thing-a-day #6: recovering old digital performer projects

I had a terrible scare tonight. None of my Digital Performer (my DAW) projects from before I moved to my new Mac would open. It suddenly felt like I’d lost 5+ years worth of musical experimentation.

After panicing a bit, I did a whole lot of research, and came up with this process. It’s slow, but it works. And it’s a thing for today since no one else has ever written it all up in one place before.

  1. Go to the Terminal and change directories to your project, for example: cd Waynemanor/DP\ Projects/Barracuda\ Project/ (If use of a UNIX command prompt and escaping spaces are new to you, you may want to read through a tutorial first.)
  2. Use ls to find the files that are your project files. In this case, I have two: Barracuda and dys4ik 2006-02-28.
  3. Install the Apple OSX Developer Tools if you don’t already have them.
  4. Use the following command: SetFile -t PERF -c MOUP <project-file-name>substituting each project name in turn.

You’re not done. Your audio files may also be corrupted. Try loading the project into DP. Still problems? Getting a Resource file was not found (-193) error? Your DPII’s resource fork got lost, probably because you copied to a non-Mac system and back. Try these steps. Some guesswork may be required.

  1. Download, install and run SoundHack.
  2. Use File > Open Any (cmd-A) to open your first sound file from the Audio Files directory.
  3. Use Hack > Header change (cmd-H) to assign the correct sample rate, number of channels and encoding. Most DP projects have single channel. You just have to know what the sample rate is (usually 44.1 or 48) and how many bits deep it is (8, 16, 24, 32 are most common). Press Save Info
  4. Select File > Save a copy (cmd-S). Be sure to set the same bit depth here as you used in the file’s header, or SoundHack will do a conversion! Save a copy somewhere else, like your desktop. Be sure to save as the same name as the original file to prevent confusion later.
  5. Navigate to where you saved the file and double-click to open in your favourite sound program. This could be QuickTime, AudioFinder, DSP-Quattro, or even DP itself. Play to make sure it sounds right. If not, you got the sample rate or number of bits wrong. Go back to SoundHack and try again.
  6. Painstakingly repeat this for each of your sound files. This could take a while.
  7. In the DP project folder, move your Audio Files folder aside. Place all of the newly patched files into a new folder called Audio Files.
  8. Try re-opening the project in DP. You should be able to pick up where you left off.
  9. Grab a cold one. You deserve it!

thing-a-day 4: civic action

OK, I had to take a detour from my “all things music” thing-a-day for a special request. A house down the street from me had a building permit posted that I didn’t read clearly until 2 days ago. Seems they wanted to split the 30′ wide lot into 2 15′ wide lots, destroy the original 2-story 120-year old building with a gorgeous historic facade, and put up a 3-story semi-detached monstrosity. In fact, the historic facade (which is in surprisingly good shape!) is identical to a few others on the street! My response: “Ah, no.”

I spoke with the neighbours immediately to the north, who were also concerned, and a neighbor across the way from me who’s a good friend and fellow Victorian home owner/restorer. We jointly put together a letter of opposition and presented it in front of committee today.

We won.

The proposal was rejected on the grounds that it was not in keeping with the nature of the other homes in the area, and that the narrow proposed frontage was further unacceptable. The committee went so far as to impune the reputation of the current owner, who clearly hasn’t been keeping up with preventative maintenance. The implication was that, if he can’t maintain the current property, there’s no guarantee he won’t cut corners on the replacement structure as well.

Of course, the applicant is appealing the decision, so this isn’t over — but it’s exciting to get involved and to realize that just 30 minutes spent on a letter of objection, and 5 minutes speaking over at City Hall, is a great way to stay involved wtih your community.

If you want to read the letter I put together and had my neighbours sign, comment using your email address and I’ll send you a link.

thing-a-day 3: rainbow mix 1

Too many computer crashes tonight caused this to get posted very late.

After Mr. Neilathotep made the suggestion, it had to come out. Here’s a short interpretation of The Rainbow Connection on banjo, double bass and analogue synthesized flute. This really was done in an hour, though computer crashes had me screwing around with getting the damn thing out of my DAW for about 3 more hours. :/

thing-a-day 2: banjo loop

thing-a-day #2: banjo. for an upcoming music track (hopefully later this month!) I wanted a realistic banjo strum. Here’s the best I could manage in 1 hour or less. Sample is from Sweetwater’s Stratus Sounds collection (Volume 3). Lots of tweaking, a bit of FX, and you’ve got the loop you hear here.

What do you think?

P.S. Euphonix update coming soon, I promise.

thing-a-day 1: euphonix mc mix review part 1

Introduction

After my photography buddies insisted that 90% of photography is your digital darkroom workflow, and convinced me to switch to Adobe Lightroom, I’ve been struggling to get my studio workflow similarly streamlined. I grew up on studio production in the late 1980s, meaning large analogue mixers, one channel per input, and everything mixed down to 8 sub-mixes running to a 1/2″ 8-channel reel-to-reel recorder (Tascam 38). I naturally think in terms of taking everything down to 8 busses, then doing a final mixdown “live” from tape to 2-track. It’s a two-step workflow that I can do in my sleep. It’s also 20 years out of date – long due for an overhaul.

So when I saw this press release from MOTU (makers of my DAW, Digital Perfomer, and my PCI-based audio interfaces) touting a new “high-end” control surface – the Euphonix Artist series – I decided the time had come to make a change. (The forthcoming MOTU Volta plugin pushed me over the top.) I’d heard of tons of difficulties using Mackie Controls and HUIs with DP previously, so reading an honest-to-goodness press release from MOTU left me hopeful they would proactively work to make the Euphonix devices the best control surface for DP. So, I bought a cheap used MOTU 24i to accompany my 1224, and ran every device in my studio directly into the computer. Knowing some of the limitations I might experience being an early adopter, I spent the cash on the MC Mix. I figured that 8 tracks of full-motion faders and endless rotary encoders (MC Mix) would be preferable to 4 tracks + a touchscreen (MC Console), as I’m used to grabbing for knobs and only looking at a meter bridge. Later, I rationalized, I could add the MC Console if I wanted. Also, my friend dys4iK gave me a Shuttle Xpress, which I use as a jog/shuttle/transport device – meaning I don’t need another one just now. (Review forthcoming.)

Unboxing

The MC Mix comes well-packed in an attractive box. The device itself is well weighted, and feels solid in your hands. A big kudos to Euphonix for only using red, yellow and green LEDs; no bright blue LEDs blinding you from this device! The OLED track indicators are also quite attractive and understated, with very little lag and no discernible flicker in my incandescent-lit studio. If I had any complaint about the physical device, it’d be that the rotary and fader knobs are made from metallized plastic. I guess for the powered faders this is understandable – less mass to push around – but a bit surprising based on their look. Still, they slide nicely, and after the initial “plastic surprise,” I haven’t thought twice about the build quality. The box also includes a hefty power supply, and a piece of 6-foot Cat 5 Ethernet cable. This went straight into the second NIC of my DAW. I would have preferred a slightly longer cable coming from the line-mounted power brick to the MC Mix itself, but I can’t complain, really.

Setup

Installation was straightforward under OSX 10.5.6. Connect power and the networking cable to the MC Mix, then load the OSX driver. As Euphonix frequently releases driver updates (especially targeted at improving Digital Performer compatibility!) it’s best to download the latest drivers from Euphonix’ site directly, ignoring the packed-in CD-ROM. EuControl launches at boot with a spinning green logo in the Dock. After the EuControl driver detects the MC Mix, the logo stops spinning, and the 8 MC Mix OLED displays change from the Euphonix logo to 8 dotted boxes — a gratifying indication that communication has been established. The control panel for the driver has a large “Upgrade Firmware” button that does exactly what it says, trouble-free. There are also settings to fix specific tracks to specific sliders (“layouts”), as well as toggle various behaviour of the device. I left all of these on their defaults.

The quick start and user guide for the MC Mix are straightforward, and worth a good read. Five buttons on the left of the device select various modes – what the manual calls knob sets. Used in various combinations, you can access all of the features of a traditional mixing console, as well as settings for plug-ins / channel inserts. By selecting a specific channel in the CHAN mode, parameters for a single channel are spread out across the 8 rotary encoders, and can be paged through separately. This is a particularly nice feature, though there are some implementation problems in the current driver that cause difficulty with DP6 (see below).

One interesting shortcut mentioned in the manual – holding Shift and touching a fader – will reset it to 0.0dB. Looking at the silkscreening on my MC Mix, when zeroing the fader the value is actually about 0.5dB; it would be nice if there was a calibration feature in the driver to align 0.0dB exactly with the silkscreened position. As it stands, I’ll just look at the value on the OLED display or my monitor instead.

In Action – CueMix

Before jumping into Digital Performer, I figured I’d give the surface a spin with CueMix, using the Mackie Control and HUI emulation modes. Often I’m just jamming in my studio, and don’t want the weight (and intimidation!) of a full DAW. CueMix most closely matches the analogue mixer I used to use for just this purpose, letting me set pans and levels via faders and knobs, controlling the rest via MIDI routing. This requires drag-and-dropping the CueMix application onto the Euphonix control panel, selecting the correct emulation mode, and rebooting (!) Once you’ve finished that, you create a new Mackie Control or HUI device in Audio MIDI Setup, connecting the new Euphonix MIDI device to the Mackie Control or HUI device via one in and one out port. Be sure to set the manufacturer and device in Audio MIDI; CueMix uses this to determine the correct emulation mode. (The Euphonix MIDI device sports 4 pairs of in-out MIDI ports, presumably necessary if you link together up to 4 MC Mixes or 3 MC Mixes and 1 MC Control. I just used the first pair of MIDI ports.) Finally, you enable and configure the control surface from the Control Surfaces menu in CueMix. I checked the Application Follows Control Surface setting in the menu, in the hopes that CueMix would scroll horizontally as I paged left and right with the MC Mix. Sadly it doesn’t, even with EuControl set to Auto-bank to selected track and CueMix set to Application Follows Control Surface. (Incidentally, it’s disappointing that CueMix doesn’t get wide enough to shall all of my channels, even though I have the screen real estate. CueMix will show a maximum of 24 channels + 1 master horizontally. Fixing either of these two problems would result in a useful workaround.)

Immediately upon trying the Mackie Control emulation mode, I encountered a problem. The track titles displayed on the MC Mix OLED displays were actually the track title for the first channel, spread out across the first 6-7 OLED displays. Switching to HUI mode correctly assigned track names to each track, but there are still bugs: I can only display the first 3 letters of a track name, plus a single digit. As an example, a track named “CS-80 L” displays as “CS-” only. I also noticed that CueMix’s faders go from -inf to 0dB, while the silk-screening on the MC Mix goes from -inf to +12dB. Not a problem – EuControl maps +12dB (MC Mix) to 0.0.dB (CueMix), giving you the full slider length for use in CueMix. Support still isn’t perfect: the MC Mix shortcut of holding shift and tapping a fader to set it to 0.0dB still uses the (approximate) silkscreen 0.0dB level, which translates to -4.9dB in CueMix. Similarly, the gain for each track displayed on the OLED is with respect to the silkscreening, not the CueMix level (-inf to +12.0 dB). So, with the fader all the way up, the OLED displays +12.0 dB, but CueMix recognizes it as 0.0dB. This is a minor nuisance, but one I’d have not expected, especially in emulation mode. This is further complicated by the fact that live channel levels don’t display on the MC Mix – only in CueMix itself. (Sadly, this limitation still exists in DP6 as well.) The blame here may well lay with MOTU in their HUI control of CueMix; I’ve not used a real HUI with CueMix so I don’t know if it has the same limitations.

Of the other controls, mute and solo work as expected, except for the fact that the MC Mix has an “ON” button instead of a “mute” button. This is a strange choice on the part of Euphonix, but one I can live with – as long as I make the mental shift to expect the button to be lit instead of extinguished. Bank Left and Right, along with Nudge Left and Right, work as expected, shifting channels by 8 or 1 across the surface of the MC Mix. OLED displays and illuminated indicators shift along as expected. Pan works fine – though the rotary encoders are a bit jumpy with fast movements, they’re just fine at slower speeds. Oddly, trim mode won’t stay selected; after a fraction of a second, the rotary controls switch back to pan mode. This is a definite bug. Finally, none of the other knob set buttons have any effect. As a result there’s no way to access input mutes from the MC Mix, nor the CueMix talkback buttons.

This one isn’t documented, but is very helpful: switching CueMix’s console between output buses is accomplished using the Mix button and each fader’s SEL button. In this mode, each channel represents a pair of outputs, with bus muting working via each channel’s On button. Once you’ve switched to the bus you want to work with, use the Input button to return to channel mode. Once I discovered this, it was a snap to mix and assign my 34 inputs across the 14 outputs I have between my MOTU 1224 and 24i interfaces.

In short – despite its many small bugs, HUI mode for CueMix is functional, allowing me access to volume, pan, mute and solo across all available CueMix buses. Hopefully, MOTU will bring native EuControl support to CueMix as well, possibly updating the application to match their newer CueMix FX application for FireWire interfaces. (A girl can dream, can’t she?)

Tomorrow: the MC Mix under Digital Performer 6.01.