You are here

Automation

Logic Tips & Techniques

Sharpen your pointers for a crash course on drawing automation in Logic.

There are two principal ways of creating automation data in Logic: drawing it in, and recording it in with a real‑time controller. This month we're going to look at the first of those methods.

A common application for drawing in automation is ensuring that each syllable of the vocal performance on a vocal track is heard clearly. Let's imagine you have a vocal track that needs this kind of treatment. To draw the necessary automation onto the track, start by going to the View menu / Track Automation, or press 'A'. By default, Logic displays the volume of the channel fader. Using the pencil tool, we can draw in automation to make softer syllables louder, for example, helping to make them audible.

We can also input automation data using the Marquee tool. With the Marquee tool set as your Command‑click tool and the pointer as the left‑click tool, hold down the Command key and use the Marquee tool to draw around a consonant that's louder than the rest of the vocal. (Plosives such as 'P's and 'B's can often be considerably louder.) Now let go of the Command key and, using the pointer, click on the selected area and drag it down in volume. Logic automatically creates four automation nodes that surround the Marquee selection.You can use the Marquee tool for creating automation to duck the level of a loud consonant.You can use the Marquee tool for creating automation to duck the level of a loud consonant.

Smooth Moves

To smooth vocal automation, we can curve automation data by using the pointer, holding down Ctrl‑shift, and dragging the line between two nodes (as long as the nodes are not directly above each other). Once you have input your vocal automation, you may wish to tweak the level of the overall vocal performance up and down. To offset the level of your vocal automation, go to the track header and, holding down the Command key, drag the yellow vertical bar‑graph up or down.Command‑clicking on the yellow bar-graph in the track header will allow you to make 'offset' changes to the overall level of the automation data.Command‑clicking on the yellow bar-graph in the track header will allow you to make 'offset' changes to the overall level of the automation data.

If you're working with a vocal performance that is particularly erratic in terms of level, it can pay to automate the level of the vocal part before compression, for more transparent levelling. To do this, call up an instance of Logic's Gain insert plug‑in, found in the Helper section, and automate the Gain parameter to reduce the level of the vocal on the louder sections. The only problem I've found with this is that the range of the Gain plug‑in is huge and the changes I usually want to make are much smaller, leaving me working within a tiny range of the automation view. To get around this, I use a really cool free plug‑in (available from www.innig.net), called Gain Shaper, which is designed with subtle level automation in mind. The gain reduction is much more manageable and it also offers useful extras, most notably a scaling parameter that allows you to experiment with making your gain automation more subtle. This plug‑in can also be useful at the end of your vocal processing chain, where you can use it for subtle vocal levelling duties, keeping the channel fader free from automation to balance the level of the vocal track afterwards.

In Sequence

Now let's look at a different example. In dance music, it's common to want to input automation based around musical divisions of the sequencer tempo. Logic has many different ways of doing this: we're going to look at two of them.

  • Create a new software instrument track with an instance of ES2.
  • Choose the 'Euro Hook' preset from the Synth Leads directory.
  • Record a simple eighth‑note riff.

Now let's rhythmically automate the filter cutoff of ES2's multimode filter.

  • From the Snap menu at the top right of the arrange page, click on Snap Automation, if it isn't already ticked. Now any automation you draw in will snap to the snap value.
  • To set the snap value, go back to the Snap menu and choose the Division setting.
  • Set this to eighth notes. Now, when you use the Pencil tool, any automation points you draw in will automatically snap to the eighth‑note grid.
  • To draw in eighth‑note blocks, hold down the Command key and use the Marquee tool to select an eighth‑note area. Now use the Pointer tool to drag that area up and down: Logic creates four nodes to mark out that eighth note. This is a great way to input step‑sequenced automation.

Hyper Active!

Your automation will be snapped to the grid if you tick the Snap Automation option in the Snap menu on the arrange page.Another way to input tempo‑sync'ed automation is to use the Hyper editor, which excels for inputting events in a step‑sequencer fashion. Let's carry out the same filter modulation of ES2 in the Hyper editor as we did earlier with track automation. Click the 'New Track with Duplicate Setting' button to create a new track with the same ES2 instrument, then copy the same riff you programmed, but without the automation data.

The Hyper editor makes use of fader commands for the automation of instrument and insert plug‑in parameters. In order to automate ES2's filter cutoff in the Hyper editor, we need to know its fader command definition.

  • Go to the Window menu / Environment or press Command‑8.
  • In the Environment, go to the mixer layer and cable a monitor object to the outlet of our new ES2 channel.
  • Now, watching the monitor object, change the filter cutoff of the Multimode filter in ES2. The monitor object displays the fader command associated with the parameter you move. The first number represents the channel, the second is the number assigned to that control, and the third is the value of the control. So the ES2 Multimode filter cutoff can be defined as a fader command on channel two, number 35 (F 2 35).
  • Go back to the Hyper editor and select the region containing the riff you copied across.
  • Go to the Hyper menu / Create Hyper Set. You will see a new Hyper set with one event definition set to Volume.
  • In the Inspector, set the values of the different menus as follows: Grid, 1/8 note; Pen Width, 16; Status, Fader; Channel, 2; Number, 35.
  • Rename the lane 'Filter Cutoff'.
  • Select the Pencil tool and draw in the filter cutoff values.
  • Once you have listened to the results, experiment with entering automation data with different grid amounts and pen widths, for different rhythmic effects.

Copying & Looping

The situation often arises where you want to loop automation data with a region. However, if you press 'L' to loop a region, the region data is looped, but not the automation data. To loop the automation data, we must first embed it into the region.

With the filter cutoff automation that you drew in showing, go Track menu / Track Automation / Move Visible Track Automation to Region. Now the automation is embedded within the region and can be looped with it. To edit the automation, simply reverse the process by going Track menu / Track automation / Move Visible Region Data to Track Automation.

For copying regions, rather than looping them, Logic has a dedicated preference that allows you to copy audio and MIDI regions with or without automation data. Go to Preferences / Automation and set 'Move Automation with Region' as desired. To copy just the automation data, without the accompanying region, simply go to the Automation view and use the Marquee tool to select the automation data you want to copy. With the pointer tool, use the usual 'Option‑click‑drag' to copy the automation to the desired location.The Move Visible Track Automation to Region function allows you to loop automation and region data together.The Move Visible Track Automation to Region function allows you to loop automation and region data together.

Double Trouble

We have just enough room for one last scenario. Once you have input the automation data for controlling one parameter you may want to use the same data to control another parameter at the same time.

To convert or copy the automation of a specific plug‑in parameter to a different parameter, first make sure the automation you want to convert or copy is visible. Now hold down the Command key and click on the automation parameter menu in the track header. Still holding down the Command key, choose the parameter you want to convert or copy it to and then let go of the Command key. Logic will prompt you to choose whether you wish to convert or copy the automation data. Remember that you can offset that data in the track header.  

Published July 2011