Join Brian Lee White for an in-depth discussion in this video Working with plug-in settings, part of Pro Tools Mixing and Mastering.
In the past, engineers had to use complex recall sheets to manually record and recall the settings of analog gear in their studio, sometimes taking hours to recall a complex mix. Fortunately, today all plug-ins in Pro Tools support a built-in librarian system for storing and recalling settings or presets. These presets allow you to quickly access a preset sound for that plug-in and a great way of working across multiple sessions. For example, the same EQ on a singer across multiple songs.
So first off, many plug-ins come with built-in settings or factory presets from the manufacturer. These can act as great starting points for using these plug-ins in a mix. All of the DigiRack plug-ins and the air plug-ins come with quite a few presets that you can experiment with in your mixes. Now, where I find the real power of the preset system comes in is when I store my own presets, so I can access them across any session on my system. So, to save a user preset, I would first configure the plug-in, how I wanted it to sound, and I can choose from the word Preset--there is a little menu here-- and I can choose Save Settings As.
Now what I can do is I can give this a name, and that shows up in my Presets list here. Now when you're saving presets, you can choose to save them to one of two places, you can save them with the system, or you can save them just with that session. So, for example, in the exercise session Take Me Down, I've actually saved all the Presets for all of the plug-in settings in the Session Settings folder. So that actually lives with the session and travels with the session, regardless of whatever computer it gets opened on.
You can tell your plug-ins to save to the session folder by choosing Preset menu > Settings Preferences > Save Plug-in Settings To Session Folder, so your choices are root settings folder which would be systemwide--so you could access that preset from any session--or session folder, in which case you only be able to access that preset from that specific session. So, typically if you want to share presets across sessions, you choose the Root Settings Folder, and that is the default setting.
So, after you've already saved a custom preset, if you want to modify it, you'll notice that it will italicize the preset name, and the Compare button comes on allowing you to compare it to the original preset and your changes. And you can choose the Save Settings to update that preset. Now if you saved all your settings to the root folder--or saved all your settings to the session folder--you can actually manipulate these plug-in settings files on your hard drive. So if I travel to my session folder here on the desktop, I can see that I have a Plug-in Settings folder, and I can actually go into that Air Kill EQ and I can see the .TFX file that it's pulling from. So I can actually see the High Hat EQ TFX file.
So, if I wanted to copy or move this High Hat EQ TFX file to the root settings folder, so that it showed up under my Root Preset settings, what I could do is I could actually copy it, and I can move to my root directory, Macintosh hard drive Library > Application Support > Digidesign > Plug-in Settings. And I could actually find that Air Kill EQ and I can paste that item.
And we can see there is that previous TFX file that I saved in there, and now we actually see that showing up there in that root folder. And I could actually go in here and delete these just to clean up my mess. One of the cool things about saving plug- in presets is you can actually set them up to be a user-assignable default setting whenever the plug-in is inserted. That is to say whenever you instantiate that plug-in instead of calling up the factory default, it's going to call up your own unique preset. How this works is I can go to the Preset menu > Settings Preferences and choose Set Plug-in Default To > User Setting, then I can call up any one of my presets, and I can choose from the Presets menu to Set As User Default.
Now if I ever insert this Kill EQ anywhere else, it's going to call up this Mids Only preset that I had set as my user default. So that's a really cool trick that I use quite often. A lot of times you're going to get plug- in settings that come with your plug-in, and you're going to be tempted to use those because they're labeled great vocal or killer snare, and I like to think of these as just great starting points and a great way to showcase what the special feature that plug-in is, but I always want to remember that the person designing the preset had no idea what my track sounds like.
There is no way that they could know what kind of guitar I have, how I miked it, how I was feeling that day. So, don't just assume a preset-- because it was made by a quote professional somewhere in a lab--that it's going to work for you 100% of the time. So, don't be afraid to tweak that or completely throw it away if it's not working for you. Ultimately, plug-in presets are a great way to store and recall your personal favorite ways of using specific plug-ins across sessions and tracks.
So, try storing your own presets when you come up with an interesting sound, even if it might not be relevant to the current project. You never know when it might be useful.
- What is mixing? Exploring the past, present, and future
- Mixing "in the box"
- Setting up monitors and ensuring proper acoustics in the studio
- Staying organized with labels, memory locations, and window configurations
- Working with the Pro Tools Mixer
- Building healthy and profitable mixing habits when putting together a final mix
- Using volume and pan to balance the mix
- Employing corrective versus creative EQ strategies to create clarity and contrast
- Knowing when and when not to process the audio of a track
- Working with compressors and dynamics processors
- Using saturation effects to capture an analog-type sound
- Adding reverb and delay to create depth in a mix
- Working with limiting and multiband compression during the mastering process
- Dealing with plug-in delay and latency in a mix
- Using the bundled plug-ins in Pro Tools to add clarity, punch, and width to a mix
- Recording and editing automation to add drama and excitement
- Using clip based gain to control headroom and gain staging