Basic Workflow Tips - Backdrops and Layouts

This forum is for sharing patches created with the updated Combinator, as well as backdrops and any backdrop assets.
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selig
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Post 01 Sep 2021

Hey all, been able to work with the Combinator during beta, even got one of my Combinators featured in the release video:
Image
This is a WIP fwiw, there are still plenty of things to fix on this panel!
Here are some of the things I've learned so far, hopefully others will add helpful tips here!

Backdrops
All backdrops should be created 3770 px wide, height is less important (as long as it meets the minimums for the intended final height), and can be greater than the required height for various potential uses, more on that later.
To accurately align backdrops, do a screen grab at 200% Application Zoom, import to your graphics app and scale up by 125%. Set this imported layer to 50% transparency so you can line it up.
Further, if you start by creating a grid or simple alignment image and loading it into the Combinator, then you can align it more quickly back in the graphics application. In fact, this is how I discovered you needed 100 or 200% display, otherwise X and Y axis are not equal (you can align on one axis or the other, but not both). With this approach it doesn't matter how big of an image you grab from Reason, just scale it up by 125% and move it into place - images could be bigger (leaving the rack rails in the image) or smaller (testing just a small area of your panel). I used to sweat over taking "exact" screen grabs, but no longer need to worry about the actual size of the grabbed image.
BTW, I choose 200% for max resolution when aligning elements (100% also works but requires a different scale factor), and because why not!
And while it helps that you can zoom in and check your work in the Combinator, don't forget to ALSO zoom back out and see how things look @ 100% application zoom

Extra Tips
Be prepared for multiple round trips as you fine tune things. The "trips" only takes a few seconds and gets faster the more you do it (to a point, of course). I have experienced that the more comfortable you are with this process, the more likely you are to explore deeper and fine tune things further.

If you can do so, set your graphics grid to match the Combinator grid so you can match changes accurately. I have my graphics app set to a 5 px grid. That way using the arrow keys in the graphics app exactly matches using the arrow keys in the Combinator configuration mode. So if you nudge an element in the combinator 10 clicks to the right, you can be assured the graphics will align after moving them the same 10 clicks to the right. Once I got this part figured out, fine tuning/editing went MUCH faster!

Bonus Points
Moving objects in the Combinator Editor with the arrow keys moves them one "legacy" pixel at a time. If you use Shift as a modifier, they move 4 px and if you instead use Option(mac) as a modifier they move 16 px.

While it's hardly the same thing, you can create a "poor mans" hidden panel by building a Combinator larger than the final intended size. For example, the B3 backdrop above is actually much taller than it should be for the 3 spaces it takes up. Here's a shot of it with the editor and devices windows open - notice how the wood grain goes all the way down around the editor? That's because the image is way taller than it needs to be if considering only the final size. Also note the "warning" telling me the recommended size of the image - main reason for using smaller images would be to save on the overall size of the final Combinator.

You can also use bigger (taller) backdrops to reveal "fine tune" controls not regularly needed, just build a 4U backdrop but save it as a 3U combinator - then just "expand" it back to a 4U device when you need to make changes. Also a good place to hide credits etc!
Image

Graphics Editing
I have always preferred vector based apps for panel design for RE, and fell the same way here. I still keep PS around for cloning/expanding a texture or adding/removing artifacts etc. But for the actual layout and text labels I use a Mac app called Graphic. The key features I need for Combi design are the same for RE design: multiple layers, and editable objects. Both approaches offer layers, but it's the editable objects that a vector based app gives me that moved me away from the pixel approach (cause I tend to change my mind a lot in the design process, ask my beta testers!).

How to approach designing with the new Combinator?
Well, the first thing one might notice about the design elements available are, there are not a lot of them! We don't have any way to customize controls and the only hope for the future (unless they add filmstrip import or vector art) is to wait for RS to add more options. But until either of those things happen, we have a small pallet to work with. And I will assume this "hurdle" will provoke much discussion, hopefully positive, about how to work around these current restrictions.
For example, at first I wasn't going to do the B3 in C2 (ha!) because no drawbars. Then I decided to see how "bad" it would be without them. Which led me to the backdrop above, where I drew in little drawbars (that don't move) on the backdrop in the style of the drawbars on a B3 and viola: there was my solution! I STILL want proper drawbars (or let me import my own!), but until then this is what we got and I'm trying to see how far I can push the current options to produce usable results.

Speaking of limited control graphics, next up I wanted to create a channel strip for the SSL in a Combinator, but there is no way to specify the color of a knob - and the SSL is instantly recognizable by the color of it's knobs. So here's what I got so far:
Image

I ran into the same problem with the B3 - drawbars are color coded in brown/black/white, but there are no options for ANY control with these colors. So I tried coloring the "fake" drawbars on screen - still not sure which I prefer…
Image

This ought to get the conversation started - questions and tips alike are welcome!
:)
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selig
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Post 01 Sep 2021

Text Labels
There are a few basic things to help deal with control labels. One is to start with a long name so you can identify each control by name in the editor. So even if you end up having "dB" on an EQ Gain knob (like the SSL example above), it's difficult if four items all share that name. So you either keep the long name (LF dB, LMF dB, etc) for the control and hide the label (and add it to the backdrop), or change the text names after you have everything in place (how I approached the SSL Channel above).
You can also have the text appear above or to either side of the control, as I have done on the SSL channel for the "Filters to SC" button. This can be helpful in certain layouts as above, but is limited since you have no control over font/size or ability to fine tune the placement. So for certain projects you will likely be using the backdrop for all labels, for better or for worse!
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joeyluck
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Post 01 Sep 2021

I updated the title a little (hope you don't mind) and made it a sticky :thumbup:

Another tip for those who are just feeling overwhelmed with possibilities, there is a folder in the FSB: Combinator Patches > Combi Layout Templates. That can help as a starting point for some.

Combi Layout Templates.png
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Billy+
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Post 01 Sep 2021

can you program stepped knobs and step values?
VST 2.4 MIDI It's definitely on the list of todos
What MIDI tools are you itching to use

ˁ˚ᴥ˚ˀ Time for a good long sleep ˁ˚ᴥ˚ˀ

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turn2on
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Post 01 Sep 2021

Billy+, no.
You can use Knob/Fader with limited range to steps, but anyway, no steps (all way pots if you have 0-3 steps, you turn pot as 0-127).
May be later RS add more widgets, may be not

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selig
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Post 01 Sep 2021

Billy+ wrote:
01 Sep 2021
can you program stepped knobs and step values?
No, that's not going to be available in this release. Neither will we see radio buttons or "return to center" controls beyond pitch bend, all of which have been asked for - so here's to Combinator 2.5!!! ;)
But let's not let this thread be a suggestion list or gripe - lets focus on how to do what we CAN do!
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Billy+
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Post 01 Sep 2021

turn2on wrote:
01 Sep 2021
Billy+, no.
You can use Knob/Fader with limited range to steps, but anyway, no steps (all way pots if you have 0-3 steps, you turn pot as 0-127).
May be later RS add more widgets, may be not
Thanks for the reply.
VST 2.4 MIDI It's definitely on the list of todos
What MIDI tools are you itching to use

ˁ˚ᴥ˚ˀ Time for a good long sleep ˁ˚ᴥ˚ˀ

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Billy+
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Post 01 Sep 2021

selig wrote:
01 Sep 2021
Billy+ wrote:
01 Sep 2021
can you program stepped knobs and step values?
No, that's not going to be available in this release. Neither will we see radio buttons or "return to center" controls beyond pitch bend, all of which have been asked for - so here's to Combinator 2.5!!! ;)
Thanks,

What panning is available on the summing mixer?
VST 2.4 MIDI It's definitely on the list of todos
What MIDI tools are you itching to use

ˁ˚ᴥ˚ˀ Time for a good long sleep ˁ˚ᴥ˚ˀ

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selig
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Post 01 Sep 2021

Billy+ wrote:
01 Sep 2021
selig wrote:
01 Sep 2021


No, that's not going to be available in this release. Neither will we see radio buttons or "return to center" controls beyond pitch bend, all of which have been asked for - so here's to Combinator 2.5!!! ;)
Thanks,

What panning is available on the summing mixer?
Again, lets' try to keep this as a tips/workflow thread please. The workflow for panning involves adding a Line or 14:2 mixer, fwiw...
Selig Audio, LLC

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Billy+
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Post 01 Sep 2021

selig wrote:
01 Sep 2021
Billy+ wrote:
01 Sep 2021


Thanks,

What panning is available on the summing mixer?
Again, lets' try to keep this as a tips/workflow thread please. The workflow for panning involves adding a Line or 14:2 mixer, fwiw...
Ok no worries,
Mods you can delete my post in the thread to keep it on topic....

Thanks selig
VST 2.4 MIDI It's definitely on the list of todos
What MIDI tools are you itching to use

ˁ˚ᴥ˚ˀ Time for a good long sleep ˁ˚ᴥ˚ˀ

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QVprod
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Post 01 Sep 2021

selig wrote:
01 Sep 2021
Text Labels
There are a few basic things to help deal with control labels. One is to start with a long name so you can identify each control by name in the editor. So even if you end up having "dB" on an EQ Gain knob (like the SSL example above), it's difficult if four items all share that name. So you either keep the long name (LF dB, LMF dB, etc) for the control and hide the label (and add it to the backdrop), or change the text names after you have everything in place (how I approached the SSL Channel above).
You can also have the text appear above or to either side of the control, as I have done on the SSL channel for the "Filters to SC" button. This can be helpful in certain layouts as above, but is limited since you have no control over font/size or ability to fine tune the placement. So for certain projects you will likely be using the backdrop for all labels, for better or for worse!
Awesome tips here. Working on some of the factory patches, I managed to unintentionally assign things to the same control quite a few times since they had the same name. :lol:

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rgdaniel
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Post 01 Sep 2021

What becomes of custom backdrops created for original Combi?

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selig
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Post 01 Sep 2021

rgdaniel wrote:
01 Sep 2021
What becomes of custom backdrops created for original Combi?
Original combinators load up looking exactly the same, save the new bits (Editor/Devices buttons etc.).
For example, here's how my B3 Combinator looks like in R11 vs R12:
Image
Image

(The Combinator size is exactly the same, these pics got resized when imbedding into this forum)
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selig
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Post 01 Sep 2021

QVprod wrote:
01 Sep 2021
selig wrote:
01 Sep 2021
Text Labels
There are a few basic things to help deal with control labels. One is to start with a long name so you can identify each control by name in the editor. So even if you end up having "dB" on an EQ Gain knob (like the SSL example above), it's difficult if four items all share that name. So you either keep the long name (LF dB, LMF dB, etc) for the control and hide the label (and add it to the backdrop), or change the text names after you have everything in place (how I approached the SSL Channel above).
You can also have the text appear above or to either side of the control, as I have done on the SSL channel for the "Filters to SC" button. This can be helpful in certain layouts as above, but is limited since you have no control over font/size or ability to fine tune the placement. So for certain projects you will likely be using the backdrop for all labels, for better or for worse!
Awesome tips here. Working on some of the factory patches, I managed to unintentionally assign things to the same control quite a few times since they had the same name. :lol:
Great work on those presets BTW - what did you do to deal with the issue?
Selig Audio, LLC

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QVprod
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Post 01 Sep 2021

selig wrote:
01 Sep 2021
QVprod wrote:
01 Sep 2021


Awesome tips here. Working on some of the factory patches, I managed to unintentionally assign things to the same control quite a few times since they had the same name. :lol:
Great work on those presets BTW - what did you do to deal with the issue?
I had tem routed in order so it was easy to reassign although it meant going back into the programmer to unassigned what I didn't want. That last few patches I pretty much did as you suggested and named them at least temporarily.

And thanks! :D

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selig
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Post 01 Sep 2021

QVprod wrote:
01 Sep 2021
selig wrote:
01 Sep 2021

Great work on those presets BTW - what did you do to deal with the issue?
I had tem routed in order so it was easy to reassign although it meant going back into the programmer to unassigned what I didn't want. That last few patches I pretty much did as you suggested and named them at least temporarily
I've mentioned a suggestion for the right click assign function, which is to show check marks beside all assigned knobs so you can ALSO un-check them if accidentally checked. Would also make it easy to see ALL controls affecting any control on any device in the Combinator. But I digress - more tips!!!
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QVprod
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Post 01 Sep 2021

selig wrote:
01 Sep 2021
QVprod wrote:
01 Sep 2021


I had tem routed in order so it was easy to reassign although it meant going back into the programmer to unassigned what I didn't want. That last few patches I pretty much did as you suggested and named them at least temporarily
I've mentioned a suggestion for the right click assign, which is to show check marks beside all assigned knobs so you can ALSO un-check them if accidentally checked. Would also make it easy to see ALL controls affecting any control on any device in the Combinator. But I digress - more tips!!!
That would be wonderful. A right click unassign would be welcomed as well. digging through the menu to undo things isa bit tedious when you make a mistake.

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joeyluck
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Post 01 Sep 2021

selig wrote:
01 Sep 2021
QVprod wrote:
01 Sep 2021


Awesome tips here. Working on some of the factory patches, I managed to unintentionally assign things to the same control quite a few times since they had the same name. :lol:
Great work on those presets BTW - what did you do to deal with the issue?
Similar case for me with TAL-Vocoder... Since I wanted to keep the printed labels the same as the original (which some are identical), I created my own labels on the backdrop.

So the controls are actually given the exact parameter names of the VST, which reflect in the editor and automation. And then the labels on the backdrop are then generic and some repeat such as "F.Tune" and "Tune".

Screen Shot 2021-09-01 at 1.21.32 PM.png
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selig
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Post 01 Sep 2021

joeyluck wrote:
01 Sep 2021
selig wrote:
01 Sep 2021

Great work on those presets BTW - what did you do to deal with the issue?
Similar case for me with TAL-Vocoder... Since I wanted to keep the printed labels the same as the original (which some are identical), I created my own labels on the backdrop.

So the controls are actually given the exact parameter names of the VST, which reflect in the editor and automation. And then the labels on the backdrop are then generic and some repeat such as "F.Tune" and "Tune".


Screen Shot 2021-09-01 at 1.21.32 PM.png
That looks fantastic btw, and this is probably the best way forward - you'll always have more control over text in a dedicated graphics program than anything RS could add to the combinator, so doesn't make sense for them to take the label feature any further (considering how many other things folks want!).
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Despondo
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Post 01 Sep 2021

Does anyone have pixel dimensions for the "fold" at the top of the Combinator (the part that houses the loader and Editor/Devices buttons)?

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selig
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Post 01 Sep 2021

Despondo wrote:
01 Sep 2021
Does anyone have pixel dimensions for the "fold" at the top of the Combinator (the part that houses the loader and Editor/Devices buttons)?
It's no more than 30 px - I've used that dimension for all my REs as well, and same for the sides (but that doesn't apply here, luckily).
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Despondo
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Post 01 Sep 2021

selig wrote:
01 Sep 2021
Despondo wrote:
01 Sep 2021
Does anyone have pixel dimensions for the "fold" at the top of the Combinator (the part that houses the loader and Editor/Devices buttons)?
It's no more than 30 px - I've used that dimension for all my REs as well, and same for the sides (but that doesn't apply here, luckily).
Thanks!

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MarkTarlton
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Post 01 Sep 2021

Is the B3 combinator something I missed that you posted, or is that your patch Ed and you made from a while ago spiffed up? Looks great!

dusan.cani
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Post 01 Sep 2021

Is it possible to directly type values for "Min", "Max" ?

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selig
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Post 01 Sep 2021

MarkTarlton wrote:
01 Sep 2021
Is the B3 combinator something I missed that you posted, or is that your patch Ed and you made from a while ago spiffed up? Looks great!
Yes, Ed and I are trying to build it more as it a should have been built originally. Still working on it…
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