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Chapter 4: Timing, Snapping, and Synchronisation

4.1 The time-line bar, and the tempo properties

The time-line bar (Fig. 4.1.1) is made up of two horizontal lanes. Although this may not be visually obvious at first, if you click in the upper-half of the time-line, you will see a large red box outlining the top section. This box shows the current tempo region. By default there will be only one region in a new edit. This default region is shown as the current tempo at the far left of the time-line.

The bottom lane shows the time divisions used for grid-snapping, and as a visual reference for building edits. Markers are also shown in the bottom lane.

Markers

Markers allow you to create bookmarks in your edit so that you can quickly navigate between sections of a song.

The markers are numbered 0-9 and correspond to the number keys on your keyboard. To jump to a marker, simply press the corresponding key. The play-head cursor then moves to the marker location.

Holding the CTRL key (CMD for Mac users) whilst pressing a number key sets the corresponding marker at the play-head cursor location. Repeating this process removes the marker.

If you set a marker that has already been placed, the marker simply moves to the new location.

The right-click options

Right-clicking on the upper lane shows a pop-up menu (Fig. 4.1.2) offering the following options:

Insert a tempo change at the cursor position: Select this option to create a new tempo region starting at the location of the play-head cursor. Keyboard shortcut: CTRL + E (CMD + E for Mac users).

Delete this tempo change: This option removes the currently selected tempo region. Keyboard shortcut: DELETE or BACKSPACE.

Right-clicking on the lower lane shows a pop-up menu that corresponds to the menu available from the “timeline” button in the control section. This menu is discussed later in this chapter.

The tempo properties

When a tempo region is selected, its properties are shown in the properties-panel (Fig. 4.1.3).

BPM: This field allows you to view and change the tempo of the selected tempo region. The tempo is set in terms of Beats Per Minute.

Time sig.: This field allows you to view and change the time signature of the tempo region. Clicking on either of the two numbers displays a pop-up menu from which you can select alternative beat and measure values.

Triplets: When this option is selected, the grid for the tempo region shows triplet divisions.

Ramped tempo: When this option is selected, Tracktion creates a smooth tempo change across the range of the current region. If you want a section of a song to ramp gradually from one tempo to another, you can use this option to achieve this. Create three tempo regions, the first and last of these being your starting and destination tempos. The middle region should span the section of your song over which you want the tempo ramp to occur. Set the middle region to the target tempo, and enable the “ramped tempo” option.

Click here to tap out tempo: If you click this pad, you will be prompted to tap out a tempo with your mouse-button. As you tap, the box displays your current tempo. You will notice that the tempo takes a few clicks to become steady, keep clicking until the tempo is roughly constant. When the tempo seems to be stable, click the “apply” button that is to the right of the tap pad. Tracktion will use your timing to set the tempo for this region.

Insert tempo change at cursor: This option inserts a tempo change at the current play-head cursor position. Keyboard shortcut: CTRL + E (CMD + E for Mac users).

Delete: When this button is clicked, a pop-up menu (Fig. 4.1.4) appears.

  • Delete this tempo setting: This option removes the current tempo region. Keyboard shortcut: DELETE or BACKSPACE.
  • Delete all tempo changes from edit: This option removes all tempo changes, leaving the entire edit set to the initial tempo.

4.2 The "timecode" button

Clicking on the “timecode” button displays a pop-up menu with the following options:

Show bars/beats: When this option is selected, Tracktion uses bar and beat divisions for the timing grid. The time-line, play-head cursor position, and the snap grid will all use this timing scale. Keyboard shortcut: T.

Show seconds/millisecs: When this option is selected, Tracktion uses second and millisecond divisions for the timing grid. The time-line, play-head cursor position, and the snap grid will all use this timing scale. Keyboard shortcut: T.

Show seconds/frames: When this option is selected, Tracktion uses second and frame divisions for the timing grid. The time-line, play-head cursor position, and the snap grid will all use this timing scale. This option is very useful when working with video synchronisation. Keyboard shortcut: T.

24/25/30 fps: When the time-line is set to show time in seconds and frames, this control selects how many frame divisions exist for each second. This frame rate is also used for MIDI Timecode input and output.

Ignore hours from incoming timecode: When this option is selected, Tracktion ignores the “hours” value when chasing incoming Time code. The timecode will instead be indexed to the same hour as the current position in the edit.

Change timecode offset: This option allows you to add an offset to the incoming timecode time. When this option is selected, a dialogue-box appears (Fig. 4.2.2), from which you can enter an offset. The offset is defined in terms of hours, minutes, seconds, and frames, and is added to the incoming time code to determine Tracktion’s current cursor position. Negative offsets are possible by holding down the “–” key whilst entering in a value.

MIDI timecode input device: This option displays a sub-menu where one can select which MIDI input device will be receiving timecode.
Note: Timecode chasing is activated via the padlock icon in the transport section.

Respond to midi machine control from device: This option displays a sub-menu. Select which MIDI input device will be receiving MIDI machine control (MMC). If you do not wish to receive MMC from any MIDI input device, then select “none.”
Note: The current version of Tracktion only recognises MMC transport commands.

Send midi machine control to device: This option displays a sub-menu. Select which MIDI output device you wish Tracktion to send MIDI machine control. If you do not wish to send MMC to any MIDI output devices, select “none.”

Insert tempo change at cursor: Select this option to insert a new tempo at the current play-head cursor position. Keyboard shortcut: CTRL + E (CMD + E for Mac users).

Remap clip positions when tempo is changed: When this option is selected, Tracktion will react to manual tempo changes by resizing clips and adjusting their locations so that they stay synchronised with the new tempo. The effect is a bit like writing on the surface of a balloon and then stretching it. Your writing retains its position in relation to the balloon, but will be physically larger.

You can see the effect of this option by placing two bar long MIDI clips side by side in an edit. If you change the tempo with this option disabled, the clips retain their position with respect to each other, but will no longer be one bar in length. If you play the clips, they will still be playing at the original tempo.

If you undo the tempo change, and then repeat the previous step with this option enabled, it will almost appear that nothing has happened. The clips will still be one bar long, and will be correctly aligned with each other and the edit. If you play them though, you will see that the tempo of the MIDI contents has changed.


Tip: These options are also available by right-clicking on the time-line.

4.3 The "snapping" button

Controls relating to grid-snapping and quantising can be accessed from the “snapping” button (Fig. 4.3.1).

Enable snapping: This option toggles whether clips and MIDI events snap to the current grid. Keyboard shortcut: Q.

Snap clips to neighbours: This option toggles whether clips will snap to edges of neighbouring clips. When enabled, snapping occurs even if the neighbouring clip’s boundary is not itself snapped to any grid. Keyboard shortcut: CTRL + ALT (CMD + CTRL for Mac users) can be used to temporarily enable snap-to-neighbour whilst dragging clips.

Snap cursor movement: This option toggles whether the play-head cursor snaps to the current grid when manually repositioned.

Edit groove templates: Displays the groove template editor. The groove editor is described in Chapter 6.

4.4 The "click-track" button

The click-track provides a metronome for you to play along to when playing or recording live. This is often useful when recording a band one track at a time, as it helps them to keep in time and thus reduces the need for later editing.

A number of menu options are available for customising the click-track to your needs. These options can be accessed by clicking the “click track” button (Fig. 4.4.1).

Turn on click track: This option toggles whether the click track is currently enabled. Keyboard shortcut: C. The click-track will only be heard during playback or recording.

Pre-record count-in length: This control allows you to set a period of click track time before recording starts.

Output device for click: Use this setting to choose which output the click track is sent to. If you choose an audio output, Tracktion plays a sample for the click sound. If you choose a MIDI output, Tracktion sends a MIDI note to the selected device for each click. The waveform, or MIDI patch, used can be configured from the “click track settings...” button.

Low / medium / full volume: Use this option to select the volume of the click track.

Only click during recording: When this option is enabled the click-track will only be active when recording, otherwise the click-track will be heard during normal playback.

Use loud clicks to emphasise bars: When this option is selected, the first beat of the bar is emphasised by a louder click.

Change click settings: This option displays a dialogue-box (Fig. 4.4.2) from which you can configure the click sound. The following options are available:

  • Midi note numbers to use for midi devices (loud/quiet): These two options allow you to select the MIDI note that is sent for the loud click, and for the quiet click. The MIDI note is sent on MIDI Channel 10.
  • Audio files to use for audio devices (loud/quiet): These two options allow you to select the audio file that is heard for the loud and quiet clicks. If these fields are left empty, and the output device is an audio device, Tracktion provides its own click sound.

4.5 The video window

The video window can be used to score music to film. The video is shown in a floating window, which can be moved to a second screen if desired.

To show a video for scoring:

  • Switch to the edit page.
  • Click the “options” button in the control-section. This displays a pop-up menu.
  • From the menu, select the “set QuickTime movie file” option.
  • A dialogue-box appears from which you can navigate to the QuickTime movie file you wish to view.
  • Click the “timecode” button, and select this video’s frame-rate from the pop-up menu.

The following video related options are available from the “options” button:

Show QuickTime movie window: This options toggles whether the movie window is displayed on screen. If you attempt to show the movie window when no QuickTime movie file has been chosen, you will be prompted for the movie file first. Keyboard shortcut: ALT + M (CTRL + M for Mac users).

Set QuickTime movie file: This option allows you to choose the movie file that you wish to score.

Change video start time offset: Use this option to set the time at which the video playback should begin.

Further options are available for working with video by right-clicking on the video window:

Hide window: Select this option to close the window.

Keep window on top: When this option is selected, the video window will not be obscured by other windows if you click on them. This allows you to use the video window easily on single monitor set-ups, as the video window can be visible at all times, even when you are making edits to your arrangement.

Size options: Use these options to set the size of the movie window on screen. The sizes are given in terms of multiples of the source video resolution.

Mute QuickTime audio track: This option controls whether the audio track contained in the movie is muted.

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