Real-time automation - both creating automation lanes and recording and reading events within your DAW.
In music production, and using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) like Cubase, Pro Tools, Reaper etc, automation is used to automate specific functions/events over a specified time. It can do this as a snapshot of a static event or in real-time progression through events and functions over the timeline of the mix.
Before we can start using automation lanes we need to understand what automation is and how it works.
Automation – Lanes
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.
Using automation lanes and drawing in a response to control a process or event is a very effective way to instigate automated changes . However, there is another way to instigate these changes and that involves recording or ‘writing’ the change and then having those changes ‘read’ by the DAW. The simplest way to describe this is by using the volume example from above. Instead of drawing in a response to control the volume changes over the timeline you can grab the volume knob, throw the DAW’s sequencer into ‘write’ mode, play the DAW and turn the volume knob up and down. The write feature in effect records these volume changes in real-time and the read feature reads back these changes when the sequence is activated. We are recording the changes and playing them back in the DAW instead of using shapes to instigate the same changes.
In the video I show you how to use the Read and Write features of a DAW to instigate real-time changes. I show you how to instigate real-time automation changes to a number of the parameters in Soundtoys Decapitator. I then show you how you can view the automated data in the automation lane of the DAW. I explain how the newly created automation changes can be manipulated further using nodes and the draw tool.
Plugins used in this video:
Topics covered in this video are:
- Creating Automation Lanes and Recording Events
- Using Read/Write
- Recording Knobs and Faders
- Using Responses
- Multiple Layered Lanes