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Studio One: Automation Breathes Life Into Mixes

PreSonus Studio One Tips & Techniques By Robin Vincent
Published November 2021

In Studio One, you can input automation in a number of ways: by adjusting a parameter in real time, using the freehand draw tool, or by selecting wave shapes.In Studio One, you can input automation in a number of ways: by adjusting a parameter in real time, using the freehand draw tool, or by selecting wave shapes.

Make your tracks come to life with automation.

Automation helps you realise your creative vision by baking in those movements, changes and layering that you couldn’t manage to pull off in your performance. But more than that, it gives you an opportunity to resuscitate a dying mix and breathe new life into your tracks. It’s what DAWs were born to do. So let us charge up the defibrillator, stand well back, and unleash the tools of automation.

What Is Automation?

Automation is the process of recording or writing in the movements of knobs, sliders and other parameters onto a track so that when the track is played back all those movements happen as if you’re moving them by hand. It’s the magical sense of watching the faders on the console dance about, or hearing virtual instruments modulate, or effects being thrown around. Pretty much anything that has a value can be automated in Studio One. It keeps things fluid, it moves more faders than one mouse or many fingers could possibly manage and it’s essential for creating mixes with space and vitality.

There are two main ways of automating a parameter: you can record the movement of that knob, fader or other control in real time, or you can draw changes in with the Paint tool.

Let’s automate a channel’s volume: the fader in the mixing console. We’ll do the real‑time fader movement recording version first. Find the channel you want to automate in the Console. At the bottom of the fader, you’ll see a box that says Auto: Off. Click on that and select Write. (There are some other options there which we’ll come to later.) The word Write is now lit up in red and the channel is ready to record any movements you make to the fader. You don’t have to put your project into Record for this; automation recording can be done during playback. Set your project playing and start moving the fader. You’ll see the movements being written as lines and nodes over the top of the audio or MIDI clips in the arrange window.

Shortcut tip: to switch between seeing the automation data and seeing the clips on the track, press A on your keyboard to turn Automation view on or off.

If you then rewind to the beginning and press Play, you can watch in confusion as your automation is overwritten with a flat line. This is a very common mishap that happens because the channel fader is still in Write mode. So, once you’ve finished recording automation it is vital that you go back to the track and swap Write for Read, which is helpfully highlighted in green rather than red.

Pro tip: Write mode is dangerous and has a habit of inadvertently erasing previous automation data when trying to record a new parameter. See below for why you should use Latch and Touch modes...

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