It is possible to change the look and feel of your Logic Pro X sessions with a selection of custom free and commercial themes for Logic Pro X. Logic Cafe takes a look into the process.
There is nothing more satisfying than customizing a studio environment to suit your tastes. From the layout and colour of your walls and furniture to adding a personal skin to your NI Maschine or MPC, we all to some degree take as much pride in our workspace as our sound. The feeling of uniqueness and individuality can be a real driving force, are you not indeed more creative and productive in an environment you physically enjoy being in? The guys at http://logicxinterfaces.wordpress.com/ understand this 'need' and have dedicated a little webspace to sourcing custom made Logic Pro X themes from various individual publishers.
New themes have been available for Logic Pro for quite some time now and in the past they have been somewhat of a novelty. However recently these interfaces have become rather good, with some actually being sold as commercial themes. Whether or not you like any of the custom themes or indeed think that they are better or worse than the default slick look of Logic Pro X is a matter of taste. The purpose of this article is to explore the process of installing and using custom themes and to discuss the risks (if any) that are involved.
Step 1a: Choosing a theme
For the best selection of Logic Pro X themes to choose from visit http://logicxinterfaces.wordpress.com/. As previously mentioned, any choices made are down to taste however it should be noted that there are variations in quality of the look and feel. It is also advisable to consider the impact your choice has on your image to others i.e. regarding clients, especially if you are a commercial studio. Our choice was dictated largely by the compatibility of themes with the version of Logic Pro X we were using. It became apparent that Apple made slight alterations to the original Logic Pro X graphics (10.0-10.0.4), namely changing the sizes of the pan pot faders, which caused older themes to display the pan incorrectly in various windows on version 10.0.5.
There are around 30 free themes available, with 15 or so (at the time of writing) updated to 10.0.5. compatibility. Five of these themes are currently tested and working with Logic Pro 10.0.6. We found many of the themes to be creative and original, although as many of them are early contributions from theme publishers, they lack the 'slick' feel the Apple team have given to Logic Pro X. Newer free themes have started to develop design ideas that actually aim to improve workflow and usability, such as the CB Borderline theme by Chris Brown (pictured below) which makes the mixer inserts a little easier to navigate.
There are currently a handful of commercial themes available. The majority of these are published by an individual known on the Logic Pro X Themes website as Matthew, a publisher from Poland. Matthew's approach is a little different than many of the other designers, as he is replicating the look and feel of classic analogue hardware. Currently his designs include API Pro, Neve, Chandler and Pultec, all available for €5. Matthew also apparently makes themes to order, as demonstrated on his blog page with the Themionic Culture Fat Bustard theme. Obviously, these are restricted to the the basic design limitations of Logic Pro X such as fader size, meter style etc., however his work improves with every template.
Step 1b (commercial only): Purchasing the theme
This gets a small section on its own largely because the process feels somewhat like a shot in the dark! Granted, €5 is not a lot of cash to gamble but equally giving anybody money whilst being uncertain of the outcome can be a little tentative. We're happy to report that all purchases we made were honored. Not only this, one of the transactions we made was processed twice and Matthew promptly refunded the additional payment. This professional approach demonstrates that Matthew is serious about what he is doing and is concerned with customer satisfaction.
So why does this process feel tentative? The main issue is the lack of actual store buttons and online store feel. The whole process is done via donations. I can see the side of the coin that finds Payapl payments on small items slightly excessive, there is a standard fee on all transactions BEFORE the Payapl cut, however as a retailer you need to make the process as smooth as possible for the customer. What you lose in fees, you make up for in conversions and customer security. Delivery of the item is also not instant as Matthew obviously emails the link through to you personally and we're sure that he is not at his computer 24hrs per day. We found that both of our purchases, the Neve and the Pultec, were delivered within a couple of hours.
Another slight glitch is that the paypal donation page does not automatically correct itself to your language based on your location as it defaults to Polish. At first this was a bit "oh...?", but an easy solution was to simply load the page in Chrome and translate. Make sure to go through the whole process in Chrome as if you copy to the payment page from another browser it simply doesn't work.
Step 2: Installing your theme - BACK EVERYTHING UP
This process is not for the faint hearted. In fact, if you are at all unfamiliar or not confident with exploring Application package contents we strongly recommend you do not do this without someone who knows what they are doing! Things can go very wrong (see video below). Saying that, so long as you have made backups of your Logic Pro X application package and other resources folders, you can always revert.
Depending on your version on Logic Pro X there are differing available methods to installing your new theme:
There are various instructions available on the web on how to do this, and it became apparent to us that the publishers of themes do not follow a strict code of conduct when it comes to delivering the themes. This is what we discovered when installing our test themes (see video below).
It seems that publishers follow one of two systems:
1: They either provide an entire resources folder for you to replace OR...
2: They provide the files for you to replace in the resources folder
Not realising the latter and following a set of instructions for the former, the results of the video below show how the process can be a little daunting.
Using the Logic Theme Switcher
For users of Logic Pro X 10.0-10.0.4 there is a much easier solution in the way of a free program available called Logic Theme Switcher. As our version was Logic Pro 10.0.5 we didn't get a chance to trial this, however it seems to be a great program. Unfortunately the website says that it will not be updated for 10.0.5 but can be edited with a terminal command to work with newer versions of Logic Pro X.
We tested two of the commercial themes fro Matthew in Poland, largely because we like the idea of Logic having a vintage console feel. Below are the various sections of Logic Pro X in which you can expect to see a difference:
The example below shows the arrangement and track header in the Pultec theme. The colours contrast nicely in this theme and it is easy to navigate a loaded project whilst retaining a vintage feel.
The transport is obviously a little tricky for any theme publisher due to the amount of user defined display options available. We liked the idea of simple back-lit display buttons and they look great using letters, however using the letters C and T for more than one function may prove to be a little confusing. You can see why companies tend to use icons and colour for such tasks, especially as within the digital domain for music production there can be so many options.
Theme publishers are pretty thorough and obviously put a lot of work into leaving very few stones left unturned. Below you can see the media window in the Pultec theme.
If you, as so many producers are, into customization and modding your work environment plus feel confident enough to have a go at this then we have to say it is great fun. It never ceases to surprise us how altering a working environment can also affect motivation and inspiration.
Whether the designs are as polished or professional as the original Logic Pro X theme is debatable but they are definitely on the up and there are more new themes added every day which we will be keeping you up to date with.