With all the plug-ins and virtual instruments available in Pro Tools 8 now, it’s easy to run out of processing power and memory (RAM) within a session, especially if you’re running PT on an older computer. You might hear “rice krispies” (snaps, crackles and pops) while playing back, or even see error messages when you’ve reached the limits of your computer’s capability. However, there are some ways to get around the issues… and I want to share a few with you here.
First, quit any other applications that are running along with Pro Tools. Those apps take away precious RAM and processing power that could be allocated to Pro Tools. Then, within Pro Tools, visit the Playback Engine window (Setup > Playback Engine). Set the CPU Usage Limit to the highest percentage available. This allows Pro Tools to take control of most of the processing power in your computer.
If you’re editing or mixing (and not recording any more tracks), set the H/W Buffer Size to a higher amount like 1024 Samples. This enables your computer to work with larger chunks of data and makes audio processing less intensive. Boosting this value beyond 1024 (if you have the option) might cause your user interface to act sluggish. Use your judgment. When recording, set the H/W Buffer Size to a lower value (32, 64, 128, or 256) to reduce latency.
Choose the highest number of RTAS Processors available so Pro Tools can utilize your computer’s multiple processors. You may also check the “RTAS Engine” checkbox if you’re experiencing recurrent RTAS errors that interrupt playback and recording. This option may degrade your audio playback quality on virtual instruments, but you’ll see less errors and thus your workflow won’t be interrupted as often. However, be sure to uncheck this option when mixing to ensure the highest quality of audio playback.
The DAE playback buffer determines the amount of memory allocated with Digidesign Audio Engine (DAE) to manage disk buffers. A smaller buffer size might improve the speed of playback/record initiation if you’re experiencing lag time when you press Record or Play, but it might also make it more difficult for slower hard drives to play or record tracks reliably. A setting of “Level 0” might even make it impossible for your hard drive to read data fast enough to play back a PT session. A larger buffer size might improve the performance of a session with a huge number of edits; however, large DAE buffer sizes tend to increase the time lag before playback or record initiates.
I’d leave the DAE Playback Buffer parameters in their default states (Size = Level 2, Cache Size = Normal) unless you’re having an issue that Digidesign specifically recommends you to change those values.
Stay tuned for more ways to save processing power while using Pro Tools…