Old Dogs and New Playlists--Pro Tools

Large string section plus woodwinds. Composer has a moderately complicated tempo map with guide and click tracks. He wants to do a master take, a string stack, and various overdubs. Final mix will be done by someone else.

I sheepishly admit that my normal workflow on a job like this would be to get final mic placement tweaks, gains, rough balances, and cue mixes out of the way and then just start recording, wiping each previous take until we all agreed we had a keeper, making note of any other complete takes that might have useable material. Then safe those tracks, enable the stack tracks, and record the stack just using the Primary Playlist until that was done. Then after the session I would go into the Clip List (I still want to type Region), create some new muted tracks and drag any takes I thought might be useful back onto the timeline as options.

This time, since someone else was going to have to wade through all this, I thought I might try to clean things up a bit as I recorded. Once I had all the tracks (tree and spot mics, something like 26 tracks) routed correctly, I grouped them disabling Globals and selecting Record Enable and Input Monitoring in Attributes. To build the stack tracks I selected the whole group, duplicated it, then grouped the duplicate tracks and disabled them.

This time, instead of just wiping over the previous take, any time the composer completed a full take I selected the group (I'm sure there's a shortcut for this, I just click on the circle to the left of the group name in the group window) and did a Shift+Option+Control+\. Shazam, the whole group goes to a new Playlist. It's like going to blank tape except the tempo map and guide tracks are still there. Then, once the composer feels he has a decent master take in the box, I take the master group out of record enable and enable the stack tracks. Same drill, any time they complete a take I make a new Playlist.

Now when the composer opens the session to mix, all the material will be located in one single Timeline location, and there he'll find the master takes on the main Playlist, and alternate complete takes as alternate Playlists. Of course there are other partial takes, but anything I've put in a Playlist is complete and worth auditioning. The only complicated part is that whoever mixes has to have some idea of Pro Tools multiple naming conventions, since I'm definitely not going to take the time to rename every track in every playlist with a bunch of string players and a studio on the clock. But it's not difficult to puzzle out.

I'm hoping everyone will chime in with 30 more ways to streamline this, but the New Playlist command executed across a group really caught my attention. With the money clock running it's a real time saver. Even for a geezer like me.

person playing violin
person playing violin