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Dealing with plug-in delay and latency

From: Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools

Video: Dealing with plug-in delay and latency

Latency or delay can occur when using certain plug-in processors, especially ones that use Look Ahead technology like Auto-Tune, and most brickwall Limiters like L1, L1, Maxim things like that. Sometimes this latency is only a few samples and doesn't cause you too much trouble, unless you need absolute phase accuracy like in a parallel processing scenario, while others create so much delay that you may experience rhythmic inaccuracies in the mix.

Dealing with plug-in delay and latency

Latency or delay can occur when using certain plug-in processors, especially ones that use Look Ahead technology like Auto-Tune, and most brickwall Limiters like L1, L1, Maxim things like that. Sometimes this latency is only a few samples and doesn't cause you too much trouble, unless you need absolute phase accuracy like in a parallel processing scenario, while others create so much delay that you may experience rhythmic inaccuracies in the mix.

So again, where does this is come from? We have to remember that computers are step-time. So some processors need a little bit more time than others. Why is this a problem though? Well, the problem is if one track has one processor that takes a little extra time, more than the hardware buffer in our playback engine, what happens is it actually holds this track back in time and it can do so, so much that that track may sound out of time with the rest of the mix.

So I'm going to put Auto-Tune on this track, because I know that actually causes delay. Now how do I know if a plug-in causes delay or not? Well, what I can do is go down to the Volume indicator on every channel strip, I can hold down Apple or Ctrl on the PC and click until it says dly or delay, and it's going to show me the delay in sample. So if I were to bypass this plug-in or I should say make it inactive, now I'll have zero samples of delay.

Now what is 1300 samples? Well, roughly that's about 30 milliseconds, because we are running at 44,100 samples per second, and that's about 44 samples per millisecond, so 1300 or around 30 milliseconds give or take. Now that's enough to make the vocal kind of sit behind the beat. Maybe a little too much. So what I'm going to do in this scenario is I'm going to take and actually shift the vocal back in time by 1380 samples and that way when it plays through the effect, it's going to get held back, but since it's played early, everything is going to come out in the wash.

So what I'll do is I just go to the Edit window and I'm just going to take and if my track starts right at the beginning, I'm just going to cut off a little from the beginning, so I can shift it back. Then I'm going to select everything and choose Edit+Shift, and I'm going to shift that backwards in samples, earlier in samples, by the amount of the latency. So that was 1380. So you didn't see it, but what it actually did is it shifted that whole region backwards by about 30 milliseconds.

Now when I play this back, everything is going to sound right. It's going to sit right in the mix. It's not going to be late. Now some plug-ins do even more than that. So it's even more critical that you pay attention to that. If you are using something like a UAD card or a Power Chord card, these sort of additional third party DSP cards, these tend to cause a whole lot of delay, because you have to go out to the card and then back again and this can be troublesome if you are mixing a lot with those effects. There is actually a solution from a third party called Auto Time Adjuster.

It actually comes with the UAD card. If not, if you're looking for that, you can Google that. The idea is that it sits on each one of your tracks and then you put special one for the Master Fader and it's sort of pings through, it sends a test tone through and then calculates the amount of delay on each channel to hold it back. This isn't as elegant as the automatic delay compensation on Pro Tools HD, which will actually calculate the delay automatically. You don't have to do anything. But it does work if you have a lot of delay causing plug-ins.

Like I said, this isn't a problem for most people. You'll find that if you go through your tracks, in fact on this mix, I'll bring up the whole mix here, most of these aren't causing too much delay. So let me widen it out. So a little bit going here on the Kick Bus. None here, none here. I'll just hold down Option+Command- click, so that I can see all the delays. So I got a delay here on the Master Fader because of Maxim and then the only other delay was due to Auto-Tune, and the reason Auto-Tune is creating delays it actually has to look ahead at the signal to extract to the pitch, so that it can work in real-time.

It extracts the pitch and then it compares that to the graph or to whatever you set the scale to in order to correct that, in order to make those discreet pitch changes over time. So whenever, I shift some thing backwards like on these lead vocal, I'll immediately put that in my comments so that I know what's going on or any other engineer knows what's going on. So I'll say shifted back 1380 samples for autotune.

Now if I remove this, say I just totally get rid of autotune, I should come down to my notes here and go, I shifted this back. So if I wanted to sound in time, now what I need to do is I need to go shift it forward in time to compensate for when I shifted it backwards. So I'll just bring up the lead vocals again and select that track Edit > Shift and I'll push it later by 1380 and that should reset that there. So there is no more delay on that track.

So just remember to manage your delay. Like I said, if it's only a few samples, it's not going to be a big deal. 44 samples is only about a millisecond. That's not enough to create any rhythmic inaccuracies until it starts getting up towards 5 milliseconds. If you are phasing on certain tracks that you are parallel processing, it might mean that one has a little bit of delay and the other doesn't. This can be a problem, so you might have to do some nudging or some shifting to get back that work out and any delay that you have on the Master Fader is okay, because all tracks are being processed by that same amount of delay.

So you don't have to worry about it too much.

Show transcript

This video is part of

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Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools

77 video lessons · 9192 viewers

Brian Lee White
Author

 
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  1. 14m 50s
    1. Welcome
      1m 12s
    2. The past, present, and future of mixing
      6m 20s
    3. Strategies for mixing and mastering
      5m 38s
    4. Using the exercise files
      1m 40s
  2. 40m 24s
    1. Mixing "in the box"
      5m 9s
    2. Setting up the studio: Speakers and acoustics
      13m 12s
    3. Staying organized: Effectively prepping the mix
      10m 50s
    4. Managing system resources during mixdown
      11m 13s
  3. 41m 39s
    1. Introducing the Pro Tools Mixer
      2m 24s
    2. Understanding mixer signal flow
      3m 42s
    3. Using inserts and plug-ins
      7m 4s
    4. Working with plug-in settings
      5m 1s
    5. Using sends and creating FX returns
      6m 55s
    6. Submixing with aux tracks
      4m 30s
    7. Using groups while mixing
      3m 46s
    8. Using master faders effectively
      8m 17s
  4. 21m 11s
    1. Conceptualizing the mix and making a plan
      7m 45s
    2. Using volume and pan to balance the mix
      11m 18s
    3. Knowing when to process: Mix problems vs. mix solutions
      2m 8s
  5. 1h 3m
    1. Understanding the mechanics of sound
      3m 53s
    2. Learning the basics of EQ: Frequency-specific level control
      4m 29s
    3. Using DigiRack EQ III
      16m 3s
    4. EQ strategies in mixing: Corrective vs. creative
      7m 18s
    5. EQ workflow example 1: Kick drum
      5m 39s
    6. EQ workflow example 2: Filtering loops
      5m 10s
    7. EQ workflow example 3: The "telephone" effect
      3m 7s
    8. Mixing tips and tricks for EQ
      17m 36s
  6. 1h 15m
    1. Understanding dynamics and dynamic range
      2m 1s
    2. Working with dynamics processors
      2m 57s
    3. Using the DigiRack Dyn III compressor/limiter
      10m 6s
    4. Balancing and shaping track dynamics
      3m 19s
    5. Using gates and expanders
      9m 22s
    6. Using de-essers to eliminate sibilance
      5m 47s
    7. Dynamics workflow example 1: Vocals
      10m 0s
    8. Dynamics workflow example 2: Drums
      9m 29s
    9. Mixing tips and tricks: Dynamics
      11m 37s
    10. Building parallel or "upward" compression
      7m 53s
    11. Reviewing dynamics concerns: How much is too much?
      3m 28s
  7. 47m 48s
    1. Using time-based effects to add depth and width
      3m 22s
    2. Using DigiRack D-Verb
      14m 27s
    3. Using the DigiRack delays
      9m 18s
    4. Mixing with reverb
      7m 59s
    5. Mixing with delays
      6m 19s
    6. Mixing tips and tricks: Creating mix depth
      6m 23s
  8. 18m 8s
    1. Working with the Creative Collection
      9m 8s
    2. Building distortion and saturation
      9m 0s
  9. 37m 33s
    1. Understanding automation
      4m 10s
    2. Recording real-time automation moves
      7m 6s
    3. Viewing and editing automation
      10m 17s
    4. Automating plug-ins
      7m 36s
    5. Automation strategies for mixing
      8m 24s
  10. 29m 31s
    1. Understanding the characteristics of a great mix
      7m 2s
    2. Working to reference tracks
      4m 35s
    3. Avoiding some common pitfalls
      7m 50s
    4. Building healthy mixing habits
      3m 36s
    5. Crafting your mix from start to finish
      6m 28s
  11. 1h 5m
    1. Understanding mastering
      4m 15s
    2. Bouncing the mix
      7m 9s
    3. Working with general mastering strategies
      8m 50s
    4. Using limiting and compression to maximize track level
      10m 57s
    5. Working with multi-band compression
      7m 9s
    6. Understanding sample rate, bit depth, file formats, and dither
      7m 30s
    7. Using Pro Tools for CD track sequencing
      10m 11s
    8. Compressing audio for the web
      9m 41s
  12. 44m 51s
    1. Tips for evaluating plug-in processors
      6m 51s
    2. Using EQ plug-ins
      5m 35s
    3. Using dynamic compression plug-ins
      11m 3s
    4. Using reverb and delay plug-ins
      10m 46s
    5. Reviewing additional plug-ins
      10m 36s
  13. 57m 18s
    1. Effectively using saturation/analog style effects
      13m 40s
    2. Setting up side chains
      7m 5s
    3. Master buss processing
      5m 34s
    4. Creating and using mix templates
      6m 54s
    5. Surround mixing
      6m 22s
    6. Dealing with plug-in delay and latency
      6m 26s
    7. Drum sample replacing
      11m 17s
  14. 32s
    1. Goodbye
      32s

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