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Pro Tools Most Wanted Features

Avid Pro Tools Tips & Techniques
By Mike Thornton

Avid’s Media Composer already has sophisticated marker functions, which would be very welcome in Pro Tools.Avid’s Media Composer already has sophisticated marker functions, which would be very welcome in Pro Tools.

Pro Tools users have requested five feature additions above all others. But can you work around their absence?

The official Pro Tools Ideascale web site, at https://protools.ideascale.com/, allows users to make their own feature requests and vote on other people’s, giving Avid useful feedback as to how their customers would like to see the program develop in the future. At the time of writing, 12 of the current top 20 feature requests have yet to be implemented (see table, at the end), so last month and this, we’ve been looking at these ‘missing’ features and how their absence might be worked around in the current version of Pro Tools 12. This month, we get to the six most-requested features that are still yet to be implemented, starting with...

8: Undo Delete Tracks

Judging by the feedback on the Ideascale web site, this is clearly a request that has polarised users. Currently, if you delete a track, everything goes and you cannot get it back. To be fair, you are warned about this, but as we become so used to working non-destructively, there is a strong lobby for this feature. Commenters on this request have also asked that when using the Clear Command in the Clip List, the audio files go into the trash can or recycle bin rather than completely disappearing.

Workaround: There aren’t really any workarounds for this one. When it’s gone, it’s gone!

protools.ideascale.com/a/dtd/UNDO-DELETED-TRACKS/21922-3779

7: Bus Soloing Feature

The seventh most popular feature request, with 815 votes at the time of writing, is for busses and aux inputs to behave as they do in most other DAWs, such that soloing the bus intelligently solos all tracks routed to it. At present, of course, the only way to achieve the same thing is to select all and only the individual tracks feeding a bus, and solo them all. Surely this would require very little programming and would make everyone’s workflow a lot more efficient?

Workaround: You can group the tracks that form part of a stem or subgroup, then solo that group, but of course this means its component tracks are tied together for other actions too.

protools.ideascale.com/a/dtd/Bus-Soloing-Feature/29744-3779

6: Polarity Switch On Every Channel

For some reason, although the Pro Tools mixer is designed to be like an analogue mixer in many respects, it has never had polarity inversion buttons at the top of the channel strips, as nearly all hardware mixers do.

Workaround: The easiest way to achieve the same functionality is to use the Trim plug-in that comes as standard in Pro Tools; like all Pro Tools plug-ins, this can be enabled and bypassed with one click by holding down Command and clicking on the insert slot in the mixer. On multi-channel tracks you may want to use a multi-mono instance of Trim and de-link the different channels so you can adjust the polarity on each channel separately.

protools.ideascale.com/a/dtd/Phase-switch-on-every-track-in-the-mix-window/12300-3779

4: Marker Improvements

Next in the most-requested new features list for Pro Tools is a grab-bag of improvements to the marker functionality. This would include the ability to have more than one Marker ruler in the Pro Tools Edit window, and to have different kinds of markers, with the option to have different colours, and better sorting and reordering of markers too. It would also give us the option to have markers follow edits, which doesn’t happen at present except in very special circumstances. Unlike automation, which can either retain its position on the timeline or follow the clip with which it is associated, markers, in the main, remain stubbornly fixed to their timeline position. Not helpful.

The potential uses for timeline markers are endless — for marking out sections of a project, making notes, marking mistakes, highlighting areas that need cleaning up or fixing, to name but a few — yet at present we have to squeeze all of this on to a single ruler. And if you are a heavy user of markers, no doubt you will also be recalling them from the numeric keypad using the period/marker number/period family of shortcuts. Those marker numbers are important, and many of us use our own standard sets of marker numbers for different functions, but renumbering markers can be hard work.

All in all, then, there is definitely room for improvement in the Pro Tools system of markers. In fact, Avid’s Media Composer already offers multiple marker rulers for marking points on the timeline, with multiple marker groups identified by colour and the possibility of placing markers in clips instead of on the timeline ruler.

Workarounds: as we saw in March’s workshop, it’s possible to create empty Clip Groups or even blank audio files on a dedicated track and labelling those to help serve as markers. The other workround I use a lot is Sync Marks. In fact I rarely use them for their intended purpose, but use them as visual reference points. They have the advantage that, unlike markers, they stay with the clip when edits take place, but unfortunately you can only have one per clip. I have been known to put edits in clips just so I can get another sync mark! However, another down side is you cannot label the sync marks.

protools.ideascale.com/a/dtd/Marker-Improvements/13711-3779

3: Save And Load Plug-in Chains

The ability to save a track’s entire selection of inserts as a single unit has been a priority for many users ever since the Pro Tools Ideascale was set up in August 2009. Avid’s recommendation is to employ the Import Session Data feature to import plug-ins and their settings, but I believe that is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. If all you want to do is import a track’s worth of plug-ins with their settings, you have to go through and untick all the other options in the Import Session Data dialogue, which can take a while even if you deselect everything and then just tick the two or three that you need. (As an aside, it would be brilliant if there were user-configurable presets available for this menu, but I digress...) Wouldn’t it be nice if one could have a library of plug-in chains with their settings that could be loaded onto tracks just as easily as a single plug-in can?

One way of saving and loading plug-in chains in Pro Tools is to use a host plug-in such as Blue Cat Audio’s Patchwork.One way of saving and loading plug-in chains in Pro Tools is to use a host plug-in such as Blue Cat Audio’s Patchwork.

Workarounds: At present, there are a couple of workarounds that you can use to help make this a little less awkward. One is to create a template session with all your regularly used plug-in chains set up on carefully labelled tracks. Going further, you could even create a session with one of each of your regularly used plug-in chains already created, but made inactive and hidden on tracks accessible from the Track List. Then all that is necessary is to right-click to duplicate the desired track, make the track active, and drag the clips to the new track or drag the plug-ins to the existing track, whichever is easier.

The other alternative is to use an effects rack or hosting plug-in, which could also offer the possibility of sharing plug-in chains not only between sessions but also between DAWs. If this idea appeals to you, check out Blue Cat Audio’s PatchWork. Using PatchWork, you can setup plug-in chains using VST or Audio Units plug-ins, which can be chained and stored. Whilst it is a little strange using non-AAX plug-ins in Pro Tools, most third-party plug-ins are available in multiple formats. The only things you can’t use are the AAX-only Avid plug-ins.

protools.ideascale.com/a/dtd/Save-Load-Plug-in-chains-common-plug-ins-combos/12420-3779

2: Folders In The Clip List

With 1211 votes, this is the most popular feature request on the Pro Tools Ideascale that Avid have yet to implement. The post-production community, in particular, have been asking for this long before the Pro Tools Ideascale was thought about. Bizarrely, it was a feature of the Audiovision software, which was an Avid product before they bought Pro Tools and Digidesign, so its implementation is technically possible. Other non-linear editing systems have ‘bins’ or ‘pools’ and allow for folder structure in their equivalents of the Clip list.

In the case of Avid’s Media Composer, a bin is just a container for media. Media Composer manages all the data, as in the files in a session or project, but references to those media can reside in any bin or bins, so that an alias to a clip can exist in as many bins as you like. In Media Composer, you can create as many bins as suits your workflow, and nesting bins within bins is also possible. You can organise your media in any way you see fit. The search tools are powerful and finding and organising your media is easy. Pro Tools does actually employ aliases as the basis for Catalogues in the Workspace Browser, but there’s no comparable system for organising things in the Clip list.

Workaround: I have developed a system of prefixes that I attach to clip names to try to help me organise clips in the clip list. For instance, all my sound effects are prefixed with ‘fx’, wild tracks with ‘wt’ and music clips with ‘mus’. That way, with the Clip list sorted alphanumerically, all my effects are grouped together, as are my music and wild-track clips. In documentaries, I always name interview clips with the interviewee’s name, so again it is as easy as possible to find the clip I am looking for. However, all this would be so much more flexible if we could create folder structures in the Clip list on Pro Tools, so given that Avid already have such powerful tools already in Media Composer, it’s strange that they don’t bring some of that experience over to Pro Tools.

protools.ideascale.com/a/dtd/Folders-in-the-Region-List/12302-3779

RankingFeature IdeaDate SubmittedDate CompletedComments
1Freeze tracksMarch 2010December 2015Included in Pro Tools 12.4
2Folders in Clips listAugust 2009  
3Save and load plug-in chainsAugust 2009  
4Marker improvementsSeptember 2009  
5Pro Tools 64-bitAugust 2009June 2013Included in Pro Tools 11
6Polarity switch on every channelAugust 2009  
7Bus soloingJanuary 2011  
8Undo deleted tracksFebruary 2010  
9Offline bounce to diskAugust 2009June 2013Included in Pro Tools 11
10Bypass all plug-ins for a trackAugust 2009June 2013Included in Pro Tools 11
11Open multiple sessions at onceAugust 2009  
12Batch track namingAugust 2009  
13Make stereo track from two mono tracksSeptember 2009  
14Show waveform content while draggingAugust 2012November 2015Included in Pro Tools 12.3
15Clip-based effectsAugust 2009September 2016Included in Pro Tools 12.6
16VST supportAugust 2009  
17Track foldersAugust 2009  
18Mono button on Master FaderAugust 2009  
19Include Bounces folder when creating new sessionApril 2010June 2013Included in Pro Tools 11
20Bounce to WAV and MP3 at the same timeAugust 2009June 2013Included in Pro Tools 11
Published May 2017