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.
- Open the file 'BluesMix.RPP' and save it with a new name.
- Play the song and go to View / SWS Snapshots to open the Snapshots window.
- If not all the options are visible, click on 'Show Options'.
- Make sure that 'Full Track Mix' is selected, that 'Selected Tracks Only' is not selected and that 'Prompt for Name' is selected.
- Now click on the 'New' button to create a new mix.
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:
- First, make your changes. For this example, change the panning on the 'Harmonica' to 45 percent right, on the 'Guitar Bdy' to 50 percent left, on the 'Snare' to 80 percent right, and on the 'Perc Overhead' to 70 percent right.
- Increase the volume on the FX Busses folder to ‑6.0 dB.
- Add an instance of ReaComp to this track and set the threshold to about ‑34dB and the ratio to about 4:1.
- Set the Wet fader to about +2.0dB. Leave the effects chain open.
- In the Snapshots window, make sure that 'Full Track Mix' and 'Prompt for Name' are selected, and 'Selected Tracks Only' is not selected.
- Click on the 'New' button, name the mix 'Second Mix' and press Enter.
- Save the file.
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.
- In the Track Control Panel, select both the vocal tracks (tracks one and two).
- In the Snapshots window, select Custom, then unselect all options except Pan, Volume, FX Chain, Sends, Selected Tracks Only and Prompt for Names.
- Click on the 'New' button, type 'Vox Original', and press Enter.
- Save the file.
Now, to create your alternate vocal mix, use the same Snapshot window settings as in the last example and continue as follows:
- Select track two (Vox Extra) and open its effects chain.
- Add the JS plug‑in Stillwell/chorus.
- Set the length to about 100 and the number of voices to four. Leave the other parameters at their default values.
- Increase the volume of track two to ‑5.00dB and lower track one to ‑6.0dB.
- Create a send from the Vox Extra track to the VoxVerb track.
- In the Track Control Panel, select both of the vocal tracks (tracks one and two).
- In the Snapshots window, click on the 'New' button, type 'Vox with Chorus' and press Enter.
- Set the Snapshot window options back to 'Full Track Mix', with 'Selected Tracks Only' disabled.
- Save the file.
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:
- Various snapshot management commands, such as Rename and Delete.
- Show Snapshot Details, which opens a window displaying all of the specific track information saved in any snapshot.
- Add Tracks to Snapshot and Remove Tracks from Snapshot commands, allowing you, as you might expect from their names, to add tracks to, or remove tracks from, an existing snapshot.
- Export/Import, Copy/Paste: these commands can be used to copy snapshots between files.
Now that you know how the SWS Snapshots work and how to use them, the rest is up to you!