Pro Tools LE 6.7
Software upgrades seem to be coming at us fast and furiously these days and Digidesign obviously doesn’t want to be left out. Pro Tools LE 6.7 has just been released with lots of small but useful enhancements along with some major improvements.
One of the hottest features of its big brother, the Pro Tools TDM software, is Beat Detective. Now available for PT LE 6.7, this lets you generate Bar|Beat Markers corresponding to the transients detected in audio or MIDI selections; you can separate and create new audio regions based on the detected audio transients. All the separated audio regions within the selection can then be conformed to the current tempo map. You can also extract rhythmic and dynamic information from audio and MIDI data and save this as DigiGroove templates to which you can quantize other MIDI regions and conform other audio regions.
And there’s more stuff from the TDM version: the Object Grabber, for example. It’s a variation of the standard Grabber tool that you can use to select non-contiguous regions on one or more tracks. The Time Compression/Expansion (TCE) Trimmer tool, another TDM tool, instantly changes the tempo of audio files and loops, and now works with MIDI regions.
Pro Tools’ MIDI features keep on getting better: the latest addition here is Step Input. This lets you enter notes individually, one step at a time, from a MIDI keyboard or other MIDI controller. This can be very convenient, especially when you want precise control over note placement, duration and velocity. You can also create musical passages that might be difficult to play accurately.
There are various small but useful improvements to the general user interface as well. On large sessions, it can be difficult to identify which tracks are which. To make this easier, separate colours can be assigned to audio and MIDI regions, tracks, markers, and groups. Regions shown in the Edit window are drawn in colour and Tracks shown in the Show/Hide list, in the Groups list, and in the Mix and Edit windows have associated colour bars above and below the channel strips in the Mix window and to the left of each track in the Edit window.
So far, all this is all useful stuff – but the biggest changes are concerned with time and tempo. The Time Operations window lets you define the meter, insert or cut time or move the song start, using its four different pages. The Change Meter page lets you specify complex meter changes for Bar|Beat-based material. The Insert Time page is for including an amount of blank time into conductor rulers, and MIDI and audio tracks. The Cut Time page lets you cut a specified amount of time from conductor rulers, MIDI tracks, and audio tracks. The Move Song Start redefines the location of the Song Start Marker.
The Tempo Operations window lets you define tempo events over a range of time (or measures). This window can be used to fit a specific number of Bars|Beats into a precise time range or to create tempos that speed up or slow down, both linearly and over various curves. You can also scale and stretch existing tempos. Use the popup selector at the top left of the window to choose the page that controls whichever of the five types of tempo operation is needed. You can then create a constant tempo over a selected range of time or you can create tempos that change linearly over a selected range of time. The tempo changes can be made to follow a parabolic curve or an S-curve, or tempos can be scaled within a selection by a percentage amount. You can even select a region of tempo events and stretch them such that they affect a larger or smaller selection area.
There is also a new Tempo Editor, a resizeable window beneath the Tempo Ruler in the Edit Window that lets you view and edit tempo information graphically. Click the small triangle at the left of the Tempo track and the Tempo Editor area opens up. You can use the Grabber tool to move individual tempo events or change their values or use the Trimmer tool to scale values up or down en masse. You can also draw in new tempo events using the Pencil tool.
Now consider what happens when building up an arrangement using sampled (or recorded and separated) drum ‘hits’ with each drum hit occupying its own audio region. If you change the tempo, the audio would normally stay exactly where it is on the timeline because it’s referenced to sample-based, absolute time locations. But if you’re still working on a composition and want to change tempo, it would be better for these audio regions to move with the bars, beats and ticks – just like MIDI data does. In version 6.7, you can choose to make Audio tracks, Auxiliary Inputs, and Master tracks either sample-based or tick-based – so in the above scenario, you would choose to make the audio tracks containing drum hits tick-based so that when the tempo is changed, the start points of these audio regions will move along with the MIDI events. A stroke of genius!
You’ll need to learn a bunch of new keyboard shortcuts to control all the new functions in Pro Tools LE 6.7, but it’ll be worth it. It adds most of the important missing time and tempo features that have been available in other packages for years. So what’s still missing? I’d like a Sibelius plug-in to show music notation and an audio-event-list editor to let me edit audio events alphanumerically in one window. Nevertheless, this upgrade is essential – especially at the price.