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- View Offline
- Understanding video formats, codecs, and timecode rates
- Importing OMFs and AAFs into Pro Tools
- Spotting film and using markers
- Using room tone
- Creating fades to smooth out audio edits
- Sweetening and hard effects
- Recording ADR and editing with VocALign LE
- Editing out plosives, crackles, and hums
- Mixing with automation and reverb
- Calibrating for 5.1 surround mixing and bass management
- Mastering delivery levels and dynamics
- Understanding the Audio Suite enhancements in Pro Tools 10
Skill Level Intermediate
A good audio for video mix would be impossible without the ability to change parameters such as volume, pan and plug- in settings with precision and accuracy. In this movie we will explore setting up automation parameters, writing automation in real-time and editing your automation after writing it. Before using any automation let's go over a few basics. The automation playlists are shown as a pull-down menu underneath the Mute, Solo and Record buttons in your track. We can see the waveform playlist, but we also can see the volume automation playlist, the mute automation playlist, panning automation. So that you can toggle between those views here.
Another really quick way to just quickly show volume automation is to click in the track with your Selector tool and type the minus key on your qwerty keyboard, not the minus key on your numeric keypad. That minus key toggles you between Volume view and Waveform view, and also if you're in any other automation playlists like pan and you type minus, it takes you back to your Waveform view, so that's a good quick key to know about. Pro Tools 9 also now supports multiple automation playlists and they can be shown concurrently and neatly folded back under the track.
So on the very left of the track we have this disclosure triangle. If we open that we can now see the waveform on the top and volume automation for example below and we can keep hitting the plus button to show other types of automations, and now we are showing waveform and volume and mute, and we can keep on going. We can show pan as well. So this is a great way to see more than one automation playlist at a time and when you're done you can neatly fold it back up into that disclosure triangle. So let's go over to volume automation and I want to look at the way we can create this.
So automation can be split into two ways to create it. You can create it in non-real-time using your mouse, breakpoint by breakpoint, or you can go real-time which we will talk about later. Non-real-time automation you can create using your Grabber tool, so hit F8 to get my Grabber tool, and you see in this view it turns into a finger instead of a hand and if I click on the volume automation line I get a breakpoint. Any single click creates a breakpoint and you can grab hold of these breakpoints and you can pull them up or down or left or right.
And you can see that above the breakpoint Pro Tools gives me a little display, telling me what fader position this volume fader is in. So if I go up to -3 you can see I have a pop-up fader for this track and it moved up to -3. And I go down to say -10.3 and it moves it down to that location. To delete a breakpoint you can Option or Alt+Click on a breakpoint and that deletes it. Also if you make a selection, hit F7, get our Selector tool once again, make a selection, then you can use the Trimmer tool, F6, and pull automation for that whole selection up or down. So that's a useful way to do automation say for just a specific passage.
Breakpoints can also be selected and copied and pasted. So if I hit C and I over here I can paste those breakpoints over here. And you can also nudge your automation around using the plus and minus keys on the numeric keypad. Here I am using minus since moving backwards by a frame or quarter frame and plus moving forwards. So if you notice we are making all of these non-real-time automation breakpoints and we are in Read automation mode. You can see here the green Read mode, and you can do this in Read mode and as you see when we hit Play, Pro Tools, the volume fader, will read these moves we are making.
(Background noise) Let me go ahead and solo the track. And if you watch the Fader, it's actually reading and moving around according to these breakpoints we have made. If at any time you want to disable Read you can change this Automation pull-down menu to Off and Pro Tools will ignore any breakpoints that are in the track. So now that I am on Off if you watch the fader over this passage it's not moving at all. In fact I can move it wherever I want and it doesn't follow any breakpoints.
And that brings up a good point. In Read mode if there are no breakpoints at all in a track, so I am just going to go ahead and select these, delete them, Pro Tools is kind of in its initial automation state. So if I'm in Read mode with no breakpoints at all I can then move the fader wherever I want and the whole line moves up and down. So that's kind of like the default initial state. But the second I have even just one single breakpoint, that no longer becomes possible. If I move the fader, it snaps back to that single breakpoint location because it's now reading any breakpoints that are in the playlist.
So let's talk about real-time automation. This is when you can write the move in real-time as it's playing back. To make this possible we want to show the Automation dialog window which is useful to have open anytime you are doing any real-time automation,. You can get this from the Window menu under Automation or it's also available as a key command. Command, or Ctrl for PC, 4 on your numeric keypad pops this up. So this gives us like an overall control over automation globally for the session.
First thing is on top you have Suspend. This is kind of like turning our track to Off, but it does it globally for the whole session. So if I hit Suspend the automation for all the tracks just turn Off and your fader can be put anywhere you want and it doesn't care. If I have a breakpoint in the track for example as soon as I take this off, Pro Tools goes back to reading. So that's just a good thing to know that you have that there. Below Suspend is some really important buttons. They're controlling which parameters are currently enabled, so you need to select the automation type and make sure it's armed before you can write any real-time automation.
So if I am going to work on volume automation I want to make sure that the Volume button is write-enabled and it's red here in this Automation window. So I am going to write some volume automation so I make sure that that's enabled and I am going to go into this track, zoom in a little bit, and in Read mode you're safe from writing anything. So no automation could be written in Read mode but the next four selections in this pull-down window are writable modes. So first start with Write, and in this mode Pro Tools will destructively write over any breakpoints that are in the path of the playhead.
So we have this breakpoint here. If I were to just play, it would just write over that breakpoint. But as it's playing if I control the volume fader, which again is write enabled, I'll be able to write those moves and when I'm done we'll see what I've written reflected in the volume playlist. You will see the breakpoints I've written. So I am going to hit Play and you will see a red line that shows what I'm currently writing and that'll be the automation writing in real-time. (Drumbeats) And when I let go over the fader it's continuing to write out at that location until I hit Stop and then it kind of snaps back to where it once was.
So that's Write mode. It's just destructively writing for any enabled parameters, by the way. So if I had Pan enabled and I wasn't even looking at pan automation, we would be writing over any pan automations there. So it's kind of a destructive mode, Pro Tools automatically snaps you out of Write mode into Latch mode, just as a safety. So if you hit Play again you wouldn't write over anything. Before we get to Latch mode we will talk about Touch mode. So Touch mode is a mode of writing automation where when you hit Play, your fader will follow along with any automation that's been written until you actually touch the parameter.
So it will read along as if it was in Read mode until you touch the parameter. At that point, as soon as you are touching the parameter with your mouse or with your finger on a control surface you'll be writing automation, and then as soon as you let go of the parameter it will snap back to reading any automation that was there. So let's see how Touch mode works. (Drumbeats) So it's reading along and I am going to grab the parameter. Now I'm writing and then I am going to let go and it snaps back to reading what was there.
So that's how Touch mode works. It's kind of the least destructive way to write automation because it doesn't write anything unless you're actually touching the active parameter. Then we've got Latch mode, which is a lot like Touch mode at the beginning. It reads along any automation that's there, but as soon as you touch the parameter you're writing and then when you let go over the parameter here's where it's different. It continues to write out at that last position of your volume fader in this case. So let me demonstrate Latch mode.
(Drumbeats) So it's following along what's there and then I am going to grab-hold of the control. Now I'm writing. And when I let go instead of snapping back, it just continues to write out from this position until I hit Stop. So that's how Latch mode works. Now also in Pro Tools HD and in the complete production toolkit you have this other mode called Touch/Latch. Now that mode actually is a combination of the two when you're in this Touch/Latch mode your volume fader is always in Touch mode and the other parameters such as Pan or Mute, those go into Latch mode. This is actually really useful if you're using a control surface for example.
So then I will just go back to Read mode. Once you've written any automation like we have here, you might notice that Pro Tools creates a lot of breakpoints as you're writing any real-time automation. This is really exact, but sometimes it's hard to edit. So if I want to get in here and edit this, get my Grabber tool, there are so many breakpoints it's kind of hard to work through. But there is a way to control the amount of thinning as Pro Tools calls it, thinning the breakpoints, and you can get to that in the Pro Tools Preferences menu. So here under the Mixing tab down where it says Automation, we have a checkbox that says Smooth and Thin Data After Pass. So it actually is checked and the Degree of Thinning right now is set to Some.
We could set that to More and the next time you write an automation move we will end up with less breakpoints. It will thin it more. Another option you can do to thin automation is once you've written it you can actually select over a heavy passage with a lot of breakpoints and you can go up to Edit > Automation and here we have something that says Thin. So this'll thin your automation breakpoints according to the preferences you've set. So since we have set it to More, we should see some thinning happen. And as you can see a little bit of thinning occurred. So we have less breakpoints now and it will be easier to edit.
So in audio for video work, automation for music under spoken word, ambience, and dialogue, those are really good places to employ real-time volume automation. Things like moving sound effects, like panning left to right, those can also benefit from real-time writing of automation. But no matter what you use it for, automation will really make your mixes dynamic and effective in your audio for video sessions.