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Pro Tools 101: Pro Tools Fundamentals I: Lesson 1

Getting to Know Pro Tools

Mark Williams

on 9 October 2017

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Transcript of Pro Tools 101: Pro Tools Fundamentals I: Lesson 1

Lesson 1
Getting to Know Pro Tools
Identify the advantages of recording and editing in the digital realm
Recognize the contributions of historical developments in sampling and sound editing, MIDI technology, computer I/O, and recording technology to today's digital audio workstation
Understand the relationship between sample rate and frequency response in digital audio
Understand the relationship between bit depth and dynamic range in digital audio
Recognize components and features of various Pro Tools systems
What is Pro Tools?
Pro Tools is the most widely used application for music and post-production in the world.
Pro Tools is a multi-track software-based digital recording and editing system.
Pro Tools stores recorded digital audio as a collection of separate samples.
Pro Tools supports audio formats with resolutions up to 32-bit floating point and sample rates up to 192 kHz.
Pro Tools makes it simple to edit your recordings by copying, pasting, moving, deleting, and modifying them.
Other functions include: trimming waveforms, reprocessing audio, correct a compromised performance, replace drum sounds, rearrange song sections, and more.
Pro Tools allows you to record and edit MIDI data.
MIDI captures performance event data rather than sound samples.
MIDI signals may be recorded by a keyboard through a MIDI interface or USB port. The data may then be edited using Pro Tools’ track displays or MIDI Editor windows.
Features include MIDI and Instrument tracks, MIDI Time Stamping, grid and groove quantize functions, velocity editing, tick-based and sample-based timelines, and many virtual instrument plug-ins.
MIDI notes may be displayed in the Notation view of the MIDI Editor window.
Each MIDI and Instrument track is displayed on a separate staff.
Pro Tools also has a dedicated Score Editor window that allows viewing, editing, arranging, and printing of MIDI data with Sibelius-quality capability.
Pro Tools provides control over signal routing, effects processing, signal levels, and panning.
Mixing operations may be automated and stored for future editing and refining.
Pro Tools software can be combined with hardware for multiple channels of simultaneous input and output for up to 768 audio tracks without degradation.
In Pro Tools you can import QuickTime movies, or Avid video files, and use its fast, random-access visual reference for adding effects, music, Foley, and dialog.
With support for a wide range of Avid standard- and high-definition MXF video formats, you can perform all your post-production audio tasks quickly and easily.
The finished movie file can be exported with the final audio mix embedded.
The Story of
Pro Tools

Pro Tools was introduced in 1991 by Digidesign, which was founded by Peter Gotcher and Evan Brooks.
It helped pioneer the concept of multi-track digital audio recording revolutionizing the audio recording industry.
In the Beginning
College band-mates Gotcher and Brooks while searching for a "new sound" devised a process for recording percussion sounds onto computer EPROM chips.
They began offering them for sale and were soon producing multiple chip sets, such as Rock Drums, Electronic Drums, etc.
They formed Digidrums in 1984 which became very successful allowing them to expand into other types of software and hardware design. (Fig 1.1)
Evolving into Digidesign
In 1985 Digidrums became Digidesign and developed Macintosh MIDI and synthesis products.
In 1988 Digidesign released Sound Accelerator, a CD-quality two channel output card for the Mac II--the first step toward enabling computers to produce professional quality audio.
The Birth of Pro Tools
In 1991 Pro Tools was released supporting four tracks of audio. With additional cards and interfaces it could be expanded up to sixteen (Fig. 1.4).
In 1992 Session 8 was released as the first Windows-based version of Pro Tools. Digidesign released Pro Tools TDM in 1994 (Fig. 1.5).
Time Division Multiplexing routes multiple streams of audio between system components paving the way for rapid expansion among third-party applications and plug-in developers.
In 1995 Digidesign merged with Avid Technology (its biggest customer).
Pro Tools now had changed the economics of the recording industry providing the same capabilities found previously only in million dollar studios.
Pro Tools Matures
In 1997 Pro Tools|24 was released with 24-bit audio capability and included the 888|24 I/O audio interface, new cards (DSP Farms), more inputs and outputs, and higher track counts.
1998 saw the release of the first Pro Tools TDM system for Windows. In 1999
audio processing was introduced with the release of Pro Tools LE.
Digidesign began offering dedicated control surfaces for Pro Tools--in 1998, the ProControl console (Fig. 1.6); in 2001, the Control|24 (Fig. 1.7).
Expansion of Avid Audio
In 2005 Avid released Pro Tools M-powered software supporting many M-Audio devices.
They also acquired Wizoo Sound Design which became Avid's Advanced Instrument Research (AIR) group. AIR developed many plug-ins for Pro Tools including all of the virtual instruments and effects in the AIR Creative Collection (included with Pro Tools).
In 2006 Sibelius Software which makes professional music notation software joined Avid. Pro Tools now incorporates notation capability and can export MIDI data to Sibelius.
ICON Integrated Console Environment
Debuted in 2004 and features the D-Control and D-Command worksurfaces with modular architecture.
The ICON D-Control worksurface has 32 faders and is expandable to 80 faders.
The ICON D-Command worksurface has 24 faders and is expandable to 40 faders (Fig. 1.8).
VENUE Live Sound Environment
In 2005 Digidesign introduced VENUE for live sound mixing and production.
It integrates with Pro Tools for direct recording and playback of multi-track live performances.
There are five basic consoles: the VENUE D-Show, VENUE Profile (Fig. 1.9), the VENUE SC48, the Avid S3L system (Fig. 1.10), and the S6L system.
Pro Tools in this Decade
Where We Are Today
Pro Tools in this Decade (cont.)
Also in 2010 Avid released the 3rd generation Mboxes, new HD interfaces, HD-Native platform, and Pro Tools 9.
PT9 replaced the M-Powered and LE platforms and introduced compatibility with 3rd party interfaces.
In 2011 Pro Tools 10 introduced a new file format compatible with 64-bit operating systems and also the AAX plug-in format.
In 2012 Avid began to refocus on the professional audio market and divested themselves of the AIR Software Group and M-Audio.
The Pro Tools 11 release in 2013 completed the transition to a 64-bit native application. It also incorporated a new Avid Audio Engine, a new Avid Video Engine, and the offline bounce feature, for faster-than-real-time mixdown.
Basics of
Digital Audio

Factors that affect sound and influence the accuracy of digital audio and an overview of digital audio theory
Basic Parameters of Sound
Sound is a variation in air pressure resulting from vibrations in material objects.
A complete back and forth motion of a vibrating object is a cycle.
What we hear is determined by the waveform, frequency, and amplitude of the vibration.
Tip: The range of human hearing is between 20 and 20,000 cycles per second.
The waveform is the "shape" of the vibration that produced the sound.
Sine, square, and sawtooth, are examples of waveforms.
The waveform of the vibration gives the sound its unique character and tone.
The frequency of the vibrations determines the pitch of the sound.
Frequency is measured in cycles per second or Hertz (Hz).
1,000 Hz = 1 kilohertz (kHz).
Higher frequencies produce higher pitches, lower frequencies produce lower pitches.
The intensity or amplitude of the vibrations determine the loudness of the sound.
Amplitude is measured in decibels (dB).
The threshold of human hearing is 0 dB to the pain threshold of 120 dB.
An increase of about 10 dB is needed to perceive a doubling of the sound's loudness.
Recording and Playing Back
Analog Audio

A microphone responds to changes in air pressure and translates them into electronic output that can be recorded.
The electronic signal is analogous to the original acoustic information (analog audio).
If captured on magnetic tape, for example, it can be played back by translating the waveform, frequency, and amplitude back into analogous variations in air pressure by means of an amplifier and loudspeaker.
Analog-to-Digital Conversion
Translating analog audio signals into digital numerical information that can be stored, read, and manipulated by a computer is known as analog-to-digital conversion (A/D conversion).
This process is affected by two factors: sample rate and bit depth.
How Sample Rate Affects Frequency Resolution
Sampling is the process of taking discrete readings of a signal at various moments in time. These samples approximate the original signal when played back in succession.
The sample rate is the frequency at which samples are collected and for digital audio is governed by the
Nyquist theorem
In order to produce an accurate representation of a given frequency of sound, each cycle of the sound's vibration must be sampled a minimum of two times. If the sample rate is any lower, the system will read the frequencies incorrectly and produce the wrong tones (alias tones).
Based on this, to capture full-frequency audio a sample rate of at least 40 kHz (twice the upper range of human hearing) is required.
Most professional recording devices offer sampling rates of 44.1 kHz (CD quality) and 48 kHz or higher.
How Bit Depth Affects Amplitude Resolution
To capture the useful dynamic range of speech and music (40 dB-105 db), an A/D converter must have a minimum 65 dB dynamic range.
Quantization assigns each sample to the closest available amplitude value.
Computers use binary digits (0s or 1s) called bits to quantify each sample.
Recording in Digital Format
Audio already in digital format does not need to be converted. Doing so can introduce distortion and degrade the original signal.
Two types of connections for accomplishing digital transfers are: (1) the Sony/Philips Digital Interface (S/PDIF) which has RCA jacks, or (2) the Audio Engineering Society/European Broadcast Union (AES/EBU) digital interface standard which uses XLR connectors.
Both are nearly identical in audio quality, but AES/EBU is the professional format, is technically more stable, and filters out any copy protection.
Pro Tools
System Configurations

The requirements for your digital audio recording projects will determine the type of Pro Tools system that you will need to use.
Pro Tools 12 is available in three options: Pro Tools|First, standard Pro Tools software, and Pro Tools|HD.
Pro Tools vs. Pro Tools HD
In this course Pro Tools refers generically to all available software configurations.
Standard Pro Tools refers to non-HD software.
Pro Tools HD refers to Pro Tools HD software running on any supported system (e.g., Pro Tools|HD Native, and Pro Tools|HDX).
Host-Based vs.
DSP-Accelerated Systems
The Pro Tools Mbox Family
The current Pro Tools Mbox family includes the Mbox (Fig. 1.14), and Mbox Pro desktop studio (Fig. 1.15).
The Mbox features powered USB connectivity, sample rates up to 96 kHz, 2 XLR mic/line combo inputs, and 4x4 simultaneous channels of I/O, and MIDI connectivity.
The Mbox Pro is a FireWire-powered interface and features sample rates up to 192 kHz, 4 XLR inputs, 4 1/4 inch inputs, 6 1/4 inch outputs, 2 channels of S/PDIF digital I/O, 8x8 simultaneous channels of I/O, and MIDI connectivity.
Pro Tools | Eleven Rack
Eleven Rack (Fig. 1.16) is a guitar recording and effects processing system designed to serve as an audio interface for Pro Tools as well as a standalone amp tone and effects signal processor for guitar.
The Pro Tools | Fast Track Family
Pro Tools| HD-Series
Audio Interfaces

Pro Tools|HD Native and Pro Tools|HDX hardware systems require at least one HD-series audio interface to be connected in order to run. All current HD interfaces can be used with any HD system.
HD OMNI (Fig. 1.18) provides two mic/DI inputs with built-in preamps, four line inputs, and eight line outputs.
HD I/O (Fig. 1.19) is available in one of three configurations. The standard 8x8x8 configuration provides 8 analog ins, 8 analog outs, and 8 channels of AES/EBU digital I/O.
HD MADI (Fig. 1.20) is a 64-channel MADI interface for Pro Tools HD. The MADI protocol enables up to 32 channels of digital audio to be transmitted across distances of up to 2 kilometers via a single connection.
Included Plug-Ins and Extras
Pro Tools plug-ins provide additional signal processing and other functionality and come in three varieties:
Native plug-ins process audio in real time using the host's processing power.
DSP plug-ins (Pro Tools|HDX systems only) utilize card-based DSP chips for real-time processing.
AudioSuite plug-ins provide non-real time, file-based processing.
Pro Tools 12 includes a number of Native, DSP, and AudioSuite plug-ins. (Avid plug-ins and the AIR Creative Collection)
Avid Audio Plug-Ins
Avid Audio plug-ins include more than 30 separate plug-ins (See Appendix B) in Native, DSP and AudioSuite formats.
They provide digital signal processing effects, such as EQ, dynamics, reverb, delay, modulation and harmonic effects, and more.
AIR Creative Collection
The AIR Creative Collection is a set of Native effects and instrument plug-ins that includes 20 AIR effects plug-ins and six AIR virtual instruments.
For a full list see Appendix C.

Pro Tools is available for Mac and Windows. Most controls, tools, procedures, and menus are similar. There are some differences in keyboard commands and file-naming conventions.
Keyboard Commands
Many commands use modifier keys pressed in combination with other keys or a mouse action.
Command key
Option key
Control key
Return key
Delete key
Ctrl (Control) key
Alt key
Start (Win) key
Enter key on main keypad
Backspace key
File-Naming Conventions
A few differences exist in the way files are named and recognized by Mac and Windows systems.
File Name Extensions
For cross-platform compatability, all files in a session must have a three-letter file extension added to the name.
Pro Tools 10-12 session files use the .ptx extension.
Pro Tools 7.0-9.x session files use the .ptf extension.
Sessions older than 7.0 may use the .pts or .pt5 extension.
WAV files use the .wav extension.
AIFF files use the .aif extension.
Incompatible ASCII Characters
Pro Tools file names cannot use ASCII characters that are incompatible with a supported operating system. The following characters should be avoided:
/ (slash)
\ (backslash)
: (colon)
* (asterisk)
? (question mark)
" (quotation marks)
' (apostrophe)
< (less-than symbol)
> (greater-than symbol)
| (vertical line or pipe)
Avoid typing characters with the Command key on the Mac.
Fig. 1.1 Early drum-sound chips
Sound Designer enabled users to edit sounds from a sampling keyboard and combined waveform editing with a graphical display. (Fig 1.2)
Fig. 1.6. ProControl integrated control surface
Fig. 1.7. The Control|24
In 2001 Digidesign received a Technical GRAMMY. In 2002, Pro Tools|HD systems were introduced to address high-end music and post-production studio needs.
Mbox audio interfaces were introduced for the hobbyist and small studios. The Digi 002 and Digi 002 Rack followed for Pro Tools LE.
Fig. 1.8. D-Control (top) and
D-Command (bottom) worksurfaces
Fig. 1.9 The VENUE D-Show & the VENUE Profile
Fig. 1.10. The VENUE SC48 & the Avid S3L System
Fig. 1.11. Artist Control (left) and Artist Mix (right)
In 2010 Avid acquired Euphonix which is known for its digital audio consoles and EUCON control surface technology.
The Artist series [Control, Mix (Fig. 1.11), and Transport], Pro Tools|S3, and S6 systems (Fig. 1.12) all utilize the EUCON high-speed control protocol for fully integrated control of Pro Tools.
Fig. 1.12. Avid Pro Tools|S6 control surface
Today Avid continues to develop professional audio hardware and software alongside its video editing, broadcast, and newsroom systems.
Avid audio systems support all segments of the music creation, live sound, broadcast, and video post-production markets, from home recording enthusiasts to large-scale motion picture sound designers and mixers.
The bit depth range of values is equal to 2 to the nth power, where n is the number of bits in the binary word. (A 4-bit binary word could represent 16 different numeric values; a 16-bit binary word, 65,536 separate amplitude levels; 24-bit, 16,777,216 amplitude levels.)
To estimate the dynamic range capability of an A/D system multiply the word size by six. (An 8-bit system would produce a dynamic range of about 48 dB; a 16-bit system, 96 dB dynamic range; 24-bit, about 144 dB.)
Files with greater bit depth require more storage capacity. (A minute of 16-bit/48-kHz stereo audio uses about 11.4 MB of space; a minute of 24-bit/48-kHz, about 17 MB; a minute of 32-bit floating point/48 kHz, about 22.8 MB.
TIP: The number of bits used to define a value is known as binary word length or bit depth.
Fig. 1.14 Pro Tools Mbox
Fig. 1.15 Pro Tools Mbox Pro
Fig. 1.16 Eleven Rack audio interface.
Fig. 1.13 Fast Track Solo (left) and Fast Track Duo (right)
Fig. 1.18 Avid HD OMNI audio interface
Fig. 1.19 Avid HD I/O audio interface
Fig. 1.20 Avid HD MADI audio interface
Fig. 1.2 The original Sound Designer package
In 1989 they released Sound Tools, a two-track hard-disk recording system, consisting of Sound Designer II, a Sound Accelerator card, and an analog to digital converter with two ins called the AD-In. (Fig. 1.3)
1990 brought the release of the first AudioMedia card, and the "democratization" of music and the recording industry due to its relatively low cost.
Fig. 1.3 Components of the Sound Tools system
Fig. 1.4 Early Pro Tools system
Fig. 1.5 The Session 8 system for Windows NT
Pro Tools 12
Introduces the ability to subscribe to Pro Tools software, enabling users to pay for it only when they need it.
Users always have access to the latest updates, upgrades, and support.
Other Pro Tools 12 improvements include:
Avid Application Manager for managing software entitlements and updates for Pro Tools, plug-ins, and drivers.
In-application plug-in browsing, purchasing, and installation via the Avid Marketplace (no restart required).
Dashboard window for creating and opening sessions (replaces the Quick Start dialog box).
Metadata Inspector window for viewing and editing session information, such as artist name, contributors, session parameters, and tempo information.
I/O Setup changes for improved session interchange and I/O mapping.
Pro Tools 12.1 enabled several new features for standard Pro Tools systems that were formerly restricted to Pro Tools HD software.
These include track-based input monitoring, and an increase in the number of supported tracks.
New features planned for future updates include cloud collaboration, cloud storage and archival, and asset metadata.
Other Recent Releases
Pro Tools|First is a free version of the Pro Tools 12 software for new users. It has up to 16 audio tracks, MIDI and Instrument tracks (up to 16 of each), Aux Input tracks, and Master Faders.
Pro Tools|First is remarkably full-featured and provides an excellent learning platform for users who are not yet ready to buy or subscribe to Pro Tools 12.
Pro Tools|First
Pro Tools|Control
Pro Tools|Control is a free iPad app that lets users wirelessly control Pro Tools, Media Composer, and other media applications.
You can control track parameters (solos, mutes, and record enables), ride faders, toggle automation modes, scroll through large mixes, trigger shortcuts and macros, and monitor levels directly from the iPad touch interface.
Software Options
Pro Tools|First is a free version of Pro Tools for music production, with limited track count and limited I/O capabilities. It provides free cloud-based storage for up to three simultaneous projects. Projects cannot be stored locally.
Standard Pro Tools software provides full-featured stereo audio production capabilities for music and video post-production work. This book focuses on standard Pro Tools software features.
Pro Tools|HD software is included with the purchase of a Pro Tools|HD Native or Pro Tools|HDX hardware system. It provides advanced automation, video editing, and surround mixing capabilities.
All three options are available for both Mac and Windows.
Pro Tools systems can either be host-based, meaning they rely solely on the processing power of the host computer, or DSP-accelerated systems, meaning that the computer’s processor is supplemented by additional chips dedicated to digital signal processing (DSP).
Host-based systems include Pro Tools|First or standard Pro Tools software running with or without a connected audio interface, and Pro Tools|HD Native systems with one or more connected HD-series audio interfaces.
DSP-accelerated systems include Pro Tools|HDX systems with one or more connected HD-series audio interfaces.
All systems share the same file format, with full cross-compatibility between Macs and PCs.
Audio Interface Options (Non-HD)
An audio interface provides the a/d conversion for recording to Pro Tools, as well as the d/a conversion for playback from Pro Tools to your analog speakers or headphones.
Pro Tools 12 can be run without an audio interface, using your computer’s built-in speakers, microphone, or headphones.
Audio interfaces available for Pro Tools|First and standard Pro Tools software include:
Pro Tools|Fast Track family.
Pro Tools|Mbox family.
Pro Tools|Eleven Rack.
Pro Tools|Duet and Quartet.
Various third-party options.
The Pro Tools|Fast Track family includes the Fast Track Solo and the Fast Track Duo (Fig 1.13).
The Fast Track Solo provides an XLR input and a separate instrument input, that lets you record up to two sources simultaneously.
The Fast Track Duo provides two combo XLR/instrument inputs and two ¼-inch line inputs that can be used alternately, for recording up to two sources of any type simultaneously.
Both are powered through a USB connection.
Pro Tools | Duet and Quartet
The Pro Tools|Duet and Pro Tools|Quartet (Fig. 1.17) are Apogee audio interfaces bundled with standard Pro Tools software and integrated directly with Pro Tools through Pro Tools IO Control software.

The Pro Tools|Duet features recording at up to 192 kHz, two channels of analog input via two combo XLR/instrument inputs, and four channels of analog output via two ¼-inch line/speaker outputs and a stereo headphone jack.
The Pro Tools|Quartet features recording at up to 192 kHz, four channels of analog input via four XLR/instrument inputs, eight channels of analog output via six ¼-inch line/speaker outputs and a stereo headphone jack, and eight channels of digital input via ADAT/SMUX input.
Fig. 1.17 Pro Tools|Duet audio interface and Pro Tools|Quartet audio interface
Third-Party Audio Interfaces
Pro Tools supports any third-party audio interface that includes a supported Core Audio (Mac) or ASIO (Windows) driver.
A variety are available, providing a multitude of interface options, for up to 32 channels of I/O to the system.
Many of these can be powered by FireWire or USB, enabling portability for laptop systems.
Pro Tools Software Features
Pro Tools|First software provides sample rates of up to 96 kHz, with bit depths up to 32-bit floating point. It will power up to 16 simultaneous mono or stereo Audio, Instrument, and MIDI tracks.
Standard Pro Tools 12 software provides sample rates of up to 192 kHz, with bit depths up to 32-bit floating point. It will power up to 128 (with 12.1) simultaneous mono or stereo Audio, 128 Instrument, and 512 MIDI tracks.
Pro Tools|HD software provides sample rates of up to 192 kHz, with bit depths up to 32-bit floating point. It will power up to 256 simultaneous Audio tracks without HDX hardware and up to 768 Audio tracks in an expanded HDX system. Pro Tools|HD software supports 256 Instrument tracks and 512 MIDI tracks.
Running Pro Tools|HD Software without Hardware
An HD authorization enables HD software functionality on any supported Mac or Windows computer, without requiring HD hardware. This lets HD users run a laptop for powerful portable editing and mixing.
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