In this tutorial, aimed at both Pro Tools and Pro Tools First users, I will have a look at something very fundamental in Pro Tools, the Time Displays. There are lots of small and big (mostly green) numbers displayed everywhere for various purposes, but they all fall into two categories, "Time Locations" or "Time Durations".
Time Display Windows
Please note that this discussion about the time displays applies to any time scale, for example, Absolute Time in minutes and seconds or Relative Time (Musical Time) in bars and beats. In this tutorial, I use Musical Time in bars and beats.
Let's start with an overview to see which windows in Pro Tools display time information.
- Edit Window ➊: The Edit Window(Window➤ Edit) shows various Time Displays in its Toolbar.
- Transport Window ➋: The Transport Window (Window➤ Transport) is a floating window that displays most of the Time Displays found in the Edit Window, plus some additional displays.
- Big Counter Window ➌: The Big Counter Window (Window➤ Big Counter) is also a floating window that only shows one single Time Display, the Main Counter.
- Various Lists ➍: There are some additional windows in Pro Tools, mostly Event Lists and Dialog Windows that also show various Time Displays.
Two Types of Time Displays
Here is a simple example of the two types of time displays, Time Position and Time Duration.
- Time Position ➊: This type of a time display shows a time value that represents a single location along the timeline of your session. In this example, I made a selection on the waveform. The time display now shows two values, the start position ➋ of the selection (at bar 3) and the end position ➌ of the selection (at bar 5).
- Time Duration ➍: This type of a time display shows a time value that represents a duration. In this example, it shows the duration, the length of that selection ➎. It is 2 bars long.
Now let's look at the time displays in the various window and identify the ones that refer to a specific location on the timeline of your session (marked as red).
- Main Counter ➊: The display shows the current time location of the Playback Cursor, also known as the Playhead. This is the position where your Project will start to play (or record) when you hit Play (plus the Pre-Roll). The display will update when the Playback Cursor is moving.
- Sub Counter ➋: This display also shows the current location of the Playback Cursor. It can be set to a different Time Scale, for example, if you want to see both, timecode and bars|beats values.
- Cursor Location ➌: This display shows the current location of the mouse cursor when moving across the Timeline Area in the Edit Window. Please note that this is the only time display that is read-only. The value of all other time displays can be edited by directly clicking on them and entering a new value (or dragging the value up/down).
- Selection Start-End Location ➍: These two displays show the Selection In Point and Selection Out Point.
These time displays refer to a relative time value in the form of a duration or length.
- Selection Length Value ➎: This is the duration or length of the current selection, either the Edit Selection (displayed in the Edit Window) or Play Selection (displayed in the Transport Window).
- Pre/Post Roll Value ➏: These two displays show the duration of the Pre-roll Time and Post-roll Time.
- Grid Value ➐: This time display shows the distance between the Grid Lines in the Edit Window as a time value. The grid lines are used for better orientation and time references to snap object to (Clips, Events, selections).
- Nudge Value ➑: This time display shows how far an object (Clip, Event) will be moved (nudged) when using the nudge command: Key Command + or - (on the numeric keypad).
- Fade-In Value ➒: This time display determines the length of the Fade-In when using the corresponding command to add a fade in at the beginning of an Audio Clip.
That is it for the quick overview of time displays in Pro Tools. Now, whenever you are looking at time values or change them in your session, always keep in mind if they represent a Time Position or a Time Duration.
What Is This Series About?
In this series of tutorials, I will pick individual topics to demonstrate basic concepts, functionalities, and workflows in Pro Tools. It is not a step-by step-instruction to learn Pro Tools, instead, by focusing on important aspects, I hope to provide a better understanding of how to use Pro Tools. The discussion and the screenshots are based on the free version "Pro Tools | First", but they also apply to the standard or HD version of Pro Tools. This makes these articles suitable for new Pro Tools users who are starting to learn the app, as well as for existing users who want to improve their understanding and knowledge of Pro Tools.
Graphically Enhanced Manuals
I hope you found this tutorial helpful. If you are interested in learning more about Pro Tools, check out my book “Pro Tools | First 12 - How it Works” or any other title in my "Graphically Enhanced Manuals (GEM)" series. All the books are available as PDFs from my website, printed books on Amazon, and interactive multi-touch iBooks on Apple’s iBooks Store.