Three keys to being an efficient editor in any DAW are views, tools and navigation. Although the following suggestions are specific to Pro Tools 7.4, a musician desiring to be proficient in any DAW can find comparable shortcuts and efficiency features just by digging into the manual. I'll be citing Mac keystrokes; Windows users can substitute WIN for CTRL, CTRL for CMD and ALT for OPT. (For more great tips, see Pro Tips for Pro Tools LE from the April 2005 issue of EM, available online at emusician.com.)
The View From Here
FIG. 1: Save any combination of Pro Tools windows and their view settings for quick recall.
Most Pro Tools users are familiar with its memory locations, but few take advantage of the more recent addition of window configurations. Window configurations let you recall with three keystrokes which windows are open and what components of each window are displayed. Like memory locations, window configurations are session-specific, but you can import them from an existing (or template) session using Import Session Data.
Maximize the Edit window and then hide the Tracks list, Regions list, all track parameter columns (I/O, inserts, etc.) and all rulers except Bars:Beats (or Time Code for video work). From the Window Configurations submenu, create a new configuration called Big Edit. Choose Edit Window Display Settings from the drop-down list (see Fig. 1). Configure an alternative view that shows the Tracks list and I/O column, and name it Automation Edit. Recall them by respectively typing “.1*” and “.2*” on the numeric keypad.
By assigning window configurations to memory locations, you can also recall zoom settings and which tracks are shown. Another underutilized way to show specific sets of tracks is to group the tracks and then CTRL-click to the left of the group name in the Groups list. To fit selected tracks to the height of the Edit window, press CMD-CTRL-down (or up) arrow. To fit all shown tracks to the height of the Edit window, press CMD-CTRL-OPT-down (or up) arrow.
With the Automation Edit configuration you created, you can show the volume, mute or pan automation playlist by CMD-CTRL-clicking on the corresponding control. This also works for open plug-in windows. Return to the waveform view by CMD-CTRL-clicking on the track name. Change the playlist for all tracks by adding OPT, or for all selected tracks by adding SHIFT-OPT. These two modifiers invoke apply to all and apply to selected for virtually all functions in Pro Tools.
Pro Tools' Smart tool combines the Trim, Selector and Grabber tools depending on its position within a region or automation playlist. Hold the CTRL key when the Smart tool is the selector to enable the Scrub tool. Hold the CMD key in an automation playlist to force the Grabber (to create new breakpoints). In a MIDI track, hold the CTRL key to enable the current Pencil tool for drawing notes or controllers.
Efficient editing depends on mastering Pro Tools' four edit modes, but for tempo-based workflows it often makes sense to remain in Grid mode almost exclusively. This is possible because adding the CMD key to most Trim, Selector and Grabber gestures suspends the grid, putting you temporarily in Slip mode. In either Grid or Slip mode, snap the start of a region to the playback cursor by CTRL-clicking with the Grabber. Snap the end of a region by CTRL-CMD-clicking, and snap the region's sync point by CTRL-SHIFT-clicking. Snap to Next and Snap to Previous behaviors are available from the region right-click menu. Speaking of right-clicking, you can spot a region from the right-click menu instead of switching to Spot mode. Taken as a whole, these behaviors leave you changing edit modes a lot less.
Don't waste time scrolling around with the mouse. Scroll the window up and down one screen at a time by pressing PgUp and PgDn; scroll left and right one screen at a time by pressing OPT-PgUp and -PgDn. Home and End will scroll all the way up and down, and OPT-Home and -End will scroll all the way left and right. The left- and right-arrow keys will center the start or end of a selection, which is useful when you are zoomed way in. When Timeline Insertion/Play Start Marker Follows Playback is enabled and Timeline and Edit Selections are linked, either the down or the up arrow will center the playback cursor, which is helpful when you've disabled automatic scrolling.
Move the cursor to any position by pressing the asterisk (*) key to highlight the Main Counter, typing the location and pressing Enter. Press the slash (/) key to highlight first the selection Start field in the Event Edit Area, then the selection End and then the selection Length. You can thus create and modify selections very precisely. In the Main Counter and Event Edit area, move between columns by pressing the right- and left-arrow keys.
Remember these tips: get there quickly, get a good look at what you're working on and have the right tool in hand. Embrace any shortcut that gets you to the creative decision more quickly (see “Step-by-Step Instructions” below).
Brian Smithers is author of Mixing in Pro Tools: Skill Pack from Cengage Learning and chair of the workstations department at Full Sail University.
Make Grid your default edit mode and CMD-drag to suspend the grid rather than changing to Slip.
Step 1: Make Grid your default edit mode and CMD-drag to suspend the grid rather than changing to Slip
Make Separation Grabber the default Grabber because it behaves like the Time Grabber when there is no selection to be separated.
Step 2: Make Separation Grabber the default Grabber because it behaves like the Time Grabber when there is no selection to be separated.
Create window configurations to recall any view settings you change frequently and incorporate them into memory locations.
Step 3: Create window configurations to recall any view settings you change frequently and incorporate them into memory locations.
Change automation playlists by clicking on the corresponding track-control widget.
Step 4: Change automation playlists by clicking on the corresponding track-control widget.
Memorize and use every available keyboard shortcut for navigating, scrolling and selecting.
Step 5: Memorize and use every available keyboard shortcut for navigating, scrolling and selecting.
Right-click a region for additional snap-to behaviors, along with quick access to the Spot dialog.
Step 6: Right-click a region for additional snap-to behaviors, along with quick access to the Spot dialog.