In recent years there has been a steady increase in plug-ins featuring a rather clever technology commonly referred to as inter plug-in communication and this tech provides a very useful way in which we can work with audio. Back at the start of 2018 we published an article Audio Recording Industry Predictions For 2018 in which one of our five predictions was that we were going to see more plug-ins being released over the year featuring some kind of inter communication. During 2018 iZotope released a fair few products with their inter plug-in communication tech at the forefront, which led us to state that our prediction was spot on in 5 Audio Recording Industry Predictions For 2018 - Check Out How We Did
Plug-ins that have been designed to, in essence talk to each other, enable us to interact with two or more plug-ins at the same time typically within the same plug-in window instead of working with multiple plug-ins separately. Plug-ins that communicate typically gives us the ability to view aspects from other plug-ins (which are not on display) such as metering or control values. Others enable us to edit controls on the fly against other plug-in parameters. It’s all very exciting stuff, thankfully there has been a good number of plug-in developers, as well as iZotope, that have introduced some cool workflows in their products, which feature inter plug-in communication that we have listed in this article.
Melodyne 4 Plug-in
The Melodyne 4 plug-in (not standalone) is a great example of a product that embraces inter plug-in communication. If you have multiple instances of Melodyne across your session you can quickly switch between the tracks you need to edit at the top left by click the “Edit Track” icon. You can also view and edit together more than one transfers (performance) within the same window by holding shift and selecting multiple “Edit Track” icons which is very useful if you are working on a backing vocal arrangement made up of two or more parts.
Antares Auto-Tune Pro - Auto Key
Antares Auto-Tune Pro includes an additional plug-in called Auto Key which automatically detects the key of a song by simply inserting it on either an instrument track or master bus. After a few seconds of playback Auto Key presents the key of the song which multiple instances of Auto-Tune within a session can be set to automatically.
FabFilter Pro-Q3, the latest version of their flagship EQ plug-in features some inter plug-in communication that enables users to view an external spectrum from another instance of Pro-Q3 in the main EQ display. To enable this view you simply click the external spectrum you want to see from the analyzer panel and the two spectrums will populate the main window - Red symbolises the spectrum from the external source. Sadly, the external spectrum in red can not be adjusted from main GUI but this view does provide some cool metering via a button called “Show Collisions”. When this mode is enabled the main analyzer displays areas of the spectrum where frequencies could collide with other frequencies causing pesky masking issues. To sum up FabFilter’s inter plug-in communication purpose is quite simple. It brings together information into one place from other Pro-Q3 instances but doesn’t make it possible for us to change settings or EQ curves from one plug-in to another.
Sound Radix Auto Align
Sound Radix Auto Align is an extremely popular plug-in amongst the Production Expert Team. It corrects comb-filtering issues that occurs in recordings of instruments that were captured with with multiple microphones. We’re featuring it in this inter plug-in communication list as two or more instances of Auto Align are needed in order for it to work (Unless of course you are using a multi-mono instance on a stereo track)
If you are using Auto Align on a multitrack drum recording to align the slight time differences between the microphones then the Send & Receive buses need to be set in a particular way in order for the plug-in to work its magic. There has been some heated discussion in regards to best practise when it comes to using Auto Align on multitrack drums. Luckily, Nir Averbuch from Sound Radix got in touch with Pro Tools Expert a few years ago to share his views as the designer on the definitive Auto Align drums workflow:
“Auto-Align looks for correlation in the signal to calculate the optimal time and phase correction for the mics. This is important to remember when choosing the SEND and RECV sources for each track. e.g. using the top tom mic as a reference for the kick mic will probably won't yield very good results...
The top snare mic is a great place to start as the initial reference for the overheads and room mics. Try aligning both left and right overhead and room mics to the top snare for the clearest snare sound and most accurate transients reproduction. Don't be shy with the Noise Floor settings, we rather miss some beats than feeding Auto-Align with irrelevant bleed.
When aligning the toms, hi-hat and kick mics to the overheads, it's important to feed Auto-Align with sound of those drums for the detection process rather than the snare, or you will be simply aligning the bleed of the snare into those mics. For best results, align the toms and hi-hat mics to their nearest overheads.”
Slate: Virtual Console Collection V
Slate Digital’s popular VCC, Virtual Console Collection plug-ins communicate between different instances of the VCC by way of grouping. For best results Slate recommends that VCC should be used across every track, sub mix and master of a mix. Each VCC instance, either the Channel or Virtual Mix Buss, has 1 of 8 groups it can be assigned to, which makes it quick and easy to adjust the global group settings from any VCC instance. A VCC insert must be assigned a group number for this inter plug-in communication to work.
iZotope’s Range Of Music Production Software
Without doubt iZotope are currently the pioneers of inter plug-in communication. Five of their flagship music production based plug-ins Ozone 8 Advanced , Neutron 3 Advanced, Tonal Balance Control, Nectar 3 and VocalSynth 2 all communicate seamlessly with each other via their respective UI’s or “utility” plug-ins developed by iZotope called Visual Mixer, then Relay, which passes track audio back toa mothership plug-in like the latest Neutron 3. Neutron 3 iZotope’s fully loaded metering plug-in Insight 2 also boasts this tech which brings a total of seven iZotope plug-ins with inter plug-in communication.
The approach iZotope took to develop their inter plug-in communication system is nothing short of genius as it effortlessly links together several different aspects of audio production ranging vocal production, mixing and mastering. What iZotope has achieved with their inter plug-in communication technology feels more like an audio production environment that neatly combines an entire session’s workflow instead of what we typically get from plug-in bundles being a collection of individual plug-ins which all serve independent roles. There are so many ways in which to harness the power of iZotope’s system. A mix engineer can quickly get a full perspective view of a session or save time getting one track to balance in against another instance of a plug-in or set of tracks…. so so smart, so so simple!
Watch the iZotope tutorial video below to see inter plug-in communication in all its glory across all the music mixing plug-ins in iZotope’s Music Production Suite 2 Bundle. Workflows demonstrated:
Use Mix Assistant in Neutron 3 Advanced
Use Track Assistant in Neutron 3
EQ two tracks at once (with different settings) using Neutron 3
Find and fix weak spots in a mix with Tonal Balance Control
Organize backgrounds around a lead vocal with Visual Mixer
Audition multiple mix arrangements with Visual Mixer
Get a 3D view of your mix with Insight 2
Neutron 3 Moves On iZotope’s Inter Plug-in Communication To Another Level
The headline feature in the new version of Neutron from iZotope comes from the continued development by iZotope of their machine learning technology, which is what is under the hood of the growing number of ‘Assistant’ tools in the iZotope family of products.
iZotope claim that the new Mix Assistant in Neutron 3 Advanced is the first plug-in that listens to the entire session, by communicating with every track in the mix back to the main Neutron 3 ‘mothership’ plug-in, with the aim of creating a balanced starting point for an initial mix built around a focus chosen by the mixer, all designed to save time and energy for creative mix decisions.
It is best to run Mix Assistant right at the beginning of the mix stage, ideally before you start adding EQ, compression, effects etc and also before you do any panning.
In this exclusive video demo we show you how to use the new Mix Assistant on to prepare a Pro Tools session for mixing…
Learn more about iZotope’s inter plug-in communication. Be aware that this next video from iZotope predates Neutron 3 and Neutron 3 Advanced.
Conclusion - Is Inter Plug-in Communication The Future For Our Mixing Workflows?
The plug-in development landscape has been changing over the last few years. It seems that there are a number of plug-in developers moving slowly away from hardcore emulation styles products in favour of exploring new technologies such as Inter Plug-in Communication & Machine Learning products, which we are excited about. While AI tech is pretty good these days we prefer Inter Plug-in Communication as a new school plug-in concept. We hope more plug-in developers pick up on this trend and find new ways to implement their own forms of “comms system” in their tools as the brands that we’ve featured in this post have all implemented smart Inter Plug-in Communication that are all truly useful and, in some cases, have become essential.