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How to Automate Your Worship Production Rig

Monday June 24, 2019. 02:00 PM , from Sweetwater inSync
Do you find yourself wishing you could raise the quality of your live productions, while maintaining freedom and flexibility in your worship service? Imagine your lights, lyrics, and video all programmed and perfectly in sync. That is all very possible when you automate your production with Ableton Live. So how do you make this happen? Let’s walk through the process. It’s easier than you think!
Start with a Great Foundation
If you’re looking for efficiency and freedom in programming your production, start by using Ableton Live for clicks and tracks. Even if you’re not going to use backing tracks, it’s essential to have a click and your song structure laid out. There’s nothing better for this than Live’s Arrangement View timeline (image below) to see your song structure.

With your song structure defined and at least a click track created that matches your song, you can then add MIDI clips or LTC (Linear Time Code) files in your Ableton session. These are what will now trigger your lights, lyrics, and videos to perfectly match your arrangement.
The best part of this? You do the work once, and then you never have to do it again! Sure, programming MIDI cues to fire lyrics in ProPresenter from Ableton will take longer to setup than triggering lyrics manually. But you’re doing this work only once, and it means your lyrics are always right, every time you play that song. Even if you jump around your arrangement live in the moment, your lyrics will always follow.
Can Ableton Control “X”?
Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about using Ableton Live to control your production. I often get questions such as, “Can Ableton control my light board? Can Ableton trigger our videos? Can Ableton change presets on my guitar pedal?” While I don’t have experience with every piece of equipment ever, I can still confidently answer with a yes.
If you understand Ableton Live’s Control Types, you can control almost anything with Ableton Live. I’ve even used Ableton Live to make a cup of coffee!

While there’s not time to cover every kind of Control Type (I go in depth in this course), let’s talk about the four most popular options.
In order to apply this knowledge, you’ll want to take a look at your device’s user manual to learn what control type it expects. Then you’ll send that “control” message from Ableton. (We’ll cover how to connect Ableton to your device in a moment.)
MIDI Notes
If you need to control your device via MIDI Notes, you’re in luck! You can send MIDI Notes natively from Ableton Live. If you already produce music in Ableton, you’ve probably figured this out. Let’s look at how to do it in Ableton Live’s Session View:
Double-click on an empty Clip Slot of a MIDI track

That will create a MIDI clip.

With your clip created, double-click on the clip to open Detail View.

Double-click in the MIDI Note editor to create a MIDI Note that corresponds with the note your device is expecting.

Drag up/down on the Note Ruler to navigate to different notes.

Need to change the velocity of your note? Hold Cmd (Ctrl on Windows) and click and drag up/down to adjust your velocity.

In your MIDI track, assign the output to the output your device is connected to, and choose the proper MIDI channel that your device is expecting.

Control Changes
If you’re looking to change the value of an effect remotely, you’re likely going to need to send Control Change messages. A perfect example of this is adjusting the feedback of your delay or the modulation speed of a tremolo. In order to do this, you’ll need to know what CC # your device is expecting and then send that value using a CC message.
First, create a MIDI clip using the same first three steps we used above.
With Detail View open, use the Control Chooser in the Envelopes box to choose the proper CC.

If you don’t see two boxes in the Envelopes box, click on the Control Chooser and choose Show all envelopes.

To set your CC value to a static level, click to create a breakpoint and drag to the value you want.

You can also get very expressive and fade into/out of a value by creating multiple breakpoints and adjusting their locations.

Like our MIDI Notes, make sure you define the proper MIDI output and channel on your MIDI track.

Program Changes
If you’re looking to change presets on a device, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll use Program Change messages. You’ll want to take a look at the manual to see which Program Change messages are used for each preset and create a template with those names saved into your clips (more on this in a moment).
Follow the steps mentioned above to create a MIDI clip and then do the following:
Use the Program Change section under the Notes box to send a Program Change message from that MIDI clip.

As mentioned in our Taking Control of Your Keyboard Rig with Ableton Live article, there are a few nuances in sending Program Changes from Ableton Live.
If your device requires an MSB (Most Significant Byte) message, add that in the Bank box.

If your device requires an LSB (Least Significant Byte) message, add that in the Sub box.

Finally, choose the Program Change number your device is expecting to call up that specific preset.

As I mentioned in the taking control article, you may need to offset the MSB and LSB values by 1 to properly control your gear. How do you know if you need to do this? Set up your clip to send what your device is expecting, and if your device doesn’t respond when you send the MIDI clip, offset the values by 1 and try again.
Do the Work Once
Over time, I’ve created templates of MIDI Notes, CCs, and Program Changes that correspond to different functions and cues on my devices. I name these clips, save them in Session View, and then drag from Live’s Browser into Arrangement View on the timeline. They are synced to my song and saved with my file for that song. This also allows me to quickly program my songs with all types of automation. It’s as simple as moving a clip onto the timeline!

If you’re looking to have perfect sync between Ableton and your device, for instance with video, then you’re going to need to use SMPTE or LTC. While Ableton Live doesn’t natively generate LTC, it’s incredibly easy to use. You’ll need to figure out what frame rate your software/hardware is expecting, what time your timecode starts with, and how long your timecode file should be. Then you’ll want to use the El-Tee-See website to generate a “striped” WAV file that contains LTC SMPTE Timecode.

Drag the audio file you created and downloaded into Ableton Live in a new audio track.

NOTE: Make sure you’ve routed your LTC track to a separate output on your interface. You don’t want this to go to the speakers or in-ears, but only to your device that’s expecting it.

Making the Connection
Now that we’ve discussed the four most common Control Types and how to send them from Ableton Live, let’s talk about how to connect Ableton to your device, whether that’s a program on the same computer, different computer, or a hardware device.
Sending LTC from Ableton Live
While using LTC to sync video seems like magic (perfectly in time and follows changes in your arrangement), it’s incredibly simple to set up. The most important thing to remember is that the LTC track is an audio file. Treat it just like it’s any other track in your session. Remember that it needs to have its own output that only goes to the device that’s looking for LTC.

You’ll need an audio interface with multiple outputs to send your LTC file down its own separate output. If you’re sending LTC to another computer, then that computer will need an audio interface with at least one available input. Then connect both machines via a 1/4″ or XLR cable (matching the output of your audio interface with the input of the second interface connected to your video computer).
If you’re running LTC to a hardware device, like a lighting console, odds are very high it already has a dedicated input for timecode. In that case, you’ll come out of your interface into that console.
In the likely case that your computer and the other device (computer, console, etc.) are separated by a slight distance, take advantage of your stage snake, or run a separate XLR cable from your interface to that device.
Sending MIDI from Ableton to Another Program on the Same Machine
Need to send MIDI Notes, Control Change, or Program Change messages from Ableton Live to another software on the same computer? Then use the IAC Driver built into your Mac. If you’re using a PC, you can use a virtual MIDI driver like LoopBE1 or LoopMIDI.
The IAC Driver (or Virtual MIDI equivalent on a PC) allows you to easily route MIDI from Ableton Live to another software app on the same machine. Check out this tutorial to see how easy it is to set up and use. You’ll want to make sure you select the correct MIDI output in Ableton and configure the other program to receive MIDI from the IAC Driver.
Sending MIDI from Ableton to Another Computer via Ethernet
If you’re looking to send MIDI from Ableton to another computer, it’s incredibly easy to do using Network MIDI built into every Mac. If you’re looking to do this on a Windows PC, you can easily use an RTP Windows solution such as RTP MIDI.
You can connect both machines using only an Ethernet cable, or connect to the same wired network and send MIDI over long distances using this approach. Check out the tutorial below to see how easy it is to set up an RTP session and connect two computers via Ethernet. If you’re using a PC, follow the same steps, but substitute RTP MIDI for Network MIDI.

Sending MIDI from Ableton via 5-pin MIDI
If you’re sending MIDI from Ableton to a hardware device, odds are high that you’ll need to send MIDI via 5-pin MIDI. This is incredibly easy to do. If you have an audio interface that has 5-pin MIDI on it, you can connect a 5-pin MIDI cable from the MIDI output of your interface to the MIDI input of the device you want to control.
If your audio interface doesn’t already have a 5-pin MIDI port on it, you can purchase a MIDI interface like the mio4 from iConnectivity to add 5-pin ports to your rig.
If you need to send 5-pin MIDI over a long distance, then consider networking multiple mio4s or MIDI 4s together to create a MIDI network that can send 5-pin, USB, and RTP MIDI. If you want to create a redundant rig, consider networking a PlayAudio12 and a mio4 or MIDI4+ together.
Automating your production with Ableton Live allows for excellence, freedom, and flexibility. It’s also an incredible solution for smaller churches, where one person can lay cues into Ableton Live and pre-program all the control of lights, lyrics, and video.
The post How to Automate Your Worship Production Rig appeared first on inSync.
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