ProTools is a professional grade audio software platform for Macintosh and Windows that can help to bring audio projects up to industry quality standards. While there are A lot of options to sculpt your audio piece into its final version, you can produce high quality tracks without making your project too complicated by utilizing Pro Tools.
UW Bothell has Pro Tools LE installed on all of the computers in the Digital Media Lab, which is a somewhat lighter version than used in top recording studios across the country. However, the ProTools LE interface is the same for applying the usability to the highest definition Pro Tools HD software. Our IT support staff at the Digital Media Lab are regularly scheduled to be available to help with student projects. Just let us know what you are working on, and how we can help.
Available Pro Tools Tutorials:
Creating folders for Audio Project Files:
The first thing you to do when you open Pro Tools is to create a new folder for all of your Pro Tools projects on the Desktop or your external hard drive.
If you see either of the following errors, save your project into a folder on the hard drive, instead of a thumb drive:
Pro Tools New Session:
Go ahead and accept these default settings, unless you have been asked to create a project with different parameters such as file type or Bit depth.
Once you begin, you will be prompted to save your project and name it.
Pro Tools Folder on Desktop:
Pro Tools Default Folders:
Notice that once you create a new project, several file folders are already created to organize your project. These folders are Audio, Fade, Region Groups and Video File folders.
Creating a new project:
Opening Pro Tools for the first time starts you with an empty workspace. You can begin your project by importing clips and/or files by dragging and dropping files from on your desktop or other drives into the light grey area in the center of the interface. They will create a new track by default.
Pro Tools Workspace:
You can also can import files by moving through the top menu: File > Import > Audio.
Importing Audio 1:
Importing Audio 2:
Most audio files will move through a formatting process for Pro Tools. Select the audio files you want to import, then click the blue Convert button, then, press Done and your files will proceed with the conversion and importing process.
When the files have been formatted for Pro Tools, you will be asked to choose a destination for the files. Select New Track.
Importing Audio 3:
Understanding the Workspace (Edit modes, Zoom buttons, Edit Tools):
There are a lot of ways to get edit and alter your tracks. The zoom functions let you see closer by enlarging the sound waves. This enables you to be sure you are selecting exactly what you want.
Pro Tools Zoom:
To change Zoom-IN to Zoom-OUT, press and hold the Option button on the keyboard. To deselect the magnifying class, you have to select another tool.
Pro Tools Shuffle Mode:
Pro Tools Spot Mode:
Adjusting Volume Levels:
There are different ways to adjust and control the volume of your tracks in Pro Tools. For fading in and adjusting the volume along the timeline use the spin-down menu on the track. If you want to manually adjust the volume as a track is playing, you can use the mixer-style volume fader.
To make spot volume adjustments to your track, use the pencil tool above the timeline to place marks where the volume will change. You can make small adjustments, incremental manual fades or let the sound drop out completely.
Volume Adjust 1:
Volume Adjust 2:
Note that this mixer-style volume slider works for the whole track only, and is not going to override spot volume changes on the timeline. It will slide up and down to show how high or low you have set the track volume along the timeline as your track plays.
The tools highlighted in the images below are the basic tools for used in Pro Tools. Most of your editing will be done with them.
Edit Tools 1:
The above tools from left to right are: the Trimmer, Selector and Grabber tools, encompassed along the top and sides by what is called a Smart Tool.
You need to select the bar at the top of these tools.
This is called the SMART TOOL. The Smart Tool tool enables you to do cross-fades, fade-ins and fade-outs between tracks all at the same time without having to select each one. You can also use any of the three tools separately without having the bar selected.
The Trimmer Tool selects a particular portion of your timeline and lets you trim down unwanted areas of your track. Just select the areas you want trimmed and press the DELETE key.
Once you have deleted a section from a track, you can move the remainder closer to the beginning of the track, or leave that section blank for another track to fill in on. See Layering Audio below.
There are other options for the Trimmer tool that are revealed when you click and hold over the Trimmer: TCE (Time Compression/Expansion) which brings tracks together that have different tempos - for use in GRID mode, mentioned above. Beneath the TCE is the Loop Trimmer tool, which is another way to take a loop and duplicating or editing the loop out to the length you desire, and also the length of the loop itself.
Edit Tools 2:
The Speaker icon is the scrubber tool, and that is used to pull the cursor/play head along your timeline to hear just a little segment of your track or song without having to pick start or end points. This is good for getting in and doing little checks on the fine-tuning you have just done.
Edit Tools 3:
The Pen tool is how to identify regions along the timeline that you want some change to occur, such as a volume or pan shift, a cross fade, etc. The pen tool has several preset options changing volume levels and pans. Click the down arrow to choose one of the pen tools options.
Using layers of audio:
Using layers of audio simply means that you have multiple tracks playing/recording in your project.
These layers for example, could be a vocal track, a drum track, a guitar track and another guitar track with some effects. You can have all of these tracks play at the same time, or in sequential pieces. How you make your project is up to you. You can create up to 48 tracks at a single time. If the play head/cursor passes through more than one track at once, it will play them both. This is called layered audio.
Creating fades between tracks is useful if you want to highlight one instrument over another, or bring some instruments or tracks to crescendo while others fade away.
In order to do fades, you must select the Smart Tool that highlights the Trimmer, Selector and Grabber tools.
Move the cursor to the corner of the clip until it loos like a box that is half shaded. Click and hold, then move the selected area to the left or right, choosing the duration of the fade. You cannot trim across fades, so trim your sections first to prevent having to re-do any of your work.
To fade tracks, be sure that you have the waveform of your track showing (not the volume or pan, for example).
Once you are ready to fade from one track to another you can move the cursor to the upper corner of the end of one of the track that you want to fade.
You can press COMMAND + F to bring up the fade menu and to fine-tune your fade; the different colors here (green vs. red) indicate which track is which in the example below.
Audio Fade 2:
Manually re-linking files:
You will only need to do this if your project folder has some missing files - such as tracks that are a part of your saved project that have been moved, renamed or deleted.
To manually re-link files, find the originals, or, where ever they have been accidentally moved to. You can search for them by name or location, whichever is more convenient, and replace them following the prompts.
If your files are missing from your Pro Tools Audio Folder AND have been deleted or they are no longer available, you will probably need to start over, or move forward without these tracks. This is just one reason why it is VERY important to keep all your audio files in one place and properly eject your external hard drive or other discs.
Saving your project:
Save your project as you take breaks, or, as a good habit to get into, whenever you think about it or every 5 minutes, whichever comes first. Your project will, by default, save into where you have set up the folder in the first place.
Be sure that your project is fully saved before trying to eject or remove an external hard drive where you may be saving your files.
Bounce To Disk:
You’ve finished your project and want to get it out the world! Getting your project out of Pro Tools is called Bouncing. To Bounce your project to disk, go to the Top menu and File > Bonce > To Disk. The default options are usually good to use, unless your project requires other specific parameters.
Bouncing to Disk 1:
Bouncing to Disk 2:
Pro Tools is a powerful software tool and there is so much more to discover than this brief tutorial could cover, but donÆt be afraid.
By default, the changes you make in Pro Tools are NON-DESTRUCTIVE, meaning that you can go back and undo your work unless you specifically select a Destructive recording or delete or modify some of your source files outside of Pro Tools.
Go ahead test and try some stuff out, and if you have further questions, there are regularly scheduled tutors in the DML that have experience with most of the software we support, such as Pro Tools LE.
Have fun and make some great music!