With the recent release of Auto-Tune 8 we thought it would be interesting to get a sense of what happens when you develop a new plug-in like Auto-Tune 8 from Antares. Dr. Andy Hildebrand, who is the Founder/Chief Scientist of Antares and the creator of Auto-Tune, very kindly agreed to have a chat with us.
PTE: How long have you been working on Auto-Tune 8?
Andy: We have been working on Auto-Tune 8 for the better part of a year.
PTE: How did you decide what new features to introduce in AT8?
Andy: Whenever we start on a new plug-in version, we work off a new features list developed from customer feedback and ideas we have internally. We get together in a brainstorming session and have a discussion over which new features to implement in the upcoming version.
For our new Flex-Tune feature, we were addressing the problem that all pitch correction software pulls every note towards a scale note – even if you don’t want it there. For certain musical genres (including country and blues) singing off key is integral to the genre. Flex-Tune allows this expressivity to come through while still polishing notes as they near the scale notes.
Also being able to track live is something singers have been asking about for years, and our team was able to create a very useful ultra low-latency solution. We also created a number of workflow enhancements to allow for greater customization and improve usability.
PTE: How are you responding to the criticism that AT takes the musicality out of vocals? Was this the reason for adding the Flex-Tune control?
Andy: Well, Auto-Tune does get abused sometimes and that is unfortunate, as it can take the life out of some vocal recordings. As for Flex-Tune, we added it so artists could achieve a more natural, unaltered sound while still cleaning up parts of a performance when needed.
PTE: Can you introduce the team responsible for AT8 and how each contributed to the design of AT8?
Andy: We really had a great team working on Auto-Tune 8. Along with myself, Howard Moon is our main developer, who worked tirelessly to get Auto-Tune released. Howard also irons out the majority of technical issues and compatibility with Pro Tools and other DAW’s. We have a great technical support team, including our music and technology guru Henrik who did a lot of the testing.
PTE: Would you consider Antares as a small business in terms of staff numbers?
Andy: Yes, we are a smaller business.
PTE: Do you all work in the same office or are you spread out?
Andy: The majority of full time staff are in Scotts Valley, while Howard our key developer working on Auto-Tune 8 is in Sacramento.
PTE: What is it in plug-in development that seems to take so long to the layman? Could you give us an insight into the plug-in development workflow please?
Andy: Before getting started, our team meets to determine how the new features should work. Then we develop/update the source code to add the new features and get them to work seamlessly with all major interfaces (including VST, RTAS, AAX, etc…) - this part takes up by far the most time. After development is complete, there is always a fair amount of testing, fixing any issues and retesting necessary before the plug-in is ready to launch.
PTE: Has the AAX format helped or hindered the development of AT8?
Andy: We understand Avid wanting to create a 64-bit version of Pro-Tools, but feel that it could have worked just as well in RTAS. AAX held up Auto-Tune 8 production for over a year as we had to throw out 80% of our code and create a new GUI just for AAX. It puts an unnecessary burden on plug-in developers.
PTE: What proportion of your users are Pro Tools users?
Andy: Since we release our plug-ins across multiple platforms, we are unable to track the exact number of our customers that use Pro Tools. We do know however, that virtually all of our high-end professional customers are Pro Tools users.
PTE: How has the reception been for AT8?
Andy: Overall, it’s been positive, as users are starting to discover how the new features can benefit the recording process. In my experience, releasing a new plug-in or new version is always accompanied with some curiosity, as you never know how your work will be received. To see that users are taking to Auto-Tune 8 has been very gratifying.
PTE: Thank you so much for taking the time to give us an insight into what goes on behind the scenes when developing a plug-in like Auto-Tune 8.