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Making Tracks: Take a Load Off

February 1, 2010
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FIG. 1: The Show Info dialog in Audio MIDI Setup is where you name a MIDI device and set its properties, including which MIDI channels it will send and receive data on and whether it will transmit or receive MTC.

FIG. 1: The Show Info dialog in Audio MIDI Setup is where you name a MIDI device and set its properties, including which MIDI channels it will send and receive data on and whether it will transmit or receive MTC.

After buying a new computer, you may be tempted to retire your old one. But there's still life left in that old horse: You can use it to run your legacy software, including virtual instruments. By simultaneously running separate DAWs — each playing its own virtual instrument tracks — on your new and old computers, you split the workload and gain power.

The trick is to get both DAWs to play their tracks in synchronism with one another. I'll show you how to do this using two Macs running MOTU Digital Performer (see Step-by-Step Instructions below). For clarity, I'll cite using DP 6 on a Mac Pro and DP 4.61 on a G4. The process is similar using other DAWs with PCs.

See Me, Hear Me

Each computer will need an I/O box and possibly a card to interface with the box. Route the audio output of your G4's DAW (by way of its I/O box) to an input of the I/O box connected to your Mac Pro's DAW. If the routing between the two I/O boxes is by way of a digital connection such as S/PDIF, the two boxes will need to be locked to a common (or master) digital clock. That won't be necessary, however, if you plan to route only analog audio between the two I/O boxes.

You'll also need a separate video monitor for each Mac. Alternatively, set up screen sharing for the two computers so that their DAWs can be viewed on the same monitor.

Each computer will need its own MIDI interface to record MIDI from a controller and to transmit (Mac Pro) and receive (G4) MIDI timecode (MTC) to synchronize the two DAWs. The MOTU FastLane USB is an extremely cost-effective, cross-platform MIDI interface for this purpose, so I'll use it in explaining the necessary setup. The dual-port FastLane USB provides two MIDI ins and two MIDI outs, MIDI thru functionality and 32 MIDI channels.

Connect a FastLane to each computer and install the necessary drivers. Then route a MIDI cable from the Port A MIDI output of the FastLane connected to your Mac Pro to the Port A MIDI input of the FastLane connected to your G4. (Port B will also do; just be consistent in subsequent steps when choosing the port.)

That Synching Feeling

Open your project in both versions of DP and set their tempos to the same bpm value. On your Mac Pro, select Audio MIDI Setup from the Setup menu in DP 6. You should already see the icon for the FastLane (the one connected to your Mac Pro) in the MIDI Devices view. Click on the icon and choose Show Info to view the FastLane's properties. In the dialog's Device Name field, type FastLane USB Mac Pro to distinguish this interface from the FastLane connected to your G4.

Close the Show Info dialog for the FastLane USB Mac Pro and select Add Device in Audio MIDI Setup. Click on the new device and open its Show Info dialog. Define the newly created device to be a MOTU FastLane and name it FastLane USB G4. Under the Properties tab, enable the FastLane USB G4 to receive MTC on all MIDI channels (see Fig. 1).

In Audio MIDI Setup's MIDI Devices view, route the output of the FastLane USB Mac Pro's Port A to the input of the FastLane USB G4's Port A (virtually reproducing the physical cable connection you made earlier).

Next, we'll create a similar MIDI setup in DP 4.61 on your G4. Open Audio MIDI Setup and rename the FastLane for the G4 FastLane USB G4. Create a new device named FastLane USB Mac Pro and set it to transmit MIDI timecode on all MIDI channels. In the MIDI Devices view, route the output of the FastLane USB Mac Pro's Port A to the input of the FastLane USB G4's Port A.

Open to Receive

On your Mac Pro, open the Transmit Sync dialog in DP's Preferences and select FastLane USB G4 A in the Transmit MTC To menu. On your G4, open the Receive Sync dialog in DP's Preferences. Click on the radio button for MTC, DTL or DTLe, and select FastLane USB Mac Pro A in the Sync To Port menu.

The two FastLanes should now see each other. On your G4, activate DP's Slave To External Sync button and click the Record or Play button to respectively prepare to record or play back new tracks. When you press Play or Record in DP 6 on your Mac Pro, DP 4.61 will follow in perfect synchronism on your G4.


EM contributing editor Michael Cooper is the owner of Michael Cooper Recording in Sisters, Ore. Visit him at www.myspace.com/michaelcooperrecording.

STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS

Step 1

STEP 1: Set the tempos of both DAWs to be the same.

STEP 1: Set the tempos of both DAWs to be the same.

STEP 1: Set the tempos of both DAWs to be the same.

Step 2

STEP 2: Configure Audio MIDI Setup for your newer computer, including the routing between the two MIDI interfaces used with both computers.

STEP 2: Configure Audio MIDI Setup for your newer computer, including the routing between the two MIDI interfaces used with both computers.

STEP 2: Configure Audio MIDI Setup for your newer computer, including the routing between the two MIDI interfaces used with both computers.

Step 3

STEP 3: In Audio MIDI Setup for the DAW used with your older computer, configure the same routing between MIDI interfaces as you did for your newer computer in Step 2.

STEP 3: In Audio MIDI Setup for the DAW used with your older computer, configure the same routing between MIDI interfaces as you did for your newer computer in Step 2.

STEP 3: In Audio MIDI Setup for the DAW used with your older computer, configure the same routing between MIDI interfaces as you did for your newer computer in Step 2.

Step 4

STEP 4: Set your newer DAW to transmit MTC to the MIDI interface connected to your older computer.

STEP 4: Set your newer DAW to transmit MTC to the MIDI interface connected to your older computer.

STEP 4: Set your newer DAW to transmit MTC to the MIDI interface connected to your older computer.

Step 5

STEP 5: Set your older DAW to receive MTC from the MIDI interface connected to your newer computer.

STEP 5: Set your older DAW to receive MTC from the MIDI interface connected to your newer computer.

STEP 5: Set your older DAW to receive MTC from the MIDI interface connected to your newer computer.

Step 6

STEP 6: Slave your older DAW to external sync and press the Play or Record button to ready it for respective playback or recording in synchronism with the DAW in your newer computer.

STEP 6: Slave your older DAW to external sync and press the Play or Record button to ready it for respective playback or recording in synchronism with the DAW in your newer computer.

STEP 6: Slave your older DAW to external sync and press the Play or Record button to ready it for respective playback or recording in synchronism with the DAW in your newer computer.

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