Pro Tools users now have their own monthly column, focusing on tips, techniques, news and technical development coverage for the full range of PT systems, from the popular Digi 001 to top‑flight professional studio hardware.Software & Hardware Compatibility
Welcome to the first instalment in a new SOS software 'Notes' column. As regular readers will know, we already run columns dedicated to leading audio sequencer packages Cubase VST, Logic Audio and Digital Performer, and we felt the time had come for Pro Tools to have a column of its own too. The releases of Pro Tools LE, the affordable host‑based Digi 001 system, and the Pro Tools Free software have collectively been responsible for a large leap in the number of people using or trying Pro Tools. At the same time, progression of the MIDI side of the software, and a raft of new features, has seen a growing body of users who count Pro Tools as their main working environment, distinct from the traditional 'third‑party application + Digidesign hardware' users. We aim to make this column a reliable repository of all things current in the Pro Tools community, with varied contributions covering tips and techniques, up‑to‑date technical and compatibility issues, new product information, short tutorials, explanations of key concepts, and news about projects that stretch the boundaries of Pro Tools.
One of the characteristics of the system is that different users develop varied approaches to achieving the same goals. As a Pro Tools specialist, whenever I've foolishly allowed myself the luxury of thinking I know the software inside out it's not long before I turn up at a new workplace and find myself saying, "Hey! Wait, do that again. I didn't know you could do that!" So if you're feeling community‑spirited, email us your killer technique or shortcut. To reciprocate, we hope to respond to specific queries, whether they be technical or operational, to ensure that the column covers a wide range of interests, and not just ours. This month we've talked to Digidesign, to find out their priorities for the development of Pro Tools over the next 12 months, but first here's a quick look at new and imminent products.
First off is the Pro Tools MIX3 ('Mix cubed'), which is more of a new bundle than a totally new product. MIX3 is an addition to the Pro Tools TDM core‑system range, and is essentially a discount way of buying what would have been a MIX Plus with an extra farm card. This offer is presumably being made in response to the fact that projects making extensive use of Pro Tools 5.1's new surround mixing and multi‑channel plug‑in capabilities need more DSP resources. Don't despair if you've just bought a MIX Plus: Digi are operating their usual backdating policy, so recent purchasers can get their hands on another farm for around the same as the price difference between a MIX Plus and a MIX3.
The other recent release is the long‑rumoured Soft Samplecell, a 64‑voice, 24‑bit software sampleplayback and editing package. This is an enhanced, host‑based version of the Samplecell II card. While I'd originally expected that Digidesign would build a sampler around TDM plug‑in technology, the decision to develop a standalone software version means that it's open to all users. It also means that you've access to as much RAM as you have spare in the Mac, allowing you to load up to a Gigabyte of sample banks and instruments. Long‑standing Samplecell fans will be pleased to note that Soft Samplecell features resonant filters, something the hardware version lacked. PT users can bring up the outputs of the sampler within their on‑screen mixing environment via DirectConnect (Digi's equivalent to Steinberg's ReWire technology — OK, you knew that).
If all goes to plan, by the time this SOS reaches you Pro Tools version 5.1.1 will have been made available on the Digidesign web site. This will mainly be a maintenance release addressing a number of "unforeseen outcomes" and niggles, although it also features a handful of small but cool new operational features. These include well‑thought‑out enhancements to the zoom tool, some new features in the track show/hide list, and the ability to move crossfaded regions. I'll look at these changes in more detail next month, and point out any notable fixes when I've seen the release notes — although in all fairness 5.1 seems to have been quite reliable.
The people for whom the new version is especially significant will be those running Pro Tools on the Wintel platform. Version 5.1.1 will be the first Windows 2000 version of Pro Tools, providing an upgrade route for v5.0 TDM users on NT. Previously only the LE (001/Audiomedia III) releases of Pro Tools 5.1 were available on the PC, under Windows 98/ME.
I've been finding out about Digi's vision of the mid‑ to long‑term future for Pro Tools music users. After v5.1.1, the next development will be Pro Tools Internet integration, allowing multiple users to work on the same session from remote locations. This development is being made in collaboration with Rocket Network, whose technology has already made its way into some other applications. The hub for these virtual sessions will be DigiProNet, already on‑line at www.digipronet.com" target="_blank. The concept is going under the title of DigiStudio, and will be the chief new feature of Pro Tools 5.2, expected around August.
As for the more distant future, Digi are putting their engineering efforts into various lines of software development, so we won't see any hardware launches this year. They believe that the MIX platform still has plenty of life left in it, claiming that the combination of MIX3 and 5.1's ability to combine hostbased and TDM plug‑ins already represents a large increase in processing capacity. Software development is being split among improvements to music‑based features (particularly MIDI), further enhancements for postproduction users, and Mac OSX support. Could this be what we'll see with Pro Tools 6? Jed Allen, Manager of Digidesign UK, explains: "It's difficult to say when, and in which version we'll see these things, as they are being worked on in parallel." On the subject of OSX support, he says: "There's lots we could do with OSX, although there are still some questions about things like MIDI support. We use the PCI buss more than any other Apple developer, so it's a lot of work."
Next month, Pro Tools 5.1.1, and more on DigiProNet. Simon Price
In Logic Notes for the June issue of SOS, Mike Senior detailed a time‑saving technique for tightening up the timing of multitrack drum recordings. It caught my eye because almost the exact process he uses has been automated as part of the new Beat Detective tool in TDM Pro Tools 5.1.
In the early days of Pro Tools, one of the tasks it was most used for in music studios was transferring multitrack drum recordings and laboriously editing the sections with "a little more feel than perhaps desired" — as many bent‑backed programmers and engineers will testify. Beat Detective can extract tempo and bar/beat grids from sections of audio for use in the session, but what we're concerned with here is conforming a drum track to an existing tempo map. Mike's Logic recipe uses the Strip Silence function to chop up the tracks — which is also an option in Pro Tools — but Beat Detective uses the method of detecting transients in the material and placing cuts in front of them. The resulting regions of audio are quantised with respect to the bars/beats grid, and then Beat Detective automatically fills any gaps by trimming back the start points of each region and crossfading — preserving the 'room tone'.
Here's the rough outline to get you started. This example assumes the recorded drums are roughly at the right tempo but need tightening — for all the subtleties, and how to extract a tempo map from the recording itself, see the Reference Manual.
- First, select the area of drums that needs help (use Grid mode to make the selection start on a bar of the Session's existing tempo map, for the best results) and pull up Beat Detective from the Windows menu. In the Region Separation page, click 'Capture Selection' to make sure it's looking at the right place.
- Next, click 'Analyse' and Beat Detective will search for transients in the waveform.
- Now adjust the Sensitivity slider and you'll start to see vertical lines drawn across the waveforms, indicating where cuts will be made. Notice that, if you've made a multi–track selection, the cuts from any single track are applied across all tracks. This is to preserve phase lock across multi‑miked tracks. If you don't want this to happen, you need to go through the separation process on the tracks one at a time.
- Now switch to the Conform Region page, set the Strength slider to 100 percent and — making sure you still have the same selection length on screen — hit 'Conform'. With any luck, this should give you hard quantisation of all separated regions. Experimentation with the 'Strength' and 'Exclude Within' parameters will show you how to tighten things up while preserving some of the original feel.
- Finally, switch to Beat Detective's Edit Smoothing page, check the 'Fill and Crossfade' button, and hit 'Smooth'. Simon Price
To quickly turn all automation on or off for a selected track, shift/Apple/click on the track. I discovered this by accident when I used the combination unintentionally and couldn't figure out where my automation had gone! An Apple/click turns off automation for just the currently selected parameter.
Don't forget the Spot dialogue when you want to move a region. As well as being a very exact method of moving regions about, it gives you the ability to make the end point of the region, rather than its start point, snap to the required location. This came in handy when I was lining up some audio files imported from another MIDI + Audio sequencer that I knew had uneven starts, but all finished together at the end. (You can also insert a Sync point at a place within a region that really needs to snap to a specific location, and the Spot dialogue can snap a Sync point to that location.)
To select all tracks in the Edit or Mix windows, option‑click one track and all will be highlighted. If all are highlighted already, option‑clicking un‑highlights them. This is useful for many operations, but particularly if you've just created a bunch of new tracks at the start of a session: the newly‑created tracks are already highlighted, and the easiest way to un‑highlight them (so that you can start to choose individual tracks) is to use this command. Derek Johnson
On my last visit to the Digidesign web site, I noticed that the customer support department have published their 'Answerbase' on‑line. This is a really useful information resource that has built up over a number of years, and was originally developed for use by the company's tech‑support engineers. It's definitely worth checking out, if the tech‑support lines are busy, as it covers just about all Pro Tools error messages, and has short descriptions of common concepts. Simon Price
- The new four‑slot G4 Macs are now qualified for use with most Digi hardware, including MIX and 001. The exception is PTIII PCI hardware, although some users have been able to get it working with an update to the DigiSystem INIT extension (5.01cs8, available to download from the Digi website, www.digidesign.com/download" target="_blank). There is currently also an issue with Samplecell II cards in these Macs, which results in only one card being seen in multiple SCII card setups.
- Digidesign have approved the use of Titanium G4 Powerbooks with the Magma two‑slot CardBus chassis (CB2S) for MIX and 001 systems. Serious pose‑value if you get one of these!
- Digi 001 does not support Hewlett Packard Pavillion PCs, AMD K6, K6–2, or K6‑III processors, or PCs with a VIA chipset motherboard.
- Apple's iMovie 2 doesn't work through Digi hardware — you should use the Mac's built‑in audio outputs.
- If you have a 1622 interface connected to your core TDM card, you should download DAE 5.1cs4 – see www.digidesign.com/download/daed..." target="_blank. Simon Price