22 Things That Set OTR Apart
All things considered, if the feature sets of most DAWs can be considered fairly even in terms of functionality, the choices Composers and VI Artists must make when choosing a DAW is mostly determined by how workflows will least be impacted during music sessions… and how well that workflow can scale with the amount of music being created. Ultimately, every DAW has its shortcomings. Every DAW affects workflow. Well… that was until now. OTR changes that.
Instead of thinking in terms of limitations, think in terms of NO LIMITATIONS. Think in terms of the best functionality of other DAWs being wrapped up in one. Think of choices rather than compromises. Think of making music rather than suffering through how to make your DAW accommodate your music. For composers, this is revolutionary. Mixing engineers may see less of a need as ProTools has been king for quite some time. But after you absorb the feature set below, OTR just might even change your mind for that part of the process too. But for Composers & VI Artists, there is nothing else like it.
And while this video is just a summary-in-action, check out the detailed feature list below:
- Project Templates – While it is true that all DAWs have the ability to open preconfigured templates, no DAW provides a template that works for every workflow. Why? Because every DAW is limited in routing capability. They were modeled after analog hardware and adapted for a digital age. That doesn’t make sense. With OTR, load up a template that works from the start. All routing is preconfigured for the digital age. All FX channels setup (just add your plugins of choice). Now you can make music immediately without limitations of outdated audio workflows.
- Track Templates – While this feature exists in some rudimentary way with other DAWs, what if I told you all you have to do is right click, choose “insert track from template,” and then select what type of track you’d like to add? No routing necessary. Everything is already setup. There are even pre-setup Kontakt instances with outputs mapped exactly where they need to go. It is kind of marvelous.
- TrackPacks – What if you were told that you did not have to add or setup many of the most popular VIs when inserting a new track – that the plugins come pre-configured on the varieties of track templates by default? What if you were told that the crazy variety of ways large sample libraries can be setup and configured are already an option a right-click away? Kinda cool huh?! We think so. This is one of the best features of OTR. Instead of spending countless hours (days even) setting up your favorite VI libraries, why not just grab the officially pre-configured TrackPack from our site and never think about setting up and configuring track routing again? Done and done.
- Stem Categories – What good is having a template if rendering to stems seems to be a unique and custom experience for every individual’s workflow? In OTR, all of the stem categories are pre-configured. Just right click on the pre-configured stem category when adding your track template. Everything else happens flawlessly behind the scenes. There are 22 categories that can be rendered individually, as well as 6 master categories that roll up the 22 categories into the industry-standard stem categories of Strings, Brass, Winds, Percussion, Vocals, and All Other.
- Batch Stem Rendering – Think having stem categories is a good idea? We did too, but mostly because of what it allowed us to do with them. There is now an industry-first option of auto-rendering stems at the push of one button. That’s it. No other buttons. You can choose individual stems for each category, individual master category stems, or just render it all with one click. Oh, and also a full-mix stem gets rendered in the process as well. Every stem is timestamped and saved to your project folder for easy A-B-ing different stem renders.
- Clean Master Channel Outputs – This may not seem like much… at first. But, once it is understood, we think it will be come a standard feature of DAWs. Most DAWs rely on the master channel to serve as the rendering output. Any FX that are placed on the master output are included in any track renders. But many people use room-balancing EQ plugins and headphone-balancing plugins that are placed on the master channel output strip. Each time a track is rendered, these EQ-balancing FX have to be bypassed. The plugins have to be turned back on for additional mixing. Sometimes people forget and realize their balancing plugin has been bypassed during mix tweaks, or leave them active during renders, causing everything to have to be re-done. So we think we have made our point. So how does OTR do it differently? Well, for starters, the entire Master Channel Output is used ONLY for monitoring. Set you room-balancing EQs once and forget it.
- Track/Group Organization – I’m not sure it can be stated just how much this single feature makes OTR what it is. The problem with most DAWs for composers is track routing and track organization. This includes groups of tracks, articulations per instrument, group busses, and how they are routed through the mixer. OTR solves this problem. Actually, scratch that. It removes even the slightest thought that the user would have to manage a session’s track organization. OTR is built upon 250 custom scripts and actions – many of which pertain to this one feature. OTR can toggle which types of tracks are visible by category, whether the child tracks are visible, whether unused MIDI tracks are visible, and what parts of the OTR template are visible at any given time. If there is one problem that needed addressed in every other DAW, it was addressed here. Even collapsable track folders took up too much room in the track panel when it came to sessions of hundreds of tracks. Those headaches are no more. This is OTR’s proudest feature – even in the face of the many other features that will inevitably reshape the present DAW landscape.
- Pre-routed FX Channels – Every OTR session is launched with FX aux send tracks already setup. All that is needed is for the user to choose which plugin to place on each track. The preconfigured FX section of tracks handles the most fundamentally perplexing track routing questions for the average user. It is even built to handle the master track reverb send automatically. All in all, this is a huge timesaver for even the most avid mix engineers.
- Pre-configured Reverb types – How should I route my reverbs? This is a question often asked by many Composers and VI Artists. True, you could place separate reverbs on each track and not have to worry about reverb sends, but you would be missing out on all of the important aspects of how to tailor a reverb through EQ and compression. These are foundational components for a solid mix. OTR takes the guesswork out of setting these up. The FX section has over 20 pre-configured Reverb channels setup – 2 for strings, 2 for brass, and so on. There is also a specific user section where custom reverb channels are utilized for custom reverbs for other instruments such as guitars and snares. All hail the mighty FX section. You will love it, guaranteed.
- Virtual Orchestral Hall – Ahhhhh! The mysterious virtual orchestral hall. How many composers have sought out this type of solution only to find themselves knee-deep in a nearly mythical track-routing mystery? Well, from here on, the mystery is solved. OTR comes with a virtual orchestral hall pre-routed. There are 4 (Yes, four!) unique channels that create the perfect virtual hall. The hall consists of close, stage, mid, and far mic position channels as well as a unique reverb send for the hall itself. The hall is built by placing separate impulse response reverbs for each mic location. Many halls are recorded with multiple mic positions in their distributed impulse response libraries – many of which are freely available on the web. Use the IR reverb of your choice or use Reapers built-in IR plugin to load each impulse response. Perhaps your favorite hall only has two mic positions. That’s okay too. Just mute the channels you are not using in your mix. Do you want to have the brass in a slightly different seating position than the strings? Okay, just add a little pre delay, pan, and stereo imaging to the brass stem category master track. It is that simple.
- Virtual Choir Hall – Perhaps your choir VI library only has one mic position, or maybe you want to blend a choir library with a live choir recording. Maybe you want to mix multiple VI choirs together in one hall. Whatever you desire may be had with OTR’s virtual choir hall. It is the very same concept as the Virtual Orchestral Hall, but split out as a separate hall. The reasoning? Well, sometimes a choir may sound great in one type of hall while an orchestra may sound better in another. But even if you wanted the choir and the orchestra to be in the same hall, that too is possible by just loading the same impulse responses in this hall. Voila. Same hall.
- Track Types – Again, this is another revolutionary feature with OTR. When inserting a new VI track, you will have the choice of a regular stereo mix track that outputs to the main mix, or you can choose to output to the virtual choir hall or virtual orchestral hall. This all occurs upon inserting a track into your project. Everything is preconfigured. Everything is routed appropriately. The idea behind OTR is to never again have to think about the I/O routing in the template. The most you will ever have to do is choose which reverb you want to send a particular track to. No routing. Ever.
- Track Groups – What’s this? Another grouping mechanism? Why, yes…yes it is. OTR provides the option to insert a group track into the mix. From there you can just drag your chosen tracks underneath the group track (which automatically creates a folder-style track grouping). The group track serves as what is known in the now-archaic, non-OTR-DAW-world as an Auxiliary Bus or, in other instances, a track folder. But this time it is all routed and preconfigured automatically. We simply call it a track group.
- Freeze, Active, Disabled Icons – At a glance, VI tracks that are disabled, active, and frozen are easily identified by an associated track icon visible in both the tracking view and the mixer view. This is exceedingly helpful when multiple VIs are loaded up, resources become scarce, and tracks need to be frozen.
- Freeze VI Only – This is a very useful feature for freezing a VI instrument alone while leaving all other plugins on the track in an active state. If you want to freeze the entire track, don’t worry. You have that option too.
- Freeze Layers – While this is partially a unique feature of Reaper’s audio engine, OTR extends this functionality by offering a Freeze Layer Info view. When clicking on a frozen track, the user can select the freeze info button to see just how many layers deep the track has been frozen. Maybe the first freeze was for the VI only. Perhaps the second freeze included FX. Perhaps a third freeze included another plugin like Melodyne Studio, etc. Whatever the case may be for how the user decided to layer freezes, it all can all be undone in the order it occurred.
- Copy/Paste FX Send Routing – Do you really like the sends for a particular FX chain on another track and want to have that same setup on a different track? Most DAWs allow you to drag FX sends across channels in a Mixer view to copy/paste, but no DAW allows it to be done like OTR. In OTR, highlight the track you want to mirror, click the Copy FX Sends button. Highlight the targeted channel. Click the Paste FX Sends button. Done. So simple, yet so perfect. No plugins are copied between the two channels – only the FX sends for the Aux busses.
- Reset/Restore Features Galore – Think you may have screwed up the template by changing track names etc? Wish you could restore it to its original state for various aspects of functionality? Easy. Push a button.
- VCAs!!!!!! – Love, love, love this feature. Do you know what a VCA is? For many, it is a foreign concept. But we will explain it simply. A track group (also known as an aux bus in other DAWs) controls the overall output levels of a group of tracks, while a single VCA fader is instead used to move the faders of the group of tracks in unison rather than relying on a single output volume fader. Why is this useful? Well, what if you had 3 tracks grouped together with individual reverb sends placed on each track? What happens to the reverb volume when the master volume is adjusted? In a group scenario, the group fader only controls the output and would not affect the reverb track send levels because those levels are only controlled by the individual track faders (in a post fader setup as is standard in OTR). You would then have to go and mess with the reverb volume separately to solve this issue. And, if you had other channels routed to the same reverb (as is best practice), then everything is now messed up. VCAs solve this problem by moving all grouped faders together. Configuring these things is generally a nightmare causing many people to avoid using FX aux sends altogether. But again, this is a compromise to getting a great mix and is a skill set many top engineers use to set themselves apart from others. OTR solves this problem for the masses by providing preconfigured VCAs for each stem group. The only thing that has to happen to setup the VCAs during a session is to press the “Update VCAs” menu button and OTR will make sure all newly added tracks are perfectly mapped to where they need to go. This was actually the most challenging feature developed in OTR, but also the most rewarding. We think you will agree. For composers, this feature also makes template balancing a breeze.
- Imported Tracks – How many times do you have to import tracks into a new session that only serve as reference tracks for your project? In the composer world, this is a regular occurrence. OTR accounts for this and has provided a separate imported tracks section. Here, the tracks can be added, inserted, etc. and you never have to worry about the track being routed to stems during rendering. In fact, let’s say you have a dialogue track that is used to pace your score. Leave the dialogue track un-muted the entire time you are working if you would like. When it is time to render, just click the render button without thinking twice about having to mute/un-mute the dialogue tracks. They are never routed to the main mix unless dragged into a stem category. Then, like magic, they are routed to the afore-mentioned stem.
- Touch OSC Template – What good is a hands-off approach to routing and configuring Vi tracks if you eventually have to go in and setup midi CCs for different knobs and faders in Kontakt? OTR solves this problem for the libraries that should have provided automatic midi CC routing, but didn’t. A good example is the Native Instruments Symphony Series. Why these Kontakt instruments were not pre-configured, we will never know. But OTR solves this by pre-mapping these libraries in the individual TrackPacks for these particular libraries. Some developers already pre-map these controllers – so it isn’t always necessary for OTR to map the CCs. Here’s a round of applause to you Spitfire and Orchestral Tools. Now if we all could only agree on a single standard… Well, maybe that will be approached at some point with OTR. For now, the included Touch OSC template closely mirrors Orchestral Tools and Spitfire mappings when possible. If a library is fairly simple, the mappings are left to you. If eventually, every developer could agree to disagree but still agree that OTR could solve this disagreement if they provided pre-mapped instruments, then just maybe OTR v2.0 will involve uniform Midi CC routing for all VIs, regardless of developer. Let’s root for that outcome! Yay! For more information, check it out here.
- Buttons That Do The Darndest Things – Yes, this may sound like our list of 22 features ran out at 21 and this is a “filler” feature, but the truth is that there are so many numerous shortcuts and buttons that solve many workflow issues that we decided to group them together as one single feature for this list. Some of these workflow enhancements include menu buttons for un-soloing all tracks, un-muting all tracks, disarming all tracks, re-centering pans, resetting volume faders, viewing track notes, resetting defaults, renaming tracks, etc. OTR also includes 3 separate color menus to make sure you can keep up with the color palette used throughout. Or, if you’d like, just mix it all up and color it like rainbows and confetti. Whatever floats your boat. Everyone is unique. OTR strives to be that solution for every individual. And that is what makes OTR different. But there is actually one more.
You. When I began my journey down the composer path, I met every obstacle written about in “The Composer’s Challenge” as well as many other unmentioned challenges. And while I have used every DAW available from the earliest days of Emagic’s Logic, to the original featureless origins of Reaper, to the present day feature-rich ProTools, Cubase, Logic, Sonar, etc – nothing has (up until now) solved the fundamental challenges modern VI Artists and Composers face. So I built it. Not for others. Rather, it was built just for me. I wanted to make music, unhindered by limitation. But a funny thing happens when you solve a need in your own life…. you often realize that others have that same need that also needs to be filled.
– And so it was for me –
OTR was given life into becoming what is now – not just a tool to help one person, but rather a tool to help others. Musicians helping musicians. So the single most important feature OTR packs, is how you respond – your acceptance, maybe even rejection, but most importantly, your feedback. If there are other workflow considerations that need to be made, let me know. I’ll put them in there. Some aspects are dependent on new releases of Reaper. But most are solved in ways similar to how OTR became what it is.
(By the way, my name is really Jonathan)