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In this video, I want to talk about how to deal with delays that plug-ins cause when processing audio in Pro Tools. Host-based RTAS plug-ins and HD only TDM plug-ins are both real-time effects. Therefore, it takes time for your computer to process the audio signals that pass through them. This delay is usually measured in number of samples. You can check the amount of delay that a plug-in adds to a track by Command-clicking on a Mac or Ctrl- clicking in Windows on the Tracks volume indicator here. Clicking here toggles the display from volume to headroom or peak level and then to channel delay.
The delay values are shown in number of samples. To show the delay on all the tracks at once, press Option+Command and click on a Mac or Alt+Ctrl and click in Windows and the toggle to the delay. Some plug-ins like the Stacey-Q plug- ins in Pro Tools require a very little processing power and very few if any, samples of delay. We can see here that this EQ plug-in on this track doesn't cause any delay on this track.
However, processor intensive plug- ins like Vocal processor and Pitch correction, look-ahead mastering limiters like Digidesign's Maxim Plug-in and Noise reduction plug-ins can have much larger delays and the delay literally adds up. The total delay of a track is equal to the sum of all the delays from all the plug-ins on that track. However, this delay often isn't too much of an issue when mixing except when trying to keep two tracks time aligned that that same signal source. For example, if you have recorded an acoustic guitar with several mics in one DI track, you want all of those tracks to stay time aligned to avoid acoustical phase cancellation. Those tracks can become unaligned if you add plug-ins to one of the group tracks and not the others.
Another scenario on which a plug-in delay can affect the track is if the plug-in has a massive amount of delay, such as the 1024 samples of delay that the Digidesign Maxim plug- in causes. Let me show you. Right there, a track with the delay this large will end up sounding behind the rest of the tracks in the session in time. Let's go for an extreme example. I'm going to add five of these Maxim plug- ins on to this one track. Now, I'm going to play these two tracks and they should be time aligned except for this delay from all of these Maxim plug-ins. Let's check it out. (Music playing.) Very much rhythmically out of time with each other. Now Pro Tools HD is the only version of Pro Tools that has automatic delay compensation that could handle a problem like this. It actually automatically pushes all tracks forward in time to match up with the track that has the most delay. Pro Tools LE and M Powered don't have automatic delay compensation.
However, you can manually compensate for the delay in two ways. One way is to add the Time Adjuster plug-in, look at that here and if you put this on all of the other tracks and then adjust the number of samples of the delay, in this case, I have already typed in 5120 samples which matches what we have here. Then this track will be delayed as much as this other one and they should be in time together. Let's have a listen. (Music playing.) It worked. Another way to manually compensate for the delay is to nudge or move any track with the delay back in time, that is towards the beginning of the session and move it back the same number of samples as are shown in the track's display view right here. If you do this, I highly recommend making a duplicate playlist on the track before moving the region, so that you can easily get back to the original track position if need be.
So let me do that. I'm going to duplicate this and now what I'm going to do is actually go to Spot mode and because I know that the delay is 5120 samples, I'm going to move this back in time 5120 samples, which turns out to be 70480 and I'll click OK, and then you will see that it actually moved this region.
So now I'm going to go over to this track and make this plug-in inactive so that there is no delay on this track anymore. So this is back in its original position and this track has been moved forward to compensate for this delay right here and if I press Play, they should be perfectly time aligned again. (Music playing.) It worked. Now what about delay with virtual instruments, external MIDI devices, and Rewire applications, like if you are using Propellerhead region software with Pro Tools. Before starting a mix, in most cases, I recommend recording all audio from your external MIDI devices, virtual instruments or Rewire applications that are in use in your session.
Then mute all MIDI tracks and inactivate any virtual instrument plug-ins and Rewire applications before mixing. This will free-up system resources for more processing power for mixing, and ensure that no additional delays incurred from virtual instruments and Rewire signal routing and let me show you how to do this. I am going to scroll down here. We have got an instrument track with Mini-Grand on it. Assuming that we had performance data, we would actually record the output from this track on to Bus 7-8 and then we'll pick it up at the input here, 7-8 again on this audio track, and simply record the output from this virtual instrument track on to this audio track, and then we can take this entire track and make it inactive.
And that reclaims any processing power that we had going to the Mini-Grand and this entire track. As an added bonus, having your virtual instruments, MIDI, and Rewire tracks as audio means that you can easily apply plug-in effects to them within Pro Tools. So now you know how to compensate for plug-in delay within Pro Tools.
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