In this month's Pro Tools workshop, we are going to look at a new feature in Pro Tools 7: Region Looping. Whether I am working in 'post' mode or 'music' mode, I often need to fill a gap between two sections. In previous versions of Pro Tools, I would first create a Region to loop, and then use the Duplicate command from the Edit menu (Command / Ctrl+D) to add extra copies until the hole was filled. Region Looping takes this process and makes it so much easier, whilst enabling lots of additional options.
You can consider a Looped Region as consisting of a master loop with a number of 'aliases' that follow it. Nothing special about that, you might say — isn't that in effect what the Duplicate command does? Not quite. For one thing, the aliases created using Region Looping automatically change to reflect any modifications made to the master loop. Region Looping also brings in another new Pro Tools 7 feature — Region Grouping — in such a way that the master and aliases work together as one region. Finally, automation attached to a Looped Region doesn't get repeated, as would happen with the Duplicate command.
Every instance of a Looped Region displays the Loop icon in the bottom right-hand corner so that you know it is not a simple duplicate of the original.
To create Looped Regions, first select an audio or MIDI Region, then choose the Loop option from the Region menu or press Command+Alt+L (Windows: Ctrl+Alt+L). The Region Looping dialogue box will open, with three options available.
If you choose the Number of Loops option, you can simply enter the number of times you want the Region to be looped. The other options are designed to provide ways for Pro Tools to do the maths when it comes to working out how many times the Region needs to be looped to fit into your Session. Loop Length allows you to enter the duration required in the format of the main timebase ruler (in this screenshot, Minutes & Seconds). Note that if the duration is not an exact multiple of the loop length then the last alias will not be complete. Alternatively, the 'Loop Until End of Session or Next Region' option repeats the selected Region until another Region on that track is reached, or until the end of the Session if there are no further Regions on the track. Again, the last alias will be a fragment unless the gap is an exact multiple, in length, of the Region being looped.
If desired, you can also select the Enable Crossfade option which will create a crossfade at each loop point. To do this click the Settings button and set the crossfades as required, before clicking the OK button to return to the Region Looping window. Finally, click the OK button in the Region Looping window and Pro Tools will create the appropriate loops.
You can loop multiple Regions across several tracks: simply select all the Regions you want to loop and then run the Region Looping command as above. Region Looping also works with Region Groups as well, but if you select more than one ungrouped Region on the same track, Pro Tools will only loop the last region.
Just as it is possible to ungroup Region Groups, so it is possible to unloop Region Loops. Select your Looped Region and choose the Unloop option from the Region menu to see the Unloop Regions dialogue box, where you can choose from two options. Remove simply deletes all the aliases, leaving you with just the original 'master' loop. Flatten retains all of the aliases, but converts them to conventional Regions in their own right — in other words, what you would have had if you'd used the Duplicate command to create all those Regions in the first place. If you want to unloop and ungroup a Looped Region Group, you can use the Ungroup All option in the Region menu.
Looped Regions can be edited as a group or individually. Single-clicking with the Grabber or double-clicking with the Selector tool anywhere on the Region Loop will select the whole group. Now you can move the group to the desired location with the Grabber. To select an individual loop within the group, you can use the Smart tool: as you hover close to the loop icon you will see that the cursor changes to the loop icon, and a single-click will select that loop. If you are using the Selector tool, hover over the loop icon and wait for the cursor to change to a 'loop and selector' icon, then click and drag left until Pro Tools highlights the individual loop.
The normal tab feature where the Tab key on the keyboard moves the cursor to the next Region boundary to the right works differently in Region Loops. The conventional tab feature treats a Region Loop as one complete Region, so using the Tab key will make the cursor go the end of the Region Loop, missing out all the individual loops. However, when Tab to Transient is enabled, it will still function within a Region Loop.
Using the Trim tool in the conventional way will trim the Region Loop as if it was one single Region, cutting the block of loops to the desired length and leaving a fragment of a loop at the end if needs be — holding down the Ctrl key (Mac) or the Start key (Windows) forces the Trim tool to trim only to the nearest Region boundary within the loop, so leaving no fragment at the end. Using the TCE Trimmer will produce a single consolidated Region rather than a master plus aliases.
Alternatively, you can trim every individual Looped Region within the group (it is not possible to change the length of just one of the Regions without flattening the loop first). Select the Trim tool (this doesn't work with the Smart tool enabled) and hover over the loop icon on one of the Regions. You will see that the cursor changes to an icon combining the loop and trim icons, and now you can adjust the length of the individual Region. Note too that the number of repetitions will automatically be increased or decreased such that the total length of the Region Loop stays the same.
You can also use the Trim to Fill feature to extend a Looped Region to fill an available 'hole'. Use the Selector tool to make a selection that includes some or all of the Looped Region, choose Trim Region from the Edit menu and in this case select End to Fill. Pro Tools will add loop aliases to fill the hole rather than the exact space you've highlighted. If the hole is before rather than after the Looped Region, Pro Tools will move the original loop back and put the aliases after it, so that the original 'master' Region is always the first loop in the Looped Region.
As I said earlier, automation doesn't get copied when you use the Region Loop command. If you want the automation to be repeated, you need to use the Copy Special and Paste Special commands from the Edit menu. Select the source Region, which will contain the automation, and use Copy Special from the Edit menu. Then select the Region Loop, ready to paste the automation, and use the Paste Special — Repeat to Fill Selection command. This will paste the automation over the complete Region Loop.