Automation of discrete values

Cross posting a thread I started on Bitwig forum

I am posting this here in the hope to start a conversation and hopefully get someone at Bitwig to have a think about this, in case it turns out to be useful for many people.

So, when it comes to parameter automation, to the best of my knowledge, all DAWs implement a similar paradigm, which is, as we all know, a lane over the timeline where you can draw a shape (from a simple ramp to more complex waveforms). This model generally works very well for parameters with continuous values, e.g frequency, resonance, volume. When it comes to parameters that represent discrete values, the best example of this I think is BPM synced rate (LFOs, delay etc), this model doesn’t really work in my opinion.

The main problem is that you need to draw straight lines at fixed points that are very close to each other, which, depending on your screen size, can be a bit of a tedious and slow process. Not only that, but the visual feedback doesn’t convey any useful meaning. If I see a ramp that goes from 0 to 100 on a frequency parameter, I know there will be a filter sweep and I can more or less guess what it will sound like. If I have to switch from 1/4 to 1/16 on an LFO rate, looking at two straight lines with a really small distance between each other doesn’t really help. I normally need to add cue markers to document the values.

One workaround I found recently is the use of buttons. I just map each button to a different rate and then turn them on and off over the timeline. Like this

This method obviously has quite a few drawbacks, the main ones being:

  • You need to use multiple lanes

  • You need to make sure that button on states don’t overlap otherwise you’ll get the sum of the values that the buttons point to.

Besides this, I find this layout helps me reason about the project much better than this does.

Now imagine, instead of having multiple lanes, if you could have one single lane, where you can see the actual value rather than a straight line. I’m really terrible with mockups but imagine something like this.

You would just need to select the timeline, set the boundaries and then just enter your desired value.

Obviously for this to work the plugin would need to transmit the actual values to the host and not just the percentage. In this example I used Serum which doesn’t. I’m a not too sure if this is a limitation in Bitwig or that’s just how VST technology works tbh. So ideally the user should be able to map the plugin value to a given ID, and then enter this value on the GUI.

What do people think of this proposal? Am I the only one who thinks this would be an amazing workflow improvement?

Thanks for reading this and look forward to hearing your opinion.


Hi @lucaromagnoli, welcome! This request seems related to your point?

If you haven’t checked the #automation tag yet, there are other requests about this topic. Looking forward to seeing what comes up from this discussion.


It’s related in that currently the only way to achieve this is by creating a straight line. Personally I’m using the buttons workaround.

What I am hoping here is to be able to get rid of the straight line altogether and simply visualise the value you are interested in.


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@lucaromagnoli First of all, do you want us to move this topic to #drafts ? There it would start it way to become a feature request. Sorry, I had missed your question in the KVR discussion.

That discussion has a lot of comments discussing the value a plugin sends to Bitwig and how Bitwig renders this value. However, this is only tangentially relevant. I suggest we remove the plugin problem so we can focus on the feature itself.

Then, about this mockup:

What if the automation lane was still visible and you could manipulate it with its dots… but then you would also see the numerical value, and you could edit it by double clicking it or something?

Meanwhile, this other request by @Fooltopia was created:

Not the same, but in the same direction.

@lucaromagnoli , I think this question is still relevant:

This would mitigate the problem of how to tell Bitwig when an automation lane should be displayed with a line or a value.

@lucaromagnoli or anyone else, if you are interested in pursuing this request just say so and I will convert this topic in a request under #drafts. Otherwise we can archive it.

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