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One of the biggest changes in Pro Tools 9 is that it now works with any Avid or third-party hardware interface, and what's even cooler: it now works with no interface at all, just the native sound card of your computer. This opens up so much flexibility to aspiring sound designers, audio editors, and video makers who want to enhance and optimize their soundtracks for video. In this video, we will go over the specifics of audio interfaces and also other hardware peripherals that come in handy when you're using Pro Tools 9 for audio for video. As you may already know, the iLok is a crucial item you'll need to have connected to run Pro Tools 9.
It's got your software authorization on it, as well as authorization of any plug-ins you've purchase for Pro Tools. It's a cool way of taking your belongings with you and without having to take your whole rig, if you want to work in another studio, in a cafe, or even in the subway or an airplane. If you're using your native sound card, you'll be using the one built in on your computer. The audio quality is not great, but it will get you by in a pinch. On a Mac, this is managed by CoreAudio. This can be configured with the Audio MIDI Setup utility application. If you haven't seen where this is, it's located in Applications/Utilities and there it is, Audio MIDI Setup.
It's the little keyboard icon. When we open this, it shows controls with any connected audio devices, including our built-in core card which is represented by anything called Built-in. The physical inputs and outputs are on the side of your laptop or on your CPU tower. Another cool thing you can do in Pro Tools 9 is mix and match interfaces and use more than one connected device. This is called aggregate devices. It's for Mac only and set up also in the Audio MIDI Setup application. If I click on Aggregate I/O, I can see that I could add the Hammerfall DSP device, as well as our built-in inputs and outputs.
When it's time to get serious about your audio, you'll want an external audio interface to input and output sound from microphone and speaker monitors. These come in all shapes and sizes and range from FireWire and USB connections to connecting via installed cards in the tower of your computer. Let's go over a few of the popular interfaces out there. Avid, the company who makes Pro Tools, manufactures some quality interfaces. The Mbox series is portable, and it connects via USB. The 003 series has more inputs and outputs, and it operates over a FireWire cable. Then we have the high end of Pro Tools interfaces.
These interfaces such as the new Omni or HD I/O offer high-end converters, and they're connected via installed cards in the available PC IE slots of your computer tower. Remember, Avid HD interfaces also allow you to run the HD version of Pro Tools 9, but unlike before, one great thing about Pro Tools 9 is you can use any third-party audio interface. It's a free world, finally, for Pro Tools users. RME makes a number of affordable and flexible interfaces. Apogee makes a full range of highly vetted products from the two-channel Duet up to the high-end Symphony system.
Then there are audio file high-quality interfaces out there like Metric Halo and Prism Sound, just to name a few. Which is best for you? It's best to weigh the cost, the inputs and outputs you need, and what your requirements are. For surround sound mixing remember though, you'll need at least outputs. Now, what about other peripherals besides audio interfaces? Control surfaces offer power and flexibility, especially when it comes time to mix your audio for video project. Mixing with the mouse is no match for mixing with real faders, especially when you're trying to get that dialog track to sit just right between the music and sound effects in your mix.
Avid recently acquired Euphonix a company renowned for its control surfaces. Already, Pro Tools 9 utilizes Yukon technology, which provides enhanced control over an Ethernet connection for these types of peripherals. On the high end, we've got the ICON D-Command and D-Control control surfaces. External video is something you might think about when you're working with video. You can always import a video into your Pro Tools session as a QuickTime and preview it on your computer monitor, but you can also free up valuable screen space and view it in full res if you use an external video peripheral. Most audio for video professionals I know use a hardware box made by Canopus.
In Pro Tools, by choosing Options > Video out FireWire, you can attach Canopus box to the FireWire port, and it transcodes the signal to either S-video or a composite signal that you can then attach to any TV or NTSC monitor outside your computer. One note about this though: there is delay offset incurred by sending out via FireWire. The cool thing is you can easily make up for this in the Setup menu. Here we have something called Video Sync Offset. You can compensate for this offset here. For instance, the Canopus box requires 22 quarter frames offset.
One other caveat, if you're working this way, video must be encoded with the DV NTSC codec to do use external video. So you have to specify this with the video editor you're working with, prior to delivery. We'll talk more about codecs in the "Understanding video formats" video. Avid also makes the Mojo. You can use this instead of the Canopus box. It's an external FireWire video manager with even more features to handle many codecs, and it interfaces with the Avid video-editing software very easily. Finally, let's talk about speaker monitors. When you're working in audio for video you're going to need accurate reference monitors to hear what you're doing.
Also, if you're serious about 5.1 surround mixing, then you'll need to budget for more speakers. Many companies, such as Blue Sky and Genelec, offer 5.1 bundles to audio for video professionals. All of this might seem like a lot of gear to budget for, but compared to working on sound for video only a few years ago, you'll find is becoming much cheaper, much lighter, and more importantly, much more accessible for anybody to get in to.
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