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electronic MUSICIAN

Review: Pro Tools LE 7.4 (Bonus)

By Brian Smithers | April 7, 2008

This online bonus material supplements the Digidesign Pro Tools LE 7.4 review in the May 2008 issue of EM.

Pro Tools 7.3''s New Features

Although it contained nothing quite as striking as Elastic Time, Pro Tools LE/M-Powered 7.3 included a lot more new features than 7.4. Up to 99 window configurations can be saved and recalled, and a window configuration can be stored as a property of a memory location. There is still no keyboard shortcut for opening and closing the Track list or Regions list, but their status can be saved within window configurations.

Right-clicking finally does something, from renaming regions, tracks, and I/O labels to snapping regions to previous or next region boundaries. When in doubt, right-click—something interesting is bound to happen.

On the MIDI front, version 7.3 introduced support for key signatures, including a new Key Signature ruler. Even though Pro Tools still lacks any notation view, key signatures come in handy. Transposition can now be diatonic, and tracks can be declared as pitched tracks, so they automatically transpose when you insert a key change. MIDI export is now more flexible, as you can export selected tracks as an alternative to exporting the entire session as a Standard MIDI File (SMF). Similarly, one or more tracks can be exported directly to Sibelius (another good reason for declaring key signatures within Pro Tools). The effect is essentially the same as exporting an SMF and then importing that into Sibelius, but with fewer mouse-clicks.

A new Dynamic Transport mode resolves some long-standing challenges, especially when dealing with loop playback. A new play start marker can be placed independently of the timeline selection, allowing you to listen to playback one bar before a selection, just before the end of a selection, or anywhere else you please without losing the timeline selection. This affords the only way to listen to a loop transition without playing the loop from its start.

Audio files can now be looped when auditioned in the browsers. Pro Tools can automatically create a click track for you, either as a command in the Track menu or as a new session preference. A new Loop Trim tool lets you “roll out” looped iterations of a region the way you can in Acid or Sonar.

Some of the many new mix and automation features introduced in Pro Tools HD 7.2 made their way into LE 7.3. There are now 104 mix/edit groups, arranged in 4 banks of 26. The group dialog is a bit more flexible, allowing tracks to be added or removed from a group from within the dialog. Some preferences, such as send mute following groups, have been moved into the dialog box so they are now group specific rather than global. Automation playlists are now drawn as they are recorded, and switched controls now latch even in Touch mode. A new preference lets plug-in parameters be enabled for automation automatically when the plug-in is inserted.

As if all that wasn''t enough, several video functions were enhanced in 7.3, although some pertain only if DV Toolkit 2 is installed. The more important features include support for HD QuickTime video, a resizable video window, and bouncing directly to QuickTime DV25 movies. This lengthy list of new and enhanced features is more like what you usually expect from a whole-number upgrade, making an upgrade from 7.1 all the way to 7.4 a real bargain at $75.

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