Nick started out producing Drum & Bass and other Dancefloor styles under the pseudonym Veranova, still a major part of what he does. Nowadays though, he also does a lot of Freelance work: composing for companies such as Morphsuits and producing music for the likes of Lewis Mokler, and Pob. His most recent venture however, is Production Bytes, a web tutorials series aimed at Beginner & Intermediate level producers, which has led him straight into his passion for teaching and writing.
Making the shift to Pro Tools can be a confusing one, especially when it comes to organising large projects. Unlike many other DAW’s there are no ‘folder’ tracks, and features like grouping & hiding tracks are uncommon elsewhere; so this is an introduction to organising your Pro Tools projects.
Here I’ve got a mixing project. As you can see, thanks to its automatically coloured and roughly arranged tracks, it looks a bit of a mess and is hard to pick out exactly what you want.
So let’s turn this into a more useable project that you can work efficiently and easily in.
What order you do everything in isn’t a big concern for this process, and how you do it will be very personal. But I’m going to start by colouring my tracks in a more useful way. Go into the Pro Tools Preferences “Display” tab (Setup>Preferences>Display) and on the right are a number of options for colour coding tracks, they’re fairly self explanatory; but I’m going to switch to this configuration.
The Clips have all turned the same colour as their Track type now (Blue, being Audio tracks), which is only temporary as we can now move on to Colouring everything in more useful ways to break apart the project. I’ll start with my Drums, firstly selecting all the Drum tracks using Shift+Click, and double clicking on the very top of the Mixer track to bring up the Colours window.
A common question for new Pro Tools users is why someone else’s Mixer tracks are fully coloured, and ‘mine are grey with coloured tops’. This is the window you need in order to change that setting, and it’s simply a case of clicking the switch to the left of ‘Saturation’, and sliding up the ‘Saturation’ control until you’re happy (The Brightness control also affects this in a big way). Now all I have to do is select a colour, I’m going to go with an Orange for my Drums. The colours window floats above the whole interface, so I’ll just go ahead and select groups of tracks and colour them in the same way. I’ve also graded pairs of Mics from different takes with different shades of colours, but this is very much personal approach.
Grouping is an important part of Pro Tools workflow. Groups allow you to link multiple tracks so that actions on one track can be carried out simultaneously in every track in the group. If I select all my Drums and press Ctrl+G [ CMD+G on Mac] the ‘Create Group’ dialogue will come up. From here I can select numerous options related to my groups, and modify what tracks are included.
The most important part of this is the ‘Type’ option, which offers you ‘Mix’, ‘Edit’, and ‘Edit and Mix’.
‘Edit’ Groups only group the tracks inside the Edit/Playlist window. When an Edit Group is active, any track you make changes on (crossfades, selections, deletions, movement, etc) in the Edit window will be duplicated across all the included tracks. Likewise ‘Mix’ Groups group the tracks inside the Mix Window/Mixer, sync’ing options such as Fader Volume, Solo, and Mute. The ‘Edit and Mix’ group simply combines both of these types into one group.
I’m going to create Edit and Mix groups for all my groups of instruments, and leave the other options ticked on them all. Hopefully the other options are fairly self-explanatory, but they allow you a bit more control over what extra functions you want to be grouped on tracks.
And that’s it for grouping more or less. It’s not hugely complicated to set up groups, but can be an incredibly useful feature. If you ever want to deactivate a group so that you can make a change on a track independently from the rest of the tracks, all you have to do is head to the ‘groups’ panel in the bottom left of either the Edit or Mix window; and left click the group to deactivate it. You can also click the very left of a group’s switch to select all the tracks in that group, and Alt+Click [Opt+Click on Mac] to Switch off/on all the groups at once.
Now I can make edits/selections in the Edit window, or bulk change fader levels and solo groups in one click.
What about folder tracks?
Pro Tools 10 doesn’t have folder tracks, and this can mean large projects start to get a little messy. However what Pro Tools can do is hide tracks, and you can do this in several ways.
Firstly, if you want to hide an entire group, you can right click on the group name and click ‘Hide tracks in group’. You’ll also see you can ‘Show only tracks in group’ which can be very handy if you just want to focus on editing a single section of audio without other distractions.
Secondly, you can just move up to the ‘Tracks’ section directly above the ‘Groups’ list, and click the dot on the left of any listed track you want to hide. The shortcuts here are similar to the Mixer, so you can select multiple tracks using Shift+Click and then use Shift+Alt+Click [Shift+Opt+Click on Mac] on the ‘dot’ to hide them all at once, clicking again while holding this shortcut will invert the selection to hide everything else; and using Alt+Click [ Opt+Click on Mac] will hide or show all the tracks in the project at once.
You can also hide tracks by right clicking on the track in the Edit or Mixer window, but the first two ways are usually faster to do.