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Pro Tools Tips & Techniques

Published in SOS March 2013
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Technique : Pro Tools Notes

Pro Tools 10 has some new ways to help you move material to and from other systems — including older Pro Tools rigs.

Mike Thornton

Because Clip Gain is new to Pro Tools 10, it will need to be converted to automation or rendered if you plan to create a session that can be opened in an earlier version.

As well as the headline features, Avid also made some less obvious changes in Pro Tools 10, some of which are very useful. Among these are improvements to the Save Session Copy and Import Session Data functions.

Before we look at the changes and new features, why would we use Save Session Copy? It has three main applications:

  • To save a copy of the current session in a 'snapshot' state that won't be updated as you continue to work, as it would if you used 'Save Session As'.
  • To save the session in a format that older Pro Tools systems can read. This is especially important with Pro Tools 10 as it uses a new '.ptx' session file format which earlier versions of Pro Tools cannot open directly.
  • To save a complete copy of a session, including related media, in one folder.

Remember that Pro Tools allows you to link to media anywhere on your system, so if you wanted to share your session with someone, simply copying the session folder and sending that to a collaborator may omit some of the audio files it uses. One of the ways to avoid this is to use Save Session Copy, because you have the option to copy all the media files, change the file formats and so on. The changes to the session file format, and the fact that Pro Tools 10 now supports mixed file formats and bit depths, mean that if you need to share a project with a collaborator who has an earlier version of Pro Tools, it is essential that you not only save a copy of the session in an earlier format, but also make sure that all the media is in a supported format for that version of Pro Tools.

Going Back In Time

Another new feature in Pro Tools 10 is support for mixed audio file formats and bit depths. For compatibility with earlier versions, you may need to tick the 'Convert to Specified Format' box.

As a result of the file-format changes, the Save Session Copy dialogue in Pro Tools 10 includes a new option to save the copy in Pro Tools 7 > 9 Session ('.ptf') format. This will produce a session that can be opened in earlier versions of Pro Tools, but it should be remembered that not all Pro Tools 10 features are available in those versions. For instance, you will need to manually render Clip Gain settings, or if you have Pro Tools HD or the Complete Production Toolkit, you could choose to convert Clip Gain settings to track volume automation instead, using 'Convert Clip Gain to Volume Automation' from the Automation options in the Edit menu.

Pro Tools 10 is the first version that supports real-time fades, so going back to an earlier version means that fades will need to be rendered when the session is first opened. When a session that has been started in Pro Tools 10 is opened on an earlier system, the Missing Files window will appear, but as long as it only refers to missing fade files, you can select the Regenerate Fade Files option and Pro Tools will create all the necessary fade files automatically.

Pro Tools 10 projects that use mixed file formats and bit depths must convert all files to the same file format and bit depth, and if you have set your session to use 32-bit floating-point files, all files must be converted to 24-bit or 16-bit for use in earlier versions of Pro Tools. This is done using the Convert To Specified Format option, which forces all copied audio files to be converted to the audio file format specified in the Session Parameters section. If you're converting a session to run on an earlier version of Pro Tools, this option is required, but you could also choose to use it if you want to standardise your Pro Tools sessions to one file format, such as Broadcast WAV, for maximum compatibility. When this option is not selected, all copied audio files retain their original audio file format settings, including sample rate and bit depth.

Other new options in the Save Session Copy dialogue include Main Playlist Only, which gives you the option to only exclude any unused material on alternate Playlists in your master session. This can save a lot of time and disk space by only copying takes that are actually used. The Selected Tracks Only option is disabled by default, but lets you choose only to include tracks that you have selected in the Edit or Mix window. When this option is not selected, all tracks in the source session are saved with the session copy.

Import Duties

When importing from OMF and AAF sequences, you can now choose to match the original timecode start point, and any Clip Gain and automation can now be correctly reproduced within Pro Tools.

The Import Session Data dialogue has also changed in Pro Tools 10, both to reflect the addition of features like Clip Gain and also to reinforce the closer integration between Media Composer and Pro Tools that is reflected in some of the name changes in Pro Tools 10, such as Regions becoming Clips.

The Import Session Data feature has a number of applications, and lets you import complete tracks and a wide variety of data from one session into another. You can, for example, choose to import complete tracks, but without their media, by excluding Clips & Media from the 'Track Data to Import' drop-down list, and imposing the imported settings onto the tracks in the destination session. This is really useful if you create a complex processing chain in one project and want to use it elsewhere; for instance, to keep one vocal sound across an album project.

Import Session Data can also be used to import tracks from OMF or AAF files into a template session if, like me, you prefer not to open the OMF or AAF session directly within Pro Tools. If the worst happens, it can also be used to recover data from corrupted session files.

The Import Session Data dialogue is immensely flexible, and you are not restricted only to importing complete tracks. Importing only plug-in settings, for instance, can be very useful.New Import Session Data options in Pro Tools 10 include Adjust Session Start Time to Match Source Start Time, which lets you automatically set the start time of the current Pro Tools session to match the start time of the session, AAF or OMF sequence you are importing (when this is deselected, the imported session data is placed on the timeline in relation to the current session start time). This is really useful if you're importing OMFs or AFFs, when you don't necessarily know what the start time of the video project is until you come open it in the Import Session Data window. So now it doesn't matter what the start time of my TV Post template session is set to: when importing an OMF or AFF into it, I can match the start time to the project that I am importing from.

Pro Tools 10 also provides two new options for 'translating' audio clips when importing AAF sequences or OMF files and sequences. These options replace the Clip-Based Gain pop-up menu and the Ignore Auto Gain option found in previous versions of Pro Tools. Because Pro Tools 10 now has Clip Gain, we no longer need to ignore any Clip Gain settings in the source sequence or convert them to automation data; we can now simply choose to import Clip Gain and Automation separately. My default is to tick both options.

I hope this workshop has explained and unpacked two areas of Pro Tools where there have been 'knock on' effects from Pro Tools 10 improvements such as mixed file format and Clip Gain support. Next month, we'll take a look look at enhancements that have been made in exporting content from Pro Tools, including the Add to iTunes Library and Share with SoundCloud options added in Pro Tools 10, and the Share with Gobbler feature, which was added in 10.3.3.    .


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