Mix To Picture with Ableton Live 6
 
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Mix To Picture with Ableton Live 6

The DJ's secret weapon evolves into post-production's bullet train

By Sam Mallery

Until the introduction of Ableton Live 6, the audio application's only real stronghold in the professional video production world was its use as a musical cue-triggering software for live televised events. Live's simple interface and rock-solid stability attracted the attention of sound personnel from major networks, who quickly came to depend on it for the purpose of on-the-fly cueing. Still, one couldn't help but wonder if there was more that Ableton could contribute to the sphere of professional A/V production.

The answer arrived in late September of 2006. The new version of Live introduced movie support, specifically to satisfy the deluge of requests the small German company had received from professionals involved in film scoring and video post-production sound mixing. The inclusion of this somewhat standard feature in Live 6 marked a significant advance forward in the workflow for many professionals in the post-production sound mixing trade.

Originally introduced in 1999 as a stable application for musicians venturing onstage with laptop computers, Live started out as a live performance instrument. Successful from the very beginning, Live was immediately recognized as an original and innovative tool. It introduced a unique approach to audio software with features like "Warping," which allowed users to treat audio as if it were an elastic band, stretching it to absurd lengths without affecting pitch. On the fly warping is a unique capability that has yet to be replicated by competing software.

Live 6 extended the warping innovation to the video world. You can now warp video as well as audio. The process of making odd timing-issue corrections, as well as creating extremely complex time-bending effects is now startlingly effortless.

Live is also different because it operates in real time, allowing users to manipulate and experiment to their heart's content without ever having to press the stop button. With the utmost simplicity, all of your automation and tweaks can be recorded (adjusting levels, riding the limiter, etc.) as you work. You can audition music and Foley until you get it just right, loop a section and edit on the fly all in real time. The stop button plays a very minor role in Ableton Live.

Despite the fact that it has been engineered from the ground up for stability, Live's real-time architecture can be a bit more CPU-intensive than other popular audio applications. It's not uncommon for new users switching over from other DAW software to run into CPU overload and track-count issues on larger projects. Numerous workarounds exist to remedy these problems, and new users usually find ample assistance in Ableton's active community forum, or from Ableton's responsive support team.

Ableton's focus on listening to their customers (hence the inclusion of video support), and the intuitive functionality of the software itself inspires a devout loyalty from their user base. This is precision German engineering in software form. Elements are laid out logically. For instance, during video playback, if you want to change views to full-screen, you simply double-click in the video window. To get back out you just double-click again. This simplicity continues throughout even the most complicated operations in the application.

Live can fully utilize the most powerful "Mac and PC desktop computers on the market. However, it's just as comfortable operating on a laptop. There are no dongles to concern yourself with, either. Live 6 supports multiprocessor and multicore computers. This means that with an ample notebook, you're now free to work wherever you please.

If you've ever had any interest in DJing, remixing, experimental synthesis, or music production and composition in general, Live is one of the most powerful tools available for these applications. Many top DJs, producers, and musicians worldwide depend on Live as their main production and performance tool. No other audio application can claim such a rich diversity of functionality. If you need to take a break from mixing that soda commercial, there are more creative possibilities at your fingertips!

When you purchase a boxed copy of Live 6 at B&H, you will receive the Essential Instrument Collection. The EIC is a massive collection of acoustic and electric pianos, orchestral strings, brass, woodwinds, plucked strings, and mallets. The samples are optimized to work seamlessly in Simpler, a sampling instrument that's included with Live. Here you will find every sound you need to score original soundtracks, create beds and jingles, etc.;

Andy Rohrmann, a Seattle-based sound designer, recently made the switch to mixing-to-picture with Live 6.

"I used to use Pro Tools. The Quicktime support was good, but it was an uncreative environment.
Working with Live is actually fun."

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