Getting Started with Waves SuperRack: In-Depth Tutorial

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In this video, we cover key concepts that will allow you to get up and running quickly with SuperRack – the next generation of live plugin processing by Waves Audio. FOH, monitor, broadcast, and AV engineers can use SuperRack to process audio using plugins in real time, customize their workspace with floating windows, set extended-scope snapshots, and run any live show with speed and confidence.

In this quick start tutorial, we cover the following topics:

  • 0:00 Introduction
  • 0:44 SuperRack SoundGrid explained
  • 1:35 System requirements
  • 1:52 Software installation
  • 2:32 Hardware configurations
  • 4:01 Connecting SuperRack to a mixing console
  • 5:09 Hardware assignments
  • 5:37 Automatic device configuration
  • 6:05 Manual device configuration
  • 6:23 Assigning devices to slots in the inventory
  • 7:47 Routing I/O channels to racks
  • 8:09 Routing racks manually
  • 9:05 Routing asymmetrical racks
  • 9:53 Inserting plugins
  • 11:00 Floating panels
  • 11:36 Floating plugin windows
  • 12:17 Floating tear-off windows
  • 13:48 Hot Plugins panel
  • 15:06 Using Snapshots
  • 15:54 Recall Safe Mode

Full transcript:

SuperRack is a software that lets live sound and broadcast engineers process up to 64, audio channels through up to 512 instances of Waves plugins with near-zero latency.

SuperRack is unique, because it gives you a lot of freedom in how you and manage and use your plugins, but before we go any further, it’s important to understand the concept of SoundGrid and look into the hardware that enables us to use plugins live with ultra-low latency.

The hardware devices that make up a SoundGrid network allow the system to handle plugin processing on dedicated computer (also known as a SoundGrid server), while keeping graphics and application processing on the host computer.

This audio-over-ethernet network setup significantly increases plugin count, eliminates latency, and enables the host and I/O devices to be located far apart from each other to accommodate any environment - project studios, live venues, houses of worship, complex A/V networks, and commercial broadcast facilities.

System Requirements

Make sure your system meets the minimum system requirements by going to www.waves.com/superrack and clicking on the Support tab to view the full system requirements.

Software Installation

Start off by installing all SuperRack software and plugins on the host computer. This can be a Waves optimized audio computer like the Axis One or any PC or Mac computer that meets the system requirements above.

To begin the installation, open Waves Central. This utility is used to install Waves software and activate your licenses. If you don’t have Waves Central installed, you can download it from https://www.waves.com/central.

To learn how to install, activate, recover, and update Waves plugins and applications, watch the video tutorial on that page. We update this video every time Waves Central is updated.

Note that you can install plugins and activate licenses on a computer that is not connected to the internet. To do so, you would need to create an offline installer on a USB flash drive using Waves Central.

An offline installer can only be made on an internet-connected computer. The instructions for creating an offline installer can be found in the video that is on https://www.waves.com/central.

Hardware Configurations

A network consists of at least 4 hardware components:

  1. A host computer for running the SuperRack application and controling the SoundGrid network. The SuperRack software, plugins, and preset files are located here. However, audio is not processed on the host computer.
  2. A SoundGrid server for handling plugin processing. The speed of the server has a direct impact on the number of available SoundGrid channels and plugin instances you can use within your session.
  3. A SoundGrid 1GB Ethernet switch for linking the host computer, I/O devices, and servers. To ensure compatibility with SoundGrid, we recommend that you get your Ethernet switches from Waves (www.waves.com/switches).
  4. A SoundGrid IO, or a Console with SoundGrid compatible Extension card. To run audio through the system, you will need to assign at least one SoundGrid I/O device. These range from 2-channel preamps to 128-channel MADI interfaces. You can also use a console with a SoundGrid expansion card.

Every SuperRack SoundGrid setup, no matter how large or complex, is based on this configuration. Complex SoundGrid deployments may include more I/Os, servers, switches, a second computer for a dedicated DAW, or more controllers.

Connecting SuperRack to a Mixing Console

  1. Connect the console expansion card and all other I/O devices to the 1Gb Ethernet switch. The order of connectors on the switch is insignificant but be sure to use Cat 5e cables, or better. Do not use Cat 5 cable, and, if possible, don’t “daisy chain” devices.
  2. Connect the host computer and server(s) to the switch.
  3. Power up all devices.
  4. Launch SuperRack.

Let’s look at one more common SuperRack SoundGrid setup:

SuperRack SG with a Console Expansion Card and Second Server

In this setup a MADI I/O provides up to 128 SoundGrid channels. Here, the MADI I/O is serving the stage preamps, monitor, and FOH. A second server has been added to provide complete processing redundancy. The host computer can also run a DAW for recording and virtual sound check.

Hardware Assignments

Note that SuperRack lets you prepare your sessions offline, when no SoundGrid hardware is connected. This is particularly beneficial for touring engineers, as it gives them the option to prepare sessions at the airport, in their hotel room, on the airplane, you name it.

When you are ready to connect your SoundGrid hardware, go to the Setup tab and view your devices under the inventory window.

Automatic Device Configuration

The easiest way to configure your I/O devices and servers is with the Auto-Configure wizard.

This scans the SoundGrid network and locates the correct LAN port and then assigns I/O devices and servers to slots in the inventory. It also routes devices to racks sequentially. If you later change your inventory, you can reconfigure the devices by clicking the Auto-Configuration button.

Manual Device Configuration

  • Use the PORT drop-down menu to select the host computer’s LAN port that is connected to the SoundGrid network. When the correct port is selected, the LINK and SPEED indicators will display valid data.
  • Assign devices to slots in the Inventory. Click the “+” sign in an empty slot in the I/O section to open the Device menu. Assign a device from the Network Devices list. Repeat this for as many devices as you need— you can do this in any slot.
  • By default, the first I/O device assigned will be the clock master device of the SoundGrid network. The clock master icon is blue, all slave devices are green.

To assign another device as the master, open the Device menu and select “Set Master.” Confirm that all devices show the correct sample rate and sync status. If a device will not sync to the clock master device, try these actions:

  • Remove the device and reassign it.
  • Power cycle the hardware device and check cables.
  • If possible, reassign the clock master to another device.
  • Servers are assigned in the same manner as I/O devices. If you assign two servers, the second is marked as redundant (RSGS).

When the configuration has finished, there will be a brief audio dropout. Its length will depend on the size of the session. If you can’t tolerate a drop, don’t reconfigure in the middle of a show. Simply wait for a short pause in the program.

Routing I/O Channels to Racks

A rack must have an input and an output, whether the audio comes from an ASIO/Core Audio driver, the console’s expansion card, or a hardware I/O device. Rack input and output routing is done in the Rack or Overview windows.

Routing Racks Manually

Choose the format of the input signal, select a device, select I/O channels, and choose a stem format. Some multitrack formats offer different streaming sequences to meet varied delivery requirements.

Rack outputs are routed in the same manner. A rack’s input and output do not necessarily need to have the same number of tracks. A stereo rack input can, for example, coexist with a 5.1 output. The rack’s L/R signal will output only from the L and R channels of the 5.1 I/O stream. The position of the L and R channels in the 5.1 output will vary depending on the 5.1 format. If rack output is unassigned when the input is routed, SuperRack will attempt to patch the same input and output I/O channels. An I/O can be patched to several rack inputs. Only one rack can patch to an output I/O.

Routing Asymmetrical Racks

If the channel formats for the racks’ input and output are the same (e.g., mono-to-mono, stereo-to-stereo, 5.1-to-5.1, etc.), the I/O channel numbers for a rack’s in and out will increment together. If, on the other hand, the rack input has fewer channels than output channels (or vice versa), certain channels will go unused so that each rack begins with the same input and output channel number.

Routing Racks Automatically

SuperRack can automatically route input and output I/O channels to each rack in a session. Routing is applied to a pre-configured session with no existing I/O patches. Patching continues until all racks are routed or all I/O channels have been assigned.

Working with Plugins

In SuperRack, each rack can hold eight plugins, and the rack signal flow goes from top to bottom.

  • To insert a plugin in a slot, click on the down arrow or plus symbol. This opens the drop-down Plugin menu.
  • Choose a plugin from the list. The input/output structure of the rack determines if a plugin can be inserted in the rack. If a plugin cannot provide a component that is compatible with the rack input/output structure, it will not appear in the menu. Certain plugins (e.g., mono-to-stereo) change the channel structure of the rack.
  • You can insert a plugin into any slot. The plugin’s icon will appear in the slot. Click a plugin icon to open the plugin’s interface.
  • A plugin’s rack position determines its place in the signal flow. You can change a plugin’s position by dragging an icon up and down in the rack.
  • Changing plugin order may result in a short audio drop.

Floating Panels

Certain panels can be detached and floated anywhere on your workspace. This provides flexibility and quick access to critical plugins and the controls that you want to access regularly. The following panels can be detached and floated:

  • Plugin windows
  • Window tear-offs (Setup, Patch, Show, Rack, Overview 1 and 2)
  • User Keys
  • Hot Plugins
  • Snapshots notes

Floating Plugin Windows

  • To float a plugin’s control interface, click on the Detach symbol at the top of the plugin.
  • At the top of a floating plugin there’s a control bar. There are three control buttons: Deselect the IN button to bypass the plugin.
  • Click the Pin button to keep the detached plugin visible when other plugins are detached. A pinned plugin remains visible in all SuperRack views.
  • Close the window and the floating plugin panel will return to the plugin pane. You can also close a window by clicking on the Detach symbol.

Tear-Off Windows

There are five SuperRack windows: Setup, Patch, Show, Rack, and two Overviews. You can “tear off” one or more windows to spread SuperRack control over several displays. Simply click and drag it away from the Top Bar. This floating window can be positioned on any of your displays.

The name of the floating panel will appear in the Floating Panels drop-down menu on the top right. Click on the window name and it will move to the front. Close the window to return it to the default location in the Top Bar.

Detaching a Panel

  • Detachable panels have a Float symbol at the top of their frames. Click that float icon to detach the panel from its dock. It can now be positioned anywhere on your SuperRack workspace. When a panel has been detached from its original position, the Float symbol is blue.
  • Click anywhere else on the display and the floated panel will move backward and disappear. To keep a panel in the foreground, click the “pin” icon. Click the X, or the Float symbol again to return the panel to its dock.
  • The Floating windows drop-down menu on the right side of the Top Bar is a list of all detached panels. Select a panel or window to move it to the front.
  • The name of your main SuperRack window is shown at the top of the list.

Hot Plugins Panel

The Hot Plugins panel provides instant access to selected plugin control panels. Up to twelve plugins can be assigned to the Hot Plugins panel.

  • Any plugin in any rack can be assigned to the Hot Plugin panel. Once assigned, you will see the plugin’s name and rack’s name above the plugin icon.
  • Hot plugin assignments are made in the plugin’s drop-down menu.
  • Hot Plugins can be within the scope of a snapshot, so you can have a different hot plugins panels for each snapshot.
  • Snapshot scope and Recall Safe for the hot plugins panels can be set in the Show window.
  • Click on a Hot Plugin icon to display its complete plugin control panel.
  • Right-click on a hot plugin to remove it from the current snapshot or from all snapshots.
  • The Hot Plugins panel can show plugins as either icons or meters. To change between view modes, click the blue meter icon on the right side of the panel.
  • A detached Hot Plugin panel can be displayed in a horizontal or vertical orientation. Click the ladder icon on the left side of the panel to toggle between these views.

Snapshots

Snapshots help you speed up your workflow. They are used to store, manage, and quickly recall the settings of the current state of your workspace.

Snapshot scope includes:

  • Racks and their parameters (in, mute, gains, plugins, plugin side chain, A/B select)
  • Plugins and their parameters
  • Hot Plugin panel update
  • Windows – what panels are open and where are they located on the screen.
  • Dugan Automixer settings
  • Global BPM

The easiest way to store and recall snapshots is from the drop-down menu at the top of the screen.

Under the ‘SHOW’ tab, you have more options. There, you can create, recall, set the scope of your snapshots, and manage all the snapshots in your session.

Use the recall safe window to prevents changes to specified racks and functions during a snapshot change, regardless of Scope settings. Recall Safe is set for an entire session. Once Recall Safe is set for functions and racks of a session, snapshot recalls will not affect their settings.

If you want to prevent a specific instance of a plugin from changing during a snapshot recall, use the Recall Safe Plugin menu item. This drop-down menu item is located at the bottom of the Plugin menu of the specified plugin. You will notice there is a small indicator on the plugin icon that says “Safe.” if the plugin is in recall safe mode.

You can also prevent a specific rack from changing during a snapshot recall by going to the rack menu and selecting the ‘Rack Recall Safe’ option. You will notice a small green indicator to the left of rack’s name, which tells us the entire rack is set to recall safe.

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