Tip: setting up a centralized control system

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Dirk Offringa
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Tip: setting up a centralized control system

Postby Dirk Offringa » Sat Mar 10, 2012 3:39 pm

Hi

I'm a guitar player, and band-leader, and of course sound-engineer-in-chief of my own band. I use forte as my main audio mixer, hosting both vocal processsing, guitar processing, live drum processing (drummer uses a Roland V-Drum to trigger forte-hosted sounds), backing-track playback, lighting control, and softsynths. The routing is quite complicated, making use of multiple "audio-hops" using my own AuxBusses for effect-send-returns, submixing, ear-monitor mixes. There are main outputs, monitor outputs, delayed PA stacks. Everything is elaborated and programmed during the reheasals in order to achieve a fully automated show.

There's a lot of stuff that needs mousing around. Mousing while playing guitar is very unconfortable, physically, it's not as sitting behind a desk! There are plugins all over the place. AuxSends are not organised as they are on a traditional mixer. I don't use forte's module-faders because they're post-inserts, I use fader plugins instead. So these are all over the place as well. It started to become really complicated when we decided to have forte host the drum sounds as well, because we wanted the sound to be exactly as we planned it, each time we play. So I bought a Novation Remote controller with AutoMap. This was an improvement over the mouse, to edit plugin parameters more easily. But yet, some problems remained: such a Control Surface needs existing plugins to be replaced by wrapped ones, and this happened not to work for many of my VST's: the blobs seem to be incompatible most of the time. And, the REAL problem: I really wanted to create a control solution where I could have say, all volume faders and fx sends available on the same hardware controller just like a mixer, WITH REALTIME DISPLAY of current parameter values. This is not possible on a Novation: you select 1 plugin at a time. You can't have selected parameters from this, that and another plugin at the same time. What I need, is having a huge selection of parameters from different plugins, neatly laid out on a hardware controller, immediately accessible (even while playing) and every parameter should have it's actual value displayed so that I could mix hands-on without mousing around, opening plugin GUI's in forte or calling controller pages in a library on the Control Surface just to lower the level of the reverb on the vocals a bit. Here's how I did it.

I was about to code something myself when I remembered a cool little software from http://www.bluecataudio.com called Blue Cat's Remote Control. It is a virtual midi control surface. Basically, it's a bunch of sliders and knobs, we can assign CC's to. As simple as that. There are 3 flavors: 16, 48 and 64 controller versions. It's a VST. So it can be Automapped (See?).

The trick is to insert an automapped version of this plugin, and enable its VMI. Then, we can assign CC's to it's knobs and faders, and send them via VMI anywhere, mapping them to any parameter of any plugin anywhere in forte in their respective midi routing tab. So, for example, knob 1 will control bus level of Aux Send 3 (to reverb) in module "Dirk's vocals"; knob 2 will control master volume fader in-ear monitoring bus; knob 3 reverb level of snare drum; etc etc. AND THIS IS AUTOMAPPED: the hardware CS controls the Remote Control plugin, which dispatches the midi CC's that control your set of parameters. (I hope this is clear, it's a complicated problem, but the solution is really simple and efficient!)

We can resume that doing so, we take away the control of a plugin's parameter from the plugin itself, and delegate it to the Remote Control plugin, which in turn is controlled by a hardware control surface. We can't control the plugin's parameter from it's own GUI anymore: it's snap back to the value of the corresponding Remote Control. But it's saved by forte on scene-update, so if later on we wouldn't use this system anymore, we just delete or bypas the Remote Control. The plugins themselves are not automapped; they remain what they are.

This is really really cool and saves a LOT of time and hassle when rehearsing/editing with complicated set-ups. (Did I mention that this also works (of course) to automap parameters from DirectX plugins?!!).

I only have a Novation device, but the same thing might be possible with other Control Surfaces. The automap concept is very convenient, but plain midi control is possible as well. And if you don't have a hardware controller at all, its just as useful with the Blue Cat Remote Control's own GUI: All your most used param's, neatly organised in one single view.

Cheers
Dirk
Life would be much easier if I had the source code.

Dirk Offringa
Posts: 3508
Joined: Sat Mar 06, 2004 3:44 am
Location: Sainte Anastasie, France
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Re: Tip: setting up a centralized control system

Postby Dirk Offringa » Sat Mar 10, 2012 3:53 pm

I just want to add one thingy that must be clear: when I said "we delegate parameter control to the Remote Control" that means exactly what it says: if you use this to control a parameter that has it's values already saved in existing scenes, these values will be overridden by the values of the Remote Control. They will remain saved in the scene until you update, but will take the value of the attached Remote Control fader/knob when you update, so be careful when implementing this solution! Do some planning ahead when you do an "aftermarket fit", you might have to manually match saved values of a "delegated" param with it's Remote Controller.

Dirk
Life would be much easier if I had the source code.

dburns
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Joined: Thu Aug 14, 2003 10:51 pm

Re: Tip: setting up a centralized control system

Postby dburns » Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:44 am

Thanks for the info, Dirk.

I've had BlueCat's Remote Control for a while, but never really used it because I didn't want to rely on a mouse to control it. Using it in the way you describe is making me rethink my own rig.

:)
Dave Burns
Lowell, MA USA

Dirk Offringa
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Re: Tip: setting up a centralized control system

Postby Dirk Offringa » Sun Mar 11, 2012 6:05 am

Life would be much easier if I had the source code.

piert
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Joined: Wed Dec 20, 2006 6:51 pm

Re: Tip: setting up a centralized control system

Postby piert » Wed Mar 14, 2012 3:06 am

Hi Dirk,

As usual, I am very intrigued by your post. I always feel that, when you express such enthusiasm, it must be something REALLY good. It is just a bit hard for me to understand what the exact benefits are and if they would also apply to our band.

My case can be compared somewhat to yours, although on a much smaller scale with a lot less live performances and no need for adjusting for echo/delays. I have programmed the control of our band's four instruments, the main out and four monitor mixes with equalizing and reverbs into a Behringer BCF2000 (MIDI controller with motorized faders). I make extensive use of your aux fader sets.

The Behringer allows saving the status of all faders and knobs into program numbers, which can be instantly re-called at the push of a button.
When I do this for, say the monitor mix of the bass players, all controls switch to their last saved (in Berhringer) positions. Forte is instructed to not store these parameter settings per scene.

This solution has taken a long time to program (and once in a while I still find mistakes!) and works to some degree of satisfaction. Do you think your new discovery would be also beneficial in our case and, if so, what do you see as the exact benefits?

Best regards,
Perry

Dirk Offringa
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Re: Tip: setting up a centralized control system

Postby Dirk Offringa » Wed Mar 14, 2012 7:38 am

Well, the answer is quite easy: your mix resides in the Behringers hardware flash memory; mine is saved in forte and I don't need to have any midi controller hooked up to get my mixes back, because the control surface is virtualised. It's equally cool to have all mixing parameters on screen in one view, like a real mixer, even if they involve many different plugins like faders and auxbusses.

Dirk
Life would be much easier if I had the source code.

fab
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Joined: Sat Sep 03, 2005 9:53 am

Re: Tip: setting up a centralized control system

Postby fab » Thu Mar 15, 2012 10:58 am

if i understand correctly, the bluecat on its own does not provide feedback to a generic midi controller - you need automap for that, right?

Dirk Offringa
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Re: Tip: setting up a centralized control system

Postby Dirk Offringa » Thu Mar 15, 2012 1:06 pm

No, you don't need automap, the Blue Cat provides midi feedback on its own. (I use Novation Automap, so I talked about that first, being used to the fact that most plugins do not provide midi feedback).

Dirk
Life would be much easier if I had the source code.

fab
Posts: 515
Joined: Sat Sep 03, 2005 9:53 am

Re: Tip: setting up a centralized control system

Postby fab » Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:54 pm

that sounds pretty cool then. will need to check it out as soon as i have some time left for this stuff.
(but i am in the process of learning that there isn't time to do everything perfect, so i'd better do song writing and rehearsing first...)


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