Ots Labs is proud to bring you our greatest creation to date - OtsAV 1.90 - also known as Esperance! Today we're announcing 1.90.000 - the first of a series of releases under the Esperance banner.
We have toiled long and hard, faced enormous challenges, but have come through with what is indisputably the best OtsAV thus far - and by a long shot.
On a serious note first, it's important to understand that retaining the level of quality workmanship, rock-solid stability & reliability, low resource usage, best-in-class processing and innovation while keeping everything simple and useable - and adding major new features - is no mean feat. Many of our customers rely on OtsAV on an everyday basis - and we owe it to them and to YOU to keep all that's great about it, while continuing to innovate, improve and pioneer in new ways. That is the essence behind Esperance.
OK, enough of the soppiness (true as it is). You've probably already skipped past this part anyway! SO WHAT'S NEW?
The first thing you'll notice about Esperance is a totally redesigned user interface and look. This extends far deeper than mere cosmetics, with many core aspects of OtsAV - both interface-related and not - completely re-built and re-implemented. We are in a far better position today than at any earlier time to continue to push the boundaries and meet the many and varied needs of our customers.
Keeping the focus mainly on today's initial release - 1.90.000 - we'll divide the first part of this document into 3 areas: Things that made it into this release, things that had to be held back but were originally intended to be present, and a little about up and coming planned areas for the Esperance lineage.
What's new today in 1.90.000?
- New look and layout! OtsAV has been completely redesigned. Every single area has been reworked, most dramatically and far more than merely cosmetically. The underpinnings of this effort remain fast, efficient, stable and compatible. You won't run into a bloat zone despite the completely polished appearance and additional visual effects. Yes, the old OtsAV was starting to look dated. That's now a thing of the past with this, our most dramatic overhaul of OtsAV ever.
- Huge user interface improvements. They say looks are only skin deep, but helpful functions such as informative tooltips *everywhere* and mouse cursors which inform you whether a right-click is an option go to the core of making the new OtsAV much easier to learn and to use.
- Full freedom now to resize application window to any size, even covering the full screen (including the taskbar) - which is actually the default. At this point, screen sizes up to 2560 x 1600 are fully supported. See the "Maximize to Full Screen" option (which as a shortcut is also located right near the resize button). Gone are the days of putting up with a partially-covered large desktop. OK, OK, the old user-interface was designed when 640 x 480 had to be supported! Incidently, the minimum screen size supported now is 1024 x 600. But if possible, you definitely want more than 600 in height (some features such as the video monitors will not display with a height of only 600 - though that's not new with this release).
- A brand new tabbed lists interface. Why limit yourself to two lists displayed at a time? With the new and intuitive tabbed interface you can display up to four lists simultaneously and choose which displays where, closing and moving them at any time without any loss of information or disruption. Lists are smooth, don't flicker, and show more information, more clearly, colourfully, and in a more logical manner. Of course drag and drop seamlessly works between all of these lists, but even better, keyboard support is now first rate!
- All lists now support a time column (not just the playlist as in 1.85). In the History and Media Library lists, the time column is used to display "how long ago" an item was last played. Any item played within the last 12 hours is displayed in an alternate colour (even in other lists), making it really easy to visually notice items you have already played at a gig before perhaps selecting them again by mistake. In the Preparation Work Area list, the time column functions much like the Playlist, but referenced to 00:00:00, giving you a very fast and easy way to determine how long a given collection of items will run for when played. You'll notice that all of these updates occur seamlessly and reliably. You don't ever have to "refresh" anything to know you are looking at the latest info.
- Lists display attributes (such as video, karaoke, ABM) visually, instead of the former system of using attribute letter identifiers such as 'BVK'. This is far more intuitive and instantly allows you to recognise that an item is the video version, or the karaoke version or whatever. Once you use this, you'll never want to go back.
- The Media Library interface has been completely redesigned! The OtsAV search function was always brilliant - so we've been told countless times - but Media Library searches in Esperance make using 1.85 feel like giving up the internet for the local library. Search is now directly implemented in the Media Library tab/list - there is no longer a separate dialog. You never need to open anything or click the mouse somewhere to give focus to search. It always responds (providing the main OtsAV window has focus, of course). Simply start typing away at any time and your search queries occur instantly. Normally you'll use the Delete key first to begin a new search (search field will be cleared) and then type some key strokes. Your list of results updates instantly and without flickering first, and unlike in the old search - this is truly the entire list of results, not just the first 100 - even if that means thousands and thousands of items. This is the way music search is meant to be! But there's more: search text and OMQL are now completely combined so you can filter by both providing extremely powerful results instantly that were impossible or incredibly cumbersome in the past. You no longer need to choose between items or albums - by default you'll see both types at the same time in your results. All of this is fully customizable. You can choose complicated sort criteria all the way down to 5 levels really allowing you to drill down on what you want to see, and of course all of this is combined with the OMQL and search text filters. But there's still more! You can now use the caret (^) character in text searches to indicate two logically separate fields. This means you could type something like "beatles^love" and all songs by The Beatles with 'love' in their title will come up! Note these are two separate fields that are independently matched. It is not a title vs artist distinction. Best of all, when you find the item(s) you want, you can instantly shoe-horn them into your playlist just by cursor keying down and hitting Enter (see available options).
- The keyboard is now more than ever a first-class citizen in OtsAV. You can continue to use the mouse and drag and drop as you always have before. That's fine, and sometimes that is indeed quicker for certain operations. But having to grab the mouse incessantly just to change between "albums" vs "items" when searching, as an example, is a sure path to early carpal tunnel syndrome. Now you can perform the common and basic operations of searching and adding items to the playlist (or another list) efficiently and purely using the keyboard. Be sure to see the full list of keyboard shortcuts on the Esperance documentation page linked from the bottom of this page. You can also find these shortcuts in the program itself from the Help menu. There's more we can do, but this is a huge improvement over earlier releases, especially when you consider how common searching and adding to lists is for many of our users. Be sure to learn and understand how to change focus between lists using the CTRL+TAB and other useful shortcuts. Your wrists will thank you one day :)
- The new Media Library engine is faster than ever before and handles extremely large Media Library much more gracefully than earlier OtsAV versions. If you have a ridiculously large Media Library then you obviously aren't going to get quite the same performance as a more typical library, however the application still handles this situation better and with less disruption to other GUI activities. Sorting is faster, and as mentioned above each query is fully generating the entire list of results, all sorted, even when this list is the entire library itself or something else huge. When you consider all the sorting, filtering and OMQL query options, which can all be combined, this is one powerful engine.
- Decks now feature a dedicated key control (available to Pro and Broadcaster licenses only). Not only can you manipulate the pitch, tempo and direction as before, you can now alter the key between a full octave down and up. This is particularly valuable to karaoke hosters, but other users will also find it useful. As always with Ots transport controls, all 4 controls (5 if you also include scratching) can all be combined/used at the same time and behave as you would expect).
- Preliminary Looping functionality. We say "preliminary" simply because it does not yet do justice to our awesome looping engine. All of the basics are there, Loop Start, Loop End, Loop Exit and two loop memories to match many of the controllers out there. The looping functionality also features beat and BPM detection technology as well as fully making use of Ots files which already carry this information. By default loops will "snap to the beat" when marked. However, we still have more to do in this area in order to fully show off our engine, particularly in the area of being able to transition between loops on the beat and storing loops in the Media Library which requires a Media Library file format change (more about this below). On the plus side, you can fully scratch, use all of the other controls such as pitch, tempo, key and direction, while within a loop and these will all work perfectly. It's actually pretty awesome. (Available to Pro and Broadcaster licenses only.) Incidentally, the Denon controllers, HC4500 and HD2500 have had their OHML mapping files updated to take advantage of this looping functionality. We have other controllers in the pipeline.
- Now featuring on-screen turntables! Gone is the single turntable in earlier OtsAV editions that had to be shared with the mixer and could only represent one deck at a time - this was great back when screen real-estate really was that tight! Our turntables (which can be disabled for users who don't need/want on-screen turntables) include an authentic strobe light which functions exactly like a real turntable strobe, fully modeling rotational speed effects - do a pitch bend or alter the pitch/tempo, or scratch to see this.
- Audio pipeline has had further speed optimizations done to it.
- Deck video monitors are now larger, equivalent to the height of the main mix output monitor.
- Support for PNG images in the video slideshow feature.
- User interface controls for Bass/Mid/High on the mixer.
- Auto-save Media Libary (OML file) at program exit option - finally!
- Maximum number of source files that can be scanned in a single folder has been increased from 32767. We still don't recommend putting all of your files in a single directory - not because of Ots - but because some filesystems (even on modern and commonly used NAS devices) handle large directories of files with huge performance slowdowns (for everything - nothing specifically to do with OtsAV). But, regardless, we've lifted this limit to something far far higher - so if you really want to shove everything in the one place, go for it! (The NTFS filesystem that most Windows systems use handles large directories quite well).
- Numerous improvements, fixes under the hood, and major architectural improvements. We can't possibly do justice to everything we've done in 1.90.000 in this document. But trust us... it's better. Much better. But we'll all forever love the old classic Ots of course :)
With Esperance, we claimed easier to use, more powerful and more fun! We're sure that after you begin using it, you'll quickly agree that Esperance has made a great product even better, and by a large margin. We'd like to thank YOU for your patience and for believing in us. We hope you are delighted with this first foray into the new world of Esperance!
What was originally planned to be in the first Esperance offering - but has been held off for this initial 1.90-series release?
In large part, the features we had to hold back were all dependent on a new Media Library format and can't reasonably be implemented without it. It's not a huge problem, but we just didn't feel completely comfortable putting that out at this time. It does mean that the following features - which have actually already been on the whole developed - have had to be held back for this initial release. But on the positive side, the fact that they've already been developed means they won't be too far away, and it's probably safer everyone migrating to Esperance without the added complication of the Media Library format changing. So all in all, not such a bad outcome, though we had wanted to showcase the following features too in this initial release:
- You'll note that what looks like a Karaoke Singers Queue is effectively really just another Work Area at this stage. Don't worry - it's on it's way.
- True per-item daypart scheduling. This is a huge feature, and it's already developed. But it depends on the new Media Library format. We won't bother going into great detail right now since it's not currently here, but suffice to say that this has been developed in conjunction with some of our solution providers and radio users and it's an extrememly powerful addition to OtsAV and OMQL. (Available to Broadcaster licenses only.)
- Ability to store loops and cue points in media library. Again, depends on new Media Library format. (Available to Pro and Broadcaster licenses only.)
- Expansion of categories to 255, storage of year, longer title/artist/comment length, artist treated correctly with '.' operator, and a host of other enhancements that depend on the new Media Library format.
What can we expect from future 1.90-series releases - and beyond?
- Better and wider support for newer hardware controllers.
- Changes to the codec support situation. Don't necessarily read into this "MPEG4 support", however we have done a great deal of research in this area and are close to a solution that will further improve the possibilities with OtsAV without compromising all that you know and love.
- Windows 8 support for primary video output (OtsAV 1.90.000 already works perfectly with Windows 8 for audio-only usage).
- Continued improvements and implementations of features, large and small, that we don't wish to detail here and at this time.
- Ots Labs is also working in highly related areas that complement OtsAV development, bringing together exciting opportunities for the future.
- Scratch Sampler (this is a temporary measure only while we update a few things)
- CDDA. The ability to play audio CDs directly within OtsAV has died a long slow death. It first began about 8 years ago when we started to observe that PCs were no longer slow, cumbersome and instability-prone devices for ripping audio CDs on the fly - even while using your favourite DJ software ;) Seriously, no one plays CDs directly any more. You can rip a song to a file in less time that it takes to ask the bride to remind you which song was ear-marked for the bridal waltz. If you *really* want to play a standard Redbook Audio CD on your computer live, there are plenty of ways, including OtsTurntables from Ots Labs. Thankfully, OtsAV no longer needs to carry around this virtually never-used encumberance in both its user interface and inner loins. Let's write this up as "It Was A Great Idea Back In '99".
In reality, little has changed. We'll state the base level these days as a Core 2 Duo, but if you're doing audio-only you can certainly get along just fine with less. The thing about Ots is that its system resource usage is so low (unless you're, eg. trying to push out multiple high-bitrate HD video stream) that it's difficult to make hard cut-off recommendations - basically because Ots resource requirements typically lag far behind what is available in current run-of-the-mill consumer PCs.
But if you really *want* hard recommendations:
- Get a Core i3/i5/i7 - especially if you're doing video. If you can afford an i7, get one - they're nice :)
- You absolutely want a 32-bit video card (but this is almost always the standard these days anyway). If you can get a discrete card (usually nVidia or ATI), please do - Ots Labs generally recommends ATI, but nVidia is pretty great these days too.
- If you care about audio quality, a decent sound card will deliver *much* better results than most on-board solutions. In fact, even people who don't think they care about sound quality will usually be amazed at the difference if given a fair comparison.
- RAM is always nice. OtsAV doesn't need so much, but if you're using the computer for other activities simultaneously with Ots then memory is good.
Esperance obviously uses more resources than earlier versions - it's doing far more. But in truth you won't notice it unless you're either right on a low-end threshold or doing careful and detailed analysis. Esperance has run great on everything we've thrown it at - which includes a wide array of machines, of which it wouldn't be of any practical value going any further back. Think about Moore's "Law". Computing resources tend to roughly double around every 18 months to 2 years - but Ots usage doesn't! So even if OtsAV 1.90 is using more CPU than 1.85 - it's still using far less as a percentage than say what 1.0 did in 1999 or what 1.75 did with video in 2006. Our coding style, driving philosophies and attention to effiencies haven't changed with Esperance. Even with this flashy new interface we still care just as much about conserving consumption as we always did. It just feels like the right thing to do ;)