Thursday January 1, 2004
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Spot the Difference
Looking at the main screen of Cubase 3.0 you won’t see many differences
from Version 2. But the differences are in the important little details. Have
a look at Figure 1 and see if you can see what I mean. It’s almost tempting
to make a spot-the-difference competition out of this, but since I’m about
to give away the answers it might not be such a good idea. There are some slight
differences here which were caused by the defaults files on the disks and are
not of any importance.
Now is anyone thinking that there isn’t all that much difference between
the Version 2 and Version 3 screens? Well I would say that it’s a good
thing to keep the user interface as consistent as possible in keeping with the
famous saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The most
obvious change is in the clever shading of the transport buttons. Not an important
point I’ll grant you but it’s nice to see that Steinberg are intent
on improving the look and feel of their product as well as its features. Hidden
among, and behind, the similarities are a multitude of detailed improvements
which make Cubase easier to use and more versatile. Let me examine just a few
- On the left of the track list you will see three columns (where Version
1 had one and Version 2 had two). As well as the activity display and mute
indicator there is a column showing the Class of each track. All the tracks
on this example are standard MIDI tracks for normal recording and editing,
but there may also be Drum tracks, Group Tracks, MIDI Mixer tracks and Tape
tracks (for controlling recorders such as the Fostex R8 and G16) in your arrangement.
The manual follows the description of these classes with a telling statement:
“If you purchase an extension to Cubase or an expanded version, more
Track Classes may appear on the menu”. So this is where Steinberg are
headed! I’ll comment further later on in the article.
- If you position the mouse cursor exactly over the dividing line between
the track list and the Part display a grabber hand will appear which allows
you to see more of the track list information or more of the Part display
according to your preferences. In Version 2, the column to the right of the
track name was given to a list of instruments. Probably very useful if you
had a large collection of them, but not as helpful if your armoury consisted
of just a couple of synths or samplers. I decided that the best ploy was to
name the instruments according to the MIDI channels to which they were assigned,
thereby telling me all I needed to know and conserving valuable space for
the Part display. Version 3 does the sensible thing and swaps these columns
around so that the first thing you see to the right of the track names are
the MIDI channels.
- Something that always used to waste a lot of time in Version 2 was the endless
opening and closing of Part dialogue boxes. I never complained because I was
so glad to have the ability to adjust parameters such as Velocity, MIDI Volume,
Delay and Transposition Interval in real time as the track was playing. The
drawback was that although the track would continue, the track display behind
the dialogue box would freeze and Cubase’s biggest asset became useless.
Now there is a little icon at the bottom of the activity display column. Double
click this and an information box, called the Inspector, appears at the left
of the screen containing loads of parameters for you to play with while the
track and the Part display are both running. And to get from track to track
is a doddle! Just click the track you want to adjust and make changes that
will affect the entire track. Want to change just one Part on a track? Click
the Part and the changes will relate to that Part only. The best ideas are
often the simplest and this one speeds up the operation of Cubase wonderfully.
- Have you ever thought that the Atari’s screen is too small to display
all the vast array of tracks you use in your arrangement to full advantage?
Up till now there wasn’t much you could do except shell out for a Mega
ST and a pricey large monitor. Now, you can hide the transport window if you
wish. You can do without this quite conveniently once you are used to the
keyboard equivalent commands (but I wish someone would invent customisable
key caps for the Atari). With the transport window hidden you can see as many
as thirty-one tracks on the standard monitor all at the same time without
scrolling. My arrangements don’t usually extend to such giddy heights
of complexity, but the facility’s there and plenty of people will use
it to the full.