Pro Tools Fundamentals - Edit Tools Part 2

05-24-2014 10:00 AM

In Part 1 I took a tour of the Selector, Trim and Grab tools. In Part 2 I’ll look at the remaing three tools and look at the Smart tool which combines the most used functions into one multi purpose tool.

Scrub - F9
The scrub tool mimics the effect of rocking tape across the head of a tape machine. It can be indispensable in locating an edit point which is not apparent from the shape of the waveform. This will be very familiar to those of a certain age who grew up editing analogue tape but I suspect the majority of new users will not have experienced this. This tool is an instant crowd pleaser as bad DJ scratching effects are easily achieved. Annoyingly (and it is a a very common request) the output of the scrub tool is not straightforward to record so if you want to scratch I’d connect up some decks!

Pencil - F10
The Pencil tool can be used to draw your waveform if you are zoomed in far enough. This can be useful for repairing pops and clicks though more elegant solutions exist these days. The place where the pencil tools is most use in pro tools today is probably in the Midi editor where it is as useful as the Smart tool is in the edit window. Other uses are drawing in automation. The alternative versions come into their own here and if you want an auto pan effect just select the triangle pencil tool and draw it into your pan automation playlist, if you want gating effects do the same with the square pencil tool on the mute playlist (don’t use the volume playlist or you’ll get a shock if you open the session on a control surface!) or create instant sample and hold effects using the random pencil tool on a vintage filter cutoff playlist - hours of fun! These tools all follow the session’s grid setting so tempo fixed effects are easy.

Zoom - F5
I never use the zoom tool. Use CMD+[or] (PC Ctrl+[or]), R&T in command focus or Option/Alt+scrollwheel. There are so many ways to zoom which I find more convenient than using the zoom tool. If you like it then great but its not for me. If you do use it be aware that Option/Alt changes zoom in to zoom out. Some useful things about the zoom tool are that there is a single zoom tool which reverts to the previously used tool after use and if you double click the zoom tool it horizontally zooms out of your session to show the whole session much like Option/Alt+A. If you triple click the zoom tool it resets any waveform zoom back to the default much like CMD+Option+Ctrl+[ (PC Start+Alt+Ctrl+[).

Smart - F6+7/F7+8/F6+8
The Smart tool combines the Selector, Trim and Grab tools into one. It is enabled by clicking on the frame surrounding these three tools or by pressing any two of the keys F6-8. It is straightforward to use. In the bottom half of a clip the Smart tool is the Grab tool, in the top half of the clip the grab tool is the Selector, at each end of the clip the Smart tool is the Trim tool. At the top corners the smart tool becomes a Fade tool and the bottom corner of a clip it becomes a Crossfade tool. Lots of people use this tool as their default. Personally I’ve never taken to it and prefer to switch tools manually but then I always have been a stick in the mud. The only disadvantage to using the Smart tool is that it can become difficult to use if track heights are small and this is probably why I have never taken to it.

Tools in the midi editor
It it worth pointing out that there is a seperate set of tools available in the midi editor and while they are the same tools, their use does differ a little. See my comment above about the use of the Pencil tool in the midi editor. As these are a seperate set of tools selecting a tool in the edit window does not mean that that tool will be selected in the midi editor. My preferred method of editing is to change tools using the F keys with my left hand while mousing with the right. In my experience new users usually gravitate towards the Smart tool and while it is perfectly possible to edit quickly like this I’m just faster switching tools manually. If you’ve never tried it give it a go. After all, if you have two hands you might as well use them.