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Camelot Tutorial 1: The Basics of Camelot
This article gives a high-level summary of how Camelot is structured and where to find its major features. Camelot has much more detail than we can go into here, but this should be enough to introduce you to Camelot’s foundation and how to think about using the program.
Take It From the Bottom: How Camelot is Structured
The starting point for understanding how to use Camelot is to get a grasp on its building blocks. We’re going to start at the bottom, the lowest level blocks, then build up bigger and better systems that can really do the work you need.
When you actually use Camelot, you don’t quite start at the bottom, you sort of start in the middle, but it is easiest to understand the program if we explain from the lowest level.
Camelot’s most basic building block is the Item. Each plugin you use is an Item, whether it is a software instrument, an audio processor, or an audio effect. There are also Items that deal with MIDI, including MIDI processors, Items that generate MIDI program changes, and even Items that route MIDI data to different parts of your Camelot setup.
To help keep everything organized and easy to understand, Items are put into three classifications: Pre-Processors (MIDI processing and routing Items), Instruments & Devices (instruments and effects), and Post-Processors (other audio Items).
As with every other component of Camelot, Items have various properties and settings, notably including Audio Inputs. These audio inputs are how you can bring audio from your interface directly into Layers and Items. This important feature, which enables bringing vocals, electric guitar and bass, acoustics instruments played into microphones, and synthesizer audio returns into Camelot, will be covered in more detail in another article.
Clicking on an Item provides access to its MIDI and audio settings, while double-clicking, in the case of nearly all plugins, opens the plugin’s interface, so that you can adjust it as needed.
Layers are arguably the core component of Camelot. When you look around and see that you have a big, beautiful collection of Items lying around and wonder what to do with them, the answer is: you put them in Layers. A Layer is an essentially self-contained collection of Items that form a complete signal path.
Typically, users build Layers dedicated to specific purposes, for instance, you might have one Layer that is for processing a vocal mic, another Layer designed for a guitar sound (containing an amplifier simulator and common guitar processing like chorus and delay), another Layer containing a few SWAM instruments (or other software instruments) and perhaps one other Layer that is just for processing MIDI controller input.
But nothing says you have to approach Layers this way; you can mix MIDI filtering, guitar processing, and a looper plugin in a single Layer, if that suits your needs. Flexibility is one of Camelot’s greatest features, so you are not tied to any particular way of working.
As with Items, Layers have their own settings, including MIDI Inputs, Audio Inputs, MIDI processors, and more. There are also Items dedicated to moving MIDI or audio from one Layer to another, so you might set up a Layer for overall reverb, and then route audio from other Layers to be mixed and processed in that Layer before being mixed with the dry signal from the Layers and routed to an output.
One of Camelot’s most powerful features is its ability to instantly change, well, everything, including instruments, effects, MIDI processing, and more. It’s a bit like closing a project in your DAW and then opening another one, except that it happens instantly. Scenes are the Camelot component that enable this. A Scene is simply a collection of Layers. You might have one Scene for the verse of a particular song, another Scene with a completely different sound for the choruses, a third Scene for the song’s bridge, and yet another for your solo in the song. And you can do that for every song you play, so you may end up having a lot of Scenes.
Scenes can be recalled from a MIDI controller, put in an order which you can step through using footswitches or other simple MIDI controllers, or put in a sequence which is automatically stepped through at precise times. Clearly, decisions have to be made about which settings will be made at the Scene level, which at the Layer level, and which at the Item level, but the best choice most often makes itself known in light of what you are trying to accomplish.
Layers are collections of Items, Scenes are collections of Layers, and Songs are, yes, collections of Scenes. As previously mentioned, the Scenes assigned to a Song can be stepped through automatically in a specified order at exact times, stepped through manually in a specified order, or recalled at will.
When a Song is loaded, all of the resources that will be needed for the Song and all of its Scenes get loaded. This includes backing tracks, virtual instruments, processing plugins…in fact, everything except Items used in the Setlist Rack. One of the benefits of this is that having all of the resources loaded enables the instant switching of Scenes.
Setlists are the highest level of organization in Camelot, the top of the food chain. The basic Camelot document is the Setlist, and it contains all of the Songs needed for a set, and all of the Layers, and Items needed by those Songs.
Maybe you don’t need to change a sound several times in a Song. Maybe you have some plugins you use all night long. For such needs were Racks created. There are two kinds of Rack: the Song Rack and the Setlist Rack. These Racks contain Layers you want to remain unaffected by Scene changes, and the names tell you pretty much how they work: Layers in the Song Rack remain unchanged for the duration of a Song, but can change completely with each new Song that gets loaded, while the Setlist Rack remains the same as long as that Setlist document is in use. As with Scenes, Racks can contain any number of Layers.
If you always use the same reverb or amplifier simulator, putting such a plugin in a Setlist Rack means those Items don’t need to be loaded with each Song, reducing the amount of time it takes to load the next Song. Furthermore, with the flexibility that is typical of Camelot, it is possible to make a Setlist Rack Layer that DOES change with the Scene, which means you can have a plugin that will be loaded once, with the Setlist, but may be muted, or even just mixed differently, for individual Scenes. Similarly, Camelot’s dynamic MIDI routing allows you to have a virtual instrument loaded in a Setlist Rack, but disconnect it from your MIDI controller for Scenes where it is not needed.
Automation, Attachments, Backing Tracks, and Other Delights
All we’ve covered is the main structural elements of Camelot, but there are so many more important features to mention.
Camelot’s Timeline view allows the program to automate Scene changes, which can include sending MIDI program change messages to hardware synthesizers to call up different presets on them. Scene changes can be set to occur at appropriate moments as a Backing Track plays, so that your sound can change right at the chorus, then return to the verse sound when the next verse comes around. Camelot’s Remote Control commands allow Scene changes on a Timeline to be stepped through manually using a button or footswitch, as an alternative to having the changes be timed.
As just mentioned, the Timeline also includes a multitrack audio player for running backing tracks. The tracks can be mixed and muted manually, by automation, or under MIDI control, and each track can be routed to a different interface output, if your interface has multiple outputs.
In addition to all of the Layer changes that can occur when Scenes are switched, Camelot also allows attaching documents to Scenes or Songs that will be displayed with the Scene or Song is loaded. You can have lyric sheets, chord charts, or performance notes pop up.
Top to Bottom: Camelot’s Header and Footer
Camelot’s different views and features are accessed using its header and footer. The header shows the current Scene, Song, and Setlist, and has buttons for basic operations like saving the Setlist and undoing or redoing the last action. Most importantly, however, is the Main Menu button in the upper right corner. The main menu is a wizard that accesses and guides you through all of Camelot’s actions, like creating new Layers, Scenes, Songs, and Setlists, adding attachments, and editing or making copies of any of those. You can save Layers, Scenes, and Songs you’ve created as templates, or export Songs or Setlists from the main menu, as well.
The footer, on the other hand, accesses Camelot’s various views, where you can see and open for editing: attachments, Layers, Scenes, Songs, Setlists, and the Timeline. There also are footer buttons for control of transport and tempo functions, and transposing MIDI data for entire songs.
Camelot’s master mixer has a view button, and, last but not least, the Settings button brings up global settings for configuring MIDI and audio, defining MIDI or key commands for remote control, and various other housekeeping functions.
For those occasions where MIDI just gets goofed up, there is a Panic button, too, to shut off all notes.
MIDI and Audio
Camelot sits at the center of your performing universe. As such, it has both MIDI and audio coming and going. Basic definition of both the MIDI and audio devices present in your system is done in the MIDI and Audio tabs (respectively) of the Settings panel. There, you can designate MIDI inputs and outputs, which audio interface is in current use, and its audio inputs and outputs. The Settings panel also contains the Remote Controls section, where you can define MIDI messages to control many functions in Camelot, such as stepping through Scenes. Between Camelot’s Remote Controls and any remote MIDI control functions provided by individual Items (such as program changes to call up presets), you can see that Camelot offers tremendous sophistication in the real-time control and modification that can be executed in performance.
As mentioned above, Items and Layers both have MIDI and audio settings that allow you to configure your controllers, hardware devices, and software instruments and processors to send and receive MIDI and audio as needed. Furthermore, the MIDI Transformers tab in the Audio & MIDI Settings for an Item or Layer offers powerful MIDI processing functions, in addition to the various MIDI Items that are available. Very complex MIDI functionality involving layering, splits, channelizing, filtering, and remapping can be set up using these tools.
Audio mixing facilities are also abundant in Camelot. Layers have mixing for all of the Items they contain, and the Mixer panel provides access to mixing of submasters for Layers, Backing Tracks, and onboard master processors, plus the onboard metronome. All of your interface’s audio outputs are available for use, so Layers can be routed to different outputs, as well as the metronome. You could use the main signal path and mixing to feed a sound system, but create a Layer designed to be a monitor mixer and feed it to a separate output.
Are We There Yet?
Camelot is a powerful program with a great many facilities. There is not room enough in this article to even mention them all, let alone discuss the multitude of ways all these resources can be applied. Once you start getting really creative with Camelot, you may find yourself synchronizing changes between instances of Camelot being run by several band members, controlling lighting, completely redefining your entire system for each song, or many other things beyond what you can now imagine. This article is intended to give you a feeling for the basic lay of the land when using Camelot, but only when you start working with it directly will you begin to build up a personalized musical universe for yourself.