Intro to Video Post Production in Pro Tools

In the past we’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about the musical functionalities of Pro Tools, but it is equally powerful, if not more so, in the world of audio for video or film.

What I’m going to do is start off with a basic overview of how to import video into Pro Tools then cover some basic workflow including how to export your final product. Watch for some articles to follow, as we’ll dive into some other topics such as Sound effects, Foley, Dialog editing, ADR, mixing, and possibly surround sound. What’s next, you may ask? Let’s dive down the rabbit hole and see what’s in store! 

First things first, ALL Pro Tools systems can import video and bounce a final mix as audio or embed the audio into a new video. Although there are some advanced features of working with video in Pro Tools HD, everything we’ll be talking about applies to all Pro Tools systems. All you need to do is start with a Quicktime video. There are many video converters available, if you happen to have another video codec, such as AVI, mpeg, .VOB, etc. that can convert them to Quicktime video. Just do a search for a converter for from your video type to Quicktime. Personally, I use Quicktime Pro. 

If you’re new to this concept, you may be wondering what purpose we have for bringing video into Pro Tools, and well I must say, there are many. It could be as simple as having a short video that you want to clean up the audio from and post on to YouTube, or working on the audio for a short commercial, writing music for some sort of video content, or working on the sound for a feature film. There are many industries focused around audio for video, so let’s get started!

Create a new session, name it, and then call it something applicable, other than “untitled”. Upon the creation of your new session, there are some settings to think about when dealing with video. First, the standard sample rate for video is 48k, so starting with that is a good idea. Although the final video product is often scaled down to 16 bit audio, I still prefer to work at 24 bit, and dither down the final product to 16 bit.

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The frame rate of the video is quite important as well. We’ll set the frame rate in a few moments. There are a few common frame rates used in video as follows:

24 fps

This is the standard frame rate used in film.

23.98 fps

This is the standard frame rate used in film that will be later broadcasted on NTSC.

25 fps

This is the standard frame rate used in PAL, commonly used in Europe.

29.97 fps

This is the standard frame rate used in NTSC broadcast video.

There are two basic ways of importing video into Pro Tools:

1. Import Video – From the File Menu, drop down to Import>Import Video

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2. Drag a video from the Workspace browser into the Track List

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Both of these options will bring up the Video Import Options Window:

A few simple choices here:

Destination: New Track

Location: You can choose Session Start to place it at the beginning of your timeline, or Spot if you know the Time Code location of your video.

Import audio from file: Checking this will split the embedded audio from your video file and place it onto a new audio track that can later be manipulated.

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Ta-da! You’ve just imported a video file into your session, along with the audio being split onto a separate Audio Track. Now that you have your video imported into Pro Tools, let’s talk about setting the session’s frame rate, which should be addressed right away. The frame rate in Pro Tools should match the video’s frame rate so that your audio doesn’t drift off from the video later down the chain. If you look at your video track, the frame rate will be displayed. If the Frame rate is displayed in Red, the frame rate of your session does not match the video.

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In order to change your session’s frame rate, you’ll need to open your Session Setup window found under the Setup menu. (Setup>Session Setup)

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Change the timecode frame rate to match what your video displayed. After changing the frame rate to the correct one, the frame rate displayed on your track should now be displayed in white, instead of red, and you’re good to go! We’ll discuss Drop frame SMPTE at a later point in time.

Now that you have video in your session, you can create all the same types of tracks you already do, and work in the same ways you might already do while working on a music project, except that your audio content now should be matching up to the video, as opposed to following a click track or drums. You’ll still more than likely create a Master Fader for overall volume control and monitoring, and Aux Input Tracks for effects such as Reverbs and Delays.

When working with Video, It is also common to change your Main Counter view to Timecode, as many workflows revolve around documenting and placing clips on specific frame locations.

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On larger format film projects, it is common workflow to create what’s know as spot, or cue sheets before starting to place sounds into your session. Cue sheets are typically in a spreadsheet type format, and are created first to document every sound, ADR (dialog to be replaced), music clip, foley, etc that will be placed later, along with what frame location each piece is to be placed. This serves as a guide of all the work that needs to be done, and checklist to be followed throughout the completion of the film.

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When you finish placing all your music, sound effects, dialog, or what ever you’re doing audio wise to your video clip, there are two ways to complete your project. Based upon the deliverables, you’ll do one of two things:

  1. If you are working with a video editor that has given you a video clip to work with, it is common to work with a lower resolution version of the video to speed up workflow. Full HD resolution videos can get into the 100’s of gigabytes in size, and will most certainly slow down the performance of your computer while trying to run Pro Tools at the same time. If this is the case, you will typically be returning a mixdown, or “Stem” your audio to the video editor to be rendered back into the full resolution video. In this case, you can use the “Bounce to Disk…” function (File>Bounce to>Disk…), and send back the file, or Bounce your mix to a track inside of Pro Tools, and then export the mixdown track as an OMF/AAF. We’ll tackle that process in a later article.
  2. If you are working on a small video clip that is already full resolution, You can “Bounce to QuickTime Movie…” function (File>Bounce to>QuickTime Movie…).


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