audio workflow improvement Asbjoern Andersen


Repetitive strain injury (RSI) can result from spending long periods of time on a computer. If you don’t experience it yet, you may well in the future. A Wacom tablet helped Nick Granville-Fall manage his audio workflow and health better than a mouse alone - here are his experiences, with tips on how to set things up for audio work:
Written by Nick Granville-Fall
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I gave a lecture last year as alumni about freelancing in the creative audio and media industries. One of my slides showed a picture of a Wacom tablet. I’d expected some hands to show or a few head nods when I asked if anyone knew what it was… to my surprise no one seemed to know. Being involved with animators, motion designers and creative studios, I’ve seen Wacom’s products all over desktops of visual creatives. However there is no such thing for the audio discipline, after all, we are always being forgotten about right?

All computer users and professions could benefit from cutting down on mouse time.

When I think of Wacom’s brand it does cater very heavily towards visual designers. Have a read at some marketing for their new 3D Pen: ‘For creative professionals working in game design, animation, VFX, VR and AR, 2D and 3D art and industrial design’.  Where’s the audio mention?! All computer users and professions could benefit from cutting down on mouse time. After all, holding a pen is a far more natural way to interact with a computer.

I remember trying a Wacom years ago when my graphic design buddy Lee had one and still does. I found it a bit strange. It didn’t feel that natural to use at first but I would urge anyone to hold out past this stage, it doesn’t take long. The technology has further improved and the Intros Pro and Pro Pen 2 are excellent. I had preconceptions that only artists and graphics professionals used these, ‘I wouldn’t use this for audio!’ With Wacom’s marketing, it’s not hard to see why I thought this. I hope Wacom can challenge and amend this assumption about what industries typically use their products.

I started suffering RSI quite a lot when I got busier in the studio. I was working on audio projects and building up my client base, saying yes to every job. I realised my Apple mouse wasn’t doing my wrist any favours. I looked into ergonomic mice and ordered two different ones to try. I found that one of them was good but the scroll wheel position wasn’t working for me. If you are using only a mouse then the scroll wheel is important, not so much with a Wacom as I will later explain. I sent both mice back in the end and looked for other solutions.

I remember watching Martin Stimming showing his audio workflow using a Wacom Cintiq 13” with Cubase. I had a lot of questions, how well would it work with the software I used? I researched forums online but there wasn’t a huge amount of information or videos on using these with audio workflows. This inspired me to try one out, if I didn’t like it then my plan was to return it and hope I’d get a refund. I didn’t need the Cintiq model where you draw directly on the screen so I went for the cheaper, Intuos Pro Medium. This meant I could use my existing monitor screen and I felt having it setup flat on a desk might be better for ergonomics and posture.

Video Thumbnail

Martin Stimming demonstrates his audio workflow using a Wacom Cintiq in Cubase

 

Configuration

It took me a bit of time to get used to using a pen, I’m left-handed which is easy to set up. I changed the size of the tablet working area to be smaller. In reducing the physical distance the pen travels, means it’s easier to move the mouse cursor across a 34” ultrawide monitor. Wacom’s software also allows you to map key functions used in any application to the pen and tablet’s express keys (buttons). Most audio applications aren’t very customisable (except Reaper) but any application can have its own preferences for both pen and tablet. You can map any application’s keyboard shortcuts to be triggered. You can pretty much do anything with it, it’s very flexible. Below you can see I’ve setup one of the pen buttons to trigger opt + cmd when in Ableton.

Customized Wacom tablet settings

I found actually moving the mouse cursor around with accuracy using a pen very satisfying and quick to grasp. I think I just got it this time unlike years ago. The two buttons on the pen (which can do what you like) took a little longer for them to feel natural in my hand. I didn’t use them at all for the first month or so but then I realised it was worth learning and using them. This made my workflow much easier and quicker.

 

Popular on A Sound Effect right now - article continues below:

 

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    VARIETY

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    ONLINE FOOTSTEPS GENERATOR

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Key differences – mouse to pen

NAVIGATION

You can make most, if not all software, work the same way using the Wacom pen.

With no scroll wheel on a pen, you have to find an alternative method for quickly navigating and moving around your software’s screen estate. You’ll find most DAWs have a ‘hand tool’ where you can drag the screen about rather than scroll vertically or horizontally. In Ableton on a mac, you access this via the key commands opt + cmd & drag the mouse. I use a button on my pen that triggers both commands, I drag the pen around on the tablet to move the screen. Logic Pro X uses ctrl + shift & drag pen etc. I have this setup the same in Reaper to hold the same pen button and drag to move around. I really like this way of working so I don’t miss the scroll wheel method at all. The additional advantage is you can make most, if not all software, work the same way using the Wacom pen.

DOUBLE CLICK

You can double click with a pen as you would on a mouse, just double tap your pen on the tablet surface. Sometimes however even customising the response speed etc, it doesn’t always register. This can be frustrating for the obsessive but fear not. You can either set up one of the pen’s buttons to double click (with a single click) or you can assign an express key (button on the tablet) to do this. Problem solved!

ZOOMING

Again with there being no scroll wheel on a pen you can either use the touch ring on the tablet or just use your DAWs keyboard zoom shortcuts. I find this is fine. Most DAWs give you a good amount of zoom shortcuts.

EXPRESS KEYS

You can assign any keyboard shortcut in your DAW to one of these buttons. If there is something you use a lot and would rather move it to a button on the tablet, rather than use your keyboard you can. This is useful if you don’t like the position of the keyboard shortcuts and can’t re-assign them to different keys etc. In software like Reaper, you can map anything anywhere but a lot of DAWs don’t have this luxury.
 

Conclusion

Once I’d got a fluid workflow together with the Wacom, I stopped using my Apple mouse because I loved using a pen so much. Even then, doing a solid 8 hours of work using the pen will likely cause some ache and RSI. It’s a huge improvement for reducing RSI using the Wacom, but it doesn’t mean only using this for long periods of time will totally prevent RSI. Using any device for that long will cause fatigue, therefore you should build in 5-minute breaks per hour worked.

A Wacom tablet on a desk

I find now it’s best to balance workload across both of my hands. I use the Wacom for any sound design/audio post using Reaper. For any music I tend to use Ableton, normally swapping between both the Wacom and mouse. For general computer use emails, file management etc, I use the mouse. I finally replaced my Apple mouse with Contour’s Unimouse.

Reaper settings for the Contour mouse

Using both devices means I am spreading the workload and fatigue across both hands and wrists rather than one.

This is a comfortable mouse that has customisable software like the Wacom. Its flexible design allows you to change the steepness of the angle of where your hand and thumb rest, greatly reducing RSI. Using both devices means I am spreading the workload and fatigue across both hands and wrists rather than one. It’s a huge improvement to my workflow and health, I hope it can do the same for you.

A big thanks to Nick Granville-Fall for giving us some tips on how to improve our workflow and quality of life!

 

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A Sound Effect gives you easy access to an absolutely huge sound effects catalog from a myriad of independent sound creators, all covered by one license agreement - a few highlights:
 
 
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    ‘Magic Elements’ is a detailed collection of designed & source sounds of organic elements, actions, characters, items, spells & atmospheres in the realm of Magic.


    DESIGNED:
    In the designed section you will find 326 carefully crafted sounds.
    Volume 1 of this magic saga is comprehensively focused on 6 elements:
    Earth, Ice, Fire, Air, Black, and Generic.

    Each element comes with a variety of spells, actions/movements such as whoosh, impacts, atmospheres, projectiles, along with many variations in intensity and speed.

    All these sounds are carefully designed, edited and meta-tagged.

    The ‘generic’ category contains handy neutral go-to sounds that are useful for any project.

    SOURCE:
    The source folder is packed with 444 useful sounds that cover a large spectrum; thoroughly edited and meta-tagged. They will support your creativity with materials such as choirs, dissonant metal, creatures, papers, debris, drones, cracks, textures, friction, LFE sub sweeteners,…

    What’s inside:

    • Impacts, Whoosh, Air Swirls,
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    • Huge Ground Opening, Eerie Drones,
    • Dark Choir, Ominous Creatures, Dark Dissonant Metal Scrape,
    • Iceberg Destruction, Ice Scrapes, LFE Sub Sweeteners,


    Choose how you want your sounds!
    2 DOWNLOAD OPTIONS INCLUDED:

    • GLUED (Multiple variations of the same sound glued in one file)

    • SEPARATED (Each variations of sound are separated in different files)

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    Ambisonic – Transportation is a great collection of ambisonic ambiences recordings performed at various transportation scenarios.
    It is aimed to provide you with great spherical content to wrap your dialogue or main focus content, allowing you to create a conniving and immersing soundtrack.
    You will find recordings such as a Train car interior, Jumbo jet interior, multiple cars interior under different driving conditions,
    Bus interior, public transportation stations and much more.

    This collection is great for post-production, VR/AR interactive sound-design, game developers and any real-time 3D audio engine.
    All files are tagged and categorized for your convenience – supporting multiple tag filtering browsing applications.

    A Sennheiser Ambeo microphone paired with Zoom H8 was used to create this product.

    This package includes 68 Samples – 136 Files.
    A total 2h 37m of content.
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    Download a Demo here:
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    The collection contains footstep sounds of various shoes and surfaces, recorded in different paces and edited to continuous but lively 30-second sound loops.

    VARIETY

    The Footstep Loops II Sound Library covers a wide range of different footsteps:

    Barefoot, Socks, Slippers, Flip-Flops, Sneakers on Wood, Sneakers on Concrete, Boots on Wood, Boots on Concrete, Heels on Wood, Heels on Stone;
    Grass, Gravel, Forest, Foliage, Dry Foliage, Stones, Puddle, Mud, Snow;
    Stairs up + down: Wooden Stairs, Metal Stairs, Stone Stairs



    PACE

    Each type of footsteps is available as a set of 13 sound files that represent a range from walking very slowly up to very speedy. Paces are sorted by Footsteps per Minute (FPM):

    Ground Footsteps: from 40 FPM to 160 FPM
    Stairs Footsteps: from 60 FPM to 180 FPM (up) / from 80 FPM to 200 FPM (down)



    LAYERS

    Since all (ground) footstep loops have the same FPM paces, they can be layered easily. E.g. you can add a puddle sound element to sneakers walking on concrete etc.



    CLOTHING

    You can add clothing as a layer to make the movements sound more natural. The sounds of jeans & jacket fit to all ground footsteps. Furthermore, versions with well-balanced clothing sounds of all main footstep loops are already included as ready-to-use files!



    ADDITIONAL ELEMENTS

    Some experimental elements are also included in the library:
    2 layers of floor creaks and one layer that adds the sound of keys in the pocket while walking.



    TIME-COMPRESS

    Paces of the sound loops included in the Footstep Loops II sound library increase in steps of 10 FPM each. If you need a value in between, time-compress the file just a tiny bit – the quality loss is almost inaudible in modern digital audio workstations.



    ONLINE FOOTSTEPS GENERATOR

    To get an impression of what you get with the Footstep Loops II sound library, go HERE and play around with footsteps online.


    • 663 audio files
    • 331 minutes total runtime
    • all files contain meta-data / keywords for easy search


    All sounds from this library are included in:
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    43 locations from various perspectives.

    STREAM / RIVER & WATERFALL features WATER MOVEMENT from JAPAN and NEW ZEALAND.
    Each STREAM and RIVER have their unique flows, and varieties of topographies gives each its characteristic sound – and WATERFALLS from small to medium adds nature feeling to it.
    In addition, the library also features places where SPRING WATER GUSHES in Japan, and huge ELECTRIC WATER PUMP from New Zealand and more.

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    A good package to add a dirty texture to your production.

    Each sound has been meticulously edited individually, All files were recorded and are delivered in 24bit 96kHz Broadcast Wave files, all embedded with metadata information for easy import and ensure fast and easy workflow.

 
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