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Old 11-17-2018, 02:27 AM   #1
mschnell
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Exclamation Reaper for Live, on stage, and embedded use.

Reaper for Live, on stage, and embedded use.

Introduction

Due to its stability, efficiency and versatility, Reaper is exceptionally well suited as the basis for an "embedded" application. This means that while at work, the Reaper GUI is not of any concern, and may even not be visible at all, but other control elements provided by some hardware or on a computer screen govern the proceedings that are executed by the Reaper project.

Several classes of such projects can be done in that way e.g.:
  • a "Live instrument" setup taking signals from instruments to be played by a musician and using plugins to generate or modify the sound, usually no pre-recorded songs involved.
  • "DJ" or "Live Looping" type of performances using pre-recorded songs and/or material that is recorded and played back on the fly.
  • "Live Mixing" with multi channel input and output, using plugins for sound modification. Mostly a Control Surface device is added for decent usability of the system.
  • "deeply embedded" applications. Here Reaper is used as a slave application, controlled by external software that creates the visible functionality, while relying on Reaper for audio processing in the background.
Of course combinations of these classes can be required in certain situations.

With "Live instrument" setups, the most common applications are:Each of those require dedicated concepts and might be done in in different ways and using different add-on tools to be instantiated within Reaper.

"DJ" or "Live Looping" seems to subsume a wide range of applications requiring individually tuned workflow. To allow for "background tracks" this sometimes might be combined with an "instrument setup".

With "Live Mixing", Reaper would replace the audio processing of a digital mixer. This might be as well for stage performances as in Studio situations, reusing the hardware and software available for media production. Here mostly it makes sense to install remote A/D-D/A converters connected via digital cables such as AES50 or Dante. An advantage over using a hardware mixer is that a huge number of audio plugins are available for sound processing, and even can be created as Reaper JSFX plugins.

Regarding "deeply embedded", a huge range of applications are conceivable. Some examples known to be working might be mentioned here:
  • a "Theater Software" system controlling light, sound and other effects in combination with a Reaper instance responsible for the audio part such as mixing microphones and firing sound clips.
  • an automatic "Song Contest" system that records performances on a stage, started and stopped by just pushing a button, and when stopped immediately automatically provides a rough mix of the performance on a web page in the Internet.
  • analyzing audio streams captured in realtime by dedicated sound processing JSFXes that provide some non-audio output via Midi or abusing an audio channel for control signals, and with this data triggering software that handles some "machinery".


Prerequisites

As most of the applications mentioned here need decently low latency performance, this is more demanding then a typical "DAW" use of Reaper's regarding the hardware and software setup required. So some comments on this issue.

Latency (delay between some input to the system and the resulting output) is not automatically introduced by insufficient power of the computer. Latency is set by the configuration of the project. If you set the latency too small, this will result in audio dropouts and crackles. To prevent this, you need to increase the processing latency (usually defined by the block count and size the audio driver introduces), reduce the CPU demand by engaging fewer or more efficient plugins, or use a more powerful computer.

Regarding "Live Instrument" or "Live Mixing" projects, the latency needs to be low enough to be automatically compensated by the brain. A good analogy is the time a sound wave needs to travel from the loudspeaker to the ear (with about 333 m/sec). The sound latency always adds to the latency introduced by the computer system.

Besides the latency that needs to be deliberately defined to allow the system to run in a perfectly stable way, some minimum latency is introduced by the audio A/D-D/A hardware and it's drivers. To build a Live system, audio equipment needs to be used, that is specified for such purpose and features appropriately low inherent latency. Unfortunately many makers don't bother to publish such specification. Hence it might be useful to do a "round-trip-delay" measurement before any purchase decision.

Usually the average CPU workload is not much of a problem, but crackles and dropouts are the result of peak demand only occurring now and then. Not only the demand of the audio system itself needs to be considered, but other stuff, the computer might be busy with, eats CPU cycles. That is why when building a Live system, any available "realtime tweaks" for the OS should be applied, e.g. preventing the start of any unnecessary services that are enable for the OS by default.

Happily, the CPU demand of Reaper itself is known to be especially low, making Reaper a good choice for Live applications. Reaper assigns an OS thread to each track. Hence multi-core CPUs are exploited with projects that feature multiple tracks.

Reaper denotes the individual "PDC" latency of all plugins instantiated, and uses that value to determine the resulting latency of the complete project (detecting the longest path and compensating the others). Here you might want to select plugins with lower latency over others with similar functionality. With some plugins, the PDC can be selected by parameters. Usually lower PDC for the same functionality comes at the cost of more CPU demand. A good example is ReaVerb: lower PDC and higher CPU demand with smaller FFT Window setting; PDC=0 and highest CPU demand with "ZL" (zero latency) activated. Hence for Live usage of ReaVerb, "ZL" should be activated for zero PDC, and "LL" should be activated as this allows the plugin to use multiple CPU threads and with that distribute the load to multiple CPUs.

As WiFi technically is neither very well suited for realtime purpose nor for streaming data, and the stability of a WiFi can be affected by other WiFi devices in the surroundings, it is not recommended to use WiFi for streaming audio or Midi in an "on stage" setup.

Mac, PC or Linux ? Regarding the software infrastructure of the Life setup, it does not seem to make much difference if same is based on OSX or on Windows, as long it features enough CPU, RAM and Disk resources. A decent quality PC system, might be slightly less expensive, while a Mac might feel a bit more safe. The best price performance ratio and best safety will be achievable with a Linux box, but setting up such a system might be much more demanding (see the "Linux" subforum for details).

.. continued in next post ... Please answer in a new thread, as I might need to add more pages to this thread.

Last edited by mschnell; 04-28-2019 at 01:09 AM.
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Old 11-20-2018, 11:09 AM   #2
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... continued from previous post ...

Selecting Patches

With instrument setups, a main task for the Live system is switching sound flavors ("programs", "patches") on the fly due to requests of the player by commands from
  • the computer keyboard (mouse based controlling does not seem very appropriate)
  • buttons on a (master-)keyboard or e.g. Wind Controller
  • a dedicated "desktop" control surface device
  • a pedal featuring one or more buttons
Such button actions might directly select a patch or allow for stepping a pre-programmed sequence of patches according to the sequence necessary for performing a song.

In Reaper, there are lots of ways the plugin configuration can be modified to create a different sound. E.g.:
  1. send parameter values to plugins (e.g. as CC messages) via Midi.
  2. send Midi program change messages to plugins via Midi
  3. modify plugin parameters via plugin automation variables
  4. activate/deactivate plugins
  5. push presets onto plugins
  6. push effect chains onto the tracks' FX chains
  7. push track templates onto tracks
  8. switch routing Audio/Midi from a single source track to one of multiple tracks, later to be summed to an output signal
  9. switch routing Audio/Midi from one of multiple tracks to a single output track
  10. mute/unmute tracks
  11. switch project tabs

The "Live" tools to be instantiated in Reaper on that behalf need to adhere to these user commands, if possible show an updated status display somewhere, and modify the plugin parameters and Reaper configuration according to the pre-programmed patch makeup.


LiveConfigs

The most commonly used tool on that behalf is "LiveConfigs" (updated manual -> www.bschnell.de/LiveConfigs_1.pdf ) that comes with the "SWS" Reaper extension. LiveConfigs provides an easy to use GUI (laid out as a spreadsheet) that directly offers the options noted above as (5.), (6), (7.), (8.), and (10.). Using additional tools, other options can be accomplished: (2.) by the "Slider To Midi PS" JSFX (available via "ReaPack", for (3.) in many cases the "ReaControlMidi" VST (comes with Reaper) is helpful, more sophisticated tricks will need dedicated JSFX or ReaScript programming.

A problem with LiveConfigs that arises in many setups is, that LiveConfigs "learns" Midi CC messages to switch patches. This means, it needs to see CC messages in the Reaper Control path, while Midi equipment often sends live playing Midi messages to the tracks, holding the VSTs and VSTis. If the equipment does sends CC messages for patch changing (e.g. a by a knob), the "control" option in the Midi device setup in the Reaper preferences can be activated to route these messages additionally to the control path. If the Midi equipment sends different messages (such as Program-Change or Note-On), the setup needs to be done in a way that they are preprocessed. Here the said "control" option should be off, and the Midi stream should be routed to a track. In the effect chain, a JSFX-plugin (e.g. "Midi Convert To CC") can modify such messages to be CCs and then the "MidiToReaperControlPath" VST (by Jeffos, -> https://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=43741 ) needs to route the messages to the Control Path, where LiveConfigs can see them.


Midi CC table

LiveConfigs is designed according to the idea to switch patches in the most effective way, using as little CPU power as possible. To allow for this, it provides the option to mute all tracks managed by LiveConfifgs and unmute only the one (per "page") that is actually playing. By default, in the Reaper preferences, "Do not process muted tracks" is enabled, and hence the not selected patches don't consume CPU power. (These tracks need to be not armed, so you need to do appropriate Midi / audio routing for their inputs). Due to this design alternative patches never can be heard at the same time. LiveConfigs always fades out the previous patch and then fades in the next, creating a small gap in between, preventing cracks and glitches, but also any sound cross-fade or a "spill over" of a reverb tail.

In usage cases that require creative use of patch changing, this might be a problem. An alternative to LiveCongig, offering similar results, but not providing an easy to use GUI for configuration is using a set of multiple JSFX plugins and Reaper Scripts. With this system - that resides in the realm of the tracks rather than in the realm of the ControlPath, as LiveConfigs does - the reaction to incoming CC messages for patch changing is defined in a file that needs to be created by a standard text editor, and the audio switching is done by fader plugins, that also can control track muting/unmuting via actions that trigger a Reaper Script. While being perfectly versatile, the setting up of this system of course is not trivial, especially if a great count of different patches is needed.

The main components (provided via ReaPack) are:
  • Midi CC table Reads a configuration file and - when receiving a Midi message to select a new patch - creates CC messages to control the patch changing infrastructure.
  • Midi Fade X Fades in and out the audio streams of the branches in the setup. After fading out, a message can be generated to trigger muting the track. The unmuting of the tracks will be defined by the configuration file for "Midi CC Table". (These messages need to be routed down via MidiToReaperControlPath).
  • Midi Auto Engage creates messages to "safely" switch on and off some functionality according to the value of a continuous control such as generated a volume pedal.
  • Mute or unmute track X Reaper Script to mute/unmute tracks according to an action triggered by an incoming Midi CC message.


LBX Stripper

Might be a very versatile tool for several kinds of Live applications, but I did not find any straight forward instructions on what it can do for "Live" users and how to use it, in plain English. But see:
-> https://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=182233,
-> https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...iKXcTIfeLcEjEd.
-> https://pipelineaudio.net/guitarjack...-lbx-stripper/ (In this instruction I suppose the parts about "learning" an action to the faderbox and other plugin should be replaced by simply assigning the midi message by [Param] -> FX Paramater List -> "Parameter Modulation / Midi Link".),



Song or Song-Position stepping

On top of a patch switching system, for Live performances it might be viable to use software that allows to step through a list of patches predefined according to a sequence of songs, and/or according a the sequence of necessary sound for sections of songs. A description of such software done as a set of JSFX plugins, can be found here -> http://www.bschnell.de/patch.pdf .


.. continued in next post ...

Last edited by mschnell; 08-04-2019 at 04:48 AM.
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Old 11-20-2018, 10:53 PM   #3
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... continued from previous post ...


Deeply Embedded Applications

If a software system - done for whatever purpose - needs some audio functionality such as
  • recording multi channel sound snippets when certain events occur
  • play back sound snippets whenever appropriate
  • gather and analyze audio streams, and have the system react according to the results
  • ...
Reaper can be used, running in the background and do audio related work under control of the main software.

The main software and Reaper can reside on the same PC or on different PCs connected via a network, and they will communicated via
  • files
  • Midi streams
  • OSC streams (via TCP/IP)
Regarding communication via Midi, see the "Live Instrument Setup" sections above in this document, or the "Control surface" subforum, for more details.
Regarding OSC, Reaper provides a large set of OSC commands and status messages, which can be configured by providing a configuration file. Moreover, Reaper scripts can send OSC information, and can be triggered by incoming OSC messages.

If the main software is done as a "Reaper Extension", it can access the complete "Reaper API" (see the "developers" subforum for details) and control any aspect of Reaper's. But in most cases it's not a good idea do do the main functionality of a project as an "extension"-plugin.

The most versatile and nonetheless handy way to access the Reaper API from an external program on the same box or via a network is using "Beyond Python". When this Python script is instantiated in Reaper, (most of) the Reaper API is exported via OSC and hence via TCP/IP, using a protocol format compatible with Python classes. Hence an external Python program will (via the "Beyond" library) easily be able to access the Reaper API (and functions that additionally might be implemented side-by-side with "Beyond"). If the external program is not done in Python, it could directly use the OSC data stream "Beyond" provides, simulating Python classes.

If project specific audio and/or Midi processing is necessary, such functionality can be done by creating appropriate "JSFX" plugins (see the "developers" subforum for details), which can do audio processing in realtime with exceptionally low CPU overhead, and can be instantiated in Reaper tracks like any other audio/Midi plugins. The JSFX framework provides an IDE for creating and debugging JSFX plugins. The JSFX software has access to library functions for Midi and audio I/O and processing (including FFT), a standard user interface for the plugin, basic support for creating a graphical user interface, configuration support, file I/O, ...

A huge number of JSFX plugins and libraries are available in source code by Cockos and by the Reaper user community, covering all aspects of JSFX programming, to be used as examples for new creations (see "ReaPack" and the "developers" subforum).



Alternative stand alone software for Live playing with plugins

There are several commercial offers for such software that mostly are advertised to be easily configurable, which might be an advantage over a Reaper based solution. OTOH, a Reaper based setup will be a lot more versatile (especially because most of these don't feature scripts for handling "unusual" demands) and of course you can use Reaper as a normal DAW "additionally", not needing do buy another software and go through another learning curve.

Here is a list of some of these products:
(Maybe whoever can provide any experience with one of those programs might be inclined to provide them in a forum thread here...)

Regarding the financial cost, a Reaper system is hard to beat, regarding the very moderate price of Reaper itself, and the fact that all add-ons described in this paper are free, and of course the fact that close to any musician needs a full featured DAW, anyway, and Reaper can be used as well for media producing as for live playing. Hence the bill for using Reaper "Live" can be considered zero.


"DJing", "Live Looping", "Abelton Session View"-type and "Backing Track" applications
Some options are:I am not at all an expert on this, so anybody who can provide more information is invited to share it to be included here.


Using Reaper Live together with additional software

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Old 12-13-2018, 07:11 AM   #4
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Tweaking the system for performance


general
  • If you intend to use many Sample instruments as VSTis, you might need to provide a decent amount of RAM
  • If you intend to use combinations of high level effects as VSTs, you might need to have a reasonably fast multi core CPU.
  • Audio/MIDI plugins: if you face some issues, contact the author for a bug fix. No fix => quarantine !
  • Mechanical and chemical elements are due to degradation, so using fans, hard disks or accumulators should be avoided if possible by using a fanless design and SSDs. At least a lot of care should be taken choosing excellent quality devices.
  • SSDs can feature degradation by wear-out if they are rather full and written to. So they should get filled to not much more than half, and unnecessary writing should be avoided as much as possible.
  • When reading, SSDs are faster than hard disks, so they are recommended for faster booting and loading large sample libraries.
  • Overheating will cause failure, hence an appropriate design of the system is necessary.
  • Regarding transport, the mechanical design (especially plugs) should be as rigid and easy to use as possible.
  • There are companies that provide Windows "Audio" PCs and Laptops especially for use with DAWs. Of course those are not cheap. Maybe using a "Gaming" PC or Laptop is a good idea, as well.

Reaper settings:
  • REAPER > Options > Preferences > Audio > Device > Audio Thread Priority to MMCSS Time critical might help to prevent certain CPU performance problems with ASIO drivers.
  • REAPER > Options > Preferences > Audio > Close audio device *...+: all disabled → We want to use the audio engine whatever happens
  • REAPER > Options > Preferences > Audio > Buffering > Allow live FX multi processing: enabled + set the proper number of CPUs
  • REAPER > Options > Preferences > Audio > Playback > Run FX when stopped: enabled
  • REAPER > Options > Preferences > Audio > Do not process muted tracks: enabled → CPU savings when the Live Configs’ option “mute all but active track” is enabled
  • REAPER > General > Maximum undo memory use: 0 (i.e. undo disabled) → When you use a “headless” system without PC-keyboard, mouse and monitor, you will want to shut it down just by hitting the power on/off pushbotton, making the OS close gracefully. If the above setting is 0, Reaper will not ask you to save your changes and hence not wait for user input.
  • REAPER > Main menu > Extensions > SWS Options: disable everything there
  • With Live playing setups, you will want to stretch the area for the track Controls to the right and squeeze the height of the tracks to see a greater number of threads on the screen.
  • Another discussion on multi-Core performance see -> https://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=215576
... much more to do ...

Some of these options are not really compatible with song editing. You can start REAPER with dedicated live settings (i.e. a “live edition” of the REAPER.ini file) thanks to a command line like: "reaper -cfgfile ReaperLive.ini myLiveConfigs.rpp"


Plugin settings
  • Certain plugins introduce some latency ("Plugin Delay Compensation" = "PDC" see -> https://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=181242 ). Reaper displays this latency on the frame of the window it provides for the plugin. With certain plugins (e.g. ReaVerb) this latency can be configured (see above). Reaper automatically introduces additional latency to "faster" tracks do provide perfect alignment between the tracks.
    Unfortunately Reaper does not seem to display the resulting total project latency anywhere.

PC tweaking - more to be done -


MacOS settings
- no idea at all -

Corrections and suggestions for enhancement are very welcome ! Please answer in a new thread, as I might need to add more pages to this thread.

Questions in the forum are very welcome, as well.

-Michael

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Old 12-13-2018, 07:12 AM   #5
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Wink Example for "embedded" Live ("on stage") hardware using Reaper





The upper keyboard is a Seaboard Rise 49 "fretless" keyboard.

The middle keyboard is a DX7 just used as a Master Keyboard, mostly together with a TEC BBCv2 Breath controller, also nice with Hammond sounds.

The lower keyboard is an Kawai VPC 1, best for E-Piano and Grand Piano sounds.

The Surface Device is an XTouch Compact used to control as well the keyboard sound patches as the XAir 18 .

Sound output via an XAir 18 (in an additional rack) and two "dB FM10" floor monitors plus a subbass; and optionally a PA. The XAir also mixes the Live input signals coming from the other members of the band.

(The closed Laptop is not part of the Live setup but used for multitrack recording in the "studio" and playing back 3rd party stuff during the rehearsal sessions.)

-Michael

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Old 12-13-2018, 07:13 AM   #6
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Old 12-13-2018, 07:13 AM   #7
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Old 12-14-2018, 09:44 AM   #8
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Default Play live with Reaper

I've never managed to use the SWS LiveConfigs... I've learned to use the Project List utility that comes with SWS extensions and assign a keyboard controller to switch between projects tabs.
The only downside to this comes from the RAM limit I have on my notebook.

We use to play live backing tracks so every project has a BPM because of sync in delays etc...

Also, I create Project Lists that can change depending on what kind of live event we have.

Apart from that, Reaper always gave me stability and good performance, that is priceless!
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Old 12-18-2018, 04:29 AM   #9
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Nice thread!


I think it would be very useful if we would gather in one place the optimal Preferences settings for live use. Mainly, in the Audio->Buffering section
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Old 12-29-2018, 02:53 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amagalma View Post
Nice thread!
... and hopefully growing
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Old 01-04-2019, 01:07 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amagalma View Post
I think it would be very useful if we would gather in one place the optimal Preferences settings for live use. Mainly, in the Audio->Buffering section
+1 on this, as all i do is semi-randomly switch those checkboxes and see if CPU goes up or down, then trying it for stability for some hours...
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Old 04-23-2019, 05:39 PM   #12
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LBX Stripper is also great for live use, since you can customize a single interface for controls from any number of different plugins, as well as preset switching etc.

I just made an FR for nonlinear item playback: https://forum.cockos.com/showthread....21#post2125121
Reaper could really use a dose of that to expand live options.
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Old 04-23-2019, 10:25 PM   #13
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Could you elaborate for which kind of Live usage (such as "Live instrument", "DJ", "Live Looping", "Live Mixing", ..., see in the first message of this thread), LBX Stripper can be used and how to do so, provide links, etc. I'd like to add appropriate information at the appropriate location(s) above.

-Michael
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Old 04-24-2019, 06:31 AM   #14
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IMO It can do it all...
All reaper track control, All FX plugins control, with The custom GUI you build. It's Deeep!!!!
I saw it can trigger Reaper's action too, and send midi where you want.
Coding seems rock solid never had a crash, and it dont seem to eat so much cpu.
Of course, it's got its learning curve...
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Old 04-24-2019, 07:30 AM   #15
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Any instructions or manual available ?

-Michael
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Old 04-24-2019, 09:20 AM   #16
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Sadly it has yet to be written,
best manual is those videos imo
LBX-STRIPPER__TIPS : https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...iKXcTIfeLcEjEd

And this huge thread... first post features nice infos.
https://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=182233
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Old 04-24-2019, 12:47 PM   #17
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No explanation, not even mentioning what the purpose of the thing is. So why should anybody bother to try it ?

I added a link above, nonetheless. Also I found this great video by Pipelineaudio-> https://pipelineaudio.net/guitarjack...-lbx-stripper/

-Michael

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Old 04-25-2019, 01:29 AM   #18
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Well, I don't know, maybe because those who did try it found it awesome
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Old 04-25-2019, 01:41 AM   #19
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i.e. by word of mouth advertizing and end-to-end help afterwards ?

OK. But regarding the power of the thing it would be sad if that's the only (rather tight) channel.

-Michael

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Old 04-25-2019, 08:39 AM   #20
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LBX Stripper is defo worth checking out. The most immediate use case is to create your own channels stip interfaces for multiple plugins. So you can combine only the controls you use from different plugs in one interface and lay it out how it's best for you. You can have different layouts and load presets on the fly, so it's very suited to live use.

I think it was lb0's first or second script so it's pretty amazing how it took off. I've had to ask questions in the thread to get it working, as it's not the most intuitive GUI. I guess he got too busy to make a manual but is very helpful if you ask.
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Old 04-25-2019, 01:20 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by foxAsteria View Post
The most immediate use case is to create your own channels strip interfaces for multiple plugins.
That is what the name suggests and what it eventually might be found for if anybody searches.

But I did not see any hint that it might be useful for my workflow before I saw pilpelinaudio's video.

Later:
Maybe on the long run it might make sense to use the appropriate part of the lbx stripper code to create something that might be able to replace LiveConfigs for sophisticated patch changing.


-Michael

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