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Digital Performer: Using Mix Modes

MOTU Digital Performer Tips & Techniques By Mike Levine
Published December 2022

The Mix Mode controls are accessed from the bottom left of the Mixing Board.The Mix Mode controls are accessed from the bottom left of the Mixing Board.

Mix Modes can help you keep track of your mix revisions in Digital Performer.

One of the critical elements of a mixing workflow is versioning: that is, saving incremental versions of your mix as you go along so you can backtrack if your session goes off the rails. DP offers a unique solution for that and other alternate‑mix issues with its Mix Mode feature. Instead of saving your session under a new file name each time you make a significant change, you can save multiple mixes inside one DP Project.

Mix Mode lets you revert to an earlier mix, and it’s also useful for quickly comparing different mix versions.

Mix Mode lets you revert to an earlier mix, and it’s also useful for quickly comparing different mix versions. Let’s say there’s a song where you’re trying various ideas for the reverb treatment of the lead vocal. Turn on Mix Mode and make a version of the mix for each alternative, and you can quickly bounce them out to play for your client or bandmates.

You may have a client who wants you to deliver a variety of mix versions, such as an instrumental mix and one with, say, the lead vocal up higher or the drums lower. Rather than creating a separate DP project for each — which can get confusing — you could duplicate your full mix in Mix Mode for each alternative and make the necessary adjustments before bouncing out the mixes.

To get the most from Mix Mode, it’s essential to understand what it does and does not do when you turn it on.

In The Mode

Mix Mode is off by default when you open a new Empty Project. You can only turn it on manually. To do so, look at the bottom of the Mixing Board window for the words Mix Mode Off. Clicking on that label or its corresponding disclosure arrow opens the Mix Take pop‑up. You’ll be presented with two choices: New Mix and Duplicate Mix. It’s important to understand the difference between the two.

If you want your current mix to be copied when you turn on Mix Mode, select Duplicate Mix.If you want your current mix to be copied when you turn on Mix Mode, select Duplicate Mix.When you select New Mix, DP creates Mix 1 (or an incrementally higher number if it’s not your project’s first Mix Mode mix) and makes it active. A mix generated with the New Mix command retains many of the properties of your current project — but not all. It includes volume and pan settings, send configurations, send levels, send mutes, track volume, track play enable/disable state, and track automation mode. However, it doesn’t carry over your inserts or track automation data.

If you want Mix 1 to be an exact copy of your project’s state when you activate Mix Mode, use the Duplicate Mix command instead. This advice also applies when you’re already in Mix Mode and creating another version. Duplicate Mix retains everything in your mix at the point you activated Mix Mode, including inserts.

There’s one exception, however. Any automation data on nested takes will not be transferred into your mix. Mix Mode supports only one set of track automation data, which comes from the active take and will apply to all others. As the DP User Guide puts it: “All mix automation belongs to that mix, regardless of which take you are dealing with.”

If you decide that you want the automation data from a non‑active take, follow these steps:

  • Turn Mix Mode off.
  • Activate the take that has your preferred automation data and copy the data.
  • Turn Mix Mode back on.
  • Paste the automation data into the track.

There may be situations where you want to apply the same automation to all the takes on a track. If so, switch on Mix Mode and use the Duplicate Mix command to accomplish this.

MIDI tracks are an exception: automation on MIDI track takes remains unaffected by whether Mix Mode is on or off. You can have multiple takes with unique automation data on each take.

V‑Racks & Chunks

V‑Racks have their own mixing boards. As you might expect, each V‑Rack mixer has its own Mix Mode menu and mixes, and these are completely independent from any Sequence mixing boards (and their mixes). Even though mix automation can’t be written in V‑Racks, volume, pan, inserts and send levels can be controlled with multiple mixes in the V‑Rack mixer’s Mix Mode menu. As a reminder, you can use multiple V‑Racks in the same project at the same time.

When you load or duplicate Chunks in the Chunks window, Mix Mode mixes are preserved. This is another example of the power and flexibility of Digital Performer: in a single project, you could have multiple versions of a song or cue as separate Chunks, each with discreet, uniquely saved Mix Mode mixes.

Mix Mode Miscellany

Turning Mix Mode on and off does not affect the Control Panel settings.Turning Mix Mode on and off does not affect the Control Panel settings.

Here are some additional points to consider when using Mix Mode. First, the transport will keep its place when you switch between mixes or from Mix Mode on to Mix Mode off (or vice versa). You don’t have to worry about resetting the counter. The same is true for Track Groups and VCAs: they are preserved when switching between various mixes in Mix Mode.

Also, all Control Panel settings will stay the same. If you have, for example, Auto Rewind and Memory Cycle on, they’ll stay the same whether Mix Mode is on or off.

If you’re working in Mix Mode and decide you want to deactivate it, any insert effects or automation you added while in Mix Mode won’t remain when you turn it off. However, they’ll still be available if you turn Mix Mode back on.

The Delete options let you remove unwanted mixes.The Delete options let you remove unwanted mixes.In the Mix Mode menu, in addition to New Mix, Duplicate Mix and Rename Mix, you have two other options: Delete Mix and Delete All Except. The former deletes the active mix, and the latter removes all the other mixes except the one selected. Inactive Mix Mode mixes don’t use any additional CPU resources, but each time you create a new mix, it adds a significant amount of data to your DP Project file, depending on the track count and inserts on your mix. If you’ve saved Mix Mode mixes that you no longer need, you can use those Delete commands to clear them from your Project.

Even though Mix Mode makes it possible to use only a single DP Project file for all your alternate mixes and mix versions, it doesn’t lessen the importance of backing up your project regularly. If anything, it makes it even more important, because all your mix versions are now in a single Project file rather than saved in separate ones. Although DP’s Autosave will automatically back up your file (based on your settings in Preferences / Document / Autosave), you still are best off creating manual backups or using backup software to duplicate your project to another drive (preferably in the cloud) to make sure you always have access to a complete and up‑to‑date backup, in case something happens to your recording drive.

DP is an extremely deep application; not every user needs or even knows about all its features. Some are specific to specific types of music production, like film scoring or EDM. But Mix Mode is one that any DP user can benefit from. If you haven’t tried it, you should.  

Making Notes

Consider using DP’s Project Notes feature if you want to write detailed notes about your mixes.Consider using DP’s Project Notes feature if you want to write detailed notes about your mixes.When you name a new or duplicated mix in Mix Mode, you may want to add descriptive information to distinguish each mix by more than just the song name and an incrementing number. For example, you might want to call it “Mix 3 with bass down 2dB and vocals up 1dB”. To activate a text box for the name of the currently active mix, Option‑click (Alt‑click on PC) on the mix’s name or select Rename Mix from the Mix Mode menu.

If you have too much information to fit comfortably in the name field, you could keep notes about your mixes in DP’s Project Notes window. Just open a sidebar, set the window to Project Notes and start writing.

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