with.  :)
http://www.korg.com (Korg's KARMA page)
http://www.karma-lab.com/ (KARMA designer Stephen Kay's Karma-Lab page)

Musicator 4.0 is the first new integer version of Musicator in many years adding lots of new features such as audio plugin support. It took me a while to receive a review copy so my Musicator 3 review will not be updated to reflect version 4 for a while. This quick pick is just to let you know it is available in the mean time. This should alleviate any misgivings you may have about choosing to try Musicator for fear that it is no longer being supported. In fact they currently working on XP support. For anyone who is looking for a friendly, easy to use, yet very capable sequencer, this is it.
http://www.musicator.com/

Reason from Propellorhead Software. Since the early days of  personal computers there have been two lines of music software that I think of as sort of music hacker software. One type is based on simulating early analog synthesizers. Reason from Propellorhead Software seems to be the highest form of that type. The other variety involves taking often simple bits of audio, a drum hit, a drum pattern, a note or a few notes of bass or guitar, some vocal licks and even sound effects, and laying them down end to end in a rhythmic and hopefully musical way pattern. In the earliest days they were fed to the speaker one at a time, then later in multiple, coordinated, parallel tracks for mixing so they were usually called Trackers. Fruity Loops seems to be the currently the highest form of polish and style in Tracker software. Reason works both as a software synthesizer plugin and as a stand alone music production suite. In its latter role it works reasonably well if you are inclined to work in the style that the program's layout implies. Essentially you see a virtual equipment rack and you drag onto that rack as many copies of analog or sampling synths, mixers,  effects,  arpeggiators, and drum machines as you require for each separate composition. You can alter the default connections by dragging virtual cables on the back of the rack. You virtually flip over Reason's vertual rack by hitting the tab key. They Reason even animates the swinging cables as though you really did flip over a rack just then. Very cool The whole program has this level of polish and is a LOT of fun to use. Neither Reason nor Fruity Loops have the raw power and flexibility of a full fledged MIDI/audio sequencer package they each bring a lot of ease of use and fun to the table as well as a few things that most good sequencers either don't do at all or don't do easily. Reason is only a bit more than half the price of a good Sequencer package and Fruity Loops is only about a fifth the cost. At that price you can hardly go wrong.
http://www.propellerheads.se/index.php3

Soundblaster Audigy Platinum EX from Creative Labs. This is the fanciest version of the latest generation of Soundblaster card. It has a very impressive array of features. All kinds of ins and outs and even a Firewire port. Being a brand new product it may have some teething problems in software. Buyer beware. The Audigy comes in four flavors down to about $100. The one I named above is about $250 to $300.
http://www.soundblaster.com

Tassman 2.1 from Applied Acoustics Systems is a really neat software synthesizer using physical modeling synthesis where you lay out objects and drag cables between them in order to design your own synthesizer that can then be compiled and used with most MIDI sequencer software. Because Tassman computes a simulation you can very quickly add enough components to your synth that you are working the CPU very hard so the key to this product is managing your synth design complexity and/or recording the synths to audio tracks in multiple passes.
http://www.applied-acoustics.com/index2.htm

Vue d'Esprit 4 by e-on Software is a very popular 3D landscape and scene generator and renderer. While I have only fiddled a bit with the demo version it seems quite good and has a very good reputation. Some say produces more realistic terrain than Bryce.
http://www.e-onsoftware.com

 

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Audio Quick Picks

(in no particular order)

AWave Studio 7.2 Probably one most used among audio professionals for audio and music sampler (synthesizer) file conversion to and from many, many formats.
http://www.fmjsoft.com

AnalogX is a company that has a variety of downloadable software but I was particularly interested in thier audio plugins. Thanks to my friend Bobby Prince for this tip.
http://www.analogx.com - Home Page
http://www.analogx.com/contents/download/audio.htm - Audio Page

Auto-Tune DirectX is a DirectX audio plug-in (comes in other forms such as hardware or TDM) that corrects pitch in a very musical way without voice distortion or changing the length of the audio. You can literally feed it a vocal track and tell it to push the notes up and down so they are on key. It does this elegantly but is adjustable. You can even remove vibrato and replace it with one you prefer however pitch correction does not have to remove vibrato like you might think. Auto-Tune can also be used for fixing the off or wavering pitch in samples you are preparing for sampler synths.
http://www.antares-systems.com

Infinity (Mac-only) is a bunch of sample looping tools that are designed to force non-looping audio samples to loop nicely. Of all the software that I wish was available for the PC this is probably at the top of my list. I have never tried it but spoken to many who have and they say it is very good. A few years ago I spoke to the programmer and he had no wish to do all the re-coding to port it to the Windows. However, if he receives enough interest he may change his mind. ;-)
http://www.antares-systems.com 

Nuendo I have long seen the drawbacks in audio workstations too dependent on hardware that quickly becomes underpowered and can not adapt. Of course, this happened because the PC was not up to the task. Now it is so Steinberg has developed Nuendo, a 'host based' digital audio workstation for professionals. (Don't expect a low price tag.) I sat through a private demo of Nuendo exactly a year ago and it has an awful lot of flexibility.
http://www.steinberg.net 
http://www.nuendo.com 

EZbus Not quite finished as of this posting and a bit behind schedule. This is a very promising device for computer musicians with a space issue. The EZbus is a USB device that is a true mixer, dual port MIDI interface, 24/96 digital audio interface mixer control surface. All for around $700 to $800. Last I heard they had the hardware for months and were just beta testing the flash-upgradeable software. Note that one limit of USB is bandwidth. All such devices are very limited in the number if audio channels that can be passed into and out of the computer. But if you are happy with multi-pass recording or having some of your sources pre-mixed in the EZbus hardware before coming into the PC then you may be quite happy with this device.
http://www.event1.com 
http://www.event1.com/ezbus/ez.html 

Cakewalk Pro Audio 9 Twelvetone Systems' flagship product was originally called Cakewalk. Now that name is more recognizable so they are calling everything they have Calewalk _(whatever)_. This can lead to some confusion. Cakewalk has evolved into Cakewalk Pro Audio 9 and is the latest in a very popular MIDI and digital audio sequencer which I have used in past incarnations on a few projects. Cakewalk is one of the few sequencers that started on the PC and one of the very few that managed to survive and stay competitive. One legacy of its DOS roots is that musical notation was never given the attention it deserves. DOS did not have a graphical user interface. So, over the years, they have catered to their user base which has gotten used to using the piano roll and event list views with notation only being a sort of quick reference or for printing out parts for live musicians. To be fair it seems most computer musicians are of a similar nature and don't make much use of notation. While I can see the usefulness of the other views it boggles my mind how anyone can compose without notation as their primary road map. Because of this I have never given Cakewalk the attention at this site that it deserves. I have always found it to be one of the most friendly and straight forward sequencers so I recommend it often to new users who are not all that concerned about notation.
http://www.cakewalk.com 
http://www.cakewalk.com/Products/PA/PA9.html 

Cakewalk Overture 2  Overture 2 was purchased from another company and was already quite popular. I understand that Cakewalk improved both the program and its stability. I purchased Overture 2 quite a while ago and was most of the way through the manual when I got sidetracked by the need to work using other software. I have always intended to pick up where I left off but until then here is a Quick Pick. Overture 2 has a reputation for having most of the notation power of Finale with much less difficulty. While its MIDI capabilities will not be as complex as an all-out sequencer it may be refreshing to many to have a much simpler interface that still gets the job done for many.
http://www.cakewalk.com 
http://www.cakewalk.com/Products/OV/OV2.html 

EMI 2|6 (Emagic Multichannel Interface 2|6) (not yet available as of this posting) is a small USB 24 bit digital audio interface with 2 in and 6 out capability. That means it can be used to drive all 6 (self powered) speakers of a 5.1 audio setup from a portable computer. A good companion in such a case would be their portable USB MIDI interface and their new Mackie-built control surface. Emagic makes Logic Audio which is featured in the Spot Review section of this site.
http://www.emagic.de 
http://www.emagic.de/english/musikmesse2001/html/products/emi26.html 

Logic Control (for Emagic Logic Audio) is a MIDI control surface built by Mackie for use with Emagic Logic Audio. Mackie has an excellent reputation for mixers of reasonable cost and high quality and usability. This device should be quite robust. This device is not a mixer but a control panel to allow you to interact with the software in a way more comfortable to those used to mixing on a console.
http://www.emagic.de 
http://www.emagic.de/english/musikmesse2001/html/products/lcontrol.html 

ES1
ES2
EXS24
EVP73
EVP88
EVOC20

These are all plug-in synthesizers for Emagic Logic Audio. So far the ES1 and EXS24 have proved very good under review though Emagic needs to implement a better way of keeping track of patches on both units and the EXS24 needs more flexibility in what and how sampler files of other formats are imported. I am looking forward to putting the EVOC20 through its paces. Having a Vocoder built into your sequencer software should make is use much easier and more practical than wrestling with external hardware. The EVP88 is a piano synth and the EVP73 seems to the the player-only version.
http://www.emagic.de 

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Video Quick Picks

(in no particular order)

RealSoft3D 4.1 Very impressive new 4.1 version of 3D package that started on the Commodore 64.
http://www.realsoft.fi (Finland home site)
http://www.realsoft3dusa.com (new USA distributor)

Merlin 3D 1.0 A brand new product. Very easy to use 3D package with a powerful render but no muss, no fuss interface.
http://www.merlin3d.com

Image Eye 5.1 A nice little application for viewing a wide variety if image files quickly with fully customizable thumbnail size. It does not need to pre-catalog images either.
http://www.fmjsoft.com

XFader 4.04b A real gem for creating smoothly tiling textures from any imagery at all. The current version adds some nifty tools for further altering the image, all are tiling algorithms.
http://www.pegtop.de

Terragen v0.8.11 A very affordable program that does an amazingly realistic job of generating realistic looking landscapes from algorithms.
http://www.planetside.co.uk/terragen/

Darktree Textures (v2.0 soon) Darktree is a stand alone program for creating 3D textures that can be used directly in the programs for which Darksim has provided a plug-in and interactively in other programs by rendering the textures. The quality of the textures is very good and they can be animated as well. Buying the full Darktree includes the use ALL of the plugins. The more apps you have the more you benefit. Support for Cinema 4D is supposed to be in the works.
http://www.darksim.com

ZBrush 1.13 An interesting, and potentially very useful painting program that lets you paint using various 3D looking brushes. I briefly tried an earlier demo.
http://pixologic.com

Strata 3Dpro The newest version of a well know, program with an illustrious history. Strata Studio Pro used to be used a lot for professional stills and animation but did not appear to be keeping up the times. After several years they released Strata 3Dpro. While apparently a significant improvement on the previous version it may not be enough to keep the program current with its competition. To generate interest in the pro version they are giving away the non-pro version for free! That's right, free. It seems to be based on the capabilities of the previous generation of the program with some of the improvements of the new pro version. The non-pro version can be beefed up with optional pay add-ons that add back in some of the advanced features found in the higher end versions.
http://www.3d.com

Multiple Spline Attach 2.07 plugin for Cinema 4D version 6.2+ MSA is a very nice plug-in for (as the name implies) attaching multiple objects to a spline. You can do things like selecting an object and having MSA lay 100 of them along a spline of your choice. The picture in the second URL explains it well.
http://www.users.wineasy.se/cst/xlentplugs 
http://www.users.wineasy.se/cst/xlentplugs/msa205.jpg 

BodyPaint 3D A 3D painting program that stands alone and/or integrates into Cinema4D to allow painterly tools for painting directly on 3D objects.
http://www.maxon.de

Carrara Is a 3D program that debuted just about the same day Metacreations announced they were dumping all of their packaged software. This reminds me of the History Channel show Great Military Blunders. Carrara was built upon the legacy of RayDream Studio but all of the best things about Carrara are where it departs from the Raydream legacy. The key programmers responsible for all those new features were originally hired by Metacreations to close up their own company and and move from France to the USA to work on Carrara. So when Metacreations dumped the product these programmers purchased it and started a new company called Eovia. This company quickly worked out a deal with TGS, makers of the popular Amapi and will be developing Carrara first into a 1.1 version then into a while new program in 2.0. Carrara 2.0 promises to be a much improved program over 1.0 since they are free from the constraints of Metacreations and will be acquiring additional technology from TGS. This all makes Carrara one to watch over the next few years.
http://www.eovia.com/

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