The Snapshots feature in the donationware SWS Extensions adds simple and very useful mix functionality to Reaper.
The SWS Extensions from Standing Water Studios add an impressive number of workflow and productivity features to Reaper. If you haven't already done so, I'd definitely encourage you to download the donationware SWS Extensions (which come with a free PDF manual) from www.standingwaterstudios.com and follow the installation instructions. Otherwise you'll be missing out on great features that include automatic track/item colouring, marker and region management, a command console and mixer snapshots! For me, the best of this very good bunch is the snapshots feature, so in this article I'll focus on just two of its many uses: to save and recall complete mixes at the click of a mouse; and to save and recall different specific mix elements only for currently selected tracks. This capability is often overlooked or not understood, especially by novice users.
SWS Snapshots are accessed by choosing the View / SWS Snapshots command from Reaper's main window. This opens the window shown above. If, when you open the window, the various options on the right are not visible, click on the Show Options button to display them.
The many options and commands are all explained in detail in the official SWS manual. For now I'll focus on those that we need to understand and use for the two purposes I mentioned above.
The New button (top right) is used to create and save a new snapshot. Immediately below this there is a set of three mutually exclusive radio buttons, labelled Full Track Mix, Current Visibility and Custom.
When the Full Track Mix option is enabled, many of the tick boxes (Pan, Volume, Mute, Solo, FX Chain and Sends) will be dimmed and therefore unavailable to you. This is just as intended: it means that all six of these mix elements will be saved with your mixer snapshots.
When the Custom option is enabled, all of these tick boxes are made available. This enables you to select which mix elements you wish to save into your snapshots. For example, you might want to save only the volume settings, or the volume and pan, or only the effects chains.
The other important option you need to understand is the Selected Tracks Only option. When this is disabled, clicking the 'New' button will create a new snapshot of the current settings for all of the tracks in your project. When it is enabled, the snapshot will be created only for those tracks (tracks, not items!) that you have currently selected in Reaper's Track Control Panel.
Let's now look at some real examples. Download the sample file 'Reaperaudio.zip' from /sos/aug11/articles/reaperaudio.htm. You will now have two Reaper project files, with their common media files, in one directory.
You will be prompted to enter a name for your mix. Type a name, such as 'Original Mix', and press Enter. Save the project file (snapshot information is saved into the .RPP file). You will now find that you can make any changes you like to your various track settings, such as panning, volume, mute, solo and effects, and that clicking once on the text 'Original Mix' in the snapshot window will restore all of these track settings to exactly the same state as when you saved the mix.
Let's now suppose that you'd like to create a second mix, so that you can compare this with the current mix:
You can now play the song, switching between mixes with a single click. You should be able to hear the difference quite clearly. You should also notice not only that ReaComp appears and disappears from the FX Busses folder as you switch between mixes, but that even when you select your second mix, the effects chain for this bus is displayed.
As you listen to your snapshots, you can save any changes you make to them by holding the Control key while you click on the snapshot name in the snapshot window. Be careful to click on the right one!
A cautionary note: on some systems, you may find that switching between snapshots while playing a project can sometimes crash Reaper. If this happens to you, remember to simply stop or pause playback before you change snapshots.
Now we're going to try something a little different: creating alternative vocal chains that can be plugged into either of our main mixes, again with just a single click. First, create a snapshot of the current vocal mix settings.
Now, to create your alternate vocal mix, use the same Snapshot window settings as in the last example and continue as follows:
You can now play back the project, listening to either of the main mixes (mixes one and two) in conjunction with either of your vocal mixes (mixes three and four). In each case, select first one of your main mixes, then one of your vocal mixes.
The sample project file 'BluesMixDone.RPP' includes all of the sample snapshots I've detailed in this article and a few more, including three possible vocal mixes and two percussion mixes. You can experiment with listening to some of the various permutations available. When you find a combination you like, you can create a new snapshot of your preferred mix. Simply make sure that you have 'Full Track Mix' selected and 'Selected Tracks Only' deselected before you click on the 'New' button to create your new snapshot.
I hope this article will have given you some insight into just how useful the SWS Snapshots feature can be. There's a lot more to Snapshots than there is room to explain here! If you right-click over any snapshot name you'll see a whole menu of options. These facilities are all explained in detail in the SWS Extensions manual, but there's just enough space left here to briefly explain some of the options available to you:
Now that you know how the SWS Snapshots work and how to use them, the rest is up to you!