Monday, 28 August 2017

WHAT’S GOING ON WITH ELECTROCHEMY TV???

WHAT’S GOING ON WITH ELECTROCHEMY TV???

That’s a good question… What the heck is going on with Electrochemy TV these days, huh??? Well, for the past couple of years I have been dealing all sorts of issues from institutions that are supposed to have impeccable filing systems. I have had to contend with bunch of real incompetent people, I’ve never witnessed anything like this before… People in important positions are actually proud of being utterly dumb! These people revel in being totally unhelpful! It is unreal! Yes, the Tax Office is a pain in the ass!

GOOGLE/YOUTUBE
If it’s not one thing, it’s the other! Now, YouTube has stopped monetizing the Electrochemy TV channel! I have tried communicating with Google/YouTube to no avail.

Monetization is essential in order to keep the channel going! Creating videos is a huge task and in order to produce programmes on a full-time basis monetization is essential!

IN THE MEANTIME
Electrochemy TV will continue with reviews and Free VST instruments and effects!

In the meantime, I will look for an alternative to YouTube!

Stay tuned!

Best wishes,

Al
Electrochemy TV

ELECTROCHEMY REVIEWS XARA DESIGNER PRO X 365


XARA

DESIGNER PRO X 365

£199


Designer Pro X 365 is the equivalent of Adobe Photoshop, illustrator, InDesign and Dreamwaver all in one! It's been awhile since I've looked at Xara Designer Pro X. Here’s the last review to refresh your minds…

https://youtu.be/UI93g9vNQno?t=34m24s
Let's check it out…

INTERFACE
From previous reviews, I'm now very used to the Xara Designer Pro X interface; there are quite a few Adobe alternatives on the market that emulate the interfaces that we are so used to. Designer Pro X takes a slightly different approach (where the interface is concerned); that said, it doesn’t take long to become familiar with basics. As a result there’s no need to consult with the manual and/or tutorial materials (for the most part). Plus, I am used to Xara’s other software such as Web Designer Premium, Photo & Graphic Designer and Page & Layout Designer. In fact, the applications mentioned above are combined to form Designer Pro X.

Rest assured that there are great tutorial materials that can be easily accessed via the “Help” menu.

MOVE OVER ADOBE?
One thing is clear: Adobe’s domination of professional design software is pretty much over. Xara has created such a powerful DTP software that easily rivals what Adobe software can do - with the exception of creating Digital Documents enhanced with multimedia such as audio and video files. If you imported a video file into a document and output it to a PDF then the video is converted into a image file. However, you can export that same document to the HTML format e.g. a web page! So, there are ways to create Digital Documents… It would have been something if Designer Pro X 365 could have created an exe file from documents that would run in a similar way to PowerPoint. It can be done! Better still, why not create executables that can run on iOS and Android devices?

SO, WHAT’S NEW?
The massive Design Gallery that used to come with previous versions of Designer Pro X is now an online catalogue. This is such a good idea! This means that there’s more space on your hard drive for storage. You have access to to a wide range of templates for websites, presentations, business printed materials such as business cards, letter heads, etc, and clipart for free! The range is staggering! There are beautiful designs that await modifying! Designer Pro X is very easy to get to grips with; the templates serve as great lessons in design.

Websites
If you are creating websites you have a selection of scrolling effects and animation to enhance the site pages. This reminds me of Dynamic HTML when Dreamweaver was first introduced; the results are stunning. It is now possible to have slides that span the screen. What I would have appreciated in the area of web design is the ability to add small videos as backgrounds. That would have been the triple chocolate icing on that cake!

I am going to cover the Xara Web Designer Premium separately.

Photo & Graphic Design
There are some new blend, saturation and filter effects. The Magnetic Lasso has been enhanced for accuracy to make cutting out an object from the background even easier than before.

POST ADOBE SUBSCRIPTIONS
As you may know, Adobe does not sell its applications as a downloadable that you own outright. Adobe has a monthly rental system going on… Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, Adobe Premiere Pro, InDesign and Experience Design (Beta) for a whopping £50 per month!

Premiere Pro aside, that’s £600 per year and you don’t own any of it! Whereas you will pay only £199 for the equivalent with Xara Designer Pro X. Just add £55 and you have MAGIX Movie Edit Pro Premium. That’s £254 in total! MAGIX is an affiliate of Xara.

You will most likely find that Xara Designer Pro X is perfect for this Digital Era; it’s about a good website, downloadable PDF files, video and Social Media these days and Designer Pro X does it all - barring the video side of things in terms of content creation. Naturally, you are able to import video and audio files into web pages created in Designer Pro X. Again, what would be a boon to Designer Pro X is a multimedia component to the suite.

FAST 'N' EZ






Above: What you are looking at is an A5 flyer that took seconds to create. Sure, it's not the best flyer you have ever seen, but I put this together so very quickly. To start with I created an A5 document, from there I looked on the built-in Online Catalogue for some Stock Photos (as found above when searching for "electronic music"), I made the arrangements of the photos as you can see, and I drew a line and coloured it red.

At this point, Designer Pro X does not know that it's a document meant for print; I could export this page to HTML (web page). I was able to preview the page within the web browser element of the program.

I then exported to the TIFF format - a very popular format with professional printing bureaus. Oh, you should also know that JPEG files are very commonly used these days... From there, I bumped up the DPI (dots per inch) value from 96 dpi to 300 dpi, which is the standard for professional printing. The CYMK colour value was present as default, and the TIFF export was complete. Easy! Another popular format for professional print shops is the mighty versatile PDF format.

Note: I almost forgot to mention that you can set up a standard 3 mm bleed so that images bleed off the page thus when the flyer is cut into A5 from a larger sheet there are no unwanted white spaces. The flyer is printed and finished cleanly. Gone are the days when you had to purchase a highly expensive DTP program just for simple print jobs. Or worse still, resort to using a pirate software. 

CONCLUSION
Xara Designer Pro X is a cost-effective way to start a design production house from your CD artwork (if you happen to make Electronic music and printing up your own CDRs), online shop (forget bloody iTunes), flyers for your gigs, t-shirt designs, and so on. With the money saved you can purchase any one of Xara/MAGIX video editing products and you will have the whole suite! Perhaps future generations of Designer Pro X will have a video editor as part of the suite. This is the Web Video Age.

SCORE
Xara Designer Pro 365 scores a well deserved Electrochemy Platinum! 

ELECTROCHEMY REVIEWS XARA WEB DESIGNER PREMIUM 365





XARA

WEB DESIGNER PREMIUM 365

£69.99

And we are back… Here we are going to concentrate solely upon Web Designer Premium 365 as a stand alone product.
Above: What you are looking at is Responsive Web Design. On top you have the desktop version of the music studio site and on the bottom, we have the mobile version.

If you read the review on Xara Designer Pro X 365 you will know pretty much what it can do already… Especially if you have seen the Electrochemy TV review:
https://youtu.be/f-koWYJW9TE?t=36m22s

WHAT’S NEW?
Do you remember the concept of Dynamic HTML? Well, basically DHTML was introduced with the release of the Dreamweaver web design application when it was owned by Macromedia. Dreamweaver brought HTML animation to the table and it looked great - only on specific web browsers. That was the caveat. Thankfully, HTML5 is a standard that spans across the different web browsers and Xara Web Designer Premium 365 makes use of that standard to produce compatible websites that look and perform the same in different browsers.

We have some great animations that activates upon reveal. In addition there are wonderful scrolling animations, slideshows that span the width of the page, objects that stick to the top upon scrolling, and parallax scrolling effects.

The content library is now online as opposed to being a hefty part of the application. The content library is called the Online Content Catalog and it is awesome! The Online Catalog features wonderful website templates for just about every user from hobby to community to business in most areas such as the creative arts such as music! In addition there is a wealth of photos and clipart to help decorate the content.

We now have Smart Shapes that aren’t quite info graphics but they can come in handy for expressing data such as percentages, growth, etc.

Photo Grids is a great way to arrange and display photos on a page. And while we’re on the subject of photos, there are some new developments that include new filters and handling which is always welcome!

There’s also some new Social Media Widgets - one of the best is the inclusion of Google Forms. Forms, as you might have experienced, can be bothersome - especially the way in which forms are processed… PHP can produce a very good way of handling forms but if you don’t know what you are doing it takes just one error in the syntax and the form is ruined. Google Forms takes all the grunt work out of form processing.

Another aspect of the Online Content Catalog is the template graphics for a YouTube channel - not that Electrochemy will continue with YouTube. I will update you in due course... Watch out for a separate blog on the many issues that Electrochemy has been facing...


WHAT I WOULD HAVE LIKED
Audio/Video-wise… The audio/video players have improved but you can’t do much by the way of configuration. By “configuration” I mean the following: -

In terms of video, it would have been a welcome bonus to have been able to create a “poster” either from the source at a designated time in the video or by using a graphic/photo. You can’t loop videos too!

Audio, it would have been ideal to enable the player to display track titles as this would be a great addition for musicians and broadcasters.

For both audio/video there’s no means of creating a playlist; that’s a shame. Xara, the software house behind Web Designer 365 Premium, are affiliates of the multimedia force that is MAGIX and I would have thought by now Web Designer 365 Premium would have some awe inspiring audio/video players.

I have to say that I am surprised that there’s no routine for creating video backgrounds?

CONCLUSION
There’s no doubt that Xara Web Designer 365 Premium has been greatly improved; although I am inclined to think that audio/video can be better. It is possible to make use of other media players such as JPlayer, which is just a matter of adding HTML code.

As a WYSIWYG web design application, Web Designer 365 Premium one of best on the market today! It takes care of responsive website design and its rapid at web page composition what with its alignment rulers ensure that objects are placed in precision and in relation to supporting objects.

Create professional websites now!

SCORE
Xara Web Designer Premium 365 scores an Electrochemy Gold!
It would have scored Platinum if databases could be integrated into a website; the lack of database support may have "professional" web designers look elsewhere. There again, these days, incorporating a database into a website is no longer essential. It is possible to design great looking professional and functional websites without the need for a database. 

ELECTROCHEMY REVIEWS MAGIX SAMPLITUDE PRO X3 SUITE

SAMPLITUDE PRO X3 SUITE

£449.99 SALE
£748.99 REGULAR - POST SALE
It’s been almost 2 years since I reviewed Samplitude Pro X2 Suite. Check out that video here: https://youtu.be/f-koWYJW9TE?t=25m30s

WHAT’S NEW?
On the surface Samplitude Pro X3 Suite looks very similar to version X2 but on closer inspection there are a multitude of new elements to this leading DAW!

There’s the Orange Vocoder ME by Zynaptiq and a range of new virtual instruments… Let me use text from MAGIX to describe these new virtual instruments…

Pop Drums

Pop Drums include an authentic mix of electronic and acoustic drum sets. Lay down a powerful foundation for music in genres from New Wave and Pop to Rock and EDM.

Concert Grand
Based on the a recording of a concert grand in an international concert hall, this piano is impressive with its character and detailed articulation.

Cinematic Soundscapes
Weave a colorful tapestry of sound or create atmospheric background music. Cinematic Soundscapes adds a sense of depth and tension to your productions.

Church Organ
This software instrument is based on an authentically sampled Venetian church organ. A huge range of options for sound manipulation expand the repertoire of these instruments even further. They're perfect for use in rock ballads, hip hop tracks and modern dance productions.

Plus…

DDP export
Due to popular request, DDP export is now also included in Samplitude. In addition to physical mastering, you can transfer data digitally with checksum. This guarantees a smooth pressing process.

MP3/AAC audition plug-in
The new preview plug-in enables you to preview results before export and guarantees outstanding sound for your mix. Work on pitch to do away with muffled sounds of compressed formats or factor in features from various encoders to create masters compatible with iTunes and other music platforms.

SOUND FORGE Pro
Comprehensive functions in the areas of editing and mastering make SOUND FORGE Pro 11 the perfect companion plug-in for Samplitude Pro X3 Suite. The powerful Audio Editor works on a precise, sample-based level and offers an excellent selection of tools for mixing and finalizing music productions.

Melodyne Essential
Then there’s Celemony's Melodyne Essential that is an audio editor that can correct pitch and timing.

There are more new components to Samplitude Pro X3 but I have just listed the major ones above. You may or may not know, but MAGIX have recently acquired Sony’s Creative Software that includes Sound Forge! It will be interesting to see where MAGIX will take Sound Forge in the not too distant future!

ODDLY
What’s a little odd is that MAGIX has retained the “Object Synths” in the form of the Loop Designer (beat and bass machine); BeatBox 2 Plus and Robota. These instruments aren’t bad - far from it! However, the Loop Designer is still not able to handle any sample drum loop in the WAV file format. By now, one should be able to drop just about any WAV file on the Loop Designer and it’ll automatically be rearranged for mangling! It’s not a disaster as there are dedicated instruments and effects from VST creators such as Sugar Bytes. The Looperator (Sugar Bytes) is the Loop Designer concept taken to the extremes! That said, the Loop Designer is great for knocking out quick beats and basslines!

I am pleased to let you know that MAGIX has fixed the glitch that stopped the Loop Designer from looping correctly.

IN USE
I found Samplitude Pro X3 Suite to be just as easy to use as the last version - more so because the elements such as the Loop Designer being able to loop correctly upon playback have been fixed. MAGIX has certainly tightened up the loose screws here. At last it is possible to add tempo changes upon audio as well as MIDI! Awesome! It is about time - pun intended!

It’s so very easy to navigate through the user interface as I have gotten used it over the years. And it is also so very easy to get a great sound with the Brickwall Limiter, sMax11, Analog Modelling Suite, Multiband Enhancer and EQ116 - all included in the Suite version. As you would expect, I have a host of mastering plug-ins that can also help me achieve a good mix with Samplitude Pro X3 Suite; it is amazing what you can get for free these days!

STEPPING UP
Samplitude Pro X3 Suite is what I would call a studio oriented DAW; it is solid and will work with most hardware. I don’t have a studio as such as I am a computer musician and SAM Pro X3 easily fulfills my needs.

Is it worth upgrading if you are using satellite DAW, Music Maker (Premium)? It depends on a few factors…

01. Music Maker (Premium) does not work with VST instruments that require separate output such as a drum synth. So, if you have purchased a VST could benefit from having multiple channels then I would say “go for it”!

02. If your computer music focuses upon sample loops mainly then I don’t see the point of advising you to step up in such a major way. SAM Pro X3 Suite is the mothership!

03. Is it worth stepping up from another DAW such as Sonar? Yes, I would say so without a doubt. You are getting a superb DAW with a plethora of instruments - including Independence with a 70GB library - and top-notch studio effects.

The DAW cat amongst the pigeons is Cockos REAPER! I think REAPER slays a lot of the current DAWs currently on the market. REAPER pretty much matches most DAWs in terms of features; new features are added through regular updates. And if that’s not enough, you can run REAPER from a USB stick! However, SAM Pro X3 Suite holds its own against REAPER. Why? If you were to purchase the commercial license for REAPER it’ll cost you $225, that’s £176 (by today’s currency conversion) and by the time you have laid out for additional instruments and effects it could be that you’d have spent more than the asking price of SAM Pro X3 Suite, currently £449.99. Plus you get Sound Forge Pro 11 and that is worth $299 (£234) on its own!

Certainly, if you were about to set-up a decent home or commercial studio I would recommend Samplitude Pro X3 Suite any day of the week!

With a decked out PC setup, Samplitude Pro X3 Suite could go out on the road.

CONCLUSION
I have reviewed a lot of DAWs in my time and I have to say that MAGIX Samplitude Pro X3 Suite gives you a myriad of features for the outlay; it’s complete! It doesn’t try to be anything else but a workhorse of a DAW.

I can’t say that I’m an Ableton Live fan. Samplitude Pro X3 Suite just works how I once worked in a physical studio. Now that Synapse Audio have discontinued Orion Studio my DAW of choice is Samplitude Pro X3 Suite. What I liked about Orion Studio was that it had a lot of power wrapped in a very easy to use interface; it was just lacking a little when it came to the composition side of things. Orion Studio was like FL Studio with its pattern based way of composition. In contrast, SAM Pro X3 Suite uses the traditional linear method of composition and that makes it fluid for me to sequence my music together.  

I have yet to see a DAW beat Samplitude Pro X3 Suite hands down for such an awesome graphical user interface - it is so precise!  

SCORE
MAGIX Samplitude Pro X3 Suite scores a well-deserved Electrochemy Platinum! 

Monday, 29 February 2016

ELECTROCHEMY TV WHAT HAPPENED?

ELECTROCHEMY TV WHAT HAPPENED? 


Above: The latest episode of ELECTROCHEMY TV


If you have been following me, Al McDonald, and my project, ELECTROCHEMY TV you will understand that I have had some personal issues (that I won’t go too deeply into) which have affected the video production therefore episodes were sporadic to say the least. The beginning proved to be very, very rocky indeed! 


Lately? 2015, I was getting back into the groove so to speak... I managed to produce a couple of episodes and from there I wanted to up my game some more! Around September 2015 I invested more time, my own money and money from a sponsor to make everything better! The website had an overhaul and come October I was getting ready to drop another episode when I got a notification from the Tax Credits Office to say that I had been getting money under false pretences. In other words I had committed fraud! WHAT!!!??? I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I called the Tax Credits Office to find out what the hell they were on about... When I managed to get through – it’s an automated voice activated service that requires certain phrases – it is a bitch – I could not make head or tail as to what was being said to me. The Tax Credits Office representative seemed amused at my distress; obviously, I could not see her face but I got the feeling that the woman did not give a shit about what I was going through.

I was told that I would have to give back the money that I had received in Working Tax Credit and I was told in a way that felt like it was a personal attack – albeit a sly one! Once again I was in shock from what I was hearing over the phone. I was told a whole bunch of nonsense including the total fabrication that I was working for another company. WHAT!!!??? Nothing that was said to me made any sense and I went down in a spiral of shock and disbelief. When I came off the phone I was shell-shocked! I kept saying, “Why now?” over and over again. After about 20 minutes I pulled myself together and I started to investigate this so-called company that I was said to be working for and I couldn’t find out anything. I then called up the main Tax Office to find out more and they had an accurate record of my employment history. I was relieved but I know this fucked up system in that they are all interlinked but each department are separate entities and essentially what that means is that the Tax Credits Office was not going to lift a finger to find out whether what they were telling me had any foundation; I kept refuting all the allegations against me but it did not matter to them as they kept repeating the allegations all the more as if they were true. 

I had little option but to fight against these allegations myself. I had no legal representative so that meant that I had to research everything I could in order to defend myself. I tried going to an organization called Citizens Advice Bureau but nobody there could offer any solid help. In fact the CAB volunteers get 99.9% of their information over the Internet and, sadly, the interpretation of the information is not always understood and therefore cannot be applied effectively. I had to do and I am still doing everything on my own. I was so angry and frustrated that I had to shelve my plans for video meant for October 2015 and for the Winter Holidays. I guess I went through a mini depression feeling that I had once again let all the people down who were looking forward to the next ELECTROCHEMY TV episode. Not only was my audience growing I had also managed to regain the confidence of companies that give me stuff to review. I hate feeling that I let people down. I hate what had happened to me as I had put so much effort into it. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. 


TODAY, FEBRUARY 2016

Well, I say today but the whole picture is that I was sent into another bit of depression to learn that David Bowie had passed on. One minute I was listening to the music of his latest album, Blackstar, the next I could at least wish the Music Icon a Happy Birthday – despite all the shit I was going through and come the 10th of January 2016 I woke up to the alarming news of Bowies death. I was seriously depressed for about a week. In an odd way the Tax Credits Office crap that I was going through helped me to get over Bowie’s death in a more constructive way. Needless to say that Bowie felt like a family member as he gave me a soundtrack for just about every important era of my life. I felt like I taught myself to sing by singing along to Bowie’s albums. When I was recording my own Electronic music album all the studio engineers and I would talk about was the ‘Low’ album – such a great influence. 

Anyway, my fight against the Tax Credits Office continues. If I didn’t know better I would say that what I am going through is a personal attack. Everything that has happened just does not make any sense at all. I have a strong sense of right and wrong and I have to continue to fight these ridiculous allegations. 

My position has stabilized somewhat but I am still far from being on solid ground. Still, I managed to finish off the episode that is currently online! My battle to find out what is behind this deluge of nonsense from the Tax Credits Office is ongoing; I do hope that I can get to the bottom of it quickly as I do not want to spend unnecessary time on it. I want to get back to making more episodes very soon! I want regularity. I want to put out ELECTROCHEMY TV episodes on a regular basis like clockwork! This will happen soon! 

If you are a viewer and beloved subscriber I thank you for your patience and I want you to know that I am working hard on a release schedule! 

If you are one of the many companies sending me products to review I thank you for your patience and I ask you to continue working with me. My audience like my nontechnical reviews because they get to the heart of the matter: the essence of your product. If it works we recommend it and if it doesn’t ELECTROCHEMY TV will let you know too! ELECTROCHEMY TV has a key part to play in product reviews. 

Thank you so much for sticking with me, Al McDonald and ELECTROCHEMY TV! Here’s to a great 2016! 

Best wishes, 

Al McDonald
Director / Producer of ELECTROCHEMY TV
YOUR YouTube channel for all things Electronic music and more!
Visit: ELECTROCHEMY TV DOT COM