Automating Plugin Parameters

Learn how to automate any and all plugin parameters using your DAW's automation lanes and real-time processing.

Automation


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In music production, and using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) like Cubase, Pro Tools, Reaper etc, automation is used to automate specific functions over a specified time.

Using your DAW’s plugins as static events is limiting the power of both the plugins and the control you have over them and in real-time. Add vibrancy, motion and all sorts of mayhem by automating the parameters of your DAW’s plugins.

Automation

Let me give you a simple example and one that is the most common form of automation – Volume Automation. Within your DAW you will have what are referred to as Automation Lanes. These lanes are specific for conducting automated edits over the timeline of the mix. Using volume as our example we know that most vocals will need to have their volume adjusted over the course of a mix and in the old hardware console days of mixing we used to have to ‘ride the fader’ manually. Riding the fader simply meant that you grabbed the channel fader on the mixer and while the song was playing you moved the fader to make volume changes to that channel in real-time. We don’t need to ride the fader anymore. We can now automate that function using automation lanes in the DAW.

The process is actually quite intuitive and DAW manufacturers have created lots of tools to help us to draw or write in automation data on the dedicated automation lanes. You can also automate without having to draw in any data. You can, in the case of volume automation, grab the channel fader and record the fader movement and have it trigger on playback.

And it doesn’t end there: you can automate just about any parameter in your DAW and that includes plugin parameters. You can automate pans throughout the mix, filter cut-off on a filter plugin, alter the reverb feedback, assign new delay values to a delay plugin and so on, and you can do that manually and in real-time.

In the video I show you how to use automation lanes to control plugin parameters. I show you how to automate the bit depth of the Cubase BitCrusher plugin and in real-time. I then create an automation lane to control Soundtoys Decapitator plugin. I show you how to create nodes and to draw in automation responses (shapes) to affect the Punish feature in Decapitator. I explain how to assign the target of the automation lane to any feature of a plugin making sure to explain the steps required to achieve this.

Plugins used in this video:

Steinberg Cubase

Steinberg BitCrusher

Soundtoys Decapitator

Topics covered in this video are:

  • What is Automation
  • Using Midi to Automate
  • Lanes and Real-time Automation
  • Understanding Nodes and Responses
  • Source and Destination
  • Modulators
  • Automating Plugin Parameters