Join David Franz for an in-depth discussion in this video Optimizing Pro Tools performance, part of Pro Tools 8 Essential Training.
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After you've set up your Pro Tools gear and connected all of your components, it's time to optimize Pro Tools performance with your computer. In this video, I'm going to explain some of the key settings that affect how Pro Tools interacts with your computer and why you should adjust them for improved performance. After you've turned every thing on, all of your Pro Tools gear and your computer, let's start up Pro Tools. You'll find the Pro Tools application inside of the Digidesign folder and then inside of the Pro Tools folder.
It takes a little bit for Pro Tools to launch here, and when it does launch, you often see the Quick Start dialog, especially if this checkbox is checked, Show Quick Start dialog when Pro Tools starts. Let's not worry about this right now, so we'll cancel through. Now let's go up to the Setup menu and choose Playback Engine. Let's talk about some of the settings in the Playback Engine. First, the CPU Usage Limit. The CPU usage limit is the amount of your computer's total processing power assigned to Pro Tools.
For example, if you assigned 75% of your computer's power to Pro Tools, 25% is left for other applications, including your operating system. On this system, we're actually allowed to choose up to 99% and that's because this is an 8-core multiprocessor. Your computer might only be able to go up to about 90% if you don't have a multi- core processor. And the only reason not to boost this all the way to the limit is if you're going to be running other intensive programs on your computer at the same time as using Pro Tools.
Let's talk about the Hardware Buffer Size. The Hardware Buffer Size is related to latency. All computer recording systems have latency. Well, what is latency? Latency is the time it takes for your computer to receive an input signal, process it and send it back out to an output so you hear it. Yes, that's right. Digital recording is not actually instantaneous. We can adjust the latency in Pro Tools using the Hardware Buffer Size. The Hardware Buffer Size is the amount of audio data, measured in samples, that the CPU grabs and processes at one time before it spits it back out for monitoring or recording.
Larger buffer sizes give your computer more time to process audio data, but it also increases the amount of latency and causes slower user interface responsiveness. Smaller buffer sizes, like 32 samples here, decrease latency but don't allow the use of as many plug-ins or virtual instruments. So, smaller hardware buffer sizes are more useful for recording sessions where you'll have less latency and you may not use as many plug-ins, and larger buffer sizes are more useful for mixing sessions, where there is more latency but you can also put in more plug-ins.
So, what I recommend is when you're recording, put it on 32, 64 or 128, right in there, depending on what system you have. When you're mixing, boost it up, 1024, maybe even 2048, if that's available on your system. As a side note, because these buffers are measured in samples, it stands to reason that faster sampling rates were yield lower latencies. For example, 128 samples at 96 kilohertz sampling rate is half as long as 128 samples at 48 kilohertz sampling rate.
Now these calculations might be over your head at the moment, and if they are, no worries. The take-home message here is that lower buffer sizes are better for recording and higher buffer sizes are better for mixing. We'll discuss this topic further in the recording chapter of this course. Let's move on to the RTAS processors. RTAS is short for Real Time Audio Suite, and refers to a fax processing that takes place in real time, and thus, requires a lot of computer processing resources. The RTAS processor setting determines how many processors in your computer are allowed for RTAS plug-in processing. On computers with one processor, this is automatically set to 1.
However, on computers like this one, with multiple processors, or those that feature multi-core processing or hyper- threading, you can increase this number to take advantage of those extra processors. I recommend setting this to either the maximum, 8 processors here, or one less than the maximum, 7. The RTAS Engine, the Ignore Errors During Playback/Recording, let's keep that on checked, because as it says here they may cause clicks and pops.
Below these settings we have the DAE Playback Buffer. Now what is DAE? DAE stands for the Digidesign Audio Engine and it works behind the scenes within Pro Tools to manage all of the audio streams. So, we have the size of the playback buffer and as you can read here on the screen, lower values for the disk buffer reduce disk latency, while higher values improve disk performance. Now, I usually just leave it on the default setting. That should be fine for general use.
The same here for the Cache Size, just keep it on the normal setting. Now, let's get out of the Playback Engine and go back up to the Setup menu and choose Hardware. On the bottom left side of the Hardware Setup, we've got the sampling rate. This sets the default sampling rate for any new session that you create. Now you can change this when you create a new session in the New Session dialog, but this will be your default setting unless you change it.
One another thing to look at here is the Clock Source. The Clock Source is the timing reference that all the digital gear in your Pro Tools system has to sync up with to ensure accurate playback and recording. The majority of the time, you'll probably leave this as Internal when using Pro Tools as the sync master. The only time that you want to change this option is if you're syncing to another device, such as an external mike preamp or some sort of video device that will provide the timing reference. So let's just leave that as Internal right now.
Now although some of these settings and terminology explained in this video might not make complete sense to you now, setting them as we did will help you move forward in using Pro Tools and optimizing your performance of Pro Tools with your computer. Revisit this video after getting more familiar with Pro Tools and you'll understand it more deeply. So, for our purposes here, I would recommend maximizing your CPU usage and adjusting your Hardware Buffer Size to a lower number for recording or a higher number for mixing. These settings will increase the power and optimize the performance of Pro Tools with your computer.
- Exploring all facets of the Pro Tools interface
- Setting up Pro Tools hardware and software properly
- Recording and editing audio and MIDI
- Comping a track using playlists
- Importing data and working with video
- Working with automation and controller lanes
- Applying dither
- Archiving a session for storage