Flex Time: Four Markers and the Seven Tools
Sunday, October 5, 2014 11:05
If you have used the Flex Time feature in Logic Pro, then, for sure, you have encountered the Flex Markers already. These are the markers that you use to time shift a section inside an Audio Region without affecting the rest of the Audio Region. Are you sure you moved the Flex Markers and not the Transient Markers? If so, which Flex Markers? Maybe it was a Quantize Flex Marker or the Manual Flex Marker. Are you sure it wasn’t a Tempo Flex Marker? If you have any doubt, please continue to read about the “Four Markers and the Seven Tools”.
Four Different Markers
The Flex Time feature uses four types of Markers which look slightly different (if you squint your eyes). You have to be absolutely clear about their differences, what they are, what they do and what they look like. Otherwise, Flex Time editing could be very confusing.
Here are two screenshots of a waveform with a couple of those four markers where you can see how they differ visually.
- ➊ Transient Markers
- ➋ Tempo Flex Markers
- ➌ Quantize Flex Markers
- ➍ Manual Flex Markers
The markers have two different purposes, one of them is just a visual reference (for orientation) and the other three are doing the actual “flexing” of the time (for time shifting).
Transient Markers (for Orientation)
The purpose of Transient Markers is to provide the orientation and suggestion for Flex Markers without doing any of the actual time shifting.
Transient Markers ➊ are the markers that Logic Pro automatically creates when analyzing the Audio File the first time you enable the Flex feature on an Audio Track. This is what you should know about them:
- You can edit Transient Markers manually in the Audio File Editor (move, add, remove) using the Transient Editing Mode ➋.
- Transient Markers are the thinnest lines of all the Markers (in the Audio Region). In the Audio File Editor, they are displayed as orange lines
- Transient Markers only function as a visual orientation where the peaks in your audio signal are.
- This is important: Transient Markers are NOT Flex Markers. The Flex Markers can use the location of a Transient Marker as a suggestion where to position a Flex Marker.
- The Quantize feature (using the Quantize Flex Markers) relies on existing Transient Markers. If you’d remove all the Transient Markers, then the Quantize command wouldn’t work.
Flex Markers (for Time Shifting)
The purpose of Flex Markers is to do the actual time shifting on an Audio Region. There are three types of Flex Markers.
Tempo Flex Markers
Whenever you record an Audio Region over a section in your Project that has Tempo Events defined in the Tempo Track, then Logic automatically creates special Flex Markers at those positions, the so-called Tempo Flex Markers. This is what you should know about them:
- You can edit Tempo Flex Markers and even delete them.
- You can restore the original Tempo Flex Markers at any time with the “Reset all Flex Edits” command.
- The Tempo Flex Marker is a blue line (please note that the line changes into a white Manual Flex Marker when you apply a quantize value to the Region).
Quantize Flex Markers
These are the Flex Markers that Logic Pro automatically creates when you apply a Quantize value to a Region. This is what you should know about them:
- Logic looks for Transient Markers that are nearby the currently selected quantize grid, places Quantize Flex Markers there, and moves them to the quantize grid by time shifting the underlying audio material.
- Logic moves Quantize Flex Markers to a different grid if you apply a different Quantize value.
- You can edit the Quantize Flex Markers and even delete them.
- A Quantize Flex Marker is a thin white line (a little thinner than the Manual Flex Marker).
Manual Flex Markers
These are the Flex Markers that you create manually at any position on the waveform. This is what you should know about them:
- You can freely add, move or remove Manual Flex Markers.
- The Manual Flex Marker is a white line (thicker than the Quantize Marker).
Here is another aspect of the Flex Time feature that requires some special attention before you use it: The Flex Tools. You need them to create the Manual Flex Markers for various time shifting operations. There are not one, not two, but seven Flex Tools (there are actually more, but I’m leaving that out for the moment). In addition, the tools don’t even have individual names, just different types of icons.
Please note that you won’t find those Flex Tool in Logic’s Tool Menu. Instead, they appear automatically based on Click Zones. That means, depending on where on the screen (in this case the waveform of an Audio Region) you move the Cursor Tool, it switches automatically to one of those seven Flex Tools, ready to perform a specific click action.
Here is a closer look at all the seven Click Zones with their specific tools. Which tool they switch to depends on three conditions:
1st Condition: Area
The Click Zone divides the Editing Area of the Audio Region into the upper and lower part:
- Upper ➊: Moving the Cursor Tool in the upper half of the Region switches to a tool with a single line. This indicates that when you click, you create one single Flex Marker.
- Lower ➋: Moving the Cursor Tool in the lower half of the Region switches to a tool with three lines. This indicates that when you click, you create three Flex Markers.
2nd Condition: Marker
The second condition checks if you moved over a Marker. There are tree options:
- No Marker ➌: If there is no Marker at your current cursor position, then you get a tool with just a line (1 or 3, depending on if you are in the upper or lower area).
- Transient Marker ➍: If there is a Transient Marker at the current cursor position, then you get a tool that has a line (1 or 3, depending on if you are in the upper or lower area) with a triangle on top.
- Flex Marker ➎: If there is a Flex Marker at the current cursor position (this can be a Manual Flex Marker, a Quantize Flex Marker, or a Tempo Flex Marker), then you get a tool that has a line (1 or 3, depending on if you are in the upper or lower area) with the triangle on top and the Flex symbol across.
3rd Condition: Modifier Key
The third condition is if you hold down a Modifier Key while moving over an object.
- Flex Marker ➏: Holding down the option key while moving over a Flex Marker will change the tool to a line with the triangle on top and two arrows, which indicates that you can reposition (“re-attach”) that Flex Marker to the left or right (without moving the audio waveform).
This was just a sneak preview about two important aspects of the Flex Time feature from my book “Logic Pro X – The Details”. In there I will explain the complete feature, every little step, functionality, and workflow about Flex Time and Flex Pitch so you can use it to its full extent in your Logic Pro production.
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Thanks for your time and interest,