Avid has been on a tear lately! There have been so many new introductions to Pro Tools 12, it's hard to know where to begin.
Ranging from track count enhancements, functional upgrades, and iOS apps, most of the upgrades bridge the gap between Native and HD systems, bringing the two closer together.
First and foremost Avid has released one of their most thrilling new features in years, PT Control, an iOS app that lets you control Pro Tools functions from an iPad. Now it's no longer necessary to sit at your keyboard to control the mix features of Pro Tools. Not only does the app give you the ability to "walk around the room" and control your mix, it also supports multi-touch gesture controls of solos, mutes, pans, and automation modes. A computer mouse only supports a single-click at a time. The app also seamlessly integrates with Avid Artist Mix and S3 control surfaces, allowing users to use the two in tandem for navigation and programmable soft-keys. The app is free for iPad only (no iPhone), and requires Pro Tools 12.1 software.
New Dashboard window appears upon startup
Once you launch Pro Tools, you'll notice the new "Dashboard" window. This replaces the older "Quick-Start" window, as it consolidates all necessary functions related to creating and opening sessions. There are two tabs on the left side, Create, and Recent. The Recent tab will show you a list of the 10 most recently opened session on your system. You can use the keyboard shortcut of Command + Up/Down Arrow (mac) to switch between the Create and Recent tabs.
128 Audio Tracks & 512 Instrument Tracks
Many of the new features available in Pro Tools 12.1 are brought in from the HD Software. The increased track count really benefits as you now have 128 Audio Tracks available (mono or stereo), 512 Instrument Tracks, and Input Monitor mode on Audio Tracks. These types of things were only available to HD software users in the past.
Input Monitor on Audio Tracks as well as Copy To Send now in all Pro Tools software
Two of my favorite features now available on all Pro Tools systems are Input Monitor and Copy To Send. Having extensively used these in my personal workflow, I can attest to how much they are a part of my day to day work. Input Monitor allows you to "listen" to the signal feeding the track input without having to Record Enable the track. I use this while tracking so I can hear the mic signal feeding the track and make pre-amp or dynamics adjustments on the fly without fear or accidentally recording. You can also play the session whilst monitoring the signal to make adjustments in context.
Copy To Send before / after
Another useful feature used by many pro engineers is the Copy To Send feature, which allows you to quickly copy track parameters to a send output. You can select between Current Value (static setting) or Automation or parameters such as Volume, Pan, Mute, and LFE (Low Frequency Effects for Surround Sound mixing). This allows you to replicate the "mix" to alternate outputs very easy and efficiently.
Mixing engineers will enjoy the fact the HEAT is now available on all Pro Tools systems. HEAT allows you to easily add analog warmth and character to your mix by recreating the sound of vintage analog gear. It acts as a plug-in, however, you don't need to launch it as a traditional insert. You also have the ability to bypass HEAT on a track by track basis. Developed by legendary audio designer, Dave Hill (Crane Song), and once the realm of HD users only, HEAT now opens up a whole new dimension in mixing for everyone.
Tap Tempo in Conductor Mode
Finally!!! You can now Tap Tempo with the Conductor active. No more going between Manual and Conductor modes just to tap out a tempo. Yay!! This makes us all very happy.
New I/O Setup features allow for ultimate flexibility
NEW I/O SETUP IMPROVEMENTS IN PRO TOOLS 12
The I/O Setup for the new Pro Tools 12 is extremely important to how users interact with Pro Tools software based sessions and their gear that lives “outside the box. In this blog post, we want to walk you through the thinking behind the changes in the new Pro Tools 12 and get a clearer understanding of the new behaviors of I/O Setup.
One of the critical things that inspired these changes was the overwhelming large bus buildup that would happen when shifting sessions between different systems. Originally Avid’s idea was to keep everything all of the time, which created a lot of unused and stray busses. The question then became, “which busses are safe to get rid of?” This led down the path of making a distinction between session and hardware, which we will explain in more detail a bit later.
The next area of improvement to focus on was really how important the flexibility of session switching is to the users workflow. Sessions often travel to different I/O’s, of different sizes, that are used in different ways. Some only have stereo outputs, some have surround, and some are used to send the session to an external mixing board.
The only way to really ensure that you hear something is to overwrite your own I/O configuration to reflect that of the session, and even then, you might need to do some additional work in the session to hear the intended output. The developers key thought was – ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if you could leave your I/O labeling and session routing alone?’
Changes in Pro Tools 12
- Improved predictability and flexibility of session interchange
- Playback Engine specific IO
- Unlimited busses
- Automatic downmixing
- Software based AFL/PFL
- Importing IO Settings from a session
- Bus multing to multiple hardware outputs
- Improved error reporting and troubleshooting tools
- Ability to prep a larger system from a smaller system
- Output menu organization by width
- Bug fixes
The developer’s core design principle of the I/O Setup changes was to offer true separation between session (software) and hardware. Your hardware is a static device that often has physical connections. Sessions are more transient and have virtual connections. It’s kind of like how hardware can be patched into with patch cables. In addition, sessions have busses. This is how they approached the new I/O Setup improvements:
Busses live with the session. All other tabs are related to the hardware. If a new session comes along, it brings with it its own set of busses that will patch into the hardware.
Configuring I/O Setup
Lets take a quick walkthrough of configuring I/O Setup.
It’s recommended that you setup your hardware first. Create and label inputs and outputs that relate to your hardware and connections. Add any inserts, and set your hardware delays.
Once your I/O is delineated, go to your output tab and arrange your output settings.
This is a setting that is new to Pro Tools 12. It is probably the most important setting in I/O Setup. The Monitor Path setting allows you to define the output that you use for your basic audio monitoring.
The way it works, is this: any busses in a session that are assigned to the monitor path on your system, will then become assigned to the monitor path of any new system that session travels to. This will make sure that the intended audio is always heard. The monitor path is indicated by a small studio monitor icon.
Pro Tools HD now has the ability to automatically downmix the signal if the session ends up on another HD system with a smaller output. So if you’re mixing in 5.1, and you move the session to another session with only a stereo output, the mix will automatically downmix from 5.1 to stereo.
The downmix occurs later on in the signal chain before the physical outputs. This makes sure that no automation or routing within the session is changed or lost for the return trip. Without this added adaptability, the monitor path wouldn’t be possible. The downmix will be indicated on the track output selector with a “>” symbol.
I/O setup will tell you there is a difference by indicating the different output width in the bus tab.
This allows you define what will be heard and where from, when auditioning from places like the AudioSuite plug-ins, the Clip List, or the Workspace.
The AFL/PFL (now available in all versions of Pro Tools) setting allows you to select the destination output for pre/post fader monitoring. This feature allows you to specify an independent output path for tracks that are in solo, so that your main outputs are not interrupted. You can also set an independent volume level for this solo path. In the past, this was an XMON only feature, but Pro Tools 12 allows this directly from the software. Also with Pro Tools 12, any available output width can be chosen. The signal will downmix as nessesary.
How AFL/PFL Works
If the chosen output matches your main output, the main output will be muted, and only the solo’d signal will be heard out the main output. All other outputs will remain live.
If the chosen output is not the main output, the main output will remain live during the solo. This will accomplish what was previously known as “Broadcast Mode” on the ICON control surfaces.
Once you have your hardware configured, it is time to configure your busses. Busses are used to route tracks to various locations. They can be used internally or mapped to your hardware outputs. There are now only default 24 generic internal busses, but it is easy to create more if you need them. Pro Tools 12 allows for virtually unlimited busses, so you can create as many as you need.
Multing Busses to Hardware Outputs
Sometimes you may find that you always route certain signals to more than one output. Maybe there is a rough headphone mix or an alternate recorder. I/O Setup will now allow you to ‘MULT’ directly from the bus tab. This way, you can choose a single bus that will always go to multiple destinations, which will avoid repetitious assignments in the session.
With the huge amount of changes added to Pro Tools 12.1 you will not run out of things to play with anytime soon.