Ableton Editor Hacks 09/24/12

How video editors can use Ableton Live to take their video projects to the next level.

In our interview with Ableton they explain how Live, their loop-based software music sequencer and DAW, is being used by creatives worldwide. Despite Live being used predominantly by musicians and music producers, Ableton gives examples of video professionals who are using the app.

They cite Gary Long of American Idol, who uses Live to cue music bumpers and voiceover segues in real time during the broadcast. Barbara Hagan is a professional at Sony Studios who uses Live in a similar fashion on shows like Jeopardy and Wheel Of Fortune.

While these are good examples of people in the video industry who have been able to incorporate Live into their workflow, I still feel like I have to make the case for  how this app could be helpful to us.

This week I’ll show you 5 keys ways you can use Live to improve not only your music, but also your soundbites, natural sound (NATS), voiceovers and sound effects.

(NOTE: You will need a basic understanding of Live to get the most out of these hacks. Check out these 7 short videos on getting started with Live).

 

MON: Use Live to augment and extend your project music – pt. 1

TUE: Use Live to augment and extend your project music – pt. 2

WED: Use Live plugin Major Malfunction to quickly remix your video project music

THU: Use SFX Machine RT in Live to process your voiceovers and soundbite

FRI: Beefing up transition stingers

 


   

Use Live to augment and extend your project music – pt. 1

On many (if not most) projects, we’re only given a few approved royalty-free music tracks. I’ve worked on many projects where I’ve only been given one approved song. That’s one song (often with very little variation) that will have to be used exclusively throughout a 10 minute video.

There’s only so much chopping and looping you can do to this song inside your video editing program.

Solution? Remix parts of it in Live. These new augmented bits can then be brought back into your NLE, making your video more dynamic.

Here’s an excerpt of a song you may be given to use for a video.

Yep. That’s pretty much it.

It just keeps looping like this for almost 2 minutes.

There’s a few simple and quick things we can do to this in Live to give it some variance. The 3 things I show you in this step can aid you in visually transitioning between major parts of your video.

For starters, we can make the loop play in reverse by selecting the reverse button in the sample display area.

 

The the waveform will flop and the loop will play in reverse.

 

 

You could have the loop start off muffled at the beginning of the measure and then open up towards the end.

To do this, drag the Live Device called Auto Filter on top of the clip you want to affect.

 

 

Click the play button on the clip.

 

 

Click the global record button at the top of the interface.

 

 

In the clip view you will see the Auto Filter interface. While the loop is still playing (and recording), drag the XY controller from the bottom left corner to the top right corner.

 

 

The loop we’ve been using will now sound something like this:

The last thing I’ll show you that you may want to try is using an intense delay effect.

To do this, drag the Live Device called  Ping Pong Delay on top of the clip you want to affect.

 

 

In the clip view you will see the Ping Pong Delay interface. Set the Dry/Wet mix to 0.0 by turning the knob all the way the left.

 

 

Click the play button on the clip.

 

 

Click the global record button at the top of the interface.

 

 

While the loop is still playing (and recording), slowly turn the knob all the way from the left to the right. The effect will be going from all the way dry to all the way wet.

 

 

The loop we’ve been using will now sound something like this:


Use Live to augment and extend your project music – pt. 2

 

In the previous step, I showed you simple ways that Live can be used to augment video project music.  Here are a couple of more intermediate ways you can augment your music.

Here again is our original sample.

 

Here is that clip in the Live session view.

 

 

Now you’ll create separate clips for each part of this groove. To do this, make a copy of the original clip.

 

 

Differentiate the color and clip name of these 3 clips in the Clip Viewer.

 

 

Inside the clip viewer, create a different loop range for each clip.

 

 

Here are the 3 parts of the original sample:

 

 

Now create a new audio track and make:

  • copies of pt. 1
  • 2 copies of pt. 2

 

Cut the first Fly Guy pt. 1 loop time in half.
Cut the first Fly Guy pt. 1 loop time in half of that.
Cut the first Fly Guy pt. 2 loop time in half.
Cut the first Fly Guy pt. 2 loop time in half of that.

The 4 clips you’re created here will sound like this:

 

Big whoop, right? But now the fun begins because you can map these clips to your keyboard and create a new groove from these building blocks.

In Live, select the Key Map Mode Switch in the upper right corner of the interface.

 

It, as well as the rest of your screen, will light up with a color overlay.

 

 

Now select each clip and map a different letter to it. I usually map letters that are next to each other on the keyboard.

 

 

Select the Key Map Mode Switch again to deselect it.

Test the keys you mapped on your keyboard to make sure they are triggering the clips.

Play around with different patterns and their timings. When you feel like you have a couple of good variations, click the Global Record Button at the top of the Live interface.

 

 

Start triggering your clips. The sequence will be recorded and displayed in the arrangement view.

 

 

The newly created groove above sounds like this:

It’s not exactly Grammy-winning material, but depending on your time and sense of adventure this could just be the start. Using this new groove as a foundation you could use Live’s collection of built-in instruments and filters to flesh this it out.

I also recommend The Complete Guide to Remixing if you really want to go deeper down the remixing rabbit hole. It’s easier than you think.

Use Live plugin Major Malfunction to quickly remix your video project music

 

In the last step we looked at how you can use Live to breakdown your song into musical loops. These building blocks give you a foundation to do a full remix of the song you are using for your video.

But let’s face it, many of us video editors will not have the interest or time to use Live in this way.

This is when the Live plugin Major Malfunction could be very useful. It mutates your song in real time using specific parameters like:

  • retrigger
  • vocode
  • degrade
  • distort
  • delay
  • gate
  • reverse
  • slow

As you can probably tell, this will produce a very glitchy sounding remix. So this will only be good for music fitting certain types of videos.

Game trailers and tech commercials are good candidates for this kind of audio treatment. It could likely be useful for any type of video that needs to feel hip and a little unhinged.

After you download and instal Major Malfunction, open Live.

Here is the section that we want to glitchify.

 

Here is that clip in the Live session view.

 

 

Navigate to the Plug-In Devices Browser and drag the Major Malfunction plugin on to your clip.

 

 

Once you drag the plugin on top of your clip, it will open the Major Malfunction interface.

 

 

The plugin will cycle through the loop and tweak the parameters you invoke. The default (above) is for the plugin to have no effect (pass) on the loop.

 

 

Play your audio clip in Live and start clicking on the colored squares. Make sure to try out every parameter and get a sense of which ones are worth using.

When you have a pattern that you like, deselect all of the buttons until you are at the default view.

Click the Global Record button in Live and start playing your pattern.

You should get something like this:

 

You can see how if you got the hang of something like this you could marry this glitchy sound with glitchy visuals. This could get really interesting if used in synch with the After Effects plugin Twitch.

Twitch is a plugin for After Effects that synchronizes random operators to create stylistic video effects for motion graphics and visual effects.

In this tutorial Andrew Kramer shows you how to map Twitch parameters to your audio.

 


Use SFX Machine RT in Live to process your voiceovers and soundbites

Last month we did a short writeup on the zany plugin SFX Machine RT by The Sound Guy. The interface features the simplicity of a multi-effects box, allowing users to select and modify presets with just a few mouse clicks.

With their SFX Machine RT Interactive Simulator, you can try it out in real time – right from your browser.

While it’s easy to make a use case for this with music, I think it’s easy to overlook how useful this can be with voiceovers or soundbites. If you need to have sounds quickly stylized to evoke a particular time, setting, or mood – nothing will get you there quicker than SFX Machine RT.

Let’s say you are cutting a trailer for a futuristic thriller. You don’t have a budget for a voiceover artist, let alone a sound designer. So instead, you use a computer-generated voice using the awesome text-to-speech animation site Xtranormal.

Here is the original Xtranormal audio:

 

After installing  SFX Machine RT on your machine, open Live.

Here is the Xtranormal clip in Live.

 

 

Drag the SFX Machine Plug-In Device on to this clip.

 

 

You’ll be shown the SFX Machine interface.

 

 

Click play on your clip in Live.

Start playing with the SFX Machine parameters. For our clip, we got interesting results when we clicked the following parameters:

 

Assorted FX > squelch

 

Assorted FX > distortion

 

Delay > faster echoes 2

 

Flanger > Echo+Flange

 

Pitch Track > RingMod

 

You can see how these audio effects could instantly add production value to your video. They can be used alone or layered to create nuanced variations.

What would previously have been a daunting technical challenge becomes something that can be done easily and quickly with SFX Machine RT.

 

Beefing up transition stingers

I thought I’d end this week of Ableton hacks not with a bang but with a swoosh. No, this step isn’t sponsored by Nike. It’s about giving stock audio stingers some character.

We editors often use sound effects as stingers to increase the impact of visual transitions. But while there are scores of plugins that will give you hundreds of ways to customize wipes, there is much less variety in audio transitions. Once we’ve found a couple of stingers that work, it’s usually just easier to keep re-using them.

For example, in a lot of indie videos, I often hear the following two transitions used for wiping between two scenes:

These are Apple Loops that come bundled with Soundtrack Pro. This means that they are ubiquitous – but you want your video to be distinctive, right?

Live can quickly and easily help with this.

Load up these 2 clips into Live.

 

 

 

 

Drag the SFX Machine Plug-In Device on to each clip.

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll be shown the SFX Machine interface.

 

 

Click play on your clip in Live.

Start playing with the SFX Machine parameters.

For Swish 1, we got interesting results when we clicked these parameters:

Assorted FX > Spectral Inverter

Chorus > Random Chorus

Delay > FasterEchoes 1

 

With Swish 2, interesting results came from these parameters:

 

Delay > FasterEchoes 4

Envelope Follower > Ampl Env->Freq Env

Filter Effects > QuadSweptLowpass

 

The kind of variance you can create with just these two similar sounds is amazing. You can imagine how virtually any sound can be quickly re-purposed for use as an audio transition.

 

That wraps up a week of hacks that has only scratched the surface of how Ableton can be used for video post production. If you want to dive deeper into tapping the power of Ableton, check out these online educational resources.

 

 

 


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