Q It Up: What are the top tricks or techniques you use in Pro Tools?


Not a ton of responses to this month’s targeted question, but some good ones anyway! Thanks, guys!

Q It Up: This question is for Pro Tools users exclusively: What are the top tricks or techniques you use in Pro Tools — the secret techniques or shortcuts you employ that others might have never heard about? The stuff that isn’t in the manual or is only deep in the manual, or things you only read about deep in forums. These are also the tricks and tips that now you can’t imagine ever living without.

Steve Cunningham [steve[at]audiotech support.com]: Got two for ya:

1. Aux before VO: When recording VO, always create an Aux Track and buss it to the VO Audio Track. The mic signal goes into the Aux, then via the buss to the Audio Track for recording. This allows you to insert a compressor or limiter into the signal path using an Insert on the Aux, and also gives you a software level control you won’t otherwise have, between the Pro Tools audio interface and the hard disk.

2. Fat meters: Press and hold the three modifier keys on the keyboard (Command-Option-Control on the Mac, Alt-Control-Windows on the PC). With the keys down, click on a meter either in the Mixer Window or in the Edit Window. The meter (or meters) will double in width, making them much easier to see. I don’t think this one is actually documented anywhere in the Digi manuals, but it works.

Vaughan Jones [Vaughanj[at]scoast radio.com.au]: I like to create a variety of cool templates and rotate them through my work load so that I don’t find myself falling into lazy habits. When I am building my own Imagery Sounds, I often use Maxx Bass creatively to generate some great low frequency sounds and “hide them” in the mix.

Stephen Haylan [voice[at]haylan studios.com], Haylan Studios: Wait! I do have some tips for Pro Tools. As follows: “read Radio and Production Magazine!”

Ryan Drean [ryandrean[at]gmail.com], www.RyanOnTheRadio.com, KSCS, Dallas, Texas: I am more interested in reading the responses because I feel like I know very few really cool tricks with Pro-tools then other DAW’s I use. However, it would feel like cheating if I didn’t send something in.

Here is one trick I tried recently which may speed up the process of loading files into the session. If you have audio files on a flash drive, Pro Tools prohibits them from opening from that location. They first have to be copied to the HD then “inserted” into the session... then you place them where you want. Instead you can open an Explorer window of the portable drive and simply drag the files to the session, wherever you want them to be. It takes a second to convert but you don’t have to do anything else. It seems to cut out a couple steps, and when loading a bunch of files from a drive like this it saves a bunch of time.

Another, which may be common knowledge to most... If you click the cursor somewhere on a track then go to a block and right click it, it will fly to the spot you placed the cursor. I am sort of guessing this is not a function of 7.3 and later what with the right click menu’s finally being introduced, but it worked in 7.1.

Ian Fish [Ian.Fish[at]thisisglobal.com]: My top tip for Pro Tools is to buy an X-Keys USB keyboard... It’s a fully programmable hot key system, so you can make light work of those long winded “shortcuts”. Instead of CTRL+ALT+ELBOW+3 to do a bounce to disk or something, it’s a one button press... lovely. The downside is, I can never remember any of the keyboard shortcuts if I go anywhere without my X-Keys USB device!

My other tip is to have a jug of coffee and some donuts nearby, so you can fill the time while Pro Tools bounces in real time... grrrhhh. Fine on a :30 promo, but it gets very tedious on a 3 minute song or feature edit! If anybody from Digidesign reads this,.. please make it possible to do faster than real time bounces!!

Jeff Berlin [rapmag[at]jberlin.com] www.jberlin.com: Ever have to send out multiple versions of the same spot? “Starts Friday/Tomorrow/Today.” My top Pro Tools trick is a timesaver that gets around the inability to bounce faster than real time. Instead of bouncing, record to a new track. Export. Then destructively punch in only the parts that need changing.

Set all your outputs to a single bus by hitting “option” when toggling the output, and record off that bus. When you’ve recorded it in, export your “bounce” by hitting command-shift-”k” (exports as fast your CPU can handle… way faster than real time.) When it’s exported, go back and DESTRUCTIVELY record over only the parts that need changing. Start recording just before the “change”, and stop recording right after. Rename the file, and export again. Do this until all your versions are ready to go. You can potentially get 10 versions of a spot out in the time it takes to play it twice.

Couple of notes: this works because there’s no glitch when you punch in and out -- even destructively. I’ve listened carefully, and have used this trick on at least 10 different Pro Tools rigs, both TDM & LE -- no glitches, pops, or anything. Sweet.

On newer versions of Pro Tools, you can set the audio track you’re recording onto to pass “Input” so you can monitor the session while all the busses are feeding that track. Otherwise, you might want to create an auxiliary track just for monitoring that bus.

If you’re using any latency inducing plug-ins on a Master Bus (like Waves Multimaximizer), you’ll have to “pre roll” a second or more before you punch in, otherwise you’ll have a gap in the audio.

I remember reading here that “faster than real time bouncing” was a major wish. This is a workaround that can save you a lot of time if you’re doing assembly line style production work.

Feel free to contact me if anything here needs clarification, I’m always happy to talk Production tricks. Happy Bouncing !


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