I was born partially sighted and live with the fact that glasses, contact lenses, laser eye surgery and witchcraft will never improve my vision. I can live with that, as I believe my musicianship and ability to listen critically has greatly benefitted from my lack of vision.
Clients that come to my studio to work with me know I have poor eyesight and experience first hand how I navigate Pro Tools sessions.
Below are 6 ways I work to reduce the visual struggles I face everyday when working in Pro Tools.
Accessibility Screen Zoom
On every Mac I own I have the screen zoom function set so that I can quickly zoom into a portion of my display by holding down “Control” on the keyboard, in conjunction with the mouse scroll. This is very useful for viewing plug ins in “full screen” which helps me see their GUIs better. Some plug ins can be very busy looking with small labels that can be difficult to see quickly.
To enable this function on a Mac you need to open “Accessibility” under “System Preferences” and enable “Zoom”.
For years I had my 27” display positioned too far away from where I sit. This caused me so many problems including a bad back, a tendency to leaning forward out of the sweet spot and difficulties viewing the Pro Tools windows. This wasn’t because I chose to have my display sat in a difficult place, trust me; it was because my AVID C24 and desk I had the C24 on dictated the distance between my head and the display. After years of working this way I got rid of the desk, mounted the control surface on a stand and fixed the display to a bracket with an adjustable arm which now enables me to physically pull the display in towards me over the control surface, useful for when working in the edit window, and be able to push the display back when I need to see my control surface.
Screen Size And Resolution
I have had a lot of people recommend that I get a larger display like a 42” TV. For me the problem with larger displays is that they still need to be at a suitable distance for me to see the smaller details easily. Distance is the problem, as large display makes no difference to me being able to see the finer details. I know this from being unable to read subtitles on my 55” TV at home. What I find works best for me is a good sized display, again in my case a 27”, on which I adjust the resolution from 1920 x 1080 to 1600 x 900. This makes items like the top menus and labels within OS X and Pro Tools that little bit larger at a cost of having less room for everything on the display.
I used to misplace my curser on the display all the time until I found that I could make it as large as I want. Again this saves me time and eye energy from searching all over the display for my lost pointer. I have my pointer as large as a fader on the mix window for easy finding.
To increase the curser size on a Mac you will find the setting under “Accessibility” - “Display”.
Mix And Edit Window Colours
When switching between the Mix and Edit windows I need to be able to see the relationship between the two quickly. I do not have the energy to struggle to read the track names on the display. I use colours to help me instantly see the clips in the Edit window that relate to track in the Mix window.
To set this in Pro Tools open “Preferences” and under the “Display” select “Track Colour” listed under “Default Clip Color Coding”. I select a track, open the “Colour Palette” found under “Window”, select “Tracks” from the left drop down menu and colour my instruments to what I am familiar with. For instance, Drums are always navy blue, Percussion being light blue, Lead Vocals are bright red, Backing Vocals dark red and so on. This helps me when working on multiple sessions, as I know my personal colour coding.
Control Surfaces And Keyboard Shortcuts
I use a control surface for about 75% of my Pro Tools workflow as everything I use is under a button that I have memorised the location of. I call up plug ins on my control surface and have again memorised where the options load on the dual LED strip so that I do not need to rely on my eyes to look around the display. The same goes for Keyboard shortcuts, I never claim to know many… but I have memorised the useful ones found in the top menus of Pro Tools.
Using any computer software with poor eyesight is a challenge. Not being able to see things on a display clearly slows you down. Time and energy is wasted whilst focusing for what you want to see. Being able to make life easier when working with poor eyesight should speed you up and save lots of headaches. If you struggle visually with your current set up I urge you to do something about it, make life easier for yourself.
I have shared how I work with my visual impairment in Pro Tools, if anyone has any other methods please do share them below.