PCRECORDING.COM - - Interview with Flavio Antonioli, author of N-track Studio.
1. What is your educational background?
I have just received my degree in Electronic Engineering. I learned by myself using and programming computers: I have been playing with computers since I was about 10 years old. I was a Commodore addict. My first computer was the mighty C64, followed by a C128 and then a series of Amigas. Iíve done some simple programming with the C64 and Amiga, but it was only a few years ago that I started taking it seriously, at the time when I stated working on the early versions of n-Track.
2. How did you find your way to become an audio software programmer?
My first attempts at audio programming were directed toward multitrack recording on the PC. I became enthusiastic about hard disk recording when I bought my first soundcard (a Gravis Ultrasound) and I saw a very basic DOS multitrack recording program. I first made some attempts under the Linux OS but was not too successful. When I started trying with Windows 95 that I managed to obtain the first useful results. A few weeks later (November '96) I released the first shareware version of n-Track, which was simply a dialog box with the name of tracks wave files.
3. What motivated you to begin writing the multi-track recording program n-Track Studio?
Being able to record music without having the need of complicated and expensive studio equipment, exploiting the power and relatively low-cost of todayís computers. Today, for about a $1,000.00, you can buy a complete PC based recording studio that performs better than a $10,000.00 system did four or five years ago.
4. What is unique about n-Track as compared to other shareware audio programs?
I try to make the program as easy to use as possible, while trying to add all the features that people need to record and mix songs. n-Track Studio supports a great number of soundcards up to 24 bit resolution, DirectX real-time effects, and comes with a few useful effects of its own. In addition, I also try to keep the price of the program low to make it accessible to a large audience.
5. Approximately how many registered users of n-Track are using your program?
Several hundreds and it is growing daily, especially with the release of version 2.0.
6. What has it been like working in a Windows dominated environment?
At first it was confusing. When I started programming for Windows I was not an experienced programmer. I had to learn a lot of things at the same time and it was quite hard. However, Windows is a good development environment, there are lots of info on everything you can think of, the only problem being able to find what youíre looking for in this sea of technical docs.
7. Has Microsoft been supportive of your efforts to create the innovative n-Track?
Iíve never had any direct contact with Microsoft as a developer. I think only big companies manage to do that. However I always found a lot of info either in the official docs or in newsgroups.
8. What are the perils that face you in the shareware market?
I think that one of the main risks is to not being taken seriously, particularly in the audio world. People tend to judge programs by their price. A shareware program, just because its price is low, is often not taken seriously. Many shareware programs do the same things as programs costing 10 times more but are not considered legitimate. Also people tend to think that shareware programs are low in quality. This is sometimes true, but it is also sometimes true for retail programs. I think of shareware as a form of software distribution, in which marketing efforts can be reduced to the minimum and the main efforts are directed to development.
9. What are your future plans for n-Track, especially now that you have released version 2.0?
I think that with this version the program has reached a certain maturity, but I plan to continue working on new versions as there are still a lot of improvements to make and still a number of new features to be implemented.
10. Has it been difficult writing for an American market from your home in Italy?
No, I donít think that it would have been radically different if I lived for example in the USA or in France or England. The internet makes it very easy to publish software (and a lot of other things) for a global market, regardless of your geographical location.
11. What is the future that you envision for digital audio recording on home PCs?
As computers become more powerful, soundcards improve both in recording quality and in reliability, operating systems become more reliable and powerful (and I think that Windows 2000 will be a major step in this process), most of the drawbacks of PC based recording, such as configuration issues, compatibility problems, reliability, sync and latency problems etc., will be eliminated. I think that in a few years PC based recording will have a dominant role in both home and professional recording environments.
12. Are you a musician?
I play guitar, but not so good as to call myself a musician...
13. What types of music are you interested in recording?
Mainly rock music, but also some blues and country.
14. Is this how you became interested in writing a DAW application?
Basically yes, I couldn't afford a 4 track recorder, I had a computer so I wanted to try to use it to record my guitar.
15. How much of a role does user feedback play in your decisions to modify n-Track?
Users suggestions and comments play a major role in developing new versions of the program. Many features of the program have been implemented following user's suggestions.
16. What areas are you planning on expanding n-Track? What improvements do you anticipate making to the program?
I think that there are still some general usability issues that need to be resolved. I continue to look for ways make the program even more intuitive to use. Other than that I've no definite plans now, as I've just released v2.0 so I'm curious to hear users' comments on the new version. I remain open as always to ideas for improvements.
17. When you released n-Track, did you intend to end up in a global market?
Yes, I think that this is the great thing about shareware and the internet. Simply by posting a program on the Web, anyone in the world can download and use it regardless of where they live.