With Pro Tools 12.6 realeasing soon, we take a look at new features and functionality that will improve your editing workflow, audio processing, and mixing capabilities.
Avid is set to release the latest incarnation of Pro Tools, and with it comes a host of new features that will benefit everyone working in the studio. From Clip Gain to Playlist Editing enhancements, Avid addresses several issues professionals have been asking for. Let's take a look at these new features to help you better understand how they will help you in your studio.
Several years ago Avid introduced Clip Gain which gave us the ability to adjust the "recorded" level of audio files by using similar controls to automation. The end result of Clip Gain is that it gives you the ability to fine-tune the audio level allowing for a consistent balance in loudness without relying on processors. All of this happens before the audio signal goes through the Plug-In Insert point, allowing the plug-in processors to work more effectively.
Taking this mentality deeper, Avid has introduced the ability to add EQ and Dynamics changes directly to the audio file. Based on the Avid ChannelStrip plug-in, and accessible at the top of the Edit Window in Pro Tools, this feature allows you to apply changes to the audio files without having to rely on plug-ins.
The Clip Effects Window is located at the top of the Pro Tools Edit window. It can be shown or hidden by using the keyboard shortcut: Option + 6 (on numeric keypad), or clicking the icon in the Universe Window.
You can apply Clip Effects to individual clips, or a group of selected clips. You can even apply a change to a single clip, they apply another layer to it as a group of clips. While the ability to access these functions is an HD software feature, all Pro Tools users can Playback, Render, & Bypass the effects. You also have the ability to save 5 preset setting to quickly apply common changes to clips. These presets will appear in every session as they are part of the Pro Tools software, not individual plug-ins. There is also the ability to save and recall setting with the actual ChannelStrip plug-in.
Even if the Clip Effects window is closed, you can see whether or not each clip has any process applied via the Effects Indicator at the top left of each clip. They DYN and EQ indicators will light up depending on which process is applied.
Personally, I see this feature as being extremely useful when collaborating with other on a project. I can apply the changes necessary to get the balance I'm looking for without having to rely on the other studio to have the same "plug-ins" I do. Also, when working with a Mix Engineer, I can be sure the sound of the "recorded" audio file is exactly the same as it is in my studio. Since both Clip Gain and Clip Effects are applied to the audio file on the hard drive, it's as if they were recorded that way.
For years, editing in Pro Tools stayed very static, without a lot of new changes. It has always been an combination of tape editing along with software copy and paste. Certain movements would create unnecessary, or undesired edits. There are tools such as Trim that allowed us to effectively "undo" the edits, although it required extra steps and time. With the addition of Layered Editing, Pro Tools brings its functionality up to 21st century standards. Layered Editing can be enabled from the toolbar button.
No longer will you have to worry about leaving a "gap" in an audio clip due to arranging 2 clips on top of one another. Without Layered Editing, if you move a clip on top of another clip, then either move it again or delete it, this would leave a blank gap of time in the original clip. With this new feature active, the original clip will retain its full length.
These improvement are certainly useful, however, it alone doen't address what happens if a clip is longer than the clip it replaces. Due to this limitation, the software engineers have addressed the issue by vastly improving how Playlists work in Pro Tools.
One of the longest running features in Pro Tools is the ability to have an unlimited amount of Playlists per Audio Track. In the 90's these were known as "Virtual Tracks", it was a magical time :/ The ability to have an enless variety of edits has proved indispensible for both Music and Post Production. It allows you to keep the track signal flow intact, while having a different version of the audio edit for playback. Think of it like this: An album cut of a song can have curse words in it, the radio version cannot. By duplicating the original playlist, you can remove just the curse words and not affect the mix or signal flow at all. Same concept applies to Post Production: The dialogue track for the Film release can have curse words, however they have to be replaced for the TV version. The same dialogue track can be switched between the 2 version of the edit. One of the only complaints about Playlist is their lack of shortcuts and ease of use. Avid aims to recitfy these issues by improving how you interact with Playlists.
There are new Preferences for Playlist editing that allow you to make sure you don't lose any edits, as well as new keyboard shortcuts to help select between Playlists. These preferences allow Pro Tools to send a clip that is being overlapped by another clip to it's own playlist. Whether you're editing and moving clips around on screen, or you're recording new takes on top of previous takes, whenever a clip completely overlaps another clip, that previous clip will automatically be sent to it's own Playlist. Furthermore, there is finally an indicator showing you whether or not a track has any background Playlists present.
This improvement is very welcome as it finally alleviates having to click on individual tracks to see whether or not anything is there. As someone who's day to day life revolves around working with Playlists, this has always been a sore point with me as well as many other. You can waste a lot of time clicking with your mouse.
Speaking of making things faster, there are new shortcuts to make working with Playlist more convenient. To cycle between the available Playlists, use Shift + ↑ or ↓
This alone makes working easier as you no longer have to open the entire Playlist view which takes up screen area, and can add to confusion regarding routing.
Another useful feature is the ability to manually send a clip to a new Playlist by right-clicking on the clip itself. You can choose to Cut/Copy the clip, and send it to any existing Playlist as well or new Playlist. This is awesome if you do a lot with comping of alternate takes. Simply right-click on any clip and you will see the new menu feature.
Lastly, but just as important is the ability to apply Freeze on a global session scale as well as track by track. While the addition of Track Freeze has been very welcome, it was individually turned on & off track by track. This proved to be quite cumbersome in large session. Now there is a quick way to apply Freeze to all track in the session at one. Simply click the Freeze icon in the Toolbar.
These are just a few of the enhancement you can expect in the next few days as Avid releases Pro Tools 12.6. In the next article I'll discuss the changes to HDX hardware and pricing structures as well as the availability of HD software as a standalone product no longer tied to the hardware purchase.
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Mihai Boloni is a talented engineer and long-time Pro Tools educator who is fortunate to draw from thousands of hours logged in studios around the globe. Mihai is a Certified Expert Instructor who has an array of Pro Tools experience, which ranges from songwriting, post-production, and dropping' big fat bass across the land. As an industry professional he knows first-hand the value of Pro Tools mastery for artists, producers and engineers. Mihai is a dog lover and the proud father of 2 beautiful Irish Setters.