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 (384)
We get a lot of questions to the Pro Tools Expert podcast every week, many of which fall into the same categories again and again. These can often be solved by knowing some Pro Tools basics, these are 8 Pro Tools basics you can’t afford to ignore.
Some will make your system work better and some will help speed up your workflow, consider them the essentials to having a much more productive life with Pro Tools.
Knowing how to set-up your audio engine in Pro Tools is the difference between smooth operation with low latency or stuttered playback and cryptic error messages that are going to bring you to tears. Take time to learn how to set this up, this differs between different version numbers and between Pro Tools and Pro Tools HD/HDX systems and different machines. Some of it is down to trial and error, but as a rule of thumb you are aiming to keep your Playback Engine down to the lowest amount of samples possible when recording to reduce latency, without Pro Tools falling over. When you mix you can push your samples up to the max when you need as much power as possible and latency is no longer an issue.
The I/O set-up is where you tell Pro Tools what connections your audio interface has, these directly link to your channel input and outputs. If you get a dialogue telling you that you can’t record because you have no audio inputs, if you get this then make sure you have the right audio interface set in your Audio Engine (see our first point) and then a quick fix is to click the Input Tab and hit Default and then click the Output Tab and click default, in many cases this should get you up and running. Check out our guide here
Pro Tools uses different track types that are most approprate for your needs, they are;
- Audio Tracks - These are for recording audio from mics and line inputs etc.
- Aux Input - These can be used for effects returns and sub groups internally or for external inputs into Pro Tools from hardware devices that you do not need to record and want to keep live.
- Master Fader - This is where all the audio ends up in a mix, you can add processing such as compression, dither and of course check your final output is not clipping.
- VCA Master - HD systems only, VCAs are used to control the volume on a set of tracks
- MIDI Tracks - Used for recording MIDI information to be sent either to internal instrument plug-ins or external MIDI hardware.
- Instrument Tracks - A combination of a MIDI track and an AUX Input track allowing the user to record MIDI and playback the audio of a virtual instrument on one track.
- Video Track - Yep you guessed a track for the playback of video.
Knowing what track to use will help keep your sessions tidy, speed up your workflow and in many cases may also save your system power. Check out our guide to Pro Tools Instrument tracks here and our guide to Aux Tracks here.
In this Pro Tools video tutorial Russ shows how using groups, shortcuts and stems can help you to take control of large sessions and manage them.
Russ’ recent article 5 Basic Features Pro Tools Continues To Lack proved popular with the community with people offering lots of alternative basic features they think Pro Tools should have. For anyone who hasn’t visited the Ideascale you really should as Avid are interested in hearing the views of the users, of course that doesn’t mean that everything which is popular on ideascale will make it into the next release of Pro Tools, far from it. It would be a terrible mistake for Avid to attempt to meet every user feature request, even if they could. There is an old saying “a camel is a horse designed by committee”. Consistency and simplicity are essential in any product, Apple have made an unimaginable fortune by doing exactly that.
Inevitably there are feature requests I agree and disagree with but I often find myself wondering at the requests which say something along the lines of “make feature X from Logic/Ableton/Reason/Reaper available in Pro Tools”. If you want to use another DAW then use another DAW but respect the differences and treat them as a strength rather than a deficiency. I love Pro Tools, I’m good at Pro Tools but the last thing I want is to turn all other DAWs into Pro Tools - What would be the point of that?
In a recent video we showed how to create a mono button on the Pro Tools master buss (for lack of one as a standard feature.) We got some other suggestions on how to achieve this, so here are 4 FREE ways to check a stereo mix in mono. Check all our FREE Pro Tools plug-ins here
AIR Stereo Width
The AIR Stereo Width plug-in has numerous features for expanding your stereo image, but it can be used as a simple way to take a stereo image and make it mono as shown in the recent video.
Brainworx BX Solo
The BrainworxBX Solo is a handy little tool that offers several options including Mono/Stereo and MS. In their words “bx_solo is a nice little tool that we have designed to get you started with and used to the way we approach the M/S technique – be it for recording-, mixing- or mastering purposes. The “heart” of our M/S tools are our unique SOLO BUTTONS that allow you to actually LISTEN to all components of a stereo mix / stereo signal individually.”
Flux Stereo Tools
For a freebie this baby has a lot of bang for the buck… in their words “Stereo Tool features ultra precise control of input gain and individual pan for left and right channels. A phase inverter is available on each channel. Global stereo pan and stereo width settings are also implemented to complete the management of the stereo signal.
Stereo Tool also offers accurate visual feedback reflecting the signal content. A vector scope display, PPM meters for both inputs and outputs, and a phase correlation meter permanently monitor the signal.
Inserting our Stereo Tool after a BitterSweet II, will open your mind to new ways of controlling the stereo stage.
Like all Flux:: plug-ins it features 64 bit internal floating point processing, up to 8 FS (384 KHz).
Stereo Tool is available in native versions, AU, RTAS and VST. No dongle or registration required.”
Avid Down Mixer
Another more recent addition to the free Pro Tools collection is the Down Mixer, aimed more at those wanting to get surround mixes back to stereo but it is still able to take a stereo pair and make them mono.
The downside of using the Down Mixer is that it needs to be inserted on a sub mix before the Master out to work.
HOFA 4U Meter, Fader & MS-Pan
Another nice freebie from the HOFA team is the HOFA 4U, they say “
- precise metering (peak, hold, EBU, LRA)
- MS decoder
- trim-, fader- and mute-function
- stereo-mono switch
- innovative panorama-function: this is the panner that you can also use for “more than stereo” panning
- changeable plugin window size
- manual onboard
- works latency-free and with all common sample rates
- for PC and Mac, 32 and 64 Bit DAWs
- Audio Unit, VST, VST3, RTAS and AAX
Pro Tools is the industry standard DAW, like it or not, but with that said there are some basic features it continues to lack that are long overdue.
This is not about comparing Pro Tools with other DAWs, all DAWs leapfrog each other during their ongoing development cycles, but what we mean by basics are fundamental tools in any recording process that should have been with us a long time ago.
- A Phase Switch On The Channel
Having to insert a plug-in just to get a phase switch is unnecessary in an ‘industry standard’ DAW. It’s not like it is a modern idea, this feature has been on nearly every professional audio mixing console for several decades. Any questions?
- A Mono Switch On The Stereo Output
Sometimes it is essential to check your audio in mono, you would be surprised how much audio can go missing when you flip between stereo and mono.
- Channel Presets (Without using a hack)
Constantly having to re-invent the wheel each time you create tracks by setting up audio or VI chains is tiresome. Yes there’s a hack but it shouldn’t need to be the case.
- Input Monitoring For All
From the Pro Tools user manual “Track Input monitoring lets you toggle individual audio tracks between Auto Input and Input Only monitoring modes at any time, during playback, recording, while stopped, and even when a track is not record-enabled. TrackInput monitoring pro- vides the necessary monitoring flexibility for over- dubbing and mixing, and is similar to input switch- ing on analog multitrack recorders and similar machines.” We get that HD users should get some extra features for the extra money they shell out, but limitingthe basic need for input monitoring as a paid upgrade is as silly as making the ability to record in Pro Tools a paid upgrade. Whoever came up with this policy must be the person who never bought his wife an engagement ring - talk about tight!
- Variable Loop Lengths In MIDI Tracks
We had it in C-Lab Notator several decades ago, if Avid are serious about music producers using Pro Tools for production then variable loop lengths in MIDI composition is a must have no-brainer. What this enables composers to do is to get drum tracks down fast as well as repetivitive parts such as arps and bass-lines. Yes we have looping and duplication but I do miss this basic feature I was using in 80s MIDI sequencers.
How many of these are on your list? Which basics do you you keep wishing were in Pro Tools?
There are times when you need to check your stereo mix in mono. However Pro Tools does not have mono button in the master channel. Russ shows a way to do it in Pro Tools for free.
Mike has recently ran an article Avid Still Have Serious Problems With Video In Pro Tools 11 about concerns that many professionals have about the new Avid video engine found in Pro Tools 11. It garnered a lot of comments from industry professionals.
How are you getting on with it, take part in our poll and let us know what your experiences are.
Rich Tozzoli has worked with such artists as Al DiMeola, Ace Frehley, Hall & Oates and David Bowie. He has composed for the likes of NBC Olympics, NFL, NHL and Deepak Chopra/Oprah Winfrey, and can be heard nightly on History Channel, Discovery Networks, Nickelodeon and all A&E networks. Over to Rich….
Composing for TV is creative, challenging and always fun. But you have to be able to work fast, think on your feet, and have full control over your DAW. I think of Pro Tools as an essential instrument that helps me translate what’s in my mind to what comes out of the speakers during a broadcast.
- In The Box - I happen to write for a variety of different shows, so each day (and sometimes each hour) has its own direction. That’s why it’s so essential to work with a fully automated setup, and for me, that composing, editing and mixing completely in the box. That way, I can recall the entire session, including video, at a moments notice with no worries.
The winner of our Community Member Of The Month Award sponsored by Sonnox is Paul Maunder.
Over the last month Paul has made outstanding contributions to the community with his helpful comments and insights - all aimed at supporting other community members.
Wow, I’ve actually won something! Thanks for selecting me to be the January winner of a Sonnox plug-in. I’m happy that I could be of some assistance to the community.
This is the first time I’ve won anything since the time I won a Monster-Munch hand puppet in a draw at my local newsagents several years ago ;) This is definitely a better prize!
Well done Paul, shame we didn’t get a picture of you using the hand puppet!
You can win an awesome Sonnox plug-in by making regular contributions to the Pro Tools community.
We know that some of our readers really appreciate forums as they try to get answers.
Pro Tools Expert have teamed up with the highly popular ProToolsUser.org who have been around since 2007.
With contributions from both enthusiasts and top engineers and producers it is worth checking out.
In this free Pro Tools video tutorial Russ goes back to basics to help those new to mixing, In this video he talks about the different features in the simple 1 band Eq and how they can be used in significant ways to get a mix in shape.
This video is a sample of over 500 paid for videos on Pro Tools Expert, subscribe for just £20 a year for full access.
Following on from my recent series on Channel Strips I thought I would post this simple guide to creating a user default.
To create a user default setting, I made the changes I wanted to Channel Strip. These were to change the default process order from [EQ, Filter, Dynamics, Volume] to [Filter, Dynamics, EQ, Volume] and to change the LF and HF sections to shelf, and finally hide the EQ section. I then saved the setting as “CS Compressor” using the preset menu at the top of the plug-in window.
With the setting saved, I then set this particular user setting as the plugin’s user default as shown below:
The final stage of the process is to change the plug-in default from factory to user setting:
Neil Martin’s 3 articles part 1, part 2, & part 3, focused on getting Pro Tools and its associated extras into a state whereby it could be deployed en-mass, specifically with the software management tool, Munki. Neil takes up the story….
Packaging the Pro Tools application bundle for deployment tools other than Munki.
The way I dealt with the Pro Tools Application bundle meant that only Munki could deploy it and other software management tools couldn’t. I thought it would be a useful addition to show how to use our old friend, Packages in order to build an installer package with the Pro Tools application and post-install script included. You’ll see that it takes a bit more effort than the ‘Munki method’.
The package you’ll build can be installed with other tools, including Apple Remote Desktop, JAMF Composer, or anything else that can handle a standard installer package. It’ll also work with Munki. For those of you using something else, there’s no need to feel left out anymore.
To me capturing instruments and especially groups of instruments using stereo mic arrays is one of the simplest but most enjoyable parts of the recording process. With the exception of mid-side arrays it is important for all stereo mic arrays to have their gains carefully matched if the stereo image is not to be tilted to the right or left.
It will never be enough just to plug in in two mics and set the gains on the preamps to the same apparent level. Each microphone and preamp will have its own sensitivity which, while similar, can never be assumed to be identical. The most accurate way to match mic gains is to match them using nulling. To do this arrange both mics side by side and on axis to the sound source. Set the gain of one mic to a level appropriate for the source. Both mics should be panned to the centre. Importantly the second mic should have its polarity inverted. Then, using the first mic as a reference the second mic should have its gain adjusted until the point where the two mics null, at this point there will be the dip in output as the signals cancel, accompanied by a significant dip on the meter showing the summed output of the two mics.
I have to admit that while I have used this procedure in practice I tend to use an alternative which requires less setting up and is more flexible, using the PhaseScope plugin in Pro Tools.
A phase scope displays mono signals as a vertical line, perfectly out of phase signals as a horizontal line and signals present only on the left or right as 45 degree diagonal lines. This plugin can be used to balance gains between stereo mic arrays very accurately and quickly. I have seen many people use a stereo level meter to quickly balance gains but I have found using this PhaseScope method to be more accurate and just as quick.
To set your mic gains using this technique just set the gain for one of the mics exactly as you would for a mono source. Then bring up the gain of the second mic to approximately the same level.
Because the overall gain of the array has already been set, it is unnecessary to use the same instruments as will be recorded when matching gains, I often ask someone to stand on the centre line of the array and clap. The important thing is that the PhaseScope is being used to match the gain of the mic whose gain has already been appropriately set for the material being recorded. Using a sound source placed on the centre line the PhaseScope will display a thin, approximately vertical, line. Using fine adjustments it is possible to match the gains until the PhaseScope shows a perfectly vertical line.
In part 1 Neil laid out the challenges of managing the installation of Pro Tools software so that Macs on a network can install it automatically. In part 2 we tackled the Pro Tools installer. Now in part 3 Neil gets creative with the AIR CreativeCollection.
- A working Munki setup with Pro Tools in your repository, tested and working.
- Packages, a free tool for creating installer packages:
- A plain text editor to write/edit scripts with, I recommend TextWrangler which is free
- The AIR Creative Collection DMG from Avid (tested with version 11.1 – other versions may yield different results if Avid change things – you have been warned!)
We’ve got Pro Tools automatically installing on our Macs nicely. But what about the lovely AIR Creative Collection we get with it? It would be nice to have that as well. We know it only installs when you run the installer inside its DMG. We also know the DMG won’t import into Munki because of something Avid have done to it. Catch 22…
Here’s a nice video from the Rednet team with Chris Lord Alge.
Although it’s primarily a promo video there’s some gems in their from mix-master Chris Lord-Alge.
Check it out.
In part 1 Neil laid out the challenges of managing the installation of Pro Tools software so that Macs on a network can install it automatically.
Part 2 – Tackling the Pro Tools Installer
- The MunkiAdmin GUI front end to Munki: (you don’t need it but I prefer working with Munki outside the command line if I can help it)
- A plain text editor to write/edit scripts with, I recommend TextWrangler which is free
- The latest iLok License Manager installer
- A Mac for testing your installation on before you put it into production is recommended.
First, import the Pro Tools Installer DMG as-is into Munki. This gets the application itself in a deployable state.
In Part 1 and Part 2 of this episode I had already laid out my thoughts on Channel Strips and in particular the Avid Channel Strip, but after all of this criticism of Channel Strip, am I ignoring the shortcomings of the stock EQ3 and Dyn3 plugins?
In the writing of this piece I will be the first to admit that I have subjected all of these plug-ins to an unusual level of scrutiny and the most interesting part of the process as far as the equalisers were concerned was that my overall impression that EQIII and the EQ section of Channel Strip were very similar in character was confirmed when I managed to null the two equalisers against each other almost completely. I tried this using Channel G and the SSL channel EQs and found it impossible to null to anywhere near the same extent. Not unexpected, but the two Avid EQs nulled to a far greater extent (but never completely). EQIII is a clean, workmanlike EQ, which is both well designed and effective and offers the band pass mode of which I am such a fan. If I have a criticism it would just be that it is a little dull and will never have“vibe”. A version offering the same user experience but with the option of a touch more glamour and excitement would be a big hit with me.
I find the expander gate perfectly serviceable but, in line with Mike’s opinion of Dyn III, I find the compressor less than adequate on some sources. It tends to distort bass heavy material even with surprisingly long release times and with some material I really can’t use it.
Neil Martin got in touch offering to write up his experiences of setting up Pro Tools so that it can be installed and setup automatically on lots of computers as you find in ‘labs’ in colleges etc. Although this is a specilist area for those that need this solution it is a serious time saver and also makes sure that every installation is the same. Let me hand over to Neil….
Part 1 – The challenge.
I work in a university. My job is to look after the specialist technical needs of our music and music technology courses, including the Apple Mac network in our building. That’s 50 iMacs in 2 labs, 4 iMacs in edit suites, 2 Mac Pros in recording studio control rooms and 30 iMacs used by fellow technicians and academic staff. We need Pro Tools on all of them.
Community member Steve Klingaman has asked for help and advice on the best way to transfer some material from ADAT tapes into a Pro Tools session….
In my case I’m new to Pro Tools and have been transferring ADAT tapes synced to a JL Cooper DataSync2 to ProTools via a Universal Audio Apollo as the front end via lightpipe to PT 10. I thought I used the ADAT as the master clock in SMPTE for the transfer but the ADAT tapes were never striped for SMPTE, they were synced to the sequencer via MIDI Clock and Song Position Pointer via the Learn function on the JL Cooper2. (Once the ADAT “learned” the song it became the master clock and controlled the sequencer via the JL Cooper2). And though for this transfer the ADAT is hooked up to the JL Cooper, and the JL Cooper is set to SMPTE, as far as I can tell it isn’t generating SMPTE to the UA Apollo through the ADAT. I actually don’t know what’s going on.
The ADAT-transferred audio arrives slightly out of sync to bars and bars, which is a problem since I still want to sync to the midi file in Pro Tools. I dragged the start point of the click track to 1/1/000, aligning with the midi sequence that I imported from the old sequencer. But, in a song that is 118 bpm, 3-minutes in, by bar 96, for example, the audio track is out of alignment with the midi sequence by 84 (84/960) clock ticks. I was thinking of getting a BRC, running the ADAT to that, and using the BRC’s capacity to transmit Word Clock to the UA Apollo in. Would that work?
If you have any experience of transferring ADAT Tapes into Pro Tools? Is so, can you advise Steve on the best way to do this? Thanks.