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Smoothing out the volume of a track in Protools First

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Smoothing out the volume of a track in Protools First

Postby PierreM » Fri Nov 27, 2020 2:09 pm

Hi everyone,

I've been using Protools First for home recording for a few weeks. I'm a pretty good musician, but I have no background in sound engineering, so please bear with the naïveté of my question.

I have an audio track which requires some smoothing out before I can attempt to do any kind of mixing. It's a voice track, and some words are lower than the rest, others are too loud. I tried to use automation, only to discover that I could not use the track's fader in the mixing console's view when reading automation. I'd like to fix the track first, and mix it with the rest later using the fader

What is the proper way of doing this ?

Thanks in advance for your help.
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Re: Smoothing out the volume of a track in Protools First

Postby DC-Choppah » Mon Nov 30, 2020 5:45 pm

Leveling out the audio by ear using the fader will sound good. That method sounds better than trying to use an automatic process like a compressor to do it. You can use the compressor AFTER you have done the hand work of fixing the audio.

But it sounds like you are not using the Protools automation quite right yet. Look at the automation selector. There is READ and WRITE, but there is also LATCH. LATCH is what you want.

Basically in LATCH mode it will read the automation that you have printed, but as soon as you grab the fader and move it, that new fader setting will override (LATCH).

Think of automation as a performance. It is recording your fader moves, but LATCHING to the new moves you make like a punch-in recording.

Now once you get a good take of your automation in LATCH mode. Set the automation mode to TOUCH. Now in TOUCH mode you can tweak the levels, but as soon as you let go of the fader it goes back to the automation you had set before. This lets you trim the peaks a little bit.

Now you have a good take of your automation performance. Set the automation to READ. This way it is protected. But now your fader does not work.

So, what to do now, is bus record the track. That will print the automation to a new audio track. This also makes you listen to the whole track.

Now use that new bus recorded track as your mix-ready track and set the automation to OFF. Now you can set the level of the track using the fader to mix with.

For the original track with all of the automation, right click it and set it to Hide and Make Inactive. This will remove it from the project, but it will always be available in your track window if you need it later. But it is always best to make a decision, move on and not go backwards. Otherwise you can get lost inside the DAW!
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Re: Smoothing out the volume of a track in Protools First

Postby Aled Hughes » Mon Nov 30, 2020 5:51 pm

DC-Choppah wrote:Now you have a good take of your automation performance. Set the automation to READ. This way it is protected. But now your fader does not work.

This bugs me about ProTools. Is there really no way to have the fader enter a 'trim' mode once automation has been written? This is what Reaper automatically does, which enables the fader to be used as normal while still reading (and not overwriting) the automated volume envelope. Always strikes me as strange seeing faders moving automatically when following automation, rendering them totally useless.
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Re: Smoothing out the volume of a track in Protools First

Postby DC-Choppah » Mon Nov 30, 2020 6:11 pm

To trim in Protools, insert the Trim plugin on the track. Then automate the trim level in the plugin.

Keep the fader automation to OFF. And for the rest of the session, just automate the trim plugin. Use the fader as you overall track level that the trim will be relative to and keep on adjusting the fader manually. Never again add automation to the fader. This way you can keep on using the faders to mix with. You never want to lock your faders down. Only automate the trim.

Insert the trim on the mix-ready track that you have leveled out by hand using the faders and printed. The idea is that the fader is the control you want to 'perform' with as you adjust the levels by ear. This is a pre-mixing step.

Once you print the mix-ready leveled track, you then add the trim to make adjustments during mixing while using the fader as the overall track level.
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Re: Smoothing out the volume of a track in Protools First

Postby DC-Choppah » Mon Nov 30, 2020 7:01 pm

BTW, in Protools every plugin has a little red button at the top right.

When you press that little button, the plugin will stay on the screen even when you open new windows. This way you can keep the Trim plugin open and can see the Trim automation moves that you have recorded while still adjusting the overall level using the main fader.

It gets confusing when you have a lot of automation on multiple plugins going. So it is good practice to start printing all of the automation by bus recording the track, or using Track Freeze is you have the latest version of ProTools 12.

I prefer to play the track and listen anyway by bus recording so I know what I am committing to.
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Re: Smoothing out the volume of a track in Protools First

Postby Luke W » Mon Nov 30, 2020 7:34 pm

To sort out big level differences before mixing I tend to use Clip Gain rather than automation, it's an incredibly useful tool.

Ramirez wrote:This bugs me about ProTools. Is there really no way to have the fader enter a 'trim' mode once automation has been written?

There is a Trim Automation mode, but annoyingly it's not in the standard version.

DC-Choppah wrote:To trim in Protools, insert the Trim plugin on the track.

It may be worth mentioning that if you do this, it's usually best to have it in the last insert slot to avoid it messing around with the levels going into any other plug-ins. If you have it before any level dependant processing/effects then you'll need to keep adjusting them every time you make a change to the trim level.
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Re: Smoothing out the volume of a track in Protools First

Postby PierreM » Mon Nov 30, 2020 8:14 pm

Thank you very much for your valuable replies, it's clearer now what I should do. I'll try it tomorrow.
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Re: Smoothing out the volume of a track in Protools First

Postby PierreM » Sun Dec 06, 2020 8:50 pm

I wanted to give some feedback on this topic. It turns out that one can't use a midi controller with Pro Tools First. Which makes it difficult to write automation while the song is playing (I don't like to move faders with the mouse). I wasn't aware of this limitation with the First version of Pro Tools, but I find it quite annoying. Given the price of Pro Tools, and the limited use I will make of it, I'm currently looking for another DAW that would suit my budget (Cubase or Reaper I suppose). But that's another story.
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