Welcome to Pro Tools Expert a huge community for users of Avid Pro Tools for both music and post production. With over 3 million visits a year, we’ve grown to be the place to come for training, resources, tips tricks and news. We offer advice for users of all versions of Pro Tools both current and legacy formats. We’re independent and are not affiliated with Avid or their associated companies.
Entries in Pro Tools (385)
In putting together the article on how to do a clean install for Macs, following Neil’s article for Windows 7 & 8 users. I was reminded that there was a new Pro Tools Prefs helper application. Peter Gates from Free Range Audio here in the UK has taken up the baton left by Jean Charles Deshaies and produced PT Prefs. The latest version now includes the feature we had in Jean Charles’ version which enables you to back up and restore preferred settings.
Pro Tools Prefs Helper v1.2 New Features
- Update V1.2 can now backup and restore. It creates a mirror folder structure in PT Prefs folder in Documents. This makes it easy for users to zip this folder structure to keep multiple backups.
- Separated Version 11 onwards prefs/AAE from pre Version 11. Handy for co-installs.
- Confirmation for trashing/restoring items
- Added another file to AAE prefs trash/backup/restore
- Added the com.avid.plist file
- Added nice little icon!
- Minor fixes
- Separated the trashing and backup/restore sections in preparation for extra backup/restore options. Fixed false confirmation on unsuccessful backup
You can see that this covers all the different location for both Pro Tools 10 & 11 for Preferences related files and includes the Apple AudioMIDIsetup and MIDI files.
But unlike Trasher 11 for Windows users, Pro Tools Prefs doesn’t include files and folders like the Plug-ins and Plug-ins Settings folders that I referred to in my Clean Install For Mac article so you will still need to do those manually.
Any problems/queries/suggestions, do let us know here or on the special thread on the DUC.
Neil provided a very comprehensive feature recently for How To Perform A “Clean” Uninstall Of Pro Tools 11 On Windows 7 And 8 and in the comments where were questions of how to do this for a Mac, so here are some guidelines.
You Need To Archive Files Manually
There is no Trasher 10 option to undertake the archive process in the Mac world so you need to do this manually. I have covered how to do this is detail in my Pro Tools Toolkit For Mac series in Groove 3. One of the videos covers this in detail.
However the file locations vary depending whether you have Pro Tools 10 or 11. My video covers Pro Tools 10 but some of the files and folders are in different locations for Pro Tools 11.
Have you ever sat in a session with a Pro Tools engineer going through a piece of audio meticulously to make changes? This may be to the timing, tuning, de-breathing, or trying to change the audio becuase the Eq was recorded wrong and they now need to go through and notch their way through the performance.
Sometimes it is necessary, so here is the case for and against.
Find out from Avid more of what went into the sound production for Gravity that meant it cleaned up both sound related Oscars. Director Alfonso Cuarón wanted to leverage sound and picture to create an immersive experience for moviegoers. In this exclusive interview, the Gravity audio post team explain how using Avid workflows they were able to transport the audience to a heightened reality.
OK after Part 1 of 10 Things You Should Do Before Sending Your Mix To A Mastering Engineer your mixes are definitely ready, now in part 2.
I’ll discuss 5 final things to do that will make for a smooth mastering process with no last minute screw ups and enable you to get the best results and therefore value for your mastering money.
10 Things You Should Do Before Sending Your Mix To A Mastering Engineer 6 - Check
Double check all bounced tracks are OK before delivering to the Mastering Engineer. Seems obvious right? You would be surprised how easy it is to forget to unmute that percussion you just muted to check something or to do a faster than real time bounce on your DAW software and not realise something went wrong and you’ve got digital distortions. It’s that simple a mistake to make and could be costly.
10 Things You Should Do Before Sending Your Mix To A Mastering Engineer 7 - Compression
If you’ve used a mix bus compressor consider sending a version without it as well as one with. This really is about your level of experience. A lot of experienced Mix Engineers have a buss compressor on the mix bus from the start and mix into it, it becomes part of the sound Andy Wallace, Cenzo Townsend, CLA, being prime examples and of course they would just deliver the finished mix with it included as it’s an integral part of their sound. Less experienced mixers though should beware, they often add a buss compressor plug in as an afterthought or have it working far too hard, the Mastering Engineer may also simply have better quality compressors that may sound better, so play it safe, if in doubt send with and without versions. It may well be “with” is best and you’ve nailed it, but better safe than sorry.
10 Things You Should Do Before Sending Your Mix To A Mastering Engineer 8 - Less Excitement
Also be wary of “Warmerizers/Exciters” if you have used a soft saturation type plug in on your mix bus such as PSP Vintage Warmer, Sonnox Inflator, Slate VTM etc, just double check that you haven’t overdone them. A lot of these effectively soft limit your tracks and whilst not as obvious as hard Peak Limiters can cause similar issues at Mastering. A B with and without and make sure you have made the right choice. If in doubt back off the settings a little. I use these Plug Ins myself and they are awesome in getting some of that virtual analogue warmth, but I tend to always be very careful when deploying them on mix busses. If still in doubt bounce one mix with and one without.
10 Things You Should Do Before Sending Your Mix To A Mastering Engineer 9 - No Limits
If you have used a peak Limiter on your mix buss please remove it and re bounce making sure that now the Limiter has been removed there is no digital clipping. If the track has been smashed by a limiter there is very little dynamic range left and this makes it very hard to bring out sounds with the Mastering EQ or add further Mastering dynamic processing. Limiting should always be the last stage of Mastering before dithering down to 16bit.
10 Things You Should Do Before Sending Your Mix To A Mastering Engineer 10 - Sample Rates
Export the finished mixes at whatever sample rate and bit depth your “parent” session was i.e. if your session is 24 bit 44.1Khz send your mix file at that, if it was done at 32bit 96Khz bounce the mix in that format. Too often people are careless at this point and send 16 bit versions or may have unintentionally done an unnecessary sample rate conversion process that can affect the quality. Any Mastering Engineer can easily convert all files to the destination format at the highest quality so just don’t worry or think you need to do it yourself.
A Final note. If you’re on a label but you’re sending the files to the Mastering Engineer make sure you get your ISRC codes from the label too and send them to the Mastering Engineer along with 100% accurate final song names, artist name and, project title. If you want adding sequential numbers as the first part of each of the song name e.g. 01 before what will be track 1, 02, 03, etc would be super awesome!
ISRCs are usually only for large scale commercial releases and are supplied by your record label you can read about those here http://www.ifpi.org.
Neil Pickles is an award winning mastering engineer and Pro Tools Certified Expert instructor at Alchemea College.
Alchemea are currently offering 30% discount off their weekend recording, mixing and mastering courses for people who mention PTE when booking (offer ends midnight April 30th).
We asked Neil Pickles, Mastering Engineer and Director of Short Courses at our training partner’s Alchemea, to give some advice for those thinking of sending their mixes to a mastering engineer. His advice is comprehensive so it is in two parts so you have chance to grab a second coffee!
In part 1 I’m going to talk about 5 things that can be useful in checking your mixes to make sure that they are good enough to send for mastering. A good mix equals a good master; a bad mix cannot be made great with the best Mastering Engineer in the world, so it all should start with the mix.
In Part 2 I’ll discuss 5 final recommendations once you’re confident you have the mixes ready to go, that will make for a smooth mastering process with no last minute screw ups and get the best results and therefore value for your mastering money.
The following are 5 simple recommendations based on my experiences and anecdotal discussions with other Mastering Engineers. That can help you decide that your tracks are ready to go to mastering.
10 Things You Should Do Before Sending Your Mix To A Mastering Engineer 1 - Quality
Stop worrying about volume and worry about the quality of your mix instead. It’s my personal experience that a well arranged song, with a good mix in terms of balance and EQ, can be made as loud as any other regardless of whether it comes to me at .1dB or -8dBfs from 0dBfs. In fact a mix that has clearly had a lot of unintentional internal clipping in a fight to make it seem as loud as a master at the mixing point often doesn’t scrub up so well.
Focus on a good mix and a good song arrangement, not some imaginary battle with volume. If it doesn’t sound as loud as a mastered track don’t worry they’ve been pumped up in volume, just turn up your volume knob, focus on the quality of your song, it’s arrangement, your choice of sounds/instruments and your mix.
10 Things You Should Do Before Sending Your Mix To A Mastering Engineer 2 - Check
Check your balance. Balance is the relative volume differences between the different instruments. A good balance is fundamental to a good mix and a good mix equals a good master! A bass guitar that is 6dB too loud and drowning out the bass drum cannot be fixed in Mastering as well as, if at all, as simply correcting it at the mix does. Always listen to your mixes on as many different systems as possible and at a variety of volumes. If you suspect your snare or vocal is too loud or too quiet check it out at the lowest possible volume. Did you know that our hearing sensitivity changes at different volumes and if the snare sticks way out at low volumes it’s too loud? (If you want to know more about this read up on the Fletcher-Munson Curves).
There’s something special about using hardware, it can take an average virtual instrument and make it sound great. Russ shows you who to get the routing done and then how to get the track recorded in Pro Tools.
There’s a lot of plug-ins on my Pro Tools rig but the reality is there are some that I reach for time and time again when mixing. I feel sure you will have a completely different list, but I would be interested to see if there are any on my list you use and any you think I really do need to check out.
Take the poll at the end to tell us which ones you use and leave comments with some tips.
The Plug-ins I Reach For When Mixing In Pro Tools - Maag EQ4
Our People’s Choice winner in 2013. This is such a fantastic EQ, it sounds amazing on vocals and guitar, in fact it sounds amazing on almost everything. Best of all it’s so easy to get a great sound with the Maag EQ4, some plug-ins fight you, this one is my best friend. Check out our review of it here
The Plug-ins I Reach For When Mixing In Pro Tools - UAD DBX160
In the absence of owning the real thing, the UAD dbx160 is such a great compressor/limiter, again it’s easy to use and sounds great. You’ll find this on most of my tracks, it loves bass guitar, vocals and electric guitar. It so damned fun to use too and that has to count for something.
The Plug-ins I Reach For When Mixing In Pro Tools - Softube TSAR Verb
A favourite of both me and James Ivey, while many people love to use Convolution this Algorithmic reverb is sweet and versatile - it’s sitting on a buss somewhere in every mix I do.
Our friends at Absolute Music have produced this video showing an install of a Pro Tools HD system using the Magma Roben.
The video features their product specialist Tom Osborne who talks you through their latest Pro Tools HD build.
Using the Magma Roben-3TS-R PCIe to Thunderbolt chassis, a Mac Mini server as the main CPU and the Sonnet RackMac Mini. This means that everything is easily rack mountable. The set-up is all running from an APC UPS.
Real World Studios in the UK have a job for an Assistant Engineer. They write…
A rare opportunity has arisen to join the Studio team at Real World Studios as an Assistant Engineer, with the possibility of solo engineering opportunities for the person with the rights skills and experience.
Friend of the blog and Pro Tools guru Kenny Gioia has released a new Groove 3 title, Pro Tools Signal Flow Explained.
There’s no short measures with this video series with over 48 video tutials covering every aspect of signal flow in Pro Tools. In the words of Groove 3;
Kenny starts with the basics of signal flow using diagrams and pictures so you can easily understand the concepts. Next, Kenny reveals the sometimes puzzling I/O Set Up Window and explains each section in detail as well as how to route, name and organize your inputs, outputs, busses, inserts and more.
Track Types is next on the menu and Kenny serves up complete understanding of all the different track types and their uses. Setting up to record is then looked at so you’ll know exactly how to name tracks, prepare inputs, enable tracks to record, setting the right level to avoid clipping and overloads, all the different record modes and how / when to use them, as well as the different monitoring modes.
Kenny now goes deeper showing you all things MIDI, such as MIDI Setup, Input Devices and MIDI Thru, MIDI input Filters, Wait For Note Recording, Click Tracks, MIDI Merge, Real-Time Properties for non-destructive editing, Input Quantize, using Multiple MIDI Tracks, Punching MIDI, and Loop Recording MIDI.
If that wasn’t enough, Kenny goes even further with awesome videos on Mixing techniques utilizing Hardware Inputs, FX Sends & Returns (both Hardware & Software), FX Sharing, Parallel Compression, Master Faders, Submixing, Headphone Mixes and much, much more. Kenny wraps up this detailed series with advanced Insert & Sends videos, Pre and Post Headphone Mixes, Printing Stems and Sidechain Compression techniques.
If you really want to master the ins and outs of Pro Tools, there is no better way than to watch this series… Get “Pro Tools Signal Flow Explained” today.
Source: Groove 3
Another excellent video from our partners at Lynda. Skye Lewin explains nondestructive editing in Pro Tools.
Pro Tools offers a number of different ways to add effects, one could say plug-ins but sometimes the term plug-in is not entirely accurate. Depending on the way the plug-ins or process is applied in can affect the results and also effect the load on you computer and your Pro Tools session.
Using Plug-ins As Channel Inserts
Perhaps the most common way people use audio processing in Pro Tools is as plug-ins as inserts, this means the plug-in is applied to the channel the audio is playing through. A number of things to note when using plug-ins on an individual channel;
- Plug-ins work live and make no changes to the audio file that passes through them.
- Each plug-in used takes up processing power, either DSP power on a Pro Tools HD system or the computer’s processing (native power) on a native Pro Tools system.
- Some third party plug-ins such as UAD use their own processing either on a PCI card or attached via FireWire or Thunderbolt. Each plug-in you insert will use up that power.
- Plug-ins work in serial, meaning that the audio cascades though each plug-in and is processed. This means for example that if you add a compressor in the first insert and an EQ in the second insert then the EQ is processing the signal as it has passed through the compressor.
- Inserts are pre fader on audio, aux, and instrument tracks, but post fader on a Master track.
- Inserts applied to tracks are not recorded as part of the audio. If you want to record audio with effects then you need to buss the audio out to another audio track and record it with effects applied.
- Virtual Instruments only work as inserts.
As a rule of thumb most insert plug-ins are used for processes involving EQ or Dynamics or track specific effects and when you need to process your audio in serial.
Another benefit of using insert based plug-ins is that live automation can be applied during the mix.
Using Plug-ins On Busses
A second way to use plug-ins as inserts is to use them on an AUX channel and then send the audio to that channel for processing, this offers two benefits.
- Using plug-ins on an AUX allows the user the opportunity to send audio from several channels. This is often the case when using a reverb, where the effect may be sent from many channels at the same time. This means one reverb can be used rather than many reverbs on each channel - this will of course reduce processing load.
- Plug-ins can be used to process the audio in parallel, this is a common trick on drums and vocals when using compressors. Parallel compression offers the opportunity to process the audio in a way not possible using inserts in serial, allowing the user to mix both the clean and compressed audio. Watch this free Pro Tools tutorial on using parallel compression in Pro Tools. Some plug-ins offer the chance to mix the orginal signal with the compressed signal, but even if the plug-in you use doesn’t offer mixing you can use the method shown in the video.
Using AudioSuite Processing
AudioSuite processing is an offline process that makes changes to the audio file. A process can be auditioned and then once the user is happy with the process this can be rendered to the audio. However have no fear of doing irreparable damage to your audio, Pro Tools retains the original unprocessed audio should you wish to return to it, find out more about dealing with this here. Common uses for AudioSuite processing are;
- Changes to gain (less used since the introduction of clip gain in Pro Tools)
- Audio repair, such as denoising, declipping or de-hum.
- Processor intense effects such as de-breath or vocal alignment.
Some Pro Tools users seldom use AudioSuite processing, yet AudioSuite can be a powerful tool, it offers processing that is not always possible in real-time, due to power constraints or the process being so intensive it creates latency so high that makes the process almost unusable. Watch this video on using the Normalize function as an AudioSuite process.
Using Standalone Audio Processing
Many manufacturers offer their audio processing as both standalone and also as an AudioSuite process. Often the standalone version offers more features and better results, two products in question are iZotope RX and Synchro Arts Revoice Pro 2.3, both have far superior features as standalone versions. The great news is that both products offer the option to process in Pro Tools, RX3 offers both real-time and AudioSuite processing, Revoice Pro 2.3 offers AudioSuite versions.
Knowing how to process audio can make a world of difference, it will change the sound you achieve, the quality of that sound and also maximise the efficiency of your sessions.
Russ checks out the updated AAX version of Nerve Drum VI from Xfer Records. Does this drum virtual instrument on steroids offer anything extra for those looking to make beats? Find out what Russ thinks in this extended video review.
In part 1 we heard that Paul Sinkovich had told us about a free app - MXF4mac Player from Hamburg Pro Media, which will open and play nearly any flavour of MXF files, even in full screen. It will open most MXF variations. It supports XDCAM HD, AVC-Intra, DNxHD, HDV, Uncompressed SD/HD, Uncompressed Avid 10 bit, DVC-Pro HD, IMX-D10,DV, Meridien, Sony Proxy and more and it is compatible to QuickTime movies and other formats (e.g. .mp4, .mov, .avi, .m4v, .wav, .aif, .aiff).
However the free MXF4mac Player on is own isn’t enough, you need to buy an ‘in app’ purchase (Avid take note) called TC Sync which then allows you through MIDI Time Code (MTC) and MIDI Machine Control (MMC) to sync Pro Tools and the MXF4mac Player together so that you aren’t asking Pro Tools to handle the video and in this part Paul is going to explain and demonstrate with the video above how he uses MXF4macPlayer with TC Sync, over to you Paul.
In this video Russ shows how using automation with filters can create space in mixes.
He uses the a McDSP Filterbank and then applies automation on acoustic guitars to give the vocal a space to sit in the mix, you can then take these principles and ideas and try them in your mixes and with different plug-ins.
Software used: Pro Tools 11, McDSP Filterbank, Maag EQ4, Avid Revibe, Avid Pitch.
Community member Paul Sinkovich got in touch to give us the heads up on a workflow he now uses with a free app - MXF4mac Player from Hamburg Pro Media, which will open and play nearly any flavour of MXF files, even in full screen. It will also control 8 tracks of audio, the frame rate, Movie Time, Source Package Timecode, Frame Number and Data Rate.
The MXF4mac Player can open most MXF variations. It supports XDCAM HD, AVC-Intra, DNxHD, HDV,
Uncompressed SD/HD, Uncompressed Avid 10 bit, DVC-Pro HD, IMX-D10,DV, Meridien, Sony Proxy and more.
Optional Plug-Ins for DCP and JPEG2000 support and it is compatible to QuickTime movies and other formats (e.g. .mp4, .mov, .avi, .m4v, .wav, .aif, .aiff). So in a post workflow that is becoming more and more tapeless and MXF becoming part of the delivery format this is a very useful tool.
Synchro Arts have announced the public beta of Revoice Pro 2.3, it features a number of cool new features particularly for Pro Tools users, offering an almost VocALign AudioSuite interface for those who want to do fast APT and Doubling.
The engine has also been updated to give even more flexibility. Often instruments using very low or very high pitch are not processed well during pitch operations, in Revoice Pro 2.3 the algorithm now allows for much better processing at these audio extremes.
We are thrilled to welcome lynda.com as a new partner with Pro Tools Expert.
We have spoken a lot recently about some Pro Tools basics that every Pro Tools user should know about. In this FREE Pro Tools video tutorial Brian Lee White explains how essential it is to organise a Pro Tools session.
This video is a part of the entire series ‘Pro Tools Mixing and Mastering’ one of the many training series for Pro Tools from lynda.com
You can try out lynda.com for 7 days, just click the banner on the right or the link below.
So you are working on a masterpiece in Pro Tools and something goes wrong, either you edit the audio in a way you did not want to or made a change to an entire session that you now want to get back. We get emails asking if it is possible to roll back time. Here are a few things to consider.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
There’s a few steps you can take to ensure that when things do go wrong that not all is lost, here’s a few things to check off the list.
In your Pro Tools preferences there is an option to have Pro Tools automatically backup your sessions as you are working. Go to the menu Setup/Preferences/Operation
In the Auto Backup make sure the ‘Enable Sessions File Auto Backup’ is enabled and then choose how many copies you want to keep in your archive and how often. These numbers will depend on how dangerously you want to live. This one single option has saved me a lot of lost work when I’ve done something wrong or Pro Tools has crashed on me. When is a backup not a backup?
Name Your Tracks
You might think we are starting to sound like a cracked record but if you need to find a piece of audio in a Pro Tools session then unless you have given it a meaningful name it can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack - so name every track the minute you create a new one. Read our 8 Pro Tools basics you can’t afford to ignore.
Backup Your Backups
You can never have enough backups of your precious work, you can either create local copies on another drive or get Gobbler, you can use Gobbler to automatically backup your Pro Tools sessions, which will even include backups of the backups! Find out more about Gobbler here
When You Are Working
ZZZZZZZZZ - Undo
No, it not time to sleep but don’t forget you have the option to use the UNDO feature in Pro Tools, or ‘CMD Z’. Pro Tools supports up to 64 levels of undo (this can be set in the Editing Preferences window). Not everything is covered by the UNDO option, but many editing and mix actions are covered. It’s worth opening the UNDO history window so you can see what is getting logged for you to roll back to. It time stamps your actions and you can click on each one of the items in the list to roll back your session to.
Compare The Meerkat
One cool but often overlooked feature in Pro Tools is the COMPARE feature in Pro Tools plug-ins, this enables the user to check the changes made since the current preset was last saved. So load a preset and then tweak to your heart’s content.
Simply Find The Orginal Audio
One of my all-time favourite features in Pro Tools is simply knowing that every piece of audio or CLIP (Previously called regions) is there in the CLIP LIST if I need to go back to it. If you are new to Pro Tools then open the CLIPS list on the right of the Pro Tools window and then you can see all your audio clips. As you start to record new audio or make changes to exisitng audio, then those clips are given new numbers each time you make a change. If you use audiosuite to change the clip then a new clip will be created with a name that denotes in some way to the process used.
Even better of you make a fade or drag the audio in and out with handles then the orginal is still there if you want to get it back simply by pulling the handles back out or removing the fade.
If you think you have screwed up the audio then as a last resort then you can always go back to the clip list and find the original and pull it back in. Hey presto!
One Final Word Of Warning
Of course if you try hard enough you can screw things up so badly you can lose your work. Here are two things to take special note of;
- In the CLIPS list there is an option to CLEAR selected audio clips - if you don’t know what you are doing then use this option at your peril. Now we have almost limitless hard drive space the need to clear audio to free up space is less necessary. If you don’t know what you are doing then you can delete audio and never get it back.
- Don’t delete entire session folders, they contain all your Pro Tools work. Back them up too!
Of course things can go wrong, but if you create workflows to account for that possibilty then the worst that can happen may not be the worst that can happen.
Check out our Support Tools page here that covers more troubleshooting