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Pro Tools 10 Essential Training with musician and producer David Franz illuminates the process of recording, editing, mixing, and mastering in Avid Pro Tools, the industry-standard software for music and postproduction. The course covers recording live audio and adding effects on the fly, creating music with virtual instruments and plug-ins, editing for time and pitch manipulation, creating a musical score, and mixing and mastering a track.
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 the 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 and 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 responds. 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 96 kHz sampling rate is half as long as 128 samples at 48 kHz sampling rate.
These calculations may be over your head at the moment, and 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 on to 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 one. 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. Under Host Engine, most of the time you want to keep the Ignore Errors During Playback/Record unchecked. Because if you do check it, it says this down here, may cause clicks and pops in your playback and recording. And suppressing errors requires at least 128 Samples of additional buffering on some systems. However, when checked, this setting enables Pro Tools to playback and record even if the session's processing requirements exceed the selected CPU usage limit.
If you do check it, the Minimize Additional I/O Latency check box appears, when checked, any additional latency due to suppressing errors is minimized to 128 samples, regardless of what it set in the Hardware Buffer Size. While this setting may cause worst performance on slower computers, check this if you're using a fast computer, but only if needed. Below the Host Engine we have the Delay Compensation Engine, and I'm going to discuss that in another video.
The Plug-in Streaming Buffer setting determines the amount of memory allocated for streaming playback from virtual instruments samplers like Structure. In fact, this option only appears if some version of the Avid Virtual Instrument structure is installed on your system. Now Structure FREE comes with all Pro Tools systems, so it's likely that it is installed on your system. Low values here free up system resources for other uses, while higher values yield better sample playback reliability from Structure, even though they take up more system resources.
Usually keeping the default value here is fine, only change this value if you're experiencing problems with the reliability of streaming playback from Structure. Check the Optimize for streaming content on audio drives check box if you're playing back samples from the same hard drive, as where the audio files are playing back from in your session. Now if this is a bit over your head, don't worry, this section is for more advanced users. Keep the default settings and Pro Tools will perform well in most cases.
In fact, some of the other settings and terminologies explained here in this video might not make complete sense to you right now. However, they will as you move forward using Pro Tools. Revisit this video after getting more familiar with Pro Tools and you'll understand it more deeply. That said, for the 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.
Leave the rest of the settings at their defaults. These settings will increase the power and optimize your performance of Pro Tools on your computer.
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