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Making Tracks: Surround in Pro Tools LE and M-Powered (Bonus Material)

December 9, 2008


The Pro Tools session in Web Clip 1 demonstrates how to create true multichannel drum-track compression with Mix 51. The problem with having separate compressors on each of the three main output auxes is that they will react to their respective signals at different times, making the drum kit seem to shift as it is compressed. By busing each track of the drum kit together and using that signal as the key input on each compressor, all three compressors react at the same time. If their settings are precisely matched, the signal will not shift. You can''t group the plug-ins'' parameters together, so you''ll have to copy and paste settings from one to the others. You should adjust each track''s send output level to match its surround panner volume.

The subgroup is created by assigning the outputs of the drum tracks'' surround panners to Main Bus 2. This bus is then combined with Main Bus 1 at the physical outputs. You could create another subgroup with Main Bus 3, and still more subgroups by inserting a second Surround Mixer plug-in.

Note that the Surround Panner plug-in is bypassed on the drum tracks. That is necessary to allow the signal to pass through to the track sends. Contrary to what you would expect, bypassing the panner doesn''t affect its behavior in any way.


Migrating your Mix 51 session to a Pro Tools HD system requires a bit of time and careful thought. Although the Mix 51 Surround Panner''s parameters correlate to those of the HD panner, Pro Tools can''t automatically recognize them—it sees them as plug-in parameters. You need to copy and paste each playlist from the plug-in to its corresponding track automation.

When I say “automation,” I mean that there must be at least two breakpoints in each playlist—Pro Tools will not copy and paste static parameters that have not been written as automation. If you have only static values in your mix so far, write-enable all tracks and write just a second of automation to give Pro Tools something to copy. Pasting in Pro Tools is smart enough to paste parameters to their appropriate automation playlists—for example, if you were to copy volume from one track, it would paste as volume into another track regardless of which parameter was currently displayed. That means you have to use Edit->Paste Special To Current Automation Type to copy Mix 51 parameters into track pan playlists.

Open the session in Pro Tools HD, and immediately do a Save As to preserve your original session. Make the existing output paths inactive, and create a proper SMPTE surround path. Assign your tracks to this output path. You then simply copy the Mix 51 L/R Pan playlist and paste it (remember to use Paste Special) to the track Front Position playlist. Repeat this for each parameter. You''ll need to copy Mix 51 L/R Pan into the track Rear Position playlist as well, because Rear Position has no corollary in Mix 51. Don''t forget to copy the surround panner''s volume and mute to track volume and mute, and to also copy the panner''s send parameters.

You can speed the process along by using your Pro Tools shortcuts. Copy is Control + C (Command + C on a Mac), and Paste Special is Control + Windows + V (Control + Command + V). Use the All group to operate on all visible tracks at once. Because edit functions don''t apply to hidden tracks, even if they''re grouped, you can hide the stereo tracks to work on mono tracks first, and then reverse it to work on stereo tracks, as the stereo tracks will have more playlists to copy. You can use Control + Windows + Alt (Control + Option + Command) together with the Right and Left Arrow keys to cycle through all track playlists. Don''t forget Control + A (Command + A), the shortcut for Select All.

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