Get Smart

Published in SOS January 2014
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Technique : Logic Notes

Work smarter not harder with Smart Controls in Logic Pro X.

Dot Bustelo

Smart Controls let you adjust parameters in Logic without having to clutter your workspace with open plug-in windows. With Smart Controls, you can design an interface for your instruments and effects plug-ins, selecting which parameters are available, how they look and the order in which they are presented. Smart Controls can adjust individual or multiple effects plug-ins, software instruments, or the new MIDI plug-ins all at once, with eye-catching renderings of analogue outboard gear and digital controls.

The Smart Controls populate the lower third of the Main Window. To view, select the Smart Controls button on the left side of the Control bar on top of the Main Window — its icon looks like a rotary encoder. The button is a toggle, so clicking again hides the Smart Controls from view. Enlarge and reduce the Smart Controls view by dragging on the upper edge of the Smart Controls window.The Smart Controls windowThe Smart Controls window To start with a particularly vivid example:

  • Create a software instrument, then select the factory patch C-Beams Glittering under Synthesizer / Soundscape.
  • Adjust the factory-assigned virtual controls labelled Glitter Layer, Filter and Shimmer FX. Each control is labelled by its function. Sometimes the controls will have literal names like Delay, while others will be named a bit more creatively like the one labelled Shimmer FX.
  • Adjust the knobs to hear how they affect the sound of the selected patch. This patch is a richly layered Track Stack containing three different synths.
  • Hit the Compare button in the Smart Control to listen to the original setting after you make a few adjustments.
  • Click the Inspector button labelled with the 'i' and then click the disclosure triangle to view the Parameter Mapping and see exactly which parameter you're controlling.
  • Click the control named 'Filter'. This is adjusting the Cutoff on a Retro Synth patch called Pad Layer, one of the three synth layers of this patch.Parameter Mapping view inside the Inspector.Parameter Mapping view inside the Inspector.

Multi-tasking

Multi-mapping is when a single control is changing more than one parameter. These parameters can be within a track's channel strip (pan, level, mute, for example), instrument, effects plug-ins, sends, or even from multiple instruments inside a track stack.

With the C-Beams Glittering patch, you can see in the Inspector that the Shimmer FX knob is adjusting two parameters: Intensity and Ensemble Mix.

Select the Cosmic Dust patch (from Synthesizer / Pad) and watch the Smart Controls view update. You can immediately adjust the timbre of the sound with the Phaser, Cutoff and Percolations knobs without stopping to open plug-in windows.

Now select the patch 'Traveling Without Moving' under Arpeggiator / Synth Layers. Check out the Contour control. This control is actually adjusting six different parameters of Retro Synth — Vibrato, Filter Envelope, Cutoff and Amplitude Envelope settings.

To view the interface of an instrument or plug-in within the patch, control-click directly on the control then select the Open Plug-in Window pop-up. Adjust the Contour control and you can watch all the parameters moving in this instance of Retro Synth. It would be pretty challenging to tweak all that, even with two hands on physical knobs!Clicking the Open Plug-in Window pop-up in the Smart Controls view shows, in context, all the parameters that are linked to that control.Clicking the Open Plug-in Window pop-up in the Smart Controls view shows, in context, all the parameters that are linked to that control.

If a control is mapped to parameters of multiple plug-ins, the plug-in windows for all of the mapped plug-ins will open. For example, control-click to open the plug-ins view for the Modulate control on this same patch. This one knob is adjusting two plug-ins: Ringshifter and Phaser. From the one Smart Control you can make adjustments to both, without cluttering the workspace with plug-ins.

Keep in mind Smart Controls save with a Patch, and will automatically open when you select the Patch again if Smart Controls is enabled in the Control bar. Watch the Smart Control view open right up when you select another patch like the 'Single Digit Drama' patch, also in the Arpeggiator / Synth Layers category.

As you might be hoping, you can automate movements made with the Smart Controls. Record a few notes with the Cosmic Dust patch and enable Cycle. Now enable Automation by clicking the button with two joined automation nodes, next to the Flex button just above your recorded loop. Choose the automation mode on the channel strip, then start playback and record your movements of any of the Smart Controls.

Create Your Own Controls

Here are some easy steps to design your own Smart Controls, whether you want to map, edit or rename controls, change the layout or even assign external hardware controllers. Use either the Learn process or the Parameter pop-up menu indicated by the up/down arrows inside the Inspector.

  • Open Preferences / Advanced Tools, and make sure that 'Show Advanced Tools' is enabled.
  • Open a new instance of Retro Synth and load the 'Berlin Xperience' patch from the Synth Pad category.
  • Open the Smart Controls Inspector to view, edit or add mappings.
  • At the top of the Inspector is the Layout menu, which defaults to 'Automatic Smart Controls'. Click this to reveal a bunch of options that let you change the look of the Smart Control to show a different number or arrangement of controls. In automatic mode, all controls are mapped automatically by Logic.
  • To make an assignment, select a control, maybe the knob labelled Cutoff. You'll see a blue halo around the knob when selected.
  • In the Inspector, click the Parameter Mapping disclosure triangle to view its current mapping.
  • Open the Retro Synth interface by Control-clicking directly on the knob to see what you're assigning.
  • We'll now reassign the Sine Level button on the right to adjust the Chorus Rate in the Effect section of Retro Synth. To do this, click the Learn button then the parameter on the plug-in interface you want to map to the control. Watch the name update on the control by itself.
  • When finished, click the Learn button again to end the Learn process.
  • To change the name of a control, select it, then edit the text in the Smart Controls inspector above the Parameter Mapping section.

Parameter Mapping

You can also use the Parameter Mapping menu for this process. With a Smart Control knob selected, choose a plug-in parameter from the Parameter Mapping pop-up menu. Select Retro Synth / LFO Rate, for instance. As before, the name updates on the control by itself. To add another mapping — a process called multi-mapping — use the same pop-up menu and click 'Add Mapping'. The new mapping will read 'Unmapped'.

Choose the parameter you want and use the same Learn process, making sure 'Learn' is enabled. Try adding Filter Cutoff. Set the maximum and minimum range values or invert the range in the Parameter Mapping area. Just drag the Range Max or Min value sliders.

When you're done making your assignments, re-save the Patch in the Library so the mapped controls are available next time you open the patch.Designing your own Smart Controls can mean adding more than one parameter mapping per control.Designing your own Smart Controls can mean adding more than one parameter mapping per control.

Hardware Control

Right beneath the Parameter Mapping section you can assign hardware controls to the Smart Controls. Any MIDI controller with physical faders, knobs, buttons, drum pads even pedals can be assigned. Use the Learn in the Inspector area labelled External Assignment. If there's no assignment, the name field reads 'Unassigned'. Click the Learn button next to External Assignment, then move the control you want to assign. You'll see the controller you've assigned selected inside the Inspector. Click the Learn button again to end the Learn process.

The ability to make your own Smart Control assignments is a useful addition to Logic, and should really help you focus on being creative at every stage of the production process. Whether preset or customised, Smart Controls offer an easy way to introduce more movement to your sounds in real time than has ever been possible before.  .

Remote Control

If you're running the free Logic Remote app on an iPad, Smart Controls even pop up here. You can make all the same adjustments with the Smart Controls from Logic Remote, and that includes writing automation. In the Logic Remote's Mixer view, enable your automation write mode, then go back to the Touch Instrument and Smart Control view. Now you can automate your movements with the Smart Controls directly from Logic Remote and watch the results updating in real time in Logic.


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