Hopefully you've heard of NanoStudio already, the amazing new app from Blip Interactive. I put a few questions to Matt from Blip Interactive about the app, his motivations, and what might be next.
PalmSounds: What first made you decide to make a music studio app for the iPhone and where did you get your inspiration for the design of NanoStudio?
Matt: I'd been working in the console games industry for a decade but was finding that the ever increasing development team size meant it was difficult to feel I was making a difference. The iPhone was a great opportunity to get back to roots level and since I'd always had a passion for electronic music the timing seemed right to explore that passion from a coding perspective.
I was careful not to get too influenced by anything else out there. I'd tried out various existing music making apps and the common element I found in all of them was that although they were fun in their own right I always stopped using them after a while because it was difficult to go much further with them. Musicians seemed willing to put up with copying and pasting between several apps and I felt that musicians needed the whole package - integrated sampling, synthesis, sequencing and mastering. The challenge was to fit all this functionality into a cohesive UI, and to ensure that the phone's CPU usage could be minized to deliver a good battery life.
Matt: My primary concern was to be able to do as much as possible without interrupting the music. I wanted to be able to mute sequencer tracks and edit presets whilst playing the keyboard, and to be able re-arrange a song without ever having to stop it. The phone's screen space made this a major challenge and it became essential to understand that will never be possible in all cases. Important functions must be directly accessible, less important functions may be put behind one menu level and infrequent operations may be put behind two. Also no matter how good the UI, user mistakes will sometimes be made. The key is to ensure that the effect of these mistakes are minimized by placing frequently used UI elements alongside infrequently used ones and making undo options available wherever possible.
PalmSounds: What is the feature in NanoStudio that you're most proud of?
Matt: It's tempting to single out a few areas here - I think that the quality and the flexibility of the synths turned out beyond my expectations, the sequencer/automation is pretty powerful and the resampling function adds a lot of creative depth. But singling out one or even two features is probably missing the point to some extent. The real difference that NanoStudio makes is that it does all these things together in a single integrated environment.
PalmSounds: NanoStudio is being released for the iPhone. Obviously it can be used on the iPad, but are you considering an iPad version or indeed a version that will take advantage of the iPhone 4 or iOS4?
When I started this development for iPhone no one even knew about the coming iPad. When the iPad was announced I had a rethink about the project's priorities but decided to stick to my original brief. The iPhone market was (and still is) the most popular and I didn't want to derail the momentum I already had. Additionally, the iPhone forces a strict design discipline which can be logically extended to iPad, but trying to force a native iPad application back onto a phone would have been a disaster.
Whatever one's position is on the iPad it's difficult to deny it's musical potential. It's the first device I've really seen which sits right in the middle of the age-old hardware/software debate - on the one hand the software is cheap and upgradable and doesn't take up a whole room and on the other there is a large highly interactive multi touch interface. The only remaining barrier is a truly tactile surface and velocity sensitivity - maybe third party add-ons can really bring something here.
NanoStudio will be coming as a native iPad application, and due to the importance of the iPad as a music making device it will be sooner rather than later. I don't really see iPhone 4 making much of a splash over 3GS when it comes to music making aside from one factor - extended battery life. iPhone 4 has more CPU horsepower and I'd generally favour optimizing the code to give twice as much play time rather than using every percent the CPU has available.
PalmSounds: Thinking ahead, where would you like to take NanoStudio next and do you have a roadmap for new features?
Matt: I have my own ideas about a whole range of improvements and extensions for NanoStudio, but I'm going to sit tight for a little while and monitor user feedback to help steer the priority for future development.
I'd like to consider other platforms. Many of my tech/music friends favour Android smartphones but the Android operating system isn't quite ready yet due to its high audio latency. I'd like to explore better integration between 'proper' grown-up desktop DAWs and NanoStudio. Once this is seriously addressed then mobile music making can finally be elevated from uber-gadget status to a truly indispensible musician's tool.
If you haven't seen NanoStudio as yet then you really owe it to yourself to check it out especially as it has 25% off at the moment.
Click the button to see it on the app store.