The new experimental build of TouchDesigner dropped just about a week ago. This new build has A TON of new features that you need to know about. If you’re not much of a wiki diver and don’t have time to comb through the full patch notes, this post gives you the high level view of what’s new and what to be excited about!
The single largest change is that OpenGL has been completely removed from the TouchDesigner engine and everything has been migrated to Vulkan. Vulkan is the new go-to API that is the successor of OpenGL. It has a lot of benefits such as:
- Reducing cook times on lots of TOPs
- Allowing more feature parity between the PC and macOS versions and generally increase portability of TouchDesigner in the future for things like Linux or Mobile versions of the app
- Better support for HDR
That’s only a short list of why Vulkan is exciting, but it’s HUGE news to say the least.
High DPI Rendering
If you’ve worked on any kind of high resolution screen, you’ve probably had a tough time navigating the TouchDesigner UI or noticed that it was quite blurry. These issues are getting solved in a big way through the use of the Slug library that allows text to be rendered on the GPU dynamically based on the pixels required for the screen. This is contrary to how previously all the text on screen was being rendered at fixed sizes (which made them tiny on high resolution monitors or soft/fuzzy).
As well, all the internal widgets have been updated to take advantage of these features, and a new Text COMP allows you to embed that same resolution-independant style of of text rendering into your UIs.
VSTs are coming to TouchDesigner! You heard that right! The ability load all your favourite audio tools directly inside of TouchDesigner. This could be anything from synths like U-he Zebra to your favourite EQs, channel strips, or mastering plugins. The support includes being able to send & receive both audio and MIDI from the hosted VSTs. For a lot of artists, this means you have more power and flexibility to decide whether you need an external audio tool like Ableton or Max or if you can do all of your processing and work directly within TouchDesigner. This is huge and a lot of people have been asking for this for a long time, so we’re incredibly happy to see this come out.
One small thing to note is that currently only VST3’s are supported. As many folks in the music and audio industry know, VST2 is still widely used and many vendors don’t even have VST3 versions of their plugins. Never fear! Good friend of The HQ, Rob McDonald, has been diving into the VST3 support and has found that the Unify plugin is a great way to embed your existing VST2 library into VST3 hosts.
Comments and annotations
If you thought VSTs and Vulkan were already a big release, this build has the first edition of comment boxes and annotation boxes. While these are still a work in progress, they’re an amazing addition. I can already feel all the Text DATs I leave sprinkled across networks disappearing. Comments function similarly to how you might expect if you’re coming from an environment like Max. You’re able to draw comments around operators, next to them, and even attach the operators to a comment so if you move the comment you move the whole group of operators together! You can immediately dive into playing around with them by holding Alt while clicking and dragging on the network background to create your annotation.
It’s important to note there are both comment and annotation boxes. For the time being, the best way to think about them might be that the comment function (accessed by right clicking on the network background and selecting Add comment) are the most basic component version of this system, while the annotations are more feature rich and can be styled more easily. I’d suggest using the annotations for now as these features get further developed.
Other interesting updates
A handful of other interesting updates that don’t need a whole section to themselves:
- Ctrl + C can now interrupt Python execution on macOS and possibly save you from a crash!
- Lots of upgrades to SDI i/o and Video i/o such as supporting 12-bit workflows on AJA and Blackmagic devices, improvements to 10-bit workflows, speed improvements thanks to Vulkan, and new ways to interact with the Video Device In TOP through Python
- Updates to C++ operators including more ways for Python in TouchDesigner and the C++ code to interact with each in bi-directional ways
- New Text COMP operator which is specifically for displaying text in a user interface in a resolution-independant way that will scale with screen DPI
- New Stype Out CHOP allows you to directly send out Stype formatted tracking data
- New FreeD Out CHOP allows you to output correctly formatted FreeD tracking data (especially useful for virtual production work with Unreal Engine)
- ALL Ouster models are now supported
- In the main app preferences, you can set the default Viewer Smoothness and Fill Mode on TOPs
- MATs will now assume that incoming textures and colours are pre-multiplied alpha
- New “Infinite Length” mode on the Timer CHOP for continuous timer needs
- SDK information about an operator is now noted in the middle-click dialogue of an operator
- Lots of new Operator Snippets
- New tdu.tryExcept() function allows you to do quick 1-line try except statements in your code
- Switch TOP optimization upgrade to not cook not-visible inputs even with the Blend mode enabled (huge update for optimization!!)
- Add drag-and-drop support for JSON files into TouchDesigner
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SDK and Tooling updates
Here’s all the SDKs and integrations that have been updated:
- TDAbleton -> 1.33 (now support both Live 11 and Live 10)
- CUDA -> 11.2
- NDI -> v5.0
- OpenCV ->4.5.2
- Slug Library -> 6.0
- OpenColorIO -> 2.1.0
- Blackmagic Design SDK -> 12.2
- Substance SDK -> 8.3.0
Should I update?
Simple. If you’re working on a project delivering in the next 3 months, you’ll ABSOLUTELY NOT want to run your production project on this build. There are so many new changes, work-in-progress additions, and even open warnings on the release notes of things that might be broken that you should totally avoid this for paid production work.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t install this as a parallel build on your system and have a ton of fun exploring or working on your own personal pieces with it, just know that it’s not only an experimental, but a very large experimental with tons of changes including a whole new backend, so save often. I’ve got it installed on my computer as a parallel build and have been enjoying working with it and starting to think about how I might structure my work going forward.
Full release notes
If you’d like to dive into the full release notes and comb through every detail, the link is below:
Christmas came early in 2021 thanks to this amazing new update to TouchDesigner. There are so many features in this new build that could potentially change the way everyone works inside of TouchDesigner and just what is possible. Stay tuned for more updates and walkthroughs of all these new features!