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Pro Tools: Point Six Power

Avid Pro Tools Tips & Techniques
Published September 2017
By Mike Thornton

Screen 1: Layered Editing in Pro Tools 12.6 provides visual warnings when you’re about to obscure clips on a track by moving another clip over them. The blue shading at the right indicates that further clips off screen will also be affected.Screen 1: Layered Editing in Pro Tools 12.6 provides visual warnings when you’re about to obscure clips on a track by moving another clip over them. The blue shading at the right indicates that further clips off screen will also be affected.

We explain how the new editing features in Pro Tools 12.6 will benefit everyone.

Prior to version 12.6 Pro Tools was a what-you-see-is-what-you-get or ‘WYSIWYG’ application, at least as far as overlapping clips were concerned. If you dragged one clip over another, all you’d see (and hear) was the top layer; and if you deleted the top layer, anything underneath it was deleted too.

However, with the release of Pro Tools 12.6 Avid have added a Layered Editing feature that can help with, and warn against, dropping clips over the top of existing clips on tracks. The easiest way to explain how this Layered Editing feature works is to demonstrate a number of scenarios with and without layered editing enabled. There are two ways to turn the Layered Editing feature on and off: either go into the Options menu and select or deselect Layered Editing, or use the new Layered Editing button in the toolbar.

Clip Coverage

Before 12.6, I have lost count of the number of times I have dragged a long clip out of the clip list and dropped it over a carefully crafted sequence of clips and edits without noticing what I’ve done. Often I’ve only spotted my mistake later on when the move is no longer in the undo queue, so the only way to restore that sequence would be to import it from an earlier version of the session.

One of the things that Layered Editing does is give you a warning when this sort of thing is about to happen. You can see in Screen 1 (above) that the boundaries of the clips visible in the Edit window are all highlighted in blue and there is a blue graduation at the right-hand edge of the screen which shows that there are other clips out of sight that are going to be obscured by the clip I am dragging in.

If I do let go, Layered Editing won’t stop the new clip obscuring the other clips; and, as before, if I subsequently delete the new clip, any clip completely obscured will be gone. However, all is not lost, thanks to another related feature added in Pro Tools 12.6 called Send Overlapping Clips To Playlist, in the Editing tab of Pro Tools Preferences. With this feature enabled, when you drag a clip that will completely obscure clips already on a track, those clips about to be completely obscured are moved onto a new Playlist. You can see this in action if the track is in Playlist view, but you don’t need to be in order for this to work. (Any clips only partially obscured can be restored using the Trim tool as before.)

Screen 2: Layered Editing has its own toolbar button.Screen 2: Layered Editing has its own toolbar button.There is also a similar feature relating specifically to the situation where you’re recording new clips over old ones. In Pro Tools 12.5 and earlier, if you were recording onto a track with clips already on it, you could easily record over a clip and it would be completely lost from the track. Now with the Record preference enabled, every clip that is recorded over is pushed down onto another Playlist rather than being lost from the track. If the playlist option is disabled, the blue graduation at the right-hand side becomes a red graduation, warning that you will not be able to retrieve any completely obscured clips.

Another change with Layered Editing is that when you take a smaller clip and drop it in the middle of a larger clip, then delete the smaller clip, the original clip will be restored to its complete state. Under the previous behaviour, or with Layered Editing disabled, deleting the smaller clip would leave you with a hole.

The new Layered Editing features mean that Pro Tools can create Playlists automatically, potentially without the user noticing, so Avid have added a new Playlist indicator. When a track contains only the main Playlist, the Playlist selector is grey; when a track contains more than one Playlist, the Playlist selector turns blue.

Status Symbols

A couple of additional status indicators have been added into the toolbar in 12.6. The first is the Task Manager Status indicator, which lights and animates when the Task Manager is busy and remains unlit if the Task Manager has nothing to do. It will turn red if the Task Manager requires your attention, and clicking on the Task Manager Status indicator will open or close the Task Manager window.

Screen 3: Right-clicking the new Global Freeze icon allows you to freeze all tracks or your selection of track types.Screen 3: Right-clicking the new Global Freeze icon allows you to freeze all tracks or your selection of track types.The second status indicator is the Global Freeze Tracks icon, which goes blue when one or more tracks in the session are frozen. You can use the Global Freeze Tracks icon to freeze (or unfreeze) all audio, aux and instrument tracks in the session or project. You can also specify which track types you want (or don’t want) to freeze. Note that hidden or inactive tracks cannot be frozen.

To freeze or unfreeze only certain track types, right-click the Global Freeze icon and select the track types you want to include. Then either Command-click (Mac) or Ctrl-click (Windows) the Global Freeze icon, or right-click the Global Freeze icon and choose Freeze All or Unfreeze All from the contextual menu. Note that you can still Option-click (Mac) or Alt-click (Windows) the Global Freeze icon to freeze (or unfreeze) all tracks of all types. The selected Include options remain selected.

The Session Data Online Status indicator has been around for a while now, and is green when all audio files used in a session are available. If any files are offline, being processed, or otherwise unavailable for playback, this indicator turns red. Nothing new there, but the neat feature added in Pro Tools 12.6 is that when any files are offline, Pro Tools lets you click the indicator to open the Relink window and relink to offline files.

Hands-on Fades

Screen 4: Fade shapes can now be adjusted directly within the Edit window.Screen 4: Fade shapes can now be adjusted directly within the Edit window.Fade shapes can now be altered directly within the Edit window, without the user having to open a separate dialogue. If you use the Smart Tool, as I do, then just hover over the fade until the fade or crossfade icon appears. Then click on the fade and you get a yellow line showing the fade shape. As you move the mouse up and down you can change the fade or crossfade shape to suit. When you release the mouse button the desired fade shape will be selected. If you prefer not to use the Smart Tool, you can still access this feature by Command-clicking (Mac) or Ctrl-clicking (Windows) with the Selector Tool to adjust fades in the same way as with the Smart Tool. Note that if the Edit selection includes two or more tracks with more than one fade, holding down the Shift key whilst adjusting the shape of a fade will enable you to change all fades in the Edit selection.

Do not be alarmed if when you let go of the mouse button the fade shape doesn’t exactly reflect the shape you chose, by the way. Pro Tools hasn’t changed the shape of the fade; it’s just that there are a limited number of display options on the track for a fade or crossfade.

While we’re on the topic of fades, you can now set the fade shape (Standard or S-Curve) and the fade slope (Equal Power or Equal Gain) for fades and crossfades from the right-click menu in the Edit window. The corresponding shape and slope for the selected fade are ticked in the menu. If the Edit selection includes two or more fades with different shape settings, the Standard and S-Curve options appear in italics with no tick marks. If the edit selection includes two or more fades with different slope settings, the Equal Power and Equal Gain options appear in italics and with no tick marks. You can also edit Batch Fades from the right-click menu in the Edit window.

The Little Things In Life

  • There are also numerous small but worthwhile improvements in 12.6, one such being Tandem Trimming, which lets you trim the start and end of two adjacent clips together as long as one clip overlaps the other. With Tandem Trimming, when the cursor is placed at the edit between overlapping clips, the cursor changes to show two brackets and an arrow to show the direction of the tandem trim. Note that although Tandem Trimming can be used in conjunction with Loop Trimming and Scrub Trimming, it doesn’t work with TCE and Elastic Trimming.
  • Another very welcome addition is a shortcut for Save As...: Command+Ctrl+S (Mac) or Ctrl+Start+S (Windows).
Published September 2017