Q It Up: DAW Tricks, Tips, Techniques, and Shortcuts

Q-It-Up-Logo-sep95For some reason, we didn't receive near the number of responses we expected to this month’s question. Perhaps we found everybody too busy this month, or perhaps many of you were hesitant to “share your secrets” with the world. So, a special thanks to the gentlemen below who either a) found the time in their busy schedules to contribute, or b) are confident enough to “share their secrets,” or c) both. Thanks!

Q It Up: What is one of your favorite digital workstation tricks, tips, techniques, or shortcuts? Tell us which workstation you use, how to perform the function, and how you use it. This could be an editing trick, a processing tip, a file-management shortcut, or most any useful function that you learned after learning the basics of the workstation. It could be something from the advanced section of the manual, or something you figured out on your own. Basically, we’re looking for tips that some users of your workstation may not be familiar with.

Joel Moss [Jmoss1027[at]aol.com]: I’ve been using and loving (figuratively) Sonic Foundry’s Vegas Audio v.2.0. One of the things that’s very useful is to have two “instances” of the program running simultaneously, and then being able to simply copy and paste elements from project to project. Of course, there are a number of ways to accomplish similar functionality, such as rendering new tracks within an existing project, or using “save as” and duplicating the entire project to retain certain elements. However, there are particular situations—and we all know when they occur—when it would just be great to have virtually identical projects, simultaneously available, and working between both. I only use this capability occasionally, but it’s nice to have. The other thing that makes it practical is having dual-monitors. This really would not be effective if you were forced to continually minimize screens; it really would make the process too slow. I am fortunate in that I’ve got two flat-screens, and it really makes everything easy to navigate…and very pretty. Additionally, the “wave hammer” processing is very sweet. It’s a combination compressor/limiter, but does a lot of discreet enhancement. I find it to be very nice with especially dense mixes...or simple mixes by a dense producer. I use it on ‘bus A’ (final 2-track mixout).

I’d be happy to share ideas with anyone using Vegas Audio...gimme a shout.

Don Elliot [voiceovers[at]earthlink.net]: SawPro is a really a screamingly fast editing program, but when you do a couple of supercharger things, it puts it on steroids. I’ll take on anybody for speed with the following lashup:

For one, I added a Wacom art graphics pen and tablet. Not only does it save my wrist by mid-week as a mouse replacement, but it is faster than the keyboard strokes it replaces for the following (which have now all become right handed pen operations): UNDO - flip the pen over and touch the “eraser” to the tablet. LEFT CLICK - touch the tip. DOUBLE CLICK - touch it twice (duh). BOTTOM THUMBSWITCH = r-click play (could alternately be the delete function, or SHIFT DEL for delete and ripple command). TOP THUMBSWITCH - “select” tool—alternately could also be programmed to “cut” (K command).

Voice commands: Instead of using the bracketed alternative commands above for cut and delete, I put them into an IMSI Voice Direct voice command headset mike for really flying. I can now do all this with the left hand free to operate other gear, the Prophet, or maybe even... uh ANALOG outboards or to hold COPY in my hand...or the phone for remotely directed sessions! (Speakerphone doesn’t always do it for all involved).

Lots of choices: those who are still in the Mac world should discover the ICONIT program for making little shortcut icons for these functions in any Mac program. They are linked to macros and will execute any command you want. Think of it as a speed dialer. Of course, with all this going on, don’t forget how to run the basic commands manually in case these tools bite the dust, as they occasionally do.

Reminds me of a couple years back when I put my father’s phone number into a speed dialer and then after a year of it, tried to call him from a payphone; I couldn’t remember the number because from home he was “speed-dial one”!

Richard Stroobant [bigdick[at] cjay92.com] CJAY/CKMX, Calgary, Alberta, CANADA: Absolutely great question. Here at C-JAY we use ProTools version 4.3 on a Mac running OS8. We’ve had ProTools here for about 4 years and I LOVE IT!!! My apologies if you know these already. Some of my favorite shortcuts are:

1) I use this one every day. In the Edit window, instead of switching back and forth to the cue speaker (scrubber) when you want to listen to a region or part of one, just hold down the “control “ key (while in the selector mode) on the part of the region you want to hear and slide with your mouse.

2) You can scroll or scrub thru a region at regular speed but you can also do it at half speed or ultra high speed (makes for a neat effect as well). For half speed, hold down the “Command” (or the one with the apple symbol on it) key while in the scrub mode. For ultra high speed, hold down “control” “option” and “command” (or Apple key) while in the selector mode and drag your mouse to listen to the region. Faster you drag mouse, the faster the audio plays.

3) I am almost wearing out my option key. It has so many uses. Got a lot of items in the audio list and not sure which one you need? Without dragging them to the edit window, you can listen to them. Just click and hold your mouse button down on the audio file in the list window while holding down the option key, and voila, it will play the audio for you until you stop holding down the mouse button.

4) More uses for the option key: To center a pan fader, click on it while holding the option key down. To set the fader back to zero, hold on fader with the option key down. If you want to mute a plug-in without clicking on it and hitting “bypass,” just click on the plug-in with the option key down. And of course, there’s the holding down option and hitting rec on one track—puts all into rec. Same with mute, solo and highlighting a track (or un-highlighting it). Great for setting up groups.

5) You probably know about these already but there’s more to ProTools than just the Option key. The “Command” (or Apple) key is great too. Command F creates fades (great for music mixes); Command L, for locking a region (so you don’t accidentally erase or record or move something); Command A highlights all tracks (so you can move them all easily); Command D is Duplicate; Command C is Copy; Command V is Paste. If you have only one monitor, you have to shuttle back and forth from the Edit to the Mix window, Command +/= does that.

6) Don’t have a lot of DSP Farm space and you need to EQ, Reverb and Compress a bunch of tracks? Try this one. Go to the Add New Track area and select Master Track. Add your plug-ins to that track and then assign the output of that master track to 3 and 4. Then go to whatever tracks you want to have those effects on and assign those to 3 and 4 as well. Now all those tracks will have the same EQ, reverb and compression. Bring up tracks 3 and 4 on your board and the effected tracks will come out on those pots.

Hope these help you out. If my directions on these shortcuts are clear as mud, give me a call (403) 240-5837,  and I can walk you thru ‘em.

Robert Camden [rcamden[at]zrgmail .com], Zimmer Radio Group, Poplar Bluff, MO: We use SawPlus 32. After learning the basic mouse commands, I printed out the Adobe file and learned all the keyboard short cuts. Example: If you hold down Ctrl and click on the sound file, it will play about a second loop to get in tight where you need to be. The shift click and ctrl click can be used to edit quickly and seems to make things a lot easier.

Mark Planiden [mark[at]chetradio .com], CHET FM, Chetwynd, BC, Canada: One that I feel pretty proud of, even though I’m sure it’s well known, is how to remove a popped ‘P’ (or other air pushing sound). I use Cool Edit Pro, although it should work in any digital editor. Find the word with the popped ‘P’ and zoom in somewhat close. A popped ‘P’ will look different from the rest of the waveform. It’s usually right in the lead up area to the rest of the word, and it’s a noticeable zag in the waveform when there really shouldn’t be that kind of zag. Anyway, it may take a few tries, but you just need to highlight the pop (the zag) and turn it to silence (in Cool Edit there’s a silence function, others may just need to turn the amplitude down). Don’t delete it as that messes with the timing between the two words, turning it to silence still makes it sound natural. Sometimes you don’t grab enough of the pop, other times too much...undo comes in handy. Not all popped ‘P’s are do-able this way, and of course the best way is to not have one at all; but I work with a lot of volunteers/amateurs, and usually it’s easier to fix it in post.

Dave Foxx [foxx[at]z100.com], Z100/New York: I guess I’d have to pick what I call “Inverse Masking” for my favorite little “trick.”

I’m using a Pro Tools 24|Mix Plus workstation with an absolute ton of plug-ins, including Lexiverb from Lexicon. (Having a vintage farm card is GREAT!) This gets a little hairy when I explain it, so pay close attention, ‘cause it’s not really all that hard.

Once you decide which VO you want to use, preferably something short like your call-sign, drag a copy of it to another track so the two copies would play at exactly the same time. In Pro Tools that would be [control + option + drag]. Then, move the copy ahead (earlier) by exactly 500ms (one-half second) and lower the gain by 5 or 6 dB. Pop the Lexiverb plug-in onto the second track, the one with the copy, and set it to a “long non-linear” inverse algorithm. (I should point out that there are other reverb modules out there with inverse algorithms, but this is the one I prefer.) Make sure the reverb is 100% wet. Hit play.

Here’s an alternate way of doing nearly the same thing: Take your copied VO and reverse it. (If you’re working on Pro Tools, this is a built in plug-in.) Then add reverb with exactly 3 seconds decay to the copy. Reverse it again. Now, the reverb “tail” is in front. Place this new VO on another track and move it ahead (earlier) exactly 3 seconds. Hit play. Move to get the best sound. (You may want to cut off the “actual” audio from the copy so you don’t get any doubling.)

The result from either of these methods is a bit of anticipation to the track, which is why I always suggest it be something really important and short, like your call-sign. Anything longer just gets annoying. And, as is the case with any spice in cooking...a little goes a long way. Once per promo is usually all I would use...but then I’m kinda shy.

Jeff Berlin [jberlin[at]jberlin.com], Surface Dweller, Northern Hemisphere: You want me to share my secrets? Here’s one that stayed with me when I made the transition from analog to digital mixing: If you’re on ProTools, try mixing at half speed. Hit the “shift” key as you hit the spacebar, then move the faders while ProTools plays back at half speed. You can mix much more precisely, since you’ve got twice the time to make decisions. It’s arguably faster than drawing envelopes in the “volume graph” view.

Can’t wait to read everyone else’s secrets.

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