Chapter 4: Importing Media: The Media Explorer

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4 Importing Media: The Media Explorer[edit]

4.1 Introduction and Overview[edit]

Media Explorer display is toggled using the View, Media Explorer command, or the shortcut Ctrl Alt X. Its interface is shown in the diagram below.

The REAPER main menu command Insert, Media File � can be used to incorporate existing media items (such as MP3, MIDI and WAV files) into a REAPER project, but it is often easier and more flexible to use REAPER�s Media Explorer for this purpose. The media explorer includes several additional features that help you to find the items that you want. Before exploring its features and its functionality, identify the following:

Explorer/Shortcuts Panel. This can be used to navigate your directories and files, rather like Windows Explorer. In addition, you can add here shortcuts to your favorite folders. Right-click in panel for menu toggle option to disable sort order.

Browsing History Buttons. A quick way of browsing back and forth thru your browsing history.

Browsing History Dropdown. This stores (and can display) a list of recently visited folders. You can select from this list to open any of these folders.

Filter Box. Use this to type a text string to filter the displayed file list.

List/Details Dropdown. Selects whether file details (size, date, etc.) or only file names are shown.

Transport Bar. Works with selected media item. Controls are Play, Pause, Stop and Repeat.

I/O Button. Directs output to any audio output, or to play thru any track selected in Arrange View.

Pitch Wheel. Adjusts pitch of selected item on playback. Use the options menu to set pitch shift knob range (by up to plus or minus 12 semitones) and behavior (continuous, quarter tones, or semitones).

Tempo Options. Allows you to set tempo match off, or on, or to half, or to double.

Volume Fader. Adjusts volume of playback of selected item.

Although more commonly used for finding and inserting media files, the media explorer can also be used to find, and open, existing .RPP project files.

Note that the media explorer is dockable. To do this, choose the Options, Dock media explorer in docker command (or use the right-click context menu).

4.2 Searching the Media Explorer[edit]

Although in some respects similar to Windows Explorer, REAPER's media explorer incorporates a number of extra features which can make searching easier and more flexible. Here is a general summary.

In order to do this � Do this �. Browse thru your folders Use the Explorer/Navigate panel in conjunction with the main panel. For example, click on My Computer (Windows) or Home (Mac) in the Explorer panel, then use the main panel to browse thru your folders, and to open any folder.
Navigate thru browsing history Select from browsing history dropdown: all folders and directories visited during your current session will be displayed and available. Additionally, the buttons located to the left of this dropdown can be used to move back and forwards thru your browsing history.
Search/filter file list Type text string (e.g. bass) in the unlabelled filter box (left of the list/details dropdown) to filter file display. Boolean search (AND, OR, NOT) is supported (e.g. kick OR snare).
Manage folder/file display (Windows) Click on any column header to sort by that column � e.g. File name or Date. Click again to reverse the sort order. Right-click on any column header for option to show/hide any columns. Drag/drop header left or right to change column order.
Restrict search

The Options menu includes several features which can be toggled on or off to restrict file search according to any of the following:

  • Show all files
  • Show leading paths
  • Search in search fields (e.g. Title, Artist, Album, Year, Genre, Comment. BWF Description)
  • Search in leading paths
  • Search in metadata
  • Search in subfolders
  • Include matching subfolders (shows sub-folder names in search results)
  • Whether to Update searches only when the ENTER key is pressed
Add folder to Shortcuts list Right click on the folder name in the main panel, then choose Add to shortcut list from the menu. This folder will now be displayed in the explorer/shortcuts panel. You can select this shortcut at any time to display its contents.
Remove a shortcut Right-click on the shortcut name (in the explorer/shortcuts panel) and choose Remove selected shortcut from the menu.

4.3 Media Item Preview[edit]

The media explorer allows you to preview media items before you decide which to insert into your project. By default, an item is automatically played when you select it. You also have a number of options available which determine exactly how the preview feature will behave.

The Auto play and Start on bar options are enabled/disabled by tick boxes close to the transport bar.

On the Options menu there is an option to Auto advance to next file after preview. This will only work if the repeat function on the transport bar is set to off. Other preview toggle options include Auto-stop preview after adding media, and Display preview position in tenths of seconds.

The Transport Bar buttons (L to R) are Play, Pause, Stop and Repeat. The horizontal fader adjusts the volume of playback.

Click anywhere on the displayed waveform to play back from there. Use the mousewheel to zoom in and out of the media peaks horizontally. To adjust the height of the waveform preview, click and hold the mouse on the top edge of the preview area, then drag up or down.

You can also scroll by holding Shift while you drag the mouse left or right. You can mark any time selection by clicking and dragging over the preview display, and move a selection left or right by holding Alt while you drag the mouse.

Display of waveforms can be turned on and off in the Options menu, Always show waveform peaks for selected media.

Other playback/waveform Options include Display preview position in tenths of second and Auto stop preview after adding media.

Enabling Options, Auto advance to next file after preview will cause all files displayed in the media explorer main window to be played in sequence, provided that the repeat button on the transport bar is set off.

By clicking on the I/O button (next to Transport Bar), you can direct the Preview to any audio output. The I/O button menu also includes an option to play the previewed item through a selected track.

The Pitch rotary control adjusts the pitch of the item being previewed. Double-click to reset. The Options menu Pitch shift knob range command allows you to set its range to +/- 2, 6 or 12 semitones and to set its behavior to Continuous, Quarter tones or Semitones.

The Options menu includes two toggle options to Preserve pitch when tempo matching and Reset pitch shift when changing media.

To avoid possible clashes of tempo, you can select an option (including Tempo Match Off and Tempo Match On) from the drop down list in the preview area. There is also a toggle option to Start on Bar.

4.4 Inserting an Audio File as a New Take or Item[edit]

Selected media items can be inserted into the current project from the media explorer's main window by right-clicking over the file name and choosing from the options offered (see below). The choices are:

Insert into project (on currently selected track, at current cursor position)

Insert at time selection (stretch/loop to fit) (if a time selection is currently active)

Insert into project on a new track (at current cursor position)

Insert as take in selected item (requires an item to have been selected)

Use as media source for selected item in place of that item's existing media source

Use as media source for selected item (stretch/loop to fit) in place of item's existing media source

Preview (plays item but does not insert it).

Show in explorer (Windows)/finder (Mac)

A quick way is to double-click on the file name, or to select it and press Enter, or to drag and drop � but it isn't quite that simple! Using any of these methods will cause a default action to be automatically applied.

You can determine that default action by using the media explorer's Options, Default action (double-click or Enter key) command. This menu is shown here (below right). It might seem strange at first, because it includes options for both media files and (.RPP) project files, both of which will most likely have different needs.

Choose one of Insert media (if media item) or open project (if .RPP project), Start preview, or Do nothing.

Specify for media items whether to Insert media on selected track or insert media on new track.

Set your preference for the toggle option Enable looping when inserting selected portion of media.

Specify for project (,RPP) files whether to Open projects in current tab or Open projects in new tab.

As well as (or instead of) importing entire individual media items, the media explorer makes a number of other choices available. These are explored in the table below:

In order to do this � Do this �. Insert part of a media item into a project Select the required portion of the waveform in the preview window.Right click over the selected portion and choose one of the items from the context menu.
Insert multiple items at once. See also note below. Use Ctrl click to build your required selection in media explorer. Right-click over the selection and make your choice from the menu. Alternatively, you can drag and drop the selection into the project. Unless you have changed the default setting, you will then be prompted to select whether you want the items inserted on one track or on separate tracks.

Note: The Media screen in the Preferences window includes a setting for default behavior when inserting multiple items. These are:

  • Insert in one track (advancing time) � each is placed one after the other in the same track.
  • Insert across tracks � each item is placed in a separate track, all starting together.
  • Decide automatically � if files are of the same length (file size) they will be placed in separate tracks, otherwise they will be inserted sequentially in the same track.
  • Prompt user � you will be prompted each time to specify your preference.
  • If in doubt, set this to Prompt User. Other useful options include whether or not imported media items should be copied to the project media directory. See Chapter 22 for more details.

4.5 Creating and Using a Media Explorer Database[edit]

Within the media explorer shortcuts panel you can create your own database (or databases) to further customize how your samples and media files are organized and displayed. One benefit of this is that it lets you display together files that might be stored in different folders.

For example, you might use different folders for various types of drum samples (snare, kick, hi hat, etc.).

There might, however, be times when you would want to see the contents of these various folders listed together. To do this, you could create a database called �Drums Various� and add all of these folders to that database.

Databases are set up and managed using right-click context menus in the Shortcuts column.

In order to do this � Do this �. Create a new empty database Right-click over empty area in Shortcuts column. Choose Create new database... from menu. Type name, press Enter.
Add folder contents to database EITHER � Select database in Shortcuts column. Right-click over its name and choose Add path to database � from menu. Navigate to required folder, select it and click on OK. Repeat this to add more folders.
Add file(s) to database Select file(s) in windows explorer or media explorer's main window, then drag and drop to the database name in the shortcuts panel.
Change shortcut name of folder in database Right-click on folder name in shortcut panel, choose Rename shortcut... Does not change folder name on hard disk.
Create a new database from a folder In main media explorer window, right-click on folder, choose Make database from folder.
Remove a folder contents from database Select database in Shortcuts column. Right-click over its name and choose Remove path from database... from menu. Navigate to required folder, select it and click on OK.
Remove item(s) from database Select item(s) in media explorer window. Right-click over selection, choose Remove items from database.
Change database name Select database in Shortcuts column. Use Rename database... command on context menu. Does not erase items from disk.
Update database contents to reflect changes in folder contents Select database in Shortcuts column. From context menu use Scan database for new files to find and add new files, Remove missing files from database to remove deleted files.
Remove a database Right-click on database in Shortcuts column, choose Remove database.

Media explorer databases can be included in your export configuration settings (Options, Preferences, General): see also Chapter 22.

4.6 Replacing an Item's Source Media[edit]

You can select an item in the media explorer and use it to replace the source media in an existing item (or number of items) in the current project. This can be done from the media explorer menus or by drag and drop.

To replace source media using the menus:

  1. Select the media item (or items) in the project.
  2. In media explorer, select the required replacement item.
  3. Right-click on this item and from the menu choose either Use as media source for selected items or Use as media source for selected items (stretch/loop to fit).

To replace source media using drag and drop:

  1. Select the item in media explorer.
  2. Hold Ctrl Alt while you drag and drop to the media item whose source is to be replaced.
  3. The dialog box shown here will pop up. You can choose Insert new media item that overlaps target media item, Add source media as new take in target media item, Replace target media with source media or (if there is more than one instance of the item) Replace all x occurrences of the target media with source media.
  4. Specify your preference as to whether to Adjust target media item length to fit source media, Stretch source media to fit target media item, or Loop source media to fit target media.

Note: This method can be used to replace an existing source media item with part of another item. After selecting the replacement item in media explorer, click and drag in the waveform preview area to select the required part of that item, then follow steps 2. to 4. above.

4.7 Automation Items[edit]

Automation Items can be previewed in, and inserted into projects from, the Media Explorer. See also Chapter 18 for more information.

4.8 Importing MIDI Files[edit]

To preview a MIDI file in media explorer, first create an empty track in your project and insert a virtual instrument or synthesizer into that track's FX chain. You can then select any MIDI file in the media explorer and preview it. You can also select any part of a MIDI file to import: use the same techniques as those described earlier in this chapter. Right-click over the file name to choose one of the insert options, or just drag and drop.

You can also import MIDI files by dragging and dropping from Windows Explorer, or by using the Insert, Media file... command.

MIDI File Types

There are two main types of MIDI file, Type 0 and Type 1. REAPER recognises both. In Type 0 files, all the MIDI events and data are stored in one track, but individual channel data is retained. A single track Type 0 MIDI file can contain up to 16 channels of data on the one track. Type 1 files can contain any number of tracks, with each track containing data on one or more channels. Type 1 is more suited to larger arrangements than is Type 0. For example, you may wish to use several drum parts on a single channel, but with each on a separate track.

Importing Type 1 MIDI Files

To understand how REAPER handles imported MIDI items, let's work thru some fairly simple examples. We'll take the example of a simple Type 1 MIDI file that was created with two tracks. Track 1 contains data on Channel 1 only, and track 2 contains data for two different instruments on channels 2 and 3. There are a number of possibilities as to how we might wish to import this into our REAPER project:

We might want each track/channel combination imported on to a separate track (three tracks in all).

We might wish to keep the original structure and import the file as two tracks.

We might want all three channels of data imported on to a single track.

Let's see how we might approach this. This example assumes that you have your Media/MIDI preference for Import multichannel MIDI files set to Always prompt ...

  1. As you are importing a type 1 multitrack MIDI file into REAPER, you are asked if you wish to Expand the MIDI tracks to new REAPER tracks.
  2. If you enable this option and click on OK, you will then be presented with two further options.
  3. If you select Single-channel items on multiple tracks, a separate REAPER track will be created for each MIDI file/track combination that contains MIDI data � in this example, three (because our example MIDI file contains data on channels 1, 2 and 3). The imported file will appear similar to this (example 1):

If, however, you instead select Multichannel item on a single track, then you will get this (example 2):

This reproduces the track/channel structure of the imported MIDI file.

Let's now go back to step 1. (above). If we deselect the option to Expand the MIDI tracks to new REAPER tracks, and then select Multichannel items on a single track. In this case, we get this (example 3):

All the MIDI items are placed in their correct channels on to a single track. This gives us the opportunity if we wish to do something quite clever. You can right-click over the item and choose Item processing, Explode multichannel audio or MIDI items to new one channel items. This causes this to happen (example 4):

The originally imported MIDI item is retained but muted, and its track becomes a folder which contains the newly exploded MIDI items (one for each channel of MIDI data). Folders are explained in detail in Chapter 5: for now, just note that you could insert a virtual instrument and/or other plug-ins such as ReaControlMIDI (see Chapter13) in that folder's FX chain and use them to control and play back all of the MIDI items.

Importing Type 0 Files

This next example examines your options when importing a single track type 0 MIDI file into REAPER. Let's assume that this file contains MIDI data on, say, 3 channels.

When you import the type 0 MIDI file into your project, you are not prompted with the question about expanding MIDI tracks: the file by definition contains only one track, and so the question would be irrelevant. Instead, you are straight away asked whether you wish to place a Multichannel item on a single track or Single channel items on multiple tracks.

By way of illustration, regardless of how many channels contain MIDI data, choosing the single track option would produce an outcome similar to that shown below (example 5). As in example 4, this item can be exploded into a folder containing a separate track for each channel if you wish.

If (at the MIDI import prompt) you choose the multiple tracks option, you will get a separate track for each channel that contains MIDI data. Thus, an item containing data on three channels would produce this:

4.9 Importing Multichannel Audio Files[edit]

Multichannel audio files are imported into REAER in exactly the same way as any other item. An example of such a file (in this case six channels) is shown here.

You can split such a file into its individual channels, to produce one track per channel.

This allows for each channel to be edited independently of the others. To do this, right-click on the item and choose Item processing, xplode multichannel audio or MIDI items to new one channel items. This would produce a result such as that shown above.

4.10 Import Formats[edit]

Media files can be imported into REAPER in any of the following formats.

CD Audio (.CDA)




MIDI System Exclusive Message (.SYX)

MIDI Karaoke (.KAR)

MPEG Audio (,MP2, .MP3)

OGG Vorbis (.OGG, .MOGG)

Recycle ([email protected], .REX, .RCY)

AVI Video (.AVI)

MPEG Video (.MG, .MPEG)

WMV/WMA Video (.WMA, .WMV)

MK Video (.MKV)

LCF Capture Video (.LCF)

Quicktime (.MOV, .QT, .M4V, .MP4)

WebM (.WebM)

WAV (.WAV, .W64, .BWF)



4.11 Importing Media from Audio CD[edit]

To import material from an audio CD (such as you might play on a CD player):

  1. Insert an audio CD into your PC CD drive and wait for it to be read.
  2. Display media explorer, select My Computer in the left panel, then double-click in the main panel on the letter which represents your CD drive. The contents of the CD will be listed.
  3. To play (preview) any track from the CD, right click over that track then choose Preview from the context menu (see above). Depending on what other software is on your computer, you may also see some non-REAPER related commands below this.
  4. To insert the contents of a track into your project as a media item, right click over that track and choose one of the other commands from the menu. Each of these commands works as explained earlier.

Alternatively, you can double-click on the item to insert it into the currently selected track, or drag and drop to insert either on to an existing track or to a new one.