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The Hidden Digidesign Pro Tools (part 4)

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Pro Tools on the Cheap

As hard disk multitrack recording and editing systems go, Pro Tools is hardly
expensive. But every extra pound you spend on equipment may be a pound less
in your pay packet at the end of the day and you might be able to get all the
functionality you need from Pro Tools by buying just the software or maybe a
Digidesign Audiomedia III card. Pro Tools in its PowerMix version will in fact
run on a suitable Apple Macintosh computer without any additional hardware,
not even a sound card, and offers very nearly all of the full Pro Tools features.
Audio scrubbing is a notable exception, but Pro Tools’ other auditioning
features will probably make life without it quite acceptable. The only real
problem with this configuration is that the quality of the audio inputs and
outputs on a Macintosh is not of the best and can be compared subjectively to
an analogue tape recorder without noise reduction. Even so, I have heard remarkable
results achieved in this way so it is certainly practical, within reason. The
Digidesign Audiomedia III card however improves the quality up to the standard
you would expect from 16-bit 44.1/48kHz digital audio and offers stereo inputs
and outputs in both the digital and analogue domain.

So supposing you decide to acquire a Pro Tools system on the cheap and use
it without additional hardware or just with the Audiomedia III card, what can
you do with it and what can’t you do with it? Well since in both cases
you only get stereo ins and outs there is no possibility of taking individual
outputs into a mixing console as you can with a conventional multitrack, and
since you need a fully grown Pro Tools system to get access to real time TDM
plug-ins, you can’t really do very much serious mixing. What you can do
however is perhaps what Pro Tools is best at, and that is editing. Take the
classic case of recording vocals. It is typical to record up to half a dozen
alternative takes and then compile them into one best version, which may then
be further improved with punch-ins. You can do this on analogue tape between
verses and maybe between individual lines. You can do this on digital tape within
lines. With Pro Tools you can pick the best syllable from every word if you
feel you need to and with a little judicious crossfading the results can be
absolutely seamless. It’s the best tool for the job, and the automated
punch-in in Pro Tools is the slickest there is. The only tricky bit is synchronising
it with the multitrack which, with our simple system, is going to be essential.

David Mellor

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David Mellor