Non-stop Recording

Reaper Tips & Techniques

Published in SOS September 2010
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Technique : Reaper Notes

Use Reaper to create an always‑on recorder that captures all the inspiration, but none of the chit‑chat.

Malcolm Jacobson

All of the 'Save live output to disk' options are available from the one window.Photo: credit

Remember those spontaneous performances when everybody is relaxing during the break, or those moments of inspiration that come while you're auditioning one of 300 synth patches? It's a fair bet you weren't recording when they happened — so wouldn't it be great to have a recorder that's always on, ensuring that you never miss an opportunity again?

When DAT tape became a cheap recording method, I got into the habit of always leaving a DAT machine in record, patched across the mix bus, whenever a session was taking place. In addition to proving an interesting archive of all of the studio chat, it provided a backup recording of the performances that happened in between takes. There were many times when the 'always running' live recording managed to capture creative ideas and inspirations and, on a few occasions, these moments even made it to the final CD.

In this article, I'll show you how to use Reaper's 'Save live output to disk' feature so that you can capture these moments of inspiration whenever they happen, using your own 'always‑on' recorder. First, to set up background recording, select File / Save live output to disk (bounce) or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Alt-B.

All of the 'Save live output to disk' options are available from one window, which offers a surprising number of background recording options. We'll start with the basic settings.

Output Formats

The first thing you need to decide on is the output format. By default, the background recording runs at 24‑bit in WAV format, but you can change this to any of the uncompressed or lossless formats that are supported by Reaper.

In The Background

When you're ready to start recording, click the Start button. The window will disappear and any audio that passes through the master bus will be recorded to the selected file. You'll soon forget all about the recording that's happening in the background.

Since there's no visible indicator in the Reaper user interface to show that the 'Save live output to disk' function is on, it's easy to forget that you started it minutes, or possibly hours earlier. Even with a large reserve of hard drive space, you might wonder if you're setting yourself up for one of those nasty 'Out of disk space' error messages. Luckily, some of the other options in the 'Save live output to disk' window will help you avoid this situation, by automatically limiting the file size.

Selecting the 'Save output only while playing or recording' option will halt the recording whenever the transport is stopped. This is a great option if you don't need to record the chatter between takes, but still want a backup of the playback or recorded audio. Be aware, though, that there won't be a gap between pauses in the output file, so don't use this option if you want clean recordings of the output from the master bus.

Selecting 'Stop saving output on first stop' will automatically stop the recording the first time you stop the transport, after starting the background recording. This option might come in handy if you're using the 'Save live output to disk' option as a backup while recording a live performance.

Voice Activation

Selecting the 'Don't save when below' option turns Reaper into a level‑activated recorder, ideal for dialogue-recording situations where you need to capture everything people say, but don't need to record the pauses in between conversations.

Reaper will pause the recording each time the master bus level drops below the threshold value, for the selected duration, then recommence recording once the level rises above the threshold.

In the example, the final file runs for just on two minutes, even though the 'Save live output to disk' option was enabled for over half an hour. Using the 'Don't save when below' option generated quite a small file from over 30 minutes of recording.Using the 'Don't save when below' option generated quite a small file from over 30 minutes of recording.

Since large-capacity drives are now readily available for little more than a nominal investment, it might be a good idea to purchase a drive to keep your always‑on recordings separate from your main projects. With so many situations where an always‑on or level‑activated recorder can come in handy, it's quick and easy to have this operating as a permanent feature of your Reaper recording setup.  .

In The Spotlight

Nudge/Set: Precision editors will love the new Nudge dialogue introduced in version 3.60, accessed by selecting 'Nudge selected items' from the right‑click Item menu. Items can be offset from their current location (in either direction) by the selected Nudge amount, or moved to a defined timeline position by using the Set option.

Nudge/Set operations can be applied to the item start, end, trim, position or contents, and can also be used to create duplicates of the selected item at the defined position. Adjustments can be made down to the sample or frame level.

Better Transport: The mouse wheel can now be used to adjust the start, end and position of time selections when hovering the cursor over the desired field in the transport. Pressing Alt while using the wheel adjusts the value in beats. The project tempo and time signature have also been added to the transport, and can be edited without having to go to Project Settings.

  • Select your preferred format from the Output Format drop‑down list. You can also downmix to Mono, or output to up to eight channels by selecting an option from the Channels list.
  • Selecting WAV as the output format presents you with a further list of options for the bit rate and file format. I usually choose 16-bit, Wave64, as I don't need full resolution for these files and I don't want to keep coming back to change settings if the recording ends up running for hours.
  • If you're restricted for space, try selecting MP3 or FLAC, or lower bit depths for WAV, to limit the file size.
  • Finally, click the Browse button to select an output file and directory.

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