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Pro Tools: New Markers System

Avid Pro Tools: Tips & Techniques By Julian Rodgers
Published August 2023

The three new buttons at the right of the track header allow you to add a new Track/Folder Marker, select a particular track as Target for Markers created using keyboard shortcuts, and toggle between the Marker name and its associated comment.The three new buttons at the right of the track header allow you to add a new Track/Folder Marker, select a particular track as Target for Markers created using keyboard shortcuts, and toggle between the Marker name and its associated comment.

Navigate busy sessions with ease using Pro Tools’ new Markers system.

At the beginning of June, one of the longer‑standing feature requests from the Pro Tools community was finally addressed when Markers received an extensive overhaul. These new features were previewed at the NAMM show in April and released in Pro Tools 2023.6, and now that I’ve had some hands‑on time with them, I can say that they don’t disappoint.

The headline here is that there are two new types of Marker: Track Markers and Folder Markers. The old timeline Markers, displayed on the ruler, are unchanged. Instead of adding additional Marker rulers, the new Marker types are displayed on tracks themselves, either within a new lane or on the main playlist.

Markers can now be added to any track type, but if they’re added to a Folder track, a specific Folder Track Marker is created. These show up in the Memory Locations as a separate category of Marker. The difference between Track and Folder Markers is that Folder Markers display a line that extends down across the track lanes in the same way as a Marker on the Ruler does, except that in this case the line only extends through tracks that are members of that Folder.

Pushing Buttons

There are some new UI elements to accommodate the use of these new Marker types. The most prominent of these are the three new Marker buttons in the track headers. The bottom one is an Add Marker button, denoted by a ‘+’. Click this to create a Marker. At the top is a new Target button. This serves the same purpose as the Target buttons found in plug‑in and send windows, allowing the user to direct an action towards a specific destination. In the case of Track Markers, this Target button specifies which track a Marker will be created on if the new Add Track/Folder Marker shortcut of Command+Enter (Control+Enter on PC) is used. The Enter shortcut for creating Markers on the timeline ruler is unchanged.

Using this new shortcut, a Track or Folder Marker is created at the playback cursor position. If your timeline and edit selections are linked, as they usually are, then this will also be at the insertion point, but actually it follows the playback position, not the edit selection.

The third of these new buttons toggles between showing the Marker name and its associated comment. This greatly increases the usefulness of comments, by making it possible to display the comments field that has always been available in the Memory Locations Window on the timeline in the Edit window. These new Marker controls can be displayed or hidden using the View menu under Edit Window Views. They can be Option/Alt‑clicked to hide them in the same way as other elements of the Edit window.

The Memory Locations window lets you sort Markers by colour.The Memory Locations window lets you sort Markers by colour.

A significant change to all Markers is the use of colour. All Markers used to be yellow, and while there was the option to Always Display Marker Colours, this coloured the space on the ruler between the markers rather than the markers themselves. This preference is replaced by a choice of display marker colours in the ruler and/or on tracks, and a preference to randomise marker colour on creation. With this unticked, Markers will be created using the previously selected colour, which might be useful when you want to create markers that are related in some way. The colour of a new marker can be controlled using the 1‑8 keys in combination with either Command or Option (Control or Alt on PC).

The New Memory Location window now offers a choice of 16 colours for new Markers. As well as visually differentiating between Markers, they are useful because the Memory Locations window offers the option to sort by colour, opening up the possibility to use different colours to denote and group Markers.

Making Memories

Other changes have also been made to the Memory Locations Window. It’s now fully resizable and has a new Track Name column, which displays the track on which the Marker resides and an accompanying icon to denote the track type.

These new Markers are simple to use, powerful and, importantly for a DAW as mature as Pro Tools, don’t impose changes on those who don’t want or need them.

These new Markers are simple to use, powerful and, importantly for a DAW as mature as Pro Tools, don’t impose changes on those who don’t want or need them. The operation of Ruler Markers is unaffected by their new brethren, but is added to in useful ways. The ability to colour Markers is welcome, as is the ability to display comments on the Markers ruler.

The Track and Folder Marker workflow is intuitive but really powerful. With Link Edit and Timeline and Link Track and Edit Selection enabled, you can use the P and semicolon keys in Command Focus to move up and down between tracks and then hit Command+Enter to create Markers exactly where you want them in a very intuitive way.

By default, Track Markers populate a new mini‑lane underneath the main Playlist. There is a new Markers view available for the main track lane, but the super‑useful shortcut Shift+U to toggle the Marker lane visibility is addictive. People using longer comments will find Markers view important, as the text of long comments wraps if the track height is large enough to allow it. The height of the dedicated Marker lane is small and fixed, and comments don’t have the same text wrapping.

New Marker options in the Preferences window allow you to assign a random colour to each new Marker, and to display Marker colours for Track and timeline Markers.New Marker options in the Preferences window allow you to assign a random colour to each new Marker, and to display Marker colours for Track and timeline Markers.

There are a couple of Marker‑related settings in the Options menu. The first is essential if you want to control targeting of tracks for Marker creation. Target Follows First Selected Track is necessary if you want to click in a track’s playlist or use P and semicolon to control track targeting with Link Track and Edit Selection as described earlier. If you prefer not to work this way, then an alternative shortcut is to use Shift+square brackets to move the targeted track up and down.

The second Marker‑related Options menu item is Markers Follow Edit. This works in a similar way to Automation Follows Edit, and in fact the newly added Toolbar button is next to Automation Follows Edit underneath the Scrub tool. This option allows Track Markers’ positions on tracks to be linked to the content on the track. There are times when you might wish for both types of behaviour, and this option allows that.

A useful modifier is to use Ctrl (Mac) or Start (Windows) while clicking on a Track Marker to snap it to the beginning of an Edit Selection or to the Insertion Point. Command+Ctrl‑clicking on a Track Marker (Ctrl+Start on Windows) snaps a Track Marker to the end of an Edit Selection. Double‑clicking on the space in between two Markers (Track, Folder or Ruler) creates a selection between them.

You’ve always been able to drag Ruler Markers horizontally along the timeline, and the introduction of Track and Folder Markers adds the ability to drag Track Markers vertically between tracks. Usefully, you can drag a Track Marker between tracks of any type, including from a track to a folder and even from a track to the Marker ruler. A nice touch here is that the Marker is constrained horizontally while dragging vertically, unless it is dragged a significant distance horizontally. At this point it becomes ‘detached’ and can be dragged any distance, including a distance smaller than the amount it was dragged before it became horizontally unconstrained. Horizontal dragging follows the behaviour of whichever Edit mode you are in.

Final Thoughts

Comments in Markers have always been available, but because they were only visible in the Marker Window, they were previously underused. When you created a comment in a Ruler Marker in a version of Pro Tools prior to 2023.6, it could only be viewed within the Edit Memory Location window. Having these comments available in context in the Edit Window means they can be used to make timestamped notes for collaborators, or for your future self as a reminder. In the past, people have used track comments for this purpose, but they aren’t time‑specific. Another oft‑used but less than satisfactory workaround was to name clips or to create empty clip groups on an otherwise empty track to serve as unofficial additional markers.

Track Markers with the option to Prioritise Marker Name vs Comments give the flexibility to label not only the time at which a comment pertains, but also the specific track or range of tracks to which it relates. If no comment is present on a Marker, its name will be displayed instead. Because Prioritise Marker Name vs Comments is a setting that can be enabled on a per‑track basis, notes and snag lists can be worked through one track at a time. And a final workflow enhancement is the shortcut Shift+N to toggle comments on and off. In combination with Shift+U to toggle Track Marker lanes on and off, the rich information these new Markers can display doesn’t have to get in the way when you don’t need to see it. Nice!

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