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. In Part I of this topic, I shared how to optimize Pro Tools’ Playback Engine for the best performance. Here, I’m going to share a couple more ways to optimize performance within your session.

Make Inactive
The easiest thing to do in your PT session to lessen the load on your CPU and RAM is to make anything you’re not actually using in the session INACTIVE. You can make effects plug-ins, virtual instruments, sends, outputs, and other items inactive… even entire tracks can be made inactive. What does it mean to be “inactive?” Essentially, the inactive item does not function in the session and uses no system resources. However, the settings of the item are still saved with the session… SO, you can activate the item at any point while working in the session and all of its settings will still be there.

How do you make something inactive? To make an entire track inactive, select the name of the track and choose Track > Make Inactive. You can also Right-click the name of the track and choose Make Inactive from the dropdown menu or click the track type icon (at the bottom of the track’s mix channel) and choose Make Inactive. To make a certain plug-in, instrument, send, output, etc inactive, press Command+Control (Mac) or Control+Start (PC) and click on the item. Inactive items and tracks are greyed out.

In the screenshot below, the Xpand2 instrument and the Instrument tracks’ output (Bus 1-2) are inactive, as is the entire Audio 2 track on the bottom. Right-click on the name of the track or an item to access the “make inactive” option as shown here.

Make Inactive

Record Virtual Instruments As Audio
Virtual instruments consume a lot of processing power so it’s a good idea to record their outputs as audio when you’re done working on them. Once you’re happy with a track you’ve made with a virtual instrument, record its output as audio onto an audio track in the session.

Route the output of the Instrument track to a bus (e.g., Bus 1-2). Create an audio track and choose that same bus (Bus 1-2) as the track’s input. Play and record the output from the instrument track. Then, make the instrument track inactive so that if you need to go back and edit the original instrument track, you can simply activate the track later and work on it.

Stay tuned for more ways to save processing power while using Pro Tools…

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    Would it work in the same way you mentioned if say you have multiple guitar tracks (double rhythms, etc), if you sent both outputs to a new track and recorded it. Is it worth losing control of two separate tracks?

    Jorge –

    Submixing tracks so as to cut down on your track count is a way to optimize your session. I was going to cover that topic in Part III of the series. :)


    I use cubase four on pc and I am having the same problems when I incorperate waves and autotune into the mix it over loads the memory. I hope there’s a fix for it, thanks

    “control+start” wheres the “start” key on a pc?

    Glenn -

    The “start” key is also referred to as the “Windows” key. Its got the little Windows icon on it.


    How do I overdub two separate tracks at the same time on Protools? When i want to over dub using a direct signal and a mic it only records one and puts that one track on the 2 tracks that i activated to record?

    Paul -

    It sounds like you’ve got the same input selected for both tracks. Change the second track’s input form Input 1 (probably called “Mix/Line 1) to Input 2 (Mic/Line 2) and you’ll be all set.


    Thank you for taking the time to share these tips and tricks. Your information is very helpful.

    Good to have some tips in this direction for CPU system DSP balancing specifically for Pro Tools , cheers

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