We serve up a tempting menu of little-known Pro Tools tips, including some new features in 12.6.
In this month’s Pro Tools workshop, I am going to share a number of less well-known tricks that I have picked up along the way, beginning with an option I wasn’t aware of until very recently: Send To Back or Bring To Front. When you are working with layered content in a program such as Photoshop, there is the option to change the order of the layers, and I was interested to learn that this feature exists in Pro Tools also. The Clip menu offers two options named Send To Back and Bring To Front, which relate only to how clips behave when nudged.
Screens 1a and 1b show two adjacent clips. In 1b, I have nudged the left-hand clip rightwards, and it has gone over the top of the right-hand clip. However, Screen 1c shows what happens when I select Send To Back and then repeat the nudge: this time, the left-hand clip has gone underneath the right-hand clip. Note that this doesn’t work if you use the Grabber tool to move clips.
There are a growing number of plug-ins that have a Monitor or ‘difference’ option. When you enable this option, you hear only the contribution that the plug-in is adding to the signal — in other words, the difference between the dry and the processed signal. This can be a useful diagnostic tool, but it also has the potential to be used creatively. For example, in Screen 2 I have an Avid Pro Compressor plug-in feeding an Exponential Audio R2 reverb plug-in. On the Pro Compressor, I have enabled the Monitor button, visible as a small speaker icon near the top-right corner of the compression display.
With this enabled, the compressor only outputs audio when gain-reduction is taking place. What this means is it only passes audio when the input signal goes above the compressor’s threshold, so you’ll only get reverb on the loudest sections of the signal. This is really cool and can save a lot of time compared to riding a fader for the same effect. You can also achieve some interesting results using a different channel’s output as the side-chain signal.
Avid’s Pro Multiband Dynamics comes with a separate plug-in called Pro Multiband Splitter, allowing you to split the input signal into separate frequency bands to be processed independently. What’s less well known is that you can do a similar trick with the Pro Multiband Dynamics plug-in itself, thanks to a feature called Auxiliary Output Stems or AOS for short. Add an instance of the Multiband Dynamics plug-in onto a track, then add four aux tracks with the same track format as the track with the Multiband Dynamics plug-in (Screen 3).
Click on the input selector of the first aux track and you will see that as well as Interface and Buss, there is a third option labelled Plug-in. This offers the Pro Multiband Dynamics plug-in as a choice, and within that, you’ll see options for each of the four bands: Low Band, Low-Mid Band, Mid-High Band and High Band. Select each band in turn as the input for one of the four aux tracks. Now you can mute the host track, with each band now routed through its own aux track. So, as well as taking advantage of the Pro Multiband Dynamics plug-in’s own features, you could also use a reverb plug-in as an insert just on the Low-Mid Band, post-compression, add a bit of delay to the upper mids, and so on.
With the introduction of Pro Tools 12.6, HD users can now apply non-destructive, clip-based processing, a feature request that has been in the Pro Tools Ideascale top 20 for a long time. This makes it possible to add real-time EQ and dynamics to a single clip or a clip group, enabling us to have different settings across multiple clips without having to render the clips using AudioSuite plug-ins.
There is a dedicated ‘plug-in’ for this feature, which is based on the Avid Channel Strip, and even offers all the Avid Channel Strip presets as well. The real-time effects plug-in pops up in the space occupied by the Universe window. At the right-hand side of the Universe section of the main Edit window, there are now two buttons. The top one with lines in it displays the Universe window, as before, while the bottom icon with a parametric EQ boost is for the new Clip Effects window. These enable you to switch between real-time clip effects and Universe tabs.
From left to right, the Clip Effects window has four sections: Input, with input trim and polarity controls; the four-band EQ, with parametric and shelving options; a filter section with low- and high-pass filters; and a well-featured Dynamics pane, with expander/gate, compressor/limiter and side-chain options. Each section has a Show/Hide button, and icons appear in the top-right corner of each clip to tell you which real-time Clip Effects have been applied. Right-clicking on a clip with real-time Clip Effects gives you the option to Bypass, Copy, Clear or Render the real-time effects on that clip.
Clip Effects settings are static within each clip; there’s no automation, so you cannot change the settings over time within a clip. All settings stay with the clip, so if you move the clip around the timeline, all the settings travel with it. What’s really neat, though, is that you can layer real-time Clip Effects over the top of each other, so multiple clips within a group can all have their own individual settings, with the group also having its own Clip Effects that apply to all of the member clips.
The signal path order now in Pro Tools 12.6 tracks is Elastic Audio, Clip Effects, Clip Gain, inserts and finally the fader. This means that all real-time Clip Effects are pre-Clip Gain, so adjusting the Clip Gain will not screw up any dynamics in use in Clip Effects.
We understand that Avid plan to extend Clip Effects to include third-party plug-ins in the future, but for now, even having the Avid Channel Strip available in this format is a major step forward, especially for post-production work.
Although this is an HD only feature, for easy and smooth collaboration and interoperability between any Pro Tools system, Avid have made sure that when you open a session with Real-time Clip Effects in regular Pro Tools, users will be able to hear playback with those effects and also to bypass or render them — you just won’t be able to edit or modify them. When the session returns to an HD system it will be possible to edit or modify the clip effects again.
Next month we will look at some more tips and tricks, as well as some of the features added in Pro Tools 12.6 that all Pro Tools users can benefit from.