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Pro Tools 9 Essential Training with musician and producer David Franz demonstrates concepts and techniques necessary for recording, editing, mixing, and mastering in the industry-standard software for music and post-production. The course covers creating music with virtual instruments and plugins, editing with elastic audio for time and pitch manipulation, creating a musical score, and mixing with effects loops. Exercise files accompany the course.
In this video, I'm going to explain some of the key settings that affect how Pro Tools interacts with your computer, and why you should adjust them for improved performance. Let's go to this Setup menu and choose Playback Engine. First, make sure that the Current Engine matches the peripheral you chose in the Hardware Setup window. Let's talk about some of these settings down here. First, let's look at the CPU Usage Limit. The CPU Usage Limit is the amount of your computer's total processing power assigned to Pro Tools.
For example, if you assign 85% of your computer's power to Pro Tools, 15% is left for other applications, including your operating system. On this system, we're actually allowed to choose up to 99%, and that's because this is an 8-core multiprocessor. Your computer might only be able to go up to about 90% if you don't have a multi-core processor. The only reason not to boost this all the way to the limit is if you're going to be running other intensive programs on your computer at the same time as Pro Tools.
Now let's talk about the Hardware Buffer Size. The Hardware Buffer Size is related to latency. All computer recording systems have latency. Well, what is latency? Latency is the time it takes for your computer to receive an input signal, process it, and send it back out to an output so that you can hear it. Yes, that's right; digital recording is not actually instantaneous. We can adjust the latency in Pro Tools using the Hardware Buffer Size, shown here. The Hardware Buffer Size is the amount of audio data in samples that your computer grabs and processes at one time before it spits it back out for monitoring or recording.
Large buffer sizes give the computer more time to process audio data, but also increase the amount of latency, and cause slower user interface response. Small buffer sizes--like 32 samples shown here--decrease latency, but don't allow the use of as many plug-ins while using Pro Tools. So smaller hardware buffer sizes--like 32 samples or 64 samples--are more useful for recording sessions where you'll have less latency, and you may not need to use as many plug-ins.
Larger buffer sizes--like 512 or 1024 samples--are more useful for mixing sessions, where there is more latency, but you can also put in more plug-ins. As a side note, because these buffers are measured in samples, it stands to reason that faster sampling rates will yield lower latencies. For example, 128 samples at a 96 kHz sampling rate is half as long as 128 samples at a 48 kHz sampling rate.
These calculations may be over your head at the moment, but if they are no worries. The take-home message here is that lower buffer sizes are better for recording and higher buffer sizes are better for mixing. We'll discuss this topic further in the Recording chapter. Let's move onto the Host Processors. The Host Processors setting determines how many processors in your computer are allocated for plug-in processing. On computers with one processor, this is automatically set to 1; however, on computers with multiple processors like this one, you can increase this number to take advantage of those extra processors.
I recommend setting this to either the maximum, 8, or the one below the maximum allowed, 7, which is often the preferred value. When using most audio interfaces you want to keep the Ignore Errors During Playback/Record unchecked, because if you do check it, it says down here it, "May cause clicks and pops in your playback and recording." The only real reason to check this is if you need a little bit of extra horsepower from your computer, and you can deal with a couple of clicks and pops during playback and recording.
Below the Host Engine, we have the Delay Compensation Engine, and I'm going to discuss that in another video. Let's look at the DAE Playback Buffer. DAE stands for the Digidesign Audio Engine. It works behind the scenes within Pro Tools to manage all of the audio streams. The DAE Playback Buffer setting can affect the responsiveness of the Pro Tools interface. However, I've rarely have the need to change the default values, which are shown here: Level 2, which is the default, we'll keep it that, and the Cache Size we'll keep as Normal.
As you can read here on the screen, "Lower values for the disk buffer reduce disk latency while higher values improve disk performance." Again, the default settings should be fine for both of these. On some devices, you may see a plug- in streaming buffer in this window. This setting determines the amount of memory DAE allocates for streaming playback from virtual instruments samplers, like structure. Low values free up system resources for other uses, while higher values yield better playback reliability, even though they take up more system resources.
Usually keeping the default value is fine. Only change this value if you're experiencing problems with the reliability of streaming playback from virtual instruments samplers. Although some of these settings and terminologies explained in this video might not make complete sense to you right now, it will as you move forward in using Pro Tools. Revisit this video after getting more familiar with Pro Tools, and you'll understand it more deeply. However, for our purposes here, I would recommend maximizing your CPU Usage, adjusting your Hardware Buffer Size to a lower number, and setting your Host Processors to one below the maximum amount.
These settings will increase the power and optimize your performance of Pro Tools on your computer.
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