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A guide: Remote DAW mixing collaboration for Mac
Old 1 week ago
Here for the gear

A guide: Remote DAW mixing collaboration for Mac

Here is a guide for pandemic friendly remote DAW music production collaboration over the internet. The idea is that 2 people in different places can see and work the daw, hear hi quality audio streaming from the daw, and talk to each other as they work on a piece of music. Like you’re in the same room.

You will need:
Mac computers
Cable internet or better. Wired Ethernet connection or 5ghz WiFi preferred
An audio interface and mic, or a usb microphone
A $10/month plugin
VOIP chat service, with push to talk
imessage set up on each Mac

There are 3 parts to getting this to work, 1)a way to see the screen of the computer running the daw, 2) a way to hear uncompressed audio from the daw, 3) a way to talk to each other that doesn’t mess up #2 .

For #1 , Mac screen sharing allows the remote person to see the screen, and either person to work the mouse. Or just watch. To share the main computers screen, set up iMessage on the Mac, sign in to the Mac with your Apple ID, go to system preferences>Sharing and check the box to allow screen sharing with anyone, then message the other other person. In the upper right of the message there is a button called Details, click on that and there Are 3 icons- one for FaceTime, one for FaceTime audio, and if each person signed in to the computer with Apple ID and set up screen sharing, there will be a third button, like two rectangles, that’s screen sharing. The remote person presses that button, then clicks “Ask to Share Screen”, or, the main, host person with the daw says “Invite to share screen”. If the stars align the screen sharing app opens. You can scale the screen but it works best when you can see the other persons screen at native resolution. If they have two screens, you can choose to see both, but you can work off one, it saves video bandwidth and refreshes the main screen more often, and you don’t have to scroll around the screen sharing app. You can set it up where the remote person can take control of the mouse and keyboard, or they can just watch, like you do with Zoom screen sharing. That’s the little mouse icon or binoculars icon in the upper left.

Side note, with Mac screen share, it automatically starts a voice chat using the built in microphones, this causes trouble with hearing the other persons monitors playing the music, so to get the chat to stop, each person has to find the option in screen sharing that mutes their microphone. This unfortunately seems to mute the built in microphone for other programs to use, so doing a push to talk talkback system, I ended up having to use an external microphone. There may also be some other screen sharing software, like Teams, but the built in Mac screen sharing is free, and works well, aside from the microphone muting/chat thing.

For #2 , a way to hear quality, unmangled sound from the host computer streaming over the internet, I settled on the AudioMovers ListenTo plugin. There were some other solutions but even though this is the only component that costs money, it works so well and is cheap, that it is more than worth it. Once you set up an account at their website, download it and install, it shows up as a VST plugin in your plugin list. You insert it in the last slot on your DAW main output channel. Then you log in to your account in the plugin, set a name for your session, set a fidelity. It defaults to a minimal, low bitrate compressed format, AAC I think, and goes up to a respectable 320kbps compressed format, but uncompressed, PCM 16 bit is what you want for critical listening. You can go 24 bit or even 32 bit PCM, but that impacts your bandwidth 150% or 200% respectively, so it depends on the hosts upload internet bandwidth if it will glitch or not. There is also a setting for latency, how much the plugin buffers, once the remote person is listening, get this as low as you can get it without glitching on the remote computer. Once the plugin is set up, copy your link to your ListenTo plugin and paste it into a message to the remote person. They click the link, and their browser takes them to a web page to listen to the streaming audio coming out of the daw. More than one person can listen, on the browser end, it is like a little, private internet radio station.

For #3 , the last important part is being able to talk to each other, without leaving the phone on, because the audio coming out of the phone will be the person listening to the music through their monitors, then through their microphone, over the phone. Also it will be out of sync with the streaming audio plugin. You can mute the phone, if you are diligent, but like recording studios, having a talkback button that you push to talk to the person in the other room works out best, because you never space out and leave the mic on. I was using a VOIP service that gamers like, Discord, because you can set a keyboard key that acts as “push to talk”, and that button keeps working even with the program in the background.

To set up Discord, go to their website, make an account, and download the app. You have your username and a 4 digit number. Say Add friend and put in your other person’s Discord name and number, and you start a message thread. Under Discord>Preferences>Voice & Video, and choose your input device. Because of the issue mentioned in #1 with Screen Sharing and having to mute the internal mic to stop the screen sharing voice chat, and that causing the internal mic to be muted for other applications, our workaround was to use an external microphone, like a 58 plugged into a channel on the audio interface, as the audio input device for Discord. I also used a USB microphone. Might be able to plug in a set of earbuds with inline mic, into the headphone jack, and have that show up in the Mac audio input devices as something separate from the built in mic, but I haven’t tested that. For the person listening to you on the other end, it helps intelligibility to get the mic close to your face. You can see a meter in the Voice Settings, to set your microphone gain. Once your mic is selected, and metering, change Input Mode to Push To Talk, and under Shortcut, choose a button to be your talkback button. I chose one of the F keys, because, you want something that won’t type when you press the button to talk. Choose a different F key from your collaborator so you don’t cross streams with the screen sharing, where you turn on the other persons mic and your own at the same time and it feeds back.

You may have to change the way your Mac F keys work, so that it doesn’t brighten the screen or play iTunes when you push an F key. This under the Apple>System Preferences>Keyboard, and there is an option to use the F keys as normal F keys, and not the Mac shortcuts. You can still use those Mac shortcuts, you just hold down the fn key, and the F key, like to turn the volume up, etc.

Still in Discord>Preferences>Voice, choose an output device for the talkback, I chose the built in speakers because they seemed more idiot proof/less prone to feedback disasters than the studio monitors. Once your mic, push to talk, and output speakers are set up for Discord, you close preferences and go to your conversation with your friend, and in the upper bar of the conversation pane there is a little telephone icon, click this to start a voice chat. Remember to push the button when you talk! If nobody talks for a while the Discord bot ends the call, you can just call back if this happens.

That’s it! Your ghost collaborator setup is complete.

There are some alternatives, #2 can be a free service, Source-Connect Now (beta) is a high quality streaming service that streams an audio input. To get that to work streaming a DAW output you would need an advanced audio interface where you can set up a digital loopback of sending the output back to an input, or an internal loopback program like Soundflower. Could potentially record someone remotely with this plugin? Though there is a receiver version of the ListenTo plugin, so you could record stuff from the other persons computer that way.

For #3 alternatives, there are some push to talk smartphone apps, that emulate a walkie talkie, like Zello. They have a businessey $8/mo service that works on the Mac as well. Voxer has a $4/mo service for push to talk. If the fidelity of Discord isn’t good enough, the paid services might give you better, clearer audio for your voice.

For #1 , an alternative for screen sharing is Microsoft Teams, or if your remote person just wants to watch, Discord also can do screen share for the video calls. Also Zoom or Skype can be switched to show your screen.

Inspired by this article at Sound On Sound, but ended up using different components.
They focus more on one person recording the other, over the internet. I don't have experience with this setup for that, this is more like arrangement, editing, mix collaboration or proofing with instant client feedback.

Last edited by ChinchillaWafers; 1 week ago at 07:33 PM.. Reason: Typo
Old 1 week ago
Here for the gear


Discord VOIP service:

and, how to enable push to talk in Discord:
AudioMovers ListenTo plugin
Turn Screen sharing off and on on Mac:

Mac screen sharing via messages:
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