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Battery in ProTools

Getting your host DAW to recognize and accept extra audio channels By Graeme Hague

VST instruments generally have a stereo output. A rare few are mono. In your digital audio workstation (DAW) they're effectively a stereo audio track with a left and right signal feed from the software instrument. This means you can add audio effects like compression, equalization or reverb to the output channel in the mixer. Instrument Tracks are similar with the advantage that you don't have to sacrifice a slot in your VST virtual rack (such as in Cakewalk's Sonar and Steinberg's Cubase) if you don't intend the VST to be multi-timbral or it can't be anyway. In other words, if you use software like IK Multimedia's Sampletank to provide only a single instrument in a project then an Instrument Track is a more efficient way to do it.

In either case you're restricted to a pair of linked channels or a stereo track as your outputs. What if you need more than two channels for the VST? Things can get a little tricky. A common example, which we'll use here, is Native Instrument's Battery 3. It's a drum sampler and many users want to split each individual drum to a dedicated audio channel for more precise mixing. Just how much you want to separate your drum sounds is a matter of personal preference and what your computer's hardware resources will tolerate. Theoretically every individual drum sound can have its own track up to 32 channels in Battery, but your CPU might have something to say about that! I get good results from eight tracks--kick, snare, hi-hats, ride cymbal, (the first four) left/right toms and left/right crash cymbals (the second four).

The important thing to note is we're talking about a facility provided by the VST instrument software and the challenge is getting your host DAW to recognize and accept the extra audio channels. In particular, ProTools  in its LE and M-Powered versions can be a little confusing on how to achieve this- but it can.

One of the problems is the terminology and workflow practices ProTools uses, especially if you've been using other DAWs beforehand. Remember we're looking for extra outputs for the Battery VST and perhaps even grouping or sub-grouping channels out into a dedicated Drums buss. Sonar, for example, will simply ask you how many outputs your VST needs when you launch it. It's those terms “outs” and “output” that can cause some head-scratching when it comes to ProTools , because PT correctly identifies anything like this as the VST sending multiple signals into your mixer and you therefore need Returns (inputs) - not outputs. These would then be routed like any other audio channel to the Mains Out (or any buss between) afterwards. So to confuse some new users, while the old hands at ProTools  will be frowning and wondering what the fuss is all about, to build the separate audio channels for our kick drum, snare drum and so on you have to create Auxiliary Input tracks.

First have a look at how my Battery 3 is set up. This is in stand-alone mode, but that's not essential. You can do this inside the DAW if you like. In the Options I specified that I wanted 8 mono outputs and now the choice of these becomes available for the individual drum cells.

Figure 1: Quietly tucked among Battery's many options (not all are shown here) is the choice of multiple stereo and mono outputs. You can't have "zero" stereo outs, because Battery insists on a Master Out.

Battery gives me a selection of the Master or M3 thru M10, the “M” meaning “Mono” for the mono channels and because it won't let you deactivate the default master output, which is always numbered 1 and 2, the first mono output available is allocated M3. To be strictly correct here my Battery drum kit has ten outputs, not eight, counting the stereo master as well. I have my Kick Drum cell selected and the Battery output I've chosen is the first of the mono channels M3.

Figure 2 & 2.1 The output for each cell is shown below the volume and panning control- in this example M3. The illustration on the right has the drop-down menu visible.

Unfortunately you can't rename these mono channels- something which will make things awkward in ProTools  later. You have to make notes like the table below which show how I've assigned all my cells across the eight mono outputs. For clarity's sake I'll point out (for non-Battery users) that you can assign more than one cell to an output. So for instance I have several Hi-Hats cells like Open, Closed, Open Foot all going to M5 and all my snare hits like the stick, rimshot and flam all going to M4.

  Kick   M3
  Snare   M4
  Hi Hats   M5
  Ride   M6
  Toms Left   M7
  Toms Right   M8
  Cymbals Left   M9
  Cymbals Right   M10

 Save your kit and now you're ready to load it into ProTools.


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Related Keywords:DAW, digital audio workstation, audio editing, audio production

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  • Battery in ProTools by DMN Editorial at Jul. 21, 2008 4:03 pm gmt (Rec'd 1)

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