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Logo Zwobot Visuals for Ableton Live

Zwobot v1.5 User Guide

last update 13 June 2018

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It is possible that several elements do not agree 100% with the graphics in the manual.

(Summary of all Zwobot modules)

• Ableton Live 9 user: Make sure you have the latest version of Max for Live installed! Zwobot is not working with Max7.2.5 and below. Max 7.3.5 (march 2018) this is the most stable version to work with Zwobot in Ableton Live 9

• Ableton Live 9 and Live 10 user: Install all necessary external Max packages via the Max Package Manager.
See video

• Audio-buffer settings influences the fps of Zwobot. More is not always better. Change your audio-buffer settings in Ableton Live and try what's best for you to work with Zwobot & Ableton Live.
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Feature Overview Zwobot

General functions

Enable audio reactivity for the different fader types. HI = high-pass, LO = low-pass

Click on the Zwobot logo and you'll sent a manual Beat-Control signal

Set your beat clock rate for the Zwobot Beat Function. You can set the clock rate up to 1/16th. If Beat is enabled, it will send a clock to Zwobot and all effects, and if available, you can set this clock to your dialers/effects. more info at the Beat Control section

Just drag'n'drop all your files (folders, mov, mpeg, png, jpg, animated gif etc.) from your system browser. Drag'n'drop from the Ableton Live browser supports only files, no folders.

Repeats your video clip depending on your dialer beat value and your Ableton Live bpm (independent from the main Beat Control). Just working if you press play in Ableton Live.

⑧ ⑨ Just mix your videos or images together. With the Fade-FX dialer you have different mixing effects.

You can put up to 12 effects in a row. The fx connector is working like a guitar foot pedal series connection. more info at the Connector section

"Fullscreen" sets your main output window to fullscreen on your 2nd monitor/projector. Linked/Float binds your output window to Ableton live. If floating is set, your window is independent from Ableton Live. This is most important for Mac users. If you lost your window reset it in Zwobot Monitor.

A/B filter calculates the 2 videos from A and B in different math modi together. (like in Photoshop)
• You can use Zwobot in midi and in audio tracks. We prefer to use Zwobot in a remote track.

• Do not use Zwobot twice in one Ableton Live set. Zwobot has different rules than a regular audio or effects plug-in.

• ON/OFF button (Device Activator)
has no effect at all Zwobot modules.

• Ableton Live and its audio playback is always on priority No.1! So if you load new effects or 3rd party plug-ins, Ableton Live always keeps playing, while Zwobot can get stuck for some milliseconds. This is a feature, not a bug!

• Zwobot will save all dialer/toggle/fx-connections/video and folder values within Ableton Live.

Video Routing

• Video-signal routing through FX-connector/router (). 1 is your first FX, then it goes through 2, then 3 etc. . 12 is the last in line. You can choose any drop-down list you want.

Your video & is routing through:
A/B Filter
X-Fader Color-FX FX-Connector Saturation/Contrast/Brightness Zoom Mirror/Kaleidoscope output window.

EX ALPHA is not affected to any internal effects, it sends direct to output.

Extensions (EX modules)

Outgoing frames per second from your Graphics. Less than 20fps = orange, less than 15fps = red. If you have less than 15fps, delete/pass some effects for better performance.

Enable Syphon (Mac) & Spout (Windows) OUTPUT for externeal video sharing.

Set your internal render resolution for your graphics.

Enable additional preview window.

Reset all dialer values on the Zwobot module. This has no effect on your actual video playback.

Enable corner mapping in your main window. If enabled just drag corners to any position you like.

Disable Zwobot playback engine. If you want to edit your audio stuff without taking performance from Zwobot.

Cache size of given RAM in Gigabyte. If you have a lot of small files, this will help you. It doesn't make sense with huge files and just blow-up your RAM. Care should be taken when adjusting the size, if the frame cache exceeds the available memory, the application may crash. It doesn't have any effects for FX & Modules.

Drag'n'drop files & folders.

Empty cell path-information.

Send path-information to channel A or B. Watch on YT

Remote file transport A B and/or generate dummy-clips. Watch on YT

Live-record your main Zwobot window.

Setup resolution and frame-rate (frames per second) for live recording.

Drag'n'drop PNG files or folders. Don't use animated GIF-files with this extension, it could cause trouble.

Change transparency-filter from alpha-channel(png only) to white-filter.

Sound reactivity is set as a standard for electronic music. If you need a more precise reactivity just change it here.

Make shapes and use it as masks for projection mapping. Watch on YT

Start button and manually trigger button.

Select the channel of the videos you want to trigger

Make sure you LOCK the frames from the video with the most frames. This avoids a unnecessary high number range in the number boxes. Just click through all clips in your selected channel, and when the maximum frames are reached and it can't get any higher this will be displayed in total frames. Now just lock this value. Watch on YT

Enter here the frame number which should be triggered.

Turn the trigger indicator off and on, or just use it to manually trigger the video frame.

• Extensions (EX) no need to connect to Zwobot. They work as they are. You can put them in any track independent from Zwobot.

• Besides the RMOTE, VSEQ and RACK extension, do not use EX twice in one Ableton Live set!
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Connect Effect Modules

How-to connect FX modules

• Click the FX icon to indicate the FX-module to Zwobot, and it will show up in the FX dropdown-menu in Zwobot. You can also press the Indicate-All-Button in Zwobot and Zwobot will show all open FX in the dropdown-menu. To reset all connections, just click reset .

• Pass your effects
if you temporary no need them. Effects may take CPU/GPU even if they are not connected.

• Disconnect the connection
and disable the module.

See video how it works
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Beat Control

This is your master Beat-Control knob. It takes the beat from Ableton Live (bpm), and (depending on your dialer) spreads it to Zwobot and modules.

All enabled Beat-Buttons takes the Beat-Control clock to the module dialers, and all enabled dialers will perform to the pre-adjusted beat. Beat function is always on the left lower dialer side.

The Beat-Control bang can also be triggered by simply clicking on the Zwobot icon.

See video
how it works

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Effect Modules

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Performance Guide

Short Story

The bigger your video files are (MB and resolution) & the more effects you'll use = less FPS!
You should have 50+ fps when playing a single 720p video file, even with a Cor2Duo CPU.

Long Story

First things first: The CPU Monitor in Ableton Live is for AUDIO ONLY! It just shows the audio occupancy rate from Ableton Live.

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(CPU monitor in Ableton Live is audio only)

There are a lot of different CPU threads running in Ableton Live, and if you have 20% CPU usage shown in Ableton Live means that the audio thread in Ableton Live runs with 20% CPU usage. In Ableton Live the audio thread is the high priority thread! All other threads like UI and in this example Zwobot running on a lower priority. (for keep playing audio alive)

This is in most cases good, but even we are running Ableton Live without any audio, Zwobot will always have just a low CPU priority.
That means we have to know what we are doing and look around what we can afford.
The good thing is this doesn't affect the GPU. Let's explain how Zwobot works (CPU vs. GPU):

Zwobot has 2 video players (A & B), those players running full on the CPU (Max Viddlle Engine). Also all dialers and button values affecting the video playback can decrease the CPU power. (see upcoming picture)
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Beyond the 2 player units almost everything else in Zwobot (including FX modules) is GPU driven. (High performance)
The Zwobot FPS readout (Zwobot Monitor) works like this:
CPU encoding of the video (player tries to run all videos on stable 30 fps), and these fps then run into the GPU. Here, the video is converted to the internal Zwobot resolution for further effects, the less resolution, the more performance.
The GPU receives the 30fps, and then calculates the effects on top of it, i. e. 30 calculations per second, per effect.
Since the GPU sometimes doesn't get behind (especially at high resolutions) frames are skipped. Result: less FPS.
Keep your video resolution as low as possible. If your outgoing screen/projector is 720p it makes no sense to play 1080p videos. This will just drop the CPU.

Have an eye at the upcoming picture.
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Zwobot reads the incoming vid and its resolution, then it calculates this resolution to the internal Zwobot GPU resolution, and give it to the outgoing window/screen/projector.
Every single FX module takes CPU/GPU. Even if they're "passed" they'll take around 5fps (worst case) . And if you have 10 modules and "pass" them they take 50fps.
Unfortunately we can't recommend any video codec for Zwobot, it clearly depends of what you're trying do with it. In some cases - play short vid sequences as fast as possible - even gif files are the best solution. But a good start is always to encode your files in h.264.

Keep your video bitrate as low as possible. The more bits need to decode the more CPU it needs.

If you are running an AMD RYZEN+ or Intel Kaby Lake+ we totally recommend to encode all your videos in H.265.

Further improvement suggestions

Don't use any Bluetooth,- and/or 3rd party routing-drivers etc. For best performance all our audio-interfaces & computers running on 256 samples buffer, 44100Hz.

Try different settings in Ableton Live for best fps. In some cases less buffer size (e.g. 256) is the best solution.

Please don't use any special 3rd party video codecs "Made for Ableton Live" (Yes, there are some weird stuff in the wild wild internet) Those may crash Zwobot!

Disable VSYNC in your GPU/driver settings. Enabled VSYNC can drop your frame rate extremely!

Close all high-GPU-needing software! Photoshop, video apps, 3D-tools and even your Internet-browser may take a lot of GPU (YouTube). All of them "can" cause some critical issues. Especially in live situations!

Use 64bit Ableton for better overall performance.

Freeze as much as possible in Live. More Ableton Live effects and plug-ins: less performance.

You don't need more than 44khz output in a live set. Really.

Pass your effects (pass-button) if you temporary no need them. Effects may take CPU/GPU even if they are not connected.

If you have less than 20fps, delete/pass some effects for better performance.

We certainly do not recommend a framerate under 15fps! This may disconnect your effects, and in some cases it can cause a crash of Zwobot and/or Ableton Live!

Our suggestion for encoding your video-files is Handbrake. https://handbrake.fr/

If you still have low fps, write us. info@zwobotmax.com

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Questions And Answers

In which Ableton Live channel/track should i use Zwobot?

If you don't need sound for your fader effects, it doesn't matter on which channel you are running Zwobot.

You can put Zwobot and modules in different channels.
Run Zwobot in a midi channel/track (e.g.) and modules independently in an audio channel/track.

SR (sound reactive) modules need sound for working. So put them in a audio channel/track.

How can i record my visuals?

Zwobot has an integrated recorder module, and you can send/share your outgoing video to other apps who support Syphon (Mac) or Spout (Windows). Some of them will take a lot GPU/FPS.

The Zwobot recorder module records in h.264 with any frame-rate you like. Unfortunately it is not so high-powerful as other solutions.

We personally use
Syphon Recorder (free/MAC) or Screenflow to record all Zwobot stuff.
We can also recommend
OBS (free/WIN).

These 3 recording solutions record direct from your graphics card without huge performance loss.

How can i install Zwobot and modules?

Put Zwobot and modules in any folder you want. Add Folder in Ableton Browser. That's it!

How does updates work?

If an update is pending, you will get an email with a download link. You don't need an Gumroad account ore something. Just replace your old files with the new ones. Replacing your files with the new ones should not destroy your Zwobot stuff in your Ableton Live projects.

I want this and that feature!

Just talk to me! A lot of improvements in Zwobot are user driven (Rack module, Jumper, ABC, Alpha, the new Blender module et cetera). Just explain what's your plan, and why we should put this feature in Zwobot.

• Keep your main output-videoscreen/projector resolution low (720p for example, you really don't need more). If you're running higher resolutions, you'll have less fps.

We certainly do not recommend a framerate under 15fps! This may disconnect your effects, and in some cases it can cause a crash of Zwobot and/or Ableton Live!

Our suggestion for encoding your video-files is Handbrake.

Any other questions? Feel free to ask via our new Reddit user group or just via email: info@zwobotmax.com