Beginner or Pro, recording or mixing,, music or post production there are some things we all need to be reminded of regularly otherwise we could end up with a minor disaster on our hands. Here are 5 Pro Tools basics you can't afford to ignore.
Sample Rates In Pro Tools Sessions
Each of us has our own preferred sample rate, that is unless of course you work as part of a large studio or post production facility, then sample rates will be determined either by company policy or client request. Setting aside that part of a larger workflow discussion, not checking sample rates before recording, especially if collaborating in Pro Tools, is likely to land you in hot water. Avid have made collaboration easier with the new Cloud Collaboration features in Pro Tools but you may be working with people not using Pro Tools 12.5.
The basic rule is to try not to mix sample rates and if you get elements in for a project to check sample rates before using the content supplied. There are plenty of applications out there that can convert the sample rate of an audio file, Pro Tools can also do it as you import the files, but on the whole the best thing is to make sure you know what sample rate you are working in and sticking to it. Dan Cooper found himself in the middle of a row with a long term client and a studio who said that Dan's piano was out of tune when it had been recorded, it transpired that the other studio hadn't checked the sample rate of the files they were working with.
Checking Clock Settings In Pro Tools
I've been caught out by this a number of times when using some of my external hardware and that's making sure you have a master clock and that everything is locked to it. In a small single interface studio you should not have to worry about this, but as soon as you add other digitally connected equipment then you need to make sure you everything is working in sync. Not getting this right can result in anything from no audio, clicks on recordings, distortion, audio mismatches, but to put it simply you don't want any artefacts from not setting your clock correctly.
When using an external clock source with Pro Tools, you may on occasions accidentally set the clock to a different sample rate to that of the session. In this video Paul Maunder demonstrate how you can end up with audio recorded at the incorrect sample rate and so play too fast or too slow and so at the wrong pitch. Paul demonstrates how you can resolve this problem using sample rate conversion in the Pro Tools Import Audio window.
Setting Frame Rates In Pro Tools
This section has been written by Mike Thornton and only matters if you are working to picture with a video file either in audio post production or as a composer creating music to fit the pictures. When working to picture it is critical that the settings in the session match the video file you are importing. The best thing to do is to check the video file you have been sent before importing it into Pro Tools. I usually open it in QuickTime and use the Movie Inspector or you can open it in a utility like MPEG Streamclip which is available for both Mac and Windows.
It is worth checking first and then once you have created a new session go into the Session Setup window before importing the video and set the frame rate and timecode to match the video frame rate and timecode, otherwise things are likely to go out of sync. As a rule film is set to 24 frames per second, PAL video to 25 frames per second but NTSC gets a little more tricky, especially if the video editor has used drop frame, so instead of 30 frames per second you will need to use 29.97 frames per second. One trick to be aware of is if you are sent HD video files at a higher frame rate than 30 fps then set Pro Tools in the Session Setup window to half the frame rate so if the video you are sent is 59.94 fps, then set Pro Tools to 29.97 fps.
Pro Tools Editor Mike also ask for burnt-in timecode which means the video file has the timecode displayed on the video. Once he has imported the video he puts the cursor very close to the end and make sure that the burnt-in timecode matches the cursor position on the appropriate timecode ruler. This is a useful safety check but video editors tend to resist creating a reference video file with burnt-in timecode as it takes extra time to render it out, but it does give that last level of security.
Pro Tools Session Storage Locations
If you don't take care of where you store your Pro Tools session data then you may find yourself losing some or all of your hard work. It's normally best to use a separate hard drive dedicated to storing your Pro Tools sessions, and with storage cheaper than ever you can get a suitable drive for less than $100 to store a lot of data. We recently received a call for help on the Pro Tools podcast from a community member who had kept a session in a folder on his Desktop, he deleted the folder and emptied the trash in error, when he came to open the Pro Tools session everything was gone and nothing could bring it back unless...
Backing Up Your Pro Tools Data
Your Pro Tools session and other associated data is one of the most precious things in your studio, some of us have learned the hard way what happens if you don't back it up.
There are several ways to back up your Pro Tools sessions but as a rule of thumb you should have at least one local copy and one offsite copy, yes that's three copies of your data. Why an offsite copy? Simple; fire, flood or theft are always ways to lose your data and if you think it won't happen to you then you are not being smart. Both cloud storage and hard drives are cheaper than ever and if you care about your Pro Tools sessions then make sure you keep them backed up.