So Pro Tools version 10 is here with 50+ new features, one of which is the new Clip Gain function which we will be looking at in this tutorial. It is probably best to clear up first of all that from version 10, regions are now referred to as ‘Clips’ this will no doubt cause confusion at first but remember it while we discuss the new gain functions of it.
Look at the clip of audio above, the first thing you would notice as a mixing engineer is that it’s dynamically uneven and requires some form of editing to create a more balanced sound. Some people might place a compressor on the track, some may rely on level automation, and in certain cases, some engineers may even go through the tedious task of highlighting individual sections and using a plug-in to directly apply a gain change (not recommended).
These methods will all do the job to some extent but each have their own issues, compression may struggle to respond to large dynamic changes, level automation can be a lengthy process which would involve playing sections over and over to make sure your drawn data is doing what you would like it to, so really the most precise technique of editing is changing the dynamics of small sections, this is where the new Clip Gain feature of Pro Tools will come to work, allowing you to make very precise level changes in a short amount of time.
What Is Clip Gain?
Clip Gain is a new feature within Pro Tools version 10 which allows you to make level changes to an audio clip, and rather than just listening to the differences, you will also see a difference in the waveform meaning you can very quickly bring different dynamics in line with one another. As well as this, you can also copy the gain change information anywhere else you wish to! This is certainly a tool I will take full advantage of when working on large film sound sessions… Is this the end of tidying audio using track automation within DAW’s?
Let’s take a closer look…
Enabling and Working with Clip Gain
At first your clip of audio may just look as it did in previous versions, so let’s start by showing you how to enable the feature. Within Pro Tools navigate to View > Clip > Clip Gain Info, you will notice that your audio clips now feature a decibel value and a small fader icon in their bottom left-hand corners; click in this area and you will be presented with a small fader which will allow you to edit the gain of the clip. Notice also at this point that the visual representation of the clip changes as well so you can see exactly what changes you are making.
If you navigate to View > Clip > Clip Gain Line you will now notice an automation line appears on each of your clips, this will allow you to make the same gain changes but in finer increments. By adding breakpoints you can change small sections, again the waveform will change as you work so you balance sections visually as well as audibly for a quicker workflow process.
Remember that all of these level changes you are making occur before the sound enters your effects setup, great for cutting down on your compressors work without having to make lengthy edits! Just as you would expect, all of the changes you make can be undone as well! Hopefully you are starting to realise just how powerful as tool this will be in your production setup…
If you right click an audio clip and navigate down the list to Clip Gain you will be presented with a number of additional options including:
Bypass Clip Gain: This will ignore any clip gain changes you have written, as the information is bypassed you will notice that only the dots remain and the line disappears.
Copy Clip Gain: As stated earlier, gain changes can be copied and applied elsewhere, a very handy tool for bringing a number of audio clips under control quickly.
Clear Clip Gain: This option will erase any written clip gain information, this can also be undone using the usual undo command.
Render Clip Gain: When you are finished with any level changes you can render the clip, this will render all information written and return the gain line to its nominal middle position, doing this will help cut down on the processing Pro Tools is performing on each region with gain changes applied. (This can also be undone to return you back to your gain line information.)
Nudging Clip Gain
Of course, what would be a new Pro Tools feature without a shortcut! You have the facility to nudge the gain of an audio clip by using the shortcut Control_Shift_Up/Down Arrow (mac) Start_Shift_Up/Down Arrow (windows), this will nudge the clips gain by a decibel value set in within your preferences, simply navigate to Setup > Preferences and head to the ‘Editing’ tab, in which you will find the ‘Clip Gain Nudge Value’ which by default will sit at 0.5dB.
Remember that this nudging can both be applied to an entire audio clip or to smaller selections as well, I really cannot get over how useful this is alone!
This is just a very quick look at what is potentially the most exciting new tool in your audio editing box. I’m sure given the few techniques we have described, you will agree that this is an enormously powerful feature which could be the end of spending hours of your time drawing track automation.
Have a play with the options we have shown you and you will soon notice how much quicker you are working your way through any editing tasks.
If you want to test yourself on your Clip Gain knowledge then head over and take our quick quiz here.