I’ve been looking at different MIDI control surfaces for awhile now. I use Ableton Live, and had been eyeing off the LV2 from Faderfox rather lustfully, however it’s priced way outside my range, even second-hand on ebay. After much research I came across the BCF2000 by Behringer. For my purposes, this was plenty good enough, and the motorised faders were an added bonus, so the other day I finally picked one up.
Incidentally, if you’re looking for one of these and you are in Australia, DJ Warehouse in Sydney has them at the best price I was able to find anywhere, by a big margin. Even cheaper than second hand. Worth checking out.
Anyway, it was fairly easy to set up, and using Live’s MIDI Learn functionality, I was up and rolling very quickly. However, here’s where the first downside appeared. The BCF has soooo many knobs, buttons and sliders that mapping them all to Live functions was more than I could face. I scouted around to see if someone else had already done it, unfortunately, not that I could find. Also, even if I had mapped them, as soon as I created a new track, I’d have to stop and map it down to the controller, it can’t just notice there’s a new track and map it across automatically. Live 6 has some new cool auto-magical mapping function, but I’m in Live 5.
Some of the gloss had come off my new acquisition.
However, I came across a few posts on the Ableton forums that gave me some hope. Live can handle Mackie control surfaces, and further, do all the auto-magical-mapping stuff I wanted, even in Live 5. Further, the BCF2000 has a Mackie emulation mode, so in theory I should be able to bypass the MIDI Learn piece altogether. After a couple of hours of digging, I pieced together all the dependencies and it works beautifully. Note, I can’t claim credit for any of these discoveries, all I’m doing is pulling half a dozen different posts together into one place in the hopes that it’ll save someone else some time. Also, I’m running all this on Windows XP, so Mac users will find no joy here (it probably works fine on Macs out of the box, doesn’t everything?)
The crux of the solution is we need to make the BCF2000 behave as a Mackie Control Surface. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Windows XP SP2 – some of the drivers below depend on this, so if you haven’t upgraded already, do it now. Otherwise Windows will Bluescreen everytime you turn on the BCF in Mackie mode.
- Download the latest USB driver from the Behringer site. At the time of writing, this is titled USB MIDI DRIVER (V188.8.131.52) for BCF2000 & BCR2000, but check to see if they’ve released a newer one.
- Download the firmware update from the same page, currently titled BCF2000 Version 1.10 (70 KB)
- Download the firmware update utility, also from the same page, cunningly titled Firmware update utility.
Install them in the same order. ie. XP SP2, then the new USB driver, then the firmware update.
Then you can start the BCF2000 in Mackie Emulation mode, by holding down the second button from the left on the top most row of buttons (look at the picture if that doesn’t make sense). While holding that button down, turn on the BCF, then once you see MC C in the LCD screen, you can let go. It’ll remember the last mode it was set to, so next time you turn it on you don’t have to hold the button down again, it’ll automatically go into Mackie mode.
Lastly, we have to configure Live to treat the BCF as a Mackie device. Open the Preferences dialog in Live and select the MIDI/Sync tab. Note that I do not have the BCF set as a Remote in either the Input or the Output sections. Instead, down the bottom in the Remote Control Surfaces section, I’ve selected MackieControl as the Control Surface, BCF2000  as the Input and the same as the Output.
At this point, without doing any MIDI Learning, you should be able to create a new set in Live, and automatically use the leftmost fader on the BCF to control the first Audio Track’s fader in Live, and equally, changing it in Live should move the Fader on the BCF. Same goes for the Pan control. Insert a new Audio track, and without having to do anything, the corresponding BCF Fader will be mapped. Magic!
The only thing left to discover is what everything is mapped to. Well, another forum member has come to the rescue here, creating the following diagram in the same style as the BCF manuals, but showing the mappings to Live. Note the colour code, based on which if any of the Shift buttons (up under the LCD screen) you have held down at the time.
As I said earlier, I cannot claim credit for figuring this out, I just pulled it together from various posts on the Ableton forum. The real credit goes to the members there, especially djsynchro and by-pass, who’s names kept popping up in the most useful threads.
Now, where did I put my labelmaker?