In my third installment about optimizing Pro Tools performance, I’m going to cover consolidating audio regions and thinning automation data… two techniques you can use to improve the performance of larger Pro Tools sessions. If you’ve tried all of the techniques I recommended in the first two installments about this topic here on my blog and Pro Tools is still acting sluggish, try these out.
Editing density is one factor that can seriously slow Pro Tools down. Each edit in Pro Tools instructs your hard drive to find a piece of audio on the drive. For instance, if you’ve edited your drum tracks with Beat Detective, you may have thousands of small audio regions on those tracks. Making the hard drive find those little pieces of audio all over the drive in rapid succession slows the drive down and thus makes playback more difficult. To combat this, you can consolidate the tracks. Consolidating means creating a brand new single audio file that combines all of the regions on track into one.
Here’s how I consolidate tracks: First, I make sure that all my edits are clean… that is, I make sure there are fades and crossfades places at region boundaries so there are no editing click/pops. Second, I make a duplicate playlist of all the tracks I want to consolidate. I do this in case I ever want to go back to the final edited version before it was consolidated. Third, I highlight all of the regions on the track. Finally, I choose Edit > Consolidate. Pro Tools creates new audio file that combines all of the edited audio regions into one region.
In the screenshot below, you see a large number of edited audio regions on the left, with some of the regions muted. On the right, you see a consolidated version of the edited regions. Note that the muted regions are processed as silence in the consolidated file.
Although not as intensive as audio data, automation data can cause your Pro Tools session to choke up too. Let’s say you have volume, panning, and mute automation on each track, plus send automation and a number of automated effects parameters. All of that automation data is made up of a large number of tiny data breakpoints. To fight this, you can thin out your automation data on your tracks to help reduce the load on your computer. You can tell Pro Tools to automatically thin out your automation data automatically after writing it in the Preferences. Choose Setup > Preferences > Mixing. In the Automation section, check off “Smooth and Thin Data after Pass” and then choose the Degree of Thinning (none, little, some, more, or most). I’d recommend trying “more” first before jumping to “most”. The “most” setting has the potential to make your automation too choppy.
In the screenshot below, you can see the same region with all of the original automation data on the left and the thinned automation data on the right. For this example, the Degree of Thinning is set to “more.”
You can also manually thin out automation by highlighting a section on a track and choosing Edit > Thin Automation. This command uses the Degree of Thinning setting from the Mixing Preferences window.
Stay tuned for more ways to save processing power while using Pro Tools…