In our occasional series profiling the companies on our Audio Market page we turn the spotlight on Edgar Rothermich who runs DingDong Music who make Graphically Enhanced Manuals and who are producing a series of original articles on Pro Tools First Basics for us on Pro Tools Expert.
PTE: How did you start? Tell us about your journey to setting up your company.
Edgar: I studied in the 80s at the University of the Arts in Berlin, Germany with a degree as a Diplom-Tonmeister, starting out with analog (still splicing tape), and using the first digital equipment, the Sony F1, making my digital recordings in 14bits. I worked as a sound engineer, producer, and composer, and moved in 1991 to Los Angeles with Christopher Franke (ex-Tangerine Dream) to work exclusively for him for over 20 years. I recorded and produced (and also co-composed on some projects) his extensive work of solo-releases, TV and film scores and also performed with him on stage in London in 1991, on his only concert after he left Tangerine Dream.
In 2010, I started my own company "DingDing Music" to release my own music and my books in the "Graphically Enhanced Manuals (GEM)" series". Having read mountain of manuals over the years about recording equipment and all the electronic gear we used in Christopher Franke' studio, I always made my own personal notes, mini manuals, excerpts with little graphics to help me remember all that stuff. With the advancements in digital publishing, in 2011, I started to release my own commercial books in the way I thought manuals should be written, without the restrictions imposed by publishers.
PTE: Tell us a bit about your company and the products you produce?
Edgar: So far I have released eight books plus a few free books with a total of over 3000 pages in my "Graphically Enhanced Manuals" series. They are all available as pdfs from my website, printed books available on Amazon, and interactive multi-touch iBooks available via Apple's iBooks Store.
The problem with almost all technical books on the market is that they are heavily text-based with just the occasional screenshot. From my experience, I find that format very tedious and time consuming. You have to read and then process what you think you read to hopefully understand what the author meant. With my unique graphics and diagrams in my books, it is much easier and faster to understand the concepts and workflows with the way I explain it.
I also go beyond the typical approach of "click here and then that happens, click there and then something else happens". I find it important to show the underlying architecture, which creates a much deeper understanding of an app and allows the reader to react to any unforeseeable event that might not be described in the book.
One other important aspect is that nowadays, we have to learn so many (sometimes complex) apps and even if you master an app or a plugin, if you don't use it for a month or two and come back to it, you might have forgotten some of the details. Re-reading 100 pages, over and over, takes too long. With my books and the graphical approach, you can quickly browser over some diagrams and your memory refreshes much faster. Even small little things, like the way I use color coded text for key commands or navigation paths, hopefully speeds up the learning process tremendously.
PTE: What challenges are you facing at the moment?
Edgar: The exciting news is that audio production nowadays in general is affordable to everybody thanks to the relatively low entry level price point. However, the problem is the lack of the proper knowledge of how to use all this gear. I spend a lot of time every day answering questions on forums and I see the struggle first hand.
Many users are under the impression that watching a few YouTube videos gets them prepared to work in audio production. It is hard to convince them that getting a good book (hopefully a Graphically Enhanced Manual) is a great investment to get them started with a solid foundation.
Another challenge, especially for me as a self-published author, is to get the word out about my books. Without the big advertising budget and business relationships of a publisher, I rely on word of mouth, referrals, and social media. However, many forums and Facebook sites make it difficult for me to even mention that I have a great book, because they don't seem to understand the difference between spam and information that is useful for the community they serve.
PTE: What plans do you have for the future that you can share with the community?
Edgar: I will continue to write my graphically enhanced books to provide the best possible learning experience. The overwhelmingly positive response from my readers is very encouraging. For many years now, I have worked on how to improve the interactivity in learning, which is already great in the Enhanced iBooks format. I'm experimenting with relational FileMaker databases to create some frameworks in order to get away from the one-dimensional indexing procedure and easily tie topics, terms, and procedure together to create a powerful, efficient learning experience, that not only improves the learning of new material, but also as a "Repository of Knowledge" for the user of any level.
PTE: What is your favourite audio tool (excluding any of your own products)?
Edgar: My favourite audio tool is my grand piano that I bought over twenty years ago. I got the perpetual license, no subscription plan, and it doesn't require an iLok key. It is virtually bug free and the small bugs I can take care of with a vacuum cleaner. Best of all, the piano is fully functional on day one of any new macOS or Windows release.
PTE: What one thing gets you annoyed about the audio business?
Edgar: The second word in "audio business" is the most troubling. Unfortunately, every great product needs the "business" side to get it to market, to further develop it and to stay on the market. We know those great engineers like Bill Putnam, Rupert Neve, or Bob Moog. They are the geniuses behind amazing products, and there are countless other brilliant guys (and maybe girls) that the public doesn't know, but they make amazing products like Pro Tools, Logic Pro, or Cubase, just behind the scenes.
We have seen it so often that a product or a company goes under or was destroyed, not because the engineers made a bad product, no, because of "business" reasons. The business is tough for many reasons, but once an Equity Company XYZ, or some bean counter take over, very often, the brilliant engineers (and customers) are on the shorter end of the stick. Avid, is a great example, where the user has to worry that bad business decisions don't ruin the company in an effort to save the company (or the financial interest of the money investors).
PTE: Is there anything else you would like to share with the Pro Tools Expert community?
Edgar: The Logic Pro X app has a command in its Main Menu that goes directly to a website forum, where you can let the developers know what you want, or need, or want to report. Pro Tools needs something like that, so the entire Pro Tools community can constantly pressure them to simplify their product line. No need to pay a premium to have a few more features in Pro Tools | HD. Urge them to make the right decision so Pro Tools continues to exist, because I have plans to release more books for Pro Tools in my "Graphically Enhanced Manuals" series.
PTE: Thanks Edgar for sharing your thoughts and plans for the future as well as giving an insight into the story behind your Graphically Enhanced Manuals. Edgar is planning to continue to produce more articles in the Pro Tools First Basics series and don't think that these are only for people using Pro Tools First. A lot of what Edgar is sharing in this series will help people who are starting out using Pro Tools whether it is Pro Tools First, Pro Tools or Pro Tools HD.