One of the common questions for VJs working alongside musicians is what is the best way to keep the tempo of all of the software being used by the different performers perfectly in sync. Ableton Link is a new technology developed by Ableton that answers this by synchronizing musical beat, tempo, and phase across multiple applications running on multiple devices, including VDMX.
When using Ableton Link any application connected to a local network discover each other automatically and form a musical session in which each participant can perform independently: anyone can start or stop while still staying on the beat and in tempo. Anyone can change the tempo, the others will follow. Anyone can join or leave without disrupting the session. Ableton Link compensates for network latencies and requires almost no setup to get working. The focus here is to facilitate improvisation between performers – there is no master controller and unlike timecode protocols such as MTC and LTC, the absolute song time is not broadcast, only the position within the current measure.
To sync the BPM and measure position of a Clock plugin in VDMX simply look for the “Enable” button where it says Ableton Link in the plugin options panel in the Workspace Inspector. Once activated the text will update to indicate the number of active peers on the network who are also currently using Ableton Link.
You can also quickly get started with a basic example setup in VDMX by choosing the "Ableton Link Demo" option from the Templates menu.
Note that while Waveclock audio based BPM detection can be active for a Clock plugin at the same time as Ableton Link, it in generally not recommended as in this case you will be forcing other peers to slave to this timing. MIDI Clock input can not be used at the same time as Ableton Link.
In this video tutorial we'll be looking at how to use Ableton Link in VDMX to sync the BPM with other software and some related useful techniques that can help you get the most out of this powerful new protocol.
For other related tutorials be sure to check out analyzing multiple channels of audio from Ableton Live over Soundflower or watch some technique tips from The Eclectic Method.