Editing In ProTools – By Catherine Marshall

September 23, 2010  |  Articles, Edumification

Good morning folks,

Today’s post is brought to you by Catherine Marshall PR & Social Media Specialist  at Such A Voice. You might remember that a while back she contributed the highly popular and hugely helpful  ProTools For Beginners article. This next tutorial is at least 3 times longer so I’ve split it into several pages on the site so as not to overwhelm people.

Actually, Catherine had told me that this article and the previous one she contributed were in fact one but that it got so big that she had to split them in two. Which means that I highly suggest you read the previous article by her just as a refresher course.

Here it goes!

Catherine Marshall

Zen And The Art of Editing in Pro Tools

Once you have laid down your voice track, it’s time to listen back and do some editing.

This idea may feel daunting, but relax!  Editing in Pro Tools is somewhat foolproof because Pro Tools uses non-destructive editing. This means that no matter how much editing you’ve done, your entire original recorded file always remains intact. Any edits that you perform only cause Pro Tools to reference your original recording file in a different way. Take a look at the way Pro Tools sets up your session by opening up your session folder wherever you saved it on your computer to view, and you should see a number of folders.

The Audio Files Folder contains all of your actual, unedited recordings. Fade files references any fades that you create in your session – you’ll learn about these soon.

The PTF file is your actual Pro Tools file. This is the file that you’ll click on to start your session. It’s also the file that tells Pro Tools exactly where everything is.

Session File Backups can be very useful as well. Pro Tools auto-saves your session every 5 minutes. If the program or your computer ever crashes, and you haven’t recently saved your session, you can open the Session File Backups Folder and find the backup file with the highest number. That is the most recent auto-saved session file. Open your session with that file, and you’re good to go!

You can ignore the Region Groups folder and WaveCache.wfm.

So, that being said, let’s set up to edit!

First, turn off record-enable on your track and transport. This should prevent Pro Tools from picking up external sounds from your microphone. If it doesn’t, unplug your mic from the back of the Mbox, or switch the input to the “DI” (Direct Input).

Next, turn up the headphone or monitor levels on the front of your Mbox. Monitor levels control the volume of your speakers or headphones, if you’re using the mbox 2 mini. The mix level on the Mbox can also affect the playback volume. The mix knob controls the volume of the input of your mic versus the volume of playback for your existing recording.

Take a look at the various buttons at the top of your edit menu:

On the left are the four editing modes: Shuffle, Slip, Spot, and Grid. Do not use Spot and Grid at all. As a default, always make sure that you are in Slip mode. It is the standard editing mode and will be used most of the time. The use for Shuffle mode will be explained as we go through the editing process, but it is really only used for a specific type of editing.

To the right of the editing modes are your zoom tools. The arrow pointing to the left zooms out, the arrow pointing to the right zooms in, and the first set of Up/Down arrows allow you to shrink or lengthen the height of the waveforms that are printed on your track. Do not use the 2nd set of Up/Down arrows. They are for midi (music) applications.

You can either click or click and drag on the zoom tools to alter your view. I usually prefer clicking and dragging on the zoom controls because that allows me to zoom in or out very precisely to set the waveform view exactly how I want it. When you click on the zoom buttons, you have less control.

How to Edit

Start by editing out breaths and mouth noises.

In between various sentences and sentence fragments, we usually take a breath. Unless your breaths are very quiet, you’ll probably want to remove them from your recording.

Before you begin, make sure that your Pre-Roll is currently inactive. The Button labeled Pre-Roll will be white if it is active – just click on it to change it if necessary.

Now, listen to your recording. Choose the selector tool and click with your mouse on the point where you want to begin playback. A flashing line will appear. Click on the spacebar, and you should hear playback. Listen very carefully for breaths in between your speech. When you hear a breath, do the following: Click on the spacebar to stop playback and then, click on the point within the waveform where you think that you heard the breath. The cursor should blink on and off at the point where you clicked.

Here’s what that looks like:

Next, zoom in using the right facing zoom button. Here is a picture to demonstrate what your screen should look like after zooming in.

As you can see, the new view really stretches out the waveforms, and more particularly, the breath, so that you can easily edit it down without accidentally deleting any of your actual speech.

At this point, I would recommend listening from before the breath begins until it ends. It’s very helpful to use both the visual as well as the aural aspects of Pro Tools. Once you have an idea of what needs to be deleted, highlight it by clicking and dragging.

This shot shows the highlighted breath:

Hit the space bar to listen and make sure that what you have selected is what you want to delete. Go ahead and hit the delete button on your keyboard to delete the breath.

At this point, you need to decide whether or not the dead space in time where your breath existed sounds like a natural amount of time to pause in your read. If it is natural sounding, click the delete key on your keyboard. The deletion will leave a blank space that translates to silence upon playback.

If you decide that you would like to slightly shorten or lengthen the space, click on the grabber tool. Then, click and drag with your mouse on the audio region to your right, and you can actually pull the audio region to the left to shorten the space. Pull it to the right to lengthen the space.

If you would like to completely cut out the space where the breath lies, you will need to switch from slip mode to shuffle mode (reminder: these editing mode options are located at the top left hand corner of your edit window). Then, hit delete and notice that the two audio regions come together without any space. The effect will be as if you kept on speaking without any pause or breath.

The breath-editing technique described above applies to editing out speech as well.

There is one other point that I’d like to make when editing your takes. The amount of space between punctuation, lines, etc is very important. What if you would like to add some space at some point in your read? Here’s how to do it. Find the spot where you paused and place your cursor at that spot. Make sure that you have clicked with your cursor on a blank space and not in the middle of any speech. Then go to Edit: Separate Region. Then you can use the grabber tool to move regions around in order to create the space that you desire.

As a rule, do not edit individual words. You want your voice-over work to sound very natural. If you feel the need to edit out sentences or sentence fragments, rather than re-recording the entire spot, you’ll need to be extremely careful to make sure that you speak in a similar manner, and at the exact same distance and direction from your microphone.


1 Comment


  1. What a great article. Very informative and helpful. Thank you.
    Chris

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