Bitwig - Up Close and Personal

We chat to one of the development team      20/07/12

VST Only

Right now, alongside the internal effects and instruments, the only supported plug-in format is VST,  which is 64 bit from the get-go by the way with internal 32-bit bridging for full compatibility. VST’s are also run in a sandboxed memory which means any VST plug-in crashes will not take down the whole session. While this single format support may sound like a limitation, it makes quite a lot of sense. Bitiwg is written using a system which allows the codebase to compile for Windows, OS X and Linux from a single build. The idea behind this is that by eliminating the need to create platform specific applications, eating into valuable development resources,  Bitwig can be at parity across all platforms simultaneously. Most plugins are available in VST format so it was decided to support that and focus resources on the workflow - this is the driving force of the entire team - workflow is everything.

Coming in version 2.0 also are the collaborative features. Working on peer to peer technology, it is possible for people to work on the same document, edit and record  (MIDI and audio) with near real-time updates. This could be over the internet for long distance work, or locally over LAN for people in the same room who want to jam and work together. People who’ve checked out Ohm Studio will be familiar with this setup, though there are still some issues with version control to be ironed out. But seeing it in action, gave me a few lightbulb idea moments - education, competitions as well as collaboration of course.  In LAN mode, you can switch off the audio engine of one machine and all work through the audio engine of a single machine, whilst allowing freedom to remotely edit and tweak.

One of the things that really excites me about Bitwig is that it runs on native Linux. This makes it the first (as far as I am aware) fully functional DAW to support all three major platforms. The possibilities are prettyinteresting here, Linux is a free OS and can require significantly less CPU drain as the OS layer, so you should be able to get good performance out of older hardware. Obviously, at the OS level, there is still work to be done on drivers for audio and MIDI but resources such as FFADO (Firewire), and  the ALSA project will give you access to supported devices.

End Game
Bitwig is still being optimised and tweaked, there are still areas that require attention - custom key commands being one,  but from what I’ve seen there’s a great set of core features that will be very familiar to both linear user (Logic, Cubase, Reaper, Pro Tools) and  clip based (Ableton Live) users. It is an exciting prospect, though it's becoming a crowded market, and people tend to be evangelical about their DAWs, it's not going to be easy.

What is clear is that a lot of careful thought and work has gone into it's creation. We’re are waiting to get an idea of how much it's final price will be and when exactly it will be released, but I do know the team are working hard to get to that point.

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