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Once recording and editing are finished, audio engineers can take advantage of the training in Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools to punch up the final output. Digidesign Certified Expert Brian Lee White covers all the basic mixing tools that every producer and engineer should know, from using EQ to add clarity and focus to using compression and limiting to maximize track levels within a mix. Brian stresses the importance of setting up a solid mixing plan prior to any work in Pro Tools, and gives advice on the best plug-ins for each stage of the process. Exercise files accompany the course.
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.
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