Mixing It Up with the Behringer BCF2000

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The BCF2000 provides pro audio performance at podcasting prices—for Linux!
Setting It Up

Setting up the Behringer is pretty straightforward. Take it out of the box, plug it in to the wall, hook it up to your computer over the USB port or the MIDI port and power it up. Before you actually can use it, it'll need a firmware update. If you go to www.behringer.com/05_support/bc_download/bc_downloads.cfm, you'll find the latest version of the firmware. Download the most recent package, unzip it and follow the directions inside. You load the firmware to the unit with a cp command—no Wine or DOSEMU necessary.

Setting up the unit after this actually is pretty simple. Pull up a JACK controller, such as qjackctl (Figure 2), and start JACK. Then, start Ardour. Now, in the Connections window, look at the ALSA tab. If you've plugged the interface in through your USB port, it will show up as an ALSA-MIDI device (Figure 3).

Figure 2. qjackctl Main Interface

Figure 3. ALSA Tab of the Connections Window in qjackctl

When that's done, cross-connect Ardour and the BCF2000, so that each will control the other. This allows you to control Ardour with the faders and pots on the BCF, and it allows Ardour (with a little extra work) to feed back to the BCF on playback—this sounds kind of gimmicky on the surface, but trust me, it becomes really important, really fast, later on (more on that later).

Once you've cross-connected the surface and Ardour, you can save the setup for future sessions, so you don't have to go through this rigmarole every time. Click on the patchbay button in qjacktcl. In the patchbay window that appears, click New, and then press Yes when you're presented with a dialog that asks whether you would like to “Create patchbay definition as a snapshot of all actual client connections”. Save the definition. Now, any time you start JACK, you can load up that patchbay setup by selecting it and clicking Activate.

Making It Work with Ardour

When it comes to working with the BCF2000 in Ardour, once you get the basics down, everything else is pretty straightforward. There is a caveat though. Depending on your distribution and the version of Ardour you're running, everything might not work. So first, let's check to see whether everything's kosher.

First, using the presets controller on the mixer, set it for preset 2 (this is the factory preset most congenial for mixing). This preset designates the bottom right-hand bank of four buttons as your transport controls, controlling the following (starting from the top left and going clockwise): Locate 0, Fast Forward, Play and Stop.

Open Ardour, and set up a project suitable for mixing. Under File, select Add Tracks, and add seven new tracks, just for kicks (mono or stereo doesn't matter—pick what you prefer). When presented with the editor window, before you do anything, go to the Options pull-down menu and select Control Surfaces. Under the secondary menu that appears, make sure that General MIDI is checked and Mackie is unchecked. Then, under the tertiary menu Controls, check Feedback. Once this is done, you should be able to assign controls to the faders, pan controls and the jog/shuttle control. In order to do this, simply mouse over the control you want to assign (chose a fader first), then hold down Ctrl and click your middle mouse button. You'll see a little floating window pop up that says Operate Controller Now. Do what it says—operate the controller on the BCF2000 that you want to have control the interface element you're trying to assign. As you move the control on the mixer, you should see a corresponding change in the program's GUI.

Now, here's the fun part. Take your mouse and move the fader in Ardour—that same one you just assigned. You should see the fader you assigned to the track move on the mixer in response to manipulating the interface. If everything is working both ways, you're ready to roll.

If you run into problems, particularly problems with getting the faders to fly properly, take a look at the relevant portion of the manual for instructions on debugging: ardour.org/files/manual/sn-bcf2000.html.

Using the Surface

Now that your surface is up and running, it's time to mix your first project. To start, you're going to need some sounds. Record or import a few sound files, and line them up on your tracks (Figure 4).

Figure 4. An Eight-Channel Song Mixdown in Ardour

In the Window pull-down menu, select the Show Mixer option, and switch over to the mixer window. At the bottom of each track's fader, you'll see a little blue button that says either M, W, P or T. This sets the automation mode of the track: Manual, Write, Play or Touch, respectively. Manual mode is what you use if a track needs a constant volume level throughout the project—sometimes. For a simple mix, this might be all you need, but if that was all you were doing, you wouldn't have bought a control surface (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Ardour's Mixer Window with the Automation Modes for a Pan Pot and a Fader Showing

To perform your mix and write automation to the project, you need to set a track to “write”. Be careful though; if you leave it set on write and then play the transport, it will write—and overwrite all automation you may have programmed already. Always, always, turn write mode off unless you're actively writing automation.

To play back and check your work, set the mode button to Play. To play it back and make adjustments as you go, set it to Touch mode, which plays through the existing automation, but begins writing if you adjust a fader, for as long as you're writing a fader.

An analogous situation works for pan pots at the bottom of the track—these pots can be assigned to pots on the board so that you can automate stereo imaging (instruments or people moving through the audio space, bullets whizzing across the room and so forth).

So, set the pots and faders for the tracks you want to work with to Write mode, press Play and ride your controls. That's all there is to it.

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Thanks a LOT !

VvSurLeRiddim's picture

GREAT !!!
I was wondering if the BFC2000 was worthing the buy, and if it would be supported by Linux & Ardour.
Now I know it is, and moreover I have all the information I need about how to do it :)
So, thank you very much Dan for the writting of this very useful article.

VvSurLeRiddim

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