In this tutorial, we’ll explain the possibilities that it enables and how it’s integrated within HeavyM. Check out the video tutorial below, or follow the written instructions after it.
As per the Ableton website, “Link is a technology that keeps devices in time over a local network, so you can forget the hassle of setting up and focus on playing music.”
The protocol syncs up tempo, beat, and phase between multiple applications that can be running on one or multiple devices. That way, you can for instance sync HeavyM and your other visual animation apps on one computer, and also keep in time with the DJ’s DAW. All these applications have independent, non-identical timelines, but Link will allow them to play in time.
Also, although the technology is developed by the Ableton team, you don’t need to have Ableton Live to use Link! Indeed, Link-enabled apps can use the protocol between themselves autonomously. For instance, you can link Traktor, Resolume, and HeavyM together without having to install anything.
Activating Link and joining a session
The Link activation button is located in the tempo module. Simply click on "Ableton Link" to enable the protocol.
Note: usually, other apps have more or less the same process to activate Link, but the button can be hidden by default, so check out their "Preferences" or "Options" menu.
When Ableton Link is on, the toggle turns yellow and its label displays the number of peers connected to the session with you (you’re not included in the count.)
In order to join a session, you have to be on the same local network as the other devices (WiFi, Ethernet, ad hoc, etc). If it is the case, then you don’t have to do anything else: all connected devices are automatically added to the session.
When you join the session, the HeavyM BPM value is adjusted to the common value of the other devices already in session and it doesn’t disrupt the session at all. The same goes for all other devices: the newcomers are always the one aligning their BPM to the common value when joining in.
Once in the session, you can keep performing independently, but remember that all devices will have a common tempo value and everybody in the Link session is equal and can adjust this value, there’s no priority. So if you’re VJing with a DJ, be careful: when you change the tempo, it will affect his music too!
Later, if you wish to leave the session, simply click on the toggle again to turn off Link in HeavyM. The session will keep running for the other devices, you won’t disrupt anything by leaving and your BPM value won’t be altered.
HeavyM timeline and Ableton Link
If your HeavyM timeline is in “time mode”, only the tempo will be synchronized with other devices. On the other hand, if you are in “beat mode”, beat alignment and phase synchronization can be performed.
These concepts allow the visuals in HeavyM to match perfectly to your sound. For instance, it’s better if a tempo-reactive effect hits its peak in-phase with the kick of the drums right? (Like in the video tutorial above for example.)
In order to accomplish this beat-matching in the HeavyM timeline, playback might need to be altered. Indeed, when you start playing a sequence, its launch might have to be delayed in order for it to fall perfectly in sync with the timeline of other devices. When this happens, you’ll see the Play button on the sequence blink. It means it’s waiting until the next key beat to start.
Note: Ableton Live users, it’s the same principle as the launch of Clips in the Session View.
With this method, you don’t have to be precise and calculate when to start, you can hit play whenever you’d like and the launched sequence will start on the next key beat (for example, a 4-beat sequence won’t start playing until the beginning of the next bar.) This is only the case for the first launch of a sequence, then your timeline will play normally and the next sequences won’t be delayed to wait for a bar. So remember, if you want to play one sequence each bar, 1 bar = 4 beats!
Note: for a detailed explanation of the musical concepts of tempo synchronization, beat alignment and phase synchronization, we invite you to consult Ableton’s very thorough Link documentation.