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Clapperboard or similar for collabs?

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by thesamhill, Nov 18, 2020.

  1. thesamhill

    thesamhill Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    I'm working on a tune with a buddy via internet- sending files back and forth.

    It works pretty well, but between our differences and bits of latency here and there, it's easy to get things just out of synch enough to be a problem. Latency is low enough not to be readily discernable at any given moment, but high enough that when multiple tracks are going back and forth, it can kind of add up.

    I'd like to find a way to get a sharp click into the beginning of a vocal track, but it turns out to be a non-trivial problem to rout a click to the loudspeaker but keep the backing track just on the headphones.

    Anyone have any clapperboard-type tricks, or any advice or workarounds, etc for lining up tracks to defeat latency with collaborators?
     
  2. Rich_S

    Rich_S Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    In Reaper, I’ve been adding the click as a separate track. When I render my stems or rough mix, I render the click as a separate .mp3 with the same start time. Then, my collaborators can add both files to their DAW, mix in the click to taste, and everything stays in sync.

    Our keyboard player did something tricky when he sent me his parts to Dangerous Type. The keyboard tracks on that tune begin with a long silence, so he included the first measure of rhythm guitar at the head of each of his stems to help me sync it up.
     
  3. simoncroft

    simoncroft Tele-Holic

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    If there is a short, sharp click at the start of every track, it's very easy to see in a DAW – or video editor – whether everything is accurately aligned. Also, if a collaborator is providing a solo, for instance, it makes life a lot easier if they send you a sound file that starts at the beginning. While it may seem counter intuitive to send someone a file that has two minutes of silence on the front end, it saves a lot of guesswork when it comes to compiling everything.

    There are a lot of videos around that give the impression that remote collaboration via streaming broadband is easy, whereas it's almost impossible! The latency you mention isn't even constant, as data is sent over the Internet in packets, the arrival time of which is not guaranteed. A musician I know worked out one way to do to. This is what James 'Foz' Foster told me:

    Hi simon I tried everything and the simple answer is it's impossible unless you have a dedicated super fast fibre optic cable and this still does not overcome how long it takes to get around the internet. you can overcome latency by the first person (drummer) playing to a click, and each subsequent musician only monitoring the person before them, so the latency is passed down the chain, bass listens to drummer, guitar listens to bassist, vocals listen to guitar, then vocals streams. with this it's important to record without visuals as there is no way for them to be in synch by the end of the chain, so very messy and difficult. What most people are doing is each person plays live and films to click track, these videos are then synched in a video/audio program and then streamed, so not live but played as live, this is how the BBC orchestras and choirs have done it and how we did our lockdown videos. in my experience, all the online programs for jamming seem useless.​
     
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  4. simoncroft

    simoncroft Tele-Holic

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    It doesn't really matter how the click is made. It could be a finger click. As long as it is audible, and visible, it will assist sync. I don't know if this relates to your situation, but where I have collaborators submitting video as well as audio from a DAW, I ask them to make sure the backing track is picked up by the camcorder. That way, I have an unambiguous way of checking sync. Once everything is lined up in the video editor, I can unlink the audio and video tracks, before deleting the camcorder audio, leaving the DAW mix as the only audio.
     
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  5. thesamhill

    thesamhill Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    Thanks all!

    I have many issues (lol) and I think I'm getting them overlapped in my head. So let me just ask about addressing latency in my own system.

    I have done the steps to minimize and correct latency in my system, but I think it's still not completely corrected. Being able to align a pre-latency click with the same click recorded post-latency would be useful.

    So how do you get a reference click in a DAW to play out loud (so it IS picked up by a mic and thus is present on a vocal track for alignment) BUT THEN have the backing track play to headphones and NOT out loud (so it's NOT picked up on the vocal track)?

    The only solutions I can come up with are physical solutions:

    1) Set up the DAW project so there is the click, then 10-ish seconds, then the backing track. Start the DAW recording. Let the click play over speakers and get picked up by the mic, then use an external physical switch to switch to headphones before the backing track starts. Sing.

    2) Same setup- click, then 10 seconds, then the backing track. Put my headphones on the mic, so that the mic picks up that click through the headphones, then put on the headphones before the backing track starts. Sing.

    Make sense? Am I missing an option? I feel like I'm missing something obvious but... that doesn't mean I'm not missing it!

    Hopefully that makes sense, and thanks for the assistance!
     
  6. simoncroft

    simoncroft Tele-Holic

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    There is a whole level of detail I'm not getting here. Let's start with basics. What computer (platform/processor/RAM) are you using, please? What DAW? What audio interface?

    Also: are you trying to get video in sync with your audio, or is it just that there is a sync problem when you are recording overdubs? Sorry, but I'm not sure what you're asking here.

    We are in different parts of the world, so I'm going to bed and will re-visit this tread sometime tomorrow. Therefore, no rush to answer.
     
  7. thesamhill

    thesamhill Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    Hey all, thanks for the help. I'm doing a terrible job explaining. Sorry. @simoncroft Please don't feel obligated, I appreciate any insight but really don't want to be a pain!

    Let me just explain the first question/issue- latency in my own vocal track- and then expand to the collaboration situation.

    Below is my approach, but I'm interested in hearing whether there are other/better solutions to this.

    Started with two tracks. Track 1 (on top, begins 10 seconds in) is the track I got from friend. Track 2 (on bottom, begins immediately) is a click track, but with just a few clicks. My job is to add a vocal track.


    clicktrack02.jpg


    Held the mic up to the headphones.


    clicktrack01.jpg


    Hit record. Once the clicks play into the mic through the headphones, I put the headphones on and sing over the backing track. The result is a new vocal track, which appears in lighter blue in the pic below. The clicks that played through the headphones are audible on that vocal track.


    clicktrack03.jpg


    Zooming in, the clicks look pretty well lined up.


    clicktrack04.jpg


    Looking at the extreme zoom-in, though, you can see some latency when you align the playhead to the click of the click track...


    clicktrack06.jpg


    ... then switch to the vocal track, with the click played through the mic. Just a teeny bit of latency, not a huge deal, but might as well fix it.


    clicktrack07.jpg


    Easy enough to shift the vocal track back until the click on the vocal track aligns with the click on the click track.


    clicktrack08.jpg


    I know this is a pretty small amount of latency. However- when multiple different people, all on different systems, all play a few tracks with different levels of latency, I start to wish I had a "clapperboard" of some type so I didn't have to rely on track length to line things up. Especially when I'm trying to get, for example, my dad in on it- and he's 1000 miles away and I can't troubleshoot, so I need to keep things as simple and foolproof as possible. The idea of creating some sort of standing, fairly simple clapperboard protocol would help me make sure I'm able to get things lined up across multiple collaborators and possible sources of track misalignment.

    My thought is that when we all send our tracks to each other they begin with a click, then 10 to 20 seconds of silence, then the track starts. When recording something miced, you hold the headphones to the mic, let the clicks play, then put the headphones on and play/sing your part.

    I'm also hoping to do something similar with the kids, nieces, and nephews for Christmas music. For 2020 reasons, we can't get together for the holidays. I'm hoping to send my sister and cousins with kids a backing track with a click at the beginning. They load that up on a phone with headphones plugged in. They then play the click through the headphones into a mic (see pic above) then put the headphones on the kid and have them sing along into the mic. They send me the tracks they record- that begin with a (soft-ish, but audible) click I can line up with my DAW project here. I'll mix and send to the family.

    So my overall questions are, is this going to work? Is there an easier way to do this "clapperboard" approach? Am I missing something? And is there an analogous approach for non-mic'ed instruments?

    Again, thanks for input!
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 19, 2020
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  8. simoncroft

    simoncroft Tele-Holic

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    Thank you for the reply. Don't worry, I'll stick with this until you are where you want to be. Most of what I know has been learned from others, so I should give a little back. :) I see you're running LPX (Logic Pro X) on a Mac. This guy is a real guru: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkPFhho9dmkx6QhDaqrewoA but you'll be there a long time if you work through all his tutorials, so let's address your immediate problems right here.

    We're in danger of mixing up two related topics here, so for clarity, I'm going to address them separately. So that we don't confuse each other, let's come up with a couple of definitions:

    1) Latency is a delay caused by the time it takes the system to process audio.
    2) Sync (synchronisation) is a working method we need to follow, so that when we play back the entire arrangement, all the parts are correctly aligned in time.

    As you've discovered, if we haven't got latency under control, we'll struggle to achieve sync because our recordings are slightly out of time. Let's see if we can fix that first.

    Are you checking Low Latency Mode when you record? If not, even the most powerful computer will exhibit latency, because it's devoting significant system resources to multitrack playback and plug-in processing. Conversely, you need to uncheck Low Latency Mode when you mix, because some plug-ins are disabled to achieve the lowest latency.

    If you haven't been using LLM, I suggest you do a quick 'click' test with it engaged to see if it solves all your latency problems.

    Screenshot 2020-11-19 at 18.17.54.png
     
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  9. simoncroft

    simoncroft Tele-Holic

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    If it doesn't, you probably need to optimise your audio preferences. This is not something to be done casually, because if you change some of these settings without understanding what they do, you can end up with much worse latency than when you started. also, you may develop a nasty rash. (OK, I made that bit up...)

    Below is a screen shot of my LPX Audio Preferences. Although yours will probably end up slightly different, I'll talk you through each field.

    Core Audio: You definitely need that enabled.

    Output Device/Input Device: These are set to whatever audio interface is connected to your system. It's a good idea to check the manufacturer's web site to make sure you are using the right software for your interface when you install it.

    I/O Buffer Size: This basically sets how long the computer needs to 'think about' streaming out multiple channels of audio. You'll know if you've set it too low because you'll start to get audible glitches and pops during playback. So if 128 doesn't work for you, try 256.

    Recording Delay: Best to leave this alone!

    Processing threads: As many as you've got showing on the pulldown menu, but best to quit other applications when working in LPX, so you're devoting all resources to audio.

    Process Buffer Range: Pretty much the same routine as buffer size.

    For the rest of the settings, you may care to read this: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT203930 but I'd turn ReWire off unless you are certain you want to integrate with another DAW (EG - using the synths in Reason at the same time.)


    Hope this helps. Please let me know how you get on.


    Screenshot 2020-11-19 at 18.18.39.png
     
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  10. thesamhill

    thesamhill Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    @simoncroft Thank you for all this! This is awesome and very much appreciated.

    I'm already being terrible about following directions. You asked my system info and I didn't give it. I'm on a Mac but actually it's just Garageband rather than Logic. So I think the options are somewhat more limited in terms of what I can adjust. And the computer is older- late 2012- but pretty solid- 2.3 GHz i7, 8 GB ram.

    OK, I see what you're saying about latency vs sync, that's really useful. So looking at latency:

    I'm attaching results of what I am calling a 'click test' where I hold the mic up to the headphone and record a click played through the headphones. If I understand correctly, the delay between the click on the click track and the click on the recorded track is the latency... right? What your window above displays as "roundtrip latency?"

    The first picture has the playhead lined up with the DAW click. The wave begins at around .996 seconds. The second pic is the playhead lined up with the click that is sent to headphones, into the mic, and recorded as a vocal track. The wave on that begins at .999 seconds. So 3ms latency- right? Or did I miss a step somewhere?

    And regardless of the level of latency: (IF I assume a constant level of latency across the track) if I have that recorded click on a vocal track, I can drag the vocal track left to align the click-track click with the recorded click, and that will put me at 0 latency. ** EDIT: Or rather, will correct the latency issue and make it as if the track was recorded with 0 latency.** Right? So even if my system was giving me 200ms of latency, I could get it back to 0 by dragging it left and be good (again, assuming constant latency across the track).

    I think... Or am I not accounting for something- maybe something to do with outbound vs inbound latency?



    Click_DAW.png



    Click_recorded.png
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2020
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  11. SRHmusic

    SRHmusic Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    Curious - Are you trying to collaborate live, on the fly? Or sharing files? I've just recently been successful in getting JackTrip working between me and a friend about 600 miles away. Latency is not terrible (30ms or so, it's built for low latency), and I hope to do more with it. Setup and debug was a PITA, but I'll be doing more with it soon with others. Don't mean to steer the thread off course. I agree that a separate track is what's needed, but it must be kept separate from getting into the mix - so: headphones only for that track, and if you're using speakers anywhere that end will need two hardware audio out channels.
     
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  12. thesamhill

    thesamhill Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    @SRHmusic

    I've never seen JackTrip before, that's interesting stuff. But this situation is file sharing.

    I'll be the ”ringleader” sending the backing tracks out and getting single tracks back. The backing track won't be in the track that gets sent back, it will just be an "a cappella" vocal (or instrument) that I would sync to the backing track I created on my computer. I'm hoping that using that click approach I described above will give me a clapperboard to sync up the tracks I get back to the backing track (@simoncroft see, I'm learning! Sync, not latency lol)
     
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  13. still_fiddlin

    still_fiddlin Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    I saw it was GB and because it doesn't have a low latency mode, you'll likely see some problems that might need some tinkering.

    I would Configure Track Header and add Lock mode (something like "freeze" in LPX), and lock all existing tracks to see if that makes a difference when recording a new track.

    When I've done these things, I send a scratch track that's recorded to a click with an audible count-in. I just ask for the new track back and then align things by eye/ear. I'll send out a remix to other folks that haven't contributed yet if it helps get them going or they may need more than the scratch to fill in their parts. But, regardless, they get a scratch or mix and just send back their part, and only one person has to align things.

    P.S. might have mentioned this, but I mostly grew up around Hbg PA - didn't get there until 1st grade (dad in USAF), but graduated from what was then known as "cow valley" :).
     
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  14. simoncroft

    simoncroft Tele-Holic

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    Nothing wring with old Macs. Mine's 10 years old. I think you've grasped the issues completely. The latency within your system is a constant, so if you realign your tracks to get perfect sync at the start, they should be in the same relationship at the end, time-wise.
     
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  15. thesamhill

    thesamhill Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    @still_fiddlin In terms of me using GB, the click approach seems to work OK. And 3ms of latency isn't going to be a dealbreaker even if I don't get it perfect. I'd think as long as I have that 3ms number to work with, I can get things close to accurate- even without doing the click track every single time- by checking every once in a while to make sure it's still in that range when I start recording for the day, change inputs, etc.

    Another interesting fact I just learned: the pickups of a (or at least my) Squier Bullet Tele are microphonic enough to pick up the click coming through the headphones too. I put the phones right up to the bridge pickup, hit record, and it came through to the recording. Hard to see in the thumbnail so full image is below. Again, assuming I'm figuring this right, the latency I'm detecting by playing a click through the headphones, into the bridge pickup, and back into the DAW is about 2ms.

    You learn something new every day! **EDIT: Toneprint! It all comes together... eventually... occasionally... :) **

    Actually I also learned that if your click track is too loud when you hold the headphone to the pickup you get a whooping huge feedback noise, lol




    Click_guitar.png





    Nice! Cow Valley's a great school. Great music program, great athletics. They were state football champs my senior year. Jon Ritchie was a ringer, I tell ya!

    My folks were army, at the War College. Penn State HBG is the former Olmstead AFB. I remember the first time I went into the Olmstead building at PSU-HBG, I immediately thought, "why do these checkerboard tile floors look so familiar?" Oh yeah, they look just like the floors at Carlisle Barracks... and every other base my parents dragged me around, lol
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2020
  16. thesamhill

    thesamhill Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    Excellent info. And many thanks again for helping me make sure I am getting this right!
     
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  17. simoncroft

    simoncroft Tele-Holic

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    You're welcome.

    I just tried to download the latest version of GarageBand to see if there was any way I could help you get that latency down even further, and discovered it will only run on the new macOS 11, Big Sur! It would have been nice of Apple to wait until the audio interface manufacturers had released software drivers for Big Sur first... Fortunately, I have an older copy, so I'll take a look when I have time to reboot under my previous OS.

    EDIT: I think you're absolutely correct. I can find no way to adjust the buffer size etc in GarageBand. Oh well, you already know the workaround. :D
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2020
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  18. thesamhill

    thesamhill Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    @simoncroft Man... thanks so much! I really appreciate you taking the time to look into it, and for all the assistance.

    And my buddy has been after me to upgrade to Logic so if I end up getting there... I know who to talk to :)
     
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  19. Biffasmum

    Biffasmum Tele-Meister

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    Short of spending big, the best way to collaborate is by having identical setups at each end then send each other project files to work on independently. It’s hard to collaborate ‘live’ over a public internet connection unless you put in quite pricey gear at each end to avoid latency. The further apart geographically the harder it is.

    Using Google Drive for syncing each location works really well and is free up to 15GB.
     
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  20. awasson

    awasson Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    I’ve been using DAW software for a while (decades), cakewalk Pro, GarageBand, Logic and Reaper. Since I’m collaborating with a buddy of mine who’s on a Windows machine and I’m on MacOS we needed something cross compatible. We landed on Reaper.

    I’ve never had an issue synching tracks on Reaper but you need to know the BPM in order to import the track and have it line up. I’ve even taken some ancient projects that were done in the 90’s on some unknown DAW, imported the tracks, figured out the BPM and then remixed them with improved parts. Best $67 I’ve ever spent.

    There is a learning curve and it is endlessly customizable which leads to rabbit holes but the upside is that for me it is the defacto DAW software to use.

    I was actually talking to a buddy of mine who has a recording studio in town and he’s moving from Logic to Reaper as well.
     
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