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In Pro Tools, you can automate just about any parameter you want. You can program Pro Tools to remember volume, muting, panning, send levels' mute and panning, plug-in parameters, and even MIDI, velocity, muting, and continuous controller data, such as Mod Wheel and Sustain. Now automation data is stored on automation playlists on each track. To view the automation playlist, you can select from the Track View Selector here, and we will choose volume.
You see this line right here. That indicates what the volume level is for the track. We can adjust that here, and you will see the line move up and down. Now we can show multiple automation lines by clicking this little triangle here and then adding additional ones if we want. So we have got volume and mute being shown down here. There are five main automation modes in Pro Tools, and we will see those right here. We have off, read, touch, latch, and write. Automation off turns the automation off on the 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, and that's the default automation mode. There are also several modes that you can use to create automation data: auto write, auto latch, and auto touch. Pro Tools HD and the complete production toolkit enable you to have a couple of other modes that we are not going to cover it here. So let's talk about these three. Auto write is used for the first time that you are creating automation data on a track, or when you want to completely write over a track's existing automation.
Auto touch writes automation 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. And auto latch writes automation data only if you move or touch a fader or switch. However, you don't to need to keep touching the controls after you've moved them like you would with auto touch. The automated parameter stays in the position where you have released it rather than reverting to previously saved data. I am going to show you how all these work here.
Let's create some automation data on this bass track. So I am going to switch over to auto write, and then I want to make sure that I have all of my automation enabled so that we can write any automation that we want. So I am going to go up to Window and choose Automation. If all of these are lit up red like this, that means that all of the parameters are enabled to record. This is the default setting. However, if I click on one of these, it turns gray, and that means that it's not armed for recording. So I am going to move this out of the way here. And now I am going to open up the fader on this track, so I am going to click this little button here.
And now I can control this volume fader with my mouse. To create and record automation data on a track, you don't actually have to press record. If the automation parameter is activated, you only have to press play in Pro Tools and move the automation controls with your mouse or your control surface. So that's what I want to do here. I am going to press play and not record and then move the automation controls via the mouse or my control surface to write the data. In this case, I am going to automate the bass track's volume, which is this line right here. Here we go.
(Music Playing) All you've got to do is press the stop button when you're done writing the automation. Now you will notice that Pro Tools automatically switched over to Latch mode after writing that automation, and that's because of a preference that we've chosen in the Mixing page. If we go to Setup > Preferences and on the Mixing page, we have After Write Pass, Switch to Latch.
I could choose Touch or No Change, but I'll keep it at Latch. And why do we care about this? Well, let me show you. If I were to press play right now with auto write mode, it would just write over everything that we just recorded. However, if the writing mode switches over to latch or to touch, then we actually have to move the fader or the mouse to change this data, thus we won't overwrite the data by accident. But now, I'm actually going to overwrite it on purpose using the Latch mode.
And let me show you what that looks like. So I will go back over to the fader here and I'll grab it as it's playing along, and you'll see that when I let go of the mouse that's controlling the fader, the automation will stay at one value and create a solid line until I move it again. (Music Playing) So you can see these straight lines are here, and that's where the latch was activated.
Now I am going to try auto touch. Now watch as the automation data reverts back to the pre-written data that's already here when I let go of the mouse on the fader. (Music Playing) Each one of these peaks that I created is when I grabbed the mouse and moved the fader, but then it reverted back to the pre-existing automation data that was there.
When you create automation, you create a series of break points on the automation playlist. And although, the automation data may look like a line at some points, it's actually made up of individual points that are finite values for the automation parameter. Let's zoom in and actually take a look at this. You see all these breakpoints 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 have multiple playlists of this bass track, which in fact we do, all of them share the same automation data.
If you want to try out different automation on a track, you can duplicate the track using the Track > Duplicate command, and then try out new automation on that duplicate track. Creating automation data during real-time playback is a lot of fun. It also can add a lot of energy to your 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 butter when you utilize them to add dynamic elements to your mixes.
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