Mixing Revealed  
Pro Tools 7.2 Highlights
By Rich Tozzoli

Thank you! Two simple words say it all when responding to the changes and updates Digidesign has made in Pro Tools 7.2 software. The new features in 7.2 will be invaluable to those who mix records, films, television, concert DVDs, or that hot local band. Let’s take a look at a few of the coolest ones that you can put to use immediately.

It’s Not My Default
 
In Pro Tools 7.3 software preferences you can select your default EQ and dynamics processing plug-ins, which show up at the top of your plug-ins list.
 
   

 
First, check out the Mixing tab in the Preferences window. On the left side under Setup, you’ll see Default EQ and Default Dynamics. Select your favorite (or most-used) settings for each, and they will now appear at the top of the Insert menu when you assign plug-ins. For those of you who mix on an ICON, they will appear first on the worksurface. This is a massive timesaver, to say the least.

Trim That Level
The Track View selector has a new choice called volume trim. When selected, a yellow “trim line” appears on your track in the Edit window; in contrast, standard volume automation is written in blue. Again, this feature can be a real time-saver. On a film score I’m composing, the brass was too high in the mix. I simply grabbed the yellow volume trim, lowered it a full dB, and all the volume automation moves dropped the selected amount. Awesome.

There’s also a level trim for your buses. On several occasions I’ve gone in and trimmed the overall level of reverb sends using this function. Try it — you’ll like it.

Just the Right Touch
There’s also a new choice in the Automation Mode selector called Touch/Latch. When enabled, you can write automation volume in Touch mode, while all other controls are in Latch.

For example, you can mix the volume and pan of a guitar part at the same time. When you let go of the panner, it remains in position (latch) until you’re done mixing the volume. This saves a second pass or a panning trim edit, making for a more fluid mixing session.

Drag-and-Drop Sends
Finally! We’ve waited a while for this one. Now you can drag and drop Sends just like Inserts. Using the Option key, just grab and drag to the selected track. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used this feature since installing 7.2. Simple and effective.

Periods of Inactivity


   
If you right-click on a Track Name in the Mix window, a dropdown menu appears with numerous choices: Hide, Hide and Make Inactive, Make Inactive, Scroll Into View, Rename, Duplicate, Split into Mono (stereo tracks only) and Delete. I like to make things like click tracks inactive when I’m not using them, but be able to reactivate them as needed. This process is now much easier and quicker. You can also just click on the waveform icon just above the volume display to make a track inactive.

The Scroll Into View function takes a track and places it on the first fader of your control surface. In previous versions of Pro Tools, right-clicking would automatically do this, but now you need to select this from the dropdown menu. While I do miss the quick click function, the added ability to easily duplicate or delete tracks is well worth the tradeoff.

VCA Master Tracks (HD Only)
As on large-format consoles, VCA Master tracks control groups of faders in Pro Tools. Previously, the only way to group tracks with a sub master was to use up a bus. This meant you had to pass audio through the bus, and it left you with fewer buses for other needs, such as reverbs. With a VCA Master, you’ve got a master that does not pass audio, but maintains the ability to easily offset group faders.

For example, with a drum VCA master, you can change the level of the overheads without toggling the Group function on and off. However, sometimes I still use a bus for overall processing (compression), and simply include that in the VCA group.

Right-clicking on a VCA Master track brings up a
pop-up menu with all options associated with the
VCA master. Sleek.
The uses of a VCA master track extend beyond volume. You can mute and solo the whole group with a VCA Master, and also use it as a group record-enable function. Once you’ve individually record-enabled each track in the group, you can then toggle them on and off together with the VCA. Cool.

Note that VCA Tracks are created in the new Tracks Dialog menu. The level meters for VCA master tracks display the highest level occurring on any of the tracks, not a sum of them all.

I See Red
Last but not least, one of my favorite useful new functions in 7.2 is the volume update automation. When you’re writing volume in touch mode, for example, the previous volume levels are displayed in black, with the updated volume level showing up as a red line — in real time. This makes it easy to view your previous levels while mixing. For writing vocal lines, it’s an invaluable tool when making those small changes that create the perfect part.

Do yourself a favor and check out Pro Tools 7.2, as there are many more cool functions I haven’t covered here. Whether you’re working on your laptop or an 80-fader ICON system, I’m sure you’ll agree this update has made Pro Tools more powerful than ever.