Review: Waves Brauer Motion - EMusician

Review: Waves Brauer Motion

A plug-in that takes auto-panning to a new level
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Brauer Motion, the result of a collaboration between Waves and noted mix engineer Michael Brauer, goes well beyond just panning signals from side to side. It features two independent Panners, as well as selectable panning algorithms, multiple triggering options, overdrive, a mixer, and impressive 3D graphics. The plug-in offers mono-to-stereo and stereo processing.

MOVIN’ AND GROOVIN’

The GUI’s 3D Sphere provides a useful visualization of the panning effects. For each of the Panners, a small glowing circle moves inside the Sphere, depicting the motion of the panner in real time.

Brauer Motion’s GUI is very well designed and helps you visualize the motion and path of the Panners.

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The controls for Panners 1 and 2 are identical, but you can only edit one at a time. Pressing the Link button syncs the two Panners’ controls, so that changes made on one are mirrored on the other.

The parameters most determinant of how each Panner behaves are the Path Types and the Modes, which can be set independently for Panner 1 and Panner 2. The Path Type defines how a Panner will behave, and Mode determines what controls its motion.

Among the Path Types, Classic creates a standard, side-to-side panning motion, whereas Circle has a 360-degree path. And the 3D-audio technology is stunning the first time you hear the sound go around in a circle. The Circle Phase Path inverts the phase on half of the image, creating an even wider image that seems to go behind your head when set at its full width.

The fourth Path Type, X-Lights, causes the sound to alternate between left and right. (In the manual, Waves compares it to signal lights at a train crossing.) Depending on how fast and wide its set, it can give you staccato, gated effects.

For any of the Path Types, you set Width and Depth using individual controls. Width adjusts the horizontal width of the path. Set to its highest, you can extend the path past the normal stereo boundaries, so it sounds like it’s a bit outside of your speakers.

Depth adjusts the front-to-back distance: Although you do hear its impact when used with the Classic Path, it’s most consequential when used on the two circular Paths. You’ll appreciate just how powerful this plug-in is if you set Brauer Motion to its default, select Circle or Circle Phase for the Path, turn the Width to full, and then adjust the Depth as the audio goes through.

IN A GOOD MODE

You can set each Panner to one of four modes. Sync mode locks the panning effect to the host tempo. Free mode lets you manually set the speed. Input mode is particularly useful, because it sets the panning to follow the amplitude of the signal being processed: For example, if used on a percussion track, the panning moves in lockstep with the movement of the audio. (This is also a good way to get tempo-locked effects on tracks not recorded to a click.)

Manual mode lets you set a static position for each Panner. There’s no actual panning in this mode, but the modulation, distortion, and other effects in the plug-in can be used. Moreover, Manual mode gives you a pathless setting that you can automate from your DAW.

Each mode offers different parameters for adjusting the speed. In Sync mode, you get menus for Bars and Beats, which set the duration of each complete path the Panner takes, based on the host tempo.

In Free mode, there’s a Speed knob instead of bars/beats, which can be manually adjusted. Input mode has Sensitivity, which governs how responsive the effect will be to amplitude changes in the source signal: The higher you set it, the more responsive it is. Manual mode has no speed control, because there’s no panning going on unless you do it manually or automate it.

MORE CONTROL

The Range Markers are adjusted by dragging them around in the Sphere display. The A and B Markers set the beginning and end points of a Panner’s motion, whereas the Start Marker is the point in the panning Path where the effect begins. From there, the Panner moves between A and B. If the description sounds confusing, don’t worry: The graphical depiction of the movement that you see in the Sphere makes it easy to understand.

Fig. 1. The Range Controls (A, B, and Start) allow you to change whether the panning motion will trace the full Path or only part of it.

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The Range Markers are critical because they govern the start and end point of each Panner’s Path. For example, if you select the Circle Path, and you set the A point at 0 (the lowest setting) and the B point at 100 (the highest setting) the panning motion will go around the complete circle after commencing at the Start Point. If, in that same scenario, the B point is only set to 50, the panning motion will only go halfway through the circle, and then start again from the A point (see Figure 1).

Brauer Motion offers quite a few ways to modify the panned signal. A Modulation section, available for all Paths except for X-Lights, lets you choose between four modulating waveforms, which alter the Panning behavior: The Sine modulator provides a relatively smooth motion whereas the Triangle causes the sound to bounce between the start and end points of the Path; The Reverse button changes the direction of the Panner you’re editing, and Offset, which is available in all Path Types except X-Lights, lets you offset the range of a panning Path.

MORE GOODIES

In Sync or Free mode, Trigger lets you choose from five different Panner behavior options, which are triggered when the signal reaches a user-adjustable Threshold setting. For example, Simple mode waits until the input signal exceeds the threshold to trigger the panning action. Re-Trigger also starts when the input passes the threshold, but stops again when it falls below. The three other Triggers offer various behaviors related to the Threshold setting.

The Dynamics features offer compression or Drive (overdrive) to either a specific panner, the Direct signal, or the Output. Highpass and low-pass filters are also included. Overall, this section is flexible and convenient to use, and it gives you plenty of options to modify the source sound.

The Motion Filter makes it possible to accentuate or reduce the panned sound as it goes to various points in its path. Technically, this process applies a high-shelf filter to the signal as it moves. Practically speaking, you can use it to boost the center or sides on a left-to-right panner (Classic Mode) or the Close Gain or Far Gain for the two circular Paths. It’s useful when you want to compensate for the reduction in level that can happen as the sound hits certain points in the panning Path.

Lastly, Brauer Motion has a thorough Mixer section that provides separate knobs for Input, Panner 1, Panner 2, Output, and Mix, making it easy to blend not only the output of the two Panners, but to dial in as much or as little direct sound as you want. It also has Mute switches for each Panner, and Stop switches to halt the panning without muting the signal.

MOTION WITH EMOTION

I’m extremely impressed with Brauer Motion: Its creative potential goes far beyond the normal auto-panner. With its abilities to combine two independent Panners, and its many ways to modify the panning action and sound, this is one powerful plug-in. What’s more, the 3D-audio technology at its core is pretty mind-blowing.

Brauer Motion would be an awesome tool for EDM and other electronic styles, as well as for sound design and any situation where auto-panning is desired. Although it excels at dramatic effects, it’s also great for creating subtle panning that adds movement in an almost subliminal fashion. This can make it useful on more organic musical styles, if used judiciously.

Waves and Brauer have done a commendable job making this plug-in easy to operate, considering the breadth of its parameter control. Those who are tech averse might find it a bit intimidating at first, but most users will get the hang of it pretty quickly. What’s more, there are plenty of presets available if you don’t feel like creating your own. And the cherry on the cake is that it’s reasonably priced. Without question, Brauer Motion blows away any other auto-panner I’ve ever used.

STRENGTHS
Dual Panners. Sphere display provides visual feedback. Panning Modes. Circular Paths for 360-degree movement. Trigger functions. Dynamics section and Mixer.

LIMITATIONS
Complexity might be intimidating for some users

$99
waves.com

Mike Levine is a composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist from the New York area.