DIAD do dull dials dream of being desirable?

Innovation in Music 2017

Scott Hewitt


The dial as an interface is prevalent in many audio production systems, both hardware and software based. Dedicated purpose hardware dials, such as on a synthesiser, typically offer a variety of complex, refined behaviours. Software dials and the associated dumb physical controllers tend to offer a more uniform, perhaps dull interface. These dull uniform dials offer an accessible, easy to understand, visually compact, flexible and simple to use interface. However, it perhaps betrays the lineage of the complex dials previously available on scientific appliances, electronic musical instruments and studio hardware. The simple dial software interface is mapped to many diverse software parameters and typically offers a commodity like, easy to use and understand behaviour. Audio effects units, MIDI processors, soft synthesisers and samplers all tend to present software interfaces featuring dials often facilitating quick and intuitive engagement with an interface. The software dial is typically compatible with mouse and keyboard user interface inputs and often with a hardware (MIDI) controller. These controllers tend to offer simple behaviours based on a limited physical action. Typically, a linear mapping of a controller input with near uniformity in action and software responsiveness. This typical hardware and software implementation combines to create the defacto dull dial interface. The DIAD project looks to explore historical dial interfaces and implement them, initially within software, to explore both the creative potential and utility of such alternative physical dial interfaces. Perhaps the common, typical dull dial dreams of being more desirable? Presented here are identified physical dial controller models and selected software implementations. These software implementations aim to apply the identified, desirable complex dial behaviours to the simple dull hardware dial allowing it to offer a more expressive, engaging and intuitive use in both production and performance applications.


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