Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

Using the Pro Tools Workspace

By Nick LucasMarch 30, 2013

DAW WORKSHOP

nick_lucas_bio2Nick Lucas
Hi, I’m Nick and I’m a Pro Tools columnist at Audio Times.  I started out producing music when I was 15, and now work under the pseudonym ‘Veranova’.  Having released various records, produced for up and coming artists such as Lewis Mokler, and composed for companies such as Morphsuits; I took an interest in teaching.  So I started Production Bytes, a source of video tutorials and products for music production; now my main business.  Thanks to the success of this I also took an interest in writing and have settled into a columnist role with Audio Times.  Which brings us to now.  Enjoy!

When working on projects requiring heavy use of samples, we all need a way to find & trial samples before bringing them into our projects. On a Mac you can always fall back on Finder, but on a PC Windows Explorer doesn’t offer the same easy preview functions.  In both cases however, Pro Tools’ ‘Workspace’ is here to make your workflow easier.

Workspace is a sample browser.  Able to browse your hard drive for your sample libraries, and preview them inside Pro Tools.  It’s quite a simple concept, and Workspace presents a lot of power to the knowing user.

To bring up Workspace, use ‘Window>Workspace’ or Alt+; (Opt+; on Mac)

1 Workspace

Here is Workspace, I have marked in a few areas which I’ll be pointing out (in no particular order) throughout this article.

1 – Zoom presets

Just like in the Edit window, Workspace allows you to store up to 5 Zoom presets for the interface.

These will save the window size, section sizes, and enabled columns.  This can come in useful for quickly displaying specific columns of information next to the audio files being displayed.  To create a new preset, simply change what you want to see in the interface, and then CTRL+Click (CMD+Click on Mac) on your chosen preset to over-write it with the current layout.

From then on clicking the number will set the layout to what’s saved in the preset.

3 – Catalogs

Catalogs allow you to place folders from deep inside your file system, more easily within Workspace’s reach.  Once you’ve created Catalogs they will appear under the ‘Catalogs’ menu in Workspace.  To create a catalog.  Navigate to the folder (in Workspace) you want to access, and right click on it.  Click ‘Create catalog from selected’, name the new Catalog, and Workspace will now index all the files in the source folder ready to display quickly and easily, from the Catalogs folder.

4 – Drive Allocation

Workspace also gives you a degree of management control over all your storage devices.  To the right of each storage device’s name, you’ll see two columns labelled ‘A’ and ‘V’. For ‘Audio’ and ‘Video’ respectively.  By clicking each columns field you can setup how Pro Tools uses your storage devices.  You will get 3 settings to choose from:

  • ‘R’ – Record – will set up Pro Tools to be able to record (write) data to the device.
  • ‘P’ – Playback – will set up Pro Tools to only be able to play (read) data from the device.
  • ‘T’ – Transfer – will set up Pro Tools to not be able to read or write to the drive.  This is set by default on Network drives, USB drives, and any other attached media which isn’t fast enough for Pro Tools to work on.

All of this is handy if you want to keep all your audio or video data on specific devices, stop Pro Tools from running into performance issues on slow devices; by forcing you to pull data off them first, or prevent Pro Tools from inadvertently storing data on your system drive.

Searching for Audio

So you’re on the search for ‘that sample’ you need.  Having set up your workspace and indexed all your sample folders as catalogs you’re ready to find it.  Click the search button in the top left of Workspace. This brings up a search row to enter your terms, and adds check boxes to the left of all your storage devices, folders, and catalogs.  It will speed up the process of searching a lot to have a general idea of where you’ll find a certain sample, and organising your Catalogs in such a way will help you out.  Tick which folders/catalogs you want to search, and then enter your search term at the top of the Name column.  You’ll also see along this row, that you can whittle down your results further by specifying variables for other columns such as file ‘Kind’, Size, and Duration, with your search terms.  Hit enter, and your results will now display in the bottom panes of Workspace.

2 – Auditioning and Importing Audio

Once you’ve found the audio you want then importing it is as easy as dragging and dropping onto the right kind of audio track.  If your audio tracks are mono then multi-channel audio will be split up across them, as is usual Pro Tools behaviour.  There are ways to trial your audio before importing it however. Selecting a file and pressing ‘Space’ will audition it, and show the waveform in the waveform column.  You can also skip around the file by clicking where you want to hear on the waveform display.  Something to note at this point is you need to set in your I/O Settings which channel Workspace plays through. As it doesn’t go through the project’s routing.  Go to ‘Setup>I/O Setup’, and select your output channel under ‘Audition Paths’ in the lower right of the setup window.

At the top of Workspace, you also have a number of audition options.

First is simply a play button, and the second control is Workspace’s volume.

Next is a volume meter, and finally Elastic Audio options.

Workspace is able to automatically time-stretch audio files to your project tempo, and the elastic audio options are there for this.  The first button switches this functionality on, and the second allows you to change the timestretching algorithm to the most appropriate for your source material.  This will allow you to audition files in time with your project.  The only requirement is that the selected audio file has embedded Tempo information.

Right Clicked on Something?

The right context menu, is a constant across Workspace.  There are plenty of self-explanatory and advanced functions. However the final 4 are quite useful to know:

  • Loop Preview, will make the audio files loop round until you stop the audition.
  • Auto-Preview, will make audition audio files as you select them.
  • Space Toggles File Preview, activated the space bar as a play button. With this switched off, spacebar will play the project as if you were in the Mix/Edit windows.
  • Audio Files Conform To Session Tempo, is another way to switch on and off, elastic audio when auditioning.

Nick Lucas
April 2013

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