Our first aim with the Plug-In X initiative was to initiate a discussion about the current state of the audio plug-in industry. With over 1300 Facebook fans on our Plug-in X Facebook page and a constant stream of emails going back and forth behind the scenes, we’ve certainly made some headway in the last 2 weeks. Just to clear up a misunderstanding, we are not suggesting another plug-in standard, the name ‘plug-in x’ is simply like ‘x’ in an equation, an unknown quantity. With several formats already out in the market, deciding on one of the existing formats would be preferable - or indeed as shown below, there is another way.
We are now building a team who are concentrating their efforts on this project, so onwards.
One thing that has become apparent is that those working at the coalface of development are reluctant to go on the record with their concerns. However, one top developer has agreed to answer a set of questions regarding plug-in development - it makes interesting reading. If you are a plug-in developer and want to join the discussion then please contact us.
Q: How much time does it take to develop a plug-in from concept to final product?
A: It can vary immensely; but a good average figure is 18 months.
Q: How long does it take to port an existing plug-in to a new format?
A: Again, it depends on many things. It could be as short as 2-3 months, or as long as a year.
Q: How long have you been working on current porting projects?
A: Several years for AAX (seriously!).
Q: What happens to your R&D work for new products whilst you are porting to new platforms?
A: They are mutually incompatible. One or the other.
Q: Does porting plug-ins have an effect on your companies turnover?
A: Of course. It’s a significant cost, and upgrade fees are tiny compared to new, full product income.
Q: Are there any technical reasons why we have multiple plug-in formats?
A: Yes-ish. It makes sense for an individual company to define its own interfaces to its own hardware processing, as that will be the most efficient data processing. That said, in all cases an abstraction layer could be introduced, usually for minimal degradation in performance.
Q: Do you think there needs to be more consultation with companies such as yourself about possible new formats?
A: If there was a new format mooted, I would like to have input.
Q: Do you get any financial support from DAW manufacturers to support your efforts to develop for their new platform?
A: No. (You are joking??) Most DAW manufacturers don’t even give us free hardware cards, we have to buy them. We have to buy the (Mac and PC) hosts and the i/o. And for those manufacturers that support console surfaces, we have a major problem as we obviously can’t afford to buy an ICON.
Q: Do you think customers should have to pay for new formats of existing plug-ins they already own?
A: That depends on the amount of effort that goes into the port. Adding AU to a VST plug-in possibly not. But if someone has paid a lot for AAX hardware, and we have spent a lot on developer salaries to make (the extremely difficult and time-consuming) port to AAX-DSP, then absolutely yes, it needs to be a paid upgrade. (Your nice vinyl Dark Side of the Moon LP – did the record company give you a free cassette, CD, DVD, SACD etc?)
A: Not withstanding the enormous challenges of the task, do you think a single, industry-wide plug-in format for both Mac and PC is worth consideration?
Q: It would be lovely to dream about it.