Automation Lanes - what are they and how to use them

Using automation lanes and nodes and understanding what are source and destination targets.

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.

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 explain what automation is and what automation lanes are. I show you how to use automation lanes to control the volume of a drum sound within a sequence. I explain how to to use the draw tool to draw automation responses (shapes) to trigger different events in real-time. I explain how to create nodes within the automation lanes that can then be used to manipulate anything that the lane is assigned to. I show you how to use automation lanes to instigate changes in plugins. I show you how to create automation lanes for different processes.

DAW used in this video:

Steinberg Cubase

Topics covered in this video are:

  • Using Lanes and Nodes
  • Source and Destination Targets
  • Drawing in Lanes
  • Real-time Node Control
  • Optimising the DAW for Automation
  • Using Preset Responses/Curves
  • Creative Automation
  • Multiple Layer
  • Tips and Tricks