In this free tutorial, we will have a closer look at the so-called Edit Selection in Pro Tools. Remember, before you can use an edit command to edit Clips in the Tracks Area, you have to make a selection to tell Pro Tools what Clip(s) are the target of a specific edit command. Also, you have to be aware that there are two variations, Time/Lane-based Selections and Object-based Selections. So which one do you choose?
All Kinds of Selections
To "select something" is a basic procedure with everything related to computers. No matter what application you are using (Photoshop, Pro Tools, Calendar, etc.) and regardless on what device (computer, tablet, phone), you constantly select something by clicking, dragging, or tapping on objects or areas.
In this article, we only look at the selection procedures in Pro Tools, but as you can see on the first diagram, there are many different aspects to be aware of regarding selections. You get the idea that selecting a Clip or any other object in Pro Tools is not as simple as clicking on it. There are many different procedures, variations, and conditions you have to know, not only to avoid mistakes but also to improve (= speed up) your editing workflow.
First, let me quickly go over those elements and then elaborate on the two important selection procedures, "Time/Lane-based Selection" and "Object-based Selection" we are focusing on in this article.
➊ Area: There is a difference between making a selection in the Timeline Area compared to selecting objects in any other areas (windows) in Pro Tools.
➋ Selection Type and Purpose: Pro Tools has two main selection procedures, the Timeline Selection and the Edit Selection, both only apply to the Timeline Area. A third procedure (I call it a Standard Selection) lets you select objects in any other area or window.
- Timeline Selection: Make a selection that is used to define what section in your Session you are playing back in Play Mode or Record Mode. There is also a special link mode ➌ that lets you use the Timeline Selection as an Edit Selection.
- Edit Selection: Make a selection that is used to define objects (Clips, Events, Breakpoints) in the Timeline Area that you want to edit.
- Standard Selection: This is the standard way of selecting any type of object, similar to other application to select objects or areas so you can apply edit commands to them.
➍ Select What: There are three types of procedures that determine what your selection is based on. Pay close attention to this little detail because it can be easily overlooked.
- Time-based: Here, you select a specific time that has nothing to do with the actual editing process, unless you operate in that special link mode "Link Timeline and Edit Selection" ➌.
- Time/Lane-based: This selection includes two (!) elements, Time and Lanes (Track Lanes or Conductor Lanes), but not any objects. Objects, i.e. Clips, are indirectly selected only if they "fall" inside that selection.
- Object-based: This is the standard selection where you directly select the objects you want to edit. As I indicated on the diagram, this selection procedure is used on objects (Clips) in the Timeline Area and in other areas of Pro Tools ➎.
➏ Tools: Although Pro Tools has a dedicated Selector Tool, there are many more tools for making specific selections, some of them you have to select manually, and some are automatically selected depending on where you move your mouse over.
➐ Restricted to: Keep in mind, Timeline Selections can only be made on the Timebase Ruler Lanes and Edit Selections can only be made on the Conductor Ruler Lanes and Track Lanes (including their Automation Lanes).
➑ Objects: You also have to be aware of what you are actually selecting. With a Timeline Selection, you only select a time range, but not objects (Clips, Events), unless you are in "Link Timeline and Edit Selection" mode ➌. With an Edit Selection, you are selecting objects (Clips, Events, etc.) that have a time references along the timeline. A Clip that you select in the Clip List, on the other hand, has no time reference.
Time/Lane-based vs. Object-based
Of all those different selection procedures, we will look at two specific ones. I call them "Time/Lane-based Selection" ➊ and "Object-based Selection" ➋. A few things you have to be aware of:
- Timeline Area ➌: These two selection procedures only apply to the Timeline Area (any area that has a time references) like the Tracks Area, the MIDI Editors or the Score Editor.
- Edit Selection ➍: Time/Lane-based Selections and Object-based Selections are the two variations of the Edit Selection, the procedure to select Clips or Events to apply edit commands to them.
- Link Mode ➎: Pro Tools has a special mode called "Link Timeline and Edit Selection" that is enabled by default. It merges the functionality of the Timeline Selection ➏ and Edit Selection ➍ to only deal with one set of indicators (more about that important feature in a different tutorial).
Time/Lane-based Edit Selection
Now let's look at the first variation of an Edit Selection, the "Time/Lane-based Edit Selection". This is not really an official Pro Tools terms, but I use it to indicate its special functionality. It is not even "special" because it is the default procedure for making Edit Selections that most Pro Tools users use most of the time. However, I think it is important to point out its functionality for two reasons. For a user, coming from a different DAW, the procedure could look familiar but might behave differently as expected. And also, when we look at the second variation, the Object-based Selection, we have to understand how they differ from each other, so we can decide which one to use for specific editing situations.
The most common misconception about this selection is that you might think that you select a Clip or multiple Clips. However, Clips are only selected "indirectly". What you are actually selecting are two elements, a time range on specific Track Lanes:
- Time: By making a selection, you define a single time range, a beginning and end position along your timeline. Keep in mind that when the start and end position of that time range are the same, then you have a "single-point selection, the blinking Edit Cursor. One way to mark a time range is by using the Selector Tool and dragging along the timeline (Track Lane or Conductor Ruler Lanes). But here is the important part. When you click on a Clip with the Grabber Tool, you might think that you directly select that Clip, but what you actually do is marking a time range from the left border of the Clip to the right border of the Clip. Or, if you "select" multiple Clips, you mark the time range from the left border of the first Clip to the right border of the last selected Clip on the Track Lane.
- Lane: This is the second element of a selection. It determines on which Track Lane you select that time range. That means the marked time range, indicated by the highlighted area, doesn't affect all Tracks. Instead, you select individual Tracks, and that highlighted area is then only visible on those Track Lanes that you include in that selection (see examples below).
Here is what happens regarding those two elements when you make a selection with specific tools:
- Selector Tool: When you drag along the Track Lane, you automatically define both elements. You define the Track Lane by choosing on which Track Lane you are dragging along, and you define the time range from where to where you drag. You can shift+click on any other Track Lane (inside the time range) to add that Track to the selection or shift+click to the left or right of the selection to extend the time range.
- Grabber Tool: When you click on a single Clip, it looks like the Clip is selected (highlighted). However, what you see is actually a highlighted area that starts exactly on the left border and ends exactly on the right border of that Clip. That means you marked the time range (the length of the Clip) and the Track Lane (the Track the Clip is placed on). Pay attention what happens if you shift+click on other Clips on the same Track Lane; the time range extends from the first to the last selected Clip. If you shift+click on other Clips on a different Track Lane, then you add the selection also to those Track Lanes.
- Other Commands: Pro Tools has a lot of additional commands and procedures to create or change the current Edit Selection. For example, the "Link Track and Edit Selection" mode lets you add or remove an Edit Selection on a specific Track Lane by clicking on the Nameplate of the corresponding Track Header.
Here are six example:
Example 1: I drag along the Track Lane of the Track Audio 2 from the bar position 1|3 to 2|3 ➊. The Main Timebase Ruler ➋ shows the Edit Selection In Point and Edit Selection Out Point for that selection and that range is highlighted on the Track Lane ➊. The first Clip falls into that selection and, therefore, it is the target of any edit command.
Example 2: This example shows the possible confusion. It looks like that the first Clip ➌ is selected, but technically, I still created a time range (that happens to be exactly from the beginning to the end of that Clip) on that lane, the Track Lane of the second Track Audio 2. Pay attention to the Edit Selection In Point and Out Point on the Main Timebase Ruler ➍.
Example 3: In this example, it looks like I have the first two Clips selected ➎ because both are highlighted. However, as you can see on the Edit Selection In and Out Points on the Main Timebase Ruler ➏, it is still one time range from the beginning of the first Clip to the end of the second Clip. In addition to the two selected Clips, you can see that the area on the Track Lane between the two Clips is also selected (highlighted) ➐. In that case, both Clips are the target of any edit command that you apply.
Example 4: In this example, I dragged a time range from bar 1|3 to 4|1 that is applied to two Track Lanes, Audio 2 ➑ and Audio 4 ➒. So you can see two highlighted sections on those Track Lanes. Those three Clips that fall into that selection will be the target of any edit command.
Example 5: This example shows an important advantage of the Time/Lane-based Edit Selection. You can make a selection that covers only a portion of a Clip so the edit command will only be applied to that section and not the entire Clip.
- The time range spans from 2|1 to 3|4 and is applied to four Track Lanes ➊.
- The selection on the Track Audio 1 is redundant because there is no Clip ➋ in that range.
- Track Audio 2 has the first Clip only partially covered ➌ and the second Clip is full covered.
- The Clip on the Track Audio 4 is fully covered.
- Track Inst 1 is an Instrument Track with a MIDI Clip. It is also only partially covered ➍.
- On the second screenshot for this example, I show what happens if I press the delete key. You can see that only the Clips and the portion of the Clips that are covered by that Edit Selection were affected by the edit command and got deleted ➎.
Example 6: Always remember that a selection can be a single-point, indicated by a single time address (the Edit Selection Point ➏), or a range, represented by two time addresses. A single-point Edit Selection is called the "Edit Insertion Point" or "Edit Cursor", that blinking vertical line ➐. Please note that this blinking Edit Cursor is still considered a Time/Lane-based Edit Selection. The horizontal position of the line represents the time element and the vertical position (on which lane it is blinking) represents the lane element. That means the blinking line is not one straight line across all Track Lanes, it is only present on those Track Lanes where you specifically put it ➐.
Object-based Edit Selection
Now let's look at the second variation, a different procedure on how to make an Edit Selection, which is a little bit hidden and many Pro Tools users might not even be aware of it. It is actually the procedure that other DAWs use as a default to select Clips.
Remember, the Time/Lane-based Edit Selection ➊ only selects Clips indirectly, the ones that are "covered" by the selection. The Object-based Selection ➋, on the other hand, lets you directly select one or multiple Objects. You just click on those Clips and they are selected ➌ (indicted by a yellow frame), regardless what Track they are on or where along the timeline they are positioned.
The functionality is very simple and similar to other applications when selecting objects.
- Switch to the Object Grabber: You have to switch the Grabber Tool Button to the Object Grabber Tool. Click+hold on the Grabber Tool Button ➍ and select the Object Grabber Tool ➎ from the popup menu. Cmd+4 is the Key Command for selecting the Grabber Tool. Just press it multiple times to step through the three variations until the Object Grabber is displayed.
- Select Clip: Click on a Clip in the Timeline Area to select that Clip. The mouse cursor switches to the Object Grabber Tool when you move over a Clip.
- Indicator: The Object-selected Clip has a yellow frame ➌ around it.
- Select Multiple Clip: Shift+click on other Clips to add them to the group of selected Clips, or shift+click again to remove a Clip from the selection.
- Lasso Around: The mouse cursor changes to a Marquee Tool ➏ (crosshair) when you move over the Track Lane and not over a Clip. Now you can click-drag around a group of Clips to select all those Clips. However, keep in mind that you still made an object selection and not a time selection. All those Clips will have a yellow frame to indicate that.
- Clips Only: The Object Select procedure with the Object Grabber Tool only works on Clips on the Track Lanes and not on any other Events or Automation Breakpoints.
- No Partial Selection: One limitation of this procedure is that you cannot select a partial Clip as you can do with the Time/Lane-based Edit Selection procedure.
Edit Selection - Time Element
As we have seen, the Edit Selection In Point and Out Point refer to the time element of an Edit Selection when using the Time/Lane-based Selection. When using the Object-based Selection, then that time element is not relevant ... you might think. Although you make an Object selection ➊ (selecting Clips), the Edit Selection In Point ➋ and Out Point ➌ are still displayed on the Main Timebase Ruler. If you have multiple Clips selected on a Track Lane, then the Edit Selection In Point is placed at the left border of the first selected Clip and the Edit Selection Out Point is placed at the end of the last selected Clip even if there are Clips in between that are not selected. The Edit Selection Display ➍ on the Toolbar also shows the numeric values of those Edit Selection Points.
Unfortunately, when you have the Object Grabber Tool selected and switch to the Smart Tools (cmd+7), the Grabber Tool will switch back to the Time Grabber Tool. That means no Object Grabber in the Smart Tools ➎.
The Object-based Selection procedure is only available on the Track Lane, and only for Clips. Therefore, the Object Grabber Tool is not available in the MIDI Editor, which only provides the basic Time Grabber Tool ➏ in its Toolbar. However, this Time Grabber Tool actually works like an Object Grabber Tool. So be careful with this little inconsistency.
If Link Track and Edit Selection is enabled
If the "Link Track and Edit Selection Button" is enabled ➐ and you select a Track (click on its Nameplate ➑), then all Clips on that Track Lane will be selected ➒ (yellow frame around it) inside the current time range indicated by the Edit Selection In Point and Edit Selection Out Point ➓.
Convert Between Edit Selection Types
And finally, you can convert a Time/Lane-based Edit Selection that includes Clips into an Object-based Edit Selection and vice versa:
- With an active Object Selection, select the Time Grabber Tool Button in the Edit Window Toolbar and double-click on it to create a Time/Lane Selection of all the selected Clips in that range.
- With an active Time/Lane Selection, select the Object Grabber Tool Button in the Edit Window Toolbar and double-click on it to create an Object Selection of all the selected Clips.
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.