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Once recording and editing are finished, audio engineers can take advantage of the training in Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools to punch up the final output. Digidesign Certified Expert Brian Lee White covers all the basic mixing tools that every producer and engineer should know, from using EQ to add clarity and focus to using compression and limiting to maximize track levels within a mix. Brian stresses the importance of setting up a solid mixing plan prior to any work in Pro Tools, and gives advice on the best plug-ins for each stage of the process. Exercise files accompany the course.
While not specifically designed for the task, because of its sample accurate editing environment and advanced fade options, Pro Tools can be used to sequence gapless CDs that can be burned in any program that supports zero second track gap burning, like iTunes. So, how I'd approach this is I'd first create a new session that's 16-bits, just use Stereo Mix as the I/O Settings here, and we'll just call this sequence, and I don't need the Click track.
So I'll go ahead and delete that. Now, what I'm going to do is I'm going to bring all the tracks that I want to sequence for this CD into the session, into the regions list and for this example, I'm just going to go ahead and use the Take_Me_Down_final.mp3 and duplicate that a few times. But for you, you would actually take and sequence out your multiple tracks. If you had five tracks, you'd bring in those five tracks. Now, I assume at this point that we've mastered our tracks, we've truncated them down to 16-bits, we have done everything we needed to do, added the dither, basically we are just looking at our final stage of burning these to a master CD.
Now, I'll just create a new track from this by dragging it to the Tracks list, and I'm just going to duplicate this a few times, just for an example, and I'll give them each one a different color, so we can see that. Now, from this point, there is really two ways you can approach this. You could actually lay them out on to separate tracks and then bounce them down to one again, or you can just work from one track. And so what I'm going to do is I'm going to place these here, and if I wanted to do cross-fades between them, there might be some overlap and then I can add any kind of cross-fade I want, Edit > Fades > Create, and I can adjust the fade points or even use an unlinked fade to have more control, over when one goes out and the other one comes in.
Generally when you're doing sort of fade -outs of music, or cross-fading into a new piece of music, the shape that kind of starts out fast, and then ends slower is better than the shape that kind of starts out slower and ends fast. It's a little more what you are used to as a fade out in the music. This can be a little aggressive and kind of end abruptly. So, I found that this works a lot better for fading out a tune, sort of on a CD or as you are cross fading between two tracks.
So, I'm going to apply it in my cross- fades and again, I'm just using this, duplicates of this to take me down as an example. You would be using your own separate songs here, and we'll fade that one real quick. Now, that I have all the transitions set up, what I'm going to do is I'm going to layout memory locations based on where I want the track to change. And I'll do this by just hitting the Enter key on the numeric keypad, and I'm going to do a Marker because I'm marking a place in time, and so we'll call this track1, and then I'll listen and I'll find the point right where I want to switch to track2, and we'll do one more for track3.
So, I've three memory locations and this is going to mark where the CD actually switches from track-to-track. Now because there is cross-fades, some of the fading out track might make it into the beginning of the next track or vice-versa. So, use your best judgment. If you are doing gaps, you might actually have a track that has a gap. If we did track4, so this would represent the gap.
Now, for gaps, listen to your gaps. Do they make sense? Does the transition from a slower song to a faster song work or vice-versa? This is something that mastering engineer spend a lot of time thinking about, and we'll mark this last one right here, this is track4. Now once I've my memory locations and I've done all of my cross-fades between the tracks. Go ahead and add a little cross-fade out of this one and make sure this doesn't have any pops and clicks at the beginning, so I'll add a little fade-in here.
Now that everything is laid out, I'm going to listen from each memory location to make sure that that's exactly where I want that track to start and that the transitions sound good, and that the gaps sound good. And what I'm going to do is I'm actually going to take this whole set of regions and I'm going to consolidate it into one new file, and what this is going to do, its going to permanently right those fades and those gaps into a new audio file. So, I'll select everything just triple -click and Edit > Consolidate Region.
And so what I get in my Regions list is one big file here. And I'll just double-click that and I'll call this MyCd. And so that's one solid file representing all four tracks. Now what I'm going to do is using Pro Tools Sample-Accurate editing, I'm going to click on each memory location and separate region at that point. So, I'll go in and choose Edit > Separate > At Selection or Apple+E or Ctrl+E on the PC, cut and cut.
Now, I'm going to have four new regions, and each one represents a track, but the gaps here or the transitions are going to remain the same, they are going to sound exactly the same, even though I made a cut, because I burned those fades into a new audio file. So, what I'm going to do is rename each one of these. I might name it the song title, but I'll just go ahead and do MyCd-track1, MyCd-track2, MyCd-track3, and MyCd-track4.
To rename a region, I'm just double-clicking with the Grabber tool. Now what I've got are four regions in the Regions list representing each one of those tracks. Now, at this point what I'm going to do is I'm going to export those as new files. So, it's going to take each one of those regions and export it as a new audio file. So, I'll select all four of those, and I'll right-click and choose Export Regions as Files. Now, I want to choose Stereo under Format, and 16-bits here.
Our CD is going to be 16-bits, 44.1K. Now, I've already done all my mastering and dithering at this stage, so I don't need to worry about that. Now, I'm going to choose a folder, so I'll put this in a new folder in the exercise files, called CD and I'll hit Export. Now, I have these as separate files on my hard drive right here, 1, 2, 3.
And what I'll do now is I'll go into iTunes or whatever CD burning program I'm going to use, I'll create a New Playlist, call this MyCD and then I'll just drag-and-drop these in. Now, this might kind of mess up your iTunes library, so once you burn the CD, you might want to go remove those from iTunes, if you don't want to kind of muddy up your iTunes library or you may just want to use a whole separate burning program altogether.
Now, I can hit Burn disc, I'm going to do an Audio CD with a no or a none on the Gap Between Songs and then I can hit Burn and then I would check that to make sure my transitions were good. Now, for you Preferred Speed if you're going to go to duplication with this, if you're going to send this to duplication, let me first suggest that you don't use iTunes to burn your CD, if you do use 1x speed and use really high-quality media. The problem with using an audio CD to send to a duplication plant is that the audio CD Spec or the Red Book Spec, first of all iTunes doesn't even burn Red Book Spec, but at any rate there are lot of errors that are possible in the burning process.
And so a lot of mastering engineers will use DDP files or Disk Description Protocol, and they will actually send a data disc or via FTP to the duplication plant. Data CDs or these data files have a more robust error correction than the audio CD format and so you're just really making sure that it's getting to the plant, with as few errors as possible. But you can do this and you can burn it at 1x. That's going to reduce the chance of any errors happening, again using high-quality media and then I can just hit Burn.
So again iTunes doesn't burn Red Book Spec audio CDs and because of that they may be rejected by the pressing plant or the pressing plant might have to spend extra time re-ripping your CD and making a file that doesn't have a lot of errors. So, you might want to enlist a master in engineer, if you are going to run down 5000, 10,000 copies of something or look into a program that can burn Red Book Spec CDs, like CD Architect for the PC or Bias Peak for OS X, and make sure you burn on high-quality media at a very low speed.
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