Be it for theater, dance, comedy, Top ! enables you to organize the audio elements of your performance into a structured and flexible cue-list, to add DSP effects and mix sounds to multiple audio outputs, in order to create a rich sonic experience, easy to tailor to each particular performance.
As a sound engineer by training, I had multiple opportunities to work with theater, music, or dance companies, on shows that had to integrate soundtracks and audio effects with live action on stage. Most of the times I found myself a bit frustrated by the tools at hand :
- Either they keep a strong synchronization between sound cues but don't adapt well to normal variations of live shows (standard sequencers and DAWs fall into this category)
- Or, they allow manual or semi-automatic triggering of cues but loose synchronization, making it difficult to rehearse complex sequences starting from an arbitrary time (most samplers, DJ'ing tools and other cue-based softwares land on this side).
- Additionally, their user interfaces are often either bloated with features that I find useless, or lacking features that I would like to have, such as fast keyboard editing and navigation.
With this in mind, I thought it was time to devise a new solution allowing to synchronize sounds into complex and nested sequences, but at the same time provides the level of flexibility necessary to smoothly integrate into the rehearsal and performance process.
Top ! is a one-man project whose idea dates back to two years ago, but I started working on it one year ago in my spare time, and a bit more intensively in the past three months.
Top ! is still relatively early in its developpement in regard to its goals, but it should fulfill very basic needs for playback and mixing. The cuelist editor, transport logic and mixing matrix are almost there (delta some bugs that we will hopefully kill along the way). There are basic audio cues (although limited to wav/aiff files) and mix cues with a small broken-line function editor. You can add/edit VST plug-ins (not yet tested against all VST versions). You can save and restore the state of the cuelist and/or individual presets for the plug-ins (although at this point it may be difficult to migrate the save file to another location).
You can read more about Top !, download an alpha demo or even preorder the software on the project's website : https://www.forkingpaths.garden
Here is a list of features that Top ! should provide in the short to middle term :
- A core cuelist editor and playback logic that would solve the aforementioned flexibility problems.
- A centralized mixing matrix allowing to adjust the level of each channel of each cue sent into any of the output busses.
- Fast and precise keyboard-driven editing and navigation in the cuelist and in the matrix.
- Playing back a variety of audio files with audio cues.
- Automating mixing with mix cues that can modulate any combination of the mixing matrix cells.
- Automatical/conditionnal triggering of cues through the use of control cues.
- Control cues via MIDI/keyboard input.
- Adding DSP plug-ins (support for VST, maybe AudioUnits as well).
- Built-in time stretching and pitching of audio cues.
- Enable users to create complex control behaviours with script cues.
- Enable users to create their custom cues in C (eg. to integrate their homebrew human interface devices).
Long-term Goals (some of them may only be featured on a future version 2):
- Add support for video or slideshows playback to multiple monitors.
- Basic in place editing of audio cues.
- Provide DAW-like views of the existing timelines.
- Remote control with a smartphone or tablet.
- Mixdown of complex sequences to one audio cue.
- Port to Windows and Linux (Top ! is currently being developped on OSX as this is the platform I'm familiar with).
Road-map (more or less in implementation order, for the short-term goals) :
- More robust save/restore mechanism that allows to relink file references to audio files or plug-ins when they are not found at their expected location (eg when moving a session to a new computer).
- Undo list for most of the editing actions.
- Meaningful and user friendly error messages/warnings/infos/progress bars
- Basic logging/debugging/performance counters system.
- Optimize audio section, more tests with different sound cards/drivers.
- Output busses to physical audio outputs mapping (allowing to keep the same matrix settings with different output configurations)
- Transport logic review and bugfixes, finishing autoloc/pause features and expanding control cues
- MIDI support (triggering cues with MIDI input / cues that send MIDI messages when played)
- Gui Improvements :
- scrollable/nested popup menus
- auto-scrolling when editing the cuelist or the matrix with the keyboard
- multiple cues selection/edit
- clipboard copy/paste
- files drag & drop
- resizable UI
- global 'look' pass.
- Audio cues : handling more file formats
- Mix cues : add Béziers curves to the function editor
- Plug-ins compatibility and testing
- Plug-ins automation with mix cues
- Audio cue built-in pitch / stretch
- User manual and tutorials