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Evaluating plug-in processors

From: Pro Tools Mixing and Mastering

Video: Evaluating plug-in processors

With literally thousands of plug-ins in the market costing well into thousands of dollars for some packages, it can be quite difficult to know which plug-ins to add to your system. Well the stock DigiRack and AIR plug -ins that ship with Pro Tools are a great starting point. You will eventually want to explore more options. Here are some things I like to consider when researching a new plug-in. First of all, I like to download the demo. Many people don't know that 95% of all plug-ins have free, albeit time-limited fully functional demos on their web site.

Evaluating plug-in processors

With literally thousands of plug-ins in the market costing well into thousands of dollars for some packages, it can be quite difficult to know which plug-ins to add to your system. Well the stock DigiRack and AIR plug -ins that ship with Pro Tools are a great starting point. You will eventually want to explore more options. Here are some things I like to consider when researching a new plug-in. First of all, I like to download the demo. Many people don't know that 95% of all plug-ins have free, albeit time-limited fully functional demos on their web site.

So someone like Waves I could go to the Downloads section and I'm just looking for a demo link here. Now at that point I need to create Account Login and I could download that demo to my iLok. It's important to know that most demos these days are going to require an iLok, and that used to be a problem because Pro Tools used to be run without an iLok, but now most people running Pro Tools 9 and 10, you're already going to have an iLok, and you can use that same iLok to purchase plug-ins and get demo licenses.

So a lot of people don't understand that, that iLok can hold more licenses than just your Pro Tools license, so beware of that. When you're evaluating a plug-in, instead of just buying into all the hype and all the marketing, because of course, when a company is marketing their plug-in, they are going to say, it's the best thing in the world. It's going to change your life. Yadi yadi yada. But be honest with yourself when you're doing the demo. You want to consider how does it sound, and that means how does it sound compared to the other plug-ins you already have? So if you're pulling up an EQ plug-in, do an honest demo. Compare it to what you already have, bring it into a mix and kind of match up some of the settings as best as possible and do some listening. How does it really sound? And then compare that to how much does it cost versus what you need.

A lot of people will go out and buy specialty plug-ins but they won't have a good core foundation of EQs and compressors, and reverbs and things like that. One thing that I like to consider is how DSP efficient it is, so when I bring up a plug-in, I will go to my Window > System Usage. Plug-ins like EQs and simple compressors might not even tick the CPU Marker 1%, whereas reverbs and really fancy brickwall limiters and things like that, might take up 5%, 10% chunks of that CPU and depending on how fast your computer is, it can be important to understand that the kind of plug-ins you're using and how they are going to affect your overall system overhead, because the last thing you want to do when performing a mix is get to that last section and you want to throw in that fancy new brickwall limiter you just bought, and now your computer is out of juice.

Figure out how much DSP cost that plug -in is going to utilize and consider that in your workflow. I also like to consider where and when will I use this. I have quite a few specialty plug-ins that I will use on occasion, and that's okay because I built my collection up over time. However, if you don't have the basics already taken care of, maybe consider when you're buying that new fancy plug- in, is this something you're going to use a lot or is there something else that you could purchase that you're going to get more use out of? And when evaluating that try to figure out if it has any unique features that aren't covered by your current set of plug-ins.

A lot of the plug-ins that I choose to purchase have a unique feature that I'm not getting. For example, one of the things we talked about in compressors was having a mix knob or a blend knob on your compressor. None of the DigiRack compressors come with this mix knob, so that might be something that I really want and I really like in a compressor, so that's something I'm going to look for when I'm out shopping for compressors.

That's just an example. Another thing is do I like the user interface? Sometimes I'll have a compressor that sounds absolutely fantastic but the user interface is horrible. I can't navigate, I can't type in values, and so it just doesn't fit into my workflow when I'm moving through a mix sort of train of thought and I'm just reaching for sounds, trying to get that sound in my head. If what I'm using is stopping me in my tracks and making me think about how do I get that knob to go there, I don't like that at all, and so I've actually turned down plug-ins that sound fantastic and just opened up the DigiRack EQ because I could grab the actual nodes and I could get the sound that I wanted, quickly and move on.

Because again, mixing is all about taking that sound in your head and making that happen, and so if things are stopping you or holding you back in that process, you kind of want to consider do they belong in your workflow. At the end of the day write all these things down and again compare the plug-ins to the ones you have right now. Maybe do some blind listening tests but try not to be swayed by the big marketing budgets and paid endorsements of the major third-party plug-in companies. What you're going to find is they are always going to tell you that this plug-in is going to change your life, make you a mix star overnight, and just transcend space/time and instantly turn everything you do into solid gold.

Remember, mixing is a very incremental skill just like learning an instrument, so lots of little incremental steps and skills and tricks with plug-ins are going to add up over time to give you a confident and complete skill set.

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This video is part of

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Pro Tools Mixing and Mastering

84 video lessons · 10443 viewers

Brian Lee White
Author

 
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  1. 12m 57s
    1. Welcome
      1m 15s
    2. What is mixing? The past, present, and future
      4m 38s
    3. Exploring strategies for mixing and mastering
      5m 47s
    4. Using the exercise files
      1m 17s
  2. 47m 4s
    1. Mixing "in the box"
      4m 45s
    2. Setting up the studio: monitors
      6m 24s
    3. Setting up the studio: acoustics
      6m 42s
    4. Staying organized: labeling tracks and clips
      11m 42s
    5. Staying organized: memory locations and window configurations
      9m 28s
    6. Managing system resources during mixdown
      8m 3s
  3. 48m 42s
    1. Introducing the Pro Tools mixer
      3m 19s
    2. Understanding mixer signal flow
      3m 55s
    3. Using inserts and plug-ins
      8m 54s
    4. Working with plug-in settings
      5m 57s
    5. Using sends and creating effects returns
      9m 5s
    6. Submixing with aux tracks
      6m 4s
    7. Using groups while mixing
      5m 32s
    8. Using master faders effectively
      5m 56s
  4. 18m 12s
    1. Conceptualizing the mix and making a plan
      6m 17s
    2. Adjusting volume and pan to balance the mix
      7m 49s
    3. Knowing when to process: mix problems vs. mix solutions
      4m 6s
  5. 43m 54s
    1. Understanding the mechanics of sound
      3m 21s
    2. Learning the basics of EQ: frequency-specific level control
      3m 3s
    3. Using DigiRack EQ 3
      6m 42s
    4. Exploring EQ strategies in mixing: correcting vs. creating
      7m 19s
    5. A working example: kick drum and bass
      8m 22s
    6. A working example: filtering loops
      6m 2s
    7. Exploring mixing tips and tricks: EQ
      9m 5s
  6. 1h 23m
    1. Understanding dynamics and dynamic range
      1m 48s
    2. Working with dynamics processors
      2m 41s
    3. Using the DigiRack Dyn 3 compressor/limiter
      8m 36s
    4. Balancing and shaping track dynamics
      2m 42s
    5. Using gates and expanders
      8m 26s
    6. Using de-essers to eliminate sibilance
      6m 52s
    7. A dynamics workflow example: vocal
      12m 21s
    8. A dynamics workflow example: drums
      12m 19s
    9. Exploring mixing tips and tricks: dynamics
      10m 11s
    10. Building parallel, or upward, compression
      7m 40s
    11. Reviewing dynamics concerns: How much is too much?
      2m 45s
    12. Using Avid Channel Strip
      7m 26s
  7. 59m 21s
    1. Using time-based effects to add depth and width
      3m 49s
    2. Exploring DigiRack D-Verb
      15m 48s
    3. Using the DigiRack delays
      11m 10s
    4. Mixing with reverb
      11m 28s
    5. Mixing with delays
      10m 40s
    6. Exploring mixing tips and tricks: creating mix depth
      6m 26s
  8. 15m 14s
    1. Working with the Creative Collection
      7m 18s
    2. Building distortion and saturation
      7m 56s
  9. 56m 48s
    1. Understanding automation
      4m 10s
    2. Recording real-time automation moves
      9m 0s
    3. Viewing and editing automation
      13m 12s
    4. Using clip gain
      9m 59s
    5. Automating plug-ins
      9m 34s
    6. Exploring automation strategies for mixing
      10m 53s
  10. 39m 22s
    1. Understanding the characteristics of a great mix
      6m 23s
    2. Working with a reference track
      7m 51s
    3. Avoiding common pitfalls
      10m 59s
    4. Building healthy mixing habits
      3m 23s
    5. Crafting your mix from start to finish
      10m 46s
  11. 1h 6m
    1. Understanding mastering
      5m 13s
    2. Working with general mastering strategies
      9m 5s
    3. Using limiting and compression to maximize track level
      12m 6s
    4. Working with multiband compression
      5m 34s
    5. Bouncing the mix
      8m 4s
    6. Understanding sample rate, bit depth, file formats, and dither
      9m 0s
    7. Metering with the DigiRack Phase Scope
      7m 46s
    8. Compressing audio for the web
      10m 0s
  12. 1h 19m
    1. Evaluating plug-in processors
      6m 3s
    2. Using saturation and other analog-style effects effectively
      11m 45s
    3. Setting up side-chains
      7m 27s
    4. Master bus processing
      11m 6s
    5. Creating and using mix templates
      10m 35s
    6. Dealing with plug-in delay and latency
      12m 28s
    7. Drum sample replacing
      12m 59s
    8. Setting pan depth in Pro Tools
      6m 39s
  13. 1h 0m
    1. Mixing in Pro Tools 11: What's new
      4m 36s
    2. Understanding the AAX 64-bit plugin format
      8m 31s
    3. Configuring the Pro Tools 11 Playback Engine
      8m 36s
    4. Using new metering options in the mixer
      7m 16s
    5. Working with advanced metering options
      8m 18s
    6. Mixing shortcuts in Pro Tools 11
      5m 40s
    7. Printing a mix using Offline Bounce
      7m 6s
    8. Advanced Offline Bounce workflows
      10m 51s
  14. 21s
    1. Thank you and goodbye
      21s

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