Pro Tools Fundamentals - Command Focus

Those mysterious little “a-z” squares sprinkled around the edit window don’t really announce themselves particularly loudly but getting to know them is one of the biggest leaps in workflow you can make. I’m sure many people started to incorporate the odd shortcut right from the beginning when they started to use Pro Tools. I wrote a piece offering five shortcuts to speed up session navigation some time ago and if you aren’t yet incorporating shortcuts in to your use of Pro Tools they are a good place to start.

What is Command Focus?

As well as the conventional keyboard shortcuts, which usually involve at least one modifier key in combination with another (for example on the Mac Command+= or Control+= on Windows to toggle the mix/edit windows or Command+E to separate clip at selection) there is another set of single keystroke shortcuts available some of which are duplicates of existing “plus modifier” shortcuts but many of which have no equivalent anywhere else. If you feel you need to speed up your workflow then learning some command focus shortcuts is an excellent place to start.

Command Focus in the Mix Window

In the Mix window command focus can be used to toggle mix groups on and off by using their id letter. This is a really useful feature and has an extremely shallow learning curve. If you don’t use command focus for anything else try it for this, its so easy.

Command Focus in the Edit Window

In the edit window there are three areas to which you can focus the commands (hence “command focus” - it took me years to realise that’s what they meant when they named it). They are the edit groups list, the clips list and the main tracks display. Each of these areas can have focus, as indicated by the “a z” focus in the corner of each area. Yellow is focussed. In the mix window the groups command focus can be toggled on and off using the mouse, I’m not aware of any shortcut to toggle this but in the edit window the three possible options for command focus can be toggled using the following shortcuts:

  • Command focus the tracks display - CMD+Option+1/Ctrl+Alt+1
  • Command focus the clips list - CMD+Option+2/Ctrl+Alt+2
  • Command focus the groups list - CMD+Option+3/Ctrl+Alt+3

Using Command Focus

While use of command focus for editing in the tracks display is the area which gets the most attention, and definitely is the most interesting, I’d recommend starting with command focus in the group and clip lists as there is almost no learning curve. In the groups list command focus toggles groups by id letter and in the clips list the list selects clips beginning with the letter typed. I would suggest that the most important command focus shortcuts are the three given above which toggle the command focus between the three areas of the edit window and committing these to memory will encourage you to use command focus in all areas rather than just leaving it in the tracks display all the time.

There are far too many command focus shortcuts to cover in detail here but if you want to learn them I really recommend buying a dedicated Pro Tools keyboard such as those made by Editors Keys. If you want a more detailed overview of the shortcuts themselves take a look at Mike’s article on command focus.

If you’ve never tried them before, display the edit window of a session, hit Command+Option+1 on a Mac or Ctrl+Alt+1 on Windows, and try these:

Top 5 Examples

  1. Separate clip at selection - B
  2. Zoom Out  - R  Zoom In - T
  3. Move edit selection up - P  Move edit selection down - ;
  4. Track View Toggle - - (minus key)
  5. Timeline insertion follows playback - N

There are many I could have included instead, actually it could easily have been a top 20 but I’m sure you can find more just by pressing all the keys! An excellent aid to learning them is just to look at a high res image of a Pro Tools keyboard. While you are there you could consider buying one, they are well worth it.

Waves Weekend Deals

Waves Special Offers For This Weekend

3 more great plug-ins at great prices from our friends at Waves, but hurry these will finish on Sunday.

  1. Waves CLA Bass Native Plug-in $39 - normally $100
  2. Waves W43 Noise Reduction plug-in $49 till Sunday - normally $200
  3. Waves Edddie Kramer Tape, Tubes & Transistors $149 till Sunday - normally $400

Grab them while you can.

Waves Special Offers For September

Here are some highlights from the new special offers Waves are offering in September…

  1. Waves Masters Bundle $249 - normally $700
  2. Waves Platinum Bundle $749 - normally $1600
  3. Waves Native Power Pack $149 - normally $300

Check out the Specials page too for more great deals.

Metric Halo Release Version Of Their Production Bundle With A New Plug-in Too

Metric Halo have released Version 2 of their Production Bundle with a number of new features including:

  • New Plug-in: MH Dirty Delay - just $75 on its own
  • VST versions of all plug-ins for both Mac OS and Windows
  • Band Linking in the Multiband Plug-ins
  • UI Resizability in all plug-ins
  • Universal Preset Manager for all plug-ins
  • Enhancements to the signal processing algorithms in TransientControl and Character
  • UI Improvements for all plug-ins
  • Bug fixes and code optimizations
  • Enabled host-based authorizations - iLok dongle no longer required

New Plug-In - Metric Halo Dirty Delay

Metric Halo describe MH Dirty Delay as….

A visceral, gritty and flexible feedback delay processor with integrated Character and Filters in the delay path and you can create awesome vintage echo and tape-delay sounds as well as lush and subtle spaces in a mix.

Update Pricing

If you already own a Production Bundle license, this update is free; just download the new installer (which includes Dirty Delay, and the new VST versions) - your existing license will enable you to use the updated and added plug-ins. You can be up and running in no time!

If you own an individual license of a specific plug-in, the update for that plug-in is free. If you want to upgrade to the full Production Bundle, you can email Metric Halo to receive a special discount upgrade coupon for $50 off for each individual license you already own but remember to include your iLok ID in the email to verify eligibility.

Special Introductory Price Foe New Owners

MH Production Bundle contains 8 plug-ins (ChannelStrip, Character, TransientControl, Multiband Expander, Multiband Dynamics, HaloVerb, Precision DeEsser and Dirty Delay) that all run as Native and DSP plug-ins (except for the MH Dirty Delay which is not available as an AAX DSP version) on AU, AAX and VST for both Mac and Windows with one license for all platforms. It supports both 32-bit and 64-bit hosts. 

For a limited time, new licenses of Production Bundle are available at the introductory price of only $299!  Or, you can purchase any of the individual plug-ins for the introductory price of only $75!

Using Waves LoAir In Audio Post Production

In the third and final video in a series of three videos looking at ways to use the Waves MaxxBass, Renaissance Bass and Lo Air plug-ins in audio post production, Mike Thornton shares how to get the best out of the Waves LoAir plug-in.

Click here to watch this free video tutorial

Cleaning Up A Guitar In Pro Tools Using iZotope RX4 - Free Video Tutorial

In this free iZotope video tutorial, Russ shows how easy it is to clean up extraneous noises on an otherwise great guitar part using iZotope RX4.

He also demonstrates the new RX Connect plug-in allowing you to play the audio from iZotope RX4 back through your DAW.

Watch this free video tutorial here

Xfer Records Announce Serum A New Wavetable Synthesizer

Our friends at Xfer Records have announced Serum, a new Wavetable Synth with a host of extra features. Serum is available for Mac OS X and Windows in VST, AU and AAX plug-in formats.

Xfer say:

“The dream synthesizer did not seem to exist: a wavetable synthesizer with low aliasing / high-quality sound, visual and creative workflow-oriented interface, the ability to create / import / edit / morph wavetables, and manipulate these tables further in real-time.”

Wavetable Editor With FFT, Formulas, Draw

A full-blown utility inside the plugin - Serum has a comprehensive wavetable editor built right in, and you can create your own wavetables in a variety of ways. Import audio directly from audio files - Serum has a variety of methods and options for importing + analyzing audio (WAV or AIFF) for breaking it apart into individual waveforms:

  • You can import single-cycle wavetables of course, as well as many at once (with in-built sorting options, or manual re-ordering).
  • Morph between various wavetables using standard linear interpolation (crossfading) or via harmonic/spectral morphing.
  • Draw directly on the waveform, with optional grid-size snapping and a variety of shape tools.
  • Generate or modify waveforms using FFT (additive).
  • Create or process waveforms using formula functions.
  • Processing menu options allow you to do the other tasks you would want, such as apply fades, crossfades, normalize, export, and much more.

Click to read more ...

Blue Cat Audio Release Their Plug'n Scripting Plug-In

Blue Cat Audio have unveiled the Blue Cat’s Plug’n Script, a scripting plug-in that can be programmed to build custom audio and MIDI effects or virtual instruments quickly without quitting your favourite DAW software.

With this plug-in, you can write your own processors or instruments, with very little knowledge about programming: it brings an entire development environment into your favourite DAW. It also includes 46 scripts and 120 factory presets for non programmers to use it as a multi effects processor. Read more about it on the Blue Cat’s Plug’n Script page!

25% Off Until 25th October

A special introduction offer with 25% off is available until October 15th. Existing Blue Cat customers should check your email for special offers for existing Blue Cat Audio customers only.

What Is The Plug’In Scripting Plug-in?

Blue Cat’s Plug’n Script can also be used as a regular processor with existing scripts or to get someone else write this very particular effect you have been searching for years and cannot find anywhere.

It is also possible for audio software companies to use this plug-in to quickly prototype algorithms and reduce the time required to develop audio products: writing and testing scripts is lightning fast!

Blue Cat Audio have had this tool in their labs for several years and has been used to prototype lots of their existing plug-ins. It uses the high performance AngelScript scripting engine, originally developed for video games, with a JIT compiler that helps compiling scripts into machine code for optimal performance.

The plug-in includes dozens of audio and MIDI processing scripts as well as several virtual instruments and utilities to enhance your workflow. They can be used as is, or as examples to get started to write your own scripts.

To build complex effects chains using multiple scripts, you might be interested in Blue Cat’s PatchWork, which can host multiple instances of this plug-in in series or parallel. While writing scripts, you might also want to use their analysis tools to check their effect on the signal.

OS X Automator With Ableton Live Event At The Apple Store, Covent Garden In London On 25th September

Ableton Live Expert, one of the Production Expert family of sites, will be at the Apple Store in Covent Garden, London, at 6.30 on Thursday 25th September, where you can see Martin Delaney from Ableton Live Expert demonstrate how you can use the Automator application, included on every Mac, to streamline your fiddly studio setups to single-click operations.

Although Martin will be largely demonstrating Automator tasks for Ableton Live you can use the Automator app to handle all kinds of repetive tasks for any application.

Martin will also demonstrate the Automator project that he built for Ninja Tune to simplify content creation for their Ninja Jamm app, and the timed sample collection project that he demonstrated on Ableton Live Expert recently.

This is a free event, but you do have to book, so go to Apple’s Covent Garden Store website and follow the link for Upcoming Store Events and Workshops.

How To Audition Pro Tools Plug-in Presets Without Using Your Mouse

It is possible to audition Pro Tools plug-in presets without using your mouse, simply by using the up and down keys on your computer keyboard and with a modifier key you can jump between preset folders.

This is particularly useful when auditioning synth sounds when playing, but it can be used for any kind of Pro Tools plug-ins, here’s how.

Open The Plug-In Settings Dialog

The plug-in dialog window is a handy feature in that displays in grid form all your saved presets and any shipped with the plug-in. If those presets are in folders then you can also navigate through those too. To open it use the button that looks like two rectangles on top of one another, see red legend above.

To Navigate The Plug-In Settings Dialog With Your Computer Keyboard

You can navigate around this folder using the up, down, left and right arrows on your computer keyboard.

To navigate to a new folder press the CMD key on a Mac or Windows key on a PC and then the up or down arrow key.

That’s it, it’s great when using virtual instruments.

Using DB33 On Guitar And Bass In Pro Tools

In this video tutorial Russ shows how you can add character to both guitar and bass using the free AIR DB33 as an effects plug-in in Pro Tools.

In demonstrates the value of using it as a send rather than an insert on the channel so that the sounds can be blended together, this gives an even greater tone palette to work with.

This video shows it working on electric guitar and bass guitar.

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