Harmony 4 Development Blog

Monday, March 05, 2007

Mission complete - Blog closed

This Blog was used by TC-Helicon development and product specialists to communicate with the real-world during the long development of Harmony4 for Powercore and Pro Tools HD.

That development was completed on all counts on February 28th, 2007. For more information on Harmony4, visit:

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Driving on the other side of the road

Although we took a lot longer than expected to complete Harmony4 Powercore, we do have a few excuses. Unfortunately, at the moment, I’ve forgotten what they are. Moving right along…

In the business of writing software, it’s generally “reuse or perish.” Writing software takes a lot of time, and testing sometimes longer. If you’ve got software that’s been field-proven to work well, and it’s possible to reuse it in whole or in part, why reinvent the wheel?

Speaking of wheels, top automobile manufactures don’t generally build their own cd-players, nor do they make their own wheels and tires. They reuse off-the-shelf components. I’m sure they also reuse their own designs all the time. Perhaps the same steering wheel or shift knob can be found across an automaker’s entire product line.

Harmony4 is also made up of many components. We call them objects. For example, each harmony head you see in the display is actually a virtual object. They’re like the wheels on a car. We bolt them on, spin them around, and hope they don’t fall off.

Now we have Harmony4 working under Powercore. Our current task is to make it work under Protools. Happily, and as planned, we get to reuse a lot of our original work. It’s a little like switching the steering wheel from left to right, because Protools users drive on the other side of the road.

This philosophy isn’t new to TC-Helicon. TC Electronic has spent countless hours building up a wonderful virtual world of plug-and-play components, since the very first plug-in they shipped. We’ve leveraged their work a great deal here, and evolved it a little ourselves.

So, yes we took a long time for Powercore, but hopefully Protools will be done much quicker (not to mention whatever future plugins we embark on for both platforms).

Stephen Evans

Monday, October 02, 2006

Hear Harmony4!

Have a listen to two songs on the TC-Helicon brand website that were created with the help of Harmony4. The only section in which an actual human vocal was used for harmony is in the bridge of "Together". The rest of the harmony and doubling vocals were created with the Powercore plugin.

Click here to get there!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

This Plug-in is Hot

We’ve enjoyed a very sunny summer this year. Mid July our air conditioner decided this was unfair and decided to make its displeasure know by going on strike. It didn’t all out quit, but to make sure it wasn’t ignored it started dripping water into our studio. Soon ceiling tiles were mush and trashcans filled with water. In the picture you can see our intrepid CEO taking matters into his own hands and bashing out one of the soggy tiles. Apologies for the poor picture quality, but I could only get my hands on a cell phone to take the picture, and once the urge to ‘CEO-go-smash-now’ got in his head there was no delaying him for a better photo-op. The air conditioner really didn’t appreciate being prodded and started leaking more water. Our only recourse was to shut down the whole system. I suspect this was the AC’s intent from the start. The office soon turned into a muggy jungle environment – which persisted for a few uncomfortable days. We measured the air temperature in the office at 32C (90F) one afternoon. Harmony4 plug-in development continued.

Eugene Pretorius

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

DSP 101

Ever wonder what DSP code looks like? Well, the answer is more than likely “No”; but I’m going to pretend you said “Yes”. Harmony4 is rather DSP intensive. In fact, we require all the resources (i.e. memory and processing power) from an entire DSP (PowerCore or TDM) to produce harmony. The following is a snippet from one of the mixers in Harmony4. It takes two stereo signals and mixes it down into a single stereo signal. All the gains you see allow one to fool with the balance of the final mix (everything after a semi-colon is a comment – we need some hints as to what we did).

The example in the graphics (Click here for a larger version) is a rather simple example of signal manipulation, but it provides a brief glimpse under the hood of Harmony4. Maybe next time I’ll post an uncommented snippet and have you can let me know what you think it does…

Eugene Pretorius

Monday, September 11, 2006

After testing

Developers at Helicon don’t always get a lot of time to experiment with products once they’re shipping. The necessities of good business mean we almost immediately find ourselves working on updates, new products, old products; whatever requires our attention. Sometimes, however, I say “screw it” to good business. This has been one of those times.

I recently spent several days “testing” Harmony4, which has by the way, already received the golden stamp. Testing is an interesting word. For example, what I’ve been doing could be compared to “test” driving a new car, or “testing” a new pair of skis. Both of these activities are very different than say, “testing” software for bugs, or “testing” the potency of rat poison. So, when Kevin (TC-Helicon CEO) asks me what I’ve been doing lately, I simply say “testing”.

Yesterday I went out and bought a “Silent Brass” system from Yamaha, which is basically a trumpet mute with a pickup. This weekend I plan to route it through Harmony4. Should be interesting!

This will be my last Harmony4 Powercore related post, but I’ll be appearing in a dramatic new series this fall called “PSI” (Pro-Tools Software Implementation).

Thanks for reading!

Stephen Evans

Monday, August 28, 2006

Alternative sources

It’s been a busy several weeks finishing off Harmony4 for Powercore. We’re at the end of beta testing and things are looking great. One thing we discovered during this long testing phase is that Harmony4 can be very useful applied to all sorts of different audio sources – not just vocals. Because we had so much fun with this, we decided to spend just a little time making the necessary optimizations to our algorithms, for even better processing of all types of monophonic instruments. Of course, our first priority is still vocal harmonization, and nothing has been compromised here! I’m looking forward to hearing how customers find new and interesting ways to use our harmonies once this ships.
Click here for a larger version…

Stephen Evans