What is Automation?
Automation is one of the most useful features of REAPER.
It enables you to ensure that when your project is played back, changes in such things as volume level or panning for different tracks can be remembered and played back in real time, with the project. At its simplest, for example, you can use automation to lift the volume of a lead instrument during a particular break or passage, or to add a little presence or warmth to the odd phrase here or there on a vocal track, to make it stand out in the mix a touch more. As you will see in this section, that’s only the beginning. When used well, Automation delivers the power to produce exactly the mix that you want.
REAPER makes available to you two methods of automating your projects. Both have their own advantages. Try them both – you can use either method in your projects or a combination of both, as you prefer.
- Writing Automation: When writing automation, you are able to instruct REAPER to remember your actions – such as fading the volume control up and down for any track or tracks – as your project is played. These actions are used to create an envelope which is then reproduced when you play back or mix down the track in the future (see example, right).
- Drawn Envelopes: As an alternative to using your faders to create envelopes, you can shape them manually. This give you a very fine degree of control over your project. You can manually draw in envelopes which will have the same effect as if actual fader movements had been recorded.
With both recorded and envelope automation, it is perfectly possible (and quite easy) to edit the automation instructions afterwards, or to remove them altogether if that’s what you want.
Any track’s envelopes are managed by displaying the Envelopes Window for that track. This is displayed by clicking on the track’s Envelope button. You use this window, for example to:
- Set the Automation Status for the track.
- Create an envelope (eg for Volume or Pan).
- To show or hide an envelope from view.
- To Arm an envelope or Disarm it.
These issues will be explained and explored in the pages that follow.
To create automation envelopes using the Write feature, use this method:
- In the Track Control Panel, click on the Envelopes button to display the list of parameters that can be automated.
- Select the item you wish to automate, and make sure to also select the options Visible and Arm.
- Set Automation mode to Write.
- Close the Envelopes window.
- Position the Edit Cursor where you wish to start.
- Play the song. As you do so, adjust the on screen control which controls the parameter that you are automating.
- Stop play when finished.
- Right click over the Envelope button for that track and select Automation Read.
- Play the song. Listen and look!
Automation Write Example
- Open your file "All Through the Night.RPP" (This is an example file available on the Wiki Main Page). Save it as "All Through the Night AUTO.RPP". We are going to add an automation envelope to the Bouzouki track to fade this track up a little in the passage between the first and second verses of this song.
- Use your mouse to increase the height of the Bouzouki track. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but makes it easier to see what you are doing.
- Position the Edit Cursor just before the end of the first vocal passage (see above).
- Now click on the Envelopes button for the Bouzouki Track. Select Volume and make it both Visible and Armed. Select the automation mode Write for this track.
- Close the Envelopes window. Notice that the Volume fader for this track is now coloured red. The Envelope button displays a red dot.
- Play the song.
- As the instrumental passage starts, use your mouse to raise the fader for the Bouzouki Volume by about a decibel. Hold it there, then at the end of the instrumental break lower the fader to its original position. Stop play.
- Right click over the Envelope button for the Bouzouki track and choose Automation Mode: Read from the context menu.
- The fader for the Volume control from this track will now be green, and your automation envelope should be clearly visible (see right).
- Play the song. The volume fader for your bouzouki will automatically move up and then down in accordance with the movements that you recorded.
- Press Ctrl S to save this file.
Automation and Envelope Defaults
Before exploring any more of REAPER’s automation features, it’s worth taking note of where your default Automation settings are stored. They are in the Preferences window, on the Project Defaults page.
Here you can specify in particular:
- The default automation mode for new tracks,
- Whether or not envelopes are automatically armed as they are added.
Envelope defaults are stored on the Editing Behaviour, Mouse page.
Here you can specify how the mouse is to behave when you click on an envelope. The two options are:
- Adds a point,
- Adjusts segment.
By default, click is set to add a point, Shift click is set to adjust segment.