Interview with: Novation

by Novation, HNTR and the Launchpad-Pro Community 2015/07/14
Interview with Novation

Taylor — Hi all, Taylor here !
The following comments and answers to your questions are from Olly Burke, a Novation veteran and one of the incredible brains behind many of our products - including the Launchpad & Launchpad Pro.

First of thanks for all your questions. It’s really great to have this opportunity to hear what you guys are up to and what you want to know about.
A bit about me, I’ve been at Novation for 10 years through Customer Support to Ableton Live demonstrator then into Techincal Marketing. I then moved into a Product manager role, and now ‘Novation Product Owner’ so am responsible for the whole of Novations product research, planning, development and output.
When the original Launchpad came out, I was in the demonstrator role, so travelled the country showing users how amazing Launchpad and Ableton worked together. I managed the upgrade from Launchpad to Launchpad S, and the whole Launchpad Pro project.
I have answered all the questions that I am in a position to do. Sorry that I can’t answer them all (or give you a serious answer to). Some questions even if they seem un-invasive, I simply cannot elude to an answer.
Also, thanks for al the suggestions… again, I cannot comment. If you see one of your suggestions come into fruition, then it’s not that I’ve just stolen it, and I’m not giving you due credit. Some of them may already be in development, so may have been tried and rejected, and some may just be a bit silly!
Thanks again, and I hope that you guys like the new Launchpad Pro and our Launchpad MK2. Really look forward to what you do with all the new features.

How did the whole project start?

Novation — In quite a boring way. It didn’t start at the end of a long weekend of clubbing and partying with the stars, travelling up to the top of the local mountain range, and having a vision, that vision being of a box with lights on, but these lights were somehow more….. colourful, and the box had pads, which were more squishable and could output… velocity and the much elusive… pressure...
Nope, it was market research. Quite a few spreadsheets which make up a document which is presented to our board of directors and reviewed for sign-off.
Before that, we’d been talking about going RGB, and adding velocity + pressure for a long time -- it was just a matter of getting all our ducks in a row and then kicking the project off.

What was the creative process?

Novation — Novation is a company full of music makers. Most people who work here do out of the love of music production and performance. We therefore have a great wealth of internal knowledge and experience. We can’t rely on just our own experience though, so we watch what the community has done, speak to performing artists and producers, go to concerts, club nights and festivals. Basically a combination of my own experiences as a Launchpad and Ableton user, combined with feedback from the community and artists.

Was Ean Golden involved like with the Dicer? (Anyone else we might know)

Novation — This was a project that Novation did with just our internal team, in parallel with a small team at Ableton.

Why did it take so long to go RGB?

Novation — Would you accept 'Sausages' as an answer to this one?

Did the pads change on the Pro / RGB version compared to the Original / S Model? (stiffness / feel)

Novation — Because the LP is velocity and pressure sensitive and the LED technology is different, we have had to completely re-design the rubber pads so that they can effectively work with the contact and electronics on the circuit board. The stiffness has been tweaked so that it can be used as a expressive instrument.

Is anything open source? (apart from the MIDI documentation - e.g. firmwares / pcb drawings / files for 3D printing our own cases / etc.) (Custom firmwares would be cool)

Novation — We are open sourcing the firmware for Launchpad Pro, and doing a programmers reference guide for both Pro and Launchpad (MK2) this allows any software developer or someone with some programming knowledge to customize their Launchpad to do stuff it wasn’t designed for. We really love to see what people can do with our products so we design in the ability to hack and customize.
The programmer's guide for Pro is already available. It's at the bottom of this page:

Will the Launchpad Pro work without the Power Cable? (Low Power / Low Light Mode)

Novation — Power from USB cable will give you almost the same brightness LEDs than with the power cable.

With USB-C on the rise, are there plans for adopting it to your products?

Novation — We haven't looked too much into it, actually. We'll poke around and see.

Does this possibly hint at a (future) partnership between Novation and the Launchpad Pro forum / community?

Novation — We're happy to stay in touch, sure. You guys help us make the products that allow you to be more creative with your music; we're always happy to support our communities where we can.

Quentinover — When the Ult1mod will be released ?
Ok, this is the serious questions:
What are you thinking of the Launchpad community you've made?

Novation — We love you guys. Having a product chime with a group of people so much that a whole comminuties arises is a great thing. We love to see what you can make, and to get feedback on what we are doing.

Quentinover — Why the new Launchpad have the same name than the old one?

Novation — We didn’t want to call it the Launchpad S2, SS, T, or even 2. The S got called 'Launchpad' by everyone anyway - adding something on the end didn’t bring anything extra - so we called it Launchpad.

Quentinover — Are you gonna release a software for developers ? Like, if they want to make a game with the LP, that would be easier!

Novation — We are working on open source firmware. This makes the Launchpad Pro hack-able. We will expect that there are more and more interesting things happening for Launchpad Pro and the MK2 in the future but I can ‘t say anything more.
[Taylor Edit: Check an earlier reply for a link to the programmer's reference guide.]

Quentinover — Madeon have apparently 2 custom Launchpads. What's special inside?

Novation — Madeon is a multi-Launchpad user. He needed tweaks to the firmware to make the 3 units work together better on stage. Actually, the User Mode MIDI channel selection that is now available in both LP Pro and MK2 are derivatives of this functionality.

Quentinover — When a deluxe edition with arcade buttons will be available?

Novation — Probably never! We like rubber here!

ViperActive — After this new wave of launchpad improvements (The MK II and the Pro), where do you think the "Launchpad" will go in the future? How much farther along can we get than the Pro as far as making the best grid instrument there is?

Novation — Well, now that would be telling...

ThePadManCan — Why do all launchpads have a part chiselled out in the middle?

Novation — There’s a structural ‘strut’ under there. We need it to keep the top panel rigid. There is a bit of practical design in there. You should be able to feel some ‘nipples’ on 4 of the pads. The nipples, plus the cut out pads means that you can feel your way around a launchad without needing to look at it.
The new Launchpad and Launchpad Pro now have the Novation N logo in that space.

Jbtiestofan1 — What's the next launchpad gonna be called and when will it be released?

Novation — 'Montgomery the 3rd. Esq.'
Release date is highly confidential !

Trilogy — What were your initial reactions when you saw that there was a "Launchpad Pro" community before the "Launchpad Pro" had been revealed? xD

Novation — Mix of ‘cool’ and ‘Doh’ It’s great to see this community happen, but obviously, there was a discussion of whether we should use the name or not. The name and concept of Launchpad Pro has been around here for a long time, so we weren’t going to change our name just because you guys had already jumped on it. I guess you’ll all have to go out and buy Launchpad Pros now!

Trilogy — You may have seen that painting/decorating your launchpad is now a popular thing. Will you ever bring out your own line of customizable launchpad covers or stickers?

Novation — Interesting suggestion. This is something that we have talked about, but there are lots of other people already doing the customisations - we'll stick with making the products!

Trilogy — The Launchpad is a hit when it comes to music - everyone can use it! What do you think you would have done if the launchpad didn't become as successful as it is today?

Novation — I’ve always wanted to breed kittens. Kittens are really fun (almost as fun as making Launchpads) then getting to make music with them. You can’t get a Launchpad to chase string though, which is disappointing.

Trilogy — Does the "S" stand for anything in "Launchpad S"?

Novation — “Splendid”.
…. Actually I gave a serious answer to this somewhere else.

NoahDoesLP — Was the Launchpad one of your best selling products?

Novation — Launchpad is/was one of our best selling products.

NoahDoesLP — Did you expect the Launchpad to be such of a success?

Novation — Yes / No / Yes. When you make a product, you have to do lots of market analysis and spreadsheets to work out how many you think you’ll sell. Then it comes out and you get to see if your predictions come true. With Launchpad, it was really quite a revolutionary product, and something so different than what Novation had done before - it would have been a little rash to expect success. But when you make a product, and you realize that you are borrowing the prototypes and early models from work (and everyone asks if they can borrow it too) you’re normally on to something!

NoahDoesLP — Do you have any tips for beginners (I'm still learning haha)?

Novation — Youtube, communities such as this, and "practice, practice, practice". Watching and listening really carefully to lots of music. For me, listening really carefully is the most important. If you can describe the sound or music in your head, you are a step further to creating it yourself.

NoahDoesLP — Is there going to be a new Launch product coming out soon?

Novation — We’re always making new products.

NoahDoesLP — What do you think about the Launchpad95 script?

Novation — I love the fact that the community has taken the Launchpad and run with it in lots of exciting directions. Whether it’s through Max4Live, scripting, integrating with other music software, using as a controller for CAD software, theatre lighting control, sound FX board for TV shows.

NoahDoesLP — Have you consider creating a book for Ableton Live beginners?

Novation — No, but I think someone else has just done a book..?

NoahDoesLP — What would you do if the Launchpad wasn't a success?

Novation — Cry. Move on. Do something else!

NoahDoesLP — Have you noticed Chris from Novation is a good reviewer?

Novation — Chris and I are good buddies. We make music together all the time. He’s got a studio full of great kit.

The3RDdimension — Did you know that the launchpad could be used for song covers?

Novation — Yes. We had a feeling that Launchpad + Ableton Live had this potential. It was a surprise to see how popular the Launchpad song cover format has become, though.

The3RDdimension — Did you have earlier models of the launchpad before you released the one we love today?

Novation — Not really. We’ve got a few prototypes, I guess; they’re made out of wood with some paper glued on. We used these to user test very early in the project.

The3RDdimension — Is there any attachments/addons for the Launchpad?

Novation — We’ve got some awesome Launchpad neoprene Sleeves.
www.novationmusic.com/accessories/protect-your-gear (Scroll down a bit!)

The3RDdimension — Any chance you will be able to team up with the app iMaschine to have each drum pad on the 4x4 corners of the Launchpad?

Novation — We’ve got our own App. Novation Launchpad App. It’s done really well on the Apple app store. Launchpad App has support for Launchpad S and Launchpad Mini hardware. You can pick up the audio import unlock so that you can import your own samples, then use the Launchpad hardware to play them. It's a lot of fun.

The3RDdimension — How long did it take to design and make the launchpad a reality?

Novation — It’s really difficult to give you a proper figure, because this product has been in our focus for a long time. So it depends on when we actually defined starting. Most products take between 6 months and 2 years, depending on how complex they are.

The3RDdimension — Did you know I was in your Launchpad Birthday video? I'm the guy with the yellow headphones round me neck.

Novation — Hi! Nice headphones.

The3RDdimension — Do you use the Launchpad as much as we do?

Novation — I had a baby 1 year ago. I used to make music almost every night after work. Launchpad was hugely important to my music making. I still try to fit in a session when ever I can, but now on headphones, rather than big studio monitors. :(

Nathan_Cass — How long did it take to get the launchpad design you have today? (talking about the S not pro)
Are there any ideas that have been turned down that we can see?

Novation — We did go through a number of revisions but the overall design and layout has stayed the same since we agreed on the direction early on. We did have few wild designs, but we had to keep it simple. Sorry we can’t show you any!

Hyzenborg — What was the issue with the hardware bugs on the Launchpad S? Why was an official firmware update not released publicly? Can we excpect simliar issues with the new generation? (see video for refererence : https://youtu.be/BhX3zUyne8c

Novation — If you experience any issues with our products, you should absolutely get in touch with the guys in our tech support team. They're award-winningly good. Here's a convenient shortlink if you ever need it: http://bit.ly/NovationSupport

TheDubstepGamer — What is the difference between the Launchpad Mini and the Launchpad Mini MK2 besides the aesthetic differences?

Novation — None, just the colour.

phaTty — Did you take into concideration the lightshows people were doing when you released the Launchpad S?

Novation — Yes. That’s why the brightness and refresh rate were ramped up when we updated the internal chip.
Switching the chip gave us a ‘power’ boost, so we saw how quickly we could update the LEDs and the potential that could have for our users.

phaTty — Can we expect lower latency times for the Launchpad MK2 and Launchpad Pro?

Novation — If you are talking about audio latency, then it’s your soundcard that’s going to fix that. If you’re talking about LEDs, then we perform similarly to the S.

phaTty — What made you make the Launchpad MK2 when you were bringing out the Launchpad Pro?

Novation — Sorry, we can't comment on this one.

phaTty — Have you concidered making a official Novation store so we can buy direct?

Novation — Interesting idea. We'll add it to the list of 'things to look into'! :

phaTty — Can you both use the Launchpad Pro and MK2 for lightshows? I noticed on only the MK2 page it said create eyecatching performances.

Novation — You can use both. The MIDI Note / Velocity to colour table is the same, so any Lightshows created for one will work on the other.

Zrolo — What was the launchpad originally used for?

Novation — There is a lot you can do with an Ableton Clip. It was a simple controller to unlock the power in the clips into a hands-on experience. Very simply, you can’t trigger lots of clips with a mouse, and you want to have your physical experience intuitive with the software hence the grid layout. The sampler in Ableton is also a great performance tool. We wanted to give people this creative music making experience.

Zrolo — Are you going to implement ideas that might help the launchpad covers? What about original songs created on the launchpad?

Novation — Not quite sure what you mean by this. If you have ideas for ways we can improve, send them over to Taylor via our Facebook page!

Zrolo — Are dimensions going to change for the launchpad?

Novation — Nope.

Zrolo — How about coming out with software specifically for launchpad?

Novation — If you have an idea of what that could be, please send it to us via http://bit.ly/NovationSupport - we'd love to hear it.

ULT1MOD — Will you be focusing more on midi-controller based products or will we see more synthesizer, soundcard etc.-like products as well?

Novation — Novation makes Launchpad products, controller keys, synths and soundcards. We will be making some more products in these categories, and maybe some other category of product. We have an exciting year ahead of us.

ULT1MOD — Have there been any controller ideas that you have scrapped? If so, will you be able to show us?

Novation — There are loads that have been scrapped or put on hold. Every now and then you see a competitor's product release and then realize you have a design for almost the same product, in a 2013 folder on your hard drive.
Sorry, I can’t show you though!

ULT1MOD — What is your opinion on the Behringer CMD TC64? I see a few some similarities with one of your products.

Novation — Not able to give my professional opinion on this one.

ULT1MOD — Do you give your products out for testing to controllerists? (Kind of like game companies do for gamers)

Novation — We have internal and external testers. Most of us who work in test, customer support, marketing, or any other department do some sort of music making, so we get the producers and beat makers at work to give us testing feedback. Then we have an artist team who hook us up with external musicians for interviews or beta testing.

ULT1MOD — Was there a specific reason why you are keeping the Launchpads 8X8? Why not larger or smaller?

Novation — I believe that the Launchpad form should be 8x8. That size is a good balance between complexity and simplicity. The 8x8 form factor is a good size to have 1 page covering the whole set / performance. The form factor makes you consider your performance, and tailor your arrangement to fit the 8x8.

ULT1MOD — What exactly is special about Madeon's Launchpads? I heard that you custom built them for him. Is there anything else done to them besides the look?

Novation — I answered this one earlier!

ULT1MOD — Will the Launchpad/Launchkey app be released for the Android any time soon?

Novation — No comment on this one, I'm afraid.

KAEDENOfficial — What does the 'S' stand for in Launchpad S? Or is it just a random name?

Novation — We had a meeting where we went through loads and loads of names for the Launchpad S. After almost 8 hours of heated discussion and debate, we decided on ‘S’ and although we had lots of good ideas about what the S stood for, all were good and valid, so no-one won. I can’t remember what the S’s were, and I’m not sure it’s important enough to remember.

KAEDENOfficial — In what ways (functionality) is the Launchpad Pro different from Ableton Push?

Novation — Push focuses on track building in the studio.
Launchpad pro focuses on music performance.
Both are able to be used in other ways, but product design process is to focus one and make it great.

WeDontHitPlay — Very simple questions. These are the only things thats stopping me from going all Novation.
Is there any plan for a Launch Control Pro (being the same height as Launchpad Pro)? I think it's important that Novation remains modular instead of trying to make all-in-on products.
Is there any plan for a higher end Audio Hub that allows Mic inputs? Akai EIE is the only other alternative and it's odd design puts me off, then Audio Hub came and it was perfect until I realized it has no Mic input.
Oh, one last question.
Why didn't you just make a Launchpad Mk2 with velocity sensitivity? That would be the end all in terms of design and form. Velocity sensitivity is the only thing that is separating Launchpad from having the realistic-ness of a keyboard in note mode. Personally, I think the Launchpad Pro is great, but the extra buttons to allow all those bulky features totally destroyed it's unique form and core philosophy. Less is more.

Novation — Er, no answer to these I'm afraid. Top secret!

B4ndikit — Was the Launchpad Pro named after this here site?

Novation — Sorry but no. :(

B4ndikit — Will the Launchpad Mk2 have more features than the Launchpad S?

Novation — User 1 and User 2 modes have configurable MIDI channels. You can have 6 LPs interacting with Live, Max4Live or LED feedback in different and independent ways.
Faders are output as CC from our firmware. This way you get a nice smooth fader action, and can map it to parameters more easily.
Oh, and RGB!

B4ndikit — Will the Launchpad Mk2 and Launchpad Pro have better grip on the bottom than the Launchpad S?
Is the new Launchkeys going to have new features as well?

Novation — We’ve put a solid rubber base on all of the new range of LPs. So they should be sticking to any surface you can think of (not all though!)

Ev3REST — You have anounced the new Launchpad MK2, so what will happen to Launchpad S? And will you update Mini to RGB Pads?

Novation — Can’t talk about future product decisions, sorry!

DJ NarohM4SONIC said:
"I’m really excited for the Launchpad Pro. I think the fact you can load it with an SD full of samples and not rely on a computer is amazing.”
Is this true?! If so, can you give as much information as possible, e.g. the maximum memory size of SD card, how is the audio outputted, can you switch between different banks of samples or are you limited to only 64 samples?
If this isn't true then thanks for your time
Keep up the great work!

Novation — This is slightly misinterpreted. LP Pro works standalone, so ‘not rely on a computer’ is true, but you’ll need to load your samples onto some hardware, or trigger a drum machine, synth or any other non-computer application you can think of.

Taylor — AND THAT'S IT!
Taylor here again. Thanks to everyone for your questions, it was really great to hear from you. Olly's leapt straight back into his work now, but if anyone has any further or follow-up questions please feel free to reach out to me via our Facebook page or Twitter and I'll be able to answer.
I hope you all enjoy reading his answers; thanks again for having us here.

HNTR — We thank Novation for the time you gave us!
It was awesome to let the community asking some questions.
We hope Novation enjoyed answering questions from our community!

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