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In Pro Tools, you can automate just about any parameter you want. You can program Pro Tools to remember volume, panning, muting, send levels, send trims, send mute, send panning, as well as any MIDI data, such as velocity, volume, muting, panning, pitch bend, program changes, and a variety of others. In this video, I am going to show you how to create and edit automation data in real-time while the session is playing back.
Automation data is stored on automation playlists in each track. You can view the automation playlists by selecting the automation type from the Track View selector. So, here if I want to choose volume, I can choose that, and the volume line shows up as a straight line before we've added any automation to it. If we adjust this level, the volume goes down. You can also show multiple automation lanes by clicking on the Plus button right over here and adding other lanes of automation.
There are five main automation modes in Pro Tools: automation off, read, touch, latch and write. Touch/latch and trim are two features that are only specific to the Complete Production Toolkit and Pro Tools HD, and we are not going to get into those here. So let's focus on the other five. Auto off turns off the automation on a track. The automation lane names get grayed out and become italicized, as you can see here. Auto read tells Pro Tools to read the automation data that's on the track.
That's the default automation mode. There are three ways that we are going to cover that you can use to create automation data, and that is touch, latch, and write. Auto write is used for the first time you create automation data on a track, or when you want to completely write over a track's existing automation. Auto touch writes automation data only while a fader or switch is touched or clicked with the mouse. Faders and switches return to any previously automated position after they've been released.
Auto latch writes automation data only if you touch or move a fader or switch. However, you don't need to keep touching the controls after you've moved them like you would in auto touch. The control stays in the position where you released it, rather than reverting to previously saved data, and I am going to show you how all of these work here in a second. So, let's create some automation data on this bass track. First, we want to go to Window and choose Automation.
This opens up the Automation window. Here we want to make sure that the automation type that we want to record is armed. When these buttons are red like this, it means they are enabled to record. If we click one, and it turns gray, then that means that it's not armed for recording automation. Now, we should choose an automation mode, and I am going to go to auto write, and I am going to automate the volume, so I am going to open up this right here and use this fader to control the volume.
To create and record automation data, you don't actually have to press Record. You only have to press Play and move the automation controls with your mouse or your control surface. So, now I am going to press Play and move this fader and adjust the volume on the bass track. (Music playing.) All you've got to do is press Stop when you finished, and you've written your automation data.
Now, you notice that Pro Tools automatically switched over to Auto latch mode after writing the automation, and that's because of a preference that you can choose in the Mixing page of the Preferences. If we go to Setup > Preferences > Mixing page > After Write Pass, Switch to Latch. Now, we could also choose Touch or No Change if we want, but we'll keep it as Latch. Now, why do we care about this? Well, let me show you.
If I were to press Play right now, and this were in auto write mode, it would completely write over everything that we just created. However, if the writing mode switches over to latch or touch, then we actually have to move the fader or grab the mouse to actually change this data; thus, we won't overwrite this data by accident. But now I am actually going to overwrite it in latch mode and show you what that looks like. So I am going to switch back to latch mode, and again, I am going to use this fader.
You'll see that if I let go of the mouse while I am writing this automation, the automation will stay at one value and create a solid line until I move it again. So, I am going to press Play and record some automation. (Music playing.) So you can see over here, where I applied the latch automation.
I brought it down to this level and let it go, and it stayed there, and then I moved it up here, and it stayed at that value. Now, I am going to try auto touch, and watch as the automation data reverts back to the prewritten automation data when I let go of the mouse on this Fader. Switch it to touch. (Music playing.) So you can see in these little peaks here, I raised the volume, and Pro Tools automatically brought it back down to this latched value that I'd recorded previously.
Now, when you create automation, you create a series of break points on the automation playlists. Although the automation data may look like a line, it's actually made up of individual points that are finite values for the automation parameter. Let's zoom in and take a look. So you can see the breakpoints right here. One of the limitations of Pro Tools is that all edit playlists on a single audio track share the same automation data.
So if we had multiple playlists of this bass track, which in fact we do, each of the performances share the same automation data. Now, if you want to try out different automation on a track, make a duplicate track using the Track > Duplicate command up here: Track > Duplicate. Creating automation during real- time playback is a lot of fun. It also can add a lot of energy to a mix and can actually turn the mix process into more of a performance. Definitely get to know your automation modes and how to use them.
Your songs will sound better when you utilize them to add dynamic elements to your mixes.
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