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Inside The New Mackie DL1608 Digital Live Mixer With iPad Control
The development process for an approach that offers an alternative to the long-time control paradigm
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We began by creating detailed 3D models of each iPad so we could load them into CAD software.

After many, many iterations, we landed on a tray + insert design. The integrated tray fits the original iPad, and the tray insert was designed to fit the iPad 2.

For both the tray and insert, the fit is achieved by utilizing two center rails and curved supports on the sides. There are also two guides above the iPad creating the correct alignment needed for docking.

Very close to production, the third-generation iPad was announced. As assumed, it was smaller than the original but slightly thicker than the iPad 2, so we could easily have created a new tray insert.

But, we had a little time and hoped we could modify the existing insert design to accommodate the new iPad. Hand-modifying the insert proved the concept and a more detailed prototype confirmed this.

In less than two weeks (which is light speed mechanical development and prototyping), we had gone from purchasing the new iPad (after waiting in line alongside everybody else) to having a completely redesigned insert ready for tooling.

The result is that all three iPad versions will be supported at launch for the DL1608 with just a single insert that is included with the mixer.

An early sketch of the app by the product design team. (click to enlarge)

DEVELOPING THE APP

The focus of the design process for the UI was simple: speed and control. One of the things that became clear during research is that the vast majority of digital mixers have multiple ways of achieving the same function. The result is often a UI that tries to accommodate multiple methods of use, but ends up being overcomplicated.

So, the core of the UI design involved eliminating unnecessary screens and avoiding redundancies. We tested various scenarios with paper mockups to be sure we had a design that was fast and easy to use while offering all the needed professional controls. The result is a very flat UI, with minimal views and simple navigation.

In fact, there are only two main views. The mixer view offers control of standard mix functions like solo, mute and level for all inputs and outputs. Plus, no matter where you are in the mixer or channel view, the master fader is always visible, providing confidence that the user can always adjust the main output level.

Then there’s the channel view. Rather than just cramming all channel controls in the channel view, we separated EQ, dynamics and FX, using the iPad swipe gesture to quickly change between them.

Emulating established iPad gestures and other Apple conventions was important to us. After all, iPad users already know that swiping accesses additional info. Tapping into that learned behavior makes our app easier to use.

For instance, the DL1608 snapshots and preset icons work like app icons on the iPad home screen. You hold your finger on them, they jiggle, and you are in a mode where you can move things around.

That being said, there was certainly room for interpretation within this design paradigm. For example, the first versions of the Master Fader control app required a user to swipe vertically from the mixer view screen to access each subsequent aux layer below.

What we learned was that it was too easy to accidentally change a channel’s level and it required swiping through the entire series of outputs to get to where you wanted to be. We changed this to a touch-and-release style control, which proved to be clearer, faster and more discoverable by the user.


Source: Live Sound International

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