With its video sampler and creative video effects, can EboStudio’s tools turn Ableton Live into an audio-visual performance instrument?
Max For Live adds plenty of audiovisual tools to Ableton, but it’s not the most intuitive of setups. Jeroen Hofs (aka Eboman) decided to fix this with the introduction of EboSuite in 2018, which allows you to easily create, sample, play, mix and manipulate video from within Live. Several years and updates later, and EboSuite has grown into a highly flexible toolkit for crafting music videos and live performances. We take a look to see if this could be the AV solution that you’ve been looking for.
EboSuite is an ever-growing collection of plug-ins that allow you to treat video like audio. You can play videos in Session view, edit clips using Warp Markers and loop points, use volume sliders and the crossfader to blend videos, and position, scale and rotate images. You can also trigger clips using MIDI, pitch and tune videos, use real-time time-stretching, slicing, velocity to opacity and more.
Everything is controlled within Live, but the video processing is done by a separate application to maximise performance and reliability. When you load a relevant plug-in, you get a floating window that shows the video output.
The main playback plug-ins are the eClip, eSimpler, and eSampler, which seamlessly slip into the Ableton workflow. You can also stream video in from a webcam or iPhone camera, and use Syphon to receive video or send it to another program for more advanced outputs and mapping. You can use up to 64 video tracks simultaneously, which should be enough for the most complex project, but older CPU/GPUs may run into trouble using multiple high-resolution files.
To spice up your visuals, there are 34 stackable visual FX plug-ins including distortions, chroma key, mask, and blur, plus the ability to use ISF shaders for additional FX and generative content. For the uninitiated, shaders are simple programmes that tell your computer how to render pixels. EboSuite comes with a large collection of these, but there are more freely available online, or you can program your own, which massively opens up the creative possibilities.
The real fun comes when you combine audio and visual effects, so you could program a dial on your controller to blur and distort the image whilst adding a saturated reverb wash. Some of the FX are not up to the quality found on more expensive VJ software, but they’re good enough to add some visual flair.
Although you can use a multitude of codecs, you’ll want to use the HAP codec for the best performance. This is a format that’s optimised for live playback and commonplace in AV shows. Luckily there’s a plug-in called eConvert; drag and drop a video clip into it, and it will generate a HAP version in the same folder.
You can drag the newly converted video direct from the plug-in and place it in a Clip or into the eSampler. However, optimised video files may take up more disk space than the original format. You also have the ability to record the output to generate a new video file that can be further manipulated.
Tools for the job
EboSuite is an incredibly well-thought-out system that has been refined and expanded since it’s release. Whether you’re triggering multiple stills as a background, warping a televised speech to play in time, or performing a live beat using pads, there are tools to cover most needs. Although it seamlessly fits into Ableton, there’s a lot here so it may take time to fully wrap your head around how each plug-in works.
Minimum system requirements
- Mac OS 10.13+
- Ableton Live 9.5+ (64-bit), Max for Live 7.2+
- Suite of 54 visual plug-ins for Ableton Live
- Compatible with HAP, H264, MPEG-4, ProRes, DV & Photo-JPG
- 34 visual effects, plus ISF shaders plug-in
- Create, sample, play, mix and manipulate video
- MIDI trigger clips
- Control pitch and tuning
- Warp and slice video
- Streaming video input & Syphon in/out
- Clip recorder and built-in HAP conversion