Linked Playback/Record Timeline (and playlists)

Maybe this is possible in WaveLab already and don’t know how it’s done, but one of many reasons I choose to use another DAW (REAPER, formerly Pro Tools) to do my main analog processing (with plugins on the source before going analog) is the fact that the playback source and record timeline can be shared.

It’s useful in many cases, most commonly if a client sends a new mix to reprocess. You can easily A/B the old and the new, plus if they only changed one small part, you can punch in a section and have it be seamless yet flexible.

Another reason came up tonight that thankfully is extremely rare, but a valid case as well.

This is actually the first time it’s happened to me in REAPER and I may know what caused it, but one of my analog captures from earlier today had a dropout that I just found tonight while proofing the audio before bringing into WaveLab to finalize and send to the client.

Instead of reprinting the entire song, I can reprint this short passage and then do a little crossfade to make it seamless. I don’t have to guess and mess around stitching files together another way.

You see in the Overview attachment, that I punched in a section, and you see in the zoomed attachment that the two versions are perfectly in sync down to the sample. REAPER even has a setting to auto-shift new recordings in time if your converter or something else involved causes latency.

While I don’t do this often, and it’s the first time I remember having to do it from a dropout, a more common use is when clients send a new mix that just has a small area fixed or changed, then I don’t have to reprint the entire song. I can just re-print the intro, or part that changed.

REAPER’s take on playlists is to just stack the versions though only one plays. I personally prefer Pro Tools version where you only see one take, but a dropdown playlist view shows yo all possible takes and makes it easy to edit them around.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find having the play/record timeline linked, with the power of playlists really goes a long way.

Other reasons I do this step in a DAW before using REAPER for the powerful montage stuff is:

How easy it is to clean up sections here and there with RX, while maintaining a playlist to get back to your staring point.

Once you have the song captured back from analog, heads and tails trimmed up, and cleaned up with RX in any spots, you can define “regions” for each song before exporting from REAPER. This means that any new versions of the song that get reprinted, have the exact same sync, starting point, end point etc.

You can seamlessly drop the new capture and cleanup in a WaveLab montage and maintain sample accuracy from a previous version.

For some projects, this can be huge.

Justin, are you saying your mastered recordings sync to the sample with the source files after passing through the external chain? (at least at start of audio)?

Or that all the mastered passes sync to each other because of a repeatable time factor through the external chain? Are you doing any time adjustments for this?

I’ve not done any super scientific tests but when I zoom in as far as possible, I can see visually that it’s about as close as you can get. My HEDD and HILO have slightly different latencies I found out but with REAPER, you can automatically offset the recording to match any latency in your system.

I should revisit this again with a test tone but I remember it being insanely close.

The bigger thing is that I can do virally sample perfect punch ins or edits if I just need to reprint a start or ending of a song because the play/record timeline are 100% in sync. I don’t do it a lot but sometimes it can be a big time saver.

The even bigger things is that if I reprint part of a song, or the entire thing, my REAPER region stays 100% the same, so when I render that region to bring it into WaveLab, the file length is the same down to the millisecond and first perfectly in my existing WaveLab montage.

Justin, if you ever want to try, you can record in sync on another track. But for an external chain you need to use the External Gear plugin in the master section. Set the record dialog for “record what is played back” and “add recorded file to focused track” (or something like that). Focus or select the target track, and set the cursor at the left edge of the source file, or on offset region or cd marker if you made markers. Hit “record” in the record dialog, then start the transport in Play. There’s no live record waveform in the track (feature request?). It’s worth trying to see how it currently works. Somebody else might have better suggestions, I haven’t tried this in a long time.

Thanks Bob,

I’ll take a look at this when I get a minute. This is just one of the many little things that add up to a big reason why I prefer doing this part of the process REAPER or any DAW style app really.

Another hand thing today is a difficult client I’m working with. I’m on the 3rd pass of a test master and as you can see in the screen shot, all 3 of my analog captures line up perfectly which not only makes it quick and easy to compare them all closely, but I could even combine and comp versions easily which also comes in handy as I mentioned with cases where clients send a new mix version.

Here’s a screen shot of the 3 different analog captures on top, and the source mix file is on the bottom.

Is the same effects chain applied to all takes in a playlist, or can they have separate effects chains?

Good question.

In Pro Tools world, the same FX are applied to all playlists because they are done on the audio track. The track FX just process whatever audio comes from the playlist.

In a REAPER world, there are no playlists but there are “takes” as you see and takes can have their own unique take/item FX so they can be different.

Normally, I don’t use any FX on the capture track though so this doesn’t really tie into what my personal workflow. The items on the source track is where the FX are normally inserted, before going analog.

The capture track typically wouldn’t have an FX, only copies of sections for RX cleanup work though I suppose some FX could be inserted if needed.

Also, I haven’t tried out Pro Tools Clip FX yet (or whatever they are calling it). I guess recently they added the ability to add plugins to certain audio clips just like WaveLab has Clip FX and REAPER has Item FX.

Last I checked, these clip FX in Pro Tools were limited to only the stock plugins and not 3rd party.

Thanks Justin. I’ll check it out some more.

Justin, I still haven’t had time to try playlists in Reaper, but I wondered if you would still have a use for playlists if you were all ITB. Some people are all ITB. You also wouldn’t have a use for recording in sync I wouldn’t think, if you didn’t have to capture back from an analog chain.

I can see the need for playlists if you have 50 tracks of instruments, and 20 vocal takes you need to comp to one track (at least from my very limited understanding of how this is usually used, which might be totally wrong). I can see how that would be extremely difficult if it had to be spread across 20 more tracks, but in a mastering context, especially ITB, I don’t see the great advantage over just spreading things over a few more tracks. Are there crucial points about playlists I’m missing?

I’m simply asking, what are the advantages in having those 6,7, or 8 mastering takes in a playlist on one track, over having them spread over that many tracks, in a mastering context? And aren’t there disadvantages?

I’m not saying it’s not a great idea, but I just wondered if you operate the same if you ever do something all ITB. Or maybe you never do. Some people do all ITB sometimes, and sometimes not.

Sorry Justin, I’m probably wrong. I think I just don’t know all of the advantages of Playlists yet. If you’ve chosen to use them instead of multiple tracks I’m sure you have good reasons, and I think all of your suggestions and requests here are good.

I think for all “in the box” work, playlists might be less used, but still useful.

You could use a montage track playlist to have the original files on one playlist, and then duplicated playlist could contain some edits/splices of audio clips that had some spectral editing applied either via WaveLab Audio Editor or RX.

Then if you need to revert back to the original audio for any sections, you just flip to the first playlist, highlight and copy that section, flip to the current playlist without moving the cursor at all, and then paste in the original audio to the current playlist. Then smooth the edit points with crossfades as needed.

It could be a good way to get back to the original audio in a montage for certain sections (large or small).

Another less likely reason would be to easily/quickly make a comp playlist of 2 or more mixes. If a client sent you a normal mix and a vocal up mix. You could put those in sync on two playlists, and then do a vocal style comping process on a 3rd playlist to create the master edit in the montage.

But mostly, playlists are nice when capturing from analog for reasons already mentioned.

I can see advantages there, but hopefully Steinberg won’t call them ‘playlists’ in WL. Super clumsy name for what is known already in Cubase as either ‘Lanes’ or ‘Track Versions’. Most people wil associate the word playlist with a list of different songs being played sequentially, like in Spotify, iTunes, Windows Media Player, VLC, what have you.

I agree that playlists is not the best name. Maybe Pro Tools came up with it before we had such heavy use of media players that took over the term playlists.

It does make sense to take the terms and ideas from Cubase if it already exists there. I just use Pro Tools terms because that’s what I know.

Linked Playback/Record Timeline saved me a lot of time today in REAPER. I mastered an album and upon hearing it, the band realized that the mix engineer faded two songs out too early.

I was able to quickly and easily load in the new mix files, and then just re-print the new endings and everything worked out seamlessly. As a bonus, both songs had a great transition point near the end to help mask any small differences between printing on different days.

Aside from the time saved, I was able to do the punch in with nearly sample perfect accuracy. I’m not sure if this would be possible with current WaveLab.

Justin, what you’ve got going is better, but you can record all the captures in sync in Wavelab and it’s accurate. But it’s not fancy. Punching in on the same track is not really practical (the recorded piece would be overlaid on the original capture), but recording on another track, starting from anywhere in the song, will be in sync with the other captures, so segments can easily be slotted in if you just record a piece on another track. If “record what is played back” and “add to focused track of montage” are selected, and you go into Record, it waits for you to start Play and goes into Record when you do, accurately.

One thing I keep forgetting about is the External Gear plugin. You have to use that. If an alternate way could be added to do that, like an Input section with effects slots, it would be more familiar to me anyway. More like Cubase. The Audio Input plugin and External Gear plugin were very foreign to me when I first used Wavelab because I felt that things getting Input shouldn’t be in the Output Section, which is how I thought of the Master Section.

Some of the other differences in the other programs, besides not having to use an External Gear plugin in the Master output Section, is that they have Record Arm on Tracks, Live Record Waveform view on tracks, Input/output monitor buttons on the tracks, and you don’t have to have a Record Window open when recording and possibly covering the track views like you do in Wavelab - you can just Record by using the transport panel in the other programs, without having a Record Window pop up.

If those things could be changed in Wavelab it would be easier and more like the other programs.

I think we shouldn’t forget what the nature of WL is: mastering audio. That usually doesn’t include the kind of recording (including the recording features) that multi-track DAWs have. I don’t need it, I already have Cubase for that. Ofcourse, sending audio out to outboard gear and recording back on the same time line is a legitimate request for a mastering program, but I don’t think WL should go in the direction of copying features other DAWs have just for the sake of it.

I agree. I don’t think WL should turn into a mixing DAW but I think there are some huge advantages for having the playback and record timeline be the same rather than so unrelated. This and the addition of playlists/lanes/whatever you want to call them would bring WaveLab closer to being usable for me instead of preferring REAPER but at this point, there are so many little scripts and tricks I have for REAPER it might be hard to break away from it for my workflow preference.

The bottom line though is that lack of this is and some other mentioned is what moved me to use Pro Tools and eventually REAPER for this task rather than trying to do it all in WaveLab.