Digidesign’s Pro Tools 8 comes with many helpful tools to help you in the mixing phase of your work. Whether trying to save time when planning your record and mix sessions, to get more visibility into available options for mixing, or to make your session go smoother by using expanded views, you will find that the more you know about Pro Tools, the more powerful it becomes. When getting ready for your next mix, try these tips and tricks to help you get more out of your mixing session.
Use Templates to Save Time
When mixing a large session with dozens of tracks, you may find it helpful to set up a Pro Tools session from a pre-established set of recording and mixing templates. New to Pro Tools 8 LE is a Quick Start wizard (Figure 1), and within it, easy access to a large repository of session templates organized for easy selection.
Setting up a mix session can be cumbersome. You can quickly create a session with the tracks you need, automatically populated with commonly used plug-in effects, and sends and returns mapped to Auxiliary tracks to keep session size and your systems hardware resources down to a minimum when applying the same effect to multiple tracks. Session templates (pre-established, or templates you create and personalize to your liking) can help save all of the time it takes to add and configure tracks, label them, route them correctly, and add effects, which can be lengthy depending on what your needs are.
Use Groups to Mix Multiple Tracks at Once
When mixing a large number of tracks, it’s helpful to know how to use Pro Tools Groups. You can expose and group your tracks together by selecting the Mix window View selector (Figure 2) in the bottom left hand portion of the Mix window. This will open up the Groups section (Figure 3). Here you can create groups and select them for use while you mix. Aside from an option to create a new group, there are other helpful options here as well, such as Suspend All Groups, which will disable all groups when selected, and Display, which can help hide editing groups which are unrelated to your mix session and could get in the way.
To create a group, select New Group from the Groups drop down menu. The Create Group dialog box will open where you can name your group as well as add tracks to it (Figure 4).
If using Apple OS X, you can hold down the Shift key and click on each track you want to add, and then click the Add button to add them all at once instead of one at a time. You can select one at a time by mouse clicking on the track you want to add, or you can save even more time by clicking on a desired track, holding the mouse button down, and then moving your mouse to select multiple tracks at once.
In Figure 4, a drum mix group is created so that all of the recorded drum tracks are added to a group that when selected, can activate all associated tracks. The drums can be mixed individually at first until a good overall mix of the drum kit is established. Now that your drums are mixed, you will want to balance the kit with the rest of the recorded tracks. To activate the group, click on the group name (Drum Mix) in the Groups section of the Mix window. Click it again to deactivate it.
If you need to raise or lower the overall volume of the drum kit as one, activate the group, and then move any fader of any tracks in the group, and it moves all of the tracks in the group at once. This trick is extremely helpful when trying to fine tune your final mix.
Add Flexibility, Options, and Control by Expanding Views
Pro Tools 8 comes with many expanded Mix and Edit window views that can help you with your mix session.
In the Edit window, automation, volume, and panning selectors can be found directly under every track. Select the Show/hide automation lanes arrow on the bottom left portion of a track. (Fig. 5) This action will add an automation lane directly under the main track. You can add more lanes as needed by clicking on the “+” sign found on the bottom left portion of the selected automation lane. Remove lanes by clicking on the “-” sign. Collapse and expand all open lanes by clicking on the main track’s Show/hide automation lanes arrow. Right click the arrow to expose a drop down menu with all selectable sub-lane options.
In both the Edit and the Mix window, you can expand the amount of available sends and inserts from five to 10. If you need to add more sends or inserts in your Mix window, click on the Mix Window View selector (Figure 6) to expand each track’s view by adding Inserts F-J and Sends F-J. Now, if you need to add more routing capability or additional effects, you have the space to add them.
When you have a large amount of tracks and want to fit them all on your monitor screen, you can use the Narrow Mix view option found in the Pro Tools 8 View menu which will shrink the size of each track in the Mix window to half its size (Figure 7).