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Meet the developers: Interview with Kalle Paulsson, Propellerheads

Thanks for Kalle Paulsson (@kallepa), Mobile Apps Product Manager in Propellerheads (developers of Figure, Thor and ReBirth) for sharing his answers, it is always interesting to hear what leading developers are doing and how they see the future of iOS apps.

Propellerheads Kalle

– After its release one year back Figure became one of the most popular music apps. For many people it was the first step in mobile music production. It simplifies music patterns creation process and takes all advantages of touch screen and multitouch. It seems that you’ve spent a lot of time and resources on creation of easy-to-use UI. How you became to the idea of such simple but yet powerful app? 

– We started with the literal blank sheet of paper! Propellerhead previously had ReBirth for iOS, ported to first the iPhone and later adapted for the iPad. That app inherited the knobs and surfaces of other Propellerhead products such as the since discontinued ReBirth and Reason.

So when we set out to create Figure, we very consciously chose to start from that blank sheet of paper, looking at what was the bare minimum needed to create a piece of music. Therefore we also constrained ourself to the small screen of the iPhone, even though the iPad was available.

We did throw around designs at first that used knobs and surfaces, but it never felt right until we hit this flat look that was inspired by the look of certain infographics.

– When you open Figure it is written “Powered by Reason”, can you please explain what does this mean? Do you use Reason’s synths and effects engine inside Figure? Or sounds in Figure were resampled from Reason?

– It really is powered by Reason! We use the same instruments and signal paths as in Reason, albeit in versions of Thor, Kong and the Mixer that’s adapted for mobile use.

– About month ago you released Thor for ipad, what’s your plan for new iOS apps? Can we expect Reason devices to be ported as new apps? 

– We generally don’t talk about upcoming projects until they’re ready for release. It’s so very easy to mention something in passing, which then turns into lots of speculation and rumors and later anger about it not being released yet.

But we can safely say we’ll be continuing to release apps and update that’ll help people to make more and better music to share with the world.

– Before Thor for iPad was released everybody was thinking that you’ll make Reason for iPad. Why don’t you make a port of Reason for iOS? It seems that few versions back Reason 4 was able to run on computers with similar CPU and Memory characteristics that nowdays iPads have.

– The performance thing is the  first thing one thinks about, yes. But then there’s the whole interaction bit as well. Most touch DAW’s are just trying to replicate the desktop experience down to this wonderful touch device, which of course is the most cost effective thing to do. We did it with ReBirth for  instance, the iPhone version was the exact same interface as the old desktop version.

– What was the most challenging in porting Thor from desktop to iOS platform?

– Thor has a huge amount of controls and ways to combine them, so there was a lot of work going into getting everything connected correctly. That, and designing the touchable interface in a way that keeps the overview while not making it crowded.

– Does Propellerheads have dedicated iOS development team or is it combined with Reason development?

– We have a dedicated team, but we get other developers on loan at times and we work very closely with the other teams.

– From your point of view, what are the main limitations of iOS platform for music making apps? Processing power, smaller screen size? Single window interface? Lack of open file system? No tactile feedback when you play on the touch screen?

– You wouldn’t be wrong on any of those. At the same time, the limitations works as great constraints for whatever product we’re doing. Constraints are good. 🙂

– Some desktop DAW developers made iOS controller apps for their DAWs. I know, many Reason users would love to see Figure-like midi controller app or more advanced iOS controller for Reason’s devices and mixer. Is it something we can expect in the future?

– We might look at integrating Figure or Thor into Reason eventually, but there’s nothing planned for now.

– What do you think about alternative platforms like Android, Blackberry or MS Surface?

– They’re all good in their way, and they all have their own limitations. The main one is the market size. Android as a whole is certainly bigger than iOS in some markets, but when you start whittling it down within capable devices and target groups, it’s becomes quite small. But very vocal. 🙂

– A lot of people trying to make music just with iOS apps. But at the same time much more mucisians combine apps with desktop music production. How do you see the future of music production? 

– In the very long run I think computers will eventually disappear, but in the meanwhile we’ll be using touch devices more and more in conjunction with our desktop music environments. Both as sound sources and ways to control and play music in new and interesting ways.