Chapter 21: Exporting Files, Mixing Down and Rendering

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21 Exporting Files, Mixing Down and Rendering[edit]

21.1 Introduction[edit]

There are three main tools available to you for taking your finished projects or tracks out of REAPER, for example for final distribution or for further processing elsewhere. These are:

  • Consolidate Tracks: this outputs tracks pre-processing (ignoring for example track FX and panning). Use this, for example, if you are supplying files to be mixed/mastered by someone else.
  • Render to File: this outputs your material post-processing (including for example all FX and panning). Use this to produce a final mix of your songs ready for distribution.
  • Batch File/Item Converter: this takes a collection of files at any stage in your project and converts them en mass to another format ' for example, to convert audio to MP3 for web distribution, or SFX for games to 22 kHz mono.

Note: Some of the arrange view illustrations used in this chapter use the REAPER 4 default theme and color scheme. The information and instructions, however, are still accurate and correct for REAPER 5.

21.2 Batch File Conversion[edit]

You might have several tracks to convert to another format, e.g. from .WAV to .MP3.

This can be done in one pass, using REAPER's batch file converter, accessed by choosing File, Batch file/item converter from the main menu. This dialog box (right) will be displayed. Follow this sequence:

  1. In Arrange view, select the items to be converted then click on Add, then Add selected media items, or
  2. Click on Add..., then Add files... : select files and click on Open.
  3. To remove any file from the selection, click on its name in the File Converter window, then click on the Remove button. To clear the entire selection, use the Clear button.
  4. Specify output directory (or select Use source file directory). Leave the File name blank for the default name (shown in the Output column), or enter your own. You can include text and/or any of the many available wild cards. The above example uses track number and track name. See note about wild cards below.
  5. Leave the sample rate and channels at source to use the same values for your output files as are used by your input files. Otherwise, you may make what changes you like ' e.g. from stereo to mono, or from 88.2 kHz to 44.1 kHz.
  6. Optionally, you can select Use FX. If you select this option, you should also click on the FX chain... button to specify your required effect(s) ' for example, perhaps a limiter. When Use FX is enabled, you may also specify an FX tail length in ms.
  7. Select your required output format (e.g. MP3, OGG, FLAC) and any parameters associated with that format. Depending on the format, you might have the options for dithering and/or noise shaping.
  8. To convert the files, after making your selection click on the Convert All button. This opens the File Conversion window (see above).

Note on Wildcards: Using wildcards causes individual information included in the name of each rendered file. For example, including $project in the filename will cause the actual project file name to be included in the name of the rendered file. Including the backslash character between wildcards causes a sub directory to be created. For example, when rendering individual tracks, naming your output files $project\$track would cause a separate subdirectory to be created for the output of each track.

21.3 Consolidating and Exporting[edit]

You might be collaborating on a project with someone else, or with other people. Perhaps, for example, you want to send your project to a friend who will add some vocal harmonies to your song. What if that friend lives a long way away? You could send her your .RPP file together with all the media item files. But what if she doesn't use REAPER? Perhaps she uses a different software program, or perhaps she doesn't have a DAW herself and will need to use a commercial studio for this purpose. In this case, it should first be consolidated and exported. Take a look at the example above.

Here, the Vox track is made up of three items, each covering part of the total song. If we were to send the media files (six in all) to someone else, then it would be difficult for them to line the items up.

That's where consolidate and export helps. It creates a new set of audio files, just one file per track. Once these new files are inserted in another DAW, each starting at zero time, one per track, then everything will be in the right place for further mixing.

  1. Depending on what you wish to consolidate, if necessary make any time selection and/or track selection.
  2. From the main menu, choose File, Consolidate/Export Tracks.
  3. Choose Entire project or Time selection or Custom selection, then All or Selected tracks.
  4. Decide if you want to have sample rate and number of channels automatically determined, or whether to specify these yourself.
  5. Select a Resample Mode.
  6. Specify consolidation format and bit depth ' WAV, AIFF, DDP, FLAC, MP3, OGG Vorbis, OGG Opus,Video LCF or WavPack. In the example shown, WAV has been selected.
  7. Select your required specifications for your chosen format. For example, for WAV files you need to select a bit depth and specify whether you want to use BWF data, include markers and regions, and how to deal with MIDI data. If in doubt, speak to the person to whom you will be sending the consolidated files.
  8. Specify your Output directory (where the files will be written to). Specify whether you wish to update your project with the newly consolidated files.
  9. Specify a name for the new project file (or accept the default). Click on Process.

Note: Be careful how you use the option to Embed project tempo. It adds an ACID tempo tag to the audio file(s). This may be interpreted by any tempo aware application so that the audio is stretched or processed when you do not wish this to happen. Only enable this option if you are certain you want the tempo embedded.

Shown here is an example of a project after consolidation, with one media item per track. It is now a simple task to import these four media items into any DAW program, then overdub the vocal harmonies.

Note: To consolidate in MP3 format you will need to have the correct free Lame encoder file for your platform and REAPER version. For example, for Windows XP or Vista this is lame_enc.dll. For 64-bit Windows it will be either libmp3lame.dll or lame_enc64.dll. The file should be placed in your C:\Program Files\REAPER folder. It will take you only a few moments to use Google to find a suitable download location. Likewise, for output video rendering you will require an encoder such as Ffmpeg.dll. This goes in your REAPER Plugins folder.

When you consolidate media in this way your item settings and properties (e.g. take envelopes, take FX, item pitch adjustment) will be incorporated in the output files, but track based properties (e.g. track FX) will not be.

To apply your track FX chain, track envelopes, etc. to your output media, you should instead use the Render to File dialog, selecting Stems (selected tracks) from the Render drop down list.

21.4 Rendering A Project[edit]

As you'll find out before you reach the end of this chapter, the File, Render... command has several diverse uses. One common one is for rendering a complete project down to a single stereo file.

Let's say that you have finished your recording, completed your edits, added all your FX and automation, arranged all your tracks '. and now you want to produce an end product for distribution.

If you're aiming for an audio CD, you will need one 16-bit stereo wave file for each song on the CD.

If you're distributing thru the web, then most likely you will want a series of stereo MP3 files. Whatever format you choose, each project will ultimately need to be rendered down to one file.

To do this, we use the File, Render command or the shortcut Ctrl Alt R. The dialog box (right) shows the various options. You must specify a directory and file name: if you wish, use the Browse button for either or both of these. Your other choices will depend on the ultimate destination of your material. A summary of Render to File dialog box options follows below.

Option Explanation Render Choose master mix to mix all material to a single file, stems to render selected tracks to separate files, or both. Stem rendering is explained in Chapter 6. Other options are region render matrix (explained later in this chapter) or selected media items.
Presets Saves settings as a preset, or loads a previously saved preset. Preset settings can include Render bounds and output, Options and format, or All settings. Saved settings will automatically be added to the Presets menu.
Render Bounds Select custom time range (enter in edit boxes), Entire project, Time selection (made in arrange view), Custom time range (enter start and end times in dialog) or Project regions (selected in Region/Marker Manager or Region Render Matrix). For Entire project, markers named =START and =END (if present) will be used to define start and end of project for rendering.
Directory and File Name These are entered into the respective edit boxes. Any directory specified in your Preferences will be used by default. You can accept this default, or instead type in a directory of your choosing (relative to the project directory, or absolute), or use the Browse button. See Chapter 22 (General, Paths and Keyboards) for more about relative and absolute paths, and how to set them.
Use the Wildcards button to include in the file name information such as track name or number, region name, project file name, and/or date/time stamps.
The render path and file name to be used will be displayed in the Render to box, just below the Directory and File name edit boxes.
Sample Rate Select a value in the range 8000 to 192000, depending on output format and other factors. Some examples follow in the table after this one.
Channels Choose mono, stereo or select a number for multichannel output.
On or Off-Line Speed Full-speed (default) for fastest rendering. Others include 1 x offline, online, online (idle) and offline x 1 (idle).
Use project sample rate... If enabled the project sample rate will be used for mixing and FX/synth processing. If in doubt, leave this enabled.
Resample mode Various options allow trade off between speed and quality. Default is 192.
Use project rate Enable this to automatically use project sample rate for mixing/processing.
Tracks with only mono media ... Enabling this option ensures that mono channel rendering will automatically be applied to tracks where all media items are mono or with a mono Item Setting.
Multichannel tracks... These can be rendered to multichannel files. An example follows shortly.
Dither, Noise Shaping Not available with all output formats, commonly used when rendering 24 bit (or higher) audio material to 16-bit WAV format for audio CD. Creates a smoother transition to the lower sample rate in the rendering process.
Output format Choose WAV, AIFF, audio CD image, DDP, FLAC, MP3, OGG Vorbis, OGG Opus, video (Ffmpeg/libav encoder), video (GIF), or WavPack lossless compression.
Format specific options Other options will depend on the format. For example, for WAV or AIFF files, bit depth will need to be specified, for FLAC you must select FLAC encoding depth and data compression level, for MP3 bitrate mode (for example, variable or constant) and the actual bitrate, and so on.
When rendering to WAV files, you may also specify whether markers, regions, both or neither should be embedded as cues in the output file(s). The option Include project filename in BWF description is also available for WAV format: it associates rendered files with the source project ' see Chapter 12. For WAV files you have also the option to embed the project tempo.>
Silently increment filenames... Prevents you from accidentally overwriting an existing file: if an existing file name is used, an incremental number such as 001 will be added to the name.
Add rendered items to new tracks... If enabled, this option causes your rendered file(s) to be added to the project as new tracks.
Save copy of project to outfile.wav.RPP Tells REAPER to make a time and date stamped copy of your project file, preserving all settings exactly as they are at the time of rendering.
Open render queue
Add to render queue
These options are used in batch rendering, which will be discussed shortly.
Render x files Causes the project to be rendered to one or more files, depending on options.
Delay queued render to allow samples to load Resolves problems that can be caused when samples (especially large samples) need to be loaded before rendering.
Save changes and close Saves and closes the render settings without rendering any files.

Project Rendering Examples

Example Specification DVD Audio Soundtrack Sample Rate: 48000 HZ, Channels: Stereo, Higher Quality
Output format: WAV format, 24 bit
CD Audio Sample Rate 44100 HZ, Channels: Stereo, Higher Quality
Output format: WAV format, 16-bit
Apple Mac AIFF Format. Preferred settings will vary with individual circumstances.
Web Site / Web Audio Sample Rate 44100 HZ, Channels: Stereo, Higher Quality
Output format: MP3 format
Other options may vary as you trade off files size and download time against audio quality, but a typical selection might be CBR (Constant Bit Rate) 96 or 128, Joint Stereo, Quality High
Monkey's Audio Use this format for lossless compression at 16 or 24 bit, sample rate as preferred.
(Cue/Bin) format Specifications as for CD Audio. This option can be used to burn your rendered output directly to CD, or to create an image file on your hard drive for use with other CD burning software. You can specify how markers or regions should be used to define tracks. This includes the option only to use markers whose name begins with "#", in which case these become track markers. Further information about how to do this can be found later in this chapter.
Multichannel Tracks We look at channel splitting and creating multichannel tracks in detail elsewhere in this User Guide, especially in Chapter 17. You might have such tracks that you wish to export in multichannel format, perhaps for use with another program. First select the tracks in the track control panel, then open the Render to file dialog box and include these options:
Channels - Select the number of channels, e.g. 4
Select Render stems (selected tracks) to similarly named files.
Select Render multichannel tracks to multichannel files.
Optionally, Add items to new tracks in project when finished.

Shown here is a 4 channel track (Track 1) rendered in multichannel format (Track 2).

Tip: The Action List includes actions File: Render project using the most recent render settings and File: Add project to render queue using most recent render settings. These can be assigned to shortcut keys or a toolbar.

21.5 Rendering a Finished Song[edit]

When rendering a finished song your output format choices are likely to depend on whether your final destination is, for example, audio CD or the web. However, there are a few tips that you may wish to keep in mind which are equally applicable to both.

Your recording might have a few seconds of silence before the song starts. If you do not wish to include this period of silence in your rendered material, follow these steps before rendering:

  1. Position the play cursor at the point where you wish the rendering to commence. Press Shift M to create a marker at this point. Name this marker Start (above right).
  2. Position the play cursor at the point where you wish the rendering to stop. Press Shift M to create a marker at this point. Name this marker End.
  3. With loop points linked to time selection, double click on the marker line (above the timeline) anywhere between the two markers. This selects the entire area between them.
  4. From the REAPER menu, choose the File, Render command.
  5. Select the required output format and other options as required, but be sure to include the option Time selection from the Render Bounds drop down list.. The settings shown at the start of section 18.4 would be suitable for producing a file for CD audio. Shown here are those that would be suitable for producing a .MP3 file. Notice that for MP3 some options (e.g. dither and noise shape) are not available.
  6. Remember that you can use =START and =END markers within a project to define the start and end positions.
  7. When you are ready, click the Render 1 file ... button in this dialog box to render your file.

21.6 Batch Rendering[edit]

You might have a collection of songs (perhaps to go together on a CD) that you wish to render together when the project is finished. That way, you can go away while REAPER renders the whole set, and then come back later. Follow this procedure:

For Each Project to be Rendered:

To Render the Queued Batch of Projects:

  1. Open the project and choose the File, Render command.
  2. Choose your various settings and options, as explained in the previous sections. You will probably want to select the same folder (directory) for all of the projects that will be included in the batch to be rendered.
  3. Do not click the Render1 File button. Instead, click the Add to Render Queue button. When you add a file to this queue it is saved as it is at that point in time. If you make any later changes to the file that you wish to include, you should remove the file from the queue, then add it back again.
  4. The dialog box will be closed, and nothing appears to happen. Save and close the file.

When you render the files in the queue, each will be rendered to a separate file according to the settings and options that you made for each file individually when you set up the batch.

  1. From the main REAPER menu, choose the File, Show Render Queue command.
  2. This causes a dialog box (right) to be opened. All files in the render queue (in this example four) will be listed.
  3. If you need to remove any item from the list, select it and click on Remove Selected.
  4. Either use Ctrl Click to build up a subset of items to be rendered and click on Render Selected or simply click on Render All to render all items in the queue, each of course to a separate file. The Rendering to File box will be shown as each file is rendered and removed from the queue.
  5. Close the Queued Renders dialog box when finished.

21.7 Rendering Selected Media Items[edit]

The Selected media items option in the Render drop down list can be used to render any media item or selection of media items. The procedure is:

  1. Select the required item, or all required items in Arrange View.
  2. Open the File, Render... dialog box.
  3. Choose Selected media items from the Render drop down list.
  4. Select your required output format and other options in the normal way.
  5. Click on Render xx files... to render immediately, or on Add to render queue to do this later.

21.8 Rendering Regions[edit]

This section requires you to have a sound knowledge of REAPER's regions, what they are, how to create/modify them and how to work with them. This is all explained in Chapter 9.

Rendering regions uses a combination of three possible windows: Render to File, Region/Marker Manager and Region Render Matrix. For the most part you will not need to use all three together, but it will help you if you understand how these three windows integrate.

You can select and render any permutation of tracks and regions you like. In the Render to File dialog you can include wildcards like $region and $track in the output file names. To display the Region Routing Matrix:

From the main menu choose View then Region Render Matrix, or

Click on the Render Matrix... button in the Region/Marker Manager window.

In the Render to File dialog, select Region render matrix from the Render drop down list, then click on the Region Matrix... button (see below right).

To help you understand how this matrix works, take a look at the example here. This uses a simple project of four tracks. The song consists of three regions ' Verse 1, Verse 2 and Verse 3 (see below right).

In the first column (Verse 1), only master mix (the first header row) is checked. This would result in one file being rendered for Verse 1. This file will be a master mix of all tracks.

In the second column (Verse 2) neither header row has been checked, but two tracks (Vox and Vox Harmony) have been. This would result in one file for each of these two tracks being rendered for this region.

In the third column (Verse 3) both the two header rows (master mix and all tracks) have been ticked. This would result in five files being rendered for this region ' a master mix of all tracks, plus individual files for each of the four tracks.

You can make your selection in either the Region Render Matrix or the Region/Marker Manager ' both are automatically updated. This is shown below:

This window's right-click menu is shown here (below right). Options include Render master mix for all regions, Render all tracks for all regions and Render master mix and all tracks for all regions.

From the Region Render Matrix you can open the Render to File dialog by clicking on the Render button.

Here you can select your options, output format, etc. Use a backslash in the file name wherever you wish to create subdirectories. If you choose, for example, as your file name $project\$region-$track then the output files produced will include the project file name, region name and track name, with each region's files being placed in its own separate sub-directory. The file name $project\$track-$region would include project name, track name and region name, with this time a separate subdirectory for each track.

When ready, choose Render xx files... , Add to render queue... or Save changes and close to proceed.

21.9 Burning an Audio CD with REAPER[edit]

There are at least two situations in which you might wish to burn your material direct to an audio CD.

  1. You have recorded a number of songs. Each has been mixed and rendered to its own stereo wave file. You now wish to burn all of these to audio CD, with one track for each song.
  2. You have perhaps a live recording comprising one continuous track. You wish to split it up into individual tracks, and then burn to audio CDs.

In both cases the procedure is similar, with some slight differences in how you set the project up.

Preparing to burn a CD from several mixed files

  1. Start REAPER and create a new project file. Press Ctrl Alt X to display the Media Explorer, then navigate to the folder containing the rendered stereo wave files.
  2. Double click in turn on each of the files that you wish to include in your CD program. REAPER will add each one to your project, lined up on separate tracks.
  3. Notice that each media item is placed so as to begin immediately after the other, with no gap. It is not necessary to move any of these in order to create gaps on your CD. You will later be able to tell REAPER to do this automatically for you.
  4. You will now need to insert a marker to indicate where each track is to start. To do this '
  5. First, make sure that Snapping is disabled. Place the cursor at the beginning of your project. Press Shift M to create and edit a marker at this point. Make sure the marker name begins with a # (as shown on the right).
  6. Now move the cursor to the start of the next song. Again add a marker, and again make sure that the marker name begins with a #.
  7. Repeat this until you have created a marker at the start of each song, as shown here:
  8. Save the Project File.
  9. Now follow the instructions below for Burning the CD.

Preparing to burn a CD from one continuous recording

  1. If the recording was made in REAPER, open the project file. Otherwise, create a new project file and use Media Explorer to import the recording, using the method explained before.
  2. It is not necessary to split up the media item. REAPER will take care of this when it burns the CD. However, you will need to indicate where you want each track on the CD to start.
  3. First, make sure that Snapping is disabled. Place the cursor at the very beginning of your project. Press Shift M to create and edit a marker at this point. Make sure the marker name begins with a #.
  4. Now move the cursor to the start of the next song. Again add a marker, and again make sure that the marker name begins with a #.
  5. Repeat this until you have created a marker at the start of each song, as shown below:
  6. Save the Project File.
  7. Now follow the instructions below for Burning the CD.

Burning the CD

  1. Choose the File, Render command. You should now select the necessary options and settings for burning your CD.
  2. Sample rate: 44100 Channels: Stereo Render entire project Render Master Mix Output format: Audio CD Image (CUE/BIN Format) Markers define new tracks Burn CD Image after render Only use markers starting with #. If you do not have any dithering plug-ins in your Master FX Chain, consider also enabling the Dither and/or Noise Shape options.
  3. In the case of the first of our two examples (with separate media items lined up on different tracks) you might also want to specify a Lead in silence for tracks of 2000 ms.
  4. Click the Render button and wait for the output file to be rendered. This might take a few minutes.
  5. When rendering has been completed, the Burn Audio CD Image settings screen will be displayed.
  6. Select your preferred method. This will depend on factors such as your PC set up and operating system. If in doubt, choose cdrecord/cdtools as shown.
  7. Select Eject CD when done. Decide whether you wish to keep or delete the CD image files when done. It's probably worth keeping it, at least for now. If you have any problems with burning the CD itself here, you might well be able to use the image file with another CD burning program such as Nero or Toast.
  8. Insert a blank CD into your CD drive and wait for it to load.
  9. Click Burn CD.
  10. Wait while the Burning in progress message is displayed.
  11. When finished, the CD will be ejected. Click on Close to close any messages still displayed on the screen.

Instead of using markers to define the start of your tracks, you can if you wish create a separate region for each CD track and use the Regions define tracks (other areas ignored) option. Only that material which is included in your regions will be burnt to CD.

A further option is to burn the contents of the project as One track.

Tip: Before rendering direct to audio CD you should ensure that the media items that you are burning are in 16-bit 44100 Hz .WAV format.

There are a number of methods that you can use to convert them to this format. Probably the easiest is to set this under Project Settings as your Media format for apply FX, glue, open, copy, etc. Within the project you can then glue any existing media item(s), while any media items you then import will be automatically converted to this format.

21.10 Saving Live Output to Disk[edit]

You can export live output to disk, using the File, Save live output to disk (bounce) command. This is similar to File, Render, except that whereas the Render command works off line, Export Live to Disk works in real time. You can make adjustments on the fly to your settings while your project is being mixed down.

Position the play cursor at the start of the section you wish to save (e.g. the beginning) and choose the File, Save live output to disk command. Specify output directory, file name, output format, etc. Options include:

Whether to include markers and/or regions, or markers/regions with #names in the rendered output.

Save output only when playing or recording: enables you to stop and start playback/recording whenever you wish, then later start again to resume bouncing to disk.

Stop saving output on first stop: ensures that bouncing will finish when you stop playback or recording.

It is unlikely that you would wish to enable both these options at the same time.

When you have made your settings, click on the Start button to begin bouncing. Choosing Save live export to disk (bounce) from the File menu will now cause the bounce to end.

This command has several uses, such as recording continuously a log of your sessions to a compact file format such as MP3, so that later you can hear everything that was said about each take even though the transport was stopped and nothing was being recorded on the tracks. One neat aspect of this is that you can use REAPER's media explorer window to locate and play back this file even while it is still being recorded.

If you do set this to run non-stop, however, remember to stop the recording when you no longer need it, to avoid creating an unnecessarily large file.

21.11 Using Presets[edit]

You can save your render settings as presets, and recall them when you wish to use them again ' render bounds and output settings, or options and format settings, or all settings. Click on the Presets button (in the Render to File dialog box) to display the menu for doing this. Your presets will automatically be added to the appropriate menu (see example, right).

21.12 Rendering in Surround Format[edit]

When you are rendering a project for surround format, most of the settings will be made as for any other project (such as a stereo mix).

The one important difference is that you should be sure to select the correct number of channels.

In the example shown here, the project is for 5.1 surround, therefore 6 channels have been selected.

REAPER will render this project into a single multichannel file. You may later need to convert the interleaved multichannel file into multi-mono files of the type required by Dolby and DTS encoders.

REAPER itself does not do this easily, but there are a number of good tools available which will do this for you.

These include Wave Agent - http://www.sounddevices.com/products/waveagent.htm.

21.13 Rendering a Video Project[edit]

The process for rendering a video project is similar to that for rendering audio projects, but with a small number of options and settings that are specifically video oriented.

Most options within the File, Render... dialog serve the same purpose as they do for audio projects and do not need any further discussion here.

These include render bounds, output files names and directory locations, sample rate, etc. The important differences can be found in the Output format section.

Output format: Video(GIF) is an option if your project contains no audio, but mostly you will want to select Video(libav/FFmpeg encoder).

You will then need to select a container format: options are AVI, QT/MOV/MP4, MKV or WEBM. Your choice of video codec and audio codec will depend on which container format you have chosen.

This will cause audio content to be rendered in your chosen format. You can select your preferred size and frame rate from the available list (see below). Frames per second range from 24 to 30 and sizes range from 320 x 240 (QVGA) up to 1920 x 1080 (Full HD). There are also options to Keep source aspect ratio and Get width/height/ framerate from current video item.

If you are using the Video(libav/FFmpeg encoder) you will use the Video codec VP8 and Audio codec VORBIS.

The remaining options have already been explained. These include the options to Add to render queue for processing later or Render file in real time now.

Note: REAPER supports rendering to common video formats on macOS "out of the box" by using AVFoundation. For Windows, REAPER includes a limited version of FFMPEG. If you want or need more video rendering formats you will need to install the full FFMPEG libraries. To do this, follow the instructions below. You can download the full FFMPEG libraries (FFMPEG versions 4.X are compatible with REAPER 5.94+) at https://ffmpeg.zeranoe.com/builds/ Select the release version of FFMPEG that has a 4.x.x version number (not a "nightly" or "latest" build). Choose your OS architecture (Windows 64-bit, Windows 32-bit, or macOS 64-bit). Choose the "shared" linking type. Once all 3 options are chosen, download the Zip file. Unzip it and put the DLLs (but not the EXEs) extracted from the archive's "bin" folder into REAPER’s resource folder, specifically in its \userplugins subfolder. To find this, in REAPER's main menu choose Options, Show REAPER resource path in explorer/finder.