If you’ve been following along, you know I’ve been experimenting with the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 as a musical instrument platform for Live, Max for Live and virtual modular. I’ve also been working towards a completely wireless battery operated setup for a rapid setup rig for live improvisational work including wireless expressive controllers. Another advantage of wireless means you can use the same system on the couch without accidently snapping off a cable or stressing a port.
Controllerism with a Game Controller
I’ve been using wired joysticks on-and-off for a year or so. One interesting thing about using an Xbox (or PlayStation controller) as an expressive controller is that the design affordances are as well understood and obvious as the pedals of a car.
- Anyone who grabs the controller has a general idea of what controls are buttons, which ones are continuous, and which are X/Y
- If you use the controller in live performance, the audience already has mental model that will allow them to more easily correlate your movements to the sound coming out of the PA.
Video Example – Joystick In Use with Max for Live and Robert Henke’s Granulator II
To illustrate the notion, watch this video I published with a wired Xbox One controller controlling Robert Henke’s Granulator II. It’s a teaser video for a show I did with The Carbon Dioxide Ensemble in November. Note, I will be performing March 8th in Denver at the Rocky Mountain Synthesizer Meetup btw.
In the video I’m using granular synthesis on a sample that I recorded with ensemble member Tom Lundy as he used dry ice on a big heart made of copper.
Going Wireless with the new Xbox One Wireless “S” Controller
I’ve mentioned in recent posts that I use a CME XKey Air on Windows 10 with WIDI Bud. WIDI Bud eats the 1 USB port on the Surface meaning I needed to go with a Wireless controller for this platform to avoid a hub. Enter the new Xbox Wireless “S” Controller.
Microsoft introduced this new controller last year along with the Xbox One S. Unlike the old wirless Xbox One controllers which used infrared, the new “S” variant supports Bluetooth and will pair with a Windows 10 system without needing a dongle!
As I’m performing next week, I swung by Target and picked up one of these controllers for $59. As advertised I was able to pair and use the controller with Live and Max for Live as if I had a wireless controller plugged in.
To pair go to Settings>Bluetooth, turn on the controller by holding the “X” button top center, then hold the pair button next to the left bumper.
No Off Button The only downside of this setup is there is no “off” button on this controller. Normally, you’d do this in software while in a game on the console or on Windows. Just pop a battery in and out and you are good to go. I’ll hunt for some app that might do this and report back.
How to Turn The Controller Off
I wasn’t patient enough on my first attempts to turn the controller off. Reader Bill (@compbl) points out that…
If you hold the Xbox Button for about 15 to 20 seconds the controller will power down. No need to pop out a battery!
Stay Tuned for an Article Using Max for Live to Map Game Controllers
Watch for a future post where I mention how I’m mapping the Xbox One Controller to Live and my VSTs via Max for Live