by Steve Cunningham
I’ve set up a number of Pro Tools rigs for voice actors here in L.A. over the past few months. Pro Tools is the undisputed DAW of choice in L.A., and perhaps on the entire West Coast, especially since Digidesign lowered the price of entry to under $300 on the street. Actors here have been buying these little Mbox Mini interfaces to do auditions and (occasionally) entire jobs from home. The beauty of these rigs is that they work on almost any PC or Mac, and include all the basic tools you could need to provide your agent with a clean, pro-sounding audition.
However, some actors really get into the process and into production, and want to expand their Pro Tools rig with some additional capabilities. Digidesign offers an expansion package for Pro Tools LE that adds good value to your rig. The Music Production Toolkit provides several strong plug-ins, breaks the 32-active-track barrier by providing up to 48 mono or stereo tracks, and is a good value for those diving into radio production at home.
MUSIC PRODUCTION FOR NON-MUSICIANS
The Music Production Toolkit works with both Pro Tools LE and Pro Tools M-powered (the version that works with M-Audio interfaces). However, you’ll need to upgrade your system to at least version 7.1 to use it, and it requires an iLok USB dongle for authorization. Music Production Toolkit consists of a retro compressor, a convolution reverb, 16 additional tracks per session, a noise reduction plug, a tool for replacing drum sounds, and a software synthesizer. We’ll focus on the first four — that’s where the value is for production.
Smack! LE is Digidesign’s flagship compressor for native systems, and they refer to it as “fool-proof.” Its styling is retro, and its attitude is also retro, although it offers a wider set of controls than you’d get on an old Fairchild or LA2A. There’s no threshold control here — perhaps that’s part of the fool-proof business — you simply mess around with the input level and ratio until you get the amount of gain reduction you want. You’ll see the virtual gain reduction on a large virtual VU, which can also be switched to display input and output levels. When fooling with the input and output levels, you can monitor both on LED peak ladder meters on either side of the VU.