In this Pro Tools First tutorial, we’ll learn how to automate Pro Tools First plugins. I believe that one of the biggest enhancements you can make to your mixes is to automate your plug ins. The ability to automate Pro Tools First plugins allows you to do things such as switch plugins on and off during the session or change the settings of a plugin.
I regularly automate plugins to create an effect such as switching on a vocal delay somewhere in the song which only lasts for a few seconds. Or perhaps to alter the EQ at some point in the song, such as increasing the gain of the high frequencies on the overheads in a chorus so that the cymbals cut through when the mix becomes denser with more guitars.
How to automate Pro Tools First plugins
To automate Pro Tools First plugins, first make sure that the plug in that you want to automate is inserted on the track:
Open the plugin and click the ‘Plugin Automation Enable’ button:
This will open the plugin automation dialogue:
You will see a list of the different things which you can automate on this plugin. What it is that you are able to automate will change depending on what plugin you are using. The different options can be added or removed depending on what it is that you want to be able to automate. Each of the options which you add to the right column will appear in that track’s track view selector. Click the track view selector here:
You can select which plugin setting you now want to automate:
Selecting one of the options will display that settings track view for you to write in your automation:
Using the smart tool to automate Pro Tools First plugins
Options such as Master Bypass will simply give you the option to switch the bypass on or off. You do this by enabling the smart tool and placing the cursor in the lower half of the region to select the portion of the audio that you want to automate. You then move the cursor to the upper half where the smart tool can be used to drag upwards or downwards. This will turn the bypass on or off.
Automating other aspects of the plugin, such as a increasing the gain level of a specific EQ band, allows you to increase the gain by a specific amount rather than just turning the setting on or off. For this, you can use the smart tool to again select the area that you want to automate and then drag upwards or downwards to increase or decrease the gain.
Using the pencil tool to automate Pro Tools First plugins
Alternatively, if you want to create a more gradual change, which will be audible in real time during play back, then you can use the pencil tool to draw the automation in:
Enabling the pencil tool by clicking the above icon allows you to automate Pro Tools First plugins to create a unique change by drawing them in manually. You can also hold down the pencil tool to reveal different pencil types, such as a line which will allow you to increase or decrease the gain evenly.
By using both the pencil tool and the smart tool, you are able to draw in automation for many of the different aspects of your plugins. As such, you are able to change the settings of equalizers, compressors, reverbs, delays etc. throughout the song. Do you think that the ability to back compressors off or brighten instruments up mid song, or any other type of plugin automation for that matter, will help to enhance your mixes? What plugin settings do you automate most in your sessions?
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