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Pro Tools: A Clip For A Clip

Avid Pro Tools Tips & Techniques
Published May 2018
By Mike Thornton

In the upper screenshot, I’ve dragged a clip from the Clip List and it’s ‘hovering’ over the ‘Snare Top’ track. When I drop it on the selected clip on the ‘Kick’ track, it replaces that clip.In the upper screenshot, I’ve dragged a clip from the Clip List and it’s ‘hovering’ over the ‘Snare Top’ track. When I drop it on the selected clip on the ‘Kick’ track, it replaces that clip.A Clip For A Clip

The need to substitute one clip for another arises frequently, and Pro Tools is ready to help out.

In both music and post-production, projects are increasingly being created using temporary or placeholder sound clips that need replacing further down the road. In a film, TV or radio context, that might mean a specific sound effect, bed track or musical sting. In music, it could be a kick drum or snare sample. Either way, if the temporary sound has been used across multiple tracks in a large session, replacing each instance manually is a long and tedious job.

In this month’s workshop I am going show you a few ways all Pro Tools users can speed up this process, and introduce HD users to a very powerful labour-saving feature that lets you replace clips across your session quickly and easily.

Drag Act

The easiest way to replace a clip is to select the clip you want to replace, hold down the Ctrl (Mac) or Windows (PC) key, and drag the replacement clip out of the Clip List or from another track. It will snap to the start of the selected clip. Simple and effective, but where you need to replace multiple clips on the same track, there’s an easier way.

Once you’ve placed the first replacement clip on the timeline, highlight it and press Cmd+C (or Ctrl+C on Windows) to copy it into the clipboard. Press the Tab key twice so that the cursor moves to the start of the next clip to be replaced and press Command+V (or Ctrl+V on Windows) to paste the new clip in place of the old clip. Press the Tab key twice again and paste the new clip. It won’t take long to work your way down the track replacing the old clip with the new clip.

The two techniques described so far line the replacement clip up with the start of the original, but this isn’t always what you want. For instance, if you’re manually replacing each instance of a drum hit in a single take, you’ll need to do multiple paste operations within a single original clip. To work in this way you need to enable the Tab to Transient feature using the button under the Trim tool in the toolbar. It will be lit up blue when enabled. Now, when you press the Tab key on the keyboard, instead of the cursor just jumping to the next clip boundary or Sync marker, it will go to the next audio transient, if that comes first. A Clip For A ClipA Clip For A ClipA Clip For A Clip

Tab to Transient and keyboard shortcuts offer an easy way to trim the start of a clip, so that any replacement you drop over it will line up with the first section of wanted audio. From top to bottom: I place the cursor before the wanted audio; then hit Tab to skip to the first transient; then Shift+Alt+Tab to select backwards from there to the start of the clip; and finally I hit Delete to cut that unwanted audio.Tab to Transient and keyboard shortcuts offer an easy way to trim the start of a clip, so that any replacement you drop over it will line up with the first section of wanted audio. From top to bottom: I place the cursor before the wanted audio; then hit Tab to skip to the first transient; then Shift+Alt+Tab to select backwards from there to the start of the clip; and finally I hit Delete to cut that unwanted audio.If you want to delete dead space in the original clip prior to the start of the wanted audio, place the cursor before the start of the audio you want and press Tab so that the cursor is hard up to the start. Hitting Alt+Shift+Tab then takes the cursor back to the beginning of the clip and highlights the area in between, so you can just hit the Delete key.

Late Replacements

The real powerhouse for this kind of work is the Replace Clip function. Although it’s not hardware-dependent, however, this is one of increasingly few features that is still available only in the HD version of the Pro Tools software.

The Replace Clip function is designed to replace multiple instances of an audio clip in a playlist with another clip. To access the function by drag and drop, first select a clip on a track that you want to replace. Then press Cmd+Shift (or Ctrl+Shift on Windows) and drag the replacement clip from the Clip List onto the selected clip, whereupon the Replace Clip dialogue will open. If you forget to select a clip first, using the shortcut and dropping a clip from the Clip List onto any clip on a track will also trigger the Replace Clip feature.

Replace Clips is also available as a command in the Clips List menu. To use this command, you must make sure there is a clip selected in a track and a different (replacement) clip selected in the Clip List. Unlike the drag-and-drop method above this method will not work unless the clip you want to replace is selected on a track in your session. With the appropriate selections made, you can either right-click the replacement clip in the Clip List and choose Replace Clips from the pop-up menu, or select the replacement clip in the Clip List and choose Replace Clips from the Clip List menu.

The Replace Clip command supports mono and all multi-channel formats, but the clip and destination track must be in the same channel format. For example, you can replace a stereo clip on a stereo audio track with another stereo clip from the Clip List, but you cannot replace it with two mono audio clips. Neither can you use a single multi-channel clip to replace mono clips on multiple mono tracks.

Clip Choices

The HD-only Replace Clip dialogue.The HD-only Replace Clip dialogue.At the top of the Replace Clips dialogue you will see the names of the original clip (the clip that was selected on a track) and the replacement clip. It’s worth checking these before going any further, to make sure you have the right clips. Once you’ve done so you then have the choice of various actions.

  • Replace: original clip only behaves exactly like the Ctrl+drag approach, replacing just the selected clip with the replacement clip from the Clip List. No other clips will be replaced.
  • Replace: all instances of the original clip uses the replacement clip to replace all instances of the selected clip that fit the ‘On’ criteria. These are On This Track, On All Tracks and Within the Selection, all of which are self-explanatory.
  • Replace: all clips that match original clip’s offers the same On criteria, but allows you to specify additional matching constraints. You can choose from Start Position, End Position and Name; all of these refer to the original properties of the file, so Name, for example, will match only clips that come from the same audio file and have been renamed with the same name. Clip matching uses all specified Match criteria. For example, if you select Start Position and End Position, all instances of the original clip with the same original start and end times will be replaced, but not those that only match start or end time.

Finally, you have three ‘Fit Clip Using The’ options, which determine how the replacement will be matched up to the original clip in the timeline. Original Clip Length will try to match the length of the replacement clip to that of the original, trimming off any extra material. Original Selection Length does the same, but matches the selection (which might include space before or after the clip) rather than just the clip. Finally, Replacement Clip Length inserts the replacement without trimming, regardless of the length of the original clip or selection.

The wealth of options in the Replace Clip window can seem a bit intimidating at first, but it becomes much easier to understand as you use it. If you need this sort of functionality, the ability to be choosy about which clips are replaced with the new clip is invaluable. As the use of ‘temp’ files grows, I can only see this feature being used more and more. It makes it very easy to swap out temp files for the approved clips across the whole session, whether it’s drum samples in a music project or gunshot noises in a post-production scenario.  

Published May 2018