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Automation in Pro Tools can be approached in one of two ways, real-time recording of mixing moves or graphically via Edit tools. For real-time automation each track in Pro Tools has an automation mode selector that can be accessed via the Edit or Mix window. The default state of a track's automation mode is Read. Read mode will playback any previously written automation for that track. If no automation is present, a track is considered open and will retain its static state when manually adjusted.
So I'm going to clear out the automation on this lead vocal track so we can start from scratch. So in the Edit window I'm just going to select this track and choose Edit > Clear Special > All Automation, and that's going to wipe out any automation that's living on that track. So we have got a clean slate to work from. Now one thing that you are going to want to get familiar with when you're working with automation is the Automation window. So let me close this Memory Locations window and bring up with Automation window.
Now this window here is going to give us a master suspend and if I click this, it's going to suspend all automation in the session. And what that means is the mixer is going to revert back to manual control. So the mixer isn't going to move itself. All the mix elements are going to be static. Now I also have Write Enable, and this is really important from when we're approaching real-time automation, because what this is going to tell us is whether or not I'm able to record real-time fader moves for a specific automation parameter.
So I have Volume, Send Volume, Pan, Send Pan, Mute, Send Mute and Plug In. So let's say we just want to do some Volume automation. I'll uncheck Mute and make sure Volume is highlighted in red. Now what I can do is take this track, switch it from read to write mode. And what that does is it puts this track into a special recording mode just for automation. So it's not going to record any audio or anything like that, but just the fader moves that I make, and in this case just the changes to volume that I make.
So let me bring up a little breakaway fader here. Go to my I/O view and pull up a little mini-fader to work with. Then I'm going to switch to my volume view here. So I'll click on the Track View Selector where it says waveform, and I'll switch to volume. Now I'm going to playback this session. (Male singing: Trouble bound.) (Male singing: We hit the town. And... ) So you could see that in real-time that red line was recording any changes that I made to this volume fader.
Now what happened, as soon as I was done recording that write pass, it automatically switched to auto latch. So let me tell you about the different modes here. So we know that read will read back any of this automation that's been written in. Off will turn automation off just for that specific track. So it reverts back to manual control for that track. And then I have my three write modes. I have touch, latch, and write. Now write mode is great for an initial pass, but it's not so good for update passes, because it's going to destructively write over what I already have.
So you can see that line. (Male singing: Trouble bound.) And that just blew over what I already have. So I probably want to do is once I have automation, I'll use an update mode like touch or latch. So let me show you how these work. Touch is only going to add automation when you touch or move a parameter. So if you think of a control surface, the Digidesign control surfaces are actually touch-sensitive, so they know when you are touching a parameter and when to write automation.
Now when you use your mouse, it's when you click on the button or click on the fader is when it considers it being touched. So let me just demo this for you. (Male singing: Tonight I fell asleep at the wheel.) Then I let go. (Male singing: I woke up just in time, with chills darting down my spine.) So you could see only when I was manipulating the fader was Pro Tools writing automation.
Now latch mode is kind of halfway between touch and write. Latch mode will play back any automation you already have, but as soon as you touch one of the parameters, it switches to write mode for just that parameter. (Male singing: Trouble bound.) (Male singing: We hit the town.) Now when I do real-time automation, I prefer latch mode, because in write mode if you are not managing your Write Enable, write will write across all parameters, even if you're not manipulating them.
So let's say you had some really cool Pan automation and you accidentally dropped into write mode and you were just working on Volume automation. If Pan was checked here, it would actually blow over any of that automation you already had whereas latch mode is going to act a lot like write and then you don't have to hold a fader to continue writing automation. But it's not going to destructively write over anything you are not touching. Now you may have noticed in touch mode, when I let go of the fader, the fader sort of matched back to its original position and we can actually control the amount of time it takes to do that in the Automation Preferences.
So if I go to Setup > Preferences and under the Mixing tab I actually have an Automation section. The AutoMatch Time is the time that it's takes from when I let go of a parameter to when it matches back to the previous break point value. So if we set this to 1 second and I use touch mode, it's going to take 1 second to return back to its previous break point value. And again that's under Setup > Preferences.
Now we also have an After Write Pass, Switch To and this is a good idea. No Change would leave it in wrote after you did a write pass, and remember those are destructive across all parameters that you have checked in your Automation window. So I usually want it to switch to Latch or Touch after a write pass. The default value here is Latch, and we'll switch this back to 250. It's usually a good number. The default number. So again when we are writing real- time automation, we are not going to use regular record or record on the transport.
What we are going to use regular record or record on the transport. What we are going to do is use the special automation selector for that track, and that's going to put in an automation record mode or set it to read back any previous automation or completely turn off automation for that track. Remember, if you want to write any real- time automation, you need to make sure that parameter is Write Enabled in your Automation window. And if you want to turn off all automation for the session, you can just hit Suspend.
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