Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools
Illustration by Richard Downs

Viewing and editing automation


Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools

with Brian Lee White

Video: Viewing and editing automation

So once you have recorded some real- time automation, but if you don't a control surface and you don't like doing real- time automation with the mouse and you prefer editing automation in step time, you will need to be familiar with the track automation views of the Edit window. So if we switch here to the Edit window, I'm looking at the lead vocal. Now if I go to my Track View and I click on where it says waveform, I can switch to the different automation playlist for this track. Notice I also have one for each send that I'm using and the sends will create themselves automatically as you add a new send to that track.
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  1. 14m 50s
    1. Welcome
      1m 12s
    2. The past, present, and future of mixing
      6m 20s
    3. Strategies for mixing and mastering
      5m 38s
    4. Using the exercise files
      1m 40s
  2. 40m 24s
    1. Mixing "in the box"
      5m 9s
    2. Setting up the studio: Speakers and acoustics
      13m 12s
    3. Staying organized: Effectively prepping the mix
      10m 50s
    4. Managing system resources during mixdown
      11m 13s
  3. 41m 38s
    1. Introducing the Pro Tools Mixer
      2m 23s
    2. Understanding mixer signal flow
      3m 42s
    3. Using inserts and plug-ins
      7m 4s
    4. Working with plug-in settings
      5m 1s
    5. Using sends and creating FX returns
      6m 55s
    6. Submixing with aux tracks
      4m 30s
    7. Using groups while mixing
      3m 46s
    8. Using master faders effectively
      8m 17s
  4. 21m 12s
    1. Conceptualizing the mix and making a plan
      7m 45s
    2. Using volume and pan to balance the mix
      11m 18s
    3. Knowing when to process: Mix problems vs. mix solutions
      2m 9s
  5. 1h 3m
    1. Understanding the mechanics of sound
      3m 53s
    2. Learning the basics of EQ: Frequency-specific level control
      4m 29s
    3. Using DigiRack EQ III
      16m 3s
    4. EQ strategies in mixing: Corrective vs. creative
      7m 18s
    5. EQ workflow example 1: Kick drum
      5m 39s
    6. EQ workflow example 2: Filtering loops
      5m 10s
    7. EQ workflow example 3: The "telephone" effect
      3m 7s
    8. Mixing tips and tricks for EQ
      17m 36s
  6. 1h 16m
    1. Understanding dynamics and dynamic range
      2m 1s
    2. Working with dynamics processors
      2m 57s
    3. Using the DigiRack Dyn III compressor/limiter
      10m 6s
    4. Balancing and shaping track dynamics
      3m 19s
    5. Using gates and expanders
      9m 23s
    6. Using de-essers to eliminate sibilance
      5m 47s
    7. Dynamics workflow example 1: Vocals
      10m 0s
    8. Dynamics workflow example 2: Drums
      9m 29s
    9. Mixing tips and tricks: Dynamics
      11m 37s
    10. Building parallel or "upward" compression
      7m 53s
    11. Reviewing dynamics concerns: How much is too much?
      3m 28s
  7. 47m 49s
    1. Using time-based effects to add depth and width
      3m 23s
    2. Using DigiRack D-Verb
      14m 27s
    3. Using the DigiRack delays
      9m 18s
    4. Mixing with reverb
      7m 59s
    5. Mixing with delays
      6m 19s
    6. Mixing tips and tricks: Creating mix depth
      6m 23s
  8. 18m 8s
    1. Working with the Creative Collection
      9m 8s
    2. Building distortion and saturation
      9m 0s
  9. 37m 33s
    1. Understanding automation
      4m 10s
    2. Recording real-time automation moves
      7m 6s
    3. Viewing and editing automation
      10m 17s
    4. Automating plug-ins
      7m 36s
    5. Automation strategies for mixing
      8m 24s
  10. 29m 31s
    1. Understanding the characteristics of a great mix
      7m 2s
    2. Working to reference tracks
      4m 35s
    3. Avoiding some common pitfalls
      7m 50s
    4. Building healthy mixing habits
      3m 36s
    5. Crafting your mix from start to finish
      6m 28s
  11. 1h 5m
    1. Understanding mastering
      4m 15s
    2. Bouncing the mix
      7m 9s
    3. Working with general mastering strategies
      8m 50s
    4. Using limiting and compression to maximize track level
      10m 57s
    5. Working with multi-band compression
      7m 9s
    6. Understanding sample rate, bit depth, file formats, and dither
      7m 30s
    7. Using Pro Tools for CD track sequencing
      10m 11s
    8. Compressing audio for the web
      9m 41s
  12. 44m 51s
    1. Tips for evaluating plug-in processors
      6m 51s
    2. Using EQ plug-ins
      5m 35s
    3. Using dynamic compression plug-ins
      11m 3s
    4. Using reverb and delay plug-ins
      10m 46s
    5. Reviewing additional plug-ins
      10m 36s
  13. 57m 18s
    1. Effectively using saturation/analog style effects
      13m 40s
    2. Setting up side chains
      7m 5s
    3. Master buss processing
      5m 34s
    4. Creating and using mix templates
      6m 54s
    5. Surround mixing
      6m 22s
    6. Dealing with plug-in delay and latency
      6m 26s
    7. Drum sample replacing
      11m 17s
  14. 32s
    1. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools
9h 18m Intermediate Aug 20, 2009

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Topics include:
  • Using the Pro Tools Creative Collection to add clarity, punch, width, and depth to a mix
  • Recording real-time automation moves for future replication
  • Building healthy and profitable mixing habits when putting a final mix together
  • Knowing when to process the audio of a track
  • Using saturation effects to capture that "analog" sound
  • Working with limiting and multiband compression during the mastering process
  • Dealing with plug-in delay and latency in a mix
Audio + Music
Pro Tools
Brian Lee White

Viewing and editing automation

So once you have recorded some real- time automation, but if you don't a control surface and you don't like doing real- time automation with the mouse and you prefer editing automation in step time, you will need to be familiar with the track automation views of the Edit window. So if we switch here to the Edit window, I'm looking at the lead vocal. Now if I go to my Track View and I click on where it says waveform, I can switch to the different automation playlist for this track. Notice I also have one for each send that I'm using and the sends will create themselves automatically as you add a new send to that track.

So if I switch to volume, what I see here is the automation for this vocal is represented by a line that's connected by these little dots and these are called break points. In an automation graph or playlist in Pro Tools, it's really just a game of connect the dots. Since automation is vector-based what Pro Tools is going to do, it's going to take these dots and it's going to calculate the rate of change. So if I have a sort of a sloped line here, Pro Tools is going to look at these two break points and then calculate the rate of change over that time.

This makes automation in Pro Tools very smooth unlike sort of MIDI CC automation that you would use in virtual instruments. Now these break points can be manipulated. Now what I can do is using my Edit tools, the same tools that I'm going to use to edit audio, I can use these to create break points, to delete break points, to manipulate exiting break points. So if I use my Grabber tool, I can click on that line to insert a new break point or a new dot.

And then I can move it up or down, so if I wanted to make a little volume ramp on this specific word, I could add a few break points just by clicking and dragging. If I want to remove them, I can just Option-click or Alt-click on the PC. Now I can also use the Pencil tool to draw this in. So if I click and hold on the Pencil tool, I can use Free Hand to just sort of click-and-drag in new break points or I can use the Line tool to draw in straight lines.

And I can even use these other tools like Triangle, Square, or Random to draw in repeating changes in automation. So these follow your grid. So if my grid was set to 1 bar, I would sort of get this triangle way of oscillation at every bar. Same thing with the Square tool, I would get a square wave that oscillated in 1 bar increments. So that's kind of cool when you are automating plug-ins or automating pans to sort of flip back and forth. So we can delete existing break points by using the Selector tool and selecting across existing break points here and hitting Delete.

Now that's going to delete break points off a single playlist. So if I had other automation, it would not delete any of that automation. Now if I want to delete automation across multiple automation playlist or multiple automation views, what I can do is use the Edit > Clear Special > All Automation or just Pan or Plug-In Automation here. Or I can use the shortcut Ctrl+Delete on the Mac or Start+Delete on the PC to delete automation across all playlists, right.

And if I switch through there I would see that all the automation is now gone for that track. Now what you can do is you can also Cut, Copy, and Paste automation just like you do audio. So if I go in and I have a few break points and I want to copy them and paste them somewhere else, I'll choose Edit > Copy, place my cursor, Edit > Paste. Now it's only going to copy and paste from the same automation playlist unless I use Special Paste.

So if I wanted to paste these changes into let's say Pan, I would have to use Edit > Paste Special to current automation type. And that's going to tell Pro Tools that I want to go from one type of automation to another with those break points. Now I can also use the Duplicate command. So I can use Edit > Duplicate or Repeat. So if I had some rhythmic automation that was in time, let's say filtering a loop in time with the music, I could easily duplicate that out a few times. Now all of this graphic automation, all of this drawing in and manipulating of automation, it's not going to matter what mode I'm using.

As long as I have it set to read and automation is not suspended from the Automation window, it's going to read back any of those break points that I put in. Now those other modes touch, latch, and write. Those only matter when you are recording automation in real-time. So if you are the kind of person, like me for example, I don't mix with the control surface all that often. So I do a lot of my automation, a lot of the automation in session was done with a mouse. And you can usually tell because the little bit clear looking, and again it's really up to you and your workflow, how you want to automate things.

But just know that the touch, latch, and write really only to record automation moves in real-time. You can pretty much leave in read, if you are just going to be writing in break points with your Grabber or your Pencil tool. Now if I want to see more than one automation lane simultaneously like Volume and Pan, what I'll do is I'll choose my first, and then click on the little arrow at the bottom-left of each track to fold out an additional lane, and I can plus sign and I can fold out as many lanes as I need.

So here I could show mute, here I could show pan, and here I could show the send level for the chorus. Now when you are automating something that's part of a group. So if I moved here to let's say the drums, I'll bring up the Memory Locations window, and I'll switch to the Drums view. So the drums are part of a group, and with groups they all edit simultaneously when that group is active, and this goes for automation. So if I switch here to volume on one of these tracks and I draw in some automation, you see all members of the group are going to get that automation.

Now if I don't want that to happen, if I just want to do discreet automation on let's say just the snare drum. I'm just going to undo that here. What I can do is just disable that group. Then I can write in automation just for the snares. So you see how the snares were grouped. So all the snares are going to get that same automation. You can also suspend your groups if you want to avoid that while you are drawing an automation. This is also true when you do real -time automation with the group. So if the group is active and you push one fader, all faders will move and record automation.

Now if I want to suspend individual parameters as opposed to just turning the automation selector on a track off, let's say I just wanted to suspend volume automation for the drums, so that I can just sort of remix them. What I could do is Command-click or Ctrl-click on the PC on the Automation Track View Selector. If I wanted to disable volume for the whole session, I could use the Option or Alt modifier on the PC and click. Now it disabled all volume automation for the entire session, but it would still leave active any pan, mute, or plug-in automation that I have.

Now one thing I want to talk to you about is mute automation and certain controls, specifically mute is not a variable control. It's either on or off. So we are not going to have sort of half muted, I'm not going to be able to draw a line slopping on my mute parameter. It's either going to be on muted or not muted. That's really cool, because you get this little text that comes up to the left of your track. It's going to tell you what you are doing. Now if you are working on volume, it will tell you the DB change right here.

So I could see the fader is now at the 2.3 DB, -7.7. Now sometimes what you want to do is you've done an automation pass, but you just want to update that graphically, you want to take what you have and either make it louder or softer. So if I switch back to the vocal, it's a really good example. And I can go through, and let me just wipe this out here, and phrase by phrase I can select the words. Automation in Pro Tools is really cool because you can actually see the waveform.

So if you see things that need to come up or go down, you can visually select them in the Edit window and use my Trimmer tool to trim them up or down. So again, it's really easy. I can just make a selection here and then with my Trim tool trim that up or down, and I even get a delta value that tells me the fader is at 4.2 DB, but from where it was before is 1.4 DB higher. Now if you hold down the Command key or the Ctrl key on the PC, you are going to get 1 DB increment.

So you are going to able to make very fine changes as you are trimming your automation. Now Trim also works when you select a group of break points to trim them all up or down. So I use Trim quite a bit for setting my section dynamics. What I'll do is maybe over the chorus I want to be louder. So I'll select the chorus, use my Trim tool and I'll trim that up a bit. Maybe it needs to come back down in the Verse. So I'll select that. Trim that down a bit. It's a really effective way to quickly get things to sort of match what stage of the arrangement you are in.

So if the vocals need to come up in the chorus, down in the bridge, etcetera. Now depending on your preference and whether or not you have access to a control surface, you may wish to do all your automation graphically like this in the Edit window. So take a look at some of the automation in the demo session. You can just hold down Option and switch all Track Views to volume, and you can see that there is quite a bit of automation going on, just to make the section dynamics work out, just to make things flow from verse to chorus.

So take a few moments and check it out.

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