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Now Available – Folder Tracks in Pro Tools 2020

Pro Tools 2020 introduces folder tracks. Folders will transform the way you work with Pro Tools.  This blog concentrates on folder track basics so you can get up and running quickly.

Folder tracks can perform a simple organizational function or can be part of your session routing infrastructure. With that in mind, there are two types of folder tracks: Basic Folder Tracks and Routing Folder Tracks. Basic Folder Tracks are simply for organizational purposes and allow you to quickly collapse your tracks and tidy them out of the way. Routing Folders combine the organizational aspect of a Basic Folder with the ability to route audio through the folder as you would an Aux Input. You can immediately see the difference in the Mix Window or Edit Window as a Routing Folder has audio functions on the track such as inserts, sends and so on while a Basic Folder does not.

Folder Creation

There are a number of ways to create a folder. You can choose to create the Folder Track first and add tracks to it or you can create a folder based on your track selection.

To create an empty Folder Track just use the New Tracks dialogue where you will be presented with the option to create either a Basic Folder or a Routing Folder.

Once the folder is created, there are a number of ways to move tracks into it. You can drag tracks onto the folder and you can see that the yellow box in the UI helps you to see which folder you are dragging on to. You can do this in the Edit Window, the Mix Windows and even the Tracks List. Alternatively, you can right-click on a track or group of tracks and select the “Move to…” option. Here you can choose to move the tracks to an existing folder. Here we can also move tracks back out of a folder using the “Top Level” option.

If you select some tracks in the session, right click on them and choose Move To… you will also see the option to create a New Folder based on track selection and you can then choose whether to you want a Basic Folder or Routing Folder. If you choose Routing Folder, then you have an option to automatically route tracks through the new folder. This creates a new bus, which has the same name as the folder, and routes all the tracks in the new folder to the bus. An even easier way to create a folder from a track selection is to use the Command + Shift + N shortcut. Finally, if you are working on a session that has come from a previous version of Pro Tools then you might have already set up your routing through Aux Inputs. In this case you can right-click on the Aux Track and choose to convert it to a Routing Folder track. Then just put the tracks that were being routed to that Aux Input into the new Routing Folder and you’re done. You can use Pro Tools’ bus interrogation feature to make this even easier. Simply right-click on the output path on the track and choose the option ‘Show Only Assignments to…’.

If a folder is open and you create new tracks directly under that folder then the new tracks will be added to the folder. If that’s not what you want to do then make sure that you close the folder before creating new tracks.

Of course, you can create folders within folders and create a complex nested folder structure. The Tracks List is a great way to keep an eye on this as it’s very easy to see what’s going on.

Opening and Closing Folder Tracks

Once the folder tracks have been created, opening and closing them is simply a case of clicking on the Folder icon by the track name, either in the Mix Window or the Edit Window or by clicking on the triangle next to the name in the Tracks View. Alternatively, there is a keyboard shortcut. Shift + f will open or close the selected folder track or tracks.

Metering

You will notice that both folder track types have signal indicators These are simply to show any activity that is going on with any tracks that are in the folder: green for audio and yellow for MIDI. Of course, a Routing Folder has regular track meters that are used to meter the audio going through the folder but those meters will only reflect audio that has been specifically routed through it, whereas the signal indicator will show if there is any audio on any track in the folder.

Solo and Mute

Soloing and Muting logic differs between Basic Folders and Routing Folders.

When you solo either a Basic Folder or a Routing Folder track, the members are not muted. Soloing a member of Basic Folder is the same as if you pressed solo on that track and it wasn’t in a folder However, a Routing Folder behaves differently as there is audio going through the track. If you solo a member of a Routing Folder its folder is not muted.  This allows you to solo member tracks without having to worry about solo-safe.

Muting a Basic Folder will mute all of its members. However, muting a Routing Folder simply mutes the audio output of that folder. This is an important distinction as if you have tracks in a Routing Folder that are being routed elsewhere then the audio from those tracks will persist even though the Routing Folder is muted.

Editing

A very cool feature of folder tracks is the ability to perform editing commands on tracks that are in a closed folder. For example, if you make a selection on the closed Folder Track you can copy it and paste elsewhere on the timeline. This will be explored in other articles looking at workflows for music and post.

Conclusion

I hope that this has been a useful introduction to folder tracks and how they are implemented in Pro Tools. Dive in and try it for yourself and see how much neater your sessions look!

In this blog I want to look at a few ways we might utilize Folder Tracks in audio post production workflows to help better manage and simplify the increasingly large and complex sessions.

The areas I want to have a first look at are dealing with sessions with higher track counts and clear sections or type of audio, then using folder tracks to speed up sound design and finally dealing with the large amounts of incoming media and versions.

Before we jump into the examples, I wanted to very quickly mention as we develop a new feature, we work hard take advice from a variety of Pro Tools users across all areas of the industry.

This is partly the reason for the two folder track types Basic and Routing– but it’s also why we allow users to route the audio without restriction in the methods they are familiar with – even while using folders.

This is important because in audio post production, for instance a source or auxiliary bus may feed multiple mix versions, frequently including music and effect mixes. Another great example of this might be in a session for Atmos where you have many object tracks which have their own output, but you would like to group those objects together.

Folders have no restrictions that prevent their use in these cases – which makes them super powerful organizational tools.

In this Dolby Atmos session even with Micro Track Height it's not possible to see all the tracks without scrolling but with folder tracks we have an overview and can open folders as needed

An obvious use for folders would be to sort your session into more manageable sections. Existing sessions can be updated easily using the Convert Aux to Routing Folder function.

Converting Auxiliaries to Folders

Often engineers will be working from a well establish template, but they can get large and complex, so let’s look at how would go about converting a session or template to add the folder functionality to simplify operation.

In the following example, the session has been split into Narration, Dialog, Music, Atmospheres, Foley, Effects for mixing. However, by organizing them in these folders it makes even larger sessions easier to see all at once and allow you to focus on the section you are working on at any given time.

To convert what was an auxiliary into a folder, simply right click and select “Convert Aux to Routing Folder”. This will change the Aux to a Routing folder but retain all the bussing, plugins and other track properties. You can then take the associated tracks and simply drop them into that folder. Additionally, you can use the reverse bus interrogation feature “show only assignments to” which will then display only the tracks already assigned to that Aux. This is very powerful when you’re modifying an existing template or updating an existing session.

Right Click on an Auxiliary to convert to a Routing Folder

Repeating this for all the main Auxiliaries in the session gives us a much cleaner overview of the session.

Session before and after converting the Auxiliaries to Routing Folders and placing associated tracks in the folders

Given that routing folders have the same functionality as an Auxiliary, you can still easily freeze, commit and use as bounce sources when providing stems.

Using Folder tracks to keep your Audio Building blocks

In Sound design use, you might keep a more complex arrangement of effects or building blocks in a folder. This way the whole arrangement can be moved, copied and pasted together, but the folder can also be opened to tweak levels or timing of individual elements as required.

In this way it makes it easy to select a group of sounds and place it later in the timeline for a repeating graphic effect or visual. In this example I have a small piece of sound design I made for an Avid Logo. Rather than simply placing the audio on tracks labelled ‘SFX’ for example as I might have previously keeping the specific tracks in a folder, I can see the individual items from the folder overview.

By using the shortcut or clicking on the folder Icon I can see the folder contents and make small timing and level adjustments as needed.

Duplicating and nudging a basic arrangement of SFX using a folder

Using Folder Tracks to organize material

In audio post production you often get updates to pictures and AAF files. Being able to keep these files in named folders and have a single control to mute them allows you to keep a record of changes as you work through your session in a compact but easily recallable way.

As Video tracks can also be added to folders, a nice idea might to be keep previous picture versions safely tucked away in a basic folder in case you need to refer to them again at a later stage.

You can import an AAF or other material into a specific folder by selecting it before import. The tracks will import into that selected folder.

AAFs stored in muted Basic Folder closed

AAFs Stored in muted Basic Folder open

Once in a folder I have very quick controls to mute, solo, delete and make inactive for example if required, a group of information that I might only need occasionally.

These are just a few ideas as I thought about how I would apply this new feature to my work, attempting to make my workflow in audio post production more efficient. I hope you find this new addition to Pro Tools as helpful as I do.

The addition of Folder Tracks to Pro Tools, brings even more powerful workflows and possibilities for music production and creation. In this blog, I will share some initial ideas and workflows, using Folder Tracks.  These only scratch the surface of what is possible with Folder Tracks.

Some basics: Open and Close Folders

If you are working on a project with a large number of tracks, you can use folder tracks to organize your session into folders and sub folders. You can put all of your tracks into a master folder which can be a very useful way to work, as you will see later. You can start by placing all the drums, guitars, vocals etc into separate Routing Folders.

Now you can use the shortcut Shift + F, to open or close the selected folderIf you have a EUCON surface, such as an S1, you can assign your user keys on the surface to this shortcut to quickly open or close your folders.

One level of folders may not be enough for more complex projects. For example, you might have a session with separate tracks for background vocals for the verse, bridge and chorus, other tracks for vocal ad libs, single line harmonies etc. You could create folders for each of these elements and then create an overall Background Vocals folder that contains all of these sub-folders and can be closed to hide everything away. Don’t forget to make use of Routing Folders to take care of audio routing, as well as track organization.

Once these nested folders are created, you can Option/Alt + click on the folder icon on the track to open all the folders that are on the same level. Using the example of background vocals, you could click on the main Background Vocal folder icon to open it up and then Option/Alt + click on the folder icon of one of the sub-folders to open all of them. A great way to keep track of all of this is to keep the Tracks List open to clearly see the folder hierarchy.

Commit and Freeze Folders

Track Freeze is a great feature which frees up CPU resources by temporarily rendering your plug-ins or virtual instruments to audio and you can use this feature on a Routing Folder. Simply click on the Freeze button on the Routing Folder track and it will render the audio that’s being routed through the track. Then simply select the members of the track, right-click and choose Make Inactive in order to free up the CPU processing.

Commit is similar to Freeze but instead of temporarily rendering the audio to the same track, it creates a new track. Using Commit on a Routing Folder is a quick way to print your stems and mixes in a single operation.

Track Presets

Track Presets is something that I use all the time and the ability to use it with Folder Tracks makes it even more powerful!  As an example, say you have a virtual instrument preset which can be recalled that is saved with the multi-output of each sound of the VI, and routed to an Aux Input in Pro Tools. These tracks are now moved to a Basic Folder and saved it as a new Track Preset!  That folder is now available to use in any new session and will it’s already organised and ready to go when recalled or brought in from the Workspace. For example, if you are using a maschine you would tend to have 16 Aux tracks and an instrument track which becomes very time consuming when you are creating, whereas now if you place all 17 racks in a basic folder and then save this as a track preset, you can pull up your maschine routing any time you need it.

Creating a MIDI Grid Editor for Programming Drums

One of our product designers came up with the idea to use Folder Tracks to organise a MIDI grid editor for drum programming. You set it up by creating a MIDI Track for each drum and setting each MIDI Track to Single Note mode by right-clicking on the small keyboard to the right of the track name. The note that you set it to depends on the drum VI that you are using but typically you would set kick to C1, snare to D1 etc. Now set the Grid to 1/16 and you can use the pencil tool to create your drum pattern.

To route MIDI to your VI then insert the VI on an Aux Input and set the output of the MIDI Tracks to the VI. Finally, select all the tracks and place them in a Basic Folder and save this as a Track Preset. Now whenever you need to use the grid editor it is easily accessible in the Workspace.


Editing

One amazing feature of Folder Tracks is the ability to edit on a folder track and the edits will apply to all the members of the folder, whether audio tracks or MIDI tracks, including folders within the folder. I’ve started using this for arranging. If you enclose your whole session into one folder you can use delete, cut, copy and paste to quickly get the arrangement to where you want it to be. The possibilities are endless.

You can even use this to create multiple versions of the mix on the timeline. I’m often asked to create new edits of the mix. I can simply copy and paste the entire song to a new track by duplicating my master folder, without affecting the original version and without having to create a new session so that you can always refer to the original version.

As mentioned earlier, these ideas and workflows provide just a sampling of how Folder Tracks can be used in your own music creation and production.  Try it out for yourself and I’m sure you’ll discover your own secrets, tips, and tricks with Folder Tracks in Pro Tools 2020!

Source: AVID


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