Bouncing a mix isn’t the only way to get your audio out of Pro Tools.
After all the work has been done and the mix is finally sounding the way you hoped it would, what comes next for the engineer working in Pro Tools? Usually it’s going to go as follows: Bounce Mix, type in a meaningful name (which hopefully doesn’t contain the over‑optimistic word ‘final’), and go and make a cup of tea, secure in the knowledge of a job well done. But is that really all there is to it? In this article I look a little deeper at what happens between finishing the mix and finishing the job.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Pro Tools bounces were strictly real‑time affairs. It was only 10 years ago that bouncing a mix meant sitting through the whole mix in real time. (Of course, when real‑time bounces were first introduced, the fact that it was real time as opposed to slower than real time was the selling point!) However, computers inevitably get faster, and by the time Pro Tools 11 finally introduced faster‑than‑real‑time bounces, real‑time bounces seemed positively archaic.
The shortcut Command+full stop to abort a bounce is prominently displayed in the Bounce Mix window, and for good reason. How many times have you been bouncing a mix in real time and realised, under the scrutiny of the fact that this may well be the definitive version, that you spot a glaring error, one of those “What was I thinking?” moments? Years ago I used to teach Pro Tools and when gathering in projects burnt to CD (yes, it really was that long ago) I used to ask “So, who’s given me the blank one? One of you will have...”
That anyone would hand over a mix to a client (or a tutor) without checking it still surprises me, and this is why real‑time bounces still have a place alongside offline bounces. However, that isn’t to say that I would willingly go back to real‑time bounces without the option of offline. A mix has to be listened to, all the way through. And when you get into that supposedly perfect mix and spot the facepalm moment, remember that shortcut Command+full stop. If you use outboard equipment then offline bounces will probably have passed you by. They are strictly an in‑the‑box workflow.