As I write this, I'm just finishing up rough mixes for a project that I tracked and edited with Pro Tools HD 7.3. It's my favorite upgrade in recent years. 7.3 added so many crucial user-interface tweaks that it's far easier to get around a project, and it's even possible to change some settings while listening to playback that in previous versions could only be tweaked with the transport stopped. Therefore, I'm a much faster engineer with PT 7.3, which means I'm always at the ready when the musicians want to lay down a take, and editing (what used to be called mixing) takes less effort. Here are some of my favorite enhancements:
In the Edit Window, you can grab the edge of a track to change its height. And of course, the Option (or Alt) key lets you do all the tracks at once. Or use the Cmd (Ctl) key to vary the track height to whatever size you want-not just to the predefined sizes. You can even change the track height to Micro, which lets you see a bajillion tracks at once, or Fit to Window for maximum zoom.
There are new Zoom Toggle preferences for vertical/horizontal zoom, track height, and track view. Now you can customize E-key zoom just the way you want it.
The mixer can be reconfigured during playback. For example, you can add, remove, or move inserts, tracks, master faders, auxes, and I/O assignments while listening. Some changes will cause audio dropouts, but that's not as big of deal as having to stop the transport, make the changes, and restart the transport where you left off, especially if you don't have the Play Start Marker following playback.
Dynamic Transport Mode allows you to place the transport independent of your edit or loop selection. That means you can tweak the selection you're about to cut while listening for the exact spot (or area) to where you want to paste. And then after pasting, you can listen to the edit boundaries without disturbing the selection. This feature makes loop editing so much faster, especially if you want to audition the loop points without listening to the whole loop. In conjunction, there are new keyboard shortcuts to move the Play Start Marker. And speaking of loops, there's a new Loop Trim tool too.
Up to 99 Window Configurations specifying on-screen position and view settings for Edit, Mix, plug-in, and any floating windows can be quickly stored within a session and then instantly recalled-a real timesaver when you're going back and forth between multiple tasks. (E.g., imagine tweaking the vocal track zoomed and with all its plug-ins open, then editing drum tracks zoomed out, and then going back to vocal tweaking.) Also, window configurations can be imported into new projects.
MIDI users will appreciate the new Key Signature Ruler that allows you to specify-and change-key signatures within a session, with pitch transposition up and down. You can also transpose diatonically. New MIDI import and export functionality was also added.
LE and M-Powered users were never given a 7.2 upgrade, so rolled into 7.3 are most of the changes from HD-only 7.2, including hundreds of enhancements to right clicking, zoom, fades, region editing, automation, and QuickTime video. And new to LE 7.3 is the ability to record to Mac HFS+ disks from WinXP. All in all, I think the upgrade to PT 7.3 is a no-brainer-a huge leap forward in usability and efficiency, and the downloadable Pro Tools Accelerated videos on Digidesign's website are an excellent resource for learning the new features in 7.3. (HD upgrade $79-$199, LE $49-$79, M-Powered $49; www.digidesign.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.